This was written about a week ago and I fully intended to post beautiful pics of how my garden has been progressing but I seem to need a new blackberry, camera, or laptop or perhaps all three! And it’s not like I have time to shop even online. So here’s a gorgeous pic of veggies until I can get mine to upload. Haven’t had rain since this blog, really miss it already.
Today was weird and cold and rainy and it hailed too. Harumph! I did make it out to my garden for a moment when the clouds parted, but it began to rain again before I gathered my brunch veggies. So, inside day spent making brochures for my buddy Farmer Dale. They turned out pretty good, I’ll need to make a few changes, and make some flyers too. They are for the Farmer’s Market. He does woodcrafts as well as sells his organic fruits and vegetables. It’s because of Farmer Dale and Jay aka Majah Blak of Heavenly Harvest Hydroponics that I even gave organic gardening a try this year. Still learning, and still so much to learn, but one thing I know is I am hooked. I will garden now every single day I can for the rest of my life. I have always had flower beds and a few veggies here and there. An asparagus patch, a couple of artichokes, some berries, but nothing like the task I’m taking on this year. And all 100% poison free!!!
I have now filled 37 out of 40 boxes in various sizes from 3.5′ sq to 6′ sq. The larger ones are very deep about 3′ or so. There are also some shallow ones about 10″ – 1′ in depth. I am proud to say all the wood was reclaimed. Most from a local business called Nor-Cal, they are shipped machine parts in large wooden crates. We intercepted them before they were hauled off to the “land-full”. We used leftover siding, and other lumber as well. My point being that none of the wood was purchased and I have actually 50 boxes. I may fill all 50, but for now my goal is the first 40. The soil is a rich mix of something a local mill sells called soil conditioner and lots and lots of cow dookie. My other 10 boxes are mostly manure so I will be better off not putting anything in them until next year. I am hoping some of my 40 boxes are not to hot. It’s still too soon to really tell.
I began with some very easy crops and I recommend every beginner do the same. Radish, collards, garlic,garlic chive, lettuces, onion, kale, mung beans, soy, pumpkins, corn, squash. I planted many types of beans but the ones that seemed to do the best are the soy and mung. I don’t know that any of the navy, black, pinto, kidney, or black-eyed peas will come up. Some of the harder things to grow from seed were the tomatoes, watermelon, some herbs, and cucumbers. There were even some “sacrificial” seedlings that got up to a certain height and then decided not to live past the transplant. I understand we have a short growing season and that requires plants to be a certain size before going out to be hardened off. One of the challenges in our area is extreme weather. Yesterday was over 90 degrees F. and tomorrow the high is predicted at 57. There will be a frost warning so every tender plant will be covered with straw or plastic water bottles donated from Farmer Dale. Just cut off the top at the neck for a temporary mini “greenhouse” or cut off the bottom and save the cap top for a mini greenhouse to go through the winter. Unscrew cap on nicer winter days and keep caps somewhere you won’t lose them. You’ll want to replace them at night and leave them on during snowy days.
I want to share some of the organic tricks of the trade that I have learned from my farmer buddies. The first amazing thing I was taught was from Farmer Dale who told me to pour all of my pickle juice, pepper juice and any types of brines into a 5 gallon bucket with a lid. Adding vinegar to this bucket is fine also. I named this concoction herbacider. You could actually drink it. I don’t know who would want to, but the point is it won’t kill anything but weeds. And it does!!! Crazy!! There is no need for poisons. You have to reapply frequently and make sure not to get any on the plants you want to keep. Herbacider does not distinguish, it just wipes out everything. Spray and notice the difference in minutes the weeds start to wilt. Come back the next day and you’ll notice a definite browning on the edges and more wilting. Spray as often as you like but I find once every other week is good. We are burdened with star thistle in our area and people try all kind of poison to no avail. I found this to be an excellent way to get rid of them. Frequent reapplication is recommended. I expect as soon as this news gets out the price of vinegar will sky rocket, or Monsanto will buy up all rights to it and make it toxic.
Another great gardening lesson learned was from my buddy Jay, he was recommending to someone on Facebook that they spray their lettuces with a molasses and water mixture to prevent bugs from eating them up. I was having the same problem so I did as advised. Not only did the bugs go away and leave the plants alone, the plants grew about an inch a day for about 4 days. I wanted to spray again based on the results, but Jay let me know every 2 weeks is fine. He also helped me understand that the bugs are just doing their job. They are working to eradicate sick plants from the garden. So if a plant is getting eaten it is most likely because it is lacking in some nutrient. The molasses provides the plant sugars needed to promote health. Spraying it directly on the leaves is the best way, but do this early in the morning rather than in the heat of the day. Water droplets acts like little magnifiers, and where they stay the sun heats up the leaf and burns it leaving little spots. Just like taking a magnifier and burning a hole in paper by focusing the rays of the sun to a point. If you notice the plant is sticky cut back on the amount of molasses in your mix.
Let’s see, weeds, feeds, some bugs, let’s talk more about that. If you have ants Farmer Dale says to pour cornmeal on the top of the anthill until it resembles a snow capped mountain. The ants will eat themselves to death on the meal as it expands and suffocates them from the inside. It also sucks them dry because they can’t get enough water into a bloated, squeezed shut abdomen, and what they can ingest further swells the cornmeal.
The good bugs are to be recognized and respected. If you find a few praying mantis eggs in your yard leave them be. I have counted over 20 in my yard and veggie garden. I feel very blessed as I know each egg will bear 100’s of baby mantis in a month or two. I love the praying mantis. It is one of the most beneficial bugs we can have in our garden. Another is the ladybug, I found a hoard of them and harvested all I could catch (about a dozen) and transferred them to my garden, which already has quite a few. Never too many ladybugs I always say. We always called them roly-polys, and as children we would roll them like marbles . Thank goodness for the pillbug another helper for the gardener. Leave them be and you won’t regret it. Of course any pollinator is worth it’s weight in gold in our day and time, learn to recognize them. It’s not just honey bees that spread the pollination love. Scary creepy things do too, like bats, and some wasps. And beautiful butterflies, and hummingbirds are worth welcoming into your garden. They provide another much needed avenue of transportation for precious pollen.
Plants can be used to deter pests as well. Onion, garlic, chives, cabbage, brocoli, kale, seem to not only be bug free but are preventing bugs from eating the plants they are in bed with. This is not 100% but is seems to help quite a bit. When used with the molasses mixture bugs are greatly diminished. A batch of stubborn aphids in the collards is getting a misting of 50-50 Isopropyl alcohol and water. If that doesn’t do it I’ll add a couple of tablespoons of dishsoap to the next batch of spray and see what the aphids have to say about that!
Squirrels are a different story. And dogs who chase them and dig for them in your precious plants, well let’s just say God made canines cute for their own self preservation. . . .spoiled Rottenweiler.