Category Archives: Compost

Garden Fresh Potatoes

North American gardeners grow potatoes that generally fall into 1 of 6 color categories.

University of Minnesota potato growing fact website has a lot of useful information on growing potatoes.

Blue skin with white or blue flesh
Brown skin with white or yellow flesh like
Purple skin with white, yellow or purple flesh
Red skin with white, yellow or red flesh
White skin with white or yellow flesh
Yellow skin with white or yellow flesh

Start your potato plants from tubers or pieces of tubers. Buy disease free seed tubers from a certified grower or seed distributor. Most garden centers carry seed potatoes in the spring.

Potatoes saved from your own garden may not be a good choice either. They can carry disease spores from the previous year. Although your garden may seem disease free, re-introducing more fungi or bacteria could cause crop failure for your potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in the future.

Hint: Do not plant potatoes purchased at the grocery store, they may have been treat with chemicals to keep tubers dormant(prevents sprouting), in which case they will be slow to grow.
Diseases may also infect the potatoes, which can remain in your garden soil for many years. Also they may have been treated with pesticides to kill insects that can damage potatoes that have been placed in storage.

Plant your seed potato sections about 3 inches deep. The depth allows the potatoes to form without breaking the surface and causing green spots on the potatoes. When a tuber is exposed to light for an extended period of time, a poisonous alkaloid is produced that turns the potato green.

Before planting, add a fertilizer with a NPK rating 10-10-5. Mix the fertilizer in with the soil as you till to evenly disperse the fertilizer. If you use an organic fertilizer, such as cow or horse manure, make sure the manure is well-rotted or at least a year old. Fresh manure causes the planting bed to get too “hot” and burns the plants.
Potato seeds prefer a cooler temperature to set roots. The ideal soil temperature for planting seed potatoes is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hill soil up around plants as they grow. Tubers will form on thin stems, called stolons, which emerge from the main stems. The deeper in the soil the underground portion of the plant, the more stolons the plant may grow.

Potatoes are both water loving and heavy feeders of fertilizer. Moisture stress can cause knobby or hollow potatoes, and can prevent the plant from producing new tubers. Light soil is the best for growing large, smooth potatoes. Soak the soil thoroughly when watering, once or twice a week.

You can dig new potatoes about seven to eight weeks after planting. New potatoes will have formed above the seed piece you planted, so dig down about a foot, and turn the whole plant upside down to pick the tubers.
Harvest mature tubers after the plants have dried(look dead) or when tubers have reached full size.

Sounds of Autumn and Chicken Coops

Summer has given way to Autumn/Fall cooler temperatures and a burst of color. Today has the feel of fall in the air. Cooler weather and the air has the smell of Autumn and a feel of dampness.

Long before first light I could hear the calls of wild geese each carefully following the one ahead as they wing their way south. This is always a sure sign that a cold winter blast is not far away.

Wild sun flowers in pastures and along roads are 4 to 6 feet tall bearing many 3 to 4 inch bright yellow flowers making a cool autumn day feel brighter and warmer.

Gardeners in their hast and busy schedule often fail to truly listen to all the fading sounds of summer and fall as winters cold winds approach. Don’t miss out on this once a year event. Stop look and listen, tune out all the sounds of our modern world and listen to what nature is telling you.

Chicken poop, nothing but poop. Now is a good time to get all that old litter and manure out of your chicken coop/hen house floors, nest boxes and roosting areas. Spread this chicken litter lightly on your garden plot and till it in or pile it on your compost pile. As the weather gets colder and nights get longer your chickens will spend more time in there coop. Now is a good time to sanitize your coop and spray or dust for mite control.

Close your hen house door and cover all windows, look for places you can see light entering your coop. Nail or glue wood trim to cover these holes that will allow the cold winds, rain and snow to enter your coop this winter. Don’t use calk or spray foam, your chickens will peck at and eat calk and spray foam.
Cold weather will send every mouse and rat within 1000 feet to seek winter shelter in and under your chicken coop. Put out mouse/rat bait now. Rat and mouse bait is a poison, insure the bait is in a place that your chickens flock and pets can not gain access to the bait.

Build or buy enough feeders and freeze proof waters dispensers to keep you flock supplied with fresh feed and water. Raise feeders and waters off the floor high enough that your chickens need to reach high to access feed and water. This will help your keep chickens from wasting feed or pooping in their feed and water containers.

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Kale – Good And Good For You

Kale is becoming one of American gardeners favorite green vegetables. Lettuce and spinach are being replaced by Kale as a favorite fresh salad and cooked table green.

Growing Kale Kale likes Full Sun and grows best in a loamy soil with a neutral pH to slightly alkaline soil.

Kale is a hardy, cool season green
that is part of the ‘cole’ cabbage family. It grows best in the spring and fall and can tolerate Fall frosts. Kale can be used in salads or as a garnish and is rich in minerals and vitamins A and C. You can plant kale anytime from early spring to early summer.

If you plant kale late in the summer you can harvest it from fall until the ground freezes in winter. Mix 1-1/2 cups of NPK 5-10-10 fertilizer per 25 feet of row into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil. Plant the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep into well-drained, light soil. After about 2 weeks, thin the seedlings so that they are spaced 8 to 12 inches apart. Water the plants regularly.
Mulch the soil heavily after the first freeze.
The plants may continue to produce leaves throughout the winter. Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are about the size of your hand.

Avoid picking the terminal bud (found at the top center of the plant) this will help to keep the plant productive. The small, tender leaves can be eaten uncooked and used in salads. Cut and cook the larger leaves like spinach, remove the large tough leaf ribs before cooking.

Store kale as you would any other leafy green. Put kale in a bag and store it in the refrigerator. It should last about 1 week.

Consider planting,
* ‘Vates’, which is a hardy variety and does not yellow in cold weather. It also has curly, blue-green leaves.
* ‘Winterbor’, which resembles the ‘Vates’ variety, and it is frost tolerant.
* ‘Red Russian’, which has red, tender leaves and is an early crop.

brusselkale Source FOX News Report
A new hybrid from U.K. vegetable breeder Tozer Seeds that’s a hybrid (Not a GMO) of two super trendy vegetables, Brussels sprouts and kale.
BrusselKale is set to make its North American debut in Toronto later this month.
According to Tozer Seeds, the leafy green vegetable gets its “fantastic flavor by combining the complex taste of the Brussels sprout with the mild, sweet ‘nutty’ taste of the kale.”
Note: I have looked on Tozer Seeds web site and can’t seem to find this Brussels sprout/Kale hybrid listed in their catalog.

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Colorful Flowers that will tolerate light frost

This post is a rework and updated: first posted October 2013.

Chrysanthemums offer a wide variety of flower colors, from white and cream to dark maroon and burgundy, as well as numerous growth habits from small dwarf plants to giant shrub like Maxi-Mums.
Mums are easy to grow and can provide years of enjoyment if care is taken to select an appropriate variety. Plant in a sunny well drained location and provide winter protection.

Plant chrysanthemums from seed or small sets in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Plant large ready to bloom potted plants in late summer and early Fall. Small plants derived from rooted cuttings, divisions, or rooted suckers of old plants can be used. Larger container plants purchased from garden centers may be planted anytime during the spring, summer, or early fall.

Garden chrysanthemums grow in a wide variety of soils but must have excellent drainage conditions. Growth is poor and winter kill likely in poorly drained wet soils. Sunny locations are good sites. Plants in semi-shady locations will be taller, have weaker stems, and bloom later in the fall.
Incorporate 2 – 4 inches of compost, or well-rotted barnyard manure into the soil. Apply 3 to 4 pounds per 100 square feet of a complete fertilizer such as NPK 5-10-10 or 5-10-5 in the spring. Side dressing plants with a complete fertilizer in early August, especially in years of abundant rainfall or irrigation. If the fertilizer applied in the spring is a slow release type such as coated or organic fertilizer, the second application may not be necessary. Space plants 18 – 24″ apart, depending on the mature size of the cultivar.

The University of Minnesota has introduced numerous hardy, attractive garden mums over the last 50 years. Early blooming cultivars assure flowering before frost. Late blooming cultivars may fail to bloom before damaging or killing frosts and should be selected in USDA zones 7 – 10.

Pinching Mums maintain a bushy compact plant form if pinched or pruned regularly. Although newer cultivars do not require pinching, the traditional method has been to pinch out the tip to induce branching and produce stockier plants. Repeat pinching on side branches when they have grown 6″. Continue pinching until mid-June for early flowering varieties, late June for September flowering varieties, and early July for October varieties. Complete pinching by July 4 to assure flowering prior to frost. Very high summer temperatures may also delay flowering. Most mum flowers are resistant to frost, Centerpiece is especially frost tolerant variety.

Mums vary widely in cold hardiness. Cultivars listed in the table below have been developed based on years of plant breeding at the University of Minnesota. These plants have been selected for superior flower characteristics, growth habit, and winter hardiness. Most will survive winters in Minnesota.

Florist mums, sold throughout the year in supermarkets and greenhouses, may not survive northern winters, and if they do, will probably not flower before hard frosts. Proper location (good drainage and protection from winter winds) and a winter mulch of 4 – 6″ of shredded leaves, hay, straw, or evergreen branches applied as soon as the soil surface freezes is critical to winter survival.

Plant Division Plants can be dug and divided in spring as new growth begins. Stronger shoots are usually on the outside of the clump. Set the growing tip of each division just below ground level. For an attractive display of color, plant at least three shoots in a triangular pattern.

Florist Mums Are attractive blooming potted plants are available through-out the year from florists. After flowers fade, plants can be cut back to 3 or 4 inches and planted in the garden. Florist mums may overwinter, but usually flower too late for USDA Hardness Zones 1 thru 4.

mum1
mum2
mum3

Pansies are another showy Fall, Winter and Spring flowering garden plant worth considering to plant in your Fall garden.

pansies

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.

Occasionally aphids will attack Pansies. Insecticidal soap should remove them.
I have found a mixture of water and ‘Blue Dawn’ dish soap to be cheap and effective in removing and killing aphids.

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Forcing Bulbs to bloom for winter flowers

Forcing Bulbs For Winter Flowers is easy, fun and comes with a colorful reward. Winter flowering bulbs.
Source University of Minnesota October is the time of the year to begin potting your favorite spring bulbs to prepare them for winter flowering. Amaryllis, tulips, narcissus (daffodils), hyacinths, crocus, grape hyacinths, and lily of the valley are good choices and all can be forced into flower in late winter and early spring. A pot of tulips on the window sill can make a long cold winter easier to survive.

Purchase only top quality, good sized bulbs (bigger is better) should be used. Your neighborhood greenhouse operator will tell you the varieties that are best suited for forcing. Don’t mix varieties in the same container, since they vary in their dates of flowering.

Potting the bulbs in clean, sterile clay or plastic pots. Normally the “noses” of the bulbs are exposed. Do not bury the bulbs. The soil should be an open mixture of good (3 parts)garden loam, (2 parts)peat moss, and (1 part)sand. Don’t worry about soil fertility or feeding bulbs because they have enough stored food to flower one time.

Plant the bulbs close together in the pot. Usually 6 tulip bulbs, 3 hyacinths, 6 daffodils, or 15 crocus, will fit into a 6-inch pot. The flat side of the tulip bulb should be placed next to the rim of the pot since the largest leaf will always emerge and grow on that side, producing a more desirable looking pot.

It’s extremely important that bulbs be handled with care. Never allow the bulbs to be in temperatures above 65 degrees. The pot(s) should be loosely filled with soil. Don’t press the bulbs into the soil. Allow 1/4-inch or more of space at the top of the pot so it can be easily watered. The bulbs should be watered immediately upon planting, and thereafter the soil should never be allowed to become dry.

Forcing bulbs in Water. Hyacinths, crocus, and narcissus also can be forced in water. Special clear, glass vases are made for hyacinths or crocus. The bulb is placed in the upper portion, water in the lower portion. The vase is then kept in a cool, dark room (preferably under 50 degrees F) for four to eight weeks until the root system has developed and the top elongates. At this point it should be placed in a bright window, where the plant soon will blossom.

Bunch flowering narcissus, such as Paper White and Soleil d’Or, can be grown in shallow pans of water filled with crushed rocks or pebbles. The bulbs should be secured in the pebbles deeply enough so that the basal plate is in contact with the water. Keep them in a cool, dark room for several weeks to ensure root growth, then place in a sunny location. Each bulb will send up several flower stems bearing many blossoms.

Amaryllis Culture The amaryllis is a tender bulb that will bloom without special treatment when first purchased. It should be potted up in light, rich soil in a pot that is only 1–2 inches larger in diameter than the bulb. The upper half of the bulb should be exposed above the soil. After watering thoroughly, allow the soil to become quite dry. Water more frequently after the flower stalk appears, but never water when the soil is already moist. Put the plant in a warm, sunny spot until the flower buds show color, then move it out of direct sunlight.

After blooming, cut off the flowers to prevent seed formation. The foliage should be handled as if it were a sun loving houseplant. Place it in the brightest possible location indoors until it is warm enough to sink the pot in soil outdoors where it will receive dappled sunlight at first. Gradually move it to a brighter location where eventually it has full sun for at least five or six hours daily. Fertilize with a balanced houseplant food at regular intervals to build up the nutrients needed for blooming next year. Amaryllis should be brought indoors before the first frost in the fall.

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Herbs add flavor to any food dish

Reworked, updated first posted 2015.

Herbs Make Common Foods Taste Special

Most herbs will do well in containers, window boxes and planted directly in your garden soil.
If herbs are conventionally located to you and your kitchen you are more willing and more likely to use them when cooking and serving meals.

Sage is a herb that does well if properly cared for. It requires a lot of pinching and cutting to keep it from becoming woody. As a rule, sage will need to be replanted about every 3 years since it will become woody with few leaves no matter what, so keeping it in a pot makes this change that much easier. Sage dries very well and if you pinch the leaves throughout the growing season, put a rubber band on them and keep them dry and in a dark place after drying. You will have wonderful sage all winter to give your family and guest a special treat.

Rosemary is always a kitchen favorite. It dries perfectly, holds its strong taste all winter, comes indoors and keeps growing in a sunny window and is rarely bothered by insects.
Use rosemary for many herb standards or topiaries. The woody stem is perfect for crafting. The stem also seconds as skewers so each harvest yields two separate herb crops. 1)leaves and 2)stems.
Keep the stems in a freezer bag and use them for grilling skewers. Rosemary doesn’t like to sit in water it likes to dry out between watering’s. Being in its own container makes the herb grow that much hardier, since it can receive special care.

Basil is one of the most rewarding herbs to grow in a container. It really lends itself well to the other popular container plants like the tomato. Basil likes to have plenty of water to keep its fleshy stems and tender leaves plump, but is susceptible to mildew. In a container, you must be sure the plant gets plenty of airflow.

Thyme is an undervalued herb. Many times it gets planted and never used. Thyme deserves a higher standing on our list of culinary herbs!
It will thrive in a container environment, needing only minimal watering. Some varieties grow into small shrub like plants that enhance an entrance to your home. It’s tiny purple flowers are lovely. Being such a low maintenance herb, thyme will fit in your container garden.

Mint is notorious for getting away from gardeners. You plant one and soon twenty will follow. Planting a bottomless pot into your garden is one way of controlling mint, but keeping it out of the garden completely, by using a separate container, is a better idea. Mint is also so tasty, it will be used more often if it is handy.

Chives Leaves/Flowers Use in fresh or frozen soups, salads, salad dressings, eggs, dips, vegetables, chicken, soft cheese spreads, butters, white sauces, and fish.

English Thyme Use leaves flowers with fresh or dried wild game, beef, soft cheeses, fish, chowders, pâté, vegetables, and tomato sauce.

Tarragon French or Spanish Use leaves fresh or dried with chicken, fish, eggs, tomato juice, butters especially nice on steak, vinegars, salads, mustards, sauces hollandaise, béarnaise and tartar, soups, chicken, fish, mushroom and tomato and marinades for fish, lamb or pork.

Greek Oregano Use leaves fresh or dried
in white and tomato sauces, stews, soups, fish, lamb, pork, vegetables, butters, and vinegars.

Rosemary Use leaves fresh or dried
with beef, lamb, fish, poultry, stuffings, soups, stews, fruit cups, soups chicken, pea, and spinach, vegetables, and marinades.

Sage Use leaves flowers fresh or dried
with stuffings for fish, poultry, and meat, pâté, eggs, poultry, pork, beef, lamb, pasta, cheeses cheddar, cream, and cottage, sauces brown and meat, soups cream and chowder, beef stews, and vegetables.

Hint of the Day: Use fresh herbs blended with ‘real’ butter or sour cream for that special taste. Herb’s go well with fresh baked potato’s, snack dips and fresh garden salads.

Rain is (almost) always a good thing

Murphy(Murphy’s law) is working overtime.
Spent much of Monday mowing and weed whacking getting ready for the cooler/colder autumn weather.
Murphy had other ideas. Night time temperatures are falling near 50F(10C) degrees. Last night and this morning I have had more than 3 inches (77mm)(7.6cm) of rain. My weather forecaster said it will warm into the high 80’sF(31C) by the weekend.

That tells me I will ‘get’ to mow and and run the string trimmed removing weeds at least one more time before my first frost.

The rain is not good for unharvested cotton and soybean crops, but we have had very little strong winds and that is a good thing for cotton and soybean farmers.

However the good side of this rain is my pond is full, wheat farmers will be in good shape to drill-in winter wheat the 3rd or 4 week of September.
In the long run in the semi-desert southwest Oklahoma rain is always a good thing.

Frost on the pumpkin

Autumn/fall gardening task will soon come to an end as old man winter nears.

Winter squash and pumpkins should be harvested before night time temperatures fall below 32F(0C) degrees. Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale will tolerate frost and may even benefit being exposed to a few frosty nights.

It’s time buy, trade and dig bulbs to be planted for spring garden flowers. This includes planting garlic in your vegetable garden.

Flower beds need to be cleaned, soil dug to a depth of 6 to 8 inches in preparation to plant your bulbs. Bulbs planted in the autumn will spend the cool fall and cold winter months developing a good healthy root system that will support plant growth and allow your bulbs to produce many large flowers next spring.

It is not to late to mail order flowering bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths are some of the most common and popular spring flowering bulbs.
Many lily varieties should be planted in the autumn as well.
However no matter what flowering bulb you favor now is the time to prepare for planting.

Pass It On….

Saturday Evening Post cartoon that is to good not to pass on.

I sometimes feel the same way about my Zucchini crop.

Spring time – plant your garden seeds soon, or miss your optimal planting time

It’s that time of year again, soil, day and night time air temperatures are nearing the optimal temperatures for direct seeding in your garden or raised bed soils.

An older blog post you may find useful Seed To Fork
North Dakota State University Agriculture Extension – Combinations found to be beneficial

Temperature, it’s all about the soil temperature.
Soil temperature is almost never to warm, however, soils that are to cool and damp at worst can cause your seed to rot in the ground and at best take many days to germinate. Seedling in cool soil grow slowly and often do not develop into healthy productive plants.

vegetable seed germination chart

herb seed germination chart

Words of wisdom: Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day. Harry S Truman