Bedford Ramblings
Steve Mills

Garden Gleanings - SOMEONE STOP ME!!

Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2008, at 12:01 PM
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  • I have to admit, I really like the garden gleanings.

    One of the reasons we moved to Shelbyville was to set up a small farm and have a garden - neither of which we've done yet, but I'm really looking forward to planting things this spring.

    -- Posted by cfrich on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 12:56 PM
  • I've never been much of a gardner, except for my annual beds every year. I think you may have convinced me to give it a shot this year.

    -- Posted by cherylrichardson on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 1:03 PM
  • Thank you for the positive comments. I was a little concerned that I might get a "Yes, please stop."

    It is a subject that has really grown close to me over the years. Can't say I appreciated it as much as a child being told to weed the garden, but my how things change. As much as I enjoy it now, I can't imagine why my folks gave up the job themselves. Really!

    As long as I don't let it go too long, weeding the garden is therapeutic to me. I notice little things going on in the garden, have free time to let my mind wander and replenish, get good exercise, get the sun I need to replenish vitamin D and on and on.

    Maybe that is how the saying came that the best fertilizer and care for a garden comes from the gardener's footprints. Good for both!

    When I get home, I am going to get my seed starting set-ups ready for all those seedlings I have in my dreams. I have been so occupied with business lately that I neeeed to get back to basics and gardening does that.

    The garden was not on my New Year's list, but it is being added. Last year was a tough one weather-wise, so I need to get some cistern ideas moving and maybe some gray water collection. And maybe a better water distribution method and.......

    -- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 1:45 PM
  • What will be in your garden? I have always wanted to have a garden, but never really had the resourses. I live in town, and only own about 3/4 of an acre; therefore, I can't have a big garden at all.

    I am considering doing an organic garden with bell peppers, tomatos, carrots, squash, and herbs.

    Have any of you had any luck with any of these, or growing organic?

    -- Posted by Mary on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 4:47 PM
  • Boy am I glad you asked Mary. In different gardens through the years I had success with all of them. Up here on the hill I am having a challenge with 'maters' but I am going to make a concerted effort this year to find the right key to success.

    When I lived in Murfreesboro I had a half acre lot and grew a large enough garden that I had to give away a lot to the assisted living apartments, so you have PLENTY of room to get started.

    Before you know it, you won't have much of a yard to mow. (unless you are in a controlled development)

    Yes, ALL my gardening was organic. While in M'boro I was certifying chairman for the only organization in Tennessee to certify organic farms. The USDA has since taken over the oversight of that, which is what we wanted, but as they say "watch out what you wish for".

    I had health problems and stepped down from all the positions I held and about a year later the government made it too expensive for most of our small farmers to be able to be certified. The TLSA eventually folded, although I still get referrals from the County Extension Agents.

    Long story but yes, organics can be successful. What it requires is learning about your micro-environment, the insects and diseases that affect the plants you are growing and a close observation of nature.

    I guess it also takes a sense of humor and acceptance that sometimes nature wins. BUT, you learn and move forward with the ever optimistic viewpoint of a gardener. There is always the next crop, or next year.

    Some of the challenges are brought on by us. We try to grow things that do not grow here or are adversely affected by our climate. When I stretch the limits, I accept the possibility that the plants may not do well.

    A basic building block of organic growing is to feed the soil and the soil will feed the plant. There are some exceptions to this in hydroponics, but basically healthy soil will grow a healthy plant.

    I had an interview with one of our seasoned citizens a few weeks ago and she notice that healthy plants seemed to resist, if not repel insect attack. Plants that were doing poorly were devoured. She was right and there are a number of reasons we understand, and other still unanswered.

    I've rambled enough Mary. If you would like to discuss this more, keep up the chatter. I hope others will join in with lessons they've learned and questions. We can all learn from each other.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 5:49 PM
  • Oh yes, I forgot, I posted my basic plants for this season in another post but as I said above, I was a bad boy and ordered more.

    Here is the original list: edible soybean (edamame) carrots, bitter melon (several varieties), leaf lettuce, yellow squash, zuchini, better boy tomato, eggplant, corn, swiss chard, okra, chinese cabbage, mao gwa, anaheim chile, onion, winter melon, and sugar snap peas.

    New this year will be artichoke, Crosby Egyptian and Chioggia beets, Masai green bean, Pink Lipstick swiss chard, Diva cucumber, Red fire lettuce, Cajun Delight Okra, Watermelon radish, Dash spinach, Red Eye winter squash and Optico chinese cabbage.

    The most recent seed order was for Choko Baby Pakchoi, Serendipity Bicolor Sweet Corn, Fukagawa Japanese Bunching Onions, Carmello Tomatoes, and San Marzano 2 Plum Tomatoes. There descriptions hooked me.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 6:24 PM
  • For Everyone on the Blog. Before you start your garden: Look around at what is growing for years. If you see Oak Trees, Cedar Trees. ACID LOVING PLANTS. Your soil is acid between 5.0 & 5.8 PH. I tried soil tests from the County & UT. 6 months for results. Impossible for this years garden. I bought an electronic soil tester for $25.00. It's not perfect, but it will tell you how fertile & Somewhat PH.

    Tomatoes: As soon as you can, by Lime and pour a 2 inch high pile the length of your tomato row. Till it in as wide as your tiller. We use metal fence posts with farm fence for climbing tomatoes. We install the fence on top of the row. It's better to start your own seeds as the plants you buy have been sprayed with a growth retardant. Tomatoes only need 3 to 7 leaves to grow. After hardening your spindly seedlings dig a hole close to the fence, 2 ft. apart. Hole should be 8 to 10 inches deep. 1st goes in a handful of Epsom's Salts.Cover with a little dirt. Next a sprinkling of

    5-10-10. Little dirt. Next a good handful of BONE MEAL. Then mix it all up.

    You should have about 3-4 inches below ground level. Take your poor seedlings and put them in a 6 inch trench you have made. Leave a little stalk above ground.

    The above ground plant should be 2-4 inches above ground. Then water them in slowly with vitamin B-1. Eliminates shock.

    WARNING: Ground temperature must be 50 degrees above, even at night. Also, to prevent cutworms, use 4 toothpicks with a twisty tie from your garbage bags. OR: Aluminum foil from ground level to the bottom of the leaves. When you see lightning bugs, your home free. Just leave toothpicks or Foil on. The pants will set there for about a week. Then they will explode upward. As they grow up the fence, twisty tie the main stalk to the fence. Watch the suckers or side branches. You'll see the main off shoots that will produce. Just water evenly and deeply on a consistent basis.We use Miracle grow, not much about every month. Remember, when you prepared the soil, you eliminated the lack of calcium for fruit cracking, and developed root system promotion. I forgot, wood ashes are good for soil prep. Pour it on. If you tomatoes get over the fence, cut the top out of the plant. You want to grow tomatoes, not plant. This works with any tomatoes.

    Squash-Peppers: Hole, Lime, 10-10-10, mix it up, insert seeds, cover with2-3 inches of soils and water, not too much.

    Corn: As Tomatoes, strip of lime, 10-10-10, till it in. Plant seeds, about 4 inches deep.Just a little water. Let the plants get to be about 12-18 inches high. Now, side dress with AMMONIUM NITRATE, about 1 inch each side.

    WARNING: If it's dry, water the heck out of it or it will burn the plant. Rain, no problem. I usually till it in. In 2 weeks, you won't believe your eyes.You won't believe the weeds either because corn is of the Grass family. Corn is about 75 days. You only need to side dress 1 more time with 10-10-10. Plant enough corn for you, the Japanese Beetles, Squirrels, and raccoons. I grew Habenero peppers 4 years ago. I usually put peppers in boiling water, bring to a boil, and let cool. Strain with cheesecloth into your sprayer. Spray the corn silks. Beetles & Borers DO NOT LIKE HOT STUFF. When the ears start laying out from the stalk, your almost ready to harvest. Last year the window was 4 days.

    I like to go to the Farm store and ask for Ammonium Nitrate, and also ask where the cheapest place is to get diesel fuel. They look at me funny and say, "What Are You Going To Blow UP'? My granddad used to remove stumps like this in the 50's. Ever see a 3 foot stump leave the ground and make it 600 feet in the air? Well, enough BS.

    Remember, planting by the moon phase will make or break your garden.

    -- Posted by framestraight on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 10:05 PM
  • Apparently the migraine is gone?

    Could you go into more depth about the moon phases? Best time, worst time?

    Any thoughts on squash bugs? Will the squash borer stay away from the pepper spray as well. I like to use a little surfactant and mineral oil mixed in.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 10:26 PM
  • I have also used vegetable oil in place of mineral oil. Have heard about using garlic in this mix as well but never used personally.

    Starting to sound like a salad dressing except for the soap.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jan 23, 2008, at 10:31 PM
  • I remember the Garden Days from childhood..and I didn't care for picking beans and hated shelling them even more. Corn stalks made me itch, and I never figured out why cabbage and lettuce looked so much alike (Mom learned quickly not to send me to the garden for a head of lettuce) I promised myself when I grew up, my garden would be Kroger, I have held up my promise to myself so far. :>)

    -- Posted by Dianatn on Thu, Jan 24, 2008, at 12:33 AM
  • Thats is what is strange for me, I did not like it either. Seemed like punishment. Now it is more enjoyable to be IN the garden.

    Besides, I know what I put on my veggies and I grow for taste as well as enjoyment. Stores gets theirs from who knows where, and we don't know what they have put on it and what that stuff does in combination with other stuff on different veggies.

    Organic folks have been saying that for years, but it is only in the past few years that the USDA started testing for combined chemicals and they found that the combination often creates a more toxic product. Of course it is always within safe levels.

    Nah, no level is safe in my mind. This is why I think we are having more health problems. We solved many of the old ones, only to create new ones with our preservatives, insecticides, and synthetic fertilizers.

    I am not a chemist, so I can not prove all this, but I would rather eat it the way mother nature and the Lord prepares it, than trust what THEY say.

    They also grow the veggies for withstanding the shock of transporting and pick before it is ripe so it ripens in the crate. Vine ripened always seems to taste better.

    Have you ever tried produce straight from the grower, only a few hours old at most? It can be, no, should be a taste bud awakening.

    I wish I could say all roadside markets have fresh produce, but it is best if you see it picked from the garden and if you know the grower.

    I have visited with many vendors only to find out that the corn was actually a day or two old and had been sitting in the hot truck all that time. It loses both taste and nutrients very quickly that way.

    I also ask them how they grow and they do not realize what they are actually putting on their food. One fellow was quite open about the fact that he uses the same insecticide and fungicides that he uses on his tobacco.

    There are some who feel that tobacco would be much less lethal if that were grown organically as well. Think of it, insecticide residue in your lungs!

    Well, enough of a rant. It is past 1 in the morning.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Jan 24, 2008, at 1:05 AM
  • DianaTn, that was funny.

    Steve and the rest of ya'll gardeners,

    What do you do if it turns off dry like last year? I mean, after you use all your rain water up. If we are water-restricted, like we should have been last summer, do you just let it dry up? Thats what we do, but I don't like it. Even when its not dry like last year, we almost never get to enjoy the corn because it just fries in the sun. argh!

    -- Posted by mmp84 on Thu, Jan 24, 2008, at 8:03 AM
  • Last year we started letting go in late May. My cherry tomatoes kept going as well as some of my Chinese squash, onions and garlic but everything else was lost.

    I could have gotten more time if I had mulched more and if I had really loaded up my soil with compost, but I did not know, nor did I have the time or material. Eventually, last summer would have probably gotten it anyway.

    Strangely, some of our area got more rain, but up here on the hill we would have rain at our driveway, but nothing near the house or gardens. Maybe I need to put buckets down there.

    I have a sulfur well I MIGHT get back in operation, but it would be money better spent if I do my rainwater collection and gray water saving.

    We had a pond that never went dry, but that was for our wildlife, so I was not going to steal from them.

    It is a tough question, with not a good answer. Compost, mulch, conserve, collect and plant drought tolerant plants is all I can offer.

    Regrettably, I don't know too many veggies like that, although some herbs, flowers survived. Oh yes, my cactus did well last year, but I don't eat much of that (none actually).

    -- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Jan 24, 2008, at 9:00 AM
  • Steve;

    Best times for planting by moon phases are here: www.almanac.com

    -- Posted by framestraight on Thu, Jan 24, 2008, at 10:26 AM
  • How is planting seedlings inside affected Bill? My first guess would be to start the seed according to the correct phase and transplant the same way?

    For those wondering, this came from the site: "The best time to plant flowers and vegetables that bear crops above ground is during the light of the Moon; that is, from the day the Moon is new to the day it is full. Flowering bulbs and vegetables that bear crops below ground should be planted during the dark of the Moon; that is, from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again. These days for 2008 are given in the Moon Favorable Columns in the PDF below. See Moon phases for the exact days of the new and full Moons.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Jan 24, 2008, at 10:41 AM
  • I had great-grandparents that swore by the phase of the moon for everything concerning growth outside. I may try to go that route, too.

    I had no idea that there was so much to preparing a garden! LoL I may be getting in over my head.---Nah---

    I would love to have my own produce to be proud of. It is easier to go to Kroger, but you never know what them poor fruits and veggis have been through.

    Steve, your garden will be huge! Do you, or will you sell at the Farmer's Market? If so, I would come and buy from you.

    Has anyone tried their own composting? I saw Martha Stewart do this once on her daytime show, and found it very interesting.

    I would feel better making my own fertelizer, knowing that it is as organic as I can get it.

    -- Posted by Mary on Fri, Jan 25, 2008, at 7:41 AM
  • Oh, one more question...What is more important for a garden, the morning son, or the afternoon sun?

    I am trying to place my small garden, and since I have a privacy fence (blocks the sun until about 10am) in my backyard, which faces the rising sun, I probably need to plant it somewhere in the middle of my yard where my boys play.

    Once the sun starts setting on the other side of my house, the backyard is completely covered with shade.

    Sorry if this doesn't make any sense.

    -- Posted by Mary on Fri, Jan 25, 2008, at 7:52 AM
  • Steve; Tried to answer last night, but my internet provider seemed like they went on coffee break for 2 1/2 hours.Lost the response.

    I have found that the time of starting seedlings IS NOT important. Importance is the time of planting in the ground.

    -- Posted by framestraight on Fri, Jan 25, 2008, at 8:05 AM
  • Thanks Bill.

    Mary, In most cases we prefer morning sun. It dries the morning dew faster so we can work in the garden earlier and the western sun seems to extends the heat of the day.

    Six to eight hours of sun will work for most veggies. There are many ornamentals that will do just fine in shade and actually prefer it. A garden shop with knowledgeable people should be able to help make selections, but if you really want to try something that everyone says won't work, what the heck, try it.

    The garden may sound as if it will be huge, but actually it will just be more diverse. Many of the plants will be staggered in planting time so I will have limited number growing at any one time.

    This will extend my harvest period and hopefully confuse some of the pests that key in on large planting of certain crops and come out at certain times of the year. The vegetables will also be mixed with flowering plants that attract beneficial insects and some that repel other insects.

    There are several books out there on companion planting, plants that have positive synergies with other plants. I believe framestaight may have have touched on some of that when he said to plant marigolds around the tomatoes in another post.

    I doubt that I will be selling any produce at farmers markets. We tend to give more produce away to our elderly neighbors and friends. I may, MAY sell some of the seedlings to help offset my seed bill, but that is just a thought.

    Composting is DEFINITELY the way to go. If you live in a subdivision, you may want to camouflage your efforts so the yard remains prim and proper, but they are many ways to do it.

    There is a wealth of information on composting on the internet, but don't get caught up in spending a lot of money. Keep it simple.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Jan 25, 2008, at 10:03 PM
  • Thanks!

    I found a simple/inexpensive way to compost on the Martha Stewart website (mentioned in my previous post). She says to use brown dirt, green dirt, newspaper, egg shells, lettus, and other scrap veggis, with big earth worms. Sounds easy to me!

    As soon as I make it to the store to buy my tote, I will begin that project. Her webiste states that it will take about 6 months to get a good compost.

    My husband and I are both excited about starting a garden. We are for sure going to plant Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Loose Leaf Lettuse, Banana Peppers, Carnival Peppers, Bell Peppers (We like peppers!), Onions, Garlic, and we are debating on carrots, and potatoes.

    I read that carrots and potatoes have to be in the ground for MONTHS before you can harvest them. Not sure I have the patients for that.

    We aren't going to over plant. This is our first year. We have to think realistically. Maybe, one ten foot row of each veggi.

    We're still planning!

    -- Posted by Mary on Sat, Jan 26, 2008, at 9:43 PM
  • Sounds like a good plan Mary. You will get a respectable amount from 10 feet of rows, except for possible the potatoes, but I like the idea of learning on a small scale.

    You can get varieties of plants that take longer or shorter time to harvest. Some of your squash could take as long as the carrots, but carrots start out so tiny that they appear to take much longer. Plus the major stuff going on is out of site, below the soil.

    I am not an expert on potatoes, but even those you can harvest early for 'new potatoes'. Here is a nice looking page on growing http://www.thegardenhelper.com/potato.html

    You can make compost faster than six months. What Martha is doing is call vermicomposting. (using worms to create compost and earthworm castings (poop)).http://journeytoforever.org/compost_worm.html

    This certainly is good stuff and does take longer that aerobic-composting, but in out warm climate you can turn our good compost in 30 days. Don't need to spend big money on special equipment, just pay attention to a few details. Here is a decent site on the subject http://www.compostguide.com/

    I would like to do some vermicomposting, Just never got a 'round tuit'. By the way, one of the best worms are red wigglers, but you will see that in the web article. For potting plants and young seedlings, worm castings are super!

    Wow! The doves are really into our seed this morning. We usually have a few pairs out there but today I guestimate 50-60. I understand they mate for life, so I REALLY don't want our youngest cat to get to them. Got to watch closely.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Jan 27, 2008, at 8:52 AM
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