17 January 2014, by gj
It is wonderful every year to get things just a little more organized and free up some wasted time that is better spent gardening.
Here are a few ideas we have found to help:
The garden notebook keeps growing.
- A garden notebook can keep a lot of the information from previous years as well as what is collected throughout the year for the upcoming season. Include a flash-drive for what you find online.
- Likewise a clipboard can not only keep you planting maps handy, it is an easy way to hold seed packets that are slated to go out to the garden for planting. Just use the clip to keep them safe from spilling or blowing away.
- A potting table allows for an area to organize your supply of soils, amendments and fertilizers.
Right at our fingertips.
- We use a free seed rack from the local farm & garden store to keep seeds organized. This year the stash has been reduced from 3 racks to one, to further simplify garden planning and seed ordering.
Oh… there you are!
One thing that eludes us is keeping track of tools.
It is as if the small ones intentionally hide, and the larger ones are like chameleons blending into their surroundings.
- Here is a solution we are going to use this upcoming spring: Use duct tape, now also called ‘duck’ tape or paint to brightly color the handles on your tools, making them easier to find. We have in the past used the wonderful idea of adding an old mailbox to your garden area to hold tools.
We did learn to be careful it is mounted level or pointing towards the ground, otherwise rain water can get in.
Some lessons are always learned the hard way.
What tips do you have for staying organized?
Categories: gardening, jonesen', saving money & time, techniques
1 November 2013, by gj
The seed source.
It was a cold and windy day…
Bad novel writing aside, it actually was.
We have a wonderful composting barrel, it was a gift to me from Mandolin.
Pretty romantic, right?
But I do love practical gifts and when money is tight I would rather spend it wisely.
There is a problem though. Getting the compost out is somewhat tedious and bending at the required angle these days is difficult.
Plus, it has a wonderful reservoir encompassed in the base of the system, but getting the compost tea out is also painful.
So last winter I set about building, haphazardly I admit, a structure to raise the barrel higher to resolve both issues.
And it worked great…
Well, that was until the bin fell over; dumping a fair amount of it’s contents.
Mandolin then got out his “Man Tools” as he calls them, somewhat tongue in cheek because there is not one tool he owns that I don’t know how to and have used.
Except for the snow plow; but hey, I have to leave something for his ego.
So he fixed the base, making it much sturdier.
The Green Wall ascends the porch stairs.
In the meantime I cleaned up the compost as best I could.
Then spring came and summer, and we noticed small tomato plants coming up through the gravel in the area where the bin fell over.
Now I figure if anything wants to grow bad enough to grow where the soil is hard to find, so be it.
There were just 2 problems:
1. There were a lot more plants that came up than I realized at first, and
2. They formed a line that completely crossed over the path we use to get from the front of the house to the backyard.
Tomato cages were not going to work in this area, so I propped the plants up with pieces from an old compost bin and broken garbage cans.
Still, they formed what Mandolin dubbed “The Green Wall”.
Yeah, he likes to name things.
The Green Wall hit by frost.
Volunteer tomatoes are often cherry types, but these lovelies produced an abundance of different sized fruit, some weighing in at 3/4 pound.
Of course they had a late start, so most were harvested green.
But they were free.
And well, they were fun… even if we did have to take the longer way around to the backyard.
Categories: gardening, Keeping up with the Joneses, techniques
8 October 2013, by gj
As the main growing season comes to a close, it is time to do as much prep for next spring as possible. The more you can accomplish prior to winter, the sooner you can get going afterwards.
Although we have a lot of beds producing fall crops, as well as areas where the pole beans and tomatoes are still growing strong, there a few spots that can be readied up now.
Choose wisely what plant remnants you let remain.
This bed held corn, squash and beans. In fact, there are still a few bush beans producing.
Normally I would remove all spent plant debris, the exception is beans.
They get pulled up and left on top of the soil, as they will add a wee bit more nutrients by spring.
A layer of leaves to smother the weeds.
We just barely covered the bed with a layer of dry leaves, being careful not to smother the plants on the edge that are still producing.
My friend Angel cautions to be careful with leaves that have not been shredded, especially if you are using them for mulching. They can harbor disease and invite unwanted pests.
In this particular case, we know our leaves are healthy because our trees are in good shape. We also plan on tilling this bed in the spring.
We don’t like to till too often, but this bed is about due as it did have a bit of a weed problem early on.
Compost and manure hold the leaves in place.
The leaves are held in place with a layer of compost and aged manure.
Plenty to work with.
As you can see, there are still lots of leaves ready to either be temporarily stored either in one of the compost bins, or in a garbage can we keep on hand just for the garden.
That way, we can continue to use them even the following spring to help supplement the soil. And by then, they will have already have broken down some.
Yep, we haven’t had frost yet and already are planning the spring garden.
It never ends, don’t you love it?!?
Categories: gardening, techniques
3 August 2013, by gj
For a general overview of vertical gardening, see pt. 1 here.
Now that the garden is in full swing, we can share what we are growing up with you.
The first round of peas finished producing, so we replenished the soil and replanted.
There are beans growing up some netting attached to PVC pipes, as well as more heading up an old ornamental windmill.
We used to have a neighbor that built pole bean teepees that were 10 ft. high, and used a ladder to harvest the beans.
We’re not quite that enthusiastic.
Assorted Pole Beans
And More Beans
Many cucumbers will happily attach themselves to whatever structure they find, some need a little coaxing.
Lemon cucumbers need no help at all.
A new plant this year is Red Malabar spinach, seen here happily growing up an old kiwi vine. We have already harvested this plant a number of times.
Red Malabar Spinach
We have seen squash attach itself to fencing, and often have had to pull them off for fear the weight will be too much.
This year we planted a small Japanese pumpkin and purposely encouraged it to grow up the fence.
We did put the fruit in a ‘sling’ that is attached to the fence, to take a little pressure off the stem.
Likewise, we are growing small watermelons up the fence. The sling is a leftover plastic net bag that previously held oranges or onions.
Sugar Baby Melon
It’s fun to experiment and see how much we can get from the space we have planted.
But I think my favorite vertical edibles this year are ones that decided to grow to the left, instead of their usual growth pattern of vining towards the right.
Concord Grapes at the garden gate.
26 July 2013, by gj
Mid-summer planting of seeds and transplants to produce in the cooler months, also known as succession planting, is a great way to extend the harvest and get more from your garden space.
Carrots with beets and kohlrabi.
Most gardeners will tell you to not follow one crop with one from the same family.
I say Hogwash.
Partly because I like to say Hogwash but mostly because it’s true.
Where the taters were, now fall leaf cabbages and rutabagas.
If you have unlimited garden space, go ahead and rotate what you plant.
If you don’t, there’s just a few things you need to know.
The reasons gardeners recommend rotation in planting are:
3. nutrient loss to the soil
If the plants you pulled out were healthy, and you did not have a problem with pests, crop rotation isn’t needed.
Likewise, if you replenish the soil with fertilizer and a good compost, it will be a perfectly healthy environment to replant in.
The Kale bed.
Three simple words sum it up:
Remove – Replenish – Replant
You do need to learn what can be planted in the garden mid-summer. Here’s a good guide to help.
Peas replace peas mid-summer.
So we have peas coming up where the peas were before, and kale where there were other cole crops. No harm done.
The other crops were chosen based on what can be planted this time of year, and where there was room.
If we had to depend on crop rotation, a fall garden would be much more difficult than it needs to be.
Categories: extending the season, gardening, How to Grow, techniques
19 July 2013, by gj
Trying to buy fertilizer can be a daunting experience, but needn’t be. With some basic knowledge you will know exactly what you need.
10-10-10 contains equal parts n-p-k
1. Learn the numbers.
Fertilizers are labeled with 3 numbers that represent the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, or N-P-K in it. If the bag is labeled 10-10-10, that simply means that all elements are in equal proportions. If it is 3-1-2, it means there is 3 parts of nitrogen for every 1 part phosphorus and 2 parts of potassium.
2. Learn what these elements do for your plants.
The simplest explanation of what each element does I have heard was from my FB friend Amy. She described their effect as “Up, down, and all around”.
The first number represents nitrogen, which helps plants grow better leaves and stems. The second is phosphorus, which helps plants develop better root systems and utilize nutrients from the soil. Potassium is good for general plant health.
It’s a lot more complicated than this really; there are trace elements and other nutrients found elsewhere. But we’re here to make it easy, so we’ll stick with this explanation.
2-7-4 is better for tomatoes
3. Learn what your plants need.
Tomatoes, for example, don’t need a lot of nitrogen compared to spinach.
‘Shoots, roots, and fruits’ is another general way to remember what Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium do:
Plants that you primarily eat the leaves of require more nitrogen,root vegetables need to have have enough phosphorous, and if you harvest the fruit or flowers, be sure there is sufficient potassium.
The easiest thing to do is use a balanced fertilizer for your plants. If they develop any negative symptoms, like slow growth or yellowing leaves, look up what deficiency this is a symptom of, and go from there.
Categories: gardening, plant problems, techniques
13 July 2013, by gj
Gardeners can blame a lot of their problems on the weather, and certainly on critters.
Occasionally, we all must fess up to the fact that some of the problems in our gardens are ones we create ourselves.
Notice I said “we”. I’m dragging y’all into this one.
Seriously though, every year has it’s issues.
So with a deep breath and much humility, here’s what the gardener (me) did wrong this year:
Drawing the line.
Early in the season we discovered we had a vole issue. We also had rabbits getting in. This meant no beans unless we took measures.
Covering the beans with bird netting seemed like a good idea.
Except it protected the voles from predators, allowing them to happily eat seeds and seedlings until the bean plants got too big.
In retrospect, we should have waited to cover when the beans got bigger.
Hindsight is 20/20.
Picked the wrong tree.
“You better get those buckets off that tree.” my Dad said one afternoon, “See the big gouge in the trunk? The tree is dying.”
I could see he was right and had every intention of moving them to the other peach tree. Until a heavy storm moved in and it was too late.
Procrastination changes the to-do list.
Wood chips… bad idea.
“Put wood chips on top of your soil. They’ll break down and add nutrients. They only do damage if they get mixed in.”
This was some advice I heard and was intrigued.
Sure enough there is a lot of evidence that this is true.
I could even see in the pile of chips we had where they were already breaking down. Since I love experiments I covered two beds with a good quantity of chips.
In practice however, it’s pretty impossible to plant seeds without mixing the wood chips into the soil.
The bed shown above would have been full of carrots and beets.
Experiment concluded to be a failure.
And I made it worse.
This is the second bed that not only severely thwarted the growth of these peppers and eggplant tenderly started indoors and nurtured, but also harbored leaf-eaters that were devouring the plants.
I admit I got so aggravated I grabbed the Neem oil and sprayed them thoroughly.
Except I forgot to dilute it first.
Patience really is a virtue.
So my gardening friends, everyone makes mistakes. Fortunately we learn from them and hopefully don’t repeat them.
All is good though, I’m going to do what I would have suggested to someone who showed me these issues, and that’s to step back and do damage control.
Because taking your own advice really is priceless.
Categories: gardening, techniques
12 July 2013, by gj
The first are always the best.
Mandolin Jones jokes that two zucchini plants are “at least one too many.”
It’s true, there have been years where we have been inundated with zucchini. This year probably won’t be any different.
I tried to restrain myself, really.
So we only have three plants of Cashflow Zucchini in the garden, and three more of an heirloom type called Tatume.
What’s interesting about squash is that they usually produce male flowers for a while before they start producing females.
What’s odd is that the Cashflow did the opposite.
And since I want to save the heirloom seeds, the two types are nowhere near each other.
So when there were male blossoms on the Tatume and no females, and females on the Cashflow but no males, what needed to be done was obvious.
Now you see, we are trying to avoid GMO foods, and since much of the store zucchini is just that, we don’t buy it.
From fall until the garden produces, we don’t eat fresh summer squash.
It really makes you want it all the more…
never thought we’d be jonesin’ for zucchini.
So those male blossoms were plucked, and brought to the females.
Now we have two really good looking squash soon to be ready to harvest.
And thoroughly enjoyed.
While I have no intention of mentioning this to Mandolin, I will admit that if need be, I’d do it again.
Categories: extending the season, How to Grow, squash, techniques
28 June 2013, by gj
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” ~Picasso
At this time of year there is not a lot coming in from the garden, enough to munch on for sure and even some to store for the winter; but other than a little weeding there isn’t much
work play time.
Unless you create your own. In this case inspiration came from my Facebook gardening friends Jack and Ebony, and what was growing in their gardens. It also came from some plastic pails that were purchased last year from a dollar store.
We have a semi-dwarf peach tree that happens to have a limb that was severely over-pruned. Let’s just say that Mandolin is no longer allowed to use the pruners.
The Forsythia bush is happy about that, too.
In order to do this, you need to first drill a few holes in the bottom of each pail. Next, carefully lower each empty one down a limb, running the limb through one handle opening. You can get them somewhat situated, but realize that once you add potting soil and when it gets wet, the pails will shift their weight.
In order to make the pails a little lighter we added a small plastic pot before filling with soil.
It’s important to have the pots not too terribly tilted, or the soil and seeds might get washed out during a heavy rain. Some thin wire helped support two of the pots.
Be sure there is sufficient sunlight for what you are planting.
We chose radishes and baby carrots, kohlrabi and spinach for the slightly shaded area, and some leftover tiny onions.
And of course, a lookout to keep the squirrels away.
Categories: container gardening, gardening, techniques
25 June 2013, by gj
When we harvested our onions last fall, we found a number of ones that were very small. Here’s an example:
Why not take a chance?
In previous years when we got small ones, we tried different ways to deal with them. Nobody wanted to do the job of peeling, so they would usually lay in the bottom of the refrigerator door until they went bad.
We did try pickling them, but since we’ll never have a Tom Collins, they were not well received.
This particular batch was from some free sets we were given late in the season, that additionally were stressed by an extreme weed outbreak.
So there really was nothing to lose; they were free, they would otherwise go to waste.
When the garlic went in the garden last fall, a dozen or so small onions went in too.
Let me just mention here that we don’t normally plant onions in the fall here in Zone 5/6, we usually wait until spring.
I just wasn’t sure the little onions would live that long.
Now I must say many of my gardening friends told me “You’ll only get greens, you know. An onion won’t actually grow another bulb.”
Okay, so I knew they were probably right, but I couldn’t help but wonder “Then what about onion sets? Aren’t they little onions?”
So here are the results:
Free onions and fresh tops.
You can see that they all did grow greens, and some even grew bigger bulbs. I think had they been planted in the spring, they would have done better.
So you see it is possible.
And we do still have some in the fridge that survived all winter. Hmmm…
Hopefully, all of this year’s onions will grow big.
If they don’t, they are going into the fridge to wait for next spring.
Because never take ‘you can’t do that’ for an answer. Find out for yourself.
Categories: gardening, How to Grow, onions & leeks, techniques