Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Great pratical way to make compost

It's raining several times a week and my hairy vetch and crimson clover are growing well - it's been a mild winter so far. I weed out some Chickweed as I find it.

The garlic, shallots, remaining romaine, and Kohlrabi are growing well. I finally see cauliflower florets setting - pretty cool.

There's not much to do this time of year except weed when needed and continue to compost. Toward that end, here's a video that is a very practical look at how to make you own compost.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grow your own food

Short and sweet - I grow my own food:
- So I don't have to pay the rapidly increasing supermarket prices
- To know what is it I am growing
- Because it's healthier
- It's not genetically modified (GMO)

Here's a short video explaining why this guy grows his own food. I buy seeds from this place as well.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cover crops and weeds

As I wrote in my last entry, I planted cover crops on the raised in-place beds. I saw them start to come alive with green. Being my first year planting cover crops, I didn't know what to expect.

It turns out one reason they came alive so quickly and brightly was due to chickweed. By its name you can guess it's a weed. It took the help of my extension agent to identify it. By that time, my cover crops were almost the same size and color - green - and leaves that weren't very different from the clover I planted.

Now it take considerable time and delicacy to root out the viney weed that intruded in my garden uninvited.

Note for next fall, till then cover with plastic for a few weeks before planting cover crop.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall garden & cover crop

I had terrific germination on all seeds for the fall garden but I think I planted too early.The way I calculated planting time was to take the number of days it takes for the plant to reach maturity, subtract that number from the average first frost date, and kaboom, that's when I plant.

Well, the temperature was still in the 90's - which, as it turns out, is too hot to plant fall greens. Most died, unfortunately. I waited until it cooled a little and spread a few seeds in the beds. The results were just OK, not great as I expected.

The romaine did poorly, kale did OK, chard (pictured left) did best but still not as well as expected. About one fourth of the broccoli/cauliflower made it.

What I decided to do was to plant a ground cover that would enrich the soil for next year. I choose crimson clover and hairy vetch, pictured here.

The pea-shaped leaves are crimson clover and the taller plants with bamboo-like leaves are hairy vetch.

I sowed the ground cover in the rows with winter greens as well, under the assumption I would be able to recognize the difference until it no longer mattered - post frost.

Below is a good video explaining the use of ground cover and how it helps the soil.

Enjoy and let me know, on the comments form, how your gardens are coming along. Also, my gardening eBook is now available in all major eBook formats as well as PDF.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall Garden

It's been a while, I know, I know. Reasons but no excuses. This is the time of year to enjoy the heat being replaced by the cooler drier air. What a relief.

About three weeks ago, I pulled almost all of my summer veggies and prepped the beds for my fall plants. This amounted to a pile about 8' cubed. Without a chipper/shredder to prep them for the compost pile, I was forced to simply let them rot in place. Here's what I did with the tomatoes I saved. For the heirloom tomato sauce recipe, that is oh so good, click here.

Below is a sample of my last summer veggies:

Before this, I used my soil blockers to start the seedlings for the fall garden. Holy cow do those things work well. However, I planted a little too early, I was impatient. One third of the transplants died because of the heat, despite being sprinkled two to three times per day.

So I seeded the beds where it was bare and threw some really good compost on top, about a half inch. Most of those are starting to surface, I happy to report.

I decided to keep a permanent row of herbs: oregano, thyme, fennel, and rosemary. I have to harvest the sweet potatoes. The basil are going to seed so I can harvest the seeds for next year.

This fall garden will have romaine lettuce, carrots, swiss chard, a few spinach plants, kohlrabi, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. I also planted garlic for next summer's harvest.

Lessons learned:
- Prune cucumbers to single vine and grow vertically for greatest yield.
- Tomatoes are vines. Treat them as such - trellis them and prune all suckers above first flower.
- Peppers greatest yield is in August so don't pull them too early.
- Soil prep determines, to a great extent, the success of your garden.
- Fresh basil is delicious in pesto, alfredo sauce, or eaten by itself. Same for Oregano.
- A slow drip irrigation system is terrific. It provides deep watering, promoting deeper roots, and causes no soil crusting.

I continue to work in and on the fall garden and am planning a fairly significant rainwater harvesting system. I have yet to see if it makes financial sense. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why Heirlooms Are Important

Wikipedia indicates an heirloom plant "is a cultivar that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which is not used in modern large-scale agriculture."

What we call heirlooms plants were the standard years ago. Brandywine tomatoes were common 50 to 75 years ago. One hundred forty years ago, sweet corn was planted and harvested.

The difference is that somewhere between then and now, we have lost many varieties...many. Here's a graph a blog on extension.org which tells the story well:

What you see is the change in the number of varieties from 1903 to 1983 in each type plant versus. We have lost many varieties, never to come back again. They are extinct.

Existing heirlooms are making somewhat of a rise starting in farmers markets and now in some grocery stores. Some are unusual looking. If all you have seen are round red tomatoes, you might not know what to make of green zebra tomatoes.

Professional growers like predictable product they can sell. Tomatoes, for example, are usually picked green and gassed to make them red. Thus their flavor is often not as good as heirlooms you might buy at a farmers market.

Heirlooms are important because they are a part of heritage to pass down. If it's not preserved and valued, the only food available is what producers and growers find most reliable and easiest.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where to Buy Seeds and Plants

People ask me where I buy my seeds and plants.

First let's look at trees. If you're going to plant trees for an edible landscape, which I recommend, take a look at what Forrest Kelling Nursery offers. They use a patented method—called RPM—to enhance survivability, viability,
faster growth, and higher yield of trees. Their trees have a 95% survival rate after 20 years! That's incredible. That's where I'm getting my PawPaw trees this fall. The picture to the left shows you the difference after 210 days of one of their trees (left) compared to a regular nursery tree (right). Need I say more?

For economy, I purchase and grow seeds. I actually find it hard to believe people buy tomato plants with tomatoes on the plant for $12 when $12 worth of tomatoes is all they will likely get off that plant. Yes, it's a little more time and attention, but you know what you're getting and how they grown.

I recommend seeds from three different places so far. Baker Seed Co. is active in the Open Pollinated community and only sells heirloom vegetable seeds. They are knowledgeable and nice. The Seed Savers Exchange is a national treasure of maybe thousands of of different open pollinated seeds from the world over. The next place may be a surprise, but the economical decision is a no-brainer. In the spring, my local WalMart offers 20 cent seeds packets. Many of the varieties are from names you would recognize but relabeled. I found several of the 20 cent seeds were heirloom varieties - the same type you might buy for many times the price and I have had good luck with them. However, they are only available in the spring.

Summer veggies are producing but it's already time to start planning what to plant in the fall garden.