gardening

6 Warm Weather Plants to Grow in Colder Areas

Baby Clementines

Baby Clementines

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.

2. Clementines

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.

3. Avocado

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.

4. Ginger

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.

5. Turmeric

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.

6. Wasabi

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.

Homegrown Turmeric

Homegrown Turmeric

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Categories: gardening, How to Grow, The Experiments

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How to Plan a Fall Garden

Fall peas

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.

fall 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

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Make Like a Bee & Help Pollinate Your Tomatoes

growing tomatoes

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.

Thanks David!

Here’s an inexpensive one that we purchased:

Categories: gardening, plant problems, techniques

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How to Help Veggies Grow Vertically

luffa plants

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 watermelon

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

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

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$100′s of Food in a Small Space – You Can Grow That!

The Jones' Garden System

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.

The Jones' Garden System

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.

The Jones' Garden System

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.

The Jones' Garden System

10 tomato plants with basil below.

Now we don’t want to be a commercial on our blog. :-P
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

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.
Happy Gardening!

Categories: gardening, techniques, you can grow that

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5 Surprising Long-Term Veggies

parsnip flowers

Parsnip Flowers

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:

1. Parsnips
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.

2. Carrots
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.

5. Peppers
“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

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How to Make a Vinegar Weed Killer

killing weeds with vinegar

Sprayed and not sprayed.

Until recently we thought using white vinegar as a weed killer was well known.
It has been around for a long time, and often is referred to as a ‘Grandma recipe’ because it is so old-timey.

We started using it many years ago, when we first read about the dangers of chemical herbicides such as the popular Roundup brand by Monsanto.

killing weeds with vinegar

Even dandelion damage.

We are especially happy we went to a natural herbicide after getting our free range chickens, and most importantly to us, after our grandson arrived.

There are a few variations on the recipe.
Some people dilute the vinegar, but we would think that would take more applications.
Others add things like tree oil or salt.

killing weeds with vinegar

Fried.

Preferring to keep it simple, we just add about 2 Tbs. dish liquid to a gallon of white vinegar.

It is best to apply on a sunny day, as the light helps the acid burn the plant.
Some plants will take more than one application.

You can use any squirt-type bottle.
Mandolin likes this device, as he can get quite a bit of the yard in one trip.

killing weeds with vinegar

The tools.

Note that like all herbicides, vinegar does not discriminate between good plants and weeds, so be careful you don’t hurt what you want to save.

We only use the vinegar on garden paths, and away from the garden area.

In our part of the country there are still many people canning, so the vinegar usually goes on sale about this time of year.
We recently stocked up on a BOGO sale.

Effective, organic, and on the cheap…
You can’t beat that!

Categories: pests

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2 Ways to Thwart Birds

Keeping birds away from strawberries.

The mother lode.

There are two problems with birds in our roadside garden this time of year.
The first is that they are stealing seeds. Specifically, squash seeds.

They must be attracted by the newly turned soil and its promise of worms; the seeds they find are most likely just a bonus.
But of the 6 squash hills containing 3 seeds each, only one sprouted and one other was found to still be in a hill.

The other issue is that they are going after our June-bearing strawberries which were moved to a new location last year.
The bed they are in now makes using bird netting problematic, so another method needed to be found.

stopping birds from stealing seeds

Squash seeds cozy and safe.

A few years ago we heard a suggestion to paint stones bright red. The idea is that the birds come down to peck at what they think are berries, and when they are disappointed a few times they stop trying.

After all, there are other gardens and other strawberries that are much easier to eat.

So we solved both issues, we hope, by covering the squash hills with window screening, and holding those in place with the red rocks.

Come to me, my pretties.

Come to me, my pretties.

In the meantime we’ll keep an eye on those strawberry plants that are producing now, and hope the rocks left after the screening is removed help the ever-bearers all summer.
Long after the squash are all bearing as well.

stop birds from eating strawberries

Update 6/20/14:

It has been about 2 weeks and all of our squash plants are up and growing, and we have noticed a definite decrease in the number of berries bitten into. In this most recent small harvest, there was only 1 berry we had to toss out.
Woohoo!

Categories: pests

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How to Stop Seed Thieves

how to prevent critter seed theft

Photo by Sally Getz of part of her garden.

There are times when no sooner does a seed get planted than the battle with critters begins.

My Facebook friend Sally Getz of Colorado had been facing an annual mass seed theft in her garden until she came up with the fabulous idea.

She purchased cheap clear plastic cups from a dollar store.
After planting and watering her seeds, she dug in a cup over each one, bringing more soil around the cup to hold it in place and not let the winds blow it over.
She kept them watered as needed.

Not only did the cups protect the seeds, they acted as mini-cloches to keep the seeds warm and moist.
Of course this helped them sprout sooner.

Sally is one really determined gardener, she did this for over 800 seeds.
No replanting this year and we hope it will be her best garden ever
You grow girl!

Categories: gardening people, places & things, techniques

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6 Ways to Help Insure Your Veggies Will Succeed

baby luffa plants

Baby luffas happy in their environment.

1. Plant in good soil.

With the possible exception of wasabi, few plants want to ‘get their feet wet’. Be sure to add plenty of compost and organic matter to your beds. This helps insure they will drain better. If you plant in a low lying area, try making mounds of soil to plant in, allowing excess water to collect away from the roots.

2. Don’t plant too soon, or too late.

Some veggies like the cold, such as peas and greens. Most beans however will actually rot if the soil is not warm enough for them. Similarly, plants such as lettuce and basil will bolt, or go to seed, if the weather gets too hot. A simple way to remember is to make a time chart of what to plant when.

3. Keep them moist until established.

This is true for both direct sewn seeds and transplants. The weather tries to do this naturally with spring showers, but it may not be enough. Once you can tell your transplants have settled in, just water as needed. When the majority of your direct sewn seeds are up, do the same for them.

4. Give them room to grow.

Thinning is a bother, but not thinning makes things much worse. Although we admit to planting closer together then is normally recommended, we still thin our carrots, beets and greens especially. Not thinning carrots will; have a negative impact on root development; not thinning beets can be disastrous to the entire crop. Thinning can be fun in a way, since in these 3 cases you can eat the plant tops you pull.

5. Keep them weed free.

Probably the least favorite chore of gardeners, weeds are better to prevent than deal with. Both mulch and landscaping plastic can help in this regard. Planting in containers is also a good way for many plants to grow with less threat of weeds getting in their space. Where possible, intercropping is a good way to help prevent weeds. We scatter basil seeds at the feet of our tomatoes, thinning as needed after they come up. The tomatoes offer the basil some shade in return, delaying bolting. It’s a nice symbiotic relationship.

6. Finally, know what you are growing.

A zucchini isn’t just a zucchini. Did you know some do well growing vertically? And a bean isn’t just a bean, either. A fava bean prefers the cold, a green bean hates it. Most of the information you need should be on the seed packet, but if you are growing something new, make a few notes.

Since you’re here reading this, you are obviously an informed gardener.
Kudos to you for that, and your plants will thank you!

corn and beans

Intercropping helps the health of some veggies.

Categories: gardening, techniques

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