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Monday, March 24, 2014

Basic Principles to Making Container Soil Cheaply & Fertilizing It: Organic Matter!

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Basic Principles to Making Container Soil Cheaply & Fertilizing It


I am always cautious about offering recipes for the garden because I don't want people to think they are absolutes. There are 1000 ways to do most things in a garden and this holds true for containers soil mixes. I am introducing my general method that does vary based on what I have available and my general mood. So... please use this video and article for the principles. It is also the least expensive way to build container soil when you have to buy products. We all just don't have endless supplies of compost or a yard for that matter.




The key to container soil is moisture retention. I recommend making your container soil with at least 50% organic matter. Organic matter will retain water. You can use compost which will give it nutrient value. Or you can use peat moss or coco coir. They are outstanding at holding water but offer little if any nutrition to your plants. You of course could make a mix of these 3 items. Use what you have and what fits your budget. Remember, you want 50% of your container soil to be a water holder.

I dump all my container soil out onto a tarp from the previous year. Don't use container soil that had disease or insect problems. That is precautionary.  Use that soil in a bed that has unrelated vegetable plants or in your flower beds.

I fill my containers up up half way first, using  a mix ratio of 50% organic matter and 50% old container soil. I use peat moss. When I have compost ready I mix about 25% peat moss and 25% compost for my organic matter for my 50% organic matter. The other 50% again, is the old container soil. Remove any large clumps of unwanted debris. Remember 50-50 and fill up 1/2 of the container first.




Fertilizing doesn't have to be difficult although understanding the application directions can be. I recommend the tablespoon. You are not going to over fertilize your container soil. The primary feedings will come from the use of liquid fertilizers during the season. Container vegetables will suck the water and nutrients out of your containers. Regular water and feeding is a must for success.

This year I am using more organic products. The bottom half of the containers are getting 1 tablespoon of bone meal for phosphorous and 1 tablespoon of blood meal for nitrogen. They are both slow release and will sit in the bottom and get ready for future deep roots. I am also putting in 1 tablespoon of a general organic fertilizers that covers N, P and K and that is a  more readily available form for your transplants. If you don't have these items 1 or 2 tablespoons of a 5-5-5, 10-10-10 or 15-15-15 synthetic fertilizer is perfectly fine. Plants don't know the difference.

Peat moss is acidic. So I recommend a handful of garden lime in the bottom. It is also good for adding calcium to your containers to prevent blossom end rot and it helps balance out the acidity of peat moss. You could also add your crushed eggshells into the bottom half. This prepares the bottom half of your containers.

I finish the top half off the same way with 50% peat moss or organic matter and 50% container soil. You can add in 1 or 2 tables spoons of any type of balanced fertilizer. A 5 gallon container is loosely equal to a planting hole as directed on the backs of most fertilizers. Or it is equal to just over one square foot. Remember, less fertilizer is better to start and they key to great container soil is 50% organic matter for water management.


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Monday, March 17, 2014

Thank You! The Rusted Garden Just Hit 15,000 Subscribers and 2,000,000 Video Views: Free Seeds!

 The Rusted Garden Just Hit 15,000 Subscribers 
and 2,000,000 Video Views

Gardening is a passion that I paired with Google about 5 years ago. I started with The Rusted Vegetable Garden blog and eventually tried YouTube. Maybe you have seen my first nostalgic yet somewhat embarrassing first video Tending Zucchini and Squash and Finding Squash Bug Eggs. That video was from July 6th 2011. I started getting comments and meeting fellow gardeners via the digital world. I was hooked.




I decided my original channel would be short and to the point and this year created a new second channel.
My new channel for brand new gardeners would have videos that are a little bit longer and more detailed. I do have a goal to help families teach children were food comes from.... and that is the earth and not a grocery store. I believe vegetables want to grow and gardening shouldn't be seen as difficult.

My main channel YouTube channel  The Rusted Garden now has, and I am very thankful for all your comments and interest,

15210 Subscribers
2,011,726 Views

I have said before and I will say again, I think it is very cool that gardening is a global activity made up people with great character, heart and genuine warmth for humanity. I wish the world was more like well... gardeners. My enjoyment is getting to know gardeners from around the globe and getting to see what is being grown across the earth. Tell me that isn't cool!




So... I will be giving away 10 tomato seeds packages to celebrate. I wish I could buy everyone a beer and we could sit down and talk gardening. Random packs of tomato seeds I saved last year will have to suffice. I will give away 10 packages made up of 5 packs of tomato seeds. So there will be 10 winners so to speak.

I will take 10 random comments from this blog entry that share this blog with their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram social networks. Why? I have a new goal of 25,000 subscribers and 5,000,000 views. Let's see how it goes, a couple years from now.

Thanks and Good Luck in Your Gardens,

Gary

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

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

How to Fertilize & Prepare Your Asparagus Beds in the Spring: Feed Them!

How to Fertilize & Prepare Your Asparagus Beds in the Spring: Feed Them!

Asparagus is a great tasting perennial vegetable. That means in many garden zones, even with freezing winters, it will come back year after year. It takes about 3 years to establish an asparagus bed but once it takes hold, it will bring you asparagus spears for the next 20 years or more.




Asparagus is best planted in a loose sandier soil for drainage reasons. I can tell you it will do fine in a heavier clay soil as that is what I planted it in. The key is to make sure your bed drains well so the root systems of your asparagus don't sit in water.

There are many ways to care for asparagus. Most methods agree on a pre-spring feeding of a balance fertilizer where NPK or nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are all equally present. That could be a 10-10-10 or 15-15-15 fertilizer. This is easier to find as a synthetic mix so if you want to go 100% organic, just get as close as that as you can to an equal balance.




Asparagus spears start to grow when soil temperatures hit and stay in the 50 degree F range. I fed mine about a week before spring. You want to give the fertilizer time to get rained on and work its way down into the root system of your clumps. So time your fertilizing accordingly. My video is my twist on a generally excepted way to maintain your asparagus bed.

Good Luck In Your Gardens,

Gary


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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring Slug and Snail Management: Iron Phosphate Bait Now!

Spring Slug and Snail Management: Iron Phosphate Bait Now!

When is the best time to treat your garden for slugs and snails?  The answer...  when there is nothing for them to really eat but the iron phosphate bait pellets. In Maryland Zone 7 that time is about mid March. As the days warm up the pests will start coming out of hibernation and they will be looking to eat.


Protect Your Greens Before They Get in The Garden

I once had a terrible problem with slugs and snails. I tried many methods and final found iron phosphate. It is extremely effective and on the very low end of toxic. It won't harm your garden soil, birds, frogs and other garden life.  A good way to deal with pests and problems is on their natural cycles. They will be coming out to eat with the approaching spring. Leave them a snack of iron phosphate!




Another snail and slug control poison is metaldehyde slug bait. It is an indiscriminate killer of wild life and very toxic. I highly recommend against its use. Iron phosphate works when eaten by the snails and slugs and it disrupts their digestive system. They crawl away and actually end up starving to death.





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

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

40 or 50 Tomato Varieties I am Growing This Year: My Tomato Addiction and Methods

40 or 50 Tomato Varieties I am Growing This Year: 
My Tomato Addiction and Methods

So I will admit I am addicted to gardening and will seed start more tomatoes than I need. Well I need them, I just don't have room for them. Or maybe I do. I think. It is denial as I always rationalize my way out of reality and into this ignorant fantasy garden bliss. I do have an annual tomato and vegetable plant yard sale, so a lot go to the sale. But even in keeping 1 plant per variety.... well you can can count the numbers that I will have in my raised beds, containers and land I am trying to annex from a neighbor.

I start 95% of my tomato seeds indoors. I always end up buying a couple of plants. It is an impulse buy, however, they are varieties I do not  have... denial. Here is how I seed start my tomatoes and an introduction to seed starting supplies.






I did purposely buy over 15 varieties of small and cherry type tomatoes this year as I felt they would make a good focus for several videos. As my addiction only comes, to help you all out in your gardens. So, I guess I do need to grow all these tomato plants. Well maybe. It is fun.  Here is what I am growing this year. They are all being stagger started over the first 10 days of March. Most of them are heirlooms


My Standards I Grow From Saved Seeds

Abraham Lincoln Indeterminate Medium
Aunt Ruby's German Green Indeterminate Large
Aussie Indeterminate Large
Baxter's Bush Determinate Cherry
Black Cherry Indeterminate Cherry
Black Krim Indeterminate Medium
Black Plum Indeterminate Plum
Boxcar Indeterminate Medium
Brandywine Red Indeterminate Large
Brandywine Yellow Indeterminate Large
Cherokee Purple Indeterminate Medium
Glacier Determinate Cherry
Homestead Semi-Determinate Medium
Kentucky Orange Indeterminate Large
Matt's Wild Cherry Indeterminate Currant
Principe Borghese Determinate Plum
Russian Bicolor Ox-Heart Indeterminate Large
Virginia Sweets Indeterminate Large





My New Seeds for 2014 Trials

Arkansas Traveler Indeterminate Medium
Copia Striped Indeterminate Medium
Fireworks Indeterminate Medium
Heinz 1439 VFA Determinate Medium
Indigo Apple Indeterminate Medium
Japanese Trifele Black Indeterminate Medium
Matina Indeterminate Small
Neves Azorean Red Indeterminate Large
New Big Dwarf Determinate Large (Might Be Fun)
Orange Banana Indeterminate Plum
Sioux Indeterminate Medium
Todd Country Amish Indeterminate Large
Zapotec Pink Ribbed Indeterminate Large




Well I have lost count. Here are the currant, cherry and other small tomatoes I will be growing for a long series of videos. Selected for color shape and general tomato coolness.


The Currant, Cherries and Smalls (Notice the Colors and Shapes)

Blush Indeterminate Blush Pink Streaks and Red Grape
Brandysweet Plum Indeterminate Elongated  Pink Cherry
Coyote Indeterminate Indeterminate Ivory  Cherry
Flamme Indeterminate Orange Cherry
Grape Tomato Indeterminate Brilliant Red Elongated Cherry
Indigo Blue Berries Indeterminate Purple/Black and Brick Red Cherry
Kimberly Indeterminate Potato Leaf Red  Cherry
Isis Candy Indeterminate Yellow Gold with Red Marbling Cherry
Mint Julep Indeterminate Green Yellow Streaks Plum
Purple Bumble Bee Indeterminate Dark Puple/Black with Green Streaks Cherry
Red Pear Indeterminate Red Pear Shaped
Riensentraube Cherry Red Oval Clustered Grape
Sweet Pea Currant Indeterminate Red Currant
Yellow Currant Indeterminate Yellow Currant


So that is what is going on at The Rusted Garden. If you have grown any of these before please comment and let me know your likes and dislikes.

Good Luck in Your Gardens
Gary


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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Designing Your Vegetable Garden with a Space for Perennials: Bring in Pollinators and Good Insects!

Designing Your Vegetable Garden with a Space for Perennials: 
Bring in Pollinators, Birds and Good Insects!

A vegetable garden is my place of serenity.  I enjoy working the land, planting, tending and watching my efforts grow into something I can eat and share. It is were I feel at home and find purpose. I am lucky enough to have found a way to mix it both into my life and around a full time job. For that I a grateful.

I have done a lot of videos hoping to help other gardeners find the rewards that I do in the garden. Another side to vegetable gardening is battling pests, disease and hoping your crops produce fruit and vegetables. One huge ally to pests and production are perennial flowers. They not only are beautiful, they attract a host of good insects, butterflies and even birds. I chose perennials because they will come back year after year. They are beautiful and save you money.

You want to have bees and pollinating insects hovering all through your vegetable garden. A great way to do that is to plant a perennial bed right in the middle of your vegetable garden. Let them fly over your garden vegetable plants as they are attracted to the flowers. They certainly land on your cucumber's flowers. This is a video of one of my beds. All the flowers in there are perennials I started in my grow closet.




Last year there was a point where a neighbor and I counted nearly 50 butterflies in the garden. This was unusual. Due to the temperature and rare circumstances a lot of butterflies in the Swallowtail family hatched. The flowers attracted many many of them to my yard. Some plants bring in sparrows that eat seeds, hummingbirds and other birds that will eat slugs and snails. Most of all they will bring in the beneficial insects that will eat those bad bugs like aphids. A web search will find lists of all kinds of beneficial insects from pollinators to bugs that eat bugs.  Here are some good bugs:

Bees
Minute pirate bug
Ladybugs
Big eyed-bug
Assassin bug
Damsel bug
Praying Mantis
Mealybug destroyer
Soldier beetle
Green lacewing
Syrphid fly
Tachinid fly
Predator wasps

Now there is really no specific flower that is better. I recommend planting many kinds in a small mounded space like in the above video or put them in containers or tuck them into corners of your raised beds. Or even better... do all three. If I had to recommend one perennial to include in your plants that would be the Purple Cone Flower. Butterflies love them. It is very easy to start perennials indoors.  One way, is just to make a plug of flowers. Plant it outdoors and let the strongest survive. This will allow the perennial best suited to your conditions prevail.




You can really start most any perennial indoors along with your vegetables. Some perennials need to be started 10-12 weeks before last frost, so it is something you can do to pass the winter blues come January in colder areas. Here are some videos of perennials I grow and plant.







I highly recommend that you consider a perennial bed in your vegetable garden design. It not only is rewarding but it brings in some wonderful  insects and wildlife. Here are some of my videos from over the years that show you what the perennials bring to your garden. Notice all the Purple Cone Flowers.




Good Luck in Your Gardens
Gary

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

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Starting Cool Weather Vegetables in a Spring Greenhouse & A Heating Source

Growing Cool Weather Vegetables in a Spring Greenhouse & A Heating Source 

I purchased a new greenhouse for the spring. My previous model was poorly built and it was wrecked by some wind back in January. The new greenhouse is a Stafford model and it measures 6 x 7 x 8.5 feet. It has a lot of improvements over my last model. I highly recommend this type of collapsible greenhouse. I review it in the video.

Some of the improvements:

1. The frame is 1 piece and you just raise or lower it into place.
2. The seams are better stitched.
3. The seams and corners are reinforced with a tent fabric.
4. The zipper is stitched better and works more smoothly.
5. The plastic shell Velcros to each pole.
6. The bottom of the shell clicks into the bottom of the frame.
7. It has a meshed window that can be zipped opened.
8. The stop sign shape design deflects the wind.




I use a small 1200 watt heater to keep the night temperatures in the greenhouse over 32 degree F. I only have cool weather crops in there now as they can take frost and freeze. The cost for 12 hours use is about $1.50. I show you how to calculate the energy usage of the heater in the video.

The heater does a great job keeping the night time temperatures between 38 and 44 degrees. It varies as my nights have varied with outdoor temperatures between 10 and 25 degree F. The normal night temperatures should be in the low 30's. Hopefully more of the 32+ degree night come soon.




You can plant kale, collards, lettuce, spinach, beets, peas and onions in the cooler weather. They can be started in the greenhouse right now. As mention, they like the cold and can take a frost. Here are some vegetables I started indoors in January as they will be ready for the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. For now, they will sit in my greenhouse.










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