Thursday, July 01, 2010

Lessons from 2010 Garden

Here's what we've learned this year:

1. Marigolds deter aphids, other pests and even some good ones like ladybugs. They also bring in japanese beetles. Japanese beetles will destroy a garden especially the fruit trees and bushes.

2. Eggplants need to be support with tomato cages around their base. Circular ones will do just fine.

3. All pepper plants needs either a circular tomato cage or one that you can open and wind between plants. Pepper plants that are supported will produce more peppers. The plant can focus on production instead of standing up right. I had 2 plants that were on the fringe of the winding cage and the wind knocked them right over. Now they only have 5 peppers compared to the 20 the other ones have.

4. Beefsteak tomatoes are not worth the money. These tomatoes grow in two's. So 2 tomatoes will attach to the vine at the same place. As of 7/1 I have gotten NO tomatoes off the vine. For each pair of tomatoes it seemed like 1 of the 2 would go bad thus making them both go bad. Big Boys which is what I normally use produce single tomatoes. Also Beefsteak only seem to have 6 growing on the plant at once where as Big Boy has at least 12. End result- go back to Big Boy.

5. Growing from seeds. It seems that all veggies I grew from seeds needed to be thinned out except lettuce and spinach. Okra, sugar snap peas, carrots, cuccumbers, and radishes. If you don't thin them out there's no room for expansion. Carrots and radishes can't expand out they become thin as lead. Cuccumbers won't grow upward.

6. I cannot grow cauliflower. Each time the plant gets hit with worms. Yes I spray but covering up the cauliflower head allows worms to hide and dodge the spray. Next time double the broccoli and forget the cauliflower.

7. Rapsberry patches need to have walkways. We had over 80 plants growing in 1 place. The patch was soooo big the center plants had no opportunity to get sun thus did not produce raspberries. The raspberries grew on the plants on the outside of the patch only. Great to have lots of plants but without sun and breathing room plants on the inside are worthless. We'll cut a path through the center to give all plants a chance to produce. Who am I kidding last year we started with 2 plants and now have over 80. Go figure right?!?

8. Blueberry plants need food and water. Some growers say that they don't need to water their plants. Last year we lost 2 because we did not have a regular watering schedule. This year we fed the plants in the spring and have watered everyday. Our production has quadrupled from last year. Unbelievable the difference and that's with 2 less plants.

9. Blackberries need a watering schedule. Like blueberries growers have said that not much watering is needed. Not true. I've seen blackberries dry up on the vine from lack of water. Also - one plant I pruned and the other I didn't. We had read you don't need to prune the 1st year planted. Again not true for us. The plant I pruned produced twice as much as the one that didn't.

That's all for now. If I think of more I'll start a new post.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pruning and Pests in your Garden

Hopefully your garden is starting to get "big" in size. It's time for you to check for pests and begin to prune the plants back.

Pests - It's during this time that baby squash bugs are hatched. How can you tell if you have baby squash bugs? Look for eggs. Eggs are usually found under leaves and at the base of stalks. If you see eggs then you have babies you'll just have to find them. Baby squash bugs only come out in the cool of the morning or the cool of the evening. They are never found in the heat of the day. When adult squash bugs are laying eggs they like to hide below the base of the plant on the ground or in the loose dirt around the roots. Usually the colony can't be seen unless you have an infestation. Great isn't it. Plants of choices are mainly zucchini and squash but they also like tomatoes. Below are pictures.

Pruning - As your plants get bigger the bottom leaves will start to hit the ground. It's not good to have leaves of your plants on the ground. Most plants do not do well when watered top down so it make sense that if the leaves are left on the wet ground it will affect the plant to. Most plants prefer water at their roots only. How to know when to prune a leaf. 1- if it's touching the ground prune it. Water can cause rot or disease. I usually cut back somewhere on the stalk if possible. 2- if the leaf is starting to change colors cut it. You should only leave healthy leaves on a plant. Anything less makes the plant susceptible to disease.

Pruning tomatoes - Tomatoes usually produce stems in a Y shape. 1 part goes up, a new growth comes out in the middle of the Y and the 2nd part of the Y is the leaf stem. So the Y turns into a W when the inner new growth comes up. I prune the leaf part of the stem or 2nd part of the Y in my example. Tomatoes need to breathe (air to flow through out the plant) and sun needs to hit the ground around the plant to fight off disease. Pruning the leaf stem does not reduce the fruit production and provides room for air and sun. If you prune off the new growth you can potentially lose tomato production.

Pruning squash and zucchini - I have a previous post regarding this that includes pictures but I'll recap here. Squash and zucchini grow out from 1 root. New growth comes from the front of the plant away from the root. Prune the old leaves at the root pushing the plant forward. Also prune leaves on ground and those that are turning colors. Pruning will make these plants produce until you are sick of them. Picture 1 - Squash bug eggs on a stem
Picture 2 - Squash bug eggs on bottom of a leaf
Picture 3 & 4 - Baby squash bug
Picture 5 - Colony of baby squash bugs. Infestation is beginning

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Spinach and Strawberrys

Since it's strawberry season AND we are growing lettuce and spinach in our garden I thought I'd post a recipe but before I do a quick word on how to harvest your lettuce/spinach.

To harvest lettuce and spinach pick the leaves from the outside. As lettuce/spinach grows the new leaves come up from the middle pushing the older bigger leaves to the outside. Make sure to wash the lettuce then let it sit in water for 5 minutes-that kills any lurking bugs that like to hang out on the lettuce. A row of lettuce picked correctly usaully lasts me about 2-3 weeks of eating. Make sure to NOT cut the lettuce/spinach back to the ground, doing that cuts the new leaves making it longer before you get more leaves. To have lettuce all summer long try planting new rows every 2-3 weeks. As the summer gets hotter you'll need to plant lettuce under another plant to keep it cooler. I just planted some new rows under my tomato plants so they will give my lettuce/spinach shade.

Spinach & Strawberry Salad
1 lb spinach, washed, trimmed, torn into bite size pieces
2¼ C fresh strawberries, stemmed & sliced
⅔ C sliced pecans
2 T unsalted butter

For the salad melt butter in a small skillet and sauté pecans until lightly browned and toasted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. In a large bowl combine spinach and strawberries.

2 T lightly toasted sesame seeds
1 T poppy seeds
½ C sugar
2 t minced red onion
¼ t paprika
¼ C cider vinegar
¼ C white vinegar
½ C vegetable oil

For the dressing, toast the sesame seeds by shaking them over medium heat in a dry skillet until lightly browned. In a “dressing” jar combine the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, onion, paprika, vinegars, and oil. Shake well.

To serve, place 1½ C of spinach-strawberry salad on each plate and sprinkle with a T of pecans. Spoon the dressing over top and serve immediately.

Yield: 10 Servings
Nutritional Information
Calories: 210 Total Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 5mg Sodium: 109mg Total Carbs: 36g Protein: 5g

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sweet Potato Bread

Each fall our family looks forward to gleaning sweet potatoes from the local farmers' fields. Last October I was introduced to sweet potato bread and have been making it since. Sweet potatoes are easy to grow or glean but there's one step that must be done in both cases - You need to CURE the sweet potatoes. They do not come out of the ground sweet. Who knew right?

Now some of you might be asking what is gleaning a sweet potato field. The answer is.... picking leftover sweet potatoes out of farmer's fields. When sweet potatoes are ready farmers will till the land bringing the sweet potatoes to the surface. Dump trucks and workers then come and pick all the big sweet potatoes. To glean a field all you need to do is watch the field. After the dump trucks and workers are done with a field (thus don't return for 2-3 days) then it's safe to glean it. Local farmers don't mind people gleaning because they want the sweet potatoes out of the field they just want to pick their sweet potatoes first. If you glean don't go in before the farmers it will ruin it for the rest of us when they close down their field.

After collecting sweet potatoes either by gleaning or growing you need to cure them. They do not come out of the ground sweet. To cure them you need a cool dark place (I used a 5 gal bucket last year). Alternate layers of newspapers and sweet potatoes ending with newspaper on top. Wait 7-10 days. This past year I just stuck my bucket out on the porch, out of the elements and kept it there until I needed potatoes. Worked just fine. You can also freeze sweet potatoes that have been cooked and mashed. Now that you have sweet potatoes it's time to make bread.

Sweet Potato Bread
3 C sugar
4 eggs
1 C vegetable
3 ½ C flour
2 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
½ t salt
1 t nutmeg
⅔ C water
2 C sweet potato – cooked, mashed

Combine sugar, eggs and vegetable oil in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Add the 2 bowls together. Add ⅓ C water and 1 C sweet potato to the flour mixture and stir. Add remaining water and sweet potato to flour mixture and stir. If desired add 1 C nuts here. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake 350˚ for 1 hour. Bread is done when toothpick comes out clean.

Yield: 24 Servings (12 per loaf)
Nutritional Information
Calories: 272 Total Fat: 10.2g Cholesterol: 35mg Sodium: 172mg Total Carbs: 43g Protein: 3.3g

Friday, February 05, 2010

Lessons from Venus and Mars

Did you ever stop to think that men are from Mars and women are from Venus starts before marriage? I didn't. Not sure why but I just didn't. Today was proof that my theory is waaaay off base. Earlier both kids ended up in trouble and had to apologize to each other for what they did. Afterwards Judah decided to go to his man cave for a "private moment". Rebekah decided she wanted to go in after him and fix things. Judah told her to get out and leave him alone he needed some "time alone". Her response was to curl up on the couch, bury her head under the pillow and start crying b/c Judah was shutting her out when all she wanted to do was be with him. After I got done laughing I left them alone for a few minutes.

Later I talked with Rebekah about what was wrong. She was crying b/c Judah was taking to long in his "private moment" and she wanted to talk and play. I then went to Judah who was ready to come out of his cave. I explained how hurt Rebekah was b/c he'd stayed to long in his private time. His respons was "I know mom I could hear her crying through the wall. I found a card she wrote me saying we are best friends forever." Me: "Yes son, that's right she is your sister and will be the best friend you have outside of your wife. Maybe you should be easy on her when she's hurting so much. She only wants to be with you b/c she loves you." I convince him to come back out only to see Rebekah's response. Judah comes out and she turns AWAY from him refusing to speak when he speaks. Rebekah is not willing to let it go until she tells Judah how she was feeling. Man I thought only WOMEN did that not my 4yr old girl. She seriously has it out with him complete with explaining what he did and how it made her feel. After he acknowledged her feelings she immediately (and I mean immediately) brightened up and said "Okay let's play". Below is a card that Judah made for her to "make her feel better, mommy" and a picture showing him reading a book to her. All is well for Mars and Venus. Hopefully their future spouses will thank me for teaching them how to make ammends and how to work their Mars and Venus problems out. LOL

Letter says "I love you Rebekah you are my best friend. You will be my sister forever. I love you. The best person in the hole world."

Isn't that so sweet?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Planting schedule for 2010 Garden

So many have asked what my planting schedule will be. Below is what I'm planting and when. Hudson's Hardware in Clayton puts out an annual planting schedule for free. I've used that as a guide and just gage the weather from there.
Box 1
2/1 Carrots (seeds) = Matures 4/16
2/1 Spinach (seeds or plants) = Matures 3/17
2/15 Lettuce (plants) = Matures 4/1
Summer crop in this box is/are
5/1 Okra (plants) = Matures 6/19 grows through mid Oct
May add cucumbers or more bell peppers here

Box 2 (box on the LEFT)
2/1 Spinach (seeds or plants) = Mature 3/17
2/1 Sugar Snap Peas (seeds) = Matures 4/6 grows through June
2/15 Lettuce (plants) = Matures 4/1
Summer crop in this box is/are
5/1 Red/Yellow/Green Bell Peppers (plants) = Matures 7/14 grows through November.

Box 3
Summer crop only
4/10 Tomatoes (plants) = Matures 6/24 grows through November
2 plants of cherry
2 plants of grape/roma
2 plants of big boy
***Note - tomatoes cannot grow in the same place twice. You'll need to rotate every 3rd year. Also tomatoes in manure need 8ft stakes.

Front Flowerbed
4/15 Squash (plants) = Matures 6/15 grows through August
4/15 Squash (plants) = Matures 6/15 grows through August
Fall crop will be
7/1 Cauliflower (plants) = Matures 8/24
7/15 Broccoli (plants) = Matures 9/23

Side Flowerbed
2/15 Broccoli (plants) = Matures 4/26
3/1 Cauliflower (plants) = Matures 4/26
Summer crops are
5/1 Jalapenos (plants) = Matures 7/14 grows November
5/1 Eggplant (plants) = Matures 7/19

We are planning to build 1 or 2 4x4 boxes which will hold the following:
4/20 Cucumbers (plants) = Matures 6/14 grows through at least July
4/20 Pickling Cucumbers (plants) = Matures 6/14 grows through at least July
*** Cucumbers require a tall trellis to grow on.

How to start a box garden in Johnston Co

I've had several questions on how we got started in our gardening and what steps to take. I'll try to answer all the questions so ask away.

Why a raised bed? According to local farmers Jo Co soil is NOT the best quality for producing high quality crops. So we were told to build a raised bed and truck in our soil.

How do you make a raised bed? The dimensions for the bed are 8 long X 4 wide. We bought our wood at Lowes which costs about $50 per box (you'll use less wood if you are not on a slope). You need to be able to move around all sides of the bed and reach into the center of it. Making it too WIDE means you can't prune in the center, which is really important.
In designing the garden we staked out the bigger picture of the whole garden then each year we add 1 or 2 boxes to increase it in size. In constructing the box use wood and rope to make the box square. Then put the posts in the ground first. We add 1 post at a time and regularly check it with the wood to make sure it never loses it's shape. Hint: buying a post level really helps this process.

How deep/tall is the bed? I don't like to bend over too much so we made our beds a little taller in height than most people. Our land slopes so Paul had to take that into consideration as well. In most of our beds 1 side is a lot taller than the other. That's fine with me, the height is perfect for me to sit on a bucket and prune. The only down side is you'll pay more in dirt to fill it up. Still it's worked out great. You need to determine how much/little you want to bend over and then start with that as the tallest piece of wood.

Where do you get the dirt and how much is it? We ONLY use full compost or turkey manure. Paul has a truck which we take to Triangle Landscape Supply and fill it up for about $25 which is 1/2 ton load. It takes 2 1/2 truck loads for a boxe b/c we are on a slope and I prefer taller beds. That may not be the case for your yard.

We are planning to add 1 to 2 more boxes this month and I'll try to remember to take pictures for the blog. The new boxes will be 4X4 to connect the 2 previous rows together. Box 1 will be connected to Box 2 and 3. BTW if you are looking for a spring crop then you need to start making boxes in February as planting for crops starts February 1.