Category Archives: Compost

Flowering Bulbs and Spring Harvested Garlic

Spring and Summer Blooming Bulbs: I will not repeat what so many others have spent so much time putting into print about Fall planting Spring Flowering Bulbs. I encourage you to visit Bulbs & More at the University of Illinois Extension Bulb Basics for a useful and easy to understand fact sheet on Spring and Summer blooming bulbs. This fact sheet covers everything from soil preparation, planting, care before during and after blooming. You will also find info on Planting & Care, Spring Flowering Bulbs to Landscaping with bulbs.

Fall Planted Garlic: The same information applies to your Fall planted Garlic cloves for Spring and Summer harvested crops.

For those of you that live in the Northern, colder parts of the U.S. information provided by the The University of Minnesota may be useful in designing and planning your flowering bulb gardens.

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Pansies for Cool Fall weather color in your garden

Pansies

Fall, Winter and Spring flowering garden plant worth considering to plant in your Fall garden.

Pansies will bloom Spring through early Summer, with repeat blooming in the Fall. In USDA hardness zones 7 – 9 can grow pansies throughout the winter and there are newer varieties, like the ice pansy, are bred to withstand light snows and may over Winter in zone 6 and with a little protection may even over Winter as far north as zone 5.

Pansies are popular and a recognizable cool weather annuals. Breeding has produced Pansies that are better able to stand up to the cold, but there hasn’t been much luck producing more heat tolerant varieties. Many Pansies are bi-colored, making them striking plants for their small size. Although delicate, they are surprisingly hardy.

Compact, low growers, Pansies are ideal for edging and for squeezing between rock walls and paths, as long as they can be removed in summer. They’re a great choice for early and late season containers and complement spring flowering bulbs, flowering as the bulb foliage begins to fade. If you like the variety of colors but still want a sense of cohesion, select plants from the same series. They’ll be similar in size and markings, regardless of the color.

Pansies are not fussy plants, they will grow best in a loose, rich soil with a slightly acid soil. They flower best in full sun and will get spindly in deep shade. Pansies do not like heat at all and will begin to decline as the days warm up. When buying plants, choose pansies that are stocky, bushy and have plenty of buds. Avoid buying plants with full open blooms. **Growing Note: Pansies can be difficult to start from seed.

You can allow your Pansy plants to remain in your garden and rest during the hottest months, they will probably begin blooming again in the Fall. Shearing the plants back when they start to set seed, will encourage new growth. Dead heading will encourage more blooms.

Chrysanthemums add Fall and early Winter color to your garden

Chrysanthemums

The Garden Helper How to Grow and Care for your Chrysanthemum Plants.

I know it’s hard to think about cooler weather Fall flowers. Believe it or not we will soon be having those wonderful cool sunny days called Fall. Chrysanthemum {Mums} are easy to grow herbaceous perennial that will give you many years of enjoyment.

Chrysanthemums come in a rainbow of colors. Yellow, red’s and white being the most common. Your local nursery, Walmart and other stores will soon have a good selection of Chrysanthemum to select from. Consider buying the smaller 4 inch pots for planting this year. While being less showy this year, they are also ‘much’ cheaper to buy and by next fall they will be large and put on a specular display for you.

It’s Not To Late To Plant Your Fall Garden


Generally speaking, insect pest are less of a problem when planting a Fall Garden.

Meet the mustard family includes cool season crops such as Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, broccoli, turnips and watercress.
The close kinship of these crops enable diversified usage of plant parts. For instance, Brussels sprout plants are grown by most gardeners for a miniature heads (sprouts) which develop in the axils of the leaves. However, the leaves of Brussels sprouts are considered by some to be milder and sweeter than those of the collard which is especially grown for leaf production. Most gardeners are familiar with the fact turnips can be grown for the greens (leaves) or for the turnip roots.

This group of cole crops enjoy cool seasons and are somewhat cold tolerant. Cabbage for instance can withstand frost down to 20 degrees or even 15 degrees F. Cauliflower and chard are more sensitive to cold than broccoli, collards, kale, kohlrabi, or mustard.

When you plant cole crops in the garden you are investing in a healthful life. Gardeners are in the business of producing health foods even though they may not know it. Vegetables contain essential elements for health and the enjoyment of eating fresh garden vegetables makes health fun. Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, making a daily supply essential to good health.

Cabbage is high in vitamin C, Broccoli, collards, and other vegetables of the cabbage family are rich in vitamin C, as are leafy vegetables such as kale and turnip greens supply carotene, which the human digestive system converts to Vitamin A.
Hint: Cole crops taste best and will not get that sulpher smell common when cooking Cole crops if you Do Not Over Cook them. They should be tender but still retain a bit of crunch in your mouth.

The edible parts of broccoli and cauliflower are the flower heads which are quite sensitive to environmental and nutritional stress. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts produce leafy heads and can withstand greater fluctuations in weather.

** Planting Dates: Using the days to harvest on your seed package, add 21 days to get your seed to harvest times.
Based on your first hard frost date, count back from frost date days from seed to harvest to get your last chance planting date.

# Example
If your first hard Frost date 15 November and your seed package days to harvest is 60 days add 21 days = 81 days.
Count backwards, Your last chance seed planting date is: 27th day of August
It is OK and even preferred to plant before that date but anytime after that date will likely result in a failed Fall garden crop.
Many Fall gardeners start planting their fall gardens starting in late June and early July.

Broccoli
Days to harvest: 50–65

Arcadia—late (fall production); small heads; domed
Early Dividend—early; reliable yields
Green Comet—early; large center heads and side shoots
Green Valiant—midseason; small firm heads
Gypsy—midseason; heat tolerant
Mariner—midseason; medium-sized compact heads
Packman—early to midseason; uniform; large heads
Premium Crop—midseason; large center heads; few side shoots

Brussels sprouts
Days to harvest: 85–110

Jade Cross—large dark green sprouts
Prince Marvel—mild tasting; small to medium sprouts

Cabbage (green)
Early-season cultivars mature approximately 50 to 60 days

after transplanting. Late season cultivars may require 100 or more days to mature.
Arrowhead—early; cone-shaped head
Blue Pak—midseason; medium to large dark blue heads
Bravo—midseason; uniform round blue-green heads
Dynamo—early; small heads; less likely to split
Gourmet—midseason; medium to large heads
Head Start—early; medium to large heads
Heads Up—early; fusarium yellows resistant
Rio Verde—late; large blue-green heads
Savoy Express—savoy type; early
Savoy King—savoy type; midseason; high yields
Stonehead—very early; small heads

Cabbage (red)
Red Acre—midseason; small round heads
Regal Red—early; medium heads
Ruby Perfection—late; small to medium dark red heads

Cauliflower
Early-season cultivars mature approximately
50 to 55 days after transplanting. Late-season cultivars mature
in 75 to 80 days. Novelty cultivars produce purple and orange heads that change color when cooked.
Candid Charm—midseason
Early Snowball—early
Fremont—early
Snow Crown—early; reliable for spring and fall
Snowball Y—midseason; solid smooth heads
White Sails—midseason

Collards
Days to harvest: 70–80

Flash—non-heading type; slow to bolt; blue-green leaves
Georgia—non-heading type; wavy blue-green leaves Morris—heading type; open pollinated
Top Bunch—deep green, slightly wavy, broad leaves
Vates—non-heading type; compact plants; smooth, dark green, thick-textured leaves; open pollinated

Kale
Days to harvest: 50–60

Blue Ridge—dark blue-green, curled leaves
Redbor—finely curled, red-purple leaves
Vates—finely curled, blue-green leaves
Winterbor—blue-green, finely curled leaves
Kohlrabi
Days to harvest: 50–60
Early Purple Vienna—early, reddish purple with
white flesh
Early White Vienna—early, greenish white with
white flesh
Grand Duke—pale green with mild white flesh

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Native Plants Thrive With Minimum Investment

Native Plants Thrive With Minimum Investment in care, watering and seldom need to be fertilized.

Whether these plants be annual or perennials, ornamental or fruit bearing they are well adapted to your weather and soil conditions. After your imported plants, you know the ones you just had to have that you saw growing in yards and commercial landscapes while you were far from home on vacation have died. Local native plants will still be healthy, flowering and setting fruit.

Now is a good time to be collecting seed from summer and fall blooming native and naturalized wildflowers to be planted in your garden and home landscape. Time to locate and mark bushes and small trees that you can dig this fall and winter to be transplanted into you garden and lawn landscape.

When collecting native plants and wildflower seed, pay special attention to the location and soils this plant is established and thriving in. Plants located in shaded areas will not likely do well in your Full Sun landscape. The same applies to native plants that are growing in wet or dry soils. Don’t except a swamp/bog flowering plant to do well in a dry spot in your landscape.

With that said, natives are generally adaptable to a wide variety of shade, sun and soil conditions. Much more so than many imported non-native plants. The same rules apply to shrubs, ornamental and fruiting native trees.

Be kind to your environment, think adaptable, minimum supplemental water and fertilizer requirements of native plants.

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Fall Gardens

The official start of summer is still 9 day away, however if you plan to plant a Fall garden, now is the time to select your Fall garden plot and ready it for planting. It is also near the time to plant your seed to establish seedling transplants.

New Fall garden site selection.
The major consideration for garden placement is sunlight. All vegetables require some sunlight; the most popular vegetables require full sun. “Full” sun means at least 8 hours of intense, direct exposure. If such exposure is not received by crops such as tomatoes, peppers and squash (vegetables that contain seed), the plants grow spindly, they have weak stems, drop blooms and are generally nonproductive. Shade in the afternoon (after 3 p.m.) is wonderful; shade in the morning is acceptable. There are vegetables which produce passably in the shade. Generally, those crops such as greens, broccoli, cauliflower, root crops (carrots, turnips) which do not produce a fruit with seed will yield sparingly in semi- shaded areas but even these crops will do better in a full sun condition. Crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans and cucumbers may not produce anything if grown in the shade; plants will grow tall and spindly. The production potential of the garden’s most popular vegetables depends solely on the amount of direct sunlight they receive.

Turf grass MUST be removed. Don’t think that you can dig or till this existing grass into the garden soil and get rid of it. Even a well-tilled, pulverized garden soil will contain enough bermuda grass sprigs to cause troubles for years to come. New garden areas are doomed before they begin if all bermuda and other lawn grass is not completely removed BEFORE tillage begins. If a raised garden is being considered, sod should be removed BEFORE additional soil is put into the prepared frame.

Chemicals applied to the grass to kill it rather than pulling it out. There are several brand names which contain the weed and grass killer glyphosate. These include Roundup and Kleenup check ingredients on label for the term “glyphosate” and follow label instructions for application rate.

Quick (30-60 days) maturing vegetables are: beets (1 1/2 feet) FT; bush beans (1 1/2 feet) FS; leaf lettuce (1 foot) FT; mustard (1 1/2 feet) FT; radishes (1 1/2 feet) FT; spinach (1 foot) FT; summer squash (3 feet) FS; turnips (1 1/2 feet) FT; and turnip greens (1 1/2 feet) FT.

Moderate (60-80 days) maturing vegetables are: broccoli (3 feet) FT; Chinese cabbage (1 1/2 feet) FT; carrots (1 foot) FT; cucumbers (1 foot) FS; corn (6 feet) FS; green onions (1 1/2 feet) FT; kohlrabi (1 1/2 feet) FT; lima bush beans (1 1/2 feet) FS; okra (6 feet) FS; parsley (1 1/2 feet) FT; peppers (3 feet) FS; and cherry tomatoes (4 feet) FS.

Slow (80 days or more) maturing vegetables are: Brussels sprouts (2 feet) FT; bulb onions (1 1/2 feet) FT; cabbage (1 1/2 feet) FT; cantaloupes (1 foot) FS; cauliflower (3 feet) FT; eggplant (3 feet) FS; garlic (1 foot) FT; Irish potatoes (2 feet) FS; pumpkins (2 feet) FS; sweet potatoes (2 feet) FS; tomatoes (4 feet) FS; watermelon (1 foot) FS; and winter squash (1 foot) FS.

Using your Spring and Summer garden site. Once the decision to have a fall garden has been reached, a gardener must take action drastic action. You must pull out some of those plants that have been nurtured from “babies” in the spring to monsters now. This takes courage and faith! It is recommend that all plants, weeds included, be removed except okra, cherry tomatoes and pole beans if the foliage is healthy. Large-fruited tomatoes may have some small ones still hanging on, but unless you have at least 20-25 good-sized fruit, pull them out, make green tomato relish or chow-chow. Pull the old plants up and discard them. Give them to the garbage man. Don’t try to compost insect and disease ridden plants.

The two charts below are for planting Fall crops in zone 7.
You will need to adjust your planting dates to suite the USDA zone you garden in.

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Fig Tree In Your Garden… It’s Possible

Figs are one of the oldest cultivated crops and were enjoyed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. They are a semi-tropical tree that is easy to grow in areas with long, hot summers.

Fig is a deciduous, small tree or bush like, usually growing 8 to 20 feet tall, In cooler zones often more bush like than tree like, with large, lobed, deep green leaves. The first crop of fruit in spring is called the “breba” crop, maturing from buds set on last years growth. The main crop that follows in the fall(this years growth) matures on the new growth made that summer. In cooler parts of the U.S. the breba crop is sometimes lost to late spring frosts.

There are a number of fig varieties adapted to different regions of the country.
Good varieties include:
These are Self-Pollinating and you will not need a second tree for a pollinator tree.
zones 5-10, ‘Chicago Hardy’.
zones 6-11, ‘Brown Turkey’
zones 7-10, ‘Celeste’
This is 3 of the most common varieties sold in nursery’s.

Set out new trees in spring. Set bare root trees atop a small mound of soil in the center of the planting hole, and spread the roots down and away without unduly bending them. Identify original planting depth by finding color change from dark to light as you move down the trunk towards the roots.

Container grown(potted) trees, remove the plant from its pot and eliminate circling roots by laying the root ball on its side and cutting through the roots with shears.

Young trees need regular watering while they are getting established, and established trees in dry climates will need deep watering at least every week or two. A deep layer of mulch over the root zone will help to conserve moisture.

Figs generally don’t need much pruning to be productive. Shape trees lightly during the dormant season and remove dead, diseased, broken or crossing branches.

In the northern parts of the U.S. figs may benefit from frost protection. In late fall, tie the tree’s branches up to make it more compact, fashion a cage of chicken wire around the tree and fill it with dry straw for insulation. Wrap the outside of the cage with layers of burlap and plastic. Remove the wrappings and straw in spring just before new growth begins and after the danger of hard frost.

Fruits should be completely ripe before they are picked. Ripe figs will be fully colored, starting to bend over at the neck and will be slightly soft. Pick them with the stem still attached. Fresh figs will keep in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days.

Hint Eat whole. Figs have a mildly sweet taste and can be enjoyed fresh and on their own.
The skin of the fig is edible. You do not need to peel the fig before eating it. Merely twist off the stem and eat the fig skin and all.
If you do not like the texture of the skin, you can peel it off before eating the fig. After twisting off the stem, carefully use your fingers to peel away the skin starting from the exposed top.

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My First Garden – My First Garden Was A Failure

Oklahoma State University said “An area exposed to full or near full sunlight with deep, well-drained, fertile soil is ideal.” The site should also be located near a water supply and, if possible, away from trees and shrubs that compete with the garden for light, water, and nutrients.

Many urban gardeners have a small area with a less than optimal site on which to grow vegetables. It is still possible to grow a vegetable garden by modifying certain cultural practices and types of crops grown.
\Areas with light or thin shade can be used, such as those under young trees, under mature trees with high lacy canopies, or in bright, airy places which receive only one to two hours of direct sun per day.
There are several vegetables which will grow under these conditions, including beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, peas, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, and turnips.
If the site is not well drained or if the soil is thin, the use of raised beds can help with this problem.

Beginners Gardening Tips
In order to have a successful garden, the gardener must
follow a few rules.
• Sample soil and have it tested every three to four years.
• Apply fertilizers in the recommended manner and amount.
• Make use of organic materials such as compost when and where available.
• Use varieties recommended for your USDA zone and area.
• Thin plants when small. Cut do not pull them up, pulling them up may damage the root system to remaining seedlings.
• Use mulches to conserve moisture, control weeds, and reduce fruit rots.
• Avoid excessive walking and working in the garden when foliage and soil are wet.
• Examine the garden often to keep ahead of potential problems.
• Keep the garden free of weeds, insects, and diseases.
• Wash and clean tools and sprayers after use.
• Rotate specific crop family locations each year to avoid insect and disease buildup.
• When possible, harvest vegetables during the cool hours of the day.

First time and beginners common gardening mistakes.
Planting too early. It never fails that somewhere in mid-February a warm front comes through and everyone gets bit by the gardening bug.
Air temperature, is a bad indicator of when to plant. Soil temperature is the key to knowing if a tomato or pepper will survive the cold, not the air temperature.
Most summer crops prefer soil temperatures at least 55-60 F. Closer to 65 F if you are talking about sensitive crops like okra and super sweet corn. Planting too early when soil temperatures are too cool will cause plants to stunt or other disorders such as leaf roll or misshapen fruit. Check soil temperatures with a soil thermometer or through your local county extension office to know when it is safe to plant.

2. Planting when it is too wet. Planting when the soil is too wet is about as bad as planting when the soil is too cold. The soil should only be worked and planted in when there is a slight bit of moisture. Tilling or planting in soils that are too wet will cause poor seed germination and transplant survival. To know if the soils are the proper moisture to plant, grab a handful of soil from the garden and squeeze it tightly together in your fist. Take a finger and push it into the soil ball you just formed. If it breaks apart into multiple pieces, the soil is perfect for working. If your finger pushes into the ball and it doesn’t break apart, it’s too wet to work and may need a few more days to dry out.

3. Not controlling weeds. Weeds can be one of the biggest headaches for both the beginning and experienced gardener. It’s always easier to try and keep the weeds out then to get them out later. Weeds compete for nutrition and moisture, and take up valuable root space from our intended crop. Prevent them through the use of mulches that include pine straw, wheat straw, wood chips, newspaper or some type of landscape fabric. Weeds can also be kept at bay by the use of both pre- and post-emergent herbicides. Make sure you read the label on all chemicals to be sure you can use it on the vegetable type you are growing.

4. Improper fertilization. Nutrition is vitally important to all types of vegetables. Too much or too little nutrition can cause major problems in the garden. Too much fertilizer can cause excessive vegetative growth and few blooms or fruit.
It can also lead to an increase in your weed population. Too little fertilizer will make plants stunted and unable to produce a good crop. Start with a soil sample through your county extension office to determine the nutritional needs as well as the pH of the soil.
In general, most vegetables need fertilization at planting time and then not until they put out their first small fruit. Additional fertilizer may be needed on continuous producing items such as tomatoes, okra, peppers and others.

5. Water is the most essential component of a successful garden. Just like fertilizer, however, too little or too much can cause more harm than good.
Most vegetables need between 1 to 2 inches of water a week to thrive. Frequency depends on the soil type and the amount of supplemental rainfall we receive. It’s far healthier for the plants and much more efficient to irrigate with either soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Overhead watering does work, but can lead to foliar diseases and also wastes a lot of water wetting non-target areas.

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Brussels sprouts – the little Cabbage that can

brussels-sproutsNamed after the city of Brussels, Brussels sprouts were first made popular in Belgium, where they’ve been grown since about 1200AD. Sprouts are buds that grow in the axils of each leaf. They look like tiny cabbages and are considered a type of wild cabbage. The plant itself looks like a small palm tree and the sprouts grow along the trunk like stem.

Brussels sprouts like a sweet or slightly alkaline soil. Soil pH should be at least 6.5. A good amount of organic matter and mulching will help maintain the moisture they need for their intense growth. In colder climates, start seeds indoors and set outside when there’s no threat of a hard frost. Be sure to allow the full time outdoors for required days to harvest.

In warmer climates, fall planting is preferred. You should be able to direct seed in mid-summer for a late fall/winter harvest. You may also be able to squeeze in a second, early spring crop, direct seeding in February and harvesting in May.

Direct seed in warm areas. Otherwise start seed indoors approximately 5-7 weeks before last expected frost. Cover seeds with 1/4 – 1/2 inch of soil and keep moist. Transplant when the seedlings are about 3″ tall. Don’t allow seedlings to become root bound or the plant will remain stunted when transplanted. Space plants about 2 ft. apart with 3 ft. between rows or stagger plants 2 ft. apart in each direction, for a grid.

Fertilize twice a season once when the plants are about 12 inches high and again about a month before harvest is often recommended, but if you have a fertile soil to begin with, it doesn’t seem to be necessary. Brussels Sprouts are prone to the same problems as cabbage and broccoli. The most common pests are Cabbage looper, cabbage worm, cabbage root maggot, aphids, and Harlequin bugs.

Each sprout rows in the leaf axil or joint. They begin maturing from the bottom of the plant upwards. You can start harvesting when the lower sprouts reach the size of large marbles. Just be sure to pick before they get too large and start cracking and turning bitter. Some people prefer to cut, rather than pull the sprouts. Pulling is easy if you remove the leave below the sprout first, then twist and pull the sprout.

A few of the Varieties available are:

* ‘Bubbles’ F1 (85-90 days) Early and easy. Tolerates heat and drought. 2 inch sprouts. Resistant to Powdery Mildew & Rust.

* ‘Jade Cross’ F1 and ‘Jade Cross E’ F1(90 days) Jade Cross was a 1959 All-America Selections Winner. Both are compact plants good for windy locations. Sprout are slightly larger on Jade Cross E. Good disease resistance.

* ‘Long Island Improved’ OP (90 days) High yield. Another small plant that stands up to wind. Freezes well.

* ‘Oliver’ F1 (85 days) Early producer. Easy to pick, 1″ sprouts. Compact, disease resistant plants.

* ‘Royal Marvel’ F1 (85 days) Early and productive. Resistant to bottom rot and tip burn.

* ‘Rubine’ (85 – 95 days) Red Plants. Late maturing and lower yield than green varieties, but good flavor. 1 1/2 inch sprouts. Heirloom.

roasted Brussels sprouts
pan fried-Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts in garlic butter

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Raised Bed Gardening – Not Always A Good Thing

A gadzillion (gadzillion is a word..right?) words and post have been published about the benefits of raised bed gardening and square foot gardens.

In truth raised beds are best suited to cooler and wetter climates than weather conditions found in Americas West and Southwest.

Pros of Raised Bed Gardening:
More control over the location of the garden
Ability to choose the best soil for your particular plants
More efficient draining
Can be easier on backs and knees due to less bending and stooping
Easier to keep out weeds
The soil warms up earlier in a raised bed, so you can plant earlier and extend your growing season
Better ability to keep out ground dwelling pests

Cons of Raised-Bed Gardening:
Can be more expensive to get started
Require careful planning to make sure there is enough room for plants that need to spread out, and to ensure that you can reach the middle to tend the plants
* Because raised beds drain so efficiently, they will also need to be watered more often and my require an irrigation system

In the west and southwest water is a valuable, often scarce commodity. Areas with little natural rain fall, daily temperatures at or above 95 degrees and humidity levels often dropping to 10% or 20%, tap water is an expensive way to water your garden.
Raised beds will often require watering 2 or even 3 times a day to prevent dry stressing plants.

Amending garden soil by digging in or tilling in large amounts of compost and planting directly in the amended soil very well may be a better choice over raised beds. You will over time develop a quality garden soil that holds moisture. Couple this with extensive use of mulch water needs will be greatly reduced and over heated soil temperatures can be moderated.
* This years mulch will be tilled into the soil as an amendment for next years garden.

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