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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

KNOL: How to Build a Garden Slug Beer Trap

This is an updated version of a KNOL article for combating slugs and snails in the vegetable garden. I added to the information and added videos.

I have over 50 garden videos. Why not join my YouTube Garden Video Channel. How to Build a Garden Beer Slug and Snail Trap
How to Use Iron Phospate to Control Slugs and Snails How to take care of an other pest, the cabbage worm or green looper

Slugs!. Nothing more to say. Here is one way to help manage them in the garden.  A beer trap will attract and kill slugs. It won't cure the problem of slugs in the garden but in will significantly reduce their numbers.

How to Build a Garden Slug Beer Trap

by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C

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Why Build A Slug Beer Trap?

Click to enlarge. Bok Choy - damaged by slugs - The Rusted Garden Blog

The evidence is my Bok Choy! Bok Choy!. No it's not a war cry to attack and destroy slugs. It is the casualty. All the holes in the leaves are from slugs. You will notice coarse sand around the base. It didn't help. You will notice pulverized lime on the leaves. It didn't help. So I added beer traps.

The truth is... managing slugs in the garden takes a multiple step approach. This Knol shows you one way to help reduce the number of slugs in your garden.

The Supplies

Garden Beer Slug Trap Supplies - The Rusted Garden Blog

You can purchase foil tins at your local grocery store. The shape and depth of the tins don't really matter. I suggest tins that are 1 - 3 inches deep. Any bottle of beer and some yeast is also needed to build the trap.

The slugs are attracted to the yeast. A little extra yeast sprinkled in with the beer helps to bait the trap.


Selecting the Location

Cabbage and Bok Choy Slug Damage - The Rusted Garden Blog

Select a location that is fairly close to the crops you want to protect. I tried protecting the above vegetables with coarse sand. The heads in the middle are Bok Choy or Chinese cabbage. They were fiercely attacked by the slugs and I am keeping them as a casualty crop. I let the slugs attack them and they pay less attention to my other crops. Right between the cabbages is where I will build the beer trap.


Placing the Tin

Place the tin at ground level - The Rusted Garden Blog

There isn't much to say but dig a hole and drop the tray in. The edges of the tin should be flush with the garden soil. We want it to be easy for the slug to crawl or fall into the trap. Once they fall in, they drown.


Baiting the Trap

Fill the beer trap with beer and a bit of yeast - The Rusted Garden Blog
Fill the trap about 1/2 to 3/4 the way full with beer and drop in a bit of yeast. The trap is set.

Trap Locations

Protection for my spinach, turnips and parsnips - The Rusted Garden Blog

Two traps for my cabbage patch - The Rusted Garden Blog

A trap with my other Bok Choy plot - The Rusted Garden Blog

Maintaining the Traps

I found I have to change the beer every 2-3 days. Three days might be pushing it. If you wait longer it doesn't do much more than sour and smell bad. Don't forget to add a pinch of yeast to the trap when you change the beer.

Beer traps work well and should be part of your attack in your war against slugs. I have not found a way to kill every slug but find you can really decrease their numbers in the garden. 

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KNOL: Three Finger Method to Pruning Tomatoes

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This entry is a copy from a KNOL I wrote found at Google. Google will be discontinuing the KNOL's platforme and I am in the process of storing them on my blog. Please enjoy the article. I have about 50 coming over to this blog.

I have over 50 garden videos. Why not join my YouTube Garden Video Channel? Video 2 of 6 on pruning tomatoes and removing suckers Tomato Stem Pruning: Single Double and Triple Stems I have read a lot of articles on tending and pruning tomatoes but they never included clear pictures. What is a sucker branch? How many leaves should you remove? I had a lot of questions that pictures would have answered. I provide the pictures in this Knol. You can see exactly what you should do to tend to your tomatoes.  I also provide  basic guidelines to pruning which I call the three finger method.


Three Finger Method to Pruning Tomatoes

by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C

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What is the Three Finger Method?

Make a peace sign and extend your thumb at the same time. You should have your thumb, index finger and middle finger extended. Your ring finger and pinky should be closed. The three extend fingers represent a tomato plant. Your thumb is a leaf branch (the branch to keep), your index finger is the sucker branch (the branch to remove) and your middle finger is the tomato stem. I drew a picture to further explain the principle. When in doubt and in the garden, throw out those three fingers and compare it to the tomato section in question.

Temporary: Will be scanning original

Identify the Sucker Branches and Remove Them

The branches aren't really sucker branches but giving them a name makes it easier to explain pruning. If they continued to grow they would grow into a vine branch - a branch from the main stem. A tomato plant is pruned to typically maintain one vine (sometimes two) and that will help to develop a strong healthy tomato plant. Sometimes I maintain two vines when I plant a new variety of tomato. That is just my preference. You may chose to let the main stem of your tomato branch into two or three vine branches. Pruning tomatoes theoretically reduces the number of tomatoes a plant will generate. However, pruning typically means the tomatoes that do grow - grow larger and it significantly helps to prevent diseases and mildews. If you don't prune there is a greater chance for disease and you might lose the plant and all those extra theoretical tomatoes.
If the sucker branches are left to grow it gives an illusion of a healthy green leafy tomato plant. In reality, come another month, a gardener ends up with a plant that is hard to tend and contain in the garden. An unpruned tomato will have more leaves than needed and the plant will be at greater risk for disease. It sounds counter intuitive but less is more when pruning and tending a tomato. I am pointing out two sucker branches in the picture below. You will notice a third sucker branch if you have a sharp eye.

Pruning Tomatoes June 09 Gary Pilarchik 

These sucker branches are large and that is what makes pruning difficult. It's not that they are hard to remove but that they look so healthy, many gardeners are tempted to let them grow. Don't. Prune them with a knife or snap them off if they are small enough. When my tomatoes are first growing, I am a little slower to prune them. I let some leaves, I would normally remove, hang around a bit in May. After that, they are gone. I do it to provide more photosynthesis to the newly planted tomatoes. It may or may not make a difference but it works for me.

Pruning Tomatoes June 09 Gary Pilarchik 

The sucker branches have been removed. The tomato still looks fine. You will notice my fingers point to the empty spaces where the sucker branches were and you now only see two leaf branches. I will be removing the bottom leaf branch in the next section below.

Remove the Bottom Leaves & Decrease the Risk of Disease

Many diseases come from garden soil. Spores lay in the soil and wait for a living host. The living host is your tomato plant. The spores want to splash onto the leaves during a watering or hard rain. I remove up to two feet of bottom leaves.  In my area I battle blights, so I prefer a large gap between my soil and plant leaves. Some gardeners suggest removing the leaves up to the first cluster of flowers. I recommend you remove enough leaves to create a minimum of a one foot gap between the tomato leaves and soil. Heavily mulching the soil beneath the tomato plant also helps prevent soil born diseases from spreading.
The bottom leaves need to be removed in stages. As the tomato grows, you can remove more bottom leaf growth. In the picture below you will notice I removed the the bottom right branch when compared to the picture above. The plant is actually big enough to remove the other branch. I will probably get to that this week. Pruning and tending to tomatoes is almost and every other day process.

Pruning Tomatoes June 09 Gary Pilarchik 

Here is another one of my plants pictured below. It gives you an idea of plant size and the amount of space I keep between the leaves of a tomato plant and the ground. If you enlarge this picture you will also notice two branches coming off the main stem. This is one case where I am growing essential two vines or allowing the main stem to branch into two.  I will prune and maintain both of them. It is a new variety of tomato. It is called Goliath. With an name like that, I figured I need two vines worth of tomatoes. That decision may come back to haunt me.

Pruning Tomatoes June 09 Gary Pilarchik 


Maintaining a Single Vine

You may want to maintain more then one branch on your tomato plants. Pruning doesn't mean you can only have a single vine. It means cutting back growth. The picture below provides a good example of single vine pruning. Starting from the bottom of the tomato plant, moving upwards, a pattern forms: stem, leaf branch, cluster of flowers, leaf branch, cluster of flower and the growing tip of the tomato. Or...
  • Growing tip (the tip of the vine and additional developing branches)
  • Flower cluster
  • Leaf branch (sometimes 2 branches)
  • Flower cluster
  • Leaf branch (branches below this one have been pruned away)
  • Bare stem
In my hand is the sucker branch and I removed it from the joint between the stem and leaf branch. You probably now recognize a pattern in tomatoes which is about every other leaf branch comes a flower cluster. In a single pruned that is the pattern that is maintained. A plant should be tended up the stake by loosely tieing it to the stake. You can see how I tie the plants by enlarging different pictures in this Knol. Over the full growing season, this plant will look like a single vine growing up the stake. There will not be any branching off the main stem for this plant. Try both methods and see what you like. You may prefer maintaining two vine branches vs. one vine.

Pruning Tomatoes June 09 Gary Pilarchik 


Why Prune Tomatoes?

Tomatoes don't have to be pruned but I recommend you do. Tomatoes will still grow if the plant is left to sprawl across the ground without any care. That is what they are designed to do.  However, If  tomatoes are left to sprawl, they will be more susceptible to disease and mildews. More garden space is needed for a sprawling tomato plant and you probably won't get that many more tomatoes then a well pruned and tended tomato plant.
You prune a tomato plant to greatly reduce the risk of disease and mildews such as blights and powdery mildew. A pruned tomato plant creates a gap between the soil and leaves. It is harder for spores to splash to the leaves and take hold. A pruned plant has less leaves which allows air to circulate through the entire 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 more room for more vegetable plants. In my book of a gardening the more space the better. In super summary, you prune to have healthier larger tomatoes and more garden space. It's that simple.

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KNOL: How to Create a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

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How to Build a Raised Bed Tomato & Vegetable Garden:
 Complete Details, Pictures and Video

Raised bed gardening is something I have been doing for the last 10 years. I wouldn't garden any other way. The benefits and future savings, outweigh the minimal work and cost needed to set up a basic raised bed.  A raised bed garden allows you to grow twice as many vegetables in the same space you would use if the garden bed were dug at ground level.  Raise bed gardens warm quicker and can be planted sooner than flat earth gardens. They allow you to extend the growing season and also focus soil resources to a targeted area.

What Do Raised Bed Gardens Look Like?

There are many raised bed garden designs. My raised beds are nothing fancy, just framed beds. My raised beds are also always 4 feet wide. This allows you to reach in to the center of the raised bed from any side. The goal is to not walk in them as to not compact the growing area with your weight. I have 4x4 foot raised beds,  4x6 foot raised beds, 4x8 foot raised beds and even a 2x10 foot raised bed. The sides of a raised bed should be a minimum of 6-8 inches and can really go as high as you wish.

4x4 Raised Garden Bed - The Rusted Garden Blog
4x4 Raised Bed Garden - The Rusted Garden Blog

What Are the Benefits of a Raised Bed?
  • Higher vegetable yields: You will get 2x's the vegetable production out of a raised bed than a standard flat earth bed. You can plant vegetables closer together because of better soil conditions.
  • Better soil: You can add garden soil, organic matter and all the other good stuff to your raised bed. Soil compaction is greatly reduced because you never step in the bed. Soil compaction inhibits plant growth, oxygen uptake and water circulation.
  • Better drainage: Your raised bed will drain quickly and be less prone to staying soggy thus preventing disease and rot conditions.
  • Better air circulation and more sunshine: Raised beds tend to get better circulation and more sun depending how you set them up. Air circulation helps cut down on plant diseases.
  • Better water conservation: You only water where the vegetables are growing. You can also install slow drip soaker hoses in the bottom of your raised bed garden.
  • Easier pest and weed control: It is easier to fence in your raised bed garden if there are animal problems. Weeding is easier and because you can plant more plants in a raised bed garden, they tend to shade out weeds. Finding smaller damaging insects and controlling them is also easier.
  • Earlier start and later finish: You can start gardening earlier because raised bed gardens warm more quickly in the season when compared to a flat earth garden. You can garden later into the season because raised bed gardens stay warmer as Fall arrives. They can also more easily be covered with row covers or adapted for cold-frames.
  • Easier to tend and manage: You can raise a bed up to two feet. This requires less bending. Once the soil is prepared, little work is needed to maintain it. Since you don't step in it, the soil stays loose and workable all year round. It is also easier to reach in and tend to your plants and pick your garden produce.
  • Saves time and money and they look great.  Your cost over time diminishes. It costs money to build the raised beds initially but you save money over time by only concentrating resources to where the vegetables are actually going to be grown. You save yourself time by only working the area that will actually grow vegetables. They look good and really help create an organized garden. Less mud too. You can mulch between raised beds for a clean working area and you will never have to step onto muddy garden soil.

Fall Raised Beds After Storm - The Rusted Vegetable Garden Blog

What Kind of Wood Do I Use?

I use pressure treated wood. It will last seven to ten years or longer. You can use wood that isn't pressure treated but it will decay and need to be replaced in about three to four  years. The biggest controversy, years back, was whether or not pressure treated wood had harmful health risks.

This argument was a legitimate argument when pressure treated wood contained arsenic. Most pressure treated wood now uses copper and NOT arsenic. Check with you local lumber yard and ask what chemicals are used to pressure treat the wood they sell. You can also use plastic products, metal, cinder block, hay bails and even stone. You are not limited to wood. I personally prefer wood.

What Size Boards Do I Get?

The length of the board I recommend is an 8 foot board. This length is perfect for a planting row and if you cut the board in half you get two 4 foot boards. That creates a perfect dimension of 4 ft. x 8 ft.  The boards I use are 6-12 inches wide. I recommended a minimum of 6-8 inches for your sides. You can go up to 24 inches for the sides of your raised bed garden. 
According to research 6 inches provides enough height to improve soil warmth and gain drainage benefits.  I do have beds were I stacked two frames on top of each other to create 12 inch sides. I use this for my cold frame. If it is more difficult for you to bend or reach, higher sides is the way to go. You can always add another level when needed. Board widths vary from 6 inches to 12 inches. If you want the sides to be higher you will need to stack frames.

Why is a 4 Foot width the Perfect Dimension?

If you stick out your arms you have about a 2-3 foot reach. If you were to walk around your raised bed garden you could reach in from either side and tend to the garden without every stepping into the box. That is one benefit of raised bed gardening. The garden soil stays loose all year around because you never step on the soil  that supports the vegetables. Compacted dirt harms vegetable roots and prevents your plants from growing. You don't want to build a frame where you have to step onto the soil to reach the middle of the framed area. That defeats one of the purpose of a raised bed.

Building the Raised Bed Garden Frame

I want to keep this simple. Often to much goes into perfecting the construction. It doesn't need to be perfect. To build the frame you need wood, 3-4 inch deck screws and a drill. Do not use nails. They tend to get pulled out of place if the board warps.
  • Decide on the frame sizes.
  • Purchase the wood. Let's assume you decide on two 4 ft. x 8 ft. frames. You will need to purchase six 8 foot boards. They should cost you $6 to $9 a board depending on if you choice 6, 8 or 10 inch wide boards..
  • Get the wood cut at the store. I suggest going to Home Depot or a place that will cut the wood. You should ask to have two 8 foot boards cut in half. That will give you four 4 foot pieces of lumber. You now have all the sides for two raised bed garden frames. 
  • Purchase a box of 3-4 inch deck screws. I suggest 4 inch screws. You will need 24 screws to build both frames.
  • Drill 2-3 pilot holes (see video below) on each side of the 4 foot pieces of lumber. The drill bit should be smaller than the width of the screws you are using. You do this to prevent the boards from splitting when you put in the screws.
  • Screw the frame together.
  • You now have a secure raised bed garden frame.

Same video for device compatibility.

Preparing the Site for the Raised Bed
I want to keep this simple too. Your garden will grow no matter how you prepare the soil and over time you can perfect it. You will need a level. It helps in making sure the frame is (well) level. If you don't have one, you can use your eye.
  • Drop the frame where the garden is going to be. I will assume you know to select a sunny location. You can use spray paint, dirt or even flour to trace out the frame. Once you trace out the frame, move the frame to an out of the way place.
  • Dig the grass out. I wouldn't spend much time banging clumps. You will be buying soil. Just dig down enough to get the roots and remove all the grass. I bag my yard waste and set it curb side.You could also just turn the clumps over as I did for this bed.
  • Now that you have a grass free space, put the frame back on the garden plot. Use the level and a hand shovel to make sure the frame sits level on your raised bed garden plot. You may have to move dirt around to raise or lower parts of the frame. It doesn't need to be perfect. Your site is prepared.

Trace Inside of Bed - The Rusted Garden Blog
Remove Frame - The Rusted Garden Blog
Turn Bottom of Raised Bed - The Rusted Garden Blog

What Do I Need to Buy to Prepare the Garden Soil?

I am going to give you the supplies for one 4 ft. x 8 ft raised bed garden. The sides for this example are 6 inches. If you make 12 inch sided frame you will need to double the bags of garden soil. Just double the bags of the garden soil, nothing else. This is enough to get your started and on your way. You can add grass clippings and other organic matter over time. You don't need perfect soil to start.
  • 8 bags of garden soil in the one cubic foot range. More is better. Make sure you buy garden soil and not the bottom line top soil. Any product that has organic matter in it is fine. It is typically billed as either premium top soil or garden soil.
  • One 8 foot cubic bail of sphagnum peat moss.
  • One bag of the cheapest 10-10-10 (or close to that) bag of fertilizer. This is enough fertilizer for many raised bed gardens.If you want to be 100% organic just use a matching product.
  • One bag of pulverized lime. This is enough lime for many raised bed gardens. 
  • You can add additional bags of composted cow manure or humus as you decided.

Preparing the Raised Bed Garden Soil

Keep in mind your soil will get better over time and vegetables will grow in most soil. Perfection is not the goal. With these amendments to your plot, you will have no trouble growing vegetables. It is just the beginning of your raised garden beds.
  • Open the bag of sphagnum peat moss in the middle of your framed bed. Do not rake it yet. Sprinkle in four cups of pulverized lime over the pile of peat moss. Take precautions not breathe in the dust. Mix the peat moss and lime together and rake it evenly over the plot. Peat moss can be acidic. Lime is alkaline. Mixing them together helps balance the PH. You don't need to test your soil.
  • Sprinkle three or four cups (8 ounces per cup) of fertilizer over the raked peat moss. The fertilizer will get turned into the earth. 
  • Turn the peat moss and fertilizer into the existing soil. You are not adding the bags of garden soil at this time. You are creating loose earth below the frame of you garden plot. This is the benefit to raised bed gardening. You will have loose soil to at least a depth of 18 inches depending on how high the sides are on your raised bed. Make sure your break up any large clumps. The peat moss provides organic matter that will hold moisture.
  • Open four bags of garden soil and rake it evenly across the surface of your raised bed. You want to turn the earth again making sure your not standing in the garden. You should do this from outside the frame. Turn the bags of garden soil into the earth. Extra effort to dig deep and turn extra earth is worth it at this point. You have now created good quality soil at deep root growing depth. You have mixed the the standard earth in your area with peat moss and garden soil. It's been boosted with fertilizer.
  • Open the remaining four bags of garden soil and rake it evenly across the surface of your raised bed. Sprinkle one or two more cup of fertilizer evenly across the entire surface of the garden. Mix the bags of garden soil in with the existing earth to about 10 inches. You don't need to go as deep. You are making a well amended 10 inch level of soil for seed planting.
  • Rake the garden even and break up clumps. Don't worry if your soil doesn't come to the top of the wood. Over time you will add grass clipping and other things. Do it at your leisure or when organic matter is available. It's ready to be planted.

Double Digging Established Raised Beds

After your raised bed has been used for a growing season, you might want to consider preparing it with a method called double digging. In your second year of the raised bed you can bring in what every amendments you wish to use. Double digging is a method to get deep into your raised bed and loosen the soil and add new soil amendments.. Here is what it looks like in pictures. I also have included a link to the original blog entry: How to Double Dig a Raised Garden Bed . You can do this every 3 years or so. It does not have to be done yearly.

Double Digging a Raised Bed - The Rusted Garden Blog
Double Dig Method - The Rusted Garden Blog

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Ah The Xmas Lights are UP and the Greens are Still Growing

I will be updating the blog this week. I started tomato seeds indoors to test germination. I will show you how that is done. I will be selling seeds this year. The warm weather is keeping my garden alive. I stuffed the turkey with garden herbs and onions. Not much going on, but enough.

Hope you all enjoyed and will enjoy your holidays.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fully Frozen Frosted Greens and Lettuces: Bets?

It is 6:32 am and I just gained an hour of sleep although technically we subtracted an hour and I slept the same length of time.

Here are some pictures of my greens as of about 10 minutes ago. I am in the suburbs so I typically get 3-5 degrees lower temps then what is on the news. I did miss this frost was coming. But I am going to bet 90% of my greens are okay. Ill see'll how they look this afternoon.

If they are wilting, their cells were ruptured by the frost bursting their cells. Greens and lettuce have some resistance to this.

Frosted Greens and Lettuce: Gary Pilarchik/The Rusted Garden

Frosted Red Romaine: Gary Pilarchik/The Rusted Garden

Frosted Arugla and Endive: Gary Pilarchik/The Rusted Garden

A Frosted and Frozen Container Garden: Gary Pilarchik/The Rusted Garden

Frosted Loose Leaf Red Lettuce: Gary Pilarchik/The Rusted Garden

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Frost and Lettuces and Greens: They Survive

Well, I know what to do to protect against frost. Can't say I did it this time. My tomatoes and peppers are done but the greens and lettuces frosted and survived. Even the peas, oddly, made it through a light frost. 

Snow, Frost and Lettuce: Gary Pilarchik

Snow, Frost and more Lettuce: Gary Pilarchik
It want to stress that greens and lettuce are great cool weather crops and can survive the cold and frost. The above pictures was ice and snow. The pictures below are how the plants look after 2 night of frost and below freezing weather. No issues. So grow some Fall greens next year. According to the weather I will have at least 1 more week of no frost nights. More greens for my salads. My garden has made it into November. I harvested leeks over the weekend and made chicken soup with them. The leeks will tolerate frost too.

Red Romaine 2 Nights of Light Frost: Gary Pilarchik

Container Lettuces Resist Frost: Gary Pilarchik

The cold weather brings a sweetness to greens and lettuces you just don't get during Spring and the warm periods. Lettuces and greens can freeze. The cell structures are a bit different. The ice doesn't burst their cell structure. Now prolong freezing will kill the plant. But they can take even a pretty hard frost.