faq’s

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.

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Categories: faq's, gardening, techniques

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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: faq's, How to Grow, tomatoes

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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: faq's, jonesen'

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5 Things to Know About Days to Maturity

How mature did you think you were at age 16?
And at age 21 you realized NOW you were really mature?
How mature does a 30 year old think a 21 year old is?

Likewise, is a beet mature when you can harvest the beet, or when you can start eating the greens?
Is a tomato mature when it produces that first bud or when you can pick a ripe fruit?

How to understand what days to maturity means.

according to the DTM, these beets are mature

Some questions I can’t answer, but here’s what I can share:

1. Days to Maturity, or DTM, is calculated for plants that are started indoors from the time you transplant them outdoors. Take Broccoli as an example. If the seed packet instructions indicate to start seeds indoors 6 weeks before the last spring frost, and the DTM is 55 days, it means that 55 days from transplanting outside is the approximate time you should start seeing a head on your broccoli plant.

2. DTM for direct seeding is from the time the seedling emerges from the soil. This can happen in just a few days for some veggies like peas and beans, or can take 3 weeks and more for others. So in the case of broccoli, if the seed packet does not give you the DTM for direct seeding, add on a few weeks. Not the entire 6 weeks from starting indoors, though; only about 3 weeks. Here’s why:

3. When you transplant any veggie, you lose some development time. Again looking at broccoli, when you put it in the garden you set it back a few weeks. If you have ever transplanted a plant you probably have noticed that they kind of sit there for a while, before they take off. They may even look like they are suffering. This is known as Transplant Shock.

days to maturity for beets

are they mature now?

4. The same veggie will have different DTM for different varieties. If you look through any seed catalog you may find upwards of 3 weeks different DTM for the same veggie. This is important if you are timing your veggie in regards to heat or frost, if you are succession planting, and if your growing season is limited.

5. The weather changes everything. All the charts and lists go out the window if there is more or less rainfall, unusual highs or lows, etc. DTM numbers are based on how the plants perform on the average, and often under greenhouse conditions. How soon a plant will mature in your garden will be different than what will happen in ours.

short and long season varieties

DTM range 60 to 90 days

So use the DTM’s as a guideline, and keep notes if you want to get more accurate numbers for your own garden.
Isn’t that part of the fun of gardening after all?

Vegetable Days To Maturity
More about Transplant Shock.

Categories: all about seeds, faq's, How to Grow

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4 Reasons to be Picky About What You Grow

Many gardeners find themselves limited as to what they can grow.
It might be because of the amount of room they have, the free time to spend in the garden, or the physical demand a garden requires.
Of course there are gardening techniques and practices that can help in each of these areas.

growing food

homegrown goodness

For today though, let’s look at how to decide what to plant, and what not to. It all depends really on what you want your garden to provide:

1. Financial savings. If saving money is your top priority, you are not alone. So what veggies are expensive in the stores but easy to grow? Raspberries would probably top the list, expensive mainly because they are difficult to ship. Herbs are another food item that can be quite pricey, yet most do well in pots or hanging planters. For some odd reason lettuce has become expensive, at least in our area. A small head sells for almost $2, are they serious? Conversely, dry beans and potatoes are relatively inexpensive all year.

2. Fresh eating or long term storage. Are you mainly looking for a variety of fresh produce or do you want to load up the pantry shelves? If its the former, then one or two tomato plants, a variety of fresh greens, one cucumber, peas and beans growing up a trellis, etc. can provide you with a mini produce department from spring until fall. If winter storage is the goal, potatoes, garlic, onions, and sweet potatoes can be held through most of the winter. Dry beans will last for years, and there are pole varieties that save space.

storing veggies in cold holding

cold holding sweet potatoes and squash

3. Self Sufficiency. If your concern is more for the future you would probably want to plant heirloom and open pollinated varieties of plants, so the saved seeds will continue to produce true to the parent. A variety of veggies that includes at least one protein, such as a dry bean, will offer the most nutrition per garden. Shoot for color- orange sweet potatoes, carrots or squash, a red tomato or berry, purple eggplants and dark green broccoli. This will arm you with a good balance of vitamins in your diet. Also consider some perennials plants or those that can be replanted like onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

4. Food Safety. This is becoming an increasing concern for many, and is one of the reasons they are turning to their own yards. Some of the veggies with the highest levels of pesticides were found by the FDA and USDA to be Celery, Peaches, Strawberries, Apples, Blueberries (Domestic), Nectarines, Sweet Peppers, Spinach, Kale & Collards, Cherries, Potatoes, Grapes (Imported), Lettuce, Blueberries, and Carrots. Here’s the complete list.
This list is now 5 years old, and since then I have read that summer squash is also loaded with pesticides. Geesh.
In addition GE corn, which is now headed to some markets, is very heavily sprayed with pesticides. If you’re looking to grow food that is safer to eat, keep this in mind.

choosing organic what you cannot grow

choose organic what you can

This subject came up a few times lately, and after much consideration here’s what we would grow if for some reason we had to downsize:
A few raspberry canes, 2 blueberry bushes, 1 small vining summer & 2 winter squash and peas & beans on trellises, carrots, kale, a few strawberry plants, ‘garbage can’ potatoes, pole dry beans and 2 celery plants. If there was room, then a tomato or two.
We would buy organic corn just to be safe.

How and what would you choose?

Categories: faq's, gardening, organic, preparedness, saving money & time, you are what you eat

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Just the Facts

There are a lot of rumors and misunderstanding floating around the internet, specifically ones concerning genetically engineered seeds.

Burpee seeds

Not GE seeds, Not owned by Monsanto

Here are the facts:

A few years back Monsanto bought a seed company named Seminis. This company had been in business for a long time prior to the buyout.
There are a large number of seed companies that have purchased quality seed from Seminis, and continue to do so. These seeds are NOT genetically engineered.

Burpees is one of the companies that has for many years purchased seed from Seminis, and continues to do so. Burpees is NOT owned by Monsanto.

Likewise, Johnny’s Select Seeds and many other seed companies continue to buy some of their seed from Seminis. Again, these seeds are not genetically engineered.

Johnny's Select seeds

Not GE seeds, employee owned

Currently there are only 2 ways to buy GE seeds:

One is if you own a farm, and sign a contract with Monsanto to purchase seed from them. 
The other way is by accident. There is a great deal of concern that pollen from GE corn if flowing in the winds and pollinating non-ge corn, especially heirloom corn. Even still, most companies test their seed to be sure it is true before selling it.

So the choice is, of course, yours.
Purchasing from fine seed companies such as the ones mentioned will give a very small amount of support in a round about way to Monsanto, if you happen to buy a seed from Seminis.
Your other choice is to contact or research seed companies to see who does not carry Seminis seed. Baker Creek is one such company, but they do limit themselves to heirloom seed only.

What we do is buy heirlooms as much as possible and save our own seeds, purchase hybrids when we need to; and try to fight Monsanto on the larger scale- namely through emails to our Representatives when an appropriate bill is coming up, and by spreading the facts and squashing the rumors.

Please share this post with others, so they will be armed with the truth.

More from Burpee, with a good history of Seminis seed company
More from Johnny’s Select Seed

Categories: all about seeds, faq's

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The Three Sisters of the Field

Many gardeners have heard of this technique of growing corn, pole beans and squash together. A lot of what is on the internet IMHO does not explain it right, so you may just be surprised to know:

The beans fix nitrogen into the soil, which the corn loves (you probably knew that).
The corn supports the beans (yeah, that’s not news.)
The vines of the winter squash help keep away deer (really?)

All three sisters are allowed to mature in the field, and harvested together.
(Say what?)
Yes my friends, the main reason the indigenous people of this country planted these three together was so that they could simply return in the fall to harvest.

growing winter squash

winter squash

The corn they grew is what is referred to as field corn. The ears are allowed to dry in the husk, and the corn was later ground into corn meal.
The squash was winter squash that prefers at least one frost before harvesting.
The beans were also allowed to mature in the field; you see, they planted dry beans.

Pretty smart, huh?

corn as part of the three sisters of the field

give corn a head start

If you want to try this in your garden, here’s what to do:
Plant the corn first. If you don’t want to grind it into corn meal, plant a variety used for popping.
Wait until the corn gets a good start, knee high is minimum but waist high is better. Then plant the pole-type dry beans close to the corn.
You can plant the squash at the same time, either as seeds or as young plants.
Mulch and water as needed and let them go.

drying dry beans

finishing the process

Come fall, and after a frost or two, bring the squash indoors.
Store in a cool area of your house or in the garage.

Place the dry beans in a paper bag, close and shake well to separate the seeds from the pods. Clean out any debris and store in a cool dry place. If any beans are not completely dry, allow to dry naturally before storing.

Remove the corn kernels from the husk, let continue to dry or finish them in a dehydrator; store like the beans.
Use the stalks as a wonderful fall decoration, or since they do not break down easily, as a weed barrier.

Categories: faq's, gardening

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3 Reasons to Rotate Your Crops (Otherwise, Don’t Bother)

Most gardeners would agree that crops should be rotated, but the reality is that this is not always necessary.
If you have a small garden, it may even prove impossible.

Think about it.
If you are growing any perennial fruit, vegetables or herbs, you already have crops that aren’t getting rotated.
Why sweat the others?

potatoes in the home garden

with a veggie garden...

1. Disease.
Late blight is most often the reason gardeners rotate tomatoes and potatoes. First off, if you didn’t have blight, there is no reason to rotate.
Secondly, since blight is airborne and can travel many miles, rotating won’t prevent it.
If you don’t want to rotate be sure to mulch your crops well, and water at ground level. Also consider a blight resistant variety.
If you have good strong plants they will be better able to fight off any disease, just like you and me.
Many a gardener has grown their tomatoes in the same spot for years… you just don’t hear about that.

peas in the home garden

you will have them eating out of your hand

2. Pests
If you have had an infestation of nasty little buggers like squash bugs, or cucumber beetles, just to name two, you should get those crops and their relatives as far away from the area as possible. If you don’t have enough room to do that, you may want to skip growing them a season or so until you have wiped them out.
If you have not had a problem, don’t worry about it.

okra and peanuts in the home garden

happy little campers

3. Nutrients
If you plant the same family of crops in the same spot year after year, eventually the food they want will be gone. Unless, that is, if you put it back.
Replenishing your soil is an essential part of growing beautiful, tasty veggies.
Long before I ‘knew better’ I had grown gorgeous carrots in the same bed for a number of seasons. They were mulched well to take them far into the winter months, and good compost and old manure were added each spring.
They were happy, I was happy.
Since then it has been a crap shoot. Every time I move them is like starting over, and last year was the last time.

growing tomatoes in the home garden

happy tomaters

“GJ, surely you’re not telling us we don’t have to rotate all of our our crops?”
Well, as a matter of fact I am…
and don’t call me Shirley. :-)

Conversely, there are benefits to crop rotation that apply more to those with large areas of land. Read this info on Wikipedia.

Categories: faq's, gardening, pests, techniques

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Corn! What is it Good For? Absolutely Nothing.

homegrown corn is safe to enjoy

a safer stir fry awaits

Mandolin and I were having lunch recently when he surprised me with this request “Tell me what you know about GMO’s.”
He had read this article about how The Department of Justice recently concluded an investigation into possible anti-trust practices in the seed market, and wanted to know more.
“They never just close a case without even a press release. Why is this so hush-hush?”

So I preceded to tell him what I have read so far:
-GMO’s have been linked to numerous cancers and even disorders such as autism.
-The death rate of livestock is rising.
-When GMO fed animals are butchered, their internal organs are malformed.

homegrown corn is safe to enjoy

no hidden agenda

“How do you know all this?”
“Well, I don’t know it in the sense that I’ve experienced it directly, I have read it. The thing is, it’s coming from many different sources. Look at your menu” I continued, “It’s likely that every sandwich on there has bread made from GMO wheat. The meat is most likely from GMO livestock. Anything with animal products at all, like cheese or a cream soup also probably came from GMO fed animals. Even the vegetarian options I would bet contain GMO soy.
I’ve read that it is estimated that about 80% of the food in this country has some ingredient in it that contains a genetically engineered product. Many are not this obvious. How many foods contain high fructose corn syrup? Or the new alternative made from sugar beets, GMO sugar beets.”

homegrown corn is safe to enjoy

homegrown corn-what you see is what you get

“But there’s no proof yet, or is there, that GMO’s are bad” he said.

“Apparently there’s not enough proof, or it’s being ignored. We don’t know, and that’s part of the problem” I responded. “Kenya has put a ban on all foods containing GMO ingredients until further study reveals their safety. Many countries in Europe have likewise banned GMO products. They’re playing it smart.
GMO’s themselves may be safe, we don’t know. The pesticides they spray on these crops we do know are absolutely not safe. How much proof do you need when your farmer no longer goes to work in overalls. Instead, he wears a haz-mat suit.”

The Song Reference

Categories: faq's, you are what you eat

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The How, Where, Why and What-If of Saving Hybrid Seeds

Many gardeners will tell you that you can’t save seeds from hybrid veggies.
That’s simply not true.
What they should say is that if you do save such seed, you won’t get the same veggie from them, but then, you may not notice the difference.

bean tendrils

Why
A hybrid veggie is simply one that comes from a cross between two of the same veggies with somewhat different qualities. For example, you could cross a very prolific zucchini with another zucchini that produces in less time, with the hope of getting seeds that produce fast and abundantly.
You may not want this in your home garden, but if you are a zucchini farmer this would be a better zucchini to grow.
Now if you bought this zucchini at your local market and saved the seeds, your plants will not grow as fast and probably not produce as many as the farmer’s did.
Would you know the difference?

bean flower

Where
The most common quality of hybrid veggies at the local grocery store is uniformity of size. Look at those tomatoes, the cucumbers, the squash. See what I mean?
Other qualities that veggies are crossed for include weather tolerance, disease and pest resistance, or to be grown under greenhouse conditions. Produce in the grocery store is also more likely to have been harvested before it is fully ripe, possibly making the seeds unusable.
Produce from a farmer’s market or CSA is a little different. Although they also may look for some of these qualities, they are more likely to also go for flavor and space requirements. Go ahead and save the seeds, but remember you may be surprised with what you grow.

bean flower

What-If?
Here’s the thing- you need to know how the veggies reproduce, you may actually be saving seeds from a veggie that nature cross pollinated. The most likely example of this would be squash; not all squash, but squash of the same species.
The smaller the farm, the more likely this will be. In this case you actually have a better chance of saving the seed from the grocery store than a farmer’s market.
On the other hand, you’re completely safe saving the seeds of peas and beans. Check out the list of How to Grow veggies on the right for more specifics.

beans baby

How
Think of what Mother Nature does to distribute seeds. A watermelon rots on the vine, a cherry tomato falls to the ground in the summer, a raspberry is eaten by a bird. These are all ways seeds are naturally replanted.
If you’re going to do it yourself instead, you need to know how.
There is some information on here for tomatoes and cucumbers, but check out the link below for a veg-by-veg list.
How to save vegetable seeds.

Categories: all about seeds, faq's, How to Grow

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Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2014 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

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