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Plants That Attract Beneficial
By the middle of the summer the
water level in our well gets low and
So, grow what you think is fun and what you have the resources for. My favorites are melons, garlic, cayenne peppers and peas. Grow what excites you. The thrill of growing your own produce, herbs and flowers can be extremely satisfying.
When planning a garden it's important to define both your long and short term goals with steps planned out on how to get there. One of my long term goals is to put in a large holding tank that is connected to our well to adequately supply all our water needs and hopefully eliminate my dissapointment of having to let certain plants go each summer. My short term goals are to get the garden planted and fenced. Towards the end of summer I plan to plant a nitrogen fixing crop of fava beans to overwinter in the garden.
This year our garden will consist
of a few tomatoes, peppers, green beans, radishes, lettuce, summer
squash, cucumbers and a "fun"
We will keep you informed on our
successes and failures, so stay tuned!
How do you satisfy the gardening itch in the middle of winter? Easily! Start plants from seed. Now is a great time to get a jumpstart on the gardening season. Just a little preparation will help ensure you seed starting success. Here is some of the equipment you'll need:
Almost any type of container can be used to start your seedlings in, as long as it can hold moisture and is sturdy enough to handle a wet potting mix. Gardeners have always recycled yogurt & cottage cheese containers, milk cartons, & even egg cartons. Whatever container you use, make sure that it has a hole through which excess water can drain or is porous and will eventually drain. Any sitting water at the bottom of a container can rob growing roots of oxygen and encourage fungal diseases.
Before filling your container
with potting mix, wash it well to get rid of
One of the most important factors when starting your seedlings is choosing your potting mix. It is often recommended to use a sterilized, soil-free starter mix to prevent diseases such as damping-off from taking hold of tender seedlings. I still recommend soil-less mixes to beginner gardeners but I, myself, have started to add compost and worm casts to my own mix. Here are a few reasons why:
First, soil-less mixes are totally free of any nutrients whatsoever. While young seedlings don't require fertilizers until they develop their first set of true leaves, I find having to feed them solely through a liquid feed quite cumbersome. Organic fertilizers like compost and worm casts release their nutrients slowly and don't burn seedlings the way inorganic fertilizers may. Having these fertilizers already in the potting mix means I don't have to worry about feeding for at least 5-6 weeks. By then, I'm usually potting up the seedlings and adding fresh fertilizer anyway.
Second, I have found that growing seedlings with organic fertilizers in the mix tends to produce healthier seedlings. The organic fertilizers help to mimic conditions in the garden where there is a multitude of fungi, bacteria and other soil organisms. Seedlings have to extract nutrients from the organic fertilizers just the way they would in garden soil. In contrast, I find that seedlings fed solely with liquid fertilizers tend to be less efficient at extracting nutrients since the liquid feeds provide them in a highly soluble form.
Third, the organic fertilizers
help the soil mix hold moisture for longer
Lastly, adding organic material into the potting mix helps to stretch the mix and make it go farther. This can be quite a cost savings, especially if your make your own compost or raise worms yourself.
One word of caution about adding organic fertilizers to your potting mix - remember that they will contain a wide variety of soil organisms and your soil mix will not longer be sterile. If you've had a problem with damping-off in the past, i.e. you tend to overwater your seedlings, you may want to only water your seedlings from the bottom or else stay with a sterile mix.
Have you ever tried starting seeds inside on a windowsill and found that they grew spindly and kept falling over? Early spring light just doesn't have the intensity and duration that young seedlings need, forcing them to stretch for more and more light. Most seedlings require 12-14 hours of direct light in order to keep them short and stocky and producing healthy leaves. Therefore, artificial lights are required early in the season.
Although you can purchase grow
lights in your local nursery or garden
Last but not least, gather your seeds together and select what you're going to grow this year and how much of each variety. If you have left over seed from previous seasons and are not sure if the seed is still viable, do a quick & easy germination test between moist paper towel to see if the seeds sprout. Plant any seeds that do germinate and discard any mould.
If you're really itching to do some kind of gardening now, you can start the following types of seed indoors near the end of January/early February:
Late winter and early spring is
a great time to start seedlings and get the gardening season underway.
Growing your own seedlings from seed is highly rewarding and can open
doors to even more species that are not often found in garden centers.
However, a couple of problems can sometimes curb the indoor green
thumb and seriously affect the success of growing seedlings. Fungus
gnats and damping-off are two afflictions that commonly affect gardeners.
However, before you spend money on expensive chemicals, the
These tiny, black insects seem innocuous enough as they buzz over your plants. While the adults rarely cause any problems to plants, if the young larvae are in large numbers, they can damage your seedlings. Fungus gnats search out moist soil in which to lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae will feed on the roots of your plants. Healthy seedlings will often be able to withstand this feeding but any seedlings that have small root systems like onions and leeks and those that are showing symptoms of nutrient stress can be put back quite significantly.
The easiest way to prevent fungus gnats is to water your plants properly. Overwatering, which causes your potting mix to remain moist for extended periods of time, seems to attract fungus gnats. If your plants are already infected, allow the soil to dry out between watering. Alternatively, sprinkle a ¼" of sand on top of your soil to confuse the adults. Since the sand drains water quickly, it can sometimes trick the adults into thinking the soil is dry.
Potting mixes containing peat seem to be particularly affected by fungus gnats. If the problem is reoccurring for you, think about switching from a peat-based mix to one that only contains perlite and vermiculite. Lastly, if the adult fungus gnats are bothersome, trap them by making your own sticky trap. The adults are attracted to the color yellow. Make your own sticky trap by smearing Vaseline or Tanglefoot on a yellow surface and hang it up close to where the adults congregate.
Not only will controlling your
watering help to prevent fungus gnats, it
As mentioned, allowing the soil
surface to dry out will go a long way in
Ensuring seedling success need
not be complicated or expensive. Controlling your watering and a few
home made remedies will go a long way to guaranteeing healthy seedlings.
Garlic is one of the easiest vegetables
to plant yet by this time of
In the garden, garlic makes a wonderful companion crop and tends to repel most bugs. Planted among members of the cabbage family, it helps repel imported cabbageworm. Many gardeners have also found using sprays made from garlic to be very effective in helping to control plant diseases such as powdery mildew, bean anthracnose, and brown rot in almonds, apricots and peaches.
Before planting, loosen the soil with a rake or hoe. You may want to amend the soil with a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus (the middle number) like bone meal or rock phosphate.
To form cloves, garlic must be
exposed to temperatures below 41 F (5 C). Thus, if planted too
late in the spring, garlic will tend to form large onion-like bulbs
instead of individual cloves. In the North,
Growing & Harvesting
When the tops turn yellow in early
summer, stop watering. Allow
Rocambole - Also known as serpent
garlic, rocambole is classified as
Elephant - The cloves of this
garlic can weigh an ounce and will usually give up to 3 tablespoons
of chopped garlic. Elephant garlic
Sources of bulbs
A second best, or to get more
variety, try mail-order catalogues
If it's getting late, as a last
resort, I would buy organic garlic from a
A great resource:
Arzeena Hamir is an agronomist
and garden writer for Organic Living
Spring: Dig a Pond!
The first consideration is the location of the water feature. It will become a focal point of the garden and should be easily viewed from as many angles as possible and be visible from inside the house (especially during the winter months).
The next step is deciding the
shape of the garden pond. Almost any shape is acceptable, but care
has to be taken that the chosen shape does not include small corners
where the water cannot circulate properly. The basic shape of the
pond can be determined by using a garden hose; it is flexible and
can be moved easily until the final
Breaking the often hard packed clay of the garden is often the most difficult part of installing a pond. This task can be made easier by using a tiller to loosen the dirt a layer at a time, before shoveling it out.
Unless the water feature is going to be a very formal fountain it should incorporate shelves for plants. These shelves should be 10 to 12 inches deep, 6 to 8 inches below the surface of the water and slope very slightly to the outside of the pond (this prevents plants from sliding into the deeper parts of the pond). The top edges of the pool need to be absolutely level so the liner will not show on any side when it is complete.
The minimum depth of the pond
should be 18 inches. The
Many materials are available to line the pond; EPDM rubber is one of the most durable and yet is relatively easy to work with. Here is the formula for sizing the liner:
Length = Length (of the pond at
longest part) + 2 times the greatest depth + 3 ft.
The liner should be cushioned by a 2 inch layer of sand or other soft, protective material. The liner is more flexible and easier to install if it is warm, so it is a good idea to let the sun shine on it for a few minutes before unrolling it.
Excess liner should not be cut off until it is well anchored all around the perimeter and the pond is filled with water.
This is a project that can easily
be accomplished in a weekend or
Courtesy of http://www.pondmarket.com,
THE site for Pond and Water Garden Information on the Internet!
Herb Gardening for Beginners
Well, don't despair! There is hope! Help is just a click away! Heather Jackson of Magickal Garden will walk you step by step to an herb garden of your very own. Her helpful website will tell you how to grow herbs in any container!
Heather has listed many different herbs that are container friendly and includes their individual growing and soil conditions, harvesting times, uses and how to preserve your harvested herbs. You will also find instructions for making tinctures, tea's, oils, soaps and gifts with your freshly harvested plants.
Even a beginning gardener, especially
one with no gardening space, can grow herbs. Visit this site and you
will soon be sipping your own homegrown teas!