19 April 2015, by gjones
We’ve seen a number of how to’s on making a mason bee house, this is one of the best ones.
Basically you need a wooden frame and anything that either already is hollow, or can be made so.
We used different size bamboo canes, with diameters up to about 1/2 inch. We also used old corn stalks from last summer. They are either hollow already or the bees can easily chew their way in.
We overestimated how many canes we would need when we built the frame, so we drilled a few wooden blocks and added a wee bit of whimsy to help fill in the area.
This figurine is of a bird catching a butterfly with a net, a gift from my late mother. So in her honor we set up an old birdbath in her area of the garden and placed the bee house on the basin. We added dirt to the basin, which will become mud when it rains tonight. Once we see the nesting is pretty much complete, we’ll cover the basin to be sure there is a safe place for the young ones to land when they emerge.
The area also has lots of fallen leaves. We learned from the video that different mason bees use either mud or leaves to seal their larva in the hollow opening.
This area is the southeast section of the garden, which is where it is recommended to place the house. We used twine to secure the house to the fence, just to play it safe.
Now we will wait and see. How fun!
More mason bee tips.
Categories: The Birds and The Bees
10 April 2015, by gjones
You don’t need to know how plants are pollinated to grow food, but having some information will help your grow better.
The most confusion we see about pollination centers around the terms self-pollination and self-pollinated.
Here’s the deal:
1. The term does not refer to a gardener moving pollen from a male flower to a female flower themselves. This is hand pollination.
2. The term is often, somewhat incorrectly, used to describe a plant whose flower has both the male and female parts on it. Technically, this is a self-fertile flower and may or may not be self-pollinating. A good example of this is pepper plants. Their flowers have both male and female flower parts on each flower. Even if the pollen got on the female part itself, the resulting fruit would likely be malformed. It is much better if the wind moves the pollen, aka wind pollination, or if the vibrations of a bee’s wings does the job. The pollen can also be moved using a tuning fork or electric toothbrush near the flower to simulate a bee’s wings, or by gently brushing the tops of the plants as you walk by.
3. Only a few plants actually self-pollinate. The most common are peas, many types of beans, and other legumes like peanuts. Peas and beans self-pollinate as the flowers open. Soybeans self-pollinate when the flower closes. Peanuts are also fertilized within the flower, then they drop to the ground for the nut to grow below soil level.
4. Pretty much all other flowering veggies need either the wind, as we mentioned, or human and/or insect help. Keep in mind also that it takes a lot of pollen to produce a healthy fruit. Usually when we are asked about a malformed fruit, or a fruit developing then suddenly shriveling up and falling off, it is due to under-pollination.
So now you know that the only veggie plants that are reliable at producing fruit with every flower are probably in the family of legumes. Garden on!
Categories: FAQ's and A's, The Birds and The Bees
8 March 2015, by gjones
A gardening friend told us this is the only variety of eggplant he grows anymore. Botanical Interests describes this heirloom as “So pretty, you can grow it in the flower garden. Its thin skin, mild flavor and tender texture ensure you will enjoy every bite!”
They go on to say that the skin is so thin that peeling isn’t required. We didn’t need anymore convincing.
You can see how healthy the plant is. The seed were sown on Feb. 1st, just 5 weeks ago, and germinated in 6 days. We intend to grow this one in the greenhouse, so will have a one month jump-start on the season. We should start getting fruit somewhere around mid-July.
Eggplant is well received in this house. Here are a few recipes you might like.
Can’t wait to try our hands at some more with these!
How to Grow Eggplant
1 March 2015, by gjones
There are probably as many ways to start seeds indoors as there are gardeners. Mandolin suggested we share what we do, in case it might help someone else.
It is pretty basic really. We have metal shelves that just fit over our kitchen propane fireplace. This provides a heat source at no additional cost to us.
We use the smallest plastic solo cups for the seeds. We cut drainage holes in them by turning a whole stack upside down, and using a sharp knife to make slits. Keeping them stacked prevents the cups from collapsing under the weight of the knife.
After putting some seed starting mix into the cup we place the seed on the mix, then add enough mix to make the seed planted at the depth suggested on the seed packet. Water a little, and place in a plastic tray. The trays we use are from a company called Planter’s Pride, and they originally came with seed starting pellets. We prefer the cups though, and the tray holds them in place. The lid has a cutaway on each side to allow for air flow. You can also just prop the lid a bit if you have a different brand.
We cover the plastic tray, then put that on an enamelware tray that sits directly on the fireplace. This buffers the heat perfectly. A cookie sheet would do the same.
As the seedlings emerge and grow, they graduate to larger cups and move up the shelves. Later in the season when we need more room, an additional light is hung over the top shelf. If we want to have more than one tray of starts, we just alternate their places on the shelves or fireplace every few days. When they sprout, again, they move to a higher shelf.
We keep track of what is what by numbering the cups with permanent marker, and keeping a list on the computer.
More tips on starting seeds indoors.
11 January 2015, by gjones
Small watermelons can be grown vertically.
Probably the best known of the smaller watermelons, Sugar Baby melons only weigh about 8 pounds or so, making them ideal for smaller gardens. Their vines are short compared to most melons, so growing them vertically is easy to do. Just be sure to support some of the weight of the fruit by placing it in some form of sling, and securing that to the trellis or fence you are growing them up. This helps take some of the stress off the vines.
We save the plastic mesh bags that fruit come in, and our non-gardening friends keep us supplied with the similar bags they buy their onions in. These types are perfect because they allow for plenty of airflow and do not stay wet after a rain.
Sugar Baby watermelons also do not have extensive root systems, which makes them ideal for growing in containers. We started a few seeds at the end of December, and are going to try our hand at growing them indoors. Since their days to maturity are about 80, we hope to see some melon development right around the time spring arrives. Wouldn’t eating some homegrown melon be a wonderful way to kick off the outdoor growing season?
Read about more edibles you can grow indoors.
The basic for growing watermelons, and how to know when to harvest.
Categories: Melons & Watermelons
21 December 2014, by gjones
You might look at your garden differently if your very existence depended on it. Of course you would consider balanced nutrition, but you also might look at storage ability and depending on where you live, even growing edibles in disguise.
Here are a few foods to consider if you want to rely more on your garden and less on food companies:
1. Quinoa, a relative of spinach, is grown for its high protein grains. It stores well, can be added to almost any recipe, and you can replant the seeds.
2. Flax is a lovely flowering plant grown for its seed, which is high in fiber and can be used as a substitute for oil and eggs in many recipes. It would blend in well in the landscape and not be seen as a food source by most people.
3. Dry beans most often have a pole growth habit. Their gorgeous flowers also help hide the fact that they are producing a high protein food source. Of course save some to replant.
4. Sweet potatoes look very much like a ground cover. They are related to morning glories and have a lush vine like top growth of beautiful leaves. The tubers themselves store well, can be used to replant, and are highly nutritious. Sweet potatoes are not only a good source of vitamin A, they also have a lot of vitamin C.
5. Unless you are a gardener, you probably wouldn’t recognize a potato growing if you saw one. The russet varieties store the best, and you can replant the following season. What we really like about potatoes besides their ability to store is the versatility of use. May as well keep things interesting.
6. Garlic is said to have some antibiotic properties, can be replanted not long after harvest, and stores well. It takes up very little room yet can make a world of difference in your food.
7. Okay, it would be tough to hide dry corn growing, but if that isn’t an issue we suggest it as a good source for a flour substitute. It stores forever and you can replant the seeds. Just grind for grits, cornmeal, and polenta. If you grow a popping variety, you even have a good snack food.
8. Okra is an easy edible to incorporate into a landscape, just look at the picture above. You can cook it a variety of ways, plus you can dehydrate it to grind and use as a food thickening agent. Be sure to let 1 or 2 pods grow big to save the seeds.
9. Walking onions grow as a perennial scallion type onion with an increased harvest each year. Dry the tops to use throughout the winter months.
10. Hot peppers are a good idea even if you don’t eat them. They can be used to make a pepper spray which works well as a pest deterrent.
11. Tomatoes would also be hard to hide, except that you can actually grow them, as well as other edibles, indoors. Stagger a few plantings of heirloom varieties to have a fresh vitamin C source year round. Lightly brush the flowering plants with your hands or use a tuning fork to help promote pollination.
Hopefully growing your own food never becomes an absolute necessity. Even if you don’t consider yourself a survivalist, it never hurts to be ready, just in case. The worst thing that could happen is you become addicted to growing food.
And that’s a good thing.
Categories: Survival Gardens