gardening

4 Natural Ways to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Garden

keepinh squirrels out of the garden.

Often referred to as Tree Rats by aggravated gardeners, squirrels can do a lot of damage. They can jump 6 ft. straight up, and have been known to use sunflowers as a mode of transportation; snacks included. Fencing does little to stop these pests, unless it is an electric fence.

Squirrels enjoy taking just a few bites from a juicy tomato, and then moving on to the next one. It can be very frustrating to pick a beautiful, long anticipated fruit, only to find bite marks.

But there are a number of things you can do to help keep your veggies safe.

1. Use hot pepper.
Squirrels hate that stuff. You can use it as a spray or just buy a cheap powdered spice. It will need to be reapplied after a rain or after watering, that’s the down side.

If you have a bird feeder, lace it with hot pepper as well. The birds don’t care, but it will help keep the squirrels away.

2. Use a motion sensitive sprinkler.

This will startle the squirrels and then may just move to some other garden instead.

3. Let nature do it’s thing.

If you already have a dog, try letting it get in the area of the squirrels. Cats can be great at scaring off squirrels, just be sure they don’t damage your garden themselves. Letting your pets into the garden, unless they are trained, can also do harm.

You might consider attracting some owls to your neighborhood instead. They do a great job at rodent control in general. Supply them with a place to live, and you get the added advantage of catching glimpses of these beautiful birds.

4. Give them what they want, but on your terms.

Squirrels only take a few bites of a tomato because what they are really after is the water content. Of course they do more damage in the hottest part of the season, which is also when the tomatoes are ripening.

You can help by providing them with a water source. We use an old birdbath set on the ground. Little by little, move the water source away from your garden and you’ll be drawing their attention away as well.

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Categories: gardening, pests

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13 Items to Upcycle for Indoor Growing

a very tiny greenhouse

There are a number of items you may be recycling that can save you some money when it comes to indoor growing.

You can start seeds in a lot of clean containers, such as:

1) Yogurt Cups
2) Plastic produce containers
3) Empty toilet paper rolls
4) Likewise, scaled down paper towel rolls
5) Aluminum cans, be careful cutting these
6) Tin cans from canned soup or veggies
7) Milk cartons
8) Wax cartons such as for orange juice
9) Disposable cups such as solo cups
10) Other food grade plastic containers such as tofu tubs, guacamole, and ready to eat food trays

The main thing to remember is that you need some form of drainage holes. This is easy enough to do in plastic with a scissors or sharp knife. Use caution of course.

For metal containers hammering a nail through them in a few places should do the trick.

Keep in mind you need enough room for the plants to be able to establish their root systems. We would say no less than 3 inches.

You can aid germination by covering containers with (11) recycled plastic sandwich type bags, as shown above. You can see a tiny seedling just sprouting, surrounded by water droplets. This creates a green house effect, keeping your seeds moist until they sprout.

And when that happens, there is one more way to upcycle using a sharpie marker. (12)

plastic ware make great plant markers

Don’t tell me you’ve been getting rid of free plant markers. ;-)

13.) When you transplant, you can still use some of the larger food containers, 5 gallon buckets, as well as reuse pots from plants you have purchased. Again, be sure all containers are clean and have drainage.

Categories: all about seeds, extending the season, How to Grow

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12 Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs to Grow Indoors

growing food indoors

And so it begins

When it comes to larger financial decisions, my husband and I hold off unless we both agree. Usually, when one person doesn’t want to spend the money, the other one finds creative ways to talk him into it. ;-)

And so it was with an unheated room that would be a great place to not only start seedlings, but also to grow food through the winter.

“You would have to make it worth it,” he said, not really wanting an increase in a utility bill.

To a gardening addict, just the activity itself is worth it.

“Like how?” I asked.
“Well, if you grew tomato plants and sold them, that would be good.”

Hmmm, that was part of the plan but that would be months away yet.
“How about having fresh tomatoes and herbs all year?” I suggested, appealing to the cook in him.

“And hot peppers?” he asked.

Let the growing commence.

Here are some of the best veggies to grow indoors:
1. Carrots- small round types such as Parisienne.
2. Tomatoes- romas, Tiny Tom or patio
3. Parsley
4. Basil
5. Hot peppers
6. Scallions
7. Garlic chives
8. Meyer lemons
9. Snow peas
10. Beans
11. Watermelon- small types such as sugar baby
12. Fruit trees on dwarf tree stock

Note there are a number of fruiting trees that are available grafted to dwarf root tree stock, far too many to list.

Categories: container gardening, extending the season, garden projects, The Experiments

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How to Over-Winter Gnomes

large gnome

Winter’s ill effects.

Not all gnomes are cold hardy, in fact some do not handle the outdoors well at all. Unfortunately they are not labeled and won’t tell you themselves. As of yet nobody has compiled a classification table for them, but we’re working on it.

So all a gardener can do for now is to use your best judgement.
Here are a few tips we’ve learned that may help:

1. If your gnome is a one of a kind or an unusual breed, and not from a family of metals, consider it to not be weather hardy unless you are told otherwise. These, the most unique of gnomes, are likely descendents from the family line of Plaster of Paris. The gentleman pictured above is a good example. These gnomes require the utmost care and should be afforded the best accommodations.

2. If your gnome originates in the orient, it may have the wherewithal to handle the harsh weather, but will likely not last more than one winter without showing the dire effects. These folk are usually happy to be hoarded into any enclosure, and left to their own devices until spring.

gnomes in the home

Happy in hiding.

3. Smaller gnomes often prefer to associate themselves with a land feature, and are unlikely to handle the weather well. This is not only true for winter, as many of these gnomes are very outdoor-sensitive. Unless you can offer them protection such as a covered porch, it is best to keep them inside all year.

4. Some gnomes can handle decades of being outdoors 24/7. It has been our experience that these types are usually from a family of Ceramics. They can be distinguished by accessories in bright acrylics, and often will have distinguishing marks in the form of initials on their bottom-most feature.

5. And finally, if your gnome is wearing anything other than a red hat, consider it suspicious. Red is the traditional color, any other implies a rebellious nature. These fellows are best placed year round in such a way that they cannot go anywhere unseen. Do not trust them too close to other gnomes, as they may try to convert them.

rebellious gnomes

Are they plotting?

In summary, you can tell a lot by just looking at a gnome. Most cannot handle winter weather, and are best brought indoors. Some cannot handle wet weather at all, and others well… just don’t turn your back on them.

Naming gnomes and some gnome links.
Gnomes on Pinterest.

Categories: fairy and miniature gardens

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5 Types of Season Extenders

season extenders

The only snow that got in was when I lifted the cover.

There are a number of ways you can get more growing time for your garden. Which you choose will depend on your budget, the size of your garden, and the extent to which you want to grow in the cold weather.

Here are a few to consider:

1. Cold Frames
Not only good for starting seedlings, cold frames can also house veggies and keep them protected enough to go farther into the winter. They are basically boxes, higher on one side that the opposite side, with glass or plastic hinged tops. The clear panels let light into to warm up the interior. Tops can be kept ajar when the day temperatures are still warm. Cold frames can get buried in snow; but if it isn’t too deep, it can actually help insulate the boxes.

2. Low tunnels
These can be made by bending PVC pipe or heavy wire into an inverted U-shape. This is then covered in plastic, again protecting the plants while letting the light through. To ventilate, the plastic must be pulled back and clipped.
Low tunnels are by design used only for shorter types of plants.
In large gardens, using portable low tunnels can help you protect different areas each year. This helps when you are rotating crops.

3. The Jones’ Garden System
Our favorite of course, the system acts similar to both a cold frame and low & high tunnels, allowing you to start seedlings as well as protect all sizes of plants in place.
It also grows more food in less space than a high tunnel, and is easier on the back than a cold frame. You can go farther into the cold with the help of heat tape.

The design makes it user friendly and we think the best solution for smaller gardens. To ventilate, simply move the top frame to the side.

4 & 5. High Tunnels and Greenhouses
Similar in that you can walk into them, these season extenders can help protect taller plants. They don’t hold the heat overnight as well as you might think, but do warm up fast during the day. They both do have the advantage that they can house a heating unit, and that you can be out of the cold weather while gardening.

High tunnels are usually ventilated by opening the door flaps. Greenhouse have ventilating panels as part of the design.

Read here about a high tunnel in Holland.

Do you use season extenders to get more from your garden?

Categories: extending the season, gardening, Keeping up with the Joneses

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Forever Food – You Can Grow That!

reseeding parsnip

When most people think of perennial edible plants, they probably think of apple trees and berry bushes, and that’s a great start. Fruit trees will bear for decades, berry bushes and canes give out new growth each year, grapes new vines, and even strawberries reproduce themselves providing younger, more vigorous plants.

But you don’t have to stop there if you want a lifetime of food. Plants such as asparagus and perennial onions never seem to stop coming back, and in fact, produce more. One horseradish root can provide you with more than you probably want. Be careful with these, they can be very invasive! Likewise, sunchokes aka Jerusalem artichokes. Although also invasive these have a bonus feature of producing lovely flowers that smell like chocolate.
Can you imagine?

Many herbs like sage, chives and thyme are perennial, others such as all the mint family including the balms and oregano, as well as dill, will reseed themselves. Our oregano bed is a good 10 years old and still going strong. The joke in this area is ‘Don’t trip carrying a pack of oregano seeds.’ Yep, it is that easy to grow, and that willing to spread.

Then there are the plants that give you something to put back, most in the form of seeds. The easiest example of this would be dry beans. With little effort on your part, you can purchase seeds once and never need to buy more. Forever.

You can save the seeds from many other edibles, just watch for cross pollination. Even then, a surprise once in a while is fun.

And it doesn’t stop there. You can replant some of the potatoes you harvest the following spring. Just be sure to start with a variety that holds well, and use the best of what you grew. Garlic is the same way, except that it gets planted just a few months after harvesting.

Let a few of your sweet potatoes start growing vines or ‘slips’ and you’ll be ready to grow another crop.

There are 3 ways new to us that we are trying this year to grow forever food. The first was to bring in a sweet pepper and an eggplant to see if we can keep them alive until spring and then bring back outside to start producing again.

The second is the parsnip experiment, shown above. We let a few roots go to seed, and the bed is now full of free plants. If they can get big enough to survive the winter, that’s one less thing we’ll need to plant.
If not, well we have a jar full of seeds.

The last was an accident. When harvesting some basil, we found a number of smaller plants that still had their roots on when pulled. They are now happily growing in a jar of water by the window, with no signs of giving up.

So what it comes down to is there is very little we need to buy to have a great harvest each year.

Of course, we still do. We just love trying new varieties.

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Click on the logo above to read many more such posts.
Garden on!

Categories: gardening, perennials, you can grow that

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Winterizing the Garden

It’s spring in Australia, and just cool enough now that our southern neighbors are starting their fall gardens.

Areas north have already received snow.

Here in Northeastern Pa. it’s time to put most of the garden to bed for the winter.

winterizing the garden

cardboard keeps the weeds away

There are a number of ways you can do this, this is what’s happening here.

Towards the end of the summer, we place cardboard over harvested beds to keep out any weed seeds until the frost kills them off.
If we plan on tilling a bed, which is rare, we leave the cardboard on through the winter to also keep out the spring weeds, and till in the soil amendments when the weather gets warm again.

winterizing the garden

summer's mulch and fall leaves add organic matter naturally

Between the falling autumn leaves and the straw that was used as mulch, some beds have a head start on winter. For the ones that won’t be tilled, we begin with nature.

winterizing the garden

so that's where my knife went

We add more rough compost to the beds. It will break down further over time, and can just be worked into the soil if needed before planting.

winterizing the garden

spread rough compost on top of your soil

To top this off we add a nice layer of leaves. These will also break down over time.
Just remember that some of your furry friends may decide to make a home underneath.

winterizing the garden

leaves act as mulch

You wouldn’t want to find a little bunny’s nest there…

winterizing the garden

...or something worse.

Categories: faq's, gardening, techniques

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3 Common Corn Problems

corn smut

1. Corn Smut

This is a fungus issue more likely to be found in heirloom and open-pollinated varieties. It destroys the ear, and can have negative effects on the entire plant.
It can also survive to cause issues again the following season.

What we didn’t know, until it was too late this year, it is an edible fungus, and considered to be quite the delicacy in some cuisines.

Now we’re hoping we get lucky and have some smut again next year!

2. Small ears

There are a number of possibilities that could have happened here. Lack of nitrogen in the soil, under-watering or over-crowding. In our case it was the latter, a failed experiment to see just how much corn we could fit into a 4×4 space.

Okay, yeah; well not quite that many.

unsuccessful corn pollination

3. Not full ears and/or misshapen ears

This is a pollination issue, and an easy one to avoid in the future. Be sure to plant your corn in blocks rather than rows. Once you see tassels, give each stalk a little shake when you walk by. Unless it is windy, of course.

This helps spread the pollen and you are more likely to get those nice full ears you hope for.

Here’s a short video showing how we grow corn.

Categories: gardening, plant problems

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5 Ways to Handle Upcoming Light Frost

green tomatoes

Ready to ripen indoors.

Well, the weather forecasters are saying the F-word again.
Last year frost didn’t hit until the end of October, but we can’t always be that lucky.

Here are a few ways to handle your veggies with the cold temps coming:

1. Harvest them.

All of the heat loving crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, summer squashes and eggplant cannot handle the cold. Let them ripen indoors, use them up or preserve what you can for the winter.

2. Bring them indoors.

Potted plants can come inside and you get a wee bit more life from them. We have heard of people overwintering pepper plants and having them live for years.

We’re going to give it a try with one pepper plant and a transplanted eggplant.

We also have 3 tomato plants in the greenhouse, just to keep that fresh taste going longer. May as well, right?

jones gardening system

Inserting the plastic panels for frost protection.

3. Cover them.

You can use something as simple as a sheet, or more elaborate like our garden system. This picture is of the sweet potato bed in the original test system. The longer we can keep them alive, the better the harvest will be.

4. Let them be.

Many veggies can handle the cold. All of the cold weather crops will survive a light frost. These include peas, most greens, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, scorzonera and parsley.

If you’re not sure weather they will survive or not, one frost will answer that question. Just don’t allow the lettuce to fool you. It may look like it is dead in the morning, and then perk back up when the sun comes out.

5. Water them in.

This is something we have never tried, but it makes sense and is often recommended. Water your garden at ground level thoroughly before a frost is predicted. Presumably the wet soil will hold the warm temperatures longer, and release heat at the base of the plant, offering them some protection.

We have also heard, but have not tried, watering the garden again before the sun hits the plants, in effect washing the frost droplets off and helping the plants survive.

We have had sufficient success with the first four methods, so have not had to try the fifth.

Well, got to go harvest the grapes and make some juice.
Happy gardening!

Categories: extending the season, harvesting, techniques

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1 Problem with the Three Sisters of the Field

Three Sisters of the Field

It’s a jungle in there.

The Three Sisters of the Field is a traditional method for growing corn, squash and beans that was introduced to the pilgrims by the indigenous people of this country. It is gaining in popularity as more home growers learn about it.

Intercropping veggies in this way helps save space, cuts down on weeds, and the plants benefit each other.
It also looks wonderful.

There is just one wee problem.

Many gardeners don’t realize that this method is meant for dry beans, field corn, and winter squash.

If they plant sweet corn and pole beans, they will most likely run into this issue:

Three Sisters of the Field

Playing hard to get.

The beans can wrap themselves around the corn cobs so tightly that harvesting them can be difficult.

There are two ways to avoid this issue:

1. Plant the traditional method by using field corn and dry beans. This way, the corn and beans, along with the squash, are all harvested about the same time.

2. Change it up with sweet corn but use bush or half runner beans. You won’t have any interference harvesting your corn.

Keep in mind that half runner beans can take up a lot of space; if you use them consider planting a bush type squash such as acorn or most summer squash.

One lesson we learned the hard way, that you don’t have to.

Categories: gardening, techniques

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