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Garden Gleanings

Posted Thursday, January 17, 2008, at 12:20 PM

It is getting harder and harder to keep away from the garden. I was in it yesterday, just before the big snow! Well, little snow, but it was big to us!

I am trying cinder blocks to edge one side of the raised bed and my cats seem to love the idea, or at least play in the idea. It is amazing how entertaining the opening of a block can be. Our youngest cat started out reaching into it, but before long, he had his head and half his body in there.

I read an interesting statistic in the current issue of Organic Gardening. In 1975 49% of us raised some sort of garden. In 2006 only 22% of us did. Yikes!

I am firmly convinced that one reason we weathered the Great Depression was because of our gardens and a more rural society. Today the devastation would be greater. And guess what? They are talking recession for the next few months. Better get my seeds going now!

See, I can justify gardening just about any time. Actually, I do need to make that seed order.


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I have never planted a garden myself but am planning to this year. Can you recommend any good websites that would offer me some "gardening for dummies" tips?

I am just doing the basic stuff...tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, etc.

-- Posted by Christian Dad on Thu, Jan 17, 2008, at 12:52 PM

What are some good tips for staring seeds? Mine end up too leggy or spindly... then I end up just buying plants at Co-op.

I am starting to learn to compost in paper milk cartons!!

-- Posted by Jacks4me on Thu, Jan 17, 2008, at 2:04 PM

When you mention spindly or leggy you are most likely having a shortage of light length and intensity. Florescent bulbs need to be up pretty close and left on for 12-14 hours a day. Raise them accordingly as the plants grow.

Even though we have some warm days in winter, the sun is not very intense at this time of year, so even plants grown in fill sunlight all day long will probably need some extra light each day.

Incandescent bulbs get too hot to have that close.

There are special grow lights that you can buy, but don't get caught up in all the advertising claims. New fluorescents will do nicely. I say new, because they will lose their intensity over time and our eyes can not tell the difference.

If you are going to grow African violets or other houseplants under lights all the time, then you might look at the more expensive grow lights.

Some studies have shown that lightly touching the tops of plants, or moving them with breeze will help create a more compact, bushy seedling. I never tried that to find out.

Even though fluorescents do not run as hot as incandescents, they do put out heat, so be sure to monitor your plants soil moisture and air humidity.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Jan 17, 2008, at 8:00 PM

Thanks...I wonder if the counter light in my kitchen would work if I put a stack of books to raise up the 'bed'?

-- Posted by Jacks4me on Fri, Jan 18, 2008, at 9:28 AM

I love to work in the garden and enjoy eating the vegetables it produces. I worry about the young people today who don't really know a lot about growing their own food and the young people that only know how to prepare a meal is by going to KFC (or elsewhere) and buying the meal already cooked.

When we were rearing a family, we had almost an acre garden. My wife would can and freeze from the garden, so we could enjoy all winter. With this much garden, we would have vegetables left over and was willing to share, but when you offered something from the garden to people, most would only accept if you picked it and carried it to them. How the world has changed since my father and mother reared us.

I do have a nice crop of Iris which I could share if anyone is interested, but you must come and dig them yourself!

-- Posted by Gale Barber on Fri, Jan 18, 2008, at 9:51 AM

The kitchen counter light might be strong enough. It is worth a try. At least it will be easy to remember to take care of since you are in there every day.

Gale, I know what you mean about offering people produce but having to pick it for them. I used to have a subdivision lot that was outlined in strawberries. I would encourage my neighbors to help themselves, but all they ever did was pick a few as they walked by. If I picked them, they would gladly accept, but pick them themselves? No thanks.

-- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Jan 19, 2008, at 12:06 AM

This is going to definitely be a good weekend to TALK about gardening. Brrrr! Brought more wood in, but that will probably be the extent of my outside acitvities. Maybe I will get more eBay listed.

While I was typing this it reminded me that I did not send in my seed order, so I got up and put the order on my desk. Then I found my left-over seeds.

Now, if it does not get covered up before I finish it.....

-- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Jan 19, 2008, at 11:43 AM

I know that there are a few of you out there that grow gardens and know what a REAL tomato tastes like. This year is 40 years of gardening, because I was bought up on a farm. In the winter, we went to the store ONCE a month, because we ate out of the summer garden all winter. Gardens in Tennessee are fickle. My advise is DO IT, until you get it right, you won't be sorry. We grow cantaloupes & watermelon. their small, but really sweet. My wife eats them, I can't because I'm Type 2. 2 slices of either will spike my blood sugar 200 points. I refuse to give up an occasional Red or White corn on the cob. My doctor said I have to stay away from corn, and I said I have a freezer full. He said bring it to me and I'll get rid of it for you. HA! My wife makes the best salsa from canned tomatoes that you would ever taste. Beats Mexican restaurants hands down. I tried to get her to sell it, but she won't.

Like I said, grow gardens, and when you get it right, you'll forget about canned store bought veggies. You'll do what I do: buy a fast food hamburger and throw the tomato away!

-- Posted by framestraight on Sat, Jan 19, 2008, at 10:20 PM

Framestraight it sounds like you would be a person I would love to talk to. Fickle is a polite way to say it, but I guess other gardeners have their challenges.

Most of the garden magazines seem to write for 'somewhere else'. An acquaintance of mine, Felder Rushing, wrote a book for Southern Gardens but he was writing for Mississippi, which is sure different than here.

If you and your wife ever want to strike up a conversation about gardening PLEASE think of me. Especially what you used to do back on the farm.

My wife grew up in a grocery store family, so she was around vegetables quite a bit, but when she had her first corn straight from the garden, she was amazed.

Our daughter used to wander our garden to get cherry tomatoes off the vine, but when she ate her first one in a restaurant, her love affair with cherry toms quickly changed. Not for the better.

You mentioned red corn in your post, what type do you raise? Is it suited to hot, dry weather? I sure could have used one like that last year.

-- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Jan 20, 2008, at 7:57 AM

Just was wondering how many readers out there love fried corn as much as I do. I plant Truckers Favorite or Hickory King which are my favorite to fry. I cut the corn off lightly (kind of like niblet corn)and then turn the knife and scrape the cob to get the juice.

I take a skillet and fry up some cured side meat, remove the meat and leave the grease, add the corn, add a stick of butter, then some water, salt and pepper. You fry the corn until it is done and gets thick.

We would have this for supper (Dinner to some people) and if any was left, it was great for breakfast. There was never any waste with fried corn at our house...

-- Posted by Gale Barber on Sun, Jan 20, 2008, at 10:17 AM

Where do you get Truckers Favorite and Hickory King? Are they standards heirlooms or hybrids?

-- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Jan 20, 2008, at 11:54 AM

I have always gotten them at Co-op. Hickory King has larger kernels than Truckers Favorite.

-- Posted by Gale Barber on Sun, Jan 20, 2008, at 12:08 PM

I would say they would be hybrids. I never have saved the seeds, just always buy new ones.

I surprised some of my grandchildrens with popcorn from the garden. I let them pop it right off of the cob in a shoebox in the microwave. They were amazed.

-- Posted by Gale Barber on Sun, Jan 20, 2008, at 12:13 PM

Steve;

I grew up on a 300 acre farm in New York State. Clay soil like concrete. My father

had US grow 5 acres of red potatoes/5 acres of white potatoes and 1 acre of vegetables- tomatoes, peas, corn, carrots, peppers, lettuce. My mother picked berries to can, usually Elderberry, Strawberry, & Blueberry. She couldn't stay away from Dandelion for homemade wine. All these berries grow wild in NYS. I have since grown gardens in Idaho, and here in Tennessee. We milked 35 head of cattle by hand, plus my mother & father worked out. Since I was 7, there were no summer vacations for me because hay had to be made, oats & wheat sown & harvested, fence fixed, then in the fall & winter it was firewood. I've been here since 94, but have worked overseas for all but 7 years. I'm here to stay. Shelbyville is in Zone 6 part of the time & zone 7 part of the time. I have found the answer to tomatoes, corn, squash, and peppers.

Red corn is RUBY RED.

You can pm me @ bodyguyfenderbender@yahoo.com

If I can help, I'll try

-- Posted by framestraight on Sun, Jan 20, 2008, at 12:26 PM

10 total acres of potatoes!!!! Holy Cow! Were you making vodka? And that was just your garden?

Bet you used that cow manure for something.

Do you have your Mom's recipe for dandelion wine? My father used to make it and we never recorded it. I would like to try one batch to remember. Well, maybe two batches.....

I want to know the answer to tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are fine, actually they have become weeds, but slicing tomatoes have eluded me. I end up with mediocre results.

What is your variety?

-- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Jan 20, 2008, at 12:53 PM

Steve;

Mother's Dandelion wine is lost forever. No vodka: Potatoes all winter. My heritage is from Finland. Secret to potatoes, Wherever, NO CHICKEN MANURE, Dried Cow Manure. Potatoes need sweet soil to eliminate scabby product.Potatoes needed to be laid out, 1 layer, only. Need a cool place.About Cow Manure, get ready for weeds. I have an answer for that too.

WE plant Sweet 100's & Roma for Salsa. Canning tomatoes: Heirloom only. Forget about new Hybrids. Medium size climber, because any fruit that touches the good Ole Tennessee soil, will immediately start to rot on the soil side within hours. We've had decent luck with bush Tomatoes, however, when green, a piece of cardboard needs to be placed underneath the fruit. This goes for ANY fruit in the garden. I'll attempt to get you a Dandelion & Elderberry wine formula from my Finnish websites.

I'll post tomato sequence next time. FIRST thing you need to do for tomato is plant Marigolds outside each side of your tomato rows: Ladybugs are your best friend & do not spray your tomatoes with insecticide. The reason for Heirloom, is the more acid the better. When canning, 1/2 teaspoon of Pickling salt ONLY,per quart, no matter what you are told about canning.

About wine: You need 2 regular crocks, pop bottles, and a bottle capper.

Until Next Time

-- Posted by framestraight on Tue, Jan 22, 2008, at 12:40 AM

Steve;

PM me, I can't post recipe for Dandelion wine. I'll send it to your e-mail.

-- Posted by framestraight on Tue, Jan 22, 2008, at 1:11 AM

Speaking of ladybugs, where are they? We used to have thousands of them in our house each winter, but last year, barely a few and the same this year. I admit, it was a pain to keep putting them out or feeding them sugar water, but I always counted on them in the garden.

Same thing with honey bees and carpenter bees, We had a hive in a tree for years, then GONE. The carpenter bees were a pain in our oak siding, but still, I miss them. So do our plants. I was feeding some honey bees at the end of this last season. I hope that means there is a hive around here again.

We are organic in our approach, so we do not use any insecticide, even natural. We prefer to find plants that survive, encourage beneficials, plant good companions and when necessary, hand cull.

Since tomato and potato are related, do you treat them similarly? I never did well with them either. With all the limestone in the area, I would think our soil leans toward alkaline, but I have made some new gardens and need to do a soil test.

I have plenty of marigolds. Save seeds and they come up like weeds. Never have the heart to pull them though.

I will e-mail you now to get that secret recipes. May need to go to to a few auctions for the crocks.

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Jan 22, 2008, at 7:30 AM

oooo, I am loving all this garden talk.

I forget the guy's name in Shelbyville who has honey...he was doing some research on the bees. I was going to help, but I was trying to begin teaching and taking environmental chemistry class at night at MTSU and didn't have time. He found that it was some sort of parasitic mite that lived in the tracheal tracts of the bees, slowly smothering them. It has been found since that bees from Australia are the culprit for bringing them, but they also have a natural defense. As those bees begin to populate the country, the problem should begin to resolve itself, but it could take some time.

What about using horse manure (from pasture, not stalls) for gardens? Can it be used to make a compost pile?

-- Posted by Jacks4me on Tue, Jan 22, 2008, at 8:21 AM

oooo, I am loving all this garden talk.

I forget the guy's name in Shelbyville who has honey...he was doing some research on the bees. I was going to help, but I was trying to begin teaching and taking environmental chemistry class at night at MTSU and didn't have time. He found that it was some sort of parasitic mite that lived in the tracheal tracts of the bees, slowly smothering them. It has been found since that bees from Australia are the culprit for bringing them, but they also have a natural defense. As those bees begin to populate the country, the problem should begin to resolve itself, but it could take some time.

What about using horse manure (from pasture, not stalls) for gardens? Can it be used to make a compost pile?

-- Posted by Jacks4me on Tue, Jan 22, 2008, at 8:23 AM

Horse manure is grrrreat! From pasture and most barns. Goat and sheep are good too.

Cattle is a little messy. Chicken and pig are stinky. Whew! I got a load one time and was exiled to the back 40 for a while. Chicken is also very high in nitrogen so it needs to be mixed with plenty of carbon material to dilute it.

Check with the horse barn owner to see if they have sprayed something or use rat poison, but otherwise it should be fine. Composting destroys most pathogens adn weed seeds. The oats from feed are not a problem. It could be a bit tedious chasing those horses down in the pasture.

In fact, I would love to find a source for horse manure. I can't shovel like I used to but if some has a loader, I got a trailer.

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Jan 22, 2008, at 9:06 AM

I just wondered about the wood shavings used for bedding.

We have horses in pasture, so its just a matter of taking a wheelbarrow and picking fork out for a stroll.

I would think you'd only have to call any horse barn and they would be happy to give you all you wanted:-)

-- Posted by Jacks4me on Tue, Jan 22, 2008, at 9:49 AM

The shavings will be fine from a safety standpoint. Depending on the ratio of wood chips to poop and pee, you might need to add some more nitrogen or green material but don't get too concerned about that.

Cedar has more resin in it and will be slower to decompose, but not many folks use cedar in horse stalls. The wood mills sell it for small animal bedding and get more money.

While we are talking about composting, you don't need to get those famous compost starters unless you have a very sterile soil. Usually adding a few shovels of soil in the pile will add enough bacteria to get things started. The starting mixes might work better in cold environments where the piles need a boost.

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Jan 22, 2008, at 11:10 AM

Christian Dad;

All you ever need to know is here:

http://www.almanac.com/

Your target date for garden planting is Mid May- Frost free ground. I haven't had very good luck with Off-Brand hybrid tomatoes, just stick with the medium size tomatoes. Corn, usually Silver Queen. The Old Farmers Almanac is the link above. It will give you planting tables, Ground PH, Planting by the moon, weather forecasts, seed swaps, etc.

When I get rid of this migraine, I'll post planting for tomatoes, corn and other veggies. Please pay attention to planting by the phases of the moon. I can tell you, if you get it wrong, like i did one year, you'll have 12 foot tall corn with no ears. I've used the Almanac since I was a kid on the farm, 40 years ago. IT WORKS!

-- Posted by framestraight on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 5:37 AM

I have been aware of the phases approach for many years, but never really gave it much attention. Your results certainly are interesting and 40 years of personal experience is impressive proof.

Is there any research or theories on why this occurs?

Sorry about the migraine. I have bad headaches but I don't think I have ever had what you are experiencing. Wish I had a good answer for that.

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 7:16 AM

Steve:

When the moon is waning or light, the Moon's gravity tends to bring moisture top the top of the soil. Above ground vegetables.

When the Moon is waxing, or dark, gravity is less leaving moisture deeper in the ground for below ground level crops.

That's why you water less in a waning Moon and water more in a Waxing Moon.

Remember, this cycle happens 4 times a month.

-- Posted by framestraight on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 8:41 PM

So would you plant during the waning for good moisture around the seeds or seedlings?

I am confused about the four times a month. I know I will feel stupid when you answer this, but it slips my mind right now.

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 9:35 PM


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Steve Mills and his wife have one daughter and live on a farm outside of Bell Buckle. They previously owned two coffee/ice cream shops, currently operate an internet sales company and teach classes, but his primary job involves the paper industry worldwide. Hobbies and interests lie in gardening, photography, recorded music and of course, their pets.