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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cold Weather Persists: Planting Shivers On!

The coverage techniques I am using seem to be working and I will post a blog on what I did. They seemed to manage the cold weather crops perfectly well. The biggest issue with cold tolerant plants is making sure the roots don't freeze.

Tuesday is when the night's return to the 40's. This weekend, I will be planting my cucumbers and squashes in cups. They will sit outside and wait for the right conditions to grow. I aslo hope to get the tomatoes transplanted into cups. I have been putting my seed trays outside for 1 or 2 hours and even made a shade cover to let the tomatoes get some sun. I figured I would start harden them off early. Hardening off is basically allowing your plants to adjust to the sun and temperature. If you move plants straight outdoors from your grow lights... the sun can actually scald them to death. They have to adjust to the UV rays.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Comparative Shopping For Ladybugs and Furniture

Become is a website that offers the power of price comparisons to help you get the best deals. I was able to find ladybug houses as per my decision to make my garden more eco-friendly. Who would have known there are actually houses for ladybugs to live in through the Winter. Ladybugs mass together to stay warm… who knew? While there I came across ladybugs in their seventeen bedding collection. No I don’t want ladybug bedding but my daughter might be interested in updating the look of her bedroom to match her age. And no, she doesn't want ladybug bedding either.

As always, I have interest in saving money. The more money I save the better opportunity I have to spend the extra on gardening. What else does a teenage daughter need to fix up a room; a vanity and mirrors of course.  I checked out dressing tables with mirror and was surprised with the selection I found. Good prices too. There is something said in helping your daughter move forward in life... ah she's no longer a tween. As a teen, I guess looking at yourself in every outfit you own, is part of growing up.

This site provides detailed information about products with one click. You can see dimensions and close up pictures of the items that interest you. I kept looking around with the idea that every kid, I mean teenager now, needs to have space in their room for their friends. I came across a moon chair and thought it was the perfect fold-away chair for her space limited room. They are specifically designed for the outdoors and can be used for sporting events and those type of activities. But they are so stylish and colorful, they could also function as a piece of bedroom furniture. I'll see what she thinks but the chairs did look comfortable. Maybe I need some for the yard. Maybe in a ladybug style... just kidding.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hello Visitors: Help Me Out With Ladybugs.

This year I am going to make my yard ladybug friendly. White-flies and aphids are the bad guys. I have found a farm to order the ladybugs. If anyone has ideas on how to build ladybug houses, what plants attract ladybugs, and other ideas on attracting benefical insects... please leave a note here.

I plant to compile all the information and post a few blogs about ladybugs and good insects.

Thanks in advance.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Beets: I Learned Something New

Well, I knew those videos would be worth while. I learned that the beet seeds we get are actually fruits and each fruit has about 6 seeds. I also learned you can start them is seed trays. I thought this was a no-no.

Even with the frost here, I will be doing a seed tray of beets much like this video.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Cold Weather Tomatoes are Growing Nicely: Kohlrabi!

This is the batch of my tomatoes I started really early. They are cool weather varieties. The are in cups and have been in there for about 3 weeks. The cold weather is slowing their progress but the are hanging in there. They really need to be outside and in the sun, not pressed up against grow lights. The grow lights are damaging them.

The seed trays around them are my red kale, green and red kohlrabi, and chard. These guys were put in the garden about a 1 week ago and they are handling the frost well.

Lavender and Rosemary Cup Transplanting

I started my lavender and rosemary in cells around 1/20. I planted True and French lavender varieties. The French lavender has a unique flower.

Here they are in the cells and they grew under the grow light for about 8 weeks. They take a bit of time to germinate and grow slowly. I did not over plant the lavenders and rosemary in the cells. They don't transplant well if you break up their roots.

Left to right are two rows of True lavender, one of French lavender, and one row of rosemary.

Close up of the True lavender. You can see all the seeds did not germinate.

Though they look similar the row on the left is French lavender and the right row is rosemary.

A better view. I turned the tray. The row to the left are rosemary and the row to the right are French lavender. You can see the difference better in this picture.

They come out of the cells and will be split and placed in cups.

The seedlings, 1 tray's worth, is turned into this. They will grow in here for another 6 weeks or so.

Tomato Seedling Updates & Deep freeze

It is going to snow here tonight. My cool weather crops are living up to their name and surviving nicely. The first night I used clear cups, the temperature really dropped. In the morning the chard was frozen through. No issues though. After the sun came up the plants were fine. I am now using cups and plastic covers and sheets.

Here is the picture update of my tomato seedlings. The tomatoes should be replanted this weekend into cups but with this 7 days of below freezing nights, I can't move my other transplanted plants to the outdoors. So... I basically have a too many plants and too few indoor lights. The tomatoes will have to hang on. I gave them water and liquid fertilizer in their plant cell tray. Food is important at this point. Because I over plant my cells, my seedlings will suck out the nutrients pretty quickly once they are up and growing.

The tomatoes get planted halfway up their stem, when I get to transplanting them.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Testing Last Year's Radishes in Rows

You can always test out seed by placing them between wet paper towels. That is fine. I prefer to test them out this way. The rows might be 16 inches long. I am putting radish seeds in there from last year. I planted long rows with seeds purchased for 2011.  I use short rows to test germination.

The pictures tell the story. Just make as many rows as you have left over seed varieties. Make sure you label each row.  In this case you are looking for germination, so place seeds like every quarter of inch. Thin later if they come up.

Notice the popsicle sticks. You can get like 400 for $5 from craft stores. They make great markers. Don't forget to label the radishes. You will forget. And if they germinate, you might want to plant a quick row. If you don't remember what you planted, you'll have to wait till they mature. 

The Night Frost is Bad: Under 28 degrees.

Well I have a 5 day battle ahead. The temperatures at night are going to be in the mid 20's. The cups I put out last night... didn't do much. They are good for few degrees of protection, not 6 degrees or more. My cool weather crops were frozen through. That isn't so bad but for the up coming consecutive days. I have seen lettuce freeze through, and be fine. A lot of the cool weather plants have a different cell structure or mechanism. When they freeze the ice crystals don't typically rupture the cell membranes.

Looks like I will double insulate the plants. A 12 oz clear cup and a large black container will go over them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Five Bad Days of Weather and Transplants: Plastic Cup Domes

What I learned over the years is... March weather can make or break my transplants. Both my direct garden transplants and transplants that I put into cups are at risk. Why? The cold days (under 45), the lack of sun, mostly clouds and rain, and the cold nights (under 34 and below freezing). One day is not so bad, maybe even two is okay. But I have a string of 5-7 days of bad weather combination coming.

Three or more days like this really breeds fungus and disease and/or just zaps the transplants. The cold weather plants in the garden just need night protection. The transplants in cups can NOT sit outside. Because they don't have the warmth of the earth, they chill down way to much in the cups.  I also have seed flats growing greens. They will need care too. The constant rainy days and lack of full sun, keep the plants in the cups and flats from drying through, this creates a bad environment.

What this means is my cup transplants will have to sit in the garage for most of the time. This is much better then sitting in the cold, dark, damp outdoors for 5 or more days. I will have to make some emergency grow lights to rest over them. This is well worth the time and effort.

The plants in the garden will be covered with a simple hard clear plastic cup from the grocery store. About a 12 oz cup will due to cover the plants. I will do this around 5 pm when I get home and remove them in the morning. I am just giving them some protection from the harder nights. Greens and cool weather crops can handle some frost. The warm garden beds protect the roots from freezing.

The seedlings in trays will be wrapped in clear plastic drop cloths from the hardware store. I do not want them to sit soaked for days. They are all greens and should fair well even in the cold nights. The sun that is there will penetrate the drop cloth. I will air them out when I can.

Hopefully in 5-7 days... the sun will be back, the days will hit 60, and the nights will stay in the low 40's.

Here is what the weather looks like in my area. Because I am in the suburbs... I subtract several degrees from the night time temperatures.


Mar 23 T-Storms
40° Night

Mar 24 AM Showers
27° Night

Fri Mar 25 Mostly Sunny
33° Night

Sat Mar 26 Mostly Cloudy
32° Night

Sun Mar 27 Few Showers
29° Night

See... not so good.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Planting Onions from Onion Bunches

I like to plant onions from bunches. The bunches cost about $3.50 each. I am planting red and white onions. You get about 40 to 50 onions per bunch. A good deal.

Quickly in pictures... No point in over talking the pictures.

The bunches at $3.50 per bunch

Soak them for 15-30 minutes. It makes pulling them apart easier.
And it prepares the roots for planting.

The planting area is visible &  it is about 12-15 inches wide.
The whole bed  has been amended to make the bulb growth easy.

Separate the bunch into large and small piles. These are red onions.

Even though the whole bed has been amended, the onion plot gets more.
I dug a shallow trench about 10 inches wide and a few inches deep.
I did not go the whole length because I am planting some differently.
The large pile of onions will be used for this method.

The area was filled with composted manure and humus.
I mixed it into the top 4-6 inches of soil.
This is to allow the bulb easy expansion during growth.

Poke holes about 2 inches deeps. I spaced them about 3 inches apart
in groups of three. You harvest the middle row first to let the others grow.
Plant them to a depth a bit below my finger tips.

Give them a little tug up to settle air pockets.
Plant them this way if you want larger full grown onions.

Asparagus: Clean Up for Spring Growth

I planted my asparagus from seed. It works. You really don't need to by rooted plants. I planted my seeds in cups and let them grow outdoors. I think I did this 4 or 5 years ago. I like how the mind fades like tomatoes in the frost.  I also planted them in my clay soil and didn't add enough sand and humus as I now know. However, it still produces nicely.

Anyway I am on my, let say 4th year of asparagus. Asparagus is perennial plant and we eat the shoots. You have to let some grow to maturity so they supply the plant with growing power. Every year you should leave the earth alone and let the asparagus do it's thing. 

You don't do much more but cut the dead growth back, drop compost on the planted areas, and remove weeds and competition. Last year I got a great harvest. This year should be better. Here are some fun pictures if you didn't know asparagus grew quite large once you let the shoots go.

Those three tall ferny plants in the middle are asparagus

The over wintered plants that are ready for removal

Asparagus seeds. These are still orange. They dry out and hold seeds.

The cut back asparagus with composted humus and manure dumped on them

Artificial Grass Lawn - How to Tell If It's Right for You

Posting by Bobby Quill  

If you’ve suddenly started to feel like your grass is too much of a hassle, artificial grass might be the perfect solution. 

So, how do you tell if it’s right for you?
Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  •  Do you spend more time maintaining your yard instead of enjoying it?

  • Artificial residential turf is so popular because it requires absolutely no maintenance.  Once it is installed, you don’t have to worry about it.  There is nothing to mow, nothing to water, and nothing to fertilize.  In fact, you can spend all of those hours playing or barbecuing in your yard instead of working on it!

  •  Are your water bills out of control?

  • Every time you water your grass, it takes hundreds of gallons of water.  You may not even realize it, but your yard is consuming thousands of dollars of water every year!  If you are looking for a way to cut back on your water bills, get an artificial grass lawn.  That way, you won’t be affected by the August drought or the ever-climbing water rates!

  •  Do you need to cut back on costs?

  • Fake grass doesn’t just save money&nb! sp; for private backyards; it can be a real cost-cutting meas! ure for bigger venues, like city parks and sports stadiums.  If you need to cut budget, synthetic grass gives you a way to get rid of your grounds crew and all of the tools and materials that come with them.

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Planting Spinach in Finger Holes

    I plant my spinach quickly and easily by using finger holes to about 1/2 to 1 inch deep. I plant 2 seeds per hole. I use raised beds so I tend to plant things closer together. The other thing I do is eat my plants thus crowding is not a problem. I never really wait for full maturity on the greens and such. They just never seem to reach full size. If both seeds germinate, I let them grow a bit and harvest one for baby spinach.

    So cram them together if you have a nice loose raised garden. If they get too cramped... pick them and eat them. They are spaced about 2 inches apart. The soil was amended and loosened as shown in my other blogs. I poked holes with my finger and dropped the seeds. I filled them with composted humus and cow manure.

    Or, if you are worried about over crowding, harvest the center row for early spinach and every other hole along the remaining rows. Some thought is involved, but then you end up with plants well spaced out and you can let them grow to full size. This also works for beets.

    Planting Peas, Carrots, and Radishes in a Raised Bed Garden

    It is March 20th.  It is time to plant the cool weather crops in Maryland (Zone 7). I amended my raised beds with peat moss. I will prepare them for the different seeds and use a mix of peat moss (moisten!) and composted humus and manure. Do not moisten the composted humus and manure. You won't like the result. The peat moss gets moistened and the latter added.

    Step One: Add in some peat moss and moisten it.  You can see the moistened peat moss in the container.

    Step Two: Add in one whole bag of the composted humus and manure.  Mix it thoroughly in with the moistened peat moss. Break up all the clumps. You will use this to amend you seed planting areas.

    Step Three: Plant you seeds. In this case it is peas. The peas I am planting are stringless and called Goliath. They will grow vines over 4 feet. I am NOT going to use the composted mix to plant the peas. Peas fix nitrogen themselves. If you look closely you can see I put the peas in about every 2 inches to 2 1/2 inches. You can thin later. In a raised bed, because of the deep loose soil, you can plant seeds closer together. The depth of loose soil means less competition for root space. I put in 3 starting posts to string later so the peas can grow up them as they mature. I pushed the seeds down to 2 inches with my finger and covered them. Peas are done.

    Step Four: Plant your seeds. In this case carrots. I have clay soil. Even though I use raise beds and loosen the soil to a good depth, the clay is heavy. Heavy soils challenge carrots. You can buy carrot varieties that help with this. I bought a variety that only grows 6 inches. I cleared a 10 -12  inch wide furrow the length of the plot. I use sticks to temporarily mark off my plantings.

    Step Five: Preparing the planting area for carrots.  Carrots grow deep, they are one big root. I added  dried peat moss.  I am not using a lot dried peat moss and it gets worked down deeply with a hand shovel to at least another 12 inches. In this case the dried peat moss will have plenty of time to absorb water. I then added the composted humus and manure the length of the shallow furrow.

    The composted material got mixed to a few inches and was smoothed out.

    Step Six: Planting the carrot seeds. The seeds are hard to see. I planted 2 seeds per spot and three spots across.  You can see to spots with my fingers. So... three spots of seeds width wise in the furrow and space  them about 2 to 2 1/2 inches apart. No science again. The work you did to loosen the soil to depth, lets them grow with little competition.  I started the next row, of three spots, about 2 inches from the other seeds. Work your way down the whole row. You WILL have to thin them to one plant per spot if more then 1 seedling emerges.

    The tips of my fingers are one spot each. There are 2 or 3 seeds in a spot. Each spot will have to be thinned to one plant if more then one emerges.  Do not stress about the spacing... 2 inches in either direction is fine. Just dont forget to thin. You might even go 4 across if you furrow is wider.

    Step Seven: Plant your seeds. Long radishes are planted like carrots. Repeat the above for radish varieties like White Icicles. Any radish that grows 4 plus inches should be treated like a carrot. For a reveiw... here are the furrow stages.

    Three stages to long root crops like carrots, long radishes,  and parsnips.

    Step Nine: Plant your seeds. Standard round radishes or 2 inch radishes.  Dig out row with your hand about an inch deep or a litte more. In loose soil your seeds can be a little deeper then the package suggestion. Remove clay clumps.

    Step Eight: Planting the radishes.  One radish seed, 1 inch apart down the length of the row. You can thin them as needed. The thinned radishes are great in salads. I put some composted humus down and then put the seeds on it.  I covered them with the surrounding soil with varying depths of 1/2 inch to 1 inch. Again, don't stress over being exact. I used poles and stakes to mark my plantings.

    Step Nine: Enjoy your labor.

    Amending Your Garden Plot with Peat Moss and Humus (Moisten!)

    Every year I add to my garden's soil. I use raised beds and can concentrate resources right to the beds. Last year I re-dug the beds to 2 feet deep. You don't have to do that yearly. Because I am using a raised bed and don't walk in it, the soil stays loose. However, I do have clay soil. Great for micro nutrients but it is heavy. Every year I amend it with peat moss and humus and grass clippings. This freshens up my planting beds and it reworks the top 12 to 24 inches of earth, depending on what I am planting. This is how I do it.
    The beds and supplies. These are 4 x 6 raised beds. They have to be cleaned out. I have a bag of 3 cubic feet of dried compressed peat moss. It will cost you about $10. The other 2 bags are humus and composted manure. They will cost you about $2.75. The blue container is used to mix the peat moss with water. I can't stress this enough... moisten your peat moss before you use it.

    Step One: Clean out the beds.  What can I say... clean them out. I would bag all debris and put it curb side. This reduces the risk of over wintering disease and bugs, coming to life.  Skip composting for the first spring clean out. Unless you know your material will be thoroughly decomposed by the time you use it.

    Step Two: Prepare the peat  moss. Peat moss is baked dry I believe. It is dry dry dry. Dusty and dry. You want to add water to it so it goes into the garden moist. If you put dry peat moss in your garden, you get a dust storm and it actually struggles to absorb water. When you plant in dry peat moss and then water it, the peat moss actually floats up on the water and it can mess up your seeds. So moisten it.

    This is a large container that is probably 25 gallons. Peat moss is hard to moisten because it floats. Fill your container halfway so you can reach your arms into it and turn it easily. Put in a good amount of water and then mix by hand. The trick is to sort of pet the peat moss in big circles. This rolls the water and peat moss together. Just mixing it under doesn't work. You have to rub the particles into the water. It is THAT DRY! The peat moss should be moist not soggy. When you squeeze it water should not run out of it.

    Step Three: Dump in the moistened peat moss. The darker pile is the moistened peat moss. It expands when wet. That is what you want to amend into your soil. Notice the lighter brown pile, that is the dry peat moss. In a 4 x 6 plot you want to put in about 1/2 a bag of peat moss. I have clay soil. If your soil is in better shape... use less. Worse shape... use more.

    Step Four: Spread the moisten peat moss out. If you don't have enough to cover the plot by 1/2 inch, you can add more. There is no science to this. Keep in mind peat moss is acidic. If is a good idea to sprinkle a few handfuls of pulverized lime on top of the spread before you mix it under.  I put lime down and the end of the season. Lime is alkaline. Peat moss is acidic. You typically want you garden soil neutral but that is another blog entry.

    Step Five: Turn it under to at least 12 inches deep.

    Step Six: Add some more moisten peat moss to the turned bed. I used nearly the rest of my peat moss bag. I saved some (like 4 shovels full) for the composted humus and manure. You will have to remember to moisten the peat moss. Cover the space and work it in to the top 4-6 inches. You can see where the shovel is, that it has been worked in to the garden. I do it with my hands. I like the process of breaking the clay and mixing the soil by hand. It also lets me find rocks to remove.

    Step Seven: Smooth and admire the finished bed. This bed is ready for planting.  The composted humus and manure will be used for planting. Notice the difference between the amended front bed and the untouched bed in the back. Remember... moisten your peat moss.

    Garden Update: March 20th 2011

    A lot is going on. It took 17 days for my Sarah's Galapagos tomato seeds to germinate. From what I read, that is standard; 2-3 weeks germination time at 75 degrees or more. The lettuces I planted outdoors in cups last week are coming up. The white-flies aren't around. That does'nt mean much they lay eggs quickly and I suspect I am not done with them.

    Yesterday got into the mid 50's and I spent about 6 hours gardening. I will be posting up what I did and how I did and hope it is usefull to others. It took 49 pictures,  all dirt - LOL.

    Finally! The season started.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Freshen Up Your Wintered Kale

    I like kale. It survives the winters here in Maryland. Come March it is beginning to grow new leaves. It is important to tend to it. The battered leaves need to be removed. The damaged stems can be cut back. You will see leaves growing along all parts of the stem. Sadly, the have white-flies. If I can't control the pests, I will have to remove the plants. We will see.

    This is how it survived the winter. It is March 18th. The whole box needs a cleaning out. The damaged leaves will be removed. The unused soil will be amended with peat moss and organic matter later this week.

    The same kale with leaves cut back. Dang white-flies. The pile in back has insects. It was bagged on this plot and put right to the curb. You don't want to drag the trash bag plot to plot because you will have a chance of moving the insects to a place they shouldn't be. Bag the trash and take it to the curb.

    This is a different variety of kale that grows up more of a stem. I not only removed the damage leaves but cut the tops off. You can see leaves  on the stems.

    The stem on this plant is damaged from the winter. I will remove it. You can see the new growth at the bottom.

    Cleaned up kale and it is ready to grow new leaves. Kale typically seeds the second year. So it will bolt. I will plant my new seedlings and they will grow to replace these. You can eat the kale flowers too.