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
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
5 May 2013, by gj
Purchase seedlings that have flowers on them. You may think you are getting a head start, but really what the plants need to do first is establish their roots, not produce babies. Let them get settled in.
If you started your own plants and they are budding, pinch those flowers off. Really, you’ll get more fruit in the long run.
The tomatoes are ready, is the soil?
Over fertilize. It’s fine to give your plants some good healthy compost, but take it easy on the fertilizer. Too much will grow wonderful bushy and green, albeit unproductive, plants. Same goes for your peppers by the way.
Give them a bit of Epsom salts. They love that stuff. If they don’t need it, it won’t hurt. It is good to have it as a preventative measure to help grow healthier plants.
Plant your transplants very deep. ‘Up to their necks’ is what the farmers say. This way they will grow a great root system, as mentioned above. The better the roots, the more productive the plants will then be.
Ready to rumble.
Water from above, if you can help it. This can cause soil to splash up on the stems, making them more prone to disease. Try to use a soaker hose whenever possible with tomatoes.
Mulch, especially if you are watering from above. This helps prevent that soil splash just mentioned, as well as holds the moisture your tomatoes may need.
Put in the stakes you are going to use for support at the same time you plant. You don’t want to go back later and start damaging those roots you both worked so hard for.
Know what type of tomato you are growing. If it’s a ‘determinate’ type, it may suddenly stop producing. Learn more by following the link at the end of this post.
Stress it. Are you feeling over run with tomatoes? Are you concerned about fruit flies in your kitchen? Simply wash some of those tomatoes off and toss them in the freezer. When you have time, thaw to use. A bonus: the skins will slip right off after defrosting.
Happy in their cloched bed.
Enjoy a variety if you have the room. Roma and plum tomatoes are best for preserving, slicing types for fresh eating, and of course cherry tomatoes for snacking. Plant tomatoes based on how you intend to use them.
plant them outside before the soil temperature is 50F. How warm the soil has become is a function of how close the sun is, the depth, and how much sunshine the area gets. Surface soil can feel warm but 6 inches down it can still be quite cold. Some gardeners plant their tomatoes out when the overnight lows are consistently above 50F. Not the same thing, but close.
Tomatoes under glass.
speed up the process by covering the area with black plastic, and turning the soil over every so often. If you plant early, keep those heat loving tomatoes warm through the use of cloches.
In a pinch, canning jars will do the trick, just don’t let the plants get fried. That’s for the green fruit.
Learn more about growing tomatoes here. Scroll down for all previous posts.
Categories: extending the season, how to grow, tomatoes
4 May 2013, by gj
Not long ago we looked at the espalier method of growing fruit trees. The photo on that post was of a huge garden at Kylemore Abbey in Ireland. The trees were grown against a wall as a way of increasing how much heat they received.
But the espalier method, a simple pruning and staking technique, also serves well to save space.
Here is a picture taken by my friend Jack Goldfil of allotment plots in Paris:
You can see how the trees have been pruned, allowing only the side branches to grow. These are further controlled by tying them to wires running across the whole area. Even in a garden plot this size there can be fresh fruit.
Now of course our garden areas are much larger. Still, we like to get the most from the areas we have growing. An additional concern is the squirrel population that took ever single piece of fruit from our trees last year.
Every. Single. Piece.
So we moved a few of the trees that were only put in last year and purchased a few more.
What we now have are 8 semi-dwarf fruit trees, one dwarf almond tree, and 3 bush variety cherries in a bed about 22′ by 4′. Since everything was just planted this spring, we won’t prune until after the harvest.
We are also going to build a structure above to drape netting over, in an effort to keep the squirrels out.
Remember to never prune more than 1/3 of the tree branches at one time. We will prune some in the fall, and a little more in the spring, containing the area they take up.
You can also plant crops below, as pruned trees don’t cast much shade. This year we planted potatoes and covered them with straw, additionally cutting down on the need to weed.
One other thing to keep in mind is that some trees, pears for example, need more than one variety to produce fruit. You can purchase “2 in one” of “all in one” trees that have been grafted with another variety. Just be careful when you prune to keep some of each variety growing on your tree.
Here’s Jack’s gardening page:Jardiniers du 4ème, where she shares more of her beautiful photos.
You Can Grow That! is a monthly collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage and help others learn to grow.
You can find additional posts by clicking on the pic above. You can also follow us on Pinterest.
Categories: fruit trees, techniques, you can grow that
3 May 2013, by gj
Carrots poking through much earlier.
Pretty much any vegetable gardener will tell you that it takes forever for carrot seeds to sprout. Parsnips take even longer.
Is it coincidence that these, two of the tiniest seeds of edible plants, are the slowest to poke through the soil?
Check out this chart prepared by Heirloom Seeds:
Click here to view the chart.
If you take a look at the best temperatures for germination, you will notice part of the problem.
Carrot seeds are planted early in the spring, long before the soil temperatures reach 75F. Parsnips can germinate at a little cooler soil temperature, but 70F is still much warmer than what the normal planting conditions are.
This year we started basil seeds, which are about the same size as carrots, indoors. They pushed through the soil much faster than they did when they were direct sown. Of course, they were in warmer soil and with even amounts of moisture.
That is the key with all seeds, but especially those that are in cooler soil than what is optimum for growing. And here I always thought it was the small size of the seed that was the connecting factor.
So what can you do? Carrots really don’t like to be transplanted, so starting them indoors is not the answer.
Part of the solution we looked at before, cloching. This simple method of covering the seeded area with plastic will help warm the soil and speed up germination. It also helps hold in moisture, with is the second factor and probably the more important one.
Give your direct sown seeds this kind of attention.
There’s an even easier way to cloche to improve seed germination times. Since you are only covering the seed until you begin to see green leaves, you can just lay the plastic on the ground and simply use some rocks or anything heavy to keep it from blowing away. Clamps will hold it on a raised bed.
And you don’t need to buy fancy plastic. The drop cloth kind you can get wherever house paint is sold works fine.
If for some reason you can’t cloche, at the very least keep those seeds moist until they poke through.
Cloched peas sprouted faster than uncloched.
Our carrots and other early veggies are about a week ahead this year, it would have been more if we thought to cover them earlier.
Now you’ve just learned what it took us 30 years to figure out.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season
28 April 2013, by gj
There are a number of veggies that don’t care to be transplanted and are best sown directly into the garden. These would include the root crops like parsnips and carrots, as well as all the beans and peas. Squash plants, cucumbers and melons are not fond of it, but it can be done.
Basil started indoors.
When you start seeds indoors, you have control over the conditions. How much heat and water they receive is up to you.
With direct sown seeds, it’s all in Mother Nature’s hands.
Or is it?
Here they come.
The two things you can control, at least to some extent, are moisture and heat.
Keeping your seeds moist until they poke through the soil is very important. Sure, sometimes spring rains and snows do it for you. When they don’t, it’s up to you to give them a light watering every day until you see the green. Mulching between rows can help hold that moisture longer.
A bit crooked, but it works.
Even though some seeds can take the cold, carrots, peas and parsnips for example, you will still get a faster germination if you can keep them a little warmer. For rows of seeds, a simple cover can be made by bending pvc pipes and covering with clear plastic. This is known as a ‘low tunnel’ and works great. Empty canning jars or clear soda bottles make mini cloches for smaller plantings.
Likewise, plastic can easily be clamped onto a raised bed for a temporary cloche.
Jump-started watermelon from 2012.
Not only will these techniques help you speed up your germination times, they can also give you a jump start on your season, or help towards the end of the year to keep frost off your plants.
If your growing season is at all limited, extending the time you have is worth its weight in produce.
Here’s more info on extending the growing season.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season, gardening, how to grow
20 April 2013, by gj
As long as there is no frost or freeze, tomatoes can take temperatures down into the 30′s. That being said, it doesn’t mean they will like it.
They prefer not to go below 50, so we were keeping this in mind as we were monitoring the mini greenhouse to watch for when we could begin using it, and when we need to vent it.
We used a high/low thermometer which records not only the current temperature (left bottom) but also what the extremes were for the previous 24 hours (right bottom).
On a partly sunny day the temperatures inside can get warm enough that even with cold nights they stay close to 50F.
So when the kitchen seedling area began to look like a jungle, and the overnight inside temperatures were staying well into the 40′s, we moved the largest of the tomatoes and peppers into their new home.
That was two weeks ago now and the plants are thriving. We did bring them inside once just to check on them and give them a good watering.
Tomorrow the overnight low is supposed to drop into the 20′s. Hmmm.
We may bring them indoors, depending on what the inside temperature is at sunset. If it’s a sunny day, we should be okay.
Which would be good, because soon they will have company.
Here’s how we built the mini greenhouse.
Categories: extending the season
13 April 2013, by gj
The plan was to post today about planting asparagus and strawberry crowns. The weather, however, decided to change for the worse, so that is temporarily on hold.
Add a little overtime at work and the plans are shot.
So instead, I figured I would pick up an eggplant at the market, and share a recipe I’ve been working on.
“Sorry, we’re out of eggplant. We’ll have more tomorrow.”
Really? Who runs out of eggplant?
Sometimes when I find myself running into walls, I take it as a hint that I’m being directed, rather than thwarted.
So I’m going to go with the flow and share with you what Mandolin and I have been doing this week- planning.
We looked at it last weekend in the posts called Beyond Gardening. In the meantime we have been trying to decide how much of each veggie to plant in an effort to be prepared with enough food for a year.
There are some sites on the internet that will tell you to plant x number of pounds of this veggie or that, but they don’t look at storage and don’t know what you and your family likes.
I surveyed my husband, kids and kids through marriage, and discovered that at least one of them does not like: Lima Beans, Brussel sprouts (I think they all mentioned them), Celery, Cauliflower, Chickpeas, Kohlrabi, Turnips, Edamame, Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Eggplant, Peas, Raspberries and Beets.
So how do you plan?
If you just look at fruits and veggies, each person should have about 1.5 pounds per day. In one year, that’s about 550 pounds of fruits and veggies per person. If you look at any one specific veggie, one 4 ounce portion per week for 3 people is 40 pounds. Although that sounds like a lot, it’s doable if you have the room and plan accordingly.
Here’s what I know:
Potatoes produce an average of 7 pounds per pound planted, 20 pounds planted should yield 140.
Carrots are about 3/4-1 pound per foot. We have 40 ft. planted so far, about 30 pounds.
Beans and Peas can yield up to 1/2 pound per foot. The plans are for 20 feet each, about 8 pounds for both.
Sweet potatoes produce about a pound per foot. We are planting 16 square feet.
See? We’re already up to over 200 pounds!
Corn takes a lot of space, so I’ll buy what we need from the neighbors. Our apple trees won’t produce enough yet, so they will be supplemented by buying from a local grove.
To be honest with y’all, I felt rather stressed at first to think that I would need to grow or buy about 1500 pounds of veggies for just our family of 3. Then I realized something.
I’m just one gardener, and all I can do is my best.
So now the garden plans have been redone to grow only food that can be processed, and I’ll take it from there.
Mandolin has offered to help, it was after all his idea, and that will make a big difference.
I’ll also keep records, and let you know what actually produced how much in case you decide to try this as well.
Oh and as for the brussel sprouts?
Maybe just a few, for me… hey, I think I will have earned it.
Part 1- Preparing for 3 weeks.
Categories: gardening, preparedness