24 May 2013, by gj
Gardeners are an odd lot.
Some like to geek-out gardening, for example by dividing vegetables into groups such as ‘Light, Medium and Heavy Feeders’.
Feed me, Seymour.
Light Feeders are veggies, the root crops to generalize, that will be perfectly happy if all they have to grow in is a decent, loose soil.
Heavy Feeders are much more demanding, requiring the gardener to not only supply them with all the nutrients a healthy soil offers, but to also replenish that at least once during the growing season.
Medium Feeders generally need a well balanced soil to start off with, then can be left alone to grow.
Feed that baby.
This is all well and good, and important to know. The problem is that there are differences of opinion as to where any particular veggie falls.
Pretty much every gardener would agree that tomatoes and peppers are Heavy Feeders. This means that they need a good ‘side-dressing’ of compost added during their growing season.
Please note that it’s compost, not manure, that they need. Adding manure will only improve the green leaves, but actually cause less fruit to grow.
Most gardeners would add squash and melons to the group of heavy feeders as well. Some include eggplants and cucumbers. Other vegetables seem to fall into the heavy or medium categories depending on who you talk to or read.
Healthy means happy.
So let’s simplify this.
1. Give all your veggies a good healthy start, even if they are going to grow below ground.
2. Use compost tea liberally, it can never hurt.
3. Side-dress your veggies by adding good compost. This is particularly important for the veggies that grow above ground.
4. Greens? Well, maybe. Anyway a side dressing can’t hurt.
There now, you have one less thing to think about.
Unless you like to geek it out, then have at it.
Categories: gardening, how to grow, techniques
21 May 2013, by gj
There are times in the garden, especially in the quiet hours of the day, that I feel very close to nature. It’s almost as if, were I to take my shoes off and stand quite still, I might begin to take root.
Of course this is about as likely to occur as a robot becoming sentient.
Or is it?
I was walking with my Dad through his gardens recently, just a few days after my Mom’s funeral. This is a man who has spent his entire life working with plants. With tears in his eyes he commented:
“The gardens look so sad this year. See the butterfly bush by the gate? Last year it was twice as big by now. Nothing seems to want to grow or bloom… I don’t know, maybe it’s my imagination.”
“The gardens are sad,” I replied, “because you are. Spend time out here, Dad; as you begin to feel better, they will start to look better.”
Now if you are new to gardening you may think that a plant is just a plant, but let me share a true story with you:
Many years ago a young woman was found murdered in her apartment. The police suspected her boyfriend, but had no proof.
The woman loved houseplants and her apartment was filled with them. In a effort to trick the suspect, they hooked a lie-detector type device up to the plants. This machine could only detect certain changes in the plants, meaningless in a court of law of course.
It was only when the boyfriend came into the apartment, that the plants reacted. It showed clearly on the device. Apparently his presence had a strong effect on them.
The police were shocked.
The boyfriend confessed.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary. How does your garden grow?
The answer to that might depend on her mood.
So might I suggest that when you are gardening, you don’t stress it.
Leave the problems of the day at the gate, and be light of spirit.
Not only will the garden grow better, so will the gardener.
Categories: special posts
19 May 2013, by gj
Pesticides kill bugs, that’s what they are used for.
Even ‘natural’ pesticides kill bugs.
Most pesticides kill indiscriminately.
Here’s the thing, we all have problems with bad bugs on our plants; and we want to get the best harvest possible.
This is a double-edge sword.
By killing the bad bugs, we may also be killing the ones that will pollinate them, like bees.
There is already a problem with the bee populations due to Colony Collapse. Add to that the use of pesticides in home lawns and gardens and it gets worse.
Some of these pesticides may already be on plants you buy at your local Farm and Garden as well. Put them in the ground, and they will continue to kill for years.
Not just bugs either, also the birds that eat them.
If the use of these pesticides continues, our ability to grow our own food declines as well.
Please READ THIS short article. Share it, print it out and take it to your local Home Depot or Lowe’s.
You can also Take Action here.
What can you do to prevent the need for any pesticide?
1. Keep your garden clean. Remove spent foliage at the end of the season.
2. Keep your plants healthy and strong. If you have healthy soil, your plants will be stronger and better able to fight off any pests. Give them what they need.
3. Keep a close watch for pests. As soon as you see them, pick them off by hand. Most pests can easily be swiped off and into a bucket of soapy water.
4. Look into pest-resistant hybrids for veggies you have the most trouble with.
5. Start your own seed with an organic seed starting medium, or buy from a local organic grower.
6. Add in some plants that will attract the good bugs. Bees love sunflowers, Ladybugs favor dill and oregano. Not only will good bugs help pollinate, many feed on the bad bugs.
7. Learn more. We recommend the book Good Bugs, Bad Bugs by Jessica Walliser as a great source for the information you need to know to grow a healthier garden.
If you need to use a pesticide, please go organic and target the bug you are after. Use as little as possible.
Here’s a few natural solutions to try.
Categories: gardening, living green, pests, techniques, Uncategorized
18 May 2013, by gj
A lot of confusion surrounds GMO seeds, as the term is now used in reference to Monsanto; and there are many gardeners concerned that they might buy some by accident.
That is simply not possible.
You won’t find GMO seeds this way.
Here’s what you would have to do to get it:
1. Buy a farm. Call up Monsanto and tell them you want to sign that long intense contract that even controls you and your crop after you stop growing GMO. Buy seeds from them, buy Round-up from them. Grow the crop, but don’t save any seeds, or they will sue you.
2. Buy land down wind from a farm that is growing GMO crops that are wind pollinated, like corn. Let them cross pollinate your non-GMO crop. Save the seeds. Just don’t let Monsanto find out, or they will sue you.
3. Buy GMO veggies at the store, like corn or zucchini. Save the seeds and replant. Chances are they won’t grow, because the seed is too immature to germinate. So what if Monsanto finds out? They might sue you anyway.
Here’s the thing to remember, Monsanto doesn’t want you to have their seeds without the contract. They are not in seed packets at your local Farm and Garden. They’re just not.
So usually when someone says they only grow non-GMO, what they probably mean is they are growing heirlooms and open pollinated, not hybrids.
But a hybrid is only a cross between a plant and a similar plant, like a tomato and another, slightly different, tomato. Bees do it naturally, and growers do it on purpose.
A GMO is not plant to plant. It’s a tomato and a fish, or corn and E. Coli.
Really big difference.
The danger of foods containing GMO.
Categories: all about seeds, GMO's, you are what you eat
17 May 2013, by gj
Like a lot of other places, spring weather in the Northeast has been crazy.
The last two weeks have been on the cold side, including a few frost and freeze warnings, and believe it or not, it snowed on May 13th.
The worst seems to be over now.
Here’s what is going on in our Zone 5/6 gardens:
A new house-and-garden tree.
The cold hardy Avocado Tree arrived, making the small olive tree look even smaller. They both have been inside, then out, then back in, and today will make their final move out until fall.
Homegrown avocados this winter? Yeah, it could happen.
What looks like a mini sunflower, smells like chocolate, and you eat the tuberous roots?
We decided to contain the sunchokes, and this is one of the buckets they have been transplanted to.
They are coming up nicely and we’re looking forward to how pretty they will make the roadside garden look.
There’s always a project to do.
The frame to hold netting over the fruit trees is finally finished. It would have been done sooner, but Mandolin decided to help.
Seriously though, it’s a much sturdier structure than it would otherwise have been.
Here they come!
40 pounds of taters are sprouting.
There are a number of different kinds, and a few different growing methods.
Gotta love garden experiments.
Pushing the growing season.
Cloching worked well for the dry beans. We also tried it with bush green beans, with no success.
Of course, the fact the seeds were older may have been a contributing factor to their demise.
A jump start on the nightshades.
Likewise it worked well for the tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.
We even have some early buds.
No flowers on the peas yet though, go figure.
The bush the rabbit missed.
Earlier in the spring we discovered rabbits had chewed down a number of our blueberry bushes.
They missed a few, though; which are now heavily protected.
Bring on the Blueberry pancakes!
Photo bombed buckets.
We scored some food-grade buckets at an out of the way diner, and plan on using the cabbage, cauliflower, gherkins, and some other veggies for a little lacto-fermentation later in the summer.
Mmmm, healthy goodness.
It’s garlic… And onions.
As it turns out the wonderful growth that we thought was the onion experiment, is actually garlic.
If you look in the background you can see the wee little fall planted onions are just coming up.
Live and learn Dear Journal, and take better notes.
Categories: addiction, dear journal
14 May 2013, by gj
Also known as ‘peat pots’ these seed starting units are simply mesh holding in dried peat. Peat itself is just vegetation that has partially decomposed. Pretty basic.
So why would some of my gardening friends claim they will never use them again? In fact, calling them ‘horrid’ and expressing that they cause the plants to become root bound, stunting growth.
Starting seeds in peat pellets using a re-purposed plastic container.
One of my friends suggested the mesh has been made stronger over time, and that is why the peat pellets no longer work.
Squash seedling one week old.
We found this interesting because we would swear by the pellets after starting a lot of seeds in them this year. The roots were coming out the bottom and sides, though many were still in the mesh. It was easy enough to tear open when the time came to transplant. Our tomatoes were well over 18″ tall when they went in the ground, and you can see the root growth of a pepper plant below.
Pepper plant ready to go in the garden.
Did we just get lucky and maybe get an old batch, or did we do something different that made them work? Sure wish we knew.
Of course there are so many other ways to start seeds: in pots, in bathroom tissue rolls, in handmade starts formed from newspaper, even hydroponically. Everyone has their favorite way.
For now, we’ll stick with what worked for us.
What’s your experience with peat pots, and what has worked best for you? Please share.
Categories: all about seeds, how to grow
12 May 2013, by gj
“Put your back into it” is not just an expression for gardeners, it’s literal.
Let’s face it, gardening is a very physical activity. The larger the garden, the more it requires from you.
Building raised beds helps a lot with the bending aspect, as does mulching to prevent weed growth.
But the older we get, the more difficult gardening can become. And it’s not just age that can add to the difficulty, many gardeners suffer from car accident related or other injuries.
Yet we love it so much, we keep going.
Whether you are just mulching your veggies…
We can talk about what to do or take for the sore muscles, like heat pads and soothing baths with Epsom salt, gardeners love Epsom salts, but there is also something we have found that helps:
Exercise, G. J.? But gardening is exercise, how can that help?
Many years ago I was misdiagnosed with scoliosis, and a physical therapist showed me a few easy exercises to help strengthen my back muscles.
So recently, I started doing these exercises again, and found that I could play much longer in the garden without the pain I normally would have suffered.
filling a few containers…
It’s so easy and slow, that it’s almost yoga-like.
Here’s what to do:
1. Sit on a straight back chair, and place your elbows at your waist, palms up and arms out front. Keeping your elbows in tight, move your arms to the sides as far as you can, then forward again.
2. Still sitting, bend your upper body down to the floor between your legs and bounce a few times. Straighten back up.
3. With arms across your chest, turn to the right and then to the left as far as you can.
4. Lay down on a mat or other comfortable surface. Bend your knees and place your arms at your side. Try to bring the small of your back down to the mat without lifting your butt.
5. Still laying down, bring one leg at a time to your chest, use your hands to hold your knees, to gently help get them a little closer.
or building weed free pathways.
Repeat each exercise 5-10 times and you will strengthen your back as well as loosen your muscles before the real workout begins.
No more heating pad needed.
Here’s the disclaimer- always consult your physician before beginning any new activity.
Of course, if you are already gardening, you’re most likely ready.
Categories: gardening, preparedness, techniques
11 May 2013, by gj
Gardeners know the benefits of compost, or ‘black gold’ as they call it.
But there are times when you may want to apply that gold in a liquid form.
Well, to not disturb young plants or their soil, for one.
To get that richness right to the leaves, for another. Did you know plants take in nutrients from their leaves as well as their roots?
Crafty little devils they are.
Yours or theirs.
The gardening sites I have seen make this much more involved than is necessary.
A lot of the internet is like that, unfortunately.
My friend and fellow Master Gardener Tami says it does not need to be all that complicated.
A gardener after my own heart.
So here’s the easy way:
1. Get 2 buckets.
2. Get some compost.
3. Get some water.
4. Get some molasses (optional).
Place the water in 1 bucket. Add the compost, broken down or not, homemade or purchased, but preferably in an old pillow case or similar fabric that will strain out the larger pieces. Add some molasses.
Any ol’ bucket will do.
After one day soaking, pour the water from one bucket to the next, then put the bag of compost back in to soak. This is a simple way to aerate the tea.
Repeat for 3 days, and you are ready to go.
Or grow, as the case is.
Add more water, brew.
Read more about how compost tea spray works, as well as other great info on Foliar Spraying, here.
Categories: gardening, living green, preparedness, techniques
10 May 2013, by gj
When the story of the upcoming swarm of 17-year locusts first hit the news, visions of crop damage of Biblical Proportions entered my head.
You know, the kind of stuff a b-rated sci-fi is made of.
But after reading a lot on the internet, I came across this news release from Indiana University.
Frame is ready.
What a relief! You see, the cicadas are expected to travel up the east coast from North Carolina to New York. Some sources even mentioned the Hudson Valley region, which is not terribly far from us. I did finally find a map, and we are just on the fringe of their expected path.
With an estimated trillion of swarming red eye bugs coming this way, I wanted to learn how to protect the gardens.
As it turns out these much anticipated cicadas don’t mess with the majority of crops, mainly they will go after fruit trees and shrubs.
Luckily those are the plants the dang squirrels and rabbits damaged last fall and this spring, so we were already preparing to cover them with netting, using PVC pipe as a frame.
Get netting with opening 1 inch or less.
This project just moved to the top of the To-Do list.
Secretly, I hope we get a chance to see at least one, and get a good pic.
Then we can put it here:
Wow! Look at this great shot we got!
Are you in their path? Are you a cicadas geek?
Enjoy the fun by keeping up with the Swarmageddon and an interactive tracking map here.
Categories: gardening, pests
7 May 2013, by gj
You can purchase some dry bean seeds from your favorite seed supplier, or save some money by getting some ‘soup’ beans from the grocery store.
We did this back in 2010, and have not had the need to buy seed since.
Dry beans like those pictured below from the local grocery were a little over $2 per pound, about what you would pay for a packet (1/8 pound) of seeds at your local nursery (or more through the mail with shipping charges added).
“What?” you may be thinking. Yes it’s true…and it gets even better:
Since the beans are seeds, we had enough seed left from the harvest to plant the following year, and so on.
For approximately $5 we have enough dry beans for the rest of our lives.
“What???” You may be shocked and amazed but it’s true.
These beans will never become soup, but their kids will.
(no soup for you!)
Dry beans are easy enough to plant.
When the weather is good and warm, just drag your trowel through the soil to make a small trench.
Throw in beans. You can take the time to carefully set them in but we don’t. They seem to handle overplanting very well.
Cover the trench and water.
Even easier, plant before a rain.
Only a week after planting.
Beans are a very healthy source of protein and are high in fiber, good for a lot of what ails you.
We really love them too, most especially as hummus. You can use a variety of beans to make it.
Some beans you can pick young for fresh eating, then let the rest dry on the plant.
Beans produce more the more you pick, so have at ‘em. Dry or fresh you just open the pod to get the beans.
This worked so well that we did purchase a few seeds to add additional color to what we grow. Now we harvest a wonderful assortment each year, without having to buy any more seeds.
We have also learned that you can get an even bigger harvest by warming up a bed simply by clamping plastic on it, and keeping the seeds/seedlings warm until the weather is better for them.
Here they come, a full month early.
Note that most dry beans are bush types or semi-vining, meaning they cling on to each other. If you buy beans in the store, chances are you won’t have to trellis them. Check a seed catalog first for more specifics on their needs.
More on growing Dry Beans
Other seeds from the market
Categories: beans, how to grow