23 August 2014, by gj
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:
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
12 August 2014, by gj
There are some wonderful gardeners out there who grow solely in containers; they are to be admired.
Even if you have a nice sized garden, container gardening can allow you to grow more invasive plants, as well as some items you might otherwise not be able to.
Here are a few things we’ve learned that are good to know if containers are going to be a part or all of your garden:
1. Use the right soil.
Containers need something light, so that it will not get packed down, and so the roots have freedom to roam.
Garden centers carry an assortment of potting soils to choose from. My Dad always mixed his own- a blend of vermiculite, sphagnum moss, and perlite, that he would add compost and/or fertilizer to.
There is a mix called BM1 that is good for an abundant number of containers or large raised beds, you should also add the compost and fertilizer as needed.
2. Containers need more frequent watering.
Mulching can help this, but by their very nature containers do not hold on to water as well as the ground does.
Check your containers often. The best advice we heard was to water your containers until the water comes out the bottom. When you’re done with all your containers, go back and do it again. This gives the soil a chance to absorb more moisture.
When you are incorporating containers into a larger garden setting, grouping them helps with watering. Don’t learn the hard way that a container out of sight is also out of mind. Sorry Sunchokes.
3. Choose wisely.This has two components:
a. If you’re growing exclusively in containers- choose plants and plant varieties that do well in containers. Adjectives that describe a smaller stature, like ‘Fairy’ and ‘Baby’ are often good clues that the plant will be better suited to a container. A good seed catalog or website, like Johnny’s Seeds will clearly indicate which plants do better in tight spots.
b. If you’re mixing it up- you may want to plant some of the more invasive plants in the containers.
If that’s the case remember they still have drainage holes, and their roots can grow through them. Really.
You can plant the more invasive plants, like horseradish, in large barrels that sit on top of flat stones.
Some plants can also flower and re-seed themselves, mint and marjoram are quite prolific here. For years I thought Dill was a perennial. These we plant in large pots.
containing the growth
4. Keep them light-
Unless you are planting a perennial and placing it in a permanent location, you’re going to need to deal with the weight of the pot and its contents at some point.
Using a product like ‘Ups a Daisy‘ or simply placing a small upside down plastic pot inside you container before adding the soil will help keep it light.
Bonus- this also makes for better drainage. Which brings up the point-
5. Give them good drainage-
Of course you’ll use pots that have drain holes in them, but if those holes get blocked, drainage could be compromised. This can happen from within, if the soil fills the holes in. This can also happen on the outside, if you place the pot in such a way that the holes get blocked,on soil or mulch for example.
Many gardeners use pebbles, glass stones, even pieces of broken pots to line the bottom of their containers and hep with drainage. Depending on what the pot is made of, you can also drill a few holes along the outside near the bottom.
ready to come indoors as needed
Categories: container gardening
9 August 2014, by gj
No areas here are actually empty, they are just waiting to sprout.
Depending on your location, your garden is likely well under way and possibly even winding down.
Everyone tends to get busy this time of year, with vacations, picnics and even back to school preparations.
Still, your garden needs a little attention beyond weeding, watering and harvesting.
Here are a few things you should consider at this time of year:
1. Succession planting.
Some edibles, like parsnips, do better if allowed to grow throughout the winter and harvested in the spring. Many of the greens can take the cold and be harvested well after everything else has finished.
Check for your area, and replant any parts of the garden that are done producing.
2. Feed your plants.
Your veggies need your help. They are working hard to produce, and a good dose of compost tea would help keep them strong enough to provide you an abundant harvest.
We recommend a liquid feeding of Moo Poo Tea, shown here:
Haven brand Moo Poo Tea
Here’s how to use it and why it works so well.
We will be using this later today to give the garden the shot in the arm it needs right now, from new seedlings to heavily producing veggie plants.
3. Prepare for Autumn.
-Be sure to have seeds for growing cover crops or mulch to help prevent weeds on hand.
-Check on tools, like pruning sheers, to be sure they are in good condition.
-Consider harvesting herbs now. You don’t have to wait until the threat of frost to get a jump start on bringing things in.
-Prepare a bed, or be ready to, for a fall planting of garlic.
-Have an area ready indoors for any potted plants you intend to bring in before the cold weather.
4. Get ready for next season.
This is especially important for anyone who starts seeds indoors and/or pushes the season with extenders such as cold frames.
Be sure you have the supplies you need on hand, as they may not be readily available when you need them.
Get your seed starting mix and supplies while the stores still have them in stock.
5. Consider indoor veggie growing for the winter.
We recently started seeds for a tomato that does well indoors, and have some herb seeds started as well. Updates on them will be forthcoming.
Year round tomatoes?
Note: We were not paid to recommend these products nor given them for free. We are simply sharing what we like.
Categories: Addiction, gardening
3 August 2014, by gj
Sweet potatoes in slow motion.
Here and in many other places in the northern U. S. the weather has been unseasonably cold.
People have mentioned the now dreaded term Polar Vortex, though technically that isn’t what is happening.
Still, we have yet to see temperatures hit 90F, and for some of the veggies growing, this is confusing.
The hardest hit are the real heat lovers like sweet potatoes, and the cold weather crops like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.
The sweet potatoes thrive in the heat, and with the cooler temperatures they are growing, but slowly.
Fortunately they are in a bed that can be turned into a high tunnel and the season extended.
The coles are just sitting there. Normally by this time of year they would have either been harvested, or if it was a very hot summer, bolted.
But neither has taken place; they are healthy plants, but confused at the same time.
It isn’t hot enough to make them bolt, and it isn’t cool enough to make them produce heads.
Cabbage, on hold.
It is going to be really interesting to see what happens in the fall, we’ll get back to you on that.
Categories: Addiction, gardening, plant problems
26 July 2014, by gj
You are not as limited by your growing region as you might think.
Over the last few years we have discovered there are more plants that can be grown in a cooler region, like here in the northeast zone 5/6, than we thought possible.
1. Meyer Lemons
We purchased a grafted tree that can be grown in a pot. Lemon trees can take cold temperatures to just below freezing, and we have heard of many gardeners in the north keeping theirs in a greenhouse through the winter.
Our intention is to bring it indoors instead, as the flowers have a wonderful scent and the plant is attractive.
There are already a number of tiny lemons just this first season, and hopefully they were pollinated well enough that they will develop into lemons.
Admittedly, we used our tuning fork to help hedge that bet.
Growing similarly and close by is another grafted tree that will produce Mandolin Jones’ favorite fruit. This is also in its first season and already loaded with tiny fruit.
Like the lemon tree, this will be coming indoors for the winter.
Now in its second year, the avocado tree will be flowering later in the season.
Last year it did produce 8 fruit, all of which were accidentally knocked off in 3 separate accidents.
We have learned to be much more careful with our special trees now, particularly when moving them back indoors.
This is the second round for growing ginger from a store bought root.
You can read all about it here. The main thing we have since learned is that we prefer homegrown so much, that we are going to need at least one more pot of it to get through the year.
You’ve got to love the added benefit of never having to buy ginger again.
A relative of ginger, turmeric is grown pretty much the same way. Our roots that were covered in soil sprouted better than ones placed just on top, like the ginger root was.
It is supposed to produce a few months sooner and we are looking forward to prepping it in the same way we did the ginger.
This is the newest plant to join the array of unusual things to grow, and the one we are having the most difficult time with. Wasabi prefers to be in the shade and it requires lots of water.
That combination can easily lead to a mold issue, so we have found that it also needs air circulating about it.
Which in turn leads to a need for more water.
So yes, admittedly keeping this plant alive has been a test of our gardening dedication. Especially because at a DTM of 2 years, it will also be the plant growing the longest before it can be harvested.
Categories: gardening, How to Grow, The Experiments
19 July 2014, by gj
Peas Round #2
In the southern states a fall garden means starting tomatoes and such indoors, as the fall is the best growing time for them.
To our neighbors far north, planning for the fall would involve at least low tunnels and cold frames.
This post is for everyone in between.
Succession planting, or following one plant with another, is a great way to make the most of the space you have.
At this time of year, your peas have probably started to die off. You cold weather crops are either in or beginning to bolt. And anything over-wintered is likely going to seed.
This means some space will be available for crops that can take cooler temperatures.
Here in the zone 5/6 Jones’ garden we have already sown our second crop of peas. Early maturing garlic was followed by plantings of winter squash.
Squash catching up.
In between the rows of onions, which are starting to show signs they are ready to harvest, we have direct sown seeds of cabbage for a fall crock of sauerkraut.
As the potatoes are harvested, turnips and rutabaga seeds will go in. Where the spinach bolted, more carrot seeds were planted.
These are all veggies that can take the cold; and that is the main piece of information you need to know about following one crop with another.
The other things are what ‘days to maturity‘ actually means, and when your first frost in the fall is expected.
That way you can better time what you are planting to mature in the fall or even into winter.
When we first started gardening we used to think we could only grow food from the end of May until the frost in the fall.
Now we know we can garden pretty much all year ’round.
Experience really is the best teacher.
Categories: extending the season, gardening
12 July 2014, by gj
David L. Green is a gentleman we e-met on Facebook, who has a great deal of knowledge about the pollination process. In many cases, we consider him to be a go-to expert.
On a few occasions, when a fellow gardener asked about lack of pollination on their tomato, eggplant and/or pepper plants, he advised them to use a tuning fork to help move the pollen about the flower and increase the plant’s chances of producing fruit.
What a fascinating concept.
Music is much more complex than you might think.
It has a mathematical component and also a physical side, and is part of the fiber of nature itself.
The most common tuning fork will vibrate at the same frequency as the note middle C, which is about 250 hz.
What is interesting is that this approximates the frequency of the beating of a bee’s wings.
You see, bees can help move pollen in 2 ways. First by getting it on themselves and then getting it on a female flower. This is the way a bee can help squashes for example, and the way most people think of bees helping.
The other way is the vibration caused by the beating of their wings.
In this way bees can help plants whose flowers have both male and female components, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
The vibration can help shift that pollen enough to get it on to the female reproductive part, helping it to develop fruit.
Of course this is not the only way to move pollen on these plants, the wind can help also as can other insects.
For those gardeners who live in an area where there is not a lot of breeze or bees, the tuning fork is a simple and successful solution.
Just whack it on something hard, and touch the fork to the flower’s stem.
Be the bee, so to speak.
Here’s an inexpensive one that we purchased:
Categories: gardening, plant problems, techniques
5 July 2014, by gj
Luffas’ tendrils grab onto anything.
There are some plants that grow vertically so naturally, that all you need to do is have a support nearby.
Cucumbers, pole beans and peas, and luffas are wonderful examples of edible plants whose system of tendrils helps them grow up just about anything.
And then there are plants, most notably tomatoes, that are not meant to grow vertically but usually are. Prettify much every gardeners supports their tomato plants in some way, be it a stake, a cage, the Florida weave, or an overhead system.
Supporting tomatoes helps keep those soft fruits from rotting and makes them a little bit less susceptible to bugs and disease.
The stems are hearty enough to handle the weight of the fruit.
Well, in most cases that is.
We did once see a picture of a tomato so large and heavy that it snapped the stem on the plant.
But that’s the exception not the rule.
There are other vining plants like tomatoes that can be grown vertically with just a little assistance.
Sugar baby melon happily hanging.
Melons are a vining crop as are many varieties of squash, particularly the winter squash but also some summer types.
In both cases there are two main ways the gardener can help their plants grow vertically.
The first is to be sure the structure to be used can support the combined weight of the ripe fruit.
In this regard it helps if the variety you plant produces a smaller fruit.
For example, a Moon and Stars watermelon might not be as good a choice as a Sugar Baby watermelon. As the name implies, Sugar baby produces one of the smallest melons and therefore is easy to grow vertically.
The other thing a gardener can do is to help support the fruit on the vine.
Like the very large tomato mentioned above, heavy fruit can easily cause stress and damage to the vine.
By using an airy fabric such as the mesh store bought onions or oranges come in, or a sheer nylon like pantyhose are made from, the gardener can help take some of the weight off the plant and put it onto the structure.
It is important that what is used will dry easily after a rain.
Tatume squash being supported.
Simply wrap the fruit in a sling-like fashion, and tie it to the support. This not only takes the weight off the plant, it gives the fruit plenty of room to grow.
If you do not have anything to use on hand, you can buy netting type fabric inexpensively wherever fabric is sold. Remember you can keep using it year after year.
Growing whatever you can vertically is a great way to get more from the space you have, and also help protect your plants from some critters.
And that’s a gardening win-win.
Here’s a wee bit more.
Categories: gardening, techniques
3 July 2014, by gj
Early light harvest of greens while zucchini heads up vertically.
Since you are reading this you are probably already a gardener, congrats!
Perhaps you have a lot of space that you would like to optimize, or maybe you just want to get more from a smaller area.
There are gardening techniques that have been around for thousands of years that can help you do just that.
25 corn plants with bush and pole beans
Intensive gardening is a technique that incolves planting veggies close together, even in the shade of one another, to get more from the space. Of course you will need to be diligent so as to not have disease issues, and to be sure all plants have the water and nutrients they need.
Succession planting allows you to replenish then refill up spaces as they open.
So you have pulled those early planted carrots, how much time do you have for another crop?
Growing vertically, from the typical peas and beans to the more unusual squash and melons adds even more bounty in the same space.
Keeping plants warm in early spring.
When you utilize season extenders like those pictured above, you can increase the quantity you harvest by as much as 50% here in the zone 5/6 area. The actual amount depends on your climate.
That’s a lot.
These pics are of the test model of a garden system we designed primarily for those in suburban areas, but with everyone in mind.
After 3 years of testing we found we can pretty much double our harvest by using the techniques mentioned above, as well as the built in critter protection.
10 tomato plants with basil below.
Now we don’t want to be a commercial on our blog.
If you would like to learn more, click here.
In the meantime, know that however much space you have, there are fun and really easy ways to make the most of that.
More veggies? Yeah…
You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world who want to help everyone enjoy growing.
For more posts on other gardening topics, just click on the logo above.
Categories: gardening, techniques, you can grow that
24 June 2014, by gj
Depending on your particular climate, there are many non-perennials that you need only plant once to harvest year after year.
Here in Zone 5/6, this is what we are working on:
These are biennial vegetables, meaning they produce roots and leaves the first year and flowers the next.
We overwintered our parsnips and after harvesting this spring, left a few to flower. We expect, as other gardeners have assured us, that the flowers will then turn to seed and grow more parsnips to be harvested next spring.
Cousins to parsnips, the same principle holds true. Carrots are more difficult to winter over, so we will heavily mulch just a few that will be left in the bed to see if we can pull it off. These methods are also a good way to collect seed, so if nothing else you can try that.
3. New Zealand Spinach
Not a true spinach, but one that is used the same way. This particular variety does not bolt as fast as spinach does, but when that happens it will also reseed.
We expect to see it coming up next spring as well.
4. Tomatillos and Chokecherries
Similar but not the same, these two relatives of tomatoes also will reseed and offer you many new plants for next season. We are going to cover this bed with plastic late in the winter, to help them get a faster start.
“What??” you may be thinking.
At least, that was our reaction.
But many a gardener has told us that they bring in a potted sweet pepper plant before the frost, and store it in a cool room or basement.
They say it goes into a dormancy period, and will spring back to life when the weather warms back up.
So this we had to see for ourselves, and have a beautiful Lady Bell just for that purpose.
Of course the results of all these examples, that others swear by, will be shared here with you.
Why not give some a go?
You might be pleasantly surprised.
Categories: perennials, techniques