Protecting Your Transplants

A broccoli plant protected by a milk carton.

If you have ever transplanted young plants into your garden, you know all of the challenges of keeping those plants alive so they can develop into hardy, mature vegetable plants. Over the years I have tried several ways of protecting the young plants, but the best method I’ve found so far is to simply place a milk carton around the plant. This was something my grandparents always did to protect their young plants until they were well established, and I have just not been able to find anything cheaper, or better, for serving this purpose.

I collect cardboard milk cartons all year-long to use as  protective shells for my transplants. I start by cutting the top and bottom off of the milk carton. Then, I wash the carton and allow it to air dry. Once they are dry, I place them in storage until its time to plant.

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Summer Reading for a Gardener

The cover of A Rich Spot of Earth and The Intelligent Gardener.

Here are two great gardening books to read this summer, while you are on vacation or just relaxing at home.

The first book is “A Rich Spot of Earth” Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello by Peter J. Hatch. If you are interested in gardening history or heirloom vegetables this is the perfect book for you.

The author Peter Hatch has been the director of the Gardens and the Grounds at Monticello since 1977. He gives a great first hand account of how the Gardens at Monticello have been restored over the years and how they came to look the way they do today.

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Garden Update 6-16-13

Lettuce PlantsI can use one word to describe our garden right now “Growing”. Over the last few weeks we have been really busy planting a wide variety of vegetables for our summer garden and even harvesting a few things from our spring garden.

Last spring I had a really hard time growing lettuce, but that is not the case this year. Over the last few weeks we have been enjoying a wide selection of lettuces. We have been enjoying some great homegrown salads.

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Garden Update 4-7-13

Greens in the spring garden

One thing you begin to realize the longer you garden is what little control you have over certain things, like the weather. Here in the Northeast, Spring has finally arrived, after a colder than normal March. This has set my planting schedule back a few weeks, just one of the many adjustments you learn to make during the gardening season.
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Heritage Harvest Festival At Monticello

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

Yesterday, my wife and I attended The 6th Annual Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, in Charlottesville, VA. This event was put on by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. The focus of the event was heirloom gardening, but there was so much more to see and do.

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Summer Garden Update

Tomato Ladders & Cucumber TrellisThe rain has finally arrived, so now the weeds are really growing. Overall this summer is really producing some good crops, despite our higher than normal temperatures. All our plants seem to be staying healthy and the insect damage has been minimal.

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A Modern Reel Mower

This is not your grandfather’s reel mower. This is the latest in green mowing technology, the Fiskars Momentum™ Mower (now the StaySharp™ Max Reel Mower). I have been using this mower to mow my small town lot for over a year now and I have been very pleased with this mower.

The Fiskar Momentum mower.

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Weeds Be Gone

With spring underway and summer right around the corner, there is one thing growing in every garden, WEEDS. It’s a battle all gardeners face at some point. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.

There have been days when I have gone through my garden picking weeds only to turn around and see more. It’s like they are growing as fast as I pick them! As frustrating as weeding is, the pleasure of seeing a well weeded garden or flower bed can be really rewarding.

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Creating New Garden Plots

I finally completed my last two garden plots, now giving me a total of 4 plots to plant in.

The two new garden plots.

I created these plots the same way I have been creating plots since I first started gardening years ago. In fact, this is about the sixth time I had to cut sod to create a garden.

First I start by determining how big I want the garden plot to be and how much space I want to leave between the plots. For these plots the formula is simple: 4 ft. wide and 16 ft long with 3 ft. between all plots.

Since I wanted to place my new plot 3 ft. from my existing plot, I measured 3 ft. from the corner of the existing plot and drove a stake into the ground. Then I did the same thing at the opposite end of the existing garden plot. I ran a string between the two stakes creating what would be the edge of my new garden plot. Using an old edging tool I follow the string down the edge of the plot cutting through the sod.

Once I have complete one side, I measure out 4 ft. from each corner stake and then drove a new stake into each corner. I then connect both of those stakes with string to create the opposite edge of the plot. Like the other side, I slowly work my way down the string using the edging tool to cut the sod. When both sides are completed, I cut the sod at each end of the plot. Since these plots are only 4 ft wide I just eye up my edge and work my way across the plot.

Laying out the new garden plots.

Once the perimeter of the new plot was cut I worked my way down the bed using my edging tool to cut 18 inch wide sections of sod. I then used a standard spade shovel to remove the 18 inch wide section of sod, making sure to leave as much soil in the garden as possible. I used the sod that I removed as filler around my property.

The process of creating a new garden plot.

Once all the sod was removed I covered each plot with some decomposing leaves from the fall. In a few weeks I will run the rototiller through each plot, making sure the decomposing leaves are turned into the soil.

The completed two new garden plots.

Now with these two plots complete, I can focus on more growing.

Happy growing….

Planting Asparagus

One of the great things about asparagus is once you have the plants established it just keeps coming back each year. The only negative is that you really can’t start harvesting it until the third year. So for an asparagus lover those three years seem like an eternity. I had grown asparagus for about 7 years at my pervious house and now that we have moved, it’s time to start all over again.

Since asparagus is a perennial vegetable, I decided not to plant it in my standard vegetable beds. Instead I decided to plant it in an old flower bed along one of my buildings. Even though it is along the building, the bed gets really good sunlight in the morning and late afternoon. This seems like a great spot to try growing asparagus.

Last fall I had applied a thick layer of shredded leaves to the bed. So before I planted the asparagus, I turned over the soil in the bed several times and ran the small rototiller through it to make sure the soil was good and loose.

Preparing the Asparagus Bed

Asparagus Bed

I purchased 8 Mary Washington crowns from our local hardware/garden supply store.

Asparagus roots

Asparagus crowns

I dug 4 long ditches (about 6 inches deep) and placed two crowns in each ditch and spaced the crowns 18 inches apart.

Planting Asparagus Beds

Asparagus crowns in the bed.

I then covered all the crowns with about 3 inches of soil. In a few weeks when the asparagus begins to sprout I will apply another 3 inches of soil over top the plants.

Asparagus Bed Planted

Asparagus planted

Now with the asparagus planted the only thing left to do is sit back and wait three long years. I guess all great things take time.

Happy growing…