Clyde's Garden Blog.......
RAPID FIRE GARDEN TIPS
Spring will be upon us before we know it. Below are a few RAPID-FIRE GARDEN TIPS from Clyde as you get ready for the growing season. Some of these ideas are in the sketch which we hand out at garden shows....see below.
- Get your garden tools and related items in advance, Gloves, Knee-Pads, Rake, Hoe, Hoses and Nozzles, Shovel, Hand Shovel, Seeder, Seed Starting Flats, Potting Soil, Fertilizer, Weasel Tool, Wheelborow and others….Buy them "Off-Season" at a lower cost.
- Pick a level spot for the garden, one which gets full sun. If not level, choose a spot which declines to the south for best sun exposure.
- Turn sod green side down by hand with a shovel, then grind up dirt with a tiller or Weasel which is a great tool to grind up soil manually.
- Make your rows run north to south to take best advantage of the arc of the sun with minimal shading.
- Use Weed Blocking plastic to minimize weed take-over. Preventing weeds is easier than pulling them.
- Rake soil into 8-10″ high raised rows 18″ wide. This allows for more intense planting & keeps seeds from rotting due to excessive water during those toad-stranglers. We also form dirt dams in between hilled-rows so that rain is captured in the garden, but not on top of the seeds or sprouts.
- Use a yellow twine to help get your rows straight. Tie the Twine to (2) wooden stakes then stretch across garden when preparing the row or when planting.
- We use orange construction flags to mark planting locations, so young plants don’t get stepped on.
- Purchase a drip-tape irrigation system. Drip tape is great!!!! It uses 50-70% less water, and keeps you from watering the weeds. Drip tape is extra helpful if you live in an area where drought is frequently a summer reality…can find online. Good drip tape will come with a check-valve to maintain steady pressure in your lines. I really like the garden irrigation kit provided by Irrigation Mart....Here is a link to the garden kits their web site: http://www.irrigation-mart.com/products/KITS.aspx
- Pole beans require an Upright Lattice, but generate (2.5) times more beans. Pick pole beans early to avoid strings. We make our pole bean lattice out of cattle panels and t-posts – works great....see sketch below. Run lattice north to south to avoid shading other crops. We like Blue Lake Stringless pole beans.
- Get a soil test from Lowe’s or another hardware store, and test your dirt to see if it needs any nutrients. Cost = $5.00 roughly. Fertilize as needed. Your local state extension office can also help you with soil tests. They provide an excellent analysis of the garden bed, along with a recipe for improving the soil....by amending....see sketch below. NPK and Acidity are important, but don't overlook the Cation Exchange numbers. They tell you how well the soil holds the fertilizers you add....see sketch below. Adding organic matter increases the Cation numbers.
- Use straw or some other similar biological materials to mulch around plants and between rows. It slows the weeds, and helps hold in the water during dry season. Then it breaks down into fertilizer.
- Learn how to compost. Composting turns your kitchen scraps into excellent fertilizer.
- Put aged (1 year or older) horse manure on your garden….work it into the soil…makes your garden explode with growth.
- If you decide to do starts from seeds in the house, be sure to keep them moist, every day. They can dry out and die very quickly. I have had great results with Miracle Grow plant starter potting soil.
- Cover seed flats with clear kitchen stretch wrap at first to help them germinate, then remove soon after germination.
- If you do starts in the house put a fan near-by seed flats so that your little seedlings do not die from damping-off, a moisture related problem.
- Try using a shop vacuum to suck up squash beetles if they attack your zucchini or yellow squash. Catch them in the morning while they are grouped up. Don't plant all your squash in the same area of the garden...make it hard for the parent bugs to find plants. Watch for and remove squash eggs from the plants. They are normally in small shiny brown groupings on the leaves.
- Make and preserve your own Salsa….Onions, Green Peppers, Hot Peppers, Tomatoes, Garlic; all healthy and easy to grow. Walmart has Salsa Seasoning Packets, or let me know if you would you like our sweet salsa recipe.
- Teach your kids as you garden….it is a excellent way to spend a quantity of quality time with them! We had (6) kids and I spent lots of time with them in the garden when they were little.
- We like the Tomato Hoop idea...see below. It gives more support to the branches.
- Garden Helps Sketch Below.....
GREEN SIDE DOWN!
Do you remember the old joke about several simpleton sod layers…their supervisor had to call to them every few minutes to keep the green side up…? In our case it is just the opposite.
When making or expanding a garden spot in a grass covered yard, your hand shovel is actually much more helpful than the rototiller. My experience is that tilling sod may look easier, but it ends badly. This is because the sod must be flipped over – Green Side Down, in order to get a good clean start on your yard garden. In gardening terms, grass is an aggressive, unwanted, tenacious, destructive, irritating weed! It can greatly reduce the productivity of your plot. If you rototill, small pieces of grass roots will be exposed to sunlight and quickly grow back, with a vengeance. You will not be happy about the final result. Turning the sod completely over, so that no green can be seen, cuts it off from sunlight and keeps your grass from becoming a problem. Flipping the green side down also converts grass and weeds into helpful under-garden compost. Each year I turn the grassy sod and leftover weeds upside down by hand, exposing the clear soil for conditioning and seeding. It gets me out of the house for some exercise and a good garden “fix”. After flipping the sod, I use a garden weasel tine tool to grind the dirt for easy seeding. There is a trick to rolling the shovel so that no green can be seen……here is a video demo:
Hope you have a great garden this year!
Clyde’s No-Name Flaming Hot Pepper Tree!
Last year, while at a Baker Creek heritage seed festival, I purchased a pepper start which turned out to be a beautiful blazing hot pepper tree! It came as a smallish plant, but the vendor told me that it was necessary to cut his very large full grown plant down with a chain saw. He also said that the plant was absolutely full of bright red peppers. Wish I could remember the name he told me! So, we planted our little pepper in a large pot, kept it alive in the house over the winter, and moved it to the deck this spring, watering twice a day in the oppressive summer heat. Just take a look at the blog photos….
The thing has grown into a small tree – a pepper tree, leaves, bark, red hot peppers and all!! The striking red fruit turns upward toward the sun. We have picked lots of them, and it just keeps on blooming, making more! Sure wish I knew what kind of pepper it is….. Are they hot? They are waaaaay above our tolerance level on the heat scale. We will use them sparingly in Mom’s chili and in homemade salsa. She served them this week with rice, not bad. I cut a couple of the hot peppers open and found between 30 & 50 seeds per pod. We counted over 200 pods on our plant….which equates to more than 8,000 seeds per plant. I suspect this one gets an A+ on the "be fruitful and multiply" commandment! If you know what kind of pepper this is, please let me know. Also, if you want to try planting the seeds, I am thinking to sell a few…hope it is a HOT market.
Addendum: I believe we have identified the pepper tree as a Chile de árbol! This is an equatorial pepper with heat range from 15,000 to 30,000 Scoville Units. To learn more see the Wikipedia article: Chile de árbol
How to Plant Onions
Onions are easy to grow, and taste great in home made salsa. I also like them sautéed in butter, with fried eggs for breakfast, and in stir fires. Onions keep well, both dried and pre-chopped in the freezer. It makes sense for home gardeners to grow lots of onions.
Onions need to be planted very early – well before the last frost. See my slide chart for your local frost and planting dates. We plant both slips and little onion bulbs called starts. I have great results growing onions close together in raised rows/beds roughly (18) inches wide. This makes most effective use of limited garden space, as compared to single plant rows. Pile the soil into a flat topped bed about (4-6) inches above normal garden level, so that their feet are not wet all the time. Space onions about (3) inches apart, they don’t mind being close, and it helps to block weeds. Planting goes fast if you use a 2-person team as we did in the video-blog. One person opens the soil, while the other inserts the start…. it goes really quick. After planting, mulch between starts with straw, cut grass, or some other weed preventive covering. Pull seed pods off of onion stems to get the best bulbs. Harvest onions in early summer, just after the plants begin to turn brown and fall over. We have fun together chopping onions at harvest time, and loading them into freezer bags. The aroma fills the house. Just thinking about it makes me want to……cry.
Doing Vegetable Seed Starts In the House – with help from Clyde’s Garden Planner!
For a short season each spring my wife lets me garden in the living room, behind the couch, very enjoyable! I put felt pads on the feet of a couple of sawbucks and lay an old door across them, in front of an east window, so that we can do “starts” in the house. Normally my in-house planting is limited to peppers and tomatoes, however his year we are also doing Swiss chard, catalogna puntarelle, squash, cucumbers, etc…. Planting trays are filled with potting soil, and a seed or two added to each individual partition. We put covers from old plastic storage bins under the planting trays, to prevent water mess. At first nothing happens, then germination begins and before long we have in-house seedlings. In-house planting times are important if you want to have the crops ready for the garden at the right season. Peppers and tomatoes don’t plant outside until mid May in my area. I go by my planting chart to get the right indoor seeding times.
Many years ago, I became very interested in gardening, but had no knowledge of planting dates. While researching, I realized that there is a natural progression of planting times. This progression is based on frost dates, individual veggie germination times, and the unique frost tolerances of individual vegetables. I combined this data into a slide chart format; Clyde's Garden Planner. The chart gives indoor seeding times for Tomatoes, Peppers, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cucumbers, Squash, Melons….and more. In each case the goal is to get your seeds started at the right time in-the-house, so that they are ready for the garden once the danger of frost is passed. With the red frost date line set to my local average, April 15th (not hard to remember) the chart provides seeding dates for tomatoes and pepper as roughly the 4th week of March. Today is April 3rd, and the sun just came up. My 3″ tall tomato plants, and 1″ peppers are drinking in sunshine. I watered them a few minutes ago using an old fashioned tea-pot type watering device, with a long quarter inch diameter spout, which really helps to prevent spills. Ann got it from her grandparents. The chart shows we will be transplanting to the garden after May 10th. I can hardly wait!
Why Vegetable Garden?
Let me sell you on Vegetable Gardening. Below are some of the reasons my family and I grow a vegetable garden each year.
Vegetable gardening is outdoors. It gets you out of the house, away from the TV, Computer, Phone, etc. You will hear the birds, see wildlife, take in some sun, put your hands in the dirt, watch things grow, and even have an occasional visit with a neighbor over the fence.
Vegetable gardening is productive exercise. With gardening you get that heart rate up while expending physical energy on something that generates food.
Vegetable gardening keeps you home with the family. Fishing, Golf, Softball, and other out-of-the-home activities tend to divide the family. Everyone goes their own way. Gardening as a family IS togetherness – especially when the kids are small i.e. 3 to 9 years old. I had a blast in the garden with our six children during this era of family’s life. Also, working in the family garden was/is an element in our home-schooling efforts. Many Biblical lessons are understood through agriculture/gardening.
Vegetable gardening is a financial net-gain activity. Many other activities drain dollars from the family but not so of vegetable gardening. Gardens require initial investment, then give a payback, and even a profit. Our gardens have done this for years. Some years selling the extra vegetables paid for the garden, while we canned for winter, and consumed all summer long.
Vegetable gardening gives healthy food. It has become clear that eating fresh fruit and vegetables is a critical preventive measure for health problems. Chemicals in the food chain have also become suspects in the cancer mystery. Eating vegetables from your own garden, grown without toxins, sounds healthy to me! Not to mention that you cannot do better than the taste of a fresh home-grown tomato.
Vegetable gardening is FUN . If you like to get outside, enjoy meaningful exercise, want to stay home with your family, savor a profit-making project, and want to eat healthy/tasty… gardening is for you!
Clyde – The Gardening Entra-Manure...(My Father-in-Law's nickname for me...:)