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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Kelp Meal

Last weekend I was finally able to locate a store in our area that carried Kelp Meal. I am really excited to finally have the chance to use Kelp Meal in my garden. For years I have read articles about the benefits of applying Kelp Meal, but since I had a really hard time finding a store in our area that carried it, I have just never used it until now.

A bag of Kelp Meal

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Espaliered Apple Trees – Part I

Espalier apple tree a few weeks after planting.

Ever since I started gardening years ago I always wanted to grow apple trees, but living in town on a small lot it always seemed impossible to have enough room to grow apples. Then one day my wife stumbled onto an article in a magazine about espalier and this got us thinking, maybe we can grow apple trees in our backyard.

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Spring Garden Update: 5-18-12

We had some great weather recently and our garden is really growing. The perfect combination of warmer weather and rain, what more can you ask for?

I have already harvested some spinach and arugula from our spring planting. It is a great feeling to sit down at a meal and eat something that you grew from seeds in your own backyard. I wish more people could experience this feeling.

Close up of some lettuce plants

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Planting For A Summer Harvest

Last weekend was our first planting for the summer harvest. It was finally time to plant outside all those plants we have been nursing along inside for these last few weeks. I allowed all the plants to harden off for a week outside before planting them in the garden.

A close up of a summer squash plant.

We planted the following vegetables for our Summer Harvest:
3 Amish Paste Tomatoes
1 Hillbilly Tomato
1 Cherry Roma Tomato
1 Red Zebra Tomato
5 Homemade Pickles (pickling cucumbers)
5 Edmonson (pickling cucumbers)
3 Fish Peppers
3 Bull Nose Peppers
2 Early Prolific Straight Neck Summer Squash
2 Black Beauty Zucchini

Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and Basil plants.

Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and Basil

Peppers and Squash Plants

Peppers and Squash Plants

We also planted the following herbs for our Summer Harvest:
6 Cilantro
4 Dill
4 Summer Savory
4 English Thyme
3 Genovese Basil
3 Large Leaf Italian Basil
4 Sweet Basil

Dill, Cilantro, Summer Savory, and Thyme planted in the garden

Dill, Cilantro, Summer Savory, and Thyme

In a few months we will be enjoying a great summer harvest. I can’t wait.

Happy Growing….

Tomato Ladders and Cucumber Trellises

I have finally given up on tomato cages. Over the years I never seemed to have any luck using them. They always seemed to fall over right when the tomatoes were ready to pick. Then, in order to keep the cages up-right, I would drive several stakes into the ground, but it always seemed that no matter how many stakes I would use it was never enough. The cages always fell over with the weight of the tomatoes. I just found using them frustrating.

The solution to my frustration was to build tomato ladders. This is one of those simple projects that I have wanted to do for years, but the timing was never right until this year.

Tomato ladders with a cucumber trellises.

As you can see, these tomato ladders are not complex to build. I built these tomato ladders from some standard 2 X 4s and basic hardware. The ladders are about 6 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide. I placed three rungs on each side about 18 inches apart. I applied several coats of boiled linseed oil to the ladders to protect them from the elements.

Our plan is to grow one tomato plant up each side of the ladder, securing the plant to the rungs as it grows.

Tomato Ladders with cucumber trellises.

Because of our limited space, we decided to try growing cucumbers vertically on a trellis. It only seemed natural to use the ladders to support one end of the cucumber trellis.

The cucumber trellises were also made from 2 X 4s, I ripped down several strips that were 3/4″ thick by 1-1/2″ wide and 48″ long. I then placed the strips together to form a simple grid pattern. Like the ladders I applied several coats of boiled linseed oil to the trellises. I secured them to the ladders with several zip ties.

Tomato ladders with cucumber trellises.

I will keep you posted on the success and failures of the tomato ladders and cucumber trellises this season.

Happy growing…

Transplanting Heirloom Tomatoes

Once my heirloom tomato plants start to grow their second set of true leaves, I transplant them from the small seed starting cells to larger pots.

Tomato Transplant

The transplant mixture that I use in the new pots is a combination of my standard seed starting mix and perlite. I usually mix about 4 parts seed starting mix to 1 part perlite. After the mixture is combined I wet it with water before placing it in the pots.

Transplant Mix

I place a little transplant mixture in the bottom of each pot. Note: make sure that whatever pot you use, there is a drainage hole in the bottom. I usually use a pot that is between 3 inches and 4 inches in diameter at the top. I have used a wide variety of pots over the years, from yogurt cups to standard green plastic pots. Recently I have been using a natural, biodegradable, and OMRI listed pot, they work really well.

Tray of transplant pots.

Once I remove the transplant from the seed starting cell I cut off the bottom leaves from the transplant. When I place the transplant in the new pot I make sure to bury the stem deeper then it previously was, to help encourage the development of a stronger root system. I only let the top leaves and a little of the stem stick above the mixture in the pot.

Tomato transplant with lower leaves removed.

Note: make sure to move the plant labels with the transplant so you don’t forget what was planted in the pot. I place the completed transplants back into the seed starting tray and place them under the grow lights. In a few weeks they should be ready to harden off outside.

Tray of completed tomato transplants.

Happy Growing…

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….

The First Harvest of 2012

Today I took my first harvest from the garden. I harvested a few leaves of spinach and swiss chard from plants that I had started late last fall and kept under a cold frame all winter.

A bowl of spinach and swiss chard.

The spinach was very sweet. In fact, I never before had spinach that tasted that sweet. It is the Bloomsdale variety of spinach and it’s a keeper. The swiss chard was also very good.

I had plans to make a homemade white pizza for dinner, so I decided to add a little spinach and swiss chard to the white pizza. What a great addition.

Homemade white pizza before baking.

I made a homemade white sauce for on the pizza with heavy cream, olive oil, onions, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. This was the first time I had made this sauce and it was great.

Homemade white pizza after baking.

This was a great pizza, but then I never met a pizza I didn’t like.

Happy growing….