FAQs

The Colors of Vegetables – Is it Just Eye Candy?

three colors of cauliflower

You probably have heard terms like phytonutrients and antioxidants used when people are talking about nutrition, or maybe when they are trying to sell you a food product.

It is part of the same idea of eating a rainbow, in that by choosing a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables, you will get a more diverse assortment of phytonutrients, and therefore a healthier diet.

But is there a difference in these substances when they are the same vegetable, as is the case with the white, orange and green cauliflower shown above?

Actually, there is. The chemical process that makes these heads different colors also offers different phytonutrients. This is the case for all veggies, you can read about different colored carrots here.

Now when it comes down to it, eating orange cauliflower is still, overall nutrition wise, more like eating white cauliflower than it is like eating an orange carrot.

So why bother to grow a variety of different colors of the same veggie?

Eye candy; but in a good way.

It is a well known expression in food service that people eat first with their eyes. Who wouldn’t be much more interested in a cauliflower salad or a crudites plate that had 3 or 4 different colors of cauliflower?

Whether you feed kids or picky adults, consider color when you choose what to plant. Not only will they be more likely to eat it, they will get a better assortment of those phytonutrients.

May as well bump up that nutrition while you’re at it!

Check out our Veggie Comparison Tables here for more info.

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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: FAQs, Gardening, Techniques & Issues

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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!

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4 Ways to Support Tomatoes… Well, actually 5.

Every gardener knows at least one way to support the most anticipated crop of the season.
Many have their favorite way.
Here’s a few options you may have heard of, and one I bet you didn’t:

1. Stakes

how to support tomatoes

Staked in a planter.

Likely the first way anyone supports a tomato, stakes are easy to do and relatively inexpensive.
Points to Remember: Always put your stake in the ground or pot at the same time you plant the tomato, so as not to break any roots. Also, tie your plant to the stake loosely, or with a stretchy material, such as string or old pantyhose; never use wire.
Drawbacks: The main negative aspect to this method is having to go back and add ties. With just a few tomatoes, this is no big deal; but as I grow older and my garden bigger, this became a problem.

2. Cages

how to support tomatoes

Upside down cage.

Tomato cages, in their many forms, are a wonderful way to support your tomatoes.
Because our soil is very rocky, and in raised beds, we turn our cages upside down and support the plants that way.

how to support tomatoes

A little fushia in the garden.

For most plants, they work wonderfully well, and can add a bit of pizazz to your garden at a relatively low cost.

how to support tomatoes

I'm a sucker for color

Points to Remember: If you grow rocks as well as you grow veggies, like us, tomato cages are impractical unless you place them upside down around your plants. Also, most containers used for growing are not deep enough, inverted cages do well here though.
Drawbacks: As I mentioned, these particular cages set up to 24″ deep in the ground, that does not work for all gardens. There are other designs, though, check into those. I also found these did not stand up well in a high wind storm. Don’t ask. :-(

3. The Weave

how to support tomatoes

What have we here?

This is a wonderful way to support your plants that I fully admit I am trying for the first time.
Simply put a stake at either end of a reasonably sized row of tomatoes, then run a string stake-to-stake, in and out of the plants.
The next string up runs alternately, thus supporting the plants from both sides.

Points to Remember: Although I’m new to this, I’ve already learned to keep after it. I would suggest two opposite rows every time the plants get about 4-6 inches taller.
Drawbacks: Still some bending, but a lot less than some of the other methods. Pruning is highly recommended.

4. String ‘Em Up

This idea came into my life through Eliot Coleman’s wonderful Book Four Season Harvest (see the link to the right). I’ve since seen many adaptations.
The idea is simple, tie a string to the bottom of the plant, some gardeners tie the string to a stake and push that into the soil. Secure to a structure above.
As the plant grows, loosely twirl the string around the plant, giving it support.

how to support tomatoes

A more structured life.

I like this because there is far less bending. If your support is well built, there is also less chance of problems with heavy wind.

how to support tomatoes

Hangin' comfortably.

Usually we plant basil in the middle of the tomato patch, this year it’s filled with beans instead; which led to support method #5.

how to support tomatoes

Beans and maters.

5. Let nature help.

I swear I thought the beans I planted were all bush types.
Apparently not.

how to support tomatoes

And nature's way.

Isn’t it great- the bean vine is holding the tomato plant to the string support.
No bending, no tying- about as simple as things can get.
I love this so much that next year I intend to try it with all my tomatoes.

Points to remember: No matter how much you think you know, nature can still out-grow you.
Drawbacks: Other than an ego slap-down, I can’t think of one.

Categories: FAQs, How to Grow, Tomatoes, Tomatillos & Ground Cherries

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6 Ways to Protect Your Plants

You put a lot of work into growing food, so it is all the more difficult to bear when nature hampers or even destroys your efforts.
Here are some ways you can protect your plants from what life throws at them.

1. Season extenders.
Early in the season and again in the fall, depending on where you garden, you may need to protect against frost. Using cold frames and other season extenders such as Wall O’ Waters can help when your plants are still small.

The Jones' Garden System model at work.

The Jones’ Garden System model at work.

This picture is of the rough model of our garden system.
As it was going to dip into the 30′sF last night, the beds of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants were easily protected with plastic panels.
This kept the plants snug and happy, and helped the soil warm up faster in the morning.

Metal bars in the ground securely hold the bent PVC.

Metal bars in the ground securely hold the bent PVC.

Constructing a small fame, such as one from PVC pipe, can likewise help protect your plants. A sturdy frame will make it easy to drape over a sheet, keeping plants comfy when frost threatens. If the weather is really cold, adding plastic turns the frame into a mini high tunnel, extending the season by as much as 3 weeks on both ends.

2. Bird netting.
Frames like these can also be used to support bird netting, which keeps out other small critters, such as rabbits.

Protection on a larger scale.

Protection on a larger scale.

This picture is of the support ready to hold bird netting in an effort to keep the squirrels away from the fruit on our dwarf trees. The frame is kept more securely in place with the use of metal cross wires. It is new this year, so we’ll let you know how it worked later in the season.

3. Screening.
For plants that do not need pollination, mesh screening can be draped over a frame in an effort to also keep the bad bugs out.

4. Aromatics.
You can add plants with strong odors to your garden, such as onions and marigolds, to help deter critters. Likewise an intense pepper spray will cause many of the plant damaging critters to stay away.
Of course, if they are hungry enough they will do what it takes.

We have had success with a liquid spray call Repels All. It is an appropriate name as it made us not want to go into the garden either. It worked when we had a large population of squirrels a few years ago.

5. Fencing.
The only way to keep deer out of the garden here is to have a good high fence. Even then, if they think they can jump it they will.
Placing decorative objects, such as chairs or potted plants inside the fence at the approximate spot a deer would land makes them think twice.

Fencing doesn’t just help vertically.
Laying chicken wire on the ground around your garden will also keep deer away, as they are afraid of getting their hooves caught.
If underground animals are a problem, you can use the plastic coated mesh as a base for a raised bed. The coating prevents the metal from rusting away, keeping your garden safer longer.

6. Props
A few simple props can help keep your veggies safe.
The owl in the picture above is said to help deter squirrels. Simple whirligigs, even ones from a dollar store, can also help deter critters; they don’t like the movement.
And finally, motion activated sprinklers can not only help keep some critters out, they may keep strangers out of your garden as well.
If nothing else, you’ll know when your garden is being invaded.

If you want some serious but simple protection in a small area, follow the progress of the Jones’ Garden System.
It does all this and more.

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Jones’ Laws of Gardening

homegrown onion

if something can grow wrong, it will

• A passing shower, desperately needed, will do just that.
• When in doubt, if you water your garden- it will rain.
Conversely, if you don’t, it won’t.

• If your seeds don’t come up when they should, plant more.
The first seeds will then come up immediately, followed closely by the second batch.
• This is especially true when it comes to zucchini.

starting seeds indoors

carefully labeled

• If you do not label your seedling trays, one of 3 things will happen:
—–Your trays will get moved without your presence
—–Your trays will get moved by you, but someone else will be blamed
—–You will claim that your trays have been moved, because otherwise you surely would have remembered what every tray contained
• If you carefully label your trays, one of 3 things will happen:
—–You will forget what your shorthand means
—–You will meticulously transplant your seedlings, and forget to label the new pots
—–You will successfully get your transplants into the ground, but forget what you planted where.

garden plan

the best made plans

• A thoughtfully planned-out garden is just asking for trouble.
• Never underestimate the combined weight of any vining squash.
• Weeds are very good at growing next to a vegetable plant they resemble.
Rest assured that when you pull it out, it will have some potting soil attached to the roots.
• Never direct seed before a heavy rain. Nature can move rows.

And last:
• A watched tomato will never ripen. Something else will get to it first.

Categories: FAQs, Jonesen'

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12 Plus Veggies You Don’t Need to Harvest Before the Frost

Sweet peas and fall leaves.

Sweet peas and fall leaves.

When still new to gardening, we thought everything that wasn’t a perennial plant had to be harvested before a frost.
As it turns out, that isn’t the case.

Although the majority of the beds are cleaned out before the temperatures drop, there are a few things that can stay out without protection here in our Zone 5/6 garden.

1. The winter squashes have hard rinds that can take some cold. A heavy frost will kill off their vines, actually making it easier to find them.
Just be sure to gather them up before a heavy freeze, and certainly before any snow buries them.

2. Carrots can stay outside until the ground freezes, making it pretty hard to pick them. If you cover them with some mulch, that helps the soil stay warmer and extends your harvest time. You can even leave some in the ground and if you are lucky, they may flower the following spring and give you seeds.

3. Parsnips can likewise be left to overwinter, and harvested when the ground thaws.

4. Scozonera aka Salsify is often left to overwinter in the garden as well. Veggies like this are a wonderful treat early in the season before other plants are producing.

Here it comes.

Here it comes.

5. Kale is one of the hardiest of the greens, and can often survive the winter. We’re testing this here in our garden with a batch that was planted later in the season.

6. Mache will survive all winter and continue to keep you happy.

7. Garlic is intentionally planted late in the season and harvested the following summer. This gives it a good chance to get established before the ground freezes, and therefore a jump-start on the growing season.

8. Dry beans can be harvested after the weather turns cold. The frost will kill off the plants, and speed up the drying time a bit. Just don’t leave them out too long, or the seeds you want will shrivel into tiny little things.

Bringing in the perishables.

Bringing in the perishables.

9. Beets can take some frost and still provide you not only with their edible globes but their leaves as well.

10. If you planted a fall crop of peas, good for you! They can handle some frost before finally calling it quits.

11. Rutabagas and turnips are planted mid-summer for a fall crop. Yep, a little frost won’t bother them either.

12. The cole crops, including cabbages, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower, can all take some frost. The cooler temperatures actually make brussel sprouts taste a little sweeter, helping them to shed the bad reputation that is often associated with them.

There really is a nice assortment of veggies that can still be growing even in the cooler days of fall. Who’d have thunk?

Categories: FAQs, How to Grow

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Squash Bugs

Although prevalent in many gardens, we never had squash bugs before.
It was only recently in fact that I remarked to Mandolin how lucky we have been not to have them, or worse, squash vine borers.
I guess I spoke too soon.

squash bugs

It was that same day that these showed up, as if they were called in.
To be honest I wasn’t sure what they were, so turned to my favorite gardening group on Facebook for an ID.

It was almost immediate, and all the comments were emphatic.
“Squash them!”

Apparently these are the young nymphs, that will eventually lay their eggs on the undersides of the squash leaves.
The tip of the squash bug iceburg.

So following what I do know and the instructions of my fellow gardeners, I hunted each one down and squished them.
Gross? Yes. Necessary? Again yes.

I did also carefully spray the undersides of the leaves with some diluted neem oil, avoiding all the flower areas so as not to hurt the good guys.
Although all seems well, we will keep a close eye on the leaves from now until frost.

Never trust a squash nymph, apparently they like to hide and sneak up on you later.

Name: Anasa tristis or Squash Bug
Victims: Squash and its relatives, melons and cucumbers
Damage: Adults suck fluids from the fruit. This in turn damages the leaves and in extreme cases can kill the plants.
Your weapons: Prevent damage by squishing the bugs or picking them off. If needed, Neem oil will help kill them. Carefully watch for any eggs and remove them.

As with all pests, keeping the garden clean of dead and damaged plants and leaves is a good preventative action to take.
Plus, it makes your garden look better… which in turns makes you a happier gardener.

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Squashing Misconceptions

Probably the most common incorrect information that is being shared is the idea of squash and cross pollination. Although we have posted about this before, it’s a good time to explain it again.

Ceookneck

Crookneck

If you think of two squash as if they were cats, it’s easier to understand.
Say a black cat and an orange tiger cat mate. The parents are still black and orange striped, they don’t change, right?
But their offspring will either be black, orange striped, and more likely a combination of the two.
It’s the same for squash.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash

So you are growing a few different types of squash, and maybe your neighbor is as well. Bees fly from one to another, and some cross pollination takes place.
It won’t affect the squash you are growing. Remember the cats?

Baby Kikuza

Baby Kikuza

But if you save the seed from one of these squash, the kittens so to speak, you will likely grow some intermixed, unusual type of squash next year.

Volunteer plants are the perfect example. Although they may grow true to the parent, there is no guarantee. Think of them as the feral cats in the neighborhood.

Volunteer Squash

Volunteer Could-Be-Anything Squash

And isn’t that’s part of what makes them so much fun?

Read more about it here:
Which squash will or won’t cross with whom.
Squash Under-fertilization.
Growing Squash and Hand Pollination

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How to Handle Ants, Slugs and Beetles

Bad bugs. Every garden has them.
It seems the warmer your climate, the bigger and more numerous the plant destroyers are.
It can be tempting to just grab a good pesticide and give the garden a douse.
There’s one sure problem with that:

The good bugs need to be safe.

The good bugs need to be safe.

So here’s what works for us on the pests we are currently dealing with:

With slugs we don’t wait for signs of damage. Once we realize we are having a wetter than normal season, we just fill any type of saucer with some fresh beer. This one happens to be a kitty travel food/water dish. Perfect.

They only get cheap beer though, no Heineken for these guys.

Slugs love beer.

Slugs love beer.

The damage from Japanese beetles is easy to spot; plant leaves start looking like lace.
They seem to favor beans, raspberries, and grape leaves.

Dinner and an afternoon of fun.

Dinner and an afternoon of fun.

They’re easiest to dispose of during the mating season, as grotesque as that is; their minds simply aren’t on anything else.

Put some dish liquid and water in a pitcher or bowl, and easily shake them, two by two, off the leaf.
Some times you can get numerous multiples of two all at once.

A pitcher of Japanese beetles.

A pitcher of Japanese beetles.

This is our first full year growing okra, thanks to last year’s rabbits, so the ant problem was one we had not faced.

We had read that they like to eat cornmeal, but cannot digest it. It ends up filling them up and they pass away.
So we dusted some of the plants, and especially the flower buds where they were hanging out.

By the next day the population was less.
We gave it another pass, just in case.

ants okra flower

If you are concerned about anything GMO in your garden, just use some organic cornmeal like we did.

Okra and corn meal.

Okra and corn meal.

The slugs may not get Heineken, but it’s only the best for our ants.

Day 2 there were barely any to be found.

Day 2 there were barely any to be found.

NOTE: Most often ants are beneficial in your garden. Okra is one of the exceptions. Fireants are not beneficial, and actually dangerous. Just be sure before you act to remove any bug, that it is actually one that will do your plant harm. Just being on a plant does not make a bug bad, it may in fact be going after others bugs you don’t want.

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