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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Frost Damage and Effectiveness of Clear Cups: Celery

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As science would have it, one cup blew off my celery during the night of the frost.  I was glad I decided to cover the celery because it is not very frost tolerant and it did get below 32 degrees. I also put cups on peas. I found that peas can take a frost. The difference between the peas that had a cup on them and the peas that where left uncovered were negligible.

The celery was damaged through the protection of the cups but not nearly as bad as the unprotected celery plant.  The final thought... plastic cups will buy you a degree or two of frost protection.

Celery Before the Frost - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

Here are two pictures of celery that were covered by the cups through the frost. A little damage can be seen but not too bad.  The pictures were taking 36 hours after the frost so the damage would be visible.

Minor Frost Damage on Celery - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik
Minimal Frost Damage on Celery: Gary Pilarchik

The above pictures are of celery that had the cups on them. Here is the unlucky celery that was victim of wind. The wind blew the cup off during the evening hours. Although it looks bad... the core of the plant is fine and it should be fine.

Celery Damaged by Frost - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

My Indoor Tomato Grow Station: Grow Lights

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Here is a picture of my grow closet. The tomatoes are doing very well. It will give you an idea of size and height for placing lights in case your are interested in building your own space. Notice the lights are only a few inches above the seed trays. Germinating seeds not only like the light but like the warmth of the lights.

Tomato Grow Light Closet - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes: It is Getting Close!

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If you haven't started your tomatoes indoors yet, don't worry. You still have time. I wouldn't wait much longer though. Here are my tomatoes I started around March19th. The pictures are from around the 26th. Everything is up now and doing nicely.

Tomatoes Started Indoors - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik
Tomatoes Vary on Their Germination Time: Gary Pilarchik

The 'Sarah's Galapagos' are slower to germinate but they are now fully germinated and doing well. Look for your tomatoes to germinated between as few as 4 or 5 days and as much as 10 depending mostly on warmth.

Variation on Tomato Germination Speed: Gary Pilarchik
Germinating Tomatoes - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Not Only Birds Tweeting in the Rusted Garden Now-A-Days!

Who would have thought gardening would have taught me something about blogs? I enjoy designing and maintaining my blog and actually find it relaxing to read about HTML and all the support stuff.

I didn't think gardening would teach me about tweeting. I just signed on to Twitter. I am not sure what I am going to do with it that is fun and garden related. Maybe seed give-aways. Or a way to communicate garden events through out the world. Think big!

Anyway... I am looking for followers and The Rusted Garden can now be found by searching (one word)


on your Twitter home page.

Friend the garden if you would like to help a gardener out. As soon as I figure out how to use it, I bet I can put some link here that friends you to the garden as a follower. But I am new to this!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

KNOL: Amending Your Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Soil (Yearly!)

Transfered from my Google Knols to be stored on this blog.

Raised beds are outstanding for many reasons. In this case, you can concentrate all of your resources to a bed. The peat moss and composted materials will go exactly where you want them to go and they will only be used by the planted vegetables. This fact, is one way raised bed gardening saves you money.

Amending Your Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Soil (Yearly!)

By Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C
Visit my garden blog for updated articles and ideas at The Rusted Vegetable Garden

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. I want to improve the soil of my beds and I work on that yearly.
Every year I amend it with peat moss and composted materials 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. There is no exact science or measurements to this. Don't stress out over pefection.
Below are pictures of 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. The cost is about $10 a bag. The other 2 bags are composted humus and manure. The cost is about $2.75 a bag. 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 (moisten!)

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 initially struggles to absorb water. When you plant seeds 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. You could substitute peat moss with other materials if you wish. It should be in a form of very fine particles like peat moss.

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 how you want your peat moss to be when amended 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 in to start. 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 about a 1/2 inch, you can add more. There is no science to this. Keep in mind peat moss is acidic. It 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 and Knol entry.

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

Grab a shovel and turn it under to 12 inches or more. This is for the roots and worms.


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 of your bed 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 at planting time. Notice the difference between the amended front bed and the untouched bed in the back. Remember... moisten your peat moss.
The composted humus and manure could be mixed in with the peat moss if you want too. There is no science to this. I use the composted manure when I plant the seeds and plants. This is your choice. If you want use the composted materials during this stage... add a bag to Step 4 and add a bag to Step 6. I prefer to use mine at the time of planting and will demonstrate that method in another Knol.

*Fertilizing can also be done at both Steps 4 and 6. You can add what every type of fertiziler you want as per the directions.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Asaparagus: Clearing Last Year's Bed and Eating This Year's Shoots

Asparagus takes about 3 years to establish itself and provide enough shoots for eating and growing. It is important you let several asparagus stems grow to maturity and thrive all Summer long. This is how your asparagus plants recharge themselves for the following year.

Asparagus should be cleaned up in the beginning of March at the latest in our area. The reason being is that new shoots start coming up, for this year's picking, and cleaning the bed later makes it harder.  Your shoots won't be as green as they can be because last year's stems will block the sun from the new shoots.

Here is a look at my asparagus from a few days ago. I had to clean it up slowly as not to break or smash the new shoots.

Last Year's Asparagus Plants - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik
Clearing it Reveals the New Asparagus Shoots: Gary Pilarchik
Cleared Asparagus Bed: Gary Pilarchik

This is one of my asparagus beds. You can see what is there once I removed the old debris. This bed is younger than the other one I am about to show you. The shoots are a bit thin but still I picked several stems for a snack. The sun is on them now and the bed should produce for a good 30 days if not longer.

Asparagus Clump One: Gary Pilarchik
Asparagus Clump Two: Gary Pilarchik
Asparagus Clump Three: Gary Pilarchik

This is my raised asparagus bed dedicated to asparagus (of course) and onions. The asparagus is a bit pale because I failed to clean it up before the shoots came up. It is still delicious.

You pick asparagus by gentle bending it till it naturally snaps. After cleaning the beds, I had some raw asparagus.

Bend Asparagus Till it Snaps or Cut it as Soil Level: Gary Pilarchik
Asparagus in Hand - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

Monday, March 26, 2012

FROST!: A Few Degrees of Vegetable Frost Protections - CUPS!

Frost doesn't typically bother the cool weather vegetables. They can handle it. Perhaps you fell prey to the nice weather and put something in that can't take a light frost. Or you just want to protect your plants. Here is one method in pictures to protect your plants. The cups create a mini dome worth a few degrees protection.

The cups serve two purposes. One a few degrees of frost protection and... now you can put blankets on them and they won't get crushed.

Beware... Put the cups on around 3 or  4pm if you have full sun and temperatures in the 60's. You don't want to cook your plants. If it is cloudy or in the 50's, don't worry about putting them on too early.

20-24 Ounce Clear Cups for Frost Protection: Gary Pilarchik
Twist the Cup in to Firm it in Place: Gary Pilarchik
Frost Protected Celery - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

I haven't grown celery before. I am guessing it can take some frost but guessing always turns out to be a risk. I purchased the cups for them and added some on peas just to see, if it matters. I'll leave some peas unprotected this week and cover others. I put the domes on below around 3:30pm. Moisture is collecting in them. Don't forget to take the domes off in the morning or you run the risk of disease and cooking your plants.

Protecting Celery from Frost - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik
Celery Under a Cup - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik
Peas Protected From a Frost: Gary Pilarchik

What Do Good and Bad Tomato Seeds Look Like?

Good and Bad Tomato Seeds: Gary Pilarchik

The seeds to the left are healthy looking tomato seeds collected last Summer. The tomato seeds to the right are gray and shriveled and that makes the unhealthy. Tomato seeds should look like the 'Russian Oxheart' variety I collected myself on the left. The seeds on the right, basically dried out, but they were the seeds I used for last year's plants and they are also 'Russian Oxheart' seeds for comparison sake. You want to keep tomato seeds and all seeds in air tight containers (like in the picture) and they will last up to 3 years.

A bad looking tomato seed will show it signs.

What Do Onion Bunches Look Like?

Onion Bunches - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

Just another way you can buy onions for planting. This is a 'bunch' also called a 'set' sometimes. They were 50 onions for $3.00. A good deal. They can be planted a 1/2 inch to an inch down in finger holes.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What Growing On at The Rusted Garden: Potatoes

I planted a lot of potatoes last year and I got them in the ground way too late. I left a lot in the containers I planted to see what would happen over a Winter. They are sprouting now! Potatoes can be planted now and the best way to figure it out... see what Nature does in your area.

March Red Potatoes - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

I cleaned up the last year's potato container and dug around a bit and this is what I found. I replanted it of course and will see how the crop progresses.

A Potato Container - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

Planting Beets from Cell Packs: Tangled Roots

Last year I wrote that you could not start beets in cell packs. I believed they needed to be planted in the ground directly because they were a root crop and transplanting them would damage the root or beet. I decided to see for myself and planted 50 beets in the standard tray that holds the cello packs. I just filled it with dirt and made finger holes. They grew. I transplanted them and the beets grew perfectly. So... beets can be grown as transplants.

I just blogged that beet seeds are actually seed pods so when you plant what you think is one beet seed you actually plant a cluster of seeds. If more than one seed germinates from the cluster, you get two or more plants with very tangled seeds. Dividing them is difficult from cell packs. It can be done. Beets are very hardy and if the weather is cool, a damaged plant can survive. A damaged plant is typically a plant with like a single strand of root.

Beet Transplants - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik
Beet Root Cluster - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

Even the roots of beets are red. This cluster is several beets. Tear from the bottom until you reach the leave and plant cluster. Make a wish a break the best you can. You are just breaking the clump one time. Don't try and break every plant out. Even if some plant die you will have beets. You can also harvest the leaves for salads.

Splitting Beet Transplants in Two: Gary Pilarchik

Plant them in a hole the is deeper than the roots and back fill. Gently press the soil around the plant and water daily for several days, especially if it is sunny and in the 70's. You can see more than two plants in the picture below.

Transplanting Beets - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik
A Row of Transplanted Beets: Gary Pilarchik

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Well maybe it is the economy but I have to say Bonnie is now shipping vegetables in four pack cells for $1.79 instead of the standard six pack.  This is 'Bright Lights' Swiss Chard. There is more than 4 plants in the cell pack and I know you can plant several plants in once space. It is a leafy vegetable. Again, with a raised bed you can pack plants together.  Lots of loose soil beneath the plants allows you to do this.

At some point you have to decide if it is worth spending $2.00 for 4 plants. Seeds are cheaper and for instance lettuce is easy to grow. They had a lot of lettuce in four packs but I know I can buy three heads of romaine at Giant for $2.99. So maybe lettuce transplants aren't really worth it. I didn't buy any.

Swiss Chard - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

The first step was preparing the bed area for the chard, 'Red Romaine' lettuce and 'Flame' lettuce.

A Raised Vegetable Bed Over-Grown: Gary Pilarchik

Once cleaned up and turned, I planted the 'Bright Lights' Swiss Chard closer than recommended and on the edge. I know from experience that is grows easily and last all Summer long. I will have easy access to it on the edge. Chard grows fine with 2-3 plants in a clump. 

'Bright Lights" Swiss Chard - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

How to Plant Celery Transplants: I Guess

I thought this was cilantro when I walked by it in the nursery. It is celery. I have never grown celery before and I have never seen it for sale as a transplant. I had to buy it of course. It is part of the addiction of gardening. I did notice there are more than six plants in the cells. Some cells had single plants which make transplanting easy that even a politician could do it. Some had 2 plants which I figure I can divide easily but some also had 3 or more plants somewhat close together. The cell cost $3.99 which isn't a great savings if I only got 6 plants out of it. If this works well... I'll be starting my own celery seeds.

Celery Transplants - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

I pretty much followed the planting instructions with the cell pack. Because I plant in a raised bed, I can put vegetables closer together... so I did.  I carefully divided the cells that had two plants. When you divide plants in cells make sure you tear the roots by the roots and not crush or tear the area where the plant meets the roots.  Watch where you finger pressure is on the plant when you tear. Cells that had more than 2 plants where divided into two clumps. Some celery plants where planted with two or more plants per hole - an experiment remember.

A Single Celery Transplant - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik
A Celery Transplant Hole - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

The bed has been turned, amended and prepared. I dug a hole with a depth a bit deeper than the root ball.  I just held the transplant in place carefully by the green and back filled the hole. The rest of the plants, including divisions, were planted the same way. Lots of water helps with torn roots.

A Row of Celery Transplants: Gary Pilarchik

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to Double Dig A Raised Bed: Scatter Planting Carrots

Double digging a raised bed creates a raised bed with about 2 feet of loosened soil. This is a benefit of both double digging and raised beds. Raised beds warm earlier and because you walk around them, the garden bed stays loose and doesn't compact due to foot traffic. The benefit... more vegetables and the ability to plant vegetables closer together. I recommend raised beds that you double dig.

I am showing you how to double dig a row in a raised bed for scatter planting carrots. If you were to double dig the whole bed, you would use a drop cloth to hold the first 12 inches of soil. In the pictures I put that soil on the half of the bed I won't be double digging.

The first step was to turn the whole garden the length of the spade and break the clumps up. The second step starts with removing about 12 inches of soil from the row in which the carrots will be planted.

Step One - A Raised Bed Turned Once and Amended: Gary Pilarchik
Step Two - Double Digging a Raised Bed: Gary Pilarchik

The second step is clearing the row for the carrots. You can see above that I placed the soil to the side and for the most part the soil looks the same in the row and in the pile. It is pretty much equally amended.

The third step is removing another 10 - 12 inches of soil from the row. Notice the soil is changing color and is more clay. It was also compacted and hard. 

Step Two - Remove the 2nd 12 inches in a Raised Bed: Gary Pilarchik

You can amend the soil in the row however you like. I recommend a combination of organic matter, compost, and dirt. I typically use what is available, on sale and meets the quality needs of my garden. Don't spend a lot and don't stress over the decision. I used peat moss, composted manure and cheap topsoil.

Amendments for the Raised Bed Garden: Gary Pilarchik

You don't have to do this with all your beds. Because carrots are long tap roots that like loose fluffy soil and my soil is mostly clay, I softened it up for the carrots. Carrots are tap roots that will appreciate 24 inches of loose soil to grow in. I like to oblige my vegetables.

Step Three - Amended the Raised Bed Row: Gary Pilarchik

I added the whole bags of composted manure and topsoil down the length of the row. I mixed it by hand until it was broken down and loose. It is actually great exercise for your arms.

Step Four - Mixing in the Amendments: Gary Pilarchik

The next step is to replace some of the soil from the side pile and add about 5 shovel fulls of peat moss. I also used a stake to mark out the row.

Step Five: Add Peat Moss: Gary Pilarchik

Mix in the peat moss, from above, a good 8-12 inches and add another 5 shovel fulls of peat moss and some more soil as pictured below. That should bring your row back up to level. The reason you add so much peat moss is for the carrots. It keeps things loose. Mix in the rest of the peat moss evenly.

Step Six - Add More Peat Moss: Gary Pilarchik
Mix the top layer of soil and amendments together nicely. If you had some lime around you could add 4 or 5 handfuls over the peat moss to knock down the natural acidity of peat moss.

Step Seven - Mix the Top of the Double Dug Row Up Nicely: Gary Pilarchik

Your ready to scatter seed the row and grow some carrots. Remember carrots like loose soil. This row is loosened to 18 to 24 inches. It is perfect for carrots. 

Mixed Carrots - The Rusted Garden: Gary Pilarchik

I took the seed in my palm and pinched clumps of seeds in my fingers.  From about 12 inches high I rubbed my fingers together and let the seeds scatter where ever they fell. I did the entire row. It is hard to see but take a look. On most computers you can double click the picture to enlarge it to full screen. Step eight is planting the carrots or vegetables.

Double Click to Enlarge Carrot Seeds: Gary Pilarchik
Once scattered I used the tips of my fingers to mix the seeds into the first 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil. Some might be deeper, some might be left on top but scatter planting is designed for that. You will have to thin your carrots to a minimum of one inch once they come up. The last step is of course watering them in.

Mix in the Carrots with Your Finger Tips: Gary Pilarchik
Water in and Mark the Carrot Row: Gary Pilarchik
Notice my lovely clay clumps. They never go away. Argh!