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Friday, August 28, 2009

Soak your seeds to save time

If you want to save some time pre-soak your seeds.

Any seed can be pre-soaked. They can be hard to handle if the seeds are small when they are wet but soaking gives you a good 2-5 day jump.

They only need to be soaked over night 8-10 hours. Any seed can be soaked. You don't want to over soak them. 8 hours is plenty of time for them to absorb water and be put in the ground.

Sure if you put them in the ground and can stay up on watering them daily it might not make much of a difference.

But if you are like me your busy and might let the plots dry out a bit here or there. This can and several days to the germination process and peeking of the first leaves. Soaking them gives them a head-start.

Radishes, Lettuces, Spinach, and Greens

In Maryland its not to late to get these crops in the ground. They can withstand a light frost and need about 40 days to 60 days to mature.

Greens do need longer to mature, specifically, the kale and collards but many of them can withstand the winter and will grow in spring. Same with certain varieties of spinach.

So clear out you fading tomatoes and vine crops and put in the cold weather crops.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hedge Hog?

Something big is eating my tomatoes and leafy plants. It knawed through my fence to get in. Any ideas?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Plant Some Cucumbers and Squashes

The heat is hear. My tomatoes are a bit blighted but doing well. The heat is taking its toll on the cucs and squash.

Now is a good time to plant a few more cucumber and squash seeds. As the current squashes and cucumbers die back, the new plants will mature and keep the vegetables flowing to your table.

I've probably picked 50 pounds of tomatoes. I cant keep up with my peppers and I eat cucumbers every day.

Time to find some new recipes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Been Away: The Blight and Borers Arrived

Well I was away and started drywalling my basement.

The blight has moved in on my tomatoes as it always does mid July. The tomato plants that I rotated still got it. The tomato plants I grew in containters with store bought soil got it.

The ones that are fairing best are the ones I cut almost 24 inches from the bottom and heavily mulched.

I have been spraying all plants with wettable sulphur.

Ill see how they do over the next 2 weeks. Any branch that gets the spots is removed.

Oh the Zuc's got borers. They have been Sevn dusted.

The rough time for Maryland gardens seems to be July 15 till August 15. The heat and humidity bring the disease and bugs.

On a good note picked all my red cabbage and the cucumbers are out of control. Tons of spaghetti squash. And the green beans are outstanding.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Planting July Beets: Beet Seeds are Multiple Seeds

Beets can be planted now for a Fall harvest. They love the cool weather. It is time to tuck some into your garden beds. The leaves are great in salads and with a Fall crop you can make beet soups.

If you didnt know a beet seed is actually a cluster of seeds. Beets are notorious for poor germinations so nature gave them a solution. When you plant a single beet seed from a pack it is actually multiple beet seeds. That is way you need to thin them. If you plant 20 beet seeds (from a pack) in a row 1 inch a part, you will end up with clusters numbering quite a bit more then 20 seedlings.

Pepper Blight

Well I wasn't quick enough with prevention though all my tomatoes look green and healthy so far. I new peppers could get early blight or late blight but I never had it happen in my current garden. A group of peppers are spotted and dropping their leaves.

I sprayed the peppers and tomatoes with wettable sulphur and remove damaged leaves. Hopefully that slows the blight down.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July Plantings, Prevention and Garden Tending

It's July. I have been spraying my tomatoes, squashes and cucumbers with a preventative wettable sulphur spray. I believe it prevents and slows some leafs spots, blights and mildews.

This is disease time in Maryland. Humid and hot July and August weather. If you aren't mulching and pruning your tomatoes, you might want to reconsider or get started.

Mulching under a tomato plant will prevent soil born diseases from splashing up on the plant. Pruning the tomato plant lets air circulate around them. Taking the bottom 12 inches of the leaves off the stem is a good idea. Dry leaves are good. Taking out a few upper branches won't hurt the plant and it helps the plants to dry more quickly.

Prevention is key to diseases now. I also lightly dust my plants with Sevn. Flea beetles aren't easily controlled and they dessimate my egg plants.

I suggest putting in more herb seeds such as basil and cilantro. Beets can go in too for a Fall harvest. Beans of every sort are absolutely waiting to be put in the ground.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hydroponics Ouch

Well my hydroponic experiment failed. The stone and solution buckets quickly turned green with algae and the plants rotted.


However, I also used a double bucket with a stone 3 inch resovior (bucket 1) and soil (bucket 2 placed in bucket 1). That one seems to be growing. I think the strategy is to have a water resovior in the container.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pruning Tomatoes

Now is the time to stake your tomatoes if you haven't. They should have some good size to them. The will be growing like weeds now.

Start pruning. I suggest cutting back branches to give your tomatoes at least 12 inches of clearance from the ground. It will stop disease. I even to 18 inches if when the tomato is large enough.

If your not pruning suckers it,s time to make decision. Your plants are about to get out of control.

Keeping the tomato plant to one or two vine branches will make for a better year. Less disease. Larger fruit.

Hows the Hydroponics? Beans and more Beans

The plants aren't thriving in the pure stone and solution hyrdro-buckets. Looks like they are over fed. I think it will take time to find the right solution for them to grow in. Standard Miracle Grow, 1 scoop per gallon appears to be to much fertiziler. Next step, 1/4 solution.


If you like green beans now is the time to get them in the ground. If you soak the green beans 24 hours before planting they will germinate in the half the time.

If you havent planted a second round of annual herbs it is time to get them in the ground. More basil and cilantro please! They should be planted as seeds at this point in the season.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Finished Planting Tomatoes & Tried Hydroponics

I finished tucking away the last of my tomatoes. As always, I have extra each year. I decided to try and create 2 hydroponic buckets. One with just stone and water. The other... a double 5 gallon bucket with 3 inch reservoir. Ill get pictures up at some point.

With container gardening the biggest problem is maintaining the moisture. Tomatoes, on the hottest days, need to be watered 2 or 3 times when in containers. I figured... hydroponics.

Now is the time to start spraying preventatively for blights and mildews. 1 or 2 times weekly depending on the amount of rain.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dead Heading Flowers

A link to the article: Deadheading Flowers



Deadheading Flowers: How to Keep Your Plants Flowering


The process of deadheading can be time consuming but it is well worth the effort. A plant has basically three stages.

Growth
Flowering
Seed Setting

We spend a lot of time ensuring our plants grow well in our gardens. Many hours are spent finding the right plant for our garden schemes. Our reward is the bloom of flowers. We get to enjoy the beauty of their shape, the brilliance of their colors and the sweetness of their fragrance. Deadheading will allow you to enjoy the flowering stage of your plants for an extended period of time. I think that is worth the extra time it takes to deadhead a flowering plant.

It is important to know what type of flowering plants you have in your garden. Do you have annuals, perennials or did you plant bulbs? The type of flower your planted or inherited will give you some idea about how effective deadheading will be for that plant.

Annuals: Most annuals will greatly benefit from deadheading
Perennials: Many perennials will benefit from deadheading but some won't
Bulbs: They will not benefit

What is the benefit? Well it is really our benefit. They will continue to flower for a longer period of time. You won't harm a plant by deadheading it. If in doubt, deadhead and see how the experiment goes. Sometimes we inherit flowers that were planted by the previous owners of our homes. See what happens if you deadhead them.

Strictly speaking, you deadhead by removing the spent flower. If you leave the head, the plant begins to produce seeds. If the plant believes it has enough seed heads it will slow or stop flower production. Deadheading interupts this process. If you remove the spent flower heads the plant will respond by producing more flowers. Many flowering plants 'panic' when deadheaded and produce even more flowers. The goal of the plant is to reproduce. The goal of the gardener is to enjoy the flowers.

There are four basic ways to deadhead.

Pinch or cut the flower off the plant right where the flower meets the stem (Petunia)
Pinch or cut the stem of the flower off all the way down to the base of the plant (Daisies)
Shear the plant back when dealing with small flowers (Moonbeam Coreopsis)
Pinch or cut the flower back to the first set of leaves (Marigolds)

They all involve removing the flower. If the plant has a long stem, cut it back to the base of the plant. If it has a short stocky stem cut it back to the first set of leaves. Plants that get hundreds of little flowers like 'Moonbean Coreopsis' are best sheared back an inch or two (like a hair cut). Plants like petunias that are sort of bushy can just have the flower head pinched off. The reason you cut back flowers on stems differntly is so you don't have the eye-sore of the stem with no flower sitting there.

Some plants may not easily fall into one of the above categories. Mums for instance have a ton of flowers and you could snip each flower off if you don't want to cut back foliage. I find this too time consuming and shear the whole plant back just enough to remove all the blooms when most of the flowers are spent.


Deadheading = More Flowers


Also keep in mind deadheading works for garden vegetable plants. Pea and bean plants are good examples of deadheading. Instead of removing the flower, you are removing the seed pod. By harvesting pea pods and beans, you will get more production out of your vegetable plants. If you left the pods on the plants they would mature and brown. The seeds would be set and the plant will stop producing.



Monday, June 8, 2009

Pruning Your Tomatoes

The tomatoes in my garden are growing nicely. With nice growth comes the chore of pruning. I wrote a Knol that details how to prune tomatoes. Below is a bit of the article. Here is the link.

The Three Finger Method to Pruning Tomatoes

Why Prune Tomatoes?

You don't have too but I recommend you do. You will get tomatoes if you just let them sprawl across the ground. That is what they are designed to do. If you let your tomatoes sprawl, they will be more susceptible to disease and mildews. You will also need more garden space for a sprawling tomato and probably won't get any more tomatoes then a well pruned and tended tomato.

You prune a tomato plant to greatly reduce the risk of disease and mildews such as blights and powdery mildew. A pruned plant creates a gap between the soil and leaves. It is harder for spores to splash to the leaves and take hold. A pruned tomato plant has less leaves which allows air to circulate all through the plant. This circulation quickly drys leaves. Dry leaves are a good strategy in reducing the spread of disease and mildews.

You prune a tomato plant because you will still get a large harvest of tomatoes without sacrificing space in your garden. A tomato that grows up a stake and has its growth managed, allows you to plant more plants. In my book of a gardening the more space the better. You prune to have healthier tomatoes and more garden space.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June: Warm Season Plants Now Available

There are some tomatoes and peppers left. Not many. You still have time to get them in the ground.

The next wave of herbs are ready.

Squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, heirloom squash and sunflowers are ready.

Give me a call or send me an email if you need plants.

Friday, May 29, 2009

How to Make a Beer Slug Trap

Check out my newest Knol.

How to Make a Beer Slug Trap

Slugs will find their way into all gardens. There is no single way to kill them all. Slugs have to be managed. Beer traps are a great way to reduce the numbers of slugs in your garden.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Get Two Heads of Lettuce from One Plant

The picture tells the story. If you harvest your heads of lettuce by cutting the lettuce head off but leave the roots in the ground... you will get a 2nd head of lettuce as long as the weather stays cool. If your lucky you might get 3 heads of lettuce from one plant.

Click the photo to enlarge

This is red lettuce and the four lettuce plants at the bottom have all been harvested. The one to the far left (left bottom corner) is just a stump, it was picked yesterday. The one next it, to the right, was picked 3 days ago. You can see new lettuce leaves forming. The two in the far bottom right corner were pick 7 and 10 days ago. They practically have new heads on them.

The lettuce in the middle of my raised bed has not been picked and has been growing for about 40 -45 days. Behind the lettuce is swiss chard.

Lettuces will grow new leaves if you leave the roots in the ground. This is a great way to keep the lettuce coming to your table.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Planting Warm Season Crops

Now is the time to plant cucumbers, squash, beans, tomatoes, peppers, melons and sunflowers. It is also time for your herbs.

My garden is transistioning from cold season crops to warm season crops. What does that mean? I don't have room to plant! Well not enough room anyway for all I want to do. I am waiting for beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, lettuces and more to mature.

However, I also need to get the first round of the vine crops in.

The solution is to plant them in Styro-Foam cups. I recycle the ones I used for the cold crops. Any container will do.

I plant my cucumber, squash, melon, and sunflower seeds into cups. This buys me 2 weeks. As they mature in the cups, my cool weather crops will be eaten. When the seedlings are ready, I will have space in my garden. No lost time!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Yard Sale Plants: Tomatoes, Peppers, Herbs and Perennials

All these plants will be available unless they sell out.

Tomatoes

  1. Juliet Hybrid: Grape shaped cherry tomato
  2. Big Momma Hybrid: A very large sweet paste tomato
  3. Super Marmande Heirloom: Beefsteak type tomato
  4. Roma: Standard tomato from the grocery store
  5. Cherokee Purple Heirloom: 10 oz rose/purple skinned tomato
  6. Red Lightning Hybrid: Brilliant red with golden streaks. 3 inch round fruits
  7. Super Sweet 100 Hybrid: Clusters of sweet cherry tomatoes
  8. Large Red Cherry: Large red standard cherry tomato
  9. Super Beefsteak: Bigger yield beefsteak with 1 pound fruits
  10. Jubilee Orange: Large orange tomatoes with perfect roundness
  11. Brandywine Pink Heirloom: From 1885 - 14 oz fruit with pinkish tomato - Potato leaf
  12. Speckled Roman Heirloom: Paste tomato with red, orange, and yellow stripes
  13. Aunt Ruby's German Heirloom: 12-16 oz green and yellow striped fruit
  14. Tomatillo: Husked tomato-like fruit. It is tart and awesome in salsa.

Peppers

  1. Sweet Banana: Sweet no heat light yellow green
  2. Cayenne Hot: Thin long red hot cayenne pepper. Use for hot pepper flakes.
  3. Anaheim Chili: Medium heat 6-8 long pepper matures to red
  4. Corno di Toro: Large green to red bull horn shaped 8 inch fruits with no heat
  5. Poblano: Deep green for roasting on the grill. Medium hot pepper.
  6. Big Dipper: Large standard green bell pepper
  7. Early Jalapeno: An early maturing jalapeno. Great for salsa.
  8. Cubanelle: A large sweet pepper that matures from yellow to red
  9. Californa Wonder: The standard green bell
  10. Marconi Golden: Golden (yellow) Italian sweet pepper with 12 inch fruit
  11. California Orange Heirloom: Large sweet tasting orange bell

Herbs

  1. Lime Basil: Great for salsa and Mexican dishes
  2. Purple Basil: Great for salads and contrast to other basil dishes
  3. Large Leaf Basil: Standard large leaf basil for pesto
  4. Cilantro: Key ingredient for salsa
  5. Oregano: Great for sauces and it is a perennial plant
  6. Chives: Great for salads and it is a perennial plant
  7. Fennel: Anise flavored herb great for chicken and fish
  8. Dill: Used for dill pickles and in fish dishes

I also have gallon pots of hostas and other shade plants.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Planting Tomatoes in Pictures: 3 in - 15 to Go


The above plot held some kale. I cleared the kale and I will be planting 3 tomatoes.
The tomatoes that will go in are Brandwine Pink, Aunt Ruby's Green and Speckled Roman.
Click the picture to enlarge.



The first step, after clearing, is to prepare the planting hole. It is 2 spades deep and I removed a lot of the existing soil. It is important to have outstanding soil for the tomato.



A mixture of peat moss and garden soil is used to fill the hole. A handful of 10-10-10 fertilizer was placed and mixed in to the bottom of the hole. I also mix in a half of cup of pulverized lime into the peat moss to decrease the natural acidity of peat moss.


I also mixed a small handful of fertilizer into the top 10 inches of the hole once filled. I dug a small handful of dirt out for the transplant. The tomato will be planted at a depth of about half of its total height. This plant is the Brandywine Pink heirloom.



The three tomatoes are planted and grass clippings are used to cover the soil. I use about 2 inches of grass clippings at a time and once they dry out, I add more.
Click the picture to enlarge.


This is the basic way I plant tomatoes. Each year I dig a large planting hole and put in new soil made of peat moss and garden soil. Fertilizer gets tossed in and the tomato plants get a fresh hole to grow in. Later the plants will get tomato stakes and I will prune them as the grow.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Garden as of May 9th


Radishes, lettuce, spinach and kale have made it to my table. Turnips, carrots, broccoli potatoes and parsnips are up and growing.

I've planted some peppers and heirloom tomatoes. I also put in 1 determinate type heirloom tomato called Marglobe.
Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pictures of My Garden Beds as of March 15th


Some of my raised bed gardens as of mid March. Ill be posting the growth this weekend. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.



Squash and Cucumbers Planted

Butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash have been planted into 8 oz styro-foam cups. I decided to try that instead of 20 oz. They will get planted directly into to garden without disturbing the roots. I didn't have enough 20 oz cups and was low on garden soil. Maybe the extra soil for starting the seeds isn't needed.

If you haven't grown spaghetti squash, I highly recommend it. If you split the squash and bake it (spil side down) in a pyrex pan filled with an inch of water, you get a very tasty vegetable. Bake 30 minutes around 375 degrees. Scrape the inside of the halves and the squash actually shreds into spaghetti like fibers. Dress it and eat it hot or cold.

I planted 1 variety of cucumber a long thin hybrid. I have trouble with cucumbers. This might be due to soil acidity or alkalinity or insects. I don't test my soil. Typically, they grow in the cups but transplant poorly. I suppose I can dig out my soil and drop a bag of garden soil in a hole. If the plant I put in there grows well, that might mean its my general soil. Whether its the soil balance or wintering insects, Ill have to figure that out.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tomatoes: A New Knol

My most recent gardening Knol. I am getting ready to do my annual plant sale. Tomatoes are what drives it. I wrote up 10 basic tips for minding tomatoes.

Ten Things About Tomatoes

Time to Plant Your Tomatoes

I have three plants in the ground now and 10 more varieties growing in cups. I planted a determinate plant this year and two other indeterminate heirlooms. One variety is 'Whopper' and the other is 'Arkansas Traveler'. The first is as it sounds a large tomato and the second is heat tolerant prolific producer. I grew several varieties of Russian heirlooms over the years but found the Maryland heat beat them up.

It's time to get the tomatoes in over the next 2 weeks. Below is a cut from a Knol I wrote on planting tomatoes. You can read the whole article at this link.

How to Plant a Tomato an Tend to Its Needs

Digging and Preparing the Hole:

Dig the Hole
I am assuming you have a garden. If you don't, you will need to dig and turn-over at least a 2 foot by 2 foot plot. I am also assuming you know a tomato needs at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.

In your garden, dig a circular hole that is 1 1/2 to 2 feet wide and 18 inches deep. Put the dirt to the side.

In the bottom of the hole sprinkle 3 rounded tablespoons of fertilizer evenly over the bottom of the hole. You don't need be exact. Use your shovel to mix the fertilizer about another 4-6 inches deeper into the hole. That is, break up the bottom of the hole another 4-6 inches and mix the fertilizer into the loosened dirt. Do NOT remove the dirt.

Fill 1/2 the Hole
Fill half the hole with the garden soil you purchased. You will be filling in about 9 inches of the hole. Sprinkle 2 rounded tablespoons of fertilizer evenly over the hole. Using your hand evenly mix the fertilizer into the 9 inches of new garden soil. Do not mix it into the bottom level where you put the other tablespoons of fertilizer. Drop in about 2-3 shovels worth of the original dirt you put to the side and mix it evenly with the purchased garden soil. Yep, just blend it together.

You have now provided your tomato with ample growing room for its deeper roots. The purchased garden soil will ensure the soil has the right PH for growing tomatoes. There is no need for soil testing. The moisture control formulation with help prevent blossom end-rot then can occur from uneven watering.

Planting Squash and Cucumbers

It's been raining for 4 or 5 days here with more to come. Perhaps this much rain is great for the garden in the long run but it creates a wet soggy garden for planting squash and cucumbers. Squash and cucumbers love warm weather and now is the time to get a jump on planting them. Planting squash and cucumber seeds in wet cool soil 50 to 60 degrees often leads to rotting.

You can start the seeds outdoors in styro-foam cups. I don't recommend using the small seed trays because they give the roots little growing room and the plants suffer pretty severe transplant shock. The little cells are just to small. Use 20 oz. styro-foam cups.

Poke holes in the bottom of the cup. You don't want these seeds sitting in soggy water. Fill the cup to the top with garden soil and plant 2 seeds per cup. The cups are easily labeled. When the plants are 2 inches high, pinch the weakest off. The cup will allow a strong root system to grow and you can plant the plants directly into the garden without really disturbing the roots. If you want to grow 2 plants in one spot then keep the other plant. DON'T try and divide the two plants from one cup by breaking up the roots. It will shock the plants. It is not worth it. It will slow their growth as they recover.

If the nights get under 50 degrees, you can bring the cups into the house. Starting squashes and cucumbers outdoors using this method will give you a headstart.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Here Comes the Warm Season

I started writing Knols about a year ago. One Knol I wrote was on Cool Season Crops. The warm weather is moving into Maryland and that leaves about 4 more weeks for the cooler vegetables to finish up before the warmth begins to makes these crops bolt. Here are my Knols to bring this blog up to speed.

How to Grow A Salsa Garden
How to Plant a Tomato an Tend to Its Needs
Cool Weather Vegetable Gardening
Radishes
How to Create a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
Heirloom Vegetable Seeds
Starting Tomatoes Indoors

It is time to get those tomatoes in. The temperature at night is hovering at 50 degrees and the day temperatures are hitting 70 degrees. Peppers can also go in the ground although they like even more heat.

I start my tomatoes, peppers, herbs and many kinds of perennials indoors. This give something to do during January's freeze. I have about 400 plants outside in cups to be transplanted or sold at my annual plant yard sale. The yard sale give me some cash to buy those things I can't grow inside and cash for mulch, stakes and your basic garden supplies. You might want to think about a plant yard sale in your area. Everyone love gardening.

I'll be updating this blog weekly with pictures of plantings, pests, problem solutions and all things related to gardening.

Slugs. Anyone have a solution?