Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Support Your Local Veggie

I'm a fan and loyal reader of the blog,
Old World Garden Farms.
The folks on that website have so many great ideas
about building, growing, and innovating
that every week there is something new to learn.

raised row gardening - the book

After recently purchasing their second book,
I was inspired to create some tomato and pepper supports for the veggie garden.

This idea can be found on their website here,
or in their new book called, Raised Row Gardening.

How much do I LOVE this Sawz-all?
It's a workhorse in the garden when there are big limbs to be felled.
It came in mighty handy on this lil' project.

It was used to cut these pieces of wood to the correct size.
Four 2X8 strips were purchased from our local hardware store.
This is my makeshift workshop.

The pieces were cut in half,
giving me eight 4-foot stakes to be used for tomato and pepper plants.

The ends were trimmed to a point with a jigsaw.
This should make them easier to pound into the clay.

Not perfect, 
but I think Carole at Garden Up Green,
(a power tool maven),
 would be proud.
No one will see this end anyway,
as these will be buried beneath the soil.

This wire had been acquired (for free) on Next Door,
a local online listing site.
It's a bit rusty, but it doesn't bother me.
Isn't the rustic look all the rage these days?

The important thing is that the spaces are 2 X 4 inches,
which happens to be what Jim and Mary suggested for this use.
This is supposed to make it easier to harvest your goodies.

I rolled out the wire and cut pieces 18 inches wide with wire cutters.

Then I measured 14 inches from the point of the stake,
where the wire will be attached,
and marked it with a pencil.
The bottom of the wire will sit here,
allowing a good portion of the stake to be buried.

 At first, I used regular staples and an electric staple gun to attach the wire,
because that was what I had on hand.
They didn't hold, so I purchased these fencing nails (3/4").

I attached these every couple of rows with the swing of my hammer.
Isn't making stuff yourself the best?
Channel your inner pioneer!

Here's what the finished project looks like.
It'll be fun to see how these rate compared to standard tomato cages.
I've used those in the past and they are sometimes
cumbersome to deal with and make harvesting tomatoes rather a chore.
This design allows for good support AND accessibility to the fruit.
I think it might be a big improvement.
The best part is that they were very inexpensive to make,
as I had the wire already.

I'm hoping to get my tomato transplants in this week.
We've had rain galore,
so that should make the installation a bit easier.
Perhaps we'll have an update on this week's Garden Friday.
 Until then, I hope this was helpful.

Be sure to visit Jim and Mary's blog,
and tell 'em daisy sent ya!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Garden Friday

blanket flower

Welcome to Garden Friday!
The garden is loving all the rain we've had,
and the gardener is grateful she hasn't had to water!
Summer blooms are arriving early along with the humidity.
We have a mix of things to share today,
with a couple of field trips thrown in for good measure!

It's been wonderful being able to harvest greens for my daily salad.
A mix of beet greens, kale, all kinds of lettuce
and pea leaves have been enjoyed every day.
This weekend's plans include sowing more lettuce
to get me through the next few months.
With the arches in place on the straw bales,
I'm hoping the shade provided by the morning glory vines
will extend my season. 

I would also like to get the beans and tomatoes planted.
Stake-a-cages will be made for the tomatoes,
following instructions from the Old World Garden blog,
and the beans will be added to one of the raised beds recently constructed. 

Someone gifted me this Mortgage Lifter tomato seedling.
It was in a pot on the back deck and something 
(confounded squirrels) snapped it right in half.
Since it was the only one I had,
I decided to just stick it in water to see if it would come back to life.
Would you look at those roots?
Amazing, isn't it?
When plants have that urge to grow, nothing gets in their way!

Unfortunately, I'm not the only one eating the kale and lettuce around here.
Although I am doing an early morning check every day,
slugs are still getting their share of the goodies.
I erroneously assumed that they wouldn't like 
crawling across the rough straw bales.
Guess it doesn't bother them one bit. 
Along those lines,
one gardener I spoke with told me that they don't like mulch,
so her garden is topped with the small-chipped stuff.
She reported having no slug issues.

I'm experimenting with several organic deterrents.
One method I learned about was using these copper scrubbies
on the stems of crops.

 The slugs are supposed to get a healthy jolt
whenever they come into contact with it.

I also read about sprinkling used coffee grounds
near the base of plants
because slugs would avoid it.
Tried it.

Another technique I read about was to place melon rinds
near the crops overnight to attract the slugs.
The next morning, when you turn over the rind,
it should be loaded with slugs.
The theory is that they all congregate on the rind,
so they are easy to eliminate.
So far, I'm not seeing the results I'd hoped for,
but I'll give it another week
(and hope that I still have lettuce to eat).

I'd still like to test the beer trap theory.
It's probably the most well-known remedy,
and at this point, it's worth a try.

 Another option I have is to keep my lettuce and kale growing up here
on the back deck.
I haven't had one slug on the lettuce I've been harvesting here.
(I hope I didn't just jinx myself!)

More things are popping up
that I can't identify.
When someone else plants things,
you never know what you're going to get!

One of the projects we tackled this week,
was assembling this frame.
It used to be a gazebo-type structure,
but the canvas cover only lasted a season
before the heavy winds in Central Florida tore it up.
I saved the frame, knowing that one day it could be put to use.

With Big K's help, we completed the assembly in about 20 minutes.
This will be our frame for growing loofah.
It's a first-time crop for me,
and I'm looking forward to the novelty.

Twine was used on the top of the structure,
to allow the vines to have a bit more support.

Summer is on its way!

One of the projects our Master Gardener class is working on
is replanting these boxes on Main Street downtown.
It will help us fulfill the volunteer hours needed
to become fully certified as Master Gardeners.
We are excited to create a new design in the six beds that line the main thoroughfare,
and we hope to use drought-tolerant and native plants.

A group of Master Gardeners is already maintaining this gorgeous rose garden
that enhances the parking area at the local library downtown.

A variety of roses bedeck the grounds.

My favorite part of this garden
(roses aren't my thing),
is this cluster of crape myrtles.
The architecture of the branches is just stunning.

It's a blessing to be surrounded by opportunities to garden,
whether it is in my own yard,
or being able to volunteer my time.

What's happening in your garden 
on this last Friday in May?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Composting Five Ways

You've heard it before.
Compost is one of the most beneficial additions to the soil.
It is most notably called "black gold"
because of the improved nutrient content it creates
in even the poorest soils.
Whether you have abundant space or not enough,
composting is a worthwhile endeavor
if you are determined to improve the results in your garden.

Compost feeds the soil,
which in turn, nurtures the crops it grows.
By improving the soil with compost,
plants are likely to be healthier,
have an easier time fighting off pests,
and are more likely to reach their greatest potential.

Composting is only limited by your imagination.
Techniques are numerous,
you just need to find what works for you.
These are a few ideas to get you started.

 Start a leaf pile.
If you have mature trees on your property,
or know someone who does,
just begin piling up leaves in a heap.
It doesn't get more basic than that.
In fact, neighbors are often thrilled to be asked
 for their leaves.
Instead of watching them being carted off by the refuse truck,
put them to work in your yard by piling them up
and letting them break down over time.

This method takes some patience,
but you'll be handsomely rewarded with lots of earthworms
that can work their magic in the soil
and make planting time much easier.

Place a compost bin somewhere on your property.
Even if you don't have acreage,
these bins comes in various sizes
and can take up very little room.
It's easy enough to add food scraps, some soil,
and shredded leaves once a week 
until it gets filled to the top.
The bonus with this method is that the compost
is hidden inside, so things are kept neat-n-tidy.
This is a great choice for those folks who live with 
Home Owners' Associations.

Another option for those dealing with strict regulations,
is to utilize direct composting.
Simply dig a hole or trench in the soil near the garden,
and directly place food scraps and other organic materials,
then cover back up with the same soil.

Having a plastic container such as an old coffee bin,
or a plastic bag in the freezer is an easy way to keep kitchen scraps.
As the week progresses, add to the bin or bag
and when it is full, take it out to the garden and use the direct compost method.

Creating a worm bin is quick and so easy.
With only a few materials and about an hour's time,
this composter comes together and can be kept indefinitely.
Once the worms are placed in the container,
 just continue adding shredded paper and kitchen scraps.
The worm castings can be added to the garden at any time.

For those with a bit more space,
an open pile is probably the easiest choice.
Simply designate an area in your yard
and begin layering twigs, shredded leaves,
kitchen scraps, grass clippings, 
and anything else that can be properly composted.
As long as you keep meat, dairy, grease
and other animal products out of the stack,
it should not attract unwanted critters to the pile.

Compost can take anywhere from a few months
to a year or more to complete its transformation.
The difference in the timeline depends on many things including:
the moisture in the pile,
the size of the materials added,
how often (if ever) the pile is turned. 

Once the compost looks loose and crumbly,
it can be added to garden beds.
So, why not compost?
With so many options,
it is one of the easiest things to do
for the health of your plants.

 For more information,
check out this NC State Extension link.

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