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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Revisiting My Old Self Wicking Tomato Containers: Improvements and New Designs for 'Self Watering' Tomato Containers

Revisiting My Old Self-Wicking Tomato Containers: 
Improvements and New Designs for 'Self Watering' Tomato Containers

Please Visit The Rusted Garden Vegetable Seed and Garden Shop

The design for my original self-wicking tomato watering containers is going to be 2 years old. Some lessons learned have given me ideas for a new design or two. I will be making those videos over the next month or so.

The greatest lesson learned is that reserve water in this design and any design will stagnate if the water is not full used by the tomato or plant. The first question to ask before building one is: Do I need a self-wicking container for my tomatoes or garden plants? The answer can be found by answering two more questions. Does the heat of my summer dry a 5 gallon container out in less than 24 hours? Can I manage the watering needs of my container plants with a reservoir system?

If the heat of your summer doesn't dry out a 5 gallon container in under 24 hours you probably don't need the system. My summer heat in Maryland Zone 7 that comes in late June, July and early August will suck the water out of my containers (through plant use) in under 24 hours.The second question is more about the time you have available for your container garden.




Another problem is that you don't need to fill the reservoir when the plants are small. That water will sit. And it has no place to go. Natural rain patterns will often keep the soil moist and the plant doesn't demand much water. Sometimes the young plants only need to be watered 1 or 2x's in the early part of spring.


Design Changes

Change 1: NO Sponges
One main change I am going to make to the original design is to remove the sponges. They are an unnecessary step. And I feel they can contribute to bacteria. The change will be a smaller hole where the towel come through and a simple LARGE KNOT tied in the towel that is housed in the soil container. That knot will sit over the hole and stop dirt from falling in the reservoir. No sponges are needed. It saves money, time and one less place for bacteria to grow.

Change 2: Alternative Wicks
Another minor change is to replace the cotton towel with a wicking material that will decay at a slower rate. You do need to change tomato container soil every year and thus replace the towel but a wicking material that is man-made might last longer and house bacteria to a lesser degree.

Change 3: An Optional Flush Hole
If your water has an odor you can flush it out by over filling it but it is a bit messy in the current design. I am going to install a 2nd lower hole that is corked. It will stay removed when the reservoir is not needed. Water will not sit unused. It can also be removed when you want to flush out the water.




I am always looking for a way to make things at lowest cost. This current design takes two buckets and if you have to buy everything in the original video (minus soil), the cost is about $10.I am working on single bucket design that is cheaper. And working on a way to bring the double bucket system down in cost. One tip is going to your local restaurants and getting  food grade 5 gallon buckets for free.




Join My New YouTube Channel Just for NEW Gardeners: My First Vegetable Garden

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Winner Selected for the February Seed Give-A-Way

Winner Selected for the February Seed Give-A-Way

Blake Williams won the seed give-a-way as he was the first to show up as retweeting February's prize. I am looking to to grow my Instagram and Twitter presents but have found many people would like to participate that only visit my blog.  I appreciate that so... I will be doing different things each month for the seed give-a-ways via all three social mediums (is that plural for media?). So stay tuned by following me on Instagram, Twitter and by following my blog. Thanks!

Good Luck in Your Gardens,

Gary



Spring is almost here!



Join My New YouTube Channel Just for NEW Gardeners: My First Vegetable Garden

Join My Google+ Community Our Tomato and Vegetable Gardens (2500+ Members!)
250 HD Short and to Point Garden Videos: My YouTube Video Gardening Channel
Follow and Organize The Rusted Garden on Pinterest

Friday, February 14, 2014

Starting Cucumbers, Zucchini and Squash Indoors: Bigger Containers and Warm Weather!

Starting Cucumbers, Zucchini and Squash Indoors: 
Bigger Containers and Warm Weather!

Cucumbers, zucchini and squash are fast growing plants. You do NOT have to start them indoors as they can grow quickly right out of your garden as long as the soil and temperatures are warm. Some of the reasons to start them indoors is to improve germination rates or to get an established plant in the garden if you battle garden pests. Sometimes a bigger transplant takes hold better. And you can start them early, of course, to get a jump on the season.




If you want to start cucumbers, zucchini and squash indoors to get a jump on the season, you really have to make sure you start them in larger containers. You don't want them to get root bound and the small starting cells are just to small for bigger seeds and plants.




And (a big and) you have to time the seed start about 4 to 5 weeks before the soil temperature is in the upper 50's and you are getting day temperatures around 70 degrees. Holding these plants to long in containers will get you transplants that are small and stunted. The stunted plants will take several weeks to recover and grow. You will have lost the 4 weeks you were using to get a jump on the season.


They are heavy feeders and you will see them grow quickly indoors. I recommend feeding them with a 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer at 2 or 3 weeks when you see the first true leaf get to size. And you can do it again the week before they would go outside.  A starting mix with a low amount of fertilizer won't hurt. You should still do the liquid feedings. The key is keeping fertilizers for indoor plants at half strength. There is no rain to move concentrating fertilizers away from your plant's root. They just don't need full strength indoors.




Good Luck in Your Gardens
Gary


Join My New YouTube Channel Just for NEW Gardeners: My First Vegetable Garden

Join My Google+ Community Our Tomato and Vegetable Gardens (2500+ Members!)
250 HD Short and to Point Garden Videos: My YouTube Video Gardening Channel
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Monday, February 10, 2014

Fertilizing Tomato Seedlings and Transplants: Practices and Pitfalls

Fertilizing Tomato Seedlings and Transplants: 
Practices and Pitfalls 


I have two videos that go along with this blog article. I wanted to do two videos about fertilizing that would give you some information to best design your own routine. There is no single method for fertilizing your indoor tomato seedlings and transplants. As with any gardening activity.... ask 1000 gardeners and you will get 1000 answers. All different but yet with similar themes.

A plant can not tell the difference between organic and inorganic fertilizer. So use what you prefer and what is available in your area. I don't like the organic products for indoor use. They just smell bad. But fish emulsion and other products will be used in my greenhouse and garden beds. Every product has a use if used with a plan.




The biggest point I want to stress is to use a water soluble fertilizer at 1/2 strength. Some people even use 1/4 strength. Your tomato seedlings and transplants do not need a full strength fertilizer. The plants are small and most liquid fertilizers have a ratio of N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) that are just to high for plants in seed cells and small cups.

I also want to mention that gardening is a global activity. What we have here in the US in ways of fertilizer choices, convenience and labeling, is not found in every Country. We can only use what we have available to us.




The video shows you the general size of the seedlings for first fertilization. You are waiting for the first set of true leaves to establish.  There is a range, because you have to take into account whether or not there was fertilizer in the starting mix. Or does the plant look green and fine or a bit yellow or purple? Sometimes the are signs to fertilizer other times it is just time, because the plant grows to size.

Now the question might be how often to fertilize them after the first feeding. Some gardeners wait until they get outdoors. Some gardeners do a very very diluted strength at each watering. Again it varies. The key is that you do not need full strength.

My practice is about every 10-14 days with 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer until they go outdoors. Sometimes I have used a starting mix that is fertilized. Sometimes my transplant mix is amended with a fertilizer I like (again at 1/2 strength or less). I still stick with my 10-14 day 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer routine. The key is really staying at...yes 1/2 strength or less.

What is the best ratio on NPK for liquid fertilizing? I don't know the exact answer but I prefer something close to 3-6-3 when diluted at 1/2 strength. It took me years to get to that number. I was brainwashed for a long time for higher numbers. I've seen no difference at this ratio compared with something like Miracle Gro Tomato Food  which is about 18-18-21. At 1/2 strength it is 9/9/10.5. Either one has worked for me. Less seems just as effective.

Finally as you establish your routine... remember less fertilize is better in the case of tomato seedlings and transplants. You can over do it. It is tempting to give them more of what you think is a good thing. But problems do happen. Have you every salted a tomato or chopped cucumber? What happens?  The liquid is drawn out from the tomato and cucumbers by the salt. The higher external concentration of minerals/salt pulls liquid out. The same thing can happen to your plant when there is to much fertilizer around the roots. The roots can get damaged, the plant gets damaged and problems start. I explain that in this video.




Now... all this being said, damaging your plants with fertilizer is very hard but it can happen. Practice a 1/2 strength routine or less and you will be fine. These videos are for information so you can use it to develop and establish your own practice of fertilizing.

Good Luck in Your Gardens,
Gary


Join My New YouTube Channel Just for NEW Gardeners: My First Vegetable Garden

Join My Google+ Community Our Tomato and Vegetable Gardens (2500+ Members!)
250 HD Short and to Point Garden Videos: My YouTube Video Gardening Channel
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Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 2014 Vegetable Garden Seed Give-A-Way at The Rusted Garden: Follow Me on Instagram and Twitter to Win

February 2014 Vegetable Garden Seed Give-A-Way at The Rusted Garden: 
Follow Me on Instagram and Twitter to Win


To promote my garden blog and YouTube channel, I will be giving away vegetable seeds through 2014 and other items that are hopefully of interest. This will be a monthly event.

February's 2014 Give-A-Way!
7 Packs of Tomato Seeds

Aussie 1-2 Pound Heirloom
Cherokee Purple Heirloom
Baxter's Bush Cherry
Abe Lincoln Heirloom
Black Krim Heirloom
Brandywine Red Heirloom
Black Cherry (Cherry)


I will be sending out a Tweet on Sunday February 9th. The first person to re-tweet  MY TWEET that day, will win the seeds. It will show up in my email in order of re-tweet with a time stamp. Good Luck!

Seed Give-A-Way: The Rusted Garden 2014

To be eligible for the prizes, please follow The Rusted Garden on Twitter or please follow The Rusted Garden on Instagram. I will send out a Tweet or Instagram stating a prize is available and how to win it. 

Most likely, I will just be taking the first response to the prize Tweet or Instagram photo. Simple and easy.
I wish you all a great year of family and gardening in 2014. 

Thanks
Gary (The Rusted Garden)



Join My New YouTube Channel Just for NEW Gardeners: My First Vegetable Garden

Join My Google+ Community Our Tomato and Vegetable Gardens (2500+ Members!)
250 HD Short and to Point Garden Videos: My YouTube Video Gardening Channel
Follow and Organize The Rusted Garden on Pinterest

Monday, February 3, 2014

Three Part Series: Growing Cilantro, Basil, Parsley & Chives on a Kitchen Windowsill - Seed Starting

Growing Cilantro, Basil, Parsley & Chives on a Kitchen Windowsill
Part 1 of 3: Starting the Seeds

Peat pellets are used for this project because they are going to spend most of their time sitting in water mixed with 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer. The design of  a peat pellet is perfect for this. It allows room for root growth and it will allow roots to grow out of the medium and into the water. Cilantro, basil, parsley and chives were selected for this video because they don't mind wet roots and can do well in water.

This is a 3 part video series I am doing. This video explains the basic concept of growing herbs in peat pellets and water and how to plant the seeds. The goal is not to grow full sized herbs on your kitchen windowsill but to grow many many leaves.




The 1/2 strength nutrient solution will keep the plants happy. You do need a windowsill with at least 8 hours of full sun, if you are germinating them on the sill. If you start them under lights and get them to size, you can get away with 6 hours of sun on the windowsill to maintain them.

Remember the goal is to get leaves. You will be over-seeding the peat pellets as the water and nutrient solution will maintain them. The second part of the video will focus on growing them to size under the grow-lights and the final part of the series will focus on the nutrient solution and maintaining the herbs on your windowsill.



Join My New YouTube Channel Just for NEW Gardeners: My First Vegetable Garden

Join My Google+ Community Our Tomato and Vegetable Gardens (2500+ Members!)
250 HD Short and to Point Garden Videos: My YouTube Video Gardening Channel
Follow and Organize The Rusted Garden on Pinterest