Tag Archives: manure

Why do ->YOU<- garden?

I often hear gardeners bragging about how much money they have saved by self growing vegetables in their backyard or plot gardens. If you do a detail cost assessment of your growing cost and supermarket cost per pound(kilo) you may find it is costing more per pound to grow than to buy.

Gardening and gardeners generally fall into two categories.
Category 1. I think most home gardeners fall into category 1 gardeners. Gardening for us is a hobby. We are not in gardening because we think we will be saving a few hundred or even a thousand dollars on our yearly food bill.

We garden because we enjoy growing things and being out of doors. We like seeing our flower and vegetable seed grow and bloom. Freshly harvested vegetables have better color and taste better than vegetables that were picked last week and shipped to supermarkets.

Cost of gardening is not a primary consideration for us. We are into gardening for it’s health and entertainment value.

Category 2. This category often includes survivalist, penny pincers, those living off the grid or mostly off the grid. Category 2 gardeners are concerned with feeding their family summer and winter from home garden grown produce. They are most likely to can, freeze and dehydrate garden produce for long term storage. Gardening is not a hobby to them. It’s a yearly on going job/task to be accomplished.

It matters not if you are a category 1 or 2 gardener gardening is not cheap. The initial cost can be overwhelming.
Container gardening requires investment in large containers(pots). Damaged pot must be replaced. New fresh potting soil must be purchased every spring.
Flower/vegetable seed must be purchased and often seeds or seedlings must be purchased every growing season. Many times you must invest in grow lighting. Allocate space and a heated environment to germinate and grow seedlings.

Green house or grow house are a costly investment and require continuous maintenance. Initial grow lighting is not cheap nor is the cost of heating a grow area or green/grow house.

Raised beds are not cheap to buy or build and require maintenance to keep them in good condition. Raised beds must be replaced every few years. They must be rejuvenated by adding compost every grow season.

All situations require the use of organic or man made fertilizers.
Insect and weed control be it organic or commercial made is an ongoing battle that is time consuming and often expensive.
Few areas receive enough rain at the time needed, so add the cost of collecting water or the cost of using tap water to keep your garden plants in good, healthy and productive condition.

Some, not all gardeners must invest in good fencing to keep pest like deer, dogs, lions, tigers, bears and elephants out of their garden plot.

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Chrysanthemums – Add Fall Color To Your Home And Garden

Chrysanthemums, or “mums,” are popular perennials. They 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.

Garden chrysanthemums grow in a wide variety of soils but must have excellent drainage conditions. Growth is poor and winterkill likely in poorly drained wet soils.
Before planting incorporate 2 – 4″ of peat moss, compost, or well-rotted barnyard manure into the soil. If you use only peat moss or do not add organic matter, apply a complete fertilizer such as 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. Space plants 12 – 24″ apart, depending on the mature size of the cultivar.

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.

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 Zones 2, 3 and 4.

Winterizing Your Hen House

Winterizing your chicken coop.
Keeping your chickens safe, dry and warm this winter will insure you have a steady supply of fresh eggs through the cold winter months.

Install a full daylight spectrum, 6500K color temperature CFL light bulb on a timer so your chickens get a full 15 or 16 hours a day lighting from artificial and sun light will keep your hens laying well year round.

The annual cost of operating a 150-Watt Equivalent Daylight (6500K) Spiral CFL Light Bulb 6 hours a day at $0.11 a kilowatt is about $9.50 a year and you can expect you bulb to last 4 to 5 years.Your cost to light your hen house will be about 80 cents a month.

Currently at my location sunset is about 7PM. To get 15 hours of lighting I wake my chickens by setting my time to turn the lights on at 4AM an off about 8:30AM. Every month or two I will adjust the timer as needed to keep 15-16 hours a day lighting in my hen house.

Look for and repair as need rodent damage, places where rats, mice or snakes can gain entry into your hen house.

Clean windows and vent screens to allow winter sun light in and vents to allow fresh air to circulate in your hen house. Chickens will spent a great deal more time in their house during cold, wet or snowy winter weather.

Insure that you have feeders located to keep feed clean, dry and away from rodents.
Fresh water is very important to the health of your flock.
You may want or need to invest in an elect powered heater to keep your chicken watering devices ice free this winter.

Carefully inspect and repair fencing as needed. As food becomes harder to find and catch, predators like raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, stray dogs and cats will be looking to snatch a quick easy meal and your chickens will be high on their menu.

Remove old nesting materials, bedding from nest boxes. scrape sweep and remove old litter materials from hen house floor.

Put straw and old nesting materials on your garden as winter mulch on add it to your compost pile.

Wash hen house walls, floor, roost and nest boxes with a mild mixture of soap water and household bleach.
Mix bleach and soap water at a 1:5 mix rate. That being 1 part bleach to 5 parts warm soap water.
While not an exact 1:5 mix rate, to 1 cup bleach, add water to make 1 gallon of disinfectant wash water.
Keep chickens out of their house until walls, floor and nest boxes are dry.

Hint: There are a number of industrial and household disinfectants what work well. Be sure to follow ‘all’ mixing and usage instructions, warnings and caution statements. Wear eye protection and always wear rubber gloves when using any cleaning chemicals or disinfectants.

Fill nest boxes 1/4 to 1/3 full of new clean straw, grass hay or what ever is your choice of nesting material.
Spread 3 to 6 inches deep straw litter on hen house floor. This will help keep your hen house clean, dry and will also help keep your hen house a bit warmer than a house with a bare floor.

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America And Organic Labeling

Organic can mean different things to different people, so, I will use (USDA) United States Department of Agriculture’s definition for Organic farming and labeling products as Organic.

USDA said “organic” might appear as one more piece of information to decipher when shopping for foods. Understanding what “organic” really means can help shoppers make informed choices during their next visit to the supermarket or farmers’ market.

Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Organic meat, regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.

When it comes to processed, multi-ingredient foods, the USDA organic standards specify additional considerations.
Regulations prohibit organically processed foods from containing artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors and require that their ingredients are organic, with some minor exceptions.
For example, processed organic foods may contain some approved non-agricultural ingredients, like enzymes in yogurt, pectin in fruit jams, or baking soda in baked goods.

USDA labeling: “100 percent organic”

“100 percent organic” can be used to label any product that contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed farm products can be designated “100 percent organic.” Likewise, many value-added farm products that have no added ingredients—such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc. can also be labeled “100 percent organic.”


“Organic” can be used to label any product that contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). Up to 5 percent of the ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products that are not commercially available as organic.

“Made with Organic ______” can be used to label a product that contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed constraints regarding the ingredients that comprise the nonorganic portion.

Principal display panel: May state “made with organic (insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories).” Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere, represent finished product as organic, or state “made with organic ingredients.”

Use Caution when shopping and buying organic foods at Farmers Markets. Sellers can and sometimes do sell produce as organic when in truth the produce may or may not truly be an organic product.

Exemptions & Exclusions
Producers who market less than $5,000 worth of organic products annually are not required to apply for organic certification. They must, however, comply with the organic production and handling requirements of the regulations, including recordkeeping (records must be kept for at least 3 years). The products from such noncertified operations cannot be used as organic ingredients in processed products produced by another operation; such noncertified products also are not allowed to display the USDA certified organic seal.

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First Fall day has arrived

If you don’t have a compost pile or bin now is a good time to start your composting project. It’s really worth the effort.
In return for a little time and effort you will get back a lot of compost to amend your garden soil and it will cost you next to nothing except the time you invest in putting plant litter on your compost pile.

Fall and Early Winter Projects A Town & Country Post (October 2010).

Fall is the time to can the last of your cucumber when making pickles, a time for making salsa, pasta sauces, red or green, sweet or hot relishes and fried green tomato’s.
It is time to can and freeze the last of your summer gardens goodness, before the first hard frost ends your summer garden.
Fall is the time to prune, repot as needed tender potted plants and move them indoors for the winter.

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Fall Color = Planting Time For Spring Flowering Bulbs

Bulbs should be planted as soon as the ground is cool, when evening temperatures average between 40° to 50 deg F. At any rate you should plant bulbs at least six weeks before the ground freezes.

You can plant bulbs just about anywhere in your garden as long as the soil is well drained. Bulbs don’t like wet feet. So, avoid areas where water collects, such as the bottom of hills. Bulbs like sun and in many areas the spring garden can be very sunny, since the leaves on the trees are not out yet. So keep in mind when planting in the fall that you can plant in many places for spring blooms.

Till your soil deeply so it’s loose and workable. If it’s not an established garden bed, chances are the soil benefit from the addition of some organic matter such as compost or peat moss.

Loosen soil in your planting bed to a depth of at least 8 inches, deeper is better. Remove weeds, rocks or other debris. You can mix in compost, other organic matter or slow releasing fertilizer if your soil lacks nutrients.

Planting bulbs, follow the recommendation on the label for planting depth. As a general rule, plant big bulbs about 8″ deep and small bulbs about 5″ deep. Set the bulb in the hole pointy side up or the roots down. It’s easy to spot the pointy end of a tulip, it’s tougher with a crocus. If you can’t figure out the top from the bottom, plant the bulb on its side, in most cases, even if you don’t get it right, the flower bulb will still find its way.

After your bulbs are planted, back fill the hole with soil, lightly compress the soil but do not pack it. Water well to stimulate root growth. There is no need to water continuously unless you live in an area with low winter precipitation.


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Blackberries – easy to grow in your home garden

Now is a good time to start preparing your berry patch site for early spring planting.

Blackberries are considered one of the easiest fruits to grow at home. They are a native species to the United States and grow as a small shrub or trailing vine. Berries from this plant are excellent for fresh table fruit, syrup, jams and jelly.

Site Selection for your Blackberry patch.
* Light requirements: Full Sun
* Soil: Blackberries prefer acidic to basic Ph(6.0-7.0), soil should be a well drained organic soil. They adapt to most soil types except alkaline and wet. If you have clay soil, you should amend your soil with organic matter. To increase the soil’s organic content, amend with mulch wet peat moss, well aged sawdust, straw or leaf litter.
* Blackberries are self pollinating and hardy in zones 4-9.

Blackberries tend to form thickets and are vigorously rooted. Locate the plants where you can control “volunteers.” Blackberries have long roots and can send up suckers many feet from the parent plant. Leave room to mow around the beds.

Generally speaking T-trellis Support is recommended.

Annual Pruning after the first year. Use hand held clippers when pruning. First year erect canes should be left unpruned. Second year canes should be pruned back to 40″-48″. Pruning encourages lateral branching and increases cane strength, so they don’t fall over in snow and wind. Pruning should be done early in the growing season to decrease wounds that cause cane blight. Lateral branches should be cut back to 12″-18″.

During the second year, remove dead, damaged, weak and rubbing canes. You should thin out healthy canes closer than 6″ apart. Any pruned or removed canes should be disposed to eliminate the spread of disease and insects.

Oklahoma Gardening Video planting blackberries.

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Planning The Garden Plan A Plan B

Plan A, October 2015, move dead garden plants to compost pile. Store away for the winter water hoses, garden tools, tomato cages etc. Put down and till in compost. Put the garden to bed for the winter.

March 2016 I went in to the garden, first time I had looked at it since September 2015. Nothing had been cleaned up or put away for winter. No compost, nothing had been tilled.

Being the take charge kind of guy I am, I went back to the house and drank coffee until May 15, changing over to ice tea. July 19 I looked at the garden again.
I wonder where I planted those 2 grape vines. I can’t see them anywhere. I guess I better find them before tackling my weed and grass patch with a riding mower… A brush hog might be a better choice.

Plan B, Located and marked the grape vines. Poor little things, they didn’t have a chance competing for sun, water and nutrients with 4 foot tall weeds and grass.

Borrowed by son-n-laws whizz bang zero turn mower. Bad idea. I took out 2 T-post 3 feet of garden fence before I began to get the hang of steering that demon possessed mower.

Grass and weeds have been mowed. Garden fence taken down and T-post removed and stored safely out of my sight.

Grape vine trellis is in place ready to be installed.

If my garden doesn’t kill me, I’ll update when the trellis is up and vines are tied.

Down the road in September I have a red delicious apple dwarf tree purchased last fall, it’s still living in a large patio pot as well as 2 golden delicious semi-dwarf and 2 colette pear, semi-dwarf trees will arrive and be planted in my former cucumber patch.
FYI these are coming from Stark Bro’s nurseries.

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Carrots – Underused and Abused

Late summer / early fall planting do well in milder climates. Carrots can be planted every 2 to 3 weeks until about 12 weeks before the date of the average first autumn frost. Where winters are mild grow carrots in autumn and winter. Carrots require from 50 to 80 days to reach maturity. Small so called baby carrots can be harvested in about 30 days.

Carrots are hardy biennials grown as annuals. Depending on variety, carrots can be tapered and cylindrical, short and fat, round, or finger sized. Some carrots grow to 10 inches long while others are much shorter. Carrots are usually orange, but colors can vary from red to yellow to purple. Shorter varieties are a good choice for heavy soil clay soils. Long types require loose, loamy soil.

Grow carrots in full sun. Carrots will grow more slowly in partial shade. Plant carrots in loose, well worked soil. Dig soil to 12 inches before planting and add aged compost to the planting beds. Remove clods, rocks, and roots from planting beds. Carrots will split, fork, and become malformed if they grow into obstructions. Carrots prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.

Carrots are a cool weather crop best grown in spring, early summer, and autumn. Sow carrots in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the last average frost date in spring.
Succession crops can be planted every 2 to 3 weeks until about 12 weeks before the date of the average first frost in autumn. Where winters are mild grow carrots in autumn and winter. Carrots require a soil temperature of about 40°F to germinate. Germination will be slow in cold soil.

Sow carrot seed 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep about 1 – 1 1/2 inch apart, thin carrots to about 4 inches apart in wide beds and about 2 inches apart in rows. Space rows 12 to 24 inches apart. Wide row planting of carrots gives a good yield form a small area. In warm, dry weather sow carrot seed deeper than 1/2 inch. When all else fails read the planting instruction on your seed package.

Keep carrots evenly moist to ensure quick growth. Do not allow the soil to dry out. Reduce watering as roots approach maturity, too much moisture at the end of the growing season will cause roots to crack. Add aged compost at planting time before sowing and again as a side dressing at mid season. carrots are heavy feeders of potassium needed for good root growth.

Companion plants for carrots are chives, onions, leeks, tomatoes, peas, rosemary. Carrots and dill do not play well together.

Carrots can be left in the ground until ready to use as long as the ground does not freeze. Hint: Before your first freeze cover your carrot crop with a thick layer of straw or other light weight mulch.
Carrots will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 months. Blanched carrots will keep in the freezer for up to 6+ months.

‘Purple Haze’
Purple with orange flesh

‘Atomic Red’
Red skin with orange/red flesh.

An orange fast-growing Nantes hybrid, ideal for very early sowings.

A very sweet carrot with uniform yellow roots.

‘Paris Market’
Round with great flavor (below). Very fast to mature and grows well in shallow or stony soil. But don’t let them get too big or they will split.

‘Amsterdam Forcing 2’
Orange with small cylindrical roots.

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Seedling Pots – It’s Not To Late

For most of North America it is still not to late to plant your seedling pots. This will give your vegetable plants a head start on their growing season.
No need to spend time and effort insuring your seeds are planted the correct depth and properly spaced.

cone pot Whether you are using homemade paper pots, egg cartons, paper or plastic cups or have splurged and purchased ready to use peat pots insure you fill them with a well draining starter potting mix.

Optimal seed-starter mix will allow:
Retention of Moisture
Drainage of Excess Water
Emergence of Seedlings (upward growth) and Penetration of Roots (downward growth)
Provide nutrients
Have Beneficial Microbes

DIY Organic starter mix:
4 parts screened compost
1 part perlite (a mineral available at most garden stores)
1 part vermiculite (another mineral available at most garden stores)
2 parts coir (coconut fiber) Optionally peat moss

A different version:
3 parts peat moss
1 part vermiculite
1/2 part perlite
1/4 tsp lime for 1 gallon of peat moss

Some recommend:
6-8 Parts Pre-Soaked Organic Coir or Sphagnum Peat Moss
1 Part Perlite
1 Part Vermiculite
1 Part Vermicompost(worm based compost) or Compost

Getting started:
Seedlings require a considerable amount of light, make sure you have a sunny, south facing window. If seedlings don’t get enough light, they will be leggy and weak.

If you don’t have a sunny, south facing window, invest in grow lights and a timer . Set the timer for 15 hours a day, water regularly. If your seedlings roots dry out it will surely die.

Read the back of your seed packet to see how deep you should plant your seeds. Some of the small ones can be sprinkled right on the soil surface. Larger seeds will need to be buried. I plant two or 3 seeds per pot. If all seeds germinate, I snip all but one and let it grow. It’s helpful to make a couple divots(dimples) in each pot’s soil to accommodate the seeds. After you’ve dropped a seed in each divot, you can cover the seeds.

Moisten the newly planted seeds with a mister. To speed germination, cover the pots with plastic wrap or a plastic dome that fits over the seed starting tray. This helps keep the seeds moist before they germinate. When you see the first signs of green, remove the cover.

Water, feed, repeat as the seedlings grow, use a mister or a small watering can to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Let the soil dry slightly between watering. Feed the seedlings regularly with a liquid fertilizer, mixed at the recommended rate.

Seedlings need a lot of light. Rotate the pots regularly to keep plants from leaning into the light.
If you’re growing under lights, adjust them so they’re just a few inches above the tops of the seedlings. Set the lights on a timer for 15 hours a day. As the seedlings grow taller, raise the lights little by little.

Harden Off seedlings by move seedlings outdoors gradually. It’s not a good idea to move your seedlings directly from the protected environment of your home into the garden.
You’ve been coddling these seedlings for weeks, so they need a gradual transition to the great outdoors. About a week before you plan to set the seedlings into the garden, place them in a protected spot outdoors (partly shaded, out of the wind) for a few hours each day, bringing them in at night.
Gradually, over the course of a few day’s or up to 10 days, expose them to more and more sunshine and wind. A cold frame is a great place to harden off plants.

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