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
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
24 March 2013, by gj
However you started your seeds inside, you will still need to get them ready for the real world in your garden.
Here’s what to consider:
- If you used a fan to help strengthen their stems, you have taken one step in the right direction.
- Likewise, if they were exposed to some real sunlight in addition to artificial lights they will be more prepared.
- If you have watered them by hand rather than wicking, the seedlings will be better able to handle nature’s method of providing moisture in an inconsistent manner.
- If you have totally pampered your seedlings don’t worry, they will just need a little more time out in the elements to get ready.
The process is simple:
- On a nice calm day when the temperatures are over 50 degrees F., set your trays outside in a protected spot; away from direct sun, rain, winds and predators. Leave them there for a few hours, then return them indoors.
- Continue to do this every day, increasing the time they are out by an hour or so each time. Inch them out of the protected area and into the open, though still away from predators, a little at a time. Eventually they will be out in the sun and breezes all day.
- This process should last a week or two, depending on how ready the plants were.
- When the time is right to transplant, try to choose a mild overcast day. If you must transplant on a sunny day, cover the plants with inverted pots or shade cloth just to help them get settled in.
Here’s more specifics on Transplanting Tomatoes.
Categories: all about seeds, gardening, how to grow, techniques
19 March 2013, by gj
Gardeners have been pushing the limits of their growing area for many’s a year. Espalier refers to growing, pruning and training trees, most often against a support, in an effort to get more fruit in less space.
Here’s a photo we took at the Kylemore Abbey in Ireland in 2007. You can see the trees growing all along the brick walls. Not only does this save space, the bricks hold the days heat longer, improving the growing conditions in this temperate climate.
More fresh fruit in less space.
Nowadays trees are grown this way not only to save space and get a better harvest, it has become an aesthetic method as well.
Can you picture narrow rows of peach trees or pears in spring bloom?
Hopefully we can show you pics over the next couple of years. With a handful of new trees headed this way, we are going to try this method of pruning and staking. If all goes well we will have two rows of fruit trees where otherwise we would have had only one.
More on this as the plan ‘grows’.
Learn more about this method here.
Categories: gardening, techniques
12 March 2013, by gj
Now you know we keep things rather simple here, and that’s not about to change; but it’s also a good thing to know more about your growing area.
Every gardener is dealing with micro climates whether they know it or not. Here’s an example:
Our roadside garden has no snow left in it, but the raised beds closer to the house are still somewhat surrounded.
Those same raised beds, well most of them anyway, are still frozen. The raised bed roadside, well some of them, are thawed.
Snow please go.
The roadside garden is on a hill, and in the wintertime gets more sunlight. It’s slightly warmer there as well. Microclimate.
Even within that garden there are more microclimates. The areas on the outside that slope will have slightly different growing conditions than the ones in the middle.
There are man-made (or woman-made, in this case) microclimates too. Although riased beds thaw sooner than the gorund, beds that were mulched in the fall are more likely to be frozen than those that were not.
Even if you have an all container garden on a deck there will still be differences based on the types of pots you use, or which containers get more wind or light.
Farther away but warmer.
Here are the main things that affect your garden in this way:
Garden areas on a higher elevation will warm up faster and be less likely to get hit by a light frost. Frost hits low lying areas first. Knowing this can help you get a jump start on planting your peas.
Take advantage of shadier areas, or create your own, for crops that tend to bolt in the heat. For example, you can grow basil longer if you plant it amongst your tomatoes. Similarly, you can plant an early crop of spinach near trees that haven’t grown their leaves yet, using the shade that comes later to help postpone bolting.
Open areas are more subjected to wind. This is good for wind pollinated crops like corn, but very high winds are bad. You can adjust your planting or garden area to provde protection where needed.
The main reason its good to know this is that it is much more specific than just a Zone number. Get to know your garden, take notes, and you’ll find yourself growing just a little more and a wee bit better.
Categories: gardening, techniques
9 March 2013, by gj
Necessity really is the Mother of Invention. Increasing numbers of people growing their own food, especially those in tight spaces, has resulted in a wonderful collection of methods and ideas to help you grow up.
A simple chicken wire trellis.
A quick web search on ‘vertical gardening’ will provide you with tons of ideas through books, images and blog posts. People are growing pretty much everything vertically these days.
Of course there have always been the vining plants- cucumbers, peas and pole beans will grow up whatever they can attach themselves to. We’ve seen melon and winter squash do the same thing.
Tomatoes of course get staked; but growing lettuce vertically? Really?
Growing cucumbers up an old decorative windmill.
Saving room is not the only advantage to vertical gardening.
Plants that are not on the ground are less likely to get disease or to rot.
They are also safer from many predators; at least the ones that crawl, slither, walk or hop anyway.
Remember also to not just grow up, grow down as well; many plants do well in overhead containers.
For inspiration we’ve put together some ideas on our Pinterest board:
Categories: gardening, techniques
2 March 2013, by gj
Dating back a few centuries to France, this method of gardening involves some of the techniques we have looked at here previously.
You didn’t know you were already learning this, did you? See how easy gardening is?
Intensive gardening originally involved double digging the garden to add nutrients, but nowadays most practitioners of this method simply build raised beds.
And I mean simply.
They can be anything from a mound of good soil to more elaborate structures. Our first raised beds were mounds surrounded by fallen tree branches, they helped reduce erosion.
Once your beds are ready, the rest is cake.
Little room for weeds to interfere.
Plan your garden using two techniques we already discussed: Intercropping and Succession Planting. Put your seeds and seedlings as close together as you can, just enough so they are barely touching each other when fully grown. We looked at that too.
Growing up anyone?
The last component of Intensive Gardening is vertical gardening. Whether you are growing cukes up a support, or have cherry tomatoes growing down in a hanging basket, you are adding more plants to the space you have.
Fall turnips make room for each other.
So here’s Intensive Gardening in a nutshell:
1. Start with a healthy raised garden area, leaving the spacing between the beds, not the rows.
2. Plant your edibles close enough but not too close, so that they still have air circulation and sufficient light.
3. Interplant and use vertical gardening techniques to maximize use of space. NOTE: Vertically grown plants will create shaded areas, use this to your advantage.
4. Be mindful of harvest times and be prepared to add a successive crop when an area opens up.
5. Be sure all veggies have an adequate supply of water and nutrients, replenishing as needed.
Now just look at how good you’re getting at this!!
Categories: gardening, techniques
26 February 2013, by gj
There’s a lot of information here about extending your growing season, just follow the link below. So why add more?
Here’s the deal:
Fifteen years ago when the garden was just out the back door, and I was, well, 15 years younger, I didn’t mind so much picking carrots in January.
Even if it did require snow boots.
Now the garden is out front and up a hill. Once the snow falls it can be difficult to get to, requiring not only boots but also a shovel to get the gate open.
There are some limits as to what I’m willing to do, admittedly not much, but some.
Rather than go without those fresh cold loving veggies, we built some raised beds closer to the house.
Yay- no more hills and shovels!
There is one drawback though; the space is limited.This is the first time we ever had to plan for winter veggies in such a tight spot.
You got to love a gardening challenge!
Plotting and planning.
If this is something you are considering, here are a few tips to steer you in the right direction.
1. Know your veggies.
Learn which veggies, like carrots and parsnips for example, can be overwintered in the garden and how to do that. Which greens can take the cold? Try mache and chard.
Basically, if you eat the leaves or the root end, it has a better chance surviving in the winter garden.
2. Plan ahead.
Here in Zone 5/6 our garlic matures about the end of July to early August, giving us time to get in a fall batch of turnips, carrots, and chard.
G. J., but what about the other garden areas, like where the tomatoes are? They won’t be open until later in the fall, right? Is there still time to plant?
See? Now you’re thinking like a year round gardener!
You still have time for some quick growing crops like beets and radishes, and some that will overwinter or be protected.
3. Timing is everything.
Look for veggies varieties that will mature faster, giving you more time for another crop. Plant determinate tomatoes and bush beans to help open an area sooner. Look for faster maturing varieties of other veggies by checking the Days to Maturity on the packet or in the seed catalog or website.
This one simple step can easily give you a few extra weeks for the second crop.
4. Get help.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheelbarrow here.
Look for information on adding a simple cloche or cold frame to your garden. We once used inverted quart size glass canning jars to plant tomatoes a few weeks early.
Get good info.
5. Read more about it.
We would recommend the Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jarbbour and Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.
6. Start small.
Before you go full throttle try overwintering carrots. You may love it, or you may decide you don’t want to be out in the cold weather harvesting.
Hey… it could happen.
Here’s all of our posts on extending your season.
Categories: extending the season, gardening, techniques