Monday, December 16, 2013

How to Grow Cauliflower

In my family cauliflower is one of those vegetables that you either love or absolutely hate. I am yet to hear anyone at our dinner table, when cauliflower is being served, say, "eh, cauliflower, it's ok". I get either a resounding "yuck" or a jubilent "gimme some more!"

Just like cauliflower's hit or miss on the dinner table, cauliflower has a similar personality in the garden. You either love to grow cauliflower (probably because you love to eat cauliflower), or you hate growing cauliflower regardless of whether you like eating cauliflower or not. The reason being, cauliflower can be stressed out fairly easily.

Cauliflower does not like getting hit with frost, nor does cauliflower like extreme heat and just when you thought your cauliflower is in full swing, you get some cooler weather which slows your cauliflower growth down.

Even with cauliflower's split personality, there are some steps you can take that will help ease that a bit, making it possible to have a less stress free experience with the cauliflower you are growing in your home vegetable garden.

Everything in your garden starts with the soil. I don't care how good your seeds or plants are, or where they came from, if you have bad soil, you won't grow much for long. Cauliflower likes a neutral soil on the pH scale. That is 7.0, however anywhere from 6.5 to 7.5 will work. If you are adding ample amounts of green and brown material to your composting operations you should be fine. Take a pH reading just in case.

Sowing Your Seeds
Sow your cauliflower seeds indoors about 4 weeks prior to the last frost in your area making sure your cauliflower seeds are not planted any deeper than a half inch. You can also sow cauliflower seeds directly into your garden if you have a season that lasts at least eighty days. Space out your cauliflower seeds (or plants) in your garden bed at least fifteen inches. Cauliflower can be susceptible to various root diseases so the the more room you can give their roots, the better it will be for your cauliflower.

Water, Sun, Fertilizing
Cauliflower likes a moderate watering. Overwatering can cause root damage, so keep a measurement on how much water your cauliflower are getting. Obviously you can not stop the rain if you get that in abundance, but you can control your own watering, so be sure to monitor what you are doing. As for sunlight, cauliflower does best in full sun but will tolerate light shade. Cauliflower requires a lot of nutrients, even beyond your normal composting. Compost and manure teas work great to replenish the soil as does fish emulsion.

Finally, with cauliflower we have to talk about blanching. Blanching is the process of taking the leaves of your cauliflower plant and folding them over the cauliflower head. This is to prevent the amount of light the cauliflower head receives. Even if you grow self blanching varieties you will still need to do some blanching work of folding over some of the leaves. So keep an eye on your plants. When the cauliflower head is two to three inches, you can start blanching.

Additional Resources on How to Grow Cauliflower
Garden Definition: What is Club Root?
Growing Cauliflower
Growing Broccoli & Cauliflower
How to Grow Organic Cauliflower in Your Garden

Monday, November 25, 2013

How to Grow Carrots

I absolutely love growing carrots in my home vegetable garden. I set aside a specific 4 x 4 raised bed (a different one each year), just to grow them. With a little sun, water and nutrient rich soil you will soon come to find out just how easy it is to grow your own carrots at home.

First things first. If you want to grow great carrots, that are long, fairly straight and thick, your soil needs to be loose and friable. This soil must also be this condition very deep. Minimum eighteen inches. I say this from experience. If the soil is heavy on the clay, or gets compacted, I have found that my carrots come out short and thick. The carrots still taste great and there is nothing wrong with the carrots, but the carrots are far smaller than I would like.

Carrot seeds, regardless of variety, are small. So when planting them make sure you do not exceed a planting depth of a quarter of an inch. You may be able to get away with a half of an inch, but a quarter is all you will need.

No need to start them indoors. Carrots will do just fine when you directly sow them into your garden. As a side note, your seeds will germinate much better if your soil is a bit warmer and in the pH range of 5.5 to 6.5.

Space out the planting of your carrots about four to six inches to allow, not only for the carrots themselves to grow, but for their roots to expand as well.

Carrots will tolerate light shade, but like all other root crop veggies, full sun will do it wonders. They only need a moderate watering, but be sure to fertilize them every week to 10 days with a good organic mix or compost tea.

Carrots make a great companion plant for tomatoes. In fact there is a wonderful book on the market by Louise Riotte titled Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, which outlines the benefits of planting carrots alongside your tomato plants.

Because carrot seeds are so small, chances are you will invariable plant more than a single area can handle, so be sure to "thin the herd" so to speak by cutting a few of them down to ground level.

You know your carrots will be ready to harvest when you see the carrot tops start poking out of the ground. You can simply judge when they "look" ready.

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Grow Cabbage

Cabbage is not only a great vegetable to grow in your home vegetable garden, but it has a wide variety of health benefits for you and your family. Cabbage is loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C and other essential vitamins your body needs. With such a wide array of cabbage choices to grow, you are bound to find a cabbage variety you can grow at home.

The first step in growing cabbage at home is to make sure your home vegetable garden’s soil is prepared. That means it needs to be rich in nutrients and have a pH level of 6.0 to 7.5. If you have been mixing in quality compost, your soil should be fine. Cabbage is susceptible to a disease called club root. Keeping your soil’s pH in the 7.2 to 7.5 range will inhibit club root.

Start your cabbage seeds indoors about 4 to 6 weeks prior to the final frost in your area. Cabbage seeds germinate best when they are planted in a soil that is 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 29 C), however, once germinated, cabbage grows nicely in cooler soil in the 60 to 65 (16 to 18 C) range.

When moving your cabbage starts from the indoors to the outdoors space out your cabbage at least 18 inches (30 cm). I have tried planting them 12 inches apart, but that is very tight in my opinion. Give your cabbage some room and they will reward you with a great harvest.

Choose a spot for your cabbage that receives full sun, although cabbage will still do well in light shade. Give your cabbage a heavy watering until you see the head begin to form, then scale back your watering to a moderate level.

Most varieties of cabbage are heavy feeders, therefore you will want to feed them weekly with a good fertilizer such as a compost or manure tea, or another quality fertilizer that is high with nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous.

Follow the instructions on the back of your seed packet for proper harvesting as the variety of cabbage you are growing will determine when to harvest.

Avoid following other members in the cabbage family in a crop rotation plan.

Monday, October 28, 2013

How to Grow Artichokes

Whomever discovered that the artichoke is edible once you break through to the heart is an absolute genius. In my book anyway. Artichokes can be used in dips, boiled, sauteed, stuffed or steamed. You can also consume artichokes in the most simplest fashion and that is following the receipe, How to Cook and Eat Artichoke, which shows how to prepare your home grown artichokes for consumption in the simplest fashion.

But, before we can talk about consuming artichokes, we need to get you growing artichokes. Artichokes thrive best in warm weather, but that does not mean it won’t do well in cooler climates. In warmer climates, artichokes will grow as a perennial. Artichokes can be a perennial in cooler climates as well with some additional work. I will get to more on that in a moment.

Starting artichokes from seeds is very easy. Whether you are in a warmer climate or cooler climate, start your seeds indoors 10 weeks out from when you plan on putting them in the ground. If you are planning on growing your artichokes as a perennial (not removing the plant every year), you will need to choose a permanent location. I will get more more on location in a second. For those in cooler climates, you want to start them a minimum of 10 weeks out from your final frost.

Sow your artichoke seeds to a depth of no more than a quarter of an inch, in soil where the pH level is 6.5 to 8.0. So slightly acidic to even a bit alkaline. You can expect your artichoke seeds to germinate in ten to fourteen days.

Once your artichokes have grown indoors for 10 weeks and you are ready to move them to outdoors, choose a location that receives eight or more hours of sunlight. When transplanting your artichokes you will want to space them out at least twenty-four inches. Artichoke plants will get pretty big.

Once your artichokes are transplanted, be sure to give them a weekly heavy watering and feed them constantly with a good organic fertilizer such as compost or manure tea or fish emulsion. Artichokes require a heavy dose of the big three nutrients, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous, so be sure to feed your artichokes weekly.

Your artichokes are ready to harvest when the buds are tight, firm and an even green color. If you notice your artichokes are starting to open, you will want to harvest right away as they will begin to lose some of their flavor.

If you plan to grow artichokes as an annual, they will grow better if you do not follow sunflowers or Jerusalem artichokes.

Now back to growing your artichokes as a perennial. If you live in a warmer region, zones 8a and higher, simply cut the artichoke back to ground level and lightly cover with some compost or organic mulch. In cooler zones, cut your artichoke plant back to twelve inches above the soil and mound some mulch such as straw around the artichoke base, then cover your artichoke plants with bushel baskets. You will want to place some more straw around the baskets.

Additional Resources on How to Grow Artichokes
Artichokes: From Seed to Harvest

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How to Grow Brussels Sprouts

I have read that brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that not only survive the cold weather, but the flavor of brussels sprouts will improve with a light frost. Brussels sprouts are definitely a vegetable that gives cooler weather gardeners a boost for their gardening buck so to speak.

Brussels sprouts seeds are fairly small so make sure you plant them no deeper than a quarter of an inch. While brussels sprouts may do well in the cold, brussels sprouts seeds will need it to be a little warmer in order to germinate. You can start brussels sprouts seeds indoors before your last frost, but unless you have an extremely short growing season, there really is no need since brussels sprouts will still grow in the colder months.

A slightly acidic soil (6.0 to 6.8 pH) works best for brussels sprouts. First take a pH reading of your soil. It may be fine as is. If you find that your soil is too alkaline (above 7.0), check out the article How to Lower Soil pH. In there you will find some excellent tips to adjust accordingly.

If you need to raise your soil’s level because it is too acidic, the rule of thumb is to add lime or bone meal. For more information on raising your soil’s pH level, check out How to Iprove Acidic Soil in Your Garden. There you will find more tips on your soil’s pH level.

Now that you have the sunny location in your garden picked for your brussels sprouts, you need to know how to plant them. Brussels sprouts are very large plants. Many varieties can grow up to three feet tall with a wide, but shallow, root base. I have read a few spacing options for brussels sprouts. One technique suggests you space out your brussels sprouts every eighteen inches leaving three feet between rows. That is a lot of space especially if your space is limited.

In my experience growing brussels sprouts myself, and watching some friends grow them, planting just a few brussels sprouts plants eighteen inches apart in a square pattern will suffice. Think square foot gardening when picturing what it looks like.

As a side note, just because you live in a warmer climate (Florida, the gulf coast, etc.) does not mean you can not grow these tasty treats. Direct sow brussels sprouts seeds into your garden from mid-October through Christmas.

Fertilize every few weeks with fish emulsion or compost tea to keep feeding your brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are ready to be harvested when the buds are firm. They will usually be the size of large marbles (one inch).

A good companion plant for celery, cucumber and lettuce, one cup of brussels sprouts contains 124% of the daily recommended amount for vitamin C.

Monday, October 21, 2013

How to Grow Beets

My wife is more of a fan of eating beets then I am, which is why I continue to grow the many beet varieties available. Combined with beets’ ease of growing, this root crop can be a staple in anyone’s home vegetable garden.

Not only is the root edible (the part everyone calls the actual beet), but beet greens are a tasty treat as well. If you weren’t sure what to do with beet greens, be sure to check out the article 7 Things to do with Beet Greens.

If your growing season is extremely short, you can start your beet seeds indoors about two weeks prior to the last frost in your area. However, direct sowing your beet seeds after your final frost should suffice.

Plant your beet seeds in a pH neutral soil about a half inch deep. Your seeds will germinate better when the soil temperature is 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 29 Celsius). If it is still cool in your area, and you have decided to direct sow, try a cold frame, or hoop houses to increase the soil’s temperature.

Be sure to space out your beets no less than four inches, especially when it comes to the varieties where the diameter of the beet root itself will be two inches or larger. Give your seeds a good amount of water in the early stages and then level the watering off to a more moderate amount as the beets continue to grow.

Beets do not require a lot of nitrogen. In fact, beets do not do well when exposed to a lot of nitrogen, so be sure to use a fertilizer to feed your beets that is low in nitrogen but high in phosphorous and potassium. There are plenty of organic varieties on the market.

Beets make for great companions to beans, members of the cabbage family and lettuce.

Additional Resources on How to Grow Beets
Beets: From Seed to Harvest

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to Grow Bush Beans

On our Vegetable Gardening Facebook page not too long ago, someone posted that they planted 9 bush bean plants in a single square for their square foot garden. If you are not familiar with square foot gardening, you read up on it here.

If you have ever planted bush beans then you might be thinking, wow that is quite a bit. I agree as well that does seem like a lot for such a small area, but some square foot gardeners swear by it. I have not tried it yet myself, but planting 9 bush beans in a square foot area is something I am going to experiment with in the future. For now I want to concentrate on the basics of how to grow bush beans.

There are a large number of bush bean varieties available for your vegetable gardening pleasures. The colors of bush bean plants are extensive as well. You do not need to simply default to planting green beans. Obviously whichever bush bean you choose to plant is up to you, but the growing instructions for bush beans, will be, for the most part, the same for all bush bean varieties.

Unlike the pole bean variety, bush beans are determinate. That means they will grow to a certain size and then stop. In other words, bush beans, grow in a bush. Go figure. However, also, unlike pole beans, bush beans do not last very long. They are great producers, but if you want beans from your bush plants all season long, stagger your bush bean plantings every 7 to 10 days. This will give you great production throughout your season.

Bush beans are quick growers, so in many areas of the world, starting bush bean seeds indoors is not really necessary. Some “experts” even say you should not start bean seeds indoors, however I have started bush bean seeds indoors in the past, and have not seen any ill affects on my bush beans. If you have a very narrow window of growing opportunity in your area, starting inside is not such a bad idea. Just do not move your bush bean plants outdoors until all frost subsides.

Bush beans love slightly acidic to neutral soil. That is 6.5 to 7.0 on the pH scale. Take a quick reading of your soil’s pH level and adjust accordingly.

You will get the most production from your bush beans if you plant them in area that receives a full day’s worth of sunlight. That is at least 8 hours. Bush beans will tolerate less, but your production may not be the same. Although, as mentioned earlier, square foot gardeners like to plant them 9 to a square foot, I like to take a more conservative approach and space my bush bean plants out every 6 inches in my vegetable garden.

When the bush bean plants are small, keeping the water moist will suffice. However, as they start producing beans, you will want to water them a bit more than usual.

Fertilize your bush bean plants every couple of weeks. Fish emulsion is a great organic fertilizer to use on your bush beans (as well as other plants in your vegetable garden).

When to harvest your bush beans will be based on the variety you chose to plant as the sizes will vary. So be sure to check the back of your seed packet for more harvesting information. As a decent rule of tumb, when the pods are a quarter inch to three eighths of an inch in diameter, they are about ready.

Because bush beans are prolific producers, you will have plenty to consume right away, and plenty to preserve for consumption, later in the year when you can not grow beans. If you are going to can beans, you must use a pressure canner. You can also freeze bush beans, however you will want to blanche them first. For either preservation method be sure to check the section below Additional Resources on How to Grow Bush Beans.

Additional Resources on How to Grow Bush Beans
How to Pressure Can Beans
How to Blanche Beans
Bush Beans From Seed to Harvest
Blanching Your Vegetable Harvest
How to Adjust Soil pH for Your Garden

Monday, October 7, 2013

How to Grow Asparagus Part 2

I did not like the taste of asparagus until I was in my mid twenties. Not sure what happened to my taste buds that year, but all of a sudden, out of nowhere, asparagus, was not only tolerable, but I absolutely loved the taste and flavor, both raw and cooked..

Fast forward years later, and now asparagus is a staple in my home vegetable garden. Asparagus is fairly easy to grow, and because it is a perennial, asparagus will yield returns for many years to come. Some 15 to 20 years. The drawback, if you start your asparagus from seed, is that it can take up to three years before you get quantifiable production.

So, if you love asparagus like I do, and want to add it to your home vegetable garden, like I have, there are two questions that you need to address before you begin. First, do you have an area in your yard or on your property that you can dedicate the next 15 to 20 years to? Second, are you going to grow from seed or use asparagus crowns from a local garden center?

Keep in mind, that since asparagus is a perennial and that is has a long life span, that you will need to pick an area of your property where it can reside for the next 15 to 20 years. To me the longevity of asparagus is one of the positive factors since I do not have to replant it every year. When choosing your location make sure you pick a site that will receive at least 8 hours of sunlight daily. Many varieties of asparagus will tolerate, and grow well with less than 8, but if it gets less than 4, you won’t get much asparagus production.

You will also want to make sure the soil is slightly acidic to neutral (6.5 to 7.0). You can pick up a low cost pH tester at any garden center for a few bucks. See below in the section titled "Additional Resources on How to Grow Asparagus" on excellent, organic ways, to lower or raise your soil’s pH level.

Now that you have the spot picked out and your soil is all set, are you going to grow asparagus, starting from seed or already established asparagus crowns. The advantage of starting from seeds is that you control the environment from their beginning and the upfront cost is far lower than crowns. For example, in a pack of asparagus seeds we sell in our online store, you’ll get anywhere from 50 to 100 asparagus seeds, depending on which variety you choose.

The advantage of asparagus crowns, depending on where and who you buy them from, is you can get edible asparagus spears in the first year, although year 2 is more the norm. Crowns cost a little more upfront and you really have no way of knowing the methods that were used to get them to that point, so those are some drawbacks. Not really show stopping though.

Regardless of whether you are planting asparagus seeds or asparagus crowns, wait until fear of frost in your area has passed. When planting asparagus seeds, plant them no deeper than a half inch. With asparagus crowns, two to three inches deep. Cover with soil and give your new asparagus plantings a good watering. As a side note, you can also start your asparagus seeds indoors to give them a head start, however you still do not want to move them outdoors until frost has subsided.

When grown from asparagus seeds, let your asparagus simply grow for the first 2 years. Do not harvest any spears (if they form at all). Your asparagus will look like fern plants. Just let that grow. For crowns, let them grow through for year 1 and begin harvesting in year 2.

Keep your asparagus beds weed free. Asparagus will need all of the nutrients it can get and if your asparagus has to compete with weeds, chances are it will lose that competition.

By year 3 your asparagus will be ready for harvest. Asparagus is one of those vegetables that will start to quickly lose it’s flavor once picked, so make sure you harvest only when you know you going to consume them, can them etc.

Additional Resources on How to Grow Asparagus
How to Grow Asparagus Part 1
Asparagus: From Seed to Harvest

Monday, September 30, 2013

How to Grow Broccoli

I am fortunate when it comes to broccoli. Not only do I live in an area where I can grow broccoli fairly easily (broccoli grows in most zones), but both my children love eating broccoli. So as you can imagine, having my kids involved in planting, cultivating and harvesting broccoli is an easy task.

Broccoli uses a lot of nitrogen from your soil, so in order to make sure the area where you plant your broccoli will be adequate, be sure to add plenty of shredded leaves and grass clippings in the previous fall. That means right now!

I like to start my broccoli from seeds indoors about three to four weeks prior to the final frost in my area. You can always locate your frost zone from the new and enhanced USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map on the USDA website. I use a homemade potting soil to start my broccoli seeds in. It is a combination of equal parts compost and peat and I mix in just a little perlite. I use to add in equal parts of all three, but I found the perlite in such a large quantity is really not necessary.

Once the fear of frost is gone, I will transplant my broccoli plants to their permanent location in my garden where I know they can get full sun, although broccoli will still do well in partial shade. I space out my broccoli plants about sixteen to eighteen inches. Broccoli plants can get fairly large. In a square foot garden, you might be able to get away with one square per broccoli plant, but that may be a bit tight.

Fertilize your broccoli plants every couple of weeks with a quality organic fertilizer. I tend not to use synthetic fertilizers. The choice is obviously yours. Fish emulsion is an excellent source of fertilizer for your broccoli plants.

You will know it is time to harvest the large head of broccoli, when it is dark green and firm. If you start seeing yellow in the buds, your broccoli is starting to over ripen. You will want to harvest your broccoli as soon as possible.

Just because you harvested the entire head of broccoli does not mean the broccoli plant is done. Throughout the course of the remainder of the season (at least a few more weeks in most areas), your broccoli plant will grow small shoots of broccoli which can be harvested and thrown into a salad for a nice fresh treat.

Additional Resources on How to Grow Broccoli
Great Seed Starting Project for Kids
Broccoli From Seed to Harvest

Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Grow Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is such a great vegetable to add to your home vegetable garden. Swiss chard can be used in so many different dishes, and while it may taste a slight bit bitter (to me anyway), when eaten raw, Swiss Chard has a tremendous amount of flavor. Mix in the many varieties of Swiss Chard that you can grow, and the possibilities are nearly endless.

Swiss Chard comes in all shades of the colors of the rainbow. In fact there is a variety called Rainbow, and another called Bright Lights that will have your Swiss Chard popping up in all kinds of color. But enough about how cool Swiss Chard looks growing in your home vegetable garden. Let’s talk about how you actually grow Swiss Chard.

Swiss Chard seeds are not too large, but not very small either. You can get away with planting Swiss Chard seeds a half inch deep. Your Swiss Chard will produce plenty of energy to push the growing young plant through the surface.

Start your Swiss Chard seeds indoors, in a greenhouse or in a cold frame, where the warmth will help your Swiss Chard seeds germinate faster. Under optimal conditions you can expect your Swiss Chard seeds to germinate in five to seven days.

Once your Swiss Chard has germinated, and fear of frost has subsided in your area, move your Swiss Chard to your outside vegetable garden. Space out your Swiss Chard plants eight to ten inches. You want to give their roots plenty of room to grow. As a side note, Swiss Chard makes a great companion plant to members of the cabbage family as well as lettuce, but not so much to beets or spinach.

Swiss Chard, like many other leafy vegetables, will do best in full sun, but produce well in a shaded environment. Be sure to give your Swiss Chard a moderate watering not letting the soil get too dry.

When the Swiss Chard leaves are near eight inches, they are ready to be harvested. Simply cut the stalks of your Swiss Chard plants about an inch above the soil to harvest. Your Swiss Chard plants will continue to grow when you do this.

Swiss Chard is rich in vitamins A, K & C, containing a great deal of the recommended daily consumption (214%, 716% and 53% respectively).

Additional Resources on How to Grow Swiss Chard
Three Plants to Start Now for the Fall Garden

Monday, September 9, 2013

How to Grow Asparagus

You might be asking yourself, why is he writing about asparagus now in the fall. Isn’t this something better for the spring? On the surface, writing about how to grow asparagus in the spring time might be a better fit, however, growing asparagus begins with proper soil amending in the fall. I’ll explain that in a little bit.

Asparagus can be prepared for consumption in so many ways and in fact asparagus does not have to be prepared at all, as asparagus tastes great freshly clipped from the garden. This perennial garden vegetable has but one draw back. When asparagus is grown directly from seeds, it takes about 3 years before it reaches maturity. While that might seem like a long time time, not to worry, asparagus has a lifespan of up to 20 years, although 15 is more likely.

Back to why we should prepare our asparagus in the fall. Asparagus loves acidic soil, and loves the soil to be loose down to as deep as eighteen inches. By continually working in compost in the fall months, your soil will be ready for asparagus in the springtime.

If you do not have 3 years to wait for asparagus to reach maturity, then you can always purchase asparagus crowns from a local home or garden center. You can usually get about a half dozen for just a few bucks. Well worth the investment. Just keep in mind, a part of your garden will be dedicated to asparagus for the next one to two decades. So choose your asparagus spot wisely.

Asparagus grows best when it gets eight hours of sunlight daily, but will do well in the 4 to 8 hour range. Asparagus loves water, so be sure to give them a good watering as often as possible.

If you are starting with seeds and plan to direct sow them into your garden bed, be sure not to plant them deeper than a half inch. If you are using asparagus crowns, then you should plant them eight to twelve inches deep. And regardless of whether you are using seeds or crowns, space them out at least eighteen inches. Your asparagus will spread to a degree.

Mary Washington and Jersey Hybrids are the most popular varieties, but there are a whole slew of choices out there.

Your asparagus will have a big need to be fertilized. This is due to the fact they are perennials. To make sure you are feeding your asparagus properly, feed it a steady stream of compost, and/or compost tea, throughout the year.

It is important to keep your asparagus beds weed free. To limit the amount of hand weeding you are going to have to do, I recommend laying down a few sheets of newspaper around your asparagus and covering with straw mulch. You will always have to hand pick some, but at least this will keep it to a minimum.

To make sure your asparagus makes it through the winter, cut back the ferns, throw them in your compost pile, and layer on some compost and straw.

By year 3 you should have nice, thick stalks of asparagus ready to be eaten. Asparagus tastes great if consumed within 30 minutes after harvesting.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Make Your Own Bug Spray

Regardless of where you stand on using chemical based bug sprays, one thing's for sure, and that is, if you do not keep the harmful insects off your fruits and vegetables, you won’t have much to harvest.

Me personally, I do not like to use any bug sprays made with chemicals. It just makes me feel uncomfortable to spray the food, me and my family is going to eat. What I have learned, over the thirty plus years of gardening, is that you can make your own sprays at home, that can definitely help.

One thing that has been common when searching for solutions to repel bad insects, is that hot pepper is always the number one ingredient of any home made bug spray (most of the time, some web sites differ). The active ingredient in hot peppers is capsaicin (chili peppers actually). Capsaicin will create a burning sensation when it comes in contact with human tissue, so be careful when creating your spray.

As with any spray, you will need to reapply after rain or watering that could wash your homemade spray away. As a note of caution, use care when creating any hot pepper based spray as it can irritate your skin and eyes. So wear protective eyewear and gloves when needed.

In a pot on your stove, add in seven crushed garlic cloves, one tablespoon of powdered cayenne pepper and three cups of water. Heat up mixture, stirring to completely to combine the ingredients. Try not to bring the mixture to a boil as that is not necessary. Set the mixture aside for forty-eight hours as to allow the ingredients to combine. Once combined, add mixture to a hand held spray bottle and begin spraying your plants as needed.

Just remember to wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly prior to consumption.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Plant Perennial Fruits for Long Term Production

Wouldn`t it be nice if all the vegetables that you plant were perennials? You plant them once and then each year the same plant simply produces more. While the chances of you getting your tomatoes to do this are virtually impossible, there are many fruits you can plant that will produce for you each year. Here are some ideas to make your fresh fruit production a little easier if you have the room.

Back in the 1960`s my in laws planted an apple tree in their backyard. Today, 50 years later, that apple tree is healthy, alive and producing very well. We pick bag loads of apples every fall. Their tree produces enough apples for not only the entire family, but practically the entire neighborhood. Not bad for a 50 year old tree. They also have a pear tree that is just as old.

Fruiting trees are of course one of the first options that come to mind. And with the various dwarf and columnar varieties, you have plenty to choose from if space is limited on your property.

Next lets talk about bushes. Again your options are limitless. I have 4 blueberry, 3 blackberry and 7 raspberry bushes. Now you might think that takes up a lot of room, but believe me they don’t. I have situated them in such a way where they get plenty of sun, but are not in the way of the use for other things in my yard. All three varieties are prolific when it comes to production. Along with trees, fruiting bushes are great options as well.

While they take up a lot space, you will get fairly good perennial production out of grapes. I have three grape vines planted on the back end of my yard. They are doing fairly well there in moderate sunlight and come back stronger each season. They won’t produce enough to make my own wine, but grabbing some fresh grapes to munch on in your backyard, to me, is a great treat.

Finally, while not a fruit, but I wanted to get it in here, is the planting of asparagus. If you like asparagus, then you must make it a part of your perennial garden. When planted properly, asparagus will produce for up to 15 years, although 10 to 12 is more likely. I have 6 asparagus plants and plan on adding 6 more next season. I love grilled asparagus.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Three Plants to Start Now for the Fall Garden

If your area is like mine and temperatures decrease as you head into the autumn months, then right now is the time to get those fall weather crops going. There are many choices, but here are three that are my personal favorite.

If you are a fan of growing your own spinach, then you probably grew spinach in the early spring. Have no fear. Spinach is a great fall crop as well. Actually, most leafy green veggies do great in the fall, but I love spinach and wanted to highlight it here.

Not only does spinach tolerate the cold, but it grows rather quickly and is shade tolerant which helps as the days get shorter. Use a cold frame and you can even get spinach to grow in the winter months as well.

Germinate your seeds now since the temperatures are a bit warmer. Spinach requires light watering, and since spinach is a prolific veggie, you can just plant a few to suffice.

Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard is another great choice. This versatile plant does well in a variety of temperatures including the cold. With so many Swiss Chard varieties to choose from, you can either plant for their leafy greens or turn your fall garden into a rainbow of spectacular color that is edible.

They require a bit more water than spinach, but still not too much to make watering a burden. You can plant your swiss chard as close as eight inches and get excellent results or further apart which makes it easier to harvest not only the leaves but down to the stalks as well.

I love growing radish. The more the merrier. They are easy to grow from seed and within as little as 4 to 5 weeks, you can harvest them and add to a salad or your favorite dish. Radish grows that quick. There are a myriad of choices when it comes to radish from mild to the super hot.

While you can plant your radish seeds as little as two inches apart, I would recommend four inches. I found that two inches was just a bit too close for my liking and four was perfect.

If you really want to save on space, plant rows of radish in between your rows of lettuce or spinach. You will be able to save on space and not hinder the quality or productivity of either plant.

Other veggies that you should consider are all lettuce varieties, carrots, parsnips and onions to name a few. Regardless of which ones you go with, start now. You won’t regret it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

3 Homemade Vegetable Garden Remedies

No gardener is immune to the agony of watching their garden getting eaten away by insects that seem invisible, rodents that steal in the night and the plant disease that appears out of nowhere.

We have all been there. Whether the holes in the cabbage plants seem to get larger by the second, or squash bugs infiltrate the zucchini plants by the thousands, these unforeseen circumstances can arise at anytime for any gardener.

While weather, that force of nature you have no control over, can play a factor in a lot of the plant diseases you may face, you can take some steps in helping put more of that control back into your hands, as well as rule over the harmful insects that will arise.

Here are three homemade recipes you can put together yourself to help you with your efforts.

Compost/Manure Tea
This is a great recipe to use. You simply fill a burlap sack with a gallon of compost or well seasoned manure and drop it into a bucket containing 4 gallons of water. Cover the bucket and let it sit for 72 hours. Once complete, remove the burlap sack, pour the mixture into a watering can or a sprayer, and use on your vegetation. This works great as a fertilizer for your plants and when sprayed on foliage, it helps prevent many types of diseases.

Baking Soda Spray
If you are looking for an easy to make spray that helps prevent and manage various plant diseases such as powdery mildew, then try this one. Simply mix one and a half tablespoons of baking soda, a tablespoon of vegetable oil and one and a half gallons of warm water in large container. Mix thoroughly. Make sure the mixture is well blended prior to pouring it into a sprayer. Use this right away while the water is warm.

Garlic/Pepper Spray
At a local garden center here where I live, they sell a commercially made organic pepper spray. These types of sprays work great for keeping a lot of insects and rodents off your vegetation. There are but two downfalls. First, it has to be applied after every time your plants are watered, regardless of whether you are doing the watering or mother nature. Second, because you will use a lot of it, sprays purchased at the store can get expensive over time. So instead make your own.

Using a blender, food processor etc., mix together eight cloves of garlic, one and a half tablespoons of cayenne pepper (or another very hot pepper variety), and three and a half cups of hot water. Mix these ingredients thoroughly and allow the mixture to steep for seventy-two hours. Strain the mix as you pour it into your sprayer, then use on your plants you are trying to protect.

Before you go out and purchase expensive commercial grade products, give your hand a try at these remedies and solutions for the issues you are facing in your garden.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Aster yellows


Aster yellows

Aster yellows is a chronic, systemic plant disease caused by a bacterium-like organism called a phytoplasma.[1] The aster yellows phytoplasma (AYP) affects 300 species in 38 families of broad-leaf herbaceous plants, primarily in the aster family.

Symptoms are variable and can include phyllody, virescence, chlorosis, stunting, and sterility of flowers. The aster leafhopper vector, Macrosteles quadrilineatus, moves the aster yellows phytoplasma from plant to plant.[2] Its economic burden is primarily felt in the carrot (Daucus carota ssp. sativus) crop industry as well as the nursery industry.

There is no cure for plants infected with Aster yellows. Infected plants should be removed immediately to limit the continued spread of the phytoplasma to other susceptible plants.

However, in agricultural settings such as carrot fields, some application of chemical insecticides has proven to minimize the rate of infection by killing the vector.


There is no cure for plants infected with Aster yellows. Infected plants should be removed immediately to limit the continued spread.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Signs Showing Your Plants are Nutrient Deficient

Even with a heavy dose of proper composting, many factors can lead to your plants becoming deficient in valuable nutrients. Too much rain could wash away valuable nitrogen, and not enough rain, well, could lead to a whole lot of other problems.

Here are some popular signs that you should be looking out for in your vegetable garden, their causes, and potential solutions.

Are the leaves on your vegetable plants light green to yellow? Does the growth of your plant seem stunted? Chances are your soil lacks nitrogen and/or sulfur. A good quick fix is adding blood meal or fish emulsion.

Speaking of the leaves, are they red or purple when they are supposed to be green? Looks like your soil is low on Phosphorous. Add some bonemeal or rock phosphate to your soil.

If your vegetable plants are producing fruits have you noticed if they are too small or production seems to be slow? Your soil may lack magnesium or potassium. Greensand, Epsom salt, wood ash or seaweed are all helpful answers.

A lot of the same symptoms noted above will appear for the lack of other nutrients such as iron, copper, and manganese. You should get a soil reading if you starting seeing a lot of issues. Your local co-op can do this for you or they sell home kits where you can test the soil yourself.

Friday, July 12, 2013

What is a Praying Mantid?


Mantidae is the largest family of the order Mantodea, commonly known as praying mantises; most are tropical or subtropical. Historically, this was the only family in the order, and many references still use the term "mantid" to refer to any mantis.

Technically, however, "mantid" refers only to members of the Mantidae family, and not the 14 remaining families of mantises. Some of the most recent classifications have promoted a number of the mantid subfamilies to the rank of family, e.g. Iridopterygidae, Sibyllidae, Tarachodidae, Thespidae, and Toxoderidae,[1] while other classifications have reduced the number of subfamilies without elevating to higher rank.

Many species are found in North America, the three most common being the European Mantis (Mantis religiosa), the Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis), and the Carolina Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina). Of these, only the last is native to the continent - the European and Chinese species were introduced in the 20th century as predators in an attempt to control pest populations in gardens.


This is a beneficial insect. Do not treat!

Click here for the original Source

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Solve these 3 Common Compost Problems

A compost pile is a staple for most home vegetable gardeners. Compost is the easiest, safest and best way to add nutrients to your soil which allow your fruits, herbs and veggies to grow bigger and produce more.

Along the way you may encounter some issues with your compost. Most are easily fixable with some simple solutions, or a little bit of "elbow grease". Here I will discuss the most common compost pile issues you will face along the way, and their popular solutions.

Your Compost Pile Stinks
This is the most common compost pile issue for home vegetable gardeners. Your compost pile smells to high heaven and if you lived in the middle of nowhere, you would really care less, but since your neighbor does not share that same sentiment, it's an issue that needs to be addressed.

Most of the time the smell is due to lack of air. If your pile becomes too wet or too compacted, anaerobic bacteria become abundant which accounts for the smell. Too a much lesser extent, your pile could also lack nitrogen and if your pile has an ammonia smell that means it has too much nitrogen.

All of these issues are fixable. If your compost pile is compacted, simply use a pitchfork and manually turn the pile over. If your compost pile has become too wet or smells of ammonia, add straw or shredded brown paper bags (leaves or wood chips would be more ideal) and turn your compost pile with your pitchfork as noted earlier.

Animals and unwanted Insects
From time to time you will notice your compost pile attracts squirrels, chipmunks and other insects. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if you start seeing rats, mice and roaches, there is something wrong. Chances are if you are experiencing these types of pests, you have added something to the pile you should not have, and that would be meat and/or dairy products. Do not add these to your compost pile. Remove these items from your compost pile and discard in your regular trash.

Not breaking down
You are taking care of your compost pile as you should, however you notice that some items are simply not breaking down. This could be due to a couple of reasons. If they are items that would normally break down, i.e. food scraps, leaves etc., your compost pile could be lacking in nitrogen and/or moisture. If the compost pile is dry, add water and turn the compost pile over with your pitchfork. If nitrogen is the issue, add either manure (horse, chicken or cow etc) or fresh grass clippings and turn.

The second problem could simply be the item is just too large for your compost pile. Large branches from trees and bushes are usually the culprits. Break these items down in smaller sizes by running them over with your lawn mower (if it can handle it), or grind them up with a yard shredder. If neither option is viable, then simply discard of them via your regular municipal means.

These are just some of the issues that you will come across with a compost pile. However, the benefits of the compost you will make far outweighs any issues that will arise. In the event that you are experiencing something not mentioned here, take a look on pages 146 and 147 of The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith or read The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting by Chris McLaughlin. Both are great resources and must haves for a gardener's library.

Additonal Compost Resources
Compost, Vegetable Gardener's Gold
Compost from the Sky
How to Build a Cedar Lattice Compost Bin

Monday, July 8, 2013

What is an assassin bug?


Reduviidae (from the contained genus, Reduvius, which comes from the Latin reduvia, meaning "hangnail" or "remnant") is a large, cosmopolitan family of predatory insects in the suborder Heteroptera. It includes assassin bugs (genera include Melanolestes, Platymeris, Pselliopus, Rasahus, Reduvius, Rhiginia, Sinea, Triatoma, and Zelus), ambush bugs (subfamily Phymatinae), wheel bugs (Arilus cristatus), and thread-legged bugs (the subfamily Emesinae, including the genus Emesaya). There are about 7000 species altogether, making it one of the largest families in the Hemiptera.


This is a beneficial insect. DO NOT TREAT!

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

What is the Tobacco mosaic virus?

Tobacco mosaic virus

Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) is a positive-sense single stranded RNA virus that infects plants, especially tobacco and other members of the family Solanaceae. The infection causes characteristic patterns, such as "mosaic"-like mottling and discoloration on the leaves (hence the name). TMV was the first virus to ever be discovered. Although it was known from the late 19th century that an infectious disease was damaging tobacco crops, it was not until 1930 that the infectious agent was determined to be a virus.


One of the common control methods for TMV is sanitation, which includes removing infected plants, and washing hands in between each planting. Crop rotation should also be employed to avoid infected soil/seed beds for at least two years. As for any plant disease, looking for resistant strains against TMV may also be advised. Furthermore, the cross protection method can be administered, where the stronger strain of TMV infection is inhibited by infecting the host plant with mild strain of TMV, similar to the effect of a vaccine.

Click here for the original Source

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What is root rot?

root rot

disease characterized by root decay; caused by various fungi.


It is usually lethal and there is no effective treatment.

Click here for the original Source

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What is Powdery Mildew?

pow·der·y mil·dew

Mildew on a plant that is marked by a white floury covering consisting of conidia.


Controlling the disease involves eliminating conducive conditions as much as possible by altering planting density and carefully timing applications and rates of nitrogen. Since nitrogen fertilizers encourage dense leafy growth, nitrogen should be applied at precise rates, less than 70 pounds per acre, to control decrease severity. Crop rotation with non-host plants is another way to keep mildew infection to a minimum, however the aerial nature of conidia and ascospore dispersal makes it of limited use. Wheat powdery mildew can also be controlled by eliminating the presence of volunteer wheat in agricultural fields as well as tilling under crop residues.

Click here for the original Source

Monday, July 1, 2013

What is blossom end rot?

blossom end rot

Calcium (Ca) deficiency is a plant disorder that can be caused by insufficient calcium in the growing medium, but is more frequently a product of low transpiration of the whole plant or more commonly the affected tissue.


Calcium deficiency can sometimes be rectified by adding agricultural lime to acid soils, aiming at a pH of 6.5, unless the subject plants specifically prefer acidic soil. Organic matter should be added to the soil to improve its moisture-retaining capacity. However, because of the nature of the disorder (i.e. poor transport of calcium to low transpiring tissues), the problem cannot generally be cured by the addition of calcium to the roots. In some species, the problem can be reduced by prophylactic spraying with calcium chloride of tissues at risk.

Click here for the original Source

Friday, June 28, 2013

Prevent and Control Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is one of the more common plant diseases that many home vegetable gardeners will experience. Powdery mildew is in the order of Erysiphales which contains one family named Erysiphaceae of which many cause powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew begins on a host plant, in this case one of your vegetable plants, when the sexual ascospores, or the asexual conidia germinating on the surface of the plants leaf or stem, resulting in septate mycelium of uninucleate cells.

Powdery mildew is one of the easier plant diseases to spot. If your plants are affected, what you will see are white powdery spots on the leaves and stems. Powdery mildew is most prominent on the lower leaves although powdery mildew will appear on the upper leaves as it progresses. If left untreated, the spots will get larger and more dense as more spores form.

Do you live in an area or environment where you will experience high humidity and moderate temperatures? If so, then you are more likely to experience Powdery mildew.

So what will powdery mildew do to your plants if not addressed? Chances are it won’t kill your plants, but will contribute to the reduction of fruit and vegetable yields.

While many home vegetable gardeners are looking for a cure for powdery mildew, one simply does not exist. So what you need to do is take steps to preventing and controlling powdery mildew. Two good things to make sure your plants are receiving in helping with prevention is air circulation and direct sunlight. Both have shown to inhibit powdery mildew formation.

But, let's say that powdery mildew already exists on your plants. What you have to do now is move into "control" mode. According to Organic Gardening, "Research studies in 1999 and 2003 on infected zucchini and winter wheat (respectively) indicated that spraying cow's milk slowed the spread of the disease."

By mixing 1 part milk and 9 parts water (by volume), you will create a spray that can then be applied to your affected plants. Also you can try a mix of 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 quart of water as a spray. This helps raise the pH, which is not a suitable environment for powdery mildew.

At the end of the season, remove all plants that were affected with powdery mildew, bag them up and throw them away. While some sources say they are ok to add to your compost pile, I take a more cautious stand and do not do so.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Is the word “Organic” losing it’s meaning?

I recently read in an issue of Mother Earth News magazine a great quote. “Every time you buy organic, you’re persuading more farmers to grow organic.” This quote goes well along with my lines of thinking. I am a true believer of not buying a product or hiring someone to perform a service from a business if that product or service does not meet my expectations for what I am paying.

In this case that product is freshly grown fruits or veggies. I grow a lot of my own food, but lack the space to grow it all. So, for the items that I am unable to grow in abundance I will search out quality farms in my area, that do not use chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. I am willing to pay a little more because I am getting quality food, great customer service and get what I am paying for.

What I have also noticed in my search for local farms, is the term organic being thrown around a lot. The question I was mulling over, is that term overused? Has it become nothing more than a marketing gimic?

My dad, and grandfather before him, practiced organic methods when tending to their gardens. No use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, heck they did not even use gas powered tools. Everything was done with a little elbow grease and plenty of sweat. They each kept compost piles, and since my dad was (and still is) a big fisherman, all of the fish waste went into his garden beds. Everything was natural.

But one thing was common, you never heard them use the word organic. If you asked them if they practiced organic methods, they probably would be the first to tell you they have no idea of what you are talking about. They used safe, healthy methods to grow their food, not because they wanted to be “organic”, but because they wanted to put good food on the table.

In order for someone to use the word “organic” they must meet some criteria as outlined by the USDA. You can read up on what it takes to become certified organic on the USDA website.

Me personally, I think the word “organic” is quickly a word that is being overused. But what do you think? I understand the importance of needing to certify items to be organic, but do you think “organic” is being overused?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How do you Stake your tomatoes?

How do I stake up my tomato plants is a question I receive all the time. My answer is, whatever works for you. When I was a kid, my dad would use my broken hockey sticks, cut off the blade, or what remained thereof, and use them as stakes for his tomato plants. He would then secure the tomato plants to the hockey stick by loosely tying them with some type of string, twine, old t-shirts and even mom's ripped pantyhose. He was a resourceful guy.

There are various other ways to stake up tomatoes and I wanted to cover just a few. First I wanted to start with the method I use to prop up my tomatoes, and that is the use of tomato cages. Regardless of whether you use the round tomato cages, triangular tomato cages or square tomato cages, the concept of their use is the same. Simply push your tomato cage into the soil so that your tomato plant sits in the center. As the tomato plant grows, you will have to do some maneuvering of branches so they don't get "stuck" as they try and grow upwards.

As mentioned earlier with the method my father used, you can use stakes or poles to prop them up. As with the tomato cage method, you will have to do some maneuvering. With the stake method, you have to attach them to the tomato stake with string or twine. They even sell velcro plant ties which are great. You can move them rather easily when you have to make adjustments.

Although I have not used these myself, I have seen in use spiral tomato plant supports. The way these work is very simple.The idea is to eliminate the part where you tie them to the stake by weaving your tomato plants as they grow, through the spiral. They come in heights of 4 to 6 feet, which is ideal for most varieties of tomatoes.

Another excellent method is creating your own trellis where there are poles on each end with some twine at various heights connected between them. This tomato propping method is most commonly called the Florida weave. As the tomato plants grow, you weave them in between the strings on the trellis.

Finally, just let them be. Some gardeners I know do not even stake up their tomatoes at all. They lay down some black plastic tarp over the soil, then let the tomatoes simply grow along the ground. Of course this method makes your plants susceptible to a lot things, but if going 100% natural is what you are looking for, then this is it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Few Tips to Avoid Root Rot

Here in New Jersey we are experiencing a boat load of rain. Last I heard on the news, for our area, we are over a few inches above last year’s total at this same time. Last year’s total rainfall at this time were normal measurements. As Luke Bryan sings, Rain is a Good Thing. However, too much rain, is not a good thing for your vegetable plants.

Good drainage in your vegetable garden beds can prevent the most obvious issue which is root rot. Root rot is a disease that can occur in vegetable plants both indoors and outdoors, which is the decaying of a vegetable plants’ roots. Root rot will occur when the roots of your vegetable plants get too wet, which creates a perfect environment for various fungi that carry out this process.

As stated earlier, making sure the area where your vegetable plants reside has adequate drainage is a major key in preventing root rot. There a few solutions you can implement to prevent excess water around your vegetable plants’ roots.

For vegetable plants that you are growing indoors, let’s start with the obvious. Make sure that whatever your vegetable plants are planted in have enough drainage holes. You may have purchased a pot (or pots) from a home or garden center and think that it may have enough holes, but that is not always the case. Do not be afraid to drill a few more in the bottom of the pot, no less than ¼” in diameter. To prevent soil erosion in your pots, line them with newspaper before you put your potting soil in. This will allow the excess water to drain out, while keeping the soil in.

For your outdoor vegetable garden there are a number of solutions you can go with. For starters, build your garden beds up using raised beds. As vegetable gardening author Chris McLaughlin writes in her book Vertical Vegetable Gardening: A Living Free Guide, raised beds give you better drainage especially in areas wher clay soil dominates.

Many people that have raised beds, build them in such a way as there is no need to actually go into the bed itself and that helps by not compacting the soil every time a step is taken near their vegetable plants.

Finally, whether you are using raised beds or not, mix up a soil solution that aides in wicking away excess water. There are three great products that you can add to your soil before you plant that will help with this. They are peat moss, coir and perlite.

The peat moss and coir are interchangeable. Although you can, you would not use them together as they serve the same purpose. They make your soil loose and friable. Peat moss is far less expensive than coir, and one distinct advantage coir has over peat to justify the price, is coir is more environmentally friendly as a renewable resource since it is derived from the fiber of the outer husks of coconuts.

Peat moss, also referred to as Sphagnum (peat moss’ genus name), grows in dense masses on boggy ground. Peat bogs are valuable to wildlife habitat that rely on them. I was unable to locate any study findings as to how quickly or slowly peat regenerates itself once it’s stripped.

You would mix either peat or coir with perlite though. Perlite is a form of obsidian (A hard, dark, glasslike volcanic rock formed by the rapid solidification of lava without crystallization) consisting of glassy globules, used in plant growth.

Perlite helps loosen heavy soils (high clay content), aerate soil, prevent soil compaction, and aid in preventing overwatering. When it comes to perlite, a little goes a long way. So you do not need to add a lot to your garden beds.

The combination of using raised beds along with items that aid in preventing over watering will help with reducing the potential of root rot on your vegetable plants.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Build a Cold Frame with Recycled Materials

Last night I was on a radio program and we were discussing fall gardening. What to plant, what not to plant, when to plant and so on. During the course of the interview, we began talking about how to protect plants in the colder months. Without hesitation I replied "use a cold frame".

A cold frame is a great way to extend your gardening season well in to the cooler months. It works similar to a green house, however it is lower to the ground, which in turn, at night, will keep the warmer air closer to the plants. It will also have a means to ventilate easily so that if it does get warm during the day, you simply open up the ventilation and let the heat out, which helps prevent "burning" your plants.

Here is a great step by step instructional that I found on building your own cold frame out of some recycled material. It's easy to build, and if you have some basic skills, you should get this done in no time.

Here are the Step by Step instructions

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grow Your Best Peppers Yet!

I do very well here in New Jersey growing peppers. For the past two season, I have had peppers grow (and thrive) well into November, even after a couple of frosts also with no cover protection.

I grow a lot of sweet peppers and some hot peppers, but as a total, I grow a boatload of peppers. Enough to share with the neighborhood my wife tells everyone.

With that said, I wanted to share some of my tips on peppers, that I believe has lead me to have such great pepper harvests. Of course I can’t control the weather in the cooler months that would do peppers harm, I do believe that by using these tips, I am able to have my peppers grow very hardy, and that helps out a great deal.

Your Site
As with any other fruit or vegetable plant, peppers are no different, and that is, good peppers start with an excellent foundation. In this case, the foundation for your peppers is the soil itself. Obviously some might disagree and say “no, Mike, it starts with the seeds you use”. While I do agree with that statement, that good peppers start with seeds from a reputable company (or a friend), I am assuming that you have already completed that step.

Before you plant your pepper transplants (or direct pepper seeds), make sure to mix in plenty of compost. I like to do a mix of compost from my compost pile, vermicompost from my worm bin, and seasoned livestock manure (cow manure). I would like to add that I use so much vermicompost that I added a worm tower this year to my yard and plan on adding another worm tower next season. They can be a bit pricey.

As a side note. If you started your peppers from seeds indoors, be sure to harden them off, that is acclimate them to the outdoors before you plant them in your garden bed.

Bring the Heat
Pepper plants love heat. Which bodes well for us here in New Jersey, because around July to August, between the heat and humidity, it can become unbearable for humans in the summer. If you live in a cooler climate, you can always help increase the temperatures around the plant using cold frames, greenhouses and so on. You want to keep the temperatures for your pepper plants above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 16 degrees Celsius).

Peppers are abundant producers when given plenty of space. You may produce bigger or more quantities of peppers if you grow just a few, spaced out wider. With that said, I have done well spacing them out eight to ten inches, although one gardening friend of mine has his spaced out further (more like 12 to 16 inches), and does great.

Keep your pepper area weed free. I like to use newspaper as a weed barrier, then place some straw on top of that. I won’t go into all of the benefits of using straw in the garden, but in this case it further helps keeping the weeds at bay.

Be sure that your pepper plants receive plenty of water in the early stages and then a maintenance watering of at least 1 to 2 inches of water weekly. Water a little more often if your conditions are extremely dry and/or hot.

The straw we used a couple of paragraphs up also help in retaining moisture in the garden.

To build a healthier, sturdier plant, pinch off the first few flowers in the early going. You want your pepper plants to direct their energy towards growing the pepper plant itself, not peppers just yet. This will pay big dividends later in the season.

Harvest and Enjoy
Once your peppers reach their full maturity, gently pluck them from the plant making sure you don't damage the plant itself. Some people like to use scissors to cut the stem, me I will simply pull the pepper with one hand while holding the branch that it is on with the other hand. Whatever works for you!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Build a Vertical Herb Planter

If you have been following our blog, facebook page, or our website, then you already know that we are very enthusiastic about growing vertically.

The sky is truly the limit when it comes to growing vertically with many varieties of fruits and vegetables, and herbs are no different.

Herbs grow great in containers, and this project combines the best of both worlds, container gardening and vertical gardening. If you have some basic tools and handy skills, then all you really need is to get started.

Here are the Step by Step instructions

Monday, June 3, 2013

Check out our new page for gardening eBay auctions

You no longer have to search all over eBay to get great deals on gardening supplies. We did the work for you and popped them into a single web page on our site. Simply visit eBay Gardening Auctions and take a look today.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Make Your Own Inverted Tomato Planter

By now you have probably seen those inverted tomato planters. You are probably also wondering if they really work. The answer in short is yes. So as long as you give the tomato plant plenty of sun, water, and room for their roots to grow, it will work.

However, did you also know that you can build your own upside down planter with some basic material and of course a tomato plant? Well, you can. Here is a great step by step instructional to do just that.

If you are short on garden space, but have a lot of hanging space, then this is yet another tool for you to use to expand what you can grow, by utilizing vertical area you may not have thought you had.

Here are the Step by Step instructions

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

DIY - Folding Trellis for your Vegetable Garden

Using a trellis in your home vegetable garden has a wide range of benefits. For starters it allows you take advantage of vertical real estate you may not have though of. You save a lot of space when growing vertically and a trellis allows you to do just that.

Second, some items grow great on a trellis and I could not imagine growing them any other way, such as cucumbers.

Here is an excellent trellis that you can build with some basic materials, a little time and folds up for better storage in the offseason.

Here are the Step by Step instructions