Solarizing a Garden Bed.. Finally!!

Garden Solarization 101

So it’s March. Most of you are already in the bed. Ma Nature has been the comedienne lately. But, it’s time again to recover our knowledge. The following diatribe, is about how to Solarize a garden bed. Forsythia is about to pop everywhere in the mid Atlantic. Soil temps are heating up. So here’s the 1-2-3 about Gardening Your Soil.

First, even out the beds. No weeding, just rake out and level, and pull out the debris. If it’s been dry, where you are, lightly water after top dressing with compost, 10-10-10, or whatever.

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Next, top dress with about 1/2 inch compost, or a bit of 10-10-10. You are feeding volunteers, weeds, any seed that may come up later. Water lightly. Then, CLEAR plastic. Not black. Black kills. You want to “promote” growth. Bugs, included.

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Then stretch a clear piece of plastic across, and weight down corners and sides. You just made a terrium, and things will heat up and grow, hatch, germinate. In a few weeks, you will see this. Sometime in early April, watch the weather. “Hard frost” or “Freeze” tonight. Go look at your bed. Lime green weak looking plants, and even insect trails on the plastic.. Take it off that evening, and let Ma Mature fry everything.

Ya did it. Less weeds, insects, chemicals. Yeah, it’s a chance if the weather goes right. Late snow? No problem. It will melt. Just wait for that frost. I mentioned Forsythia again earlier. When it blooms, we have gained 2 hours of daylight, and the soil temp is 58 degrees for 5 days, at 4 inches. Things will explode out. If you saw my post a few weeks ago about thawing out pipes with mirrors, then you will really get it.  You, with this method of solarizing, are hastening the evolution…. See? Oh, BTW, Black plastic is no. Black plastic kills plant life IF there is green leaf. Black is good if you are killing off a spot for a future bed. In your garden, Clear promotes that germination. I know you see it now.

Have fun. Get to work.

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Propaganda and the Mindset of Gardeners. Ignore That Ad!!

Just Shake it Off, Let it Go, and Breathe, Then, Change the Channel

I’ve written about this before, and received a lot of feedback. None bad, but a bit of bewilderment, and the rest was great. The bewildered, admitted they had done all I had addressed, got mad at my article, until, I laid out some examples, directed to other web sites, mostly university and county co-ops, and MSDS.com. So the rest, asked me to do it again, smiling, I’m sure, because the term “tattle-tale” didn’t bother me. After 13 1/2 years fighting the box store ads, as a Big Box employee, I finally was called a dinosaur, and they didn’t need my experience anymore. But I had a very large following, and was honest… Ahem.. So in the following diatribe, I will just explore what I met customers with every week end, as well as my nationwide followers, and a few across the big ponds, which, I guess, makes it international. That’s a lot of homework I have to do, zones, weather, soils, availability, etc. But I don’t mind, my weekly customers, a huge chunk of them, weren’t from here anyway. Out of state, out of country, all nationalities, but we made their gardens work. I found a cool translation app, that all I need is your language. You say what you want, it translates to English, and vice versa. Sometimes, there were hardy handshakes and hugs, even, some kissin’, but they got what they actually needed or were looking for.

So here is a bit more, simply because the Big Box Ad Season is here. It is mostly listed, ad item, then what? So if you get confused, or doubt the truth about it, reach me at Kevin@Kevinsgarden.com , or post a comment here. Some of the info I posted before, you took advantage of and sent me your score pics, congratulations to those who actually tried it. Told ya! I know about some others. Because of who I am, I can’t really go places without finding someone I have waited on. I can’t go to a box store, without them asking me to stop…. Dinosaur huh?

First thing, right out of the slot is Lawn Fertilizers. The commercials have even started. Remember, they are National ads and commercials. This is the part where I would ask you to find your zone. There are several sites to give you this info, most, just by entering your zip code. Preventer is always bulked out with grass seed and Weed and Feed. There is an ad out if you get this, get this half off or whatever. Why are you doing this anyway? Do you NEED, to do this? And, will you NEED to do the half off thing? All you are doing is killing yourself and family, and you can’t sow grass seed with any of these products anyway. That’s a lot of hard chemicals you are applying, and will be in your lawn for up to 4 years, if there is no weed to consume the chemical. 2-4D is what you are walking in. If you have to do any chemical weed killer, sprays are better. Organic folks please see that I said if….. Oh, and the cost savings of spot spraying, are spectacular over the half off part of the ad. So if anything, the Preventer part is your last application. Look at the bag of Weed and Feed, the one they say do 8 weeks later in the ad. Say’s Weed Control right? Controls nothing but the life of the weed the pellet sticks to. But, the 28 in nitrogen will lay there too, unused, until a Summer weed germinates, and BOOM!!! Yard full. But wait!! There will be another ad later, no worries, and it will be pushing the sprays….. You do know, you can apply a preventer 3 times a year, without fertilizer, to control, all germination. Organic people, please, hold on, I’m getting there… This is the hardest abused nationwide ad out there, and takes a bit of confusion. So yes, a thick healthy lawn, has less weeds. Cool Season, Warm Season, big difference in the actual feeding times without promoting some other chemical. Same as plug aeration and dethatching in the right season. Do either wrong, and you have weeds, and I mean a lot of weeds. There is a Lawn Sheet on my website, and has been effectively used by thousands in the last 20 years, and helped break this cycle. Always fun to watch Box Store people sell almost opposite, to people who follow this sheet. It is for zone 7a, but is adjustable if you have your zone and know your grass type. HEY KIDS! GET OFF MY LAWN!! Should actually be “because you are in poison“, not just because you are the cranky old man on the corner.

Enough about lawns, moving on to Seed Starting. First, lets remember a bit of High School Biology. When a seed germinates, the first two leaves are not true leaves, and searching for daylight, photosynthesis, converting to sugars and carbs, back to the root. After 3 to 4 leaves, now it’s hungry and pulling from the bottom to the top. OK, so what. So, look at the bag in the ad, look at the ingredients, and NPK analysis. Cant have food. Now find the cheap stuff. 100% peat, no NPK. Feed later, you’ll be glad you did. Oh, and that “Wetting Agent” that’s on the bag, is nothing but Dawn dish detergent. Keeps the soil perking, eliminates cohesion and packing. But you pay more. Get the cheap stuff, and a spray bottle with water and a tablespoon of Dawn. Oh, and there’s your Insecticidal Soap for later. Speaking of later, now your seedlings are hungry. You can either make your own Manure Tea, or buy fertilizer. IF, you buy fertilizer, don’t look at the picture on the box. Read the NPK. OK, NPK = Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium. Up, down, all around. Leaf, root, hardiness. See it yet? On the “All Purpose” types there is a nice picture of blooms, veggies, leaves. NPK is something like 24-4-6, or near there. So that Tomato Plant will be tall and beautiful green, no bloom. You will see this on the commercials in a few weeks, but all staged blooming plants. You need the Tomato food which is not just for Tomatoes, but is around 18-18-21, or near that. Older folks, would say “Just 10-10-10 twice”, that would make it 20-20-20… See it? Balanced, and the higher the middle number, more root, from root, you get bloom, from bloom, you eat… And less problems later on. Start reading labels, and stop buying the ad. Change the channel when you see the commercial I just saw while writing this. How absurd, how stupid do they think we are?

Soils and mulches. UGH!! Soon will be the 5 for $10 Hardwood everywhere. Did you save your leaves and pine tags? Mulch, free and doesn’t get “Dog Puke Fungus”. Bing it, I wouldn’t lie. You can’t treat it, and it doesn’t hurt or infect anything. Just ugly for a bit. It’s the natural process of hardwood composting because of moisture, so don’t let them sell you a product for treating it. In a couple of weeks, it’s gone, and you will think the $17.00 chemical is what fixed it.  Soils, don’t buy into those “moisture control” blathering bags. You want root rot, just keep the garden hose in the hole 24/7. Oh, there is a Fungus Control in the ad when these are on blow out status. The cheaper the soil, the better the plant. I gotta tell ya, I never saw Ma Nature shop at any box store. Never saw an empty bag of anything in the middle of a beautiful natural setting.  Think about it.

You still have time for the cheap “Last Years Overlooked Items”. Read my article on this, save a bit before it’s over next month. It’s worth it, I still get those pics from others, or I tell people I meet where I actually saw it in the overhead at what store.. Who needs an ad, when you educate yourself? Ever shop a “Dollar General” or “Big Lots”? When they put out gardening product, they don’t care what you want, because they don’t know. It’s cheaper, and you can read labels without being harassed by an employee about higher priced ad items. Most times, you can find that “Special Ad Item” that was in the big box last year.

So basically, do your homework. If you can’t, hire a Personal Garden Coach, or have one be a guest speaker at a large function, like community gathering, work, apartment complex. We like gardening on the cheap as well as helping you be a good steward of the Earth. It will give back, if you just garden.

 

Composting Surprises, A Poke At The “Dirty Job” Folks

A few days ago I posted on several social sights, garden groups, and just asked folks in the street, a query. Simply put it was, “What was the weirdest thing you have ever found growing in your compost?” The results were numerous, as well as humorous. Some folks were actually wondrous of what they had found before. Some had just quit, because.. So here’s the compiled list, and I’m sure I will be adding more later. So here it is.

What is the weirdest thing you have ever found growing in your compost?

Black Soldier Fly larvae,  mushrooms, Snakes, Grubs, Peach trees, this years garden from old seeds, baby Rabbits, Mice, Rats, Raccoons, various Snakes, more snakes, Pumpkins, 6 kinds of Squashes, 9 types of Tomato, Melons, Potato, “Squashcumbers”, Zucchini, Apple tree, Avocado, Peanuts, Coyote, well, it was on the poll, Dahlias, Amaryllis, Day Lillies and other assorted bulbs, Juan Valdez’s donkey, (I guess there was a lot of grounds there), Almond tree, Cherry tree, Peach tree, Mango, Marijuana, (hmm, really? I need to check in on that soon?), Peppers, various Herbs, Praying Mantis, Hornets, Turtles, Opossums, Gourds, Toads, re-sprouting House Plants, things they thought were dead, Strawberries, several types of knives, and funny, a few said when it was missing, they knew it was in the compost, and found it, the “compost turning tool”, a t-shirt, old plant tags, supposedly “biodegradable trash items, kitchen utensils, an egg to see if it boils in 140 degree compost (bored gardener?), it did, trowels, 4 times the right glove, never the left, wedding ring (whew!!), Worms, and Lizards. Then there were 9, “nothings”. They had access to free composted horse and cow manure. Hmm. Wondering about where the livestock owner gets their hay, if there was 2-4D involved with the crop.

Funny, the one thing no one said, and I have never seen it either, was someone else, turning the pile, just me. Some said, they just quit the garden bed, and let Ma Nature grow in the compost, and had spectacular gardening pleasures just from the “grab bag” idea. Things germinate as the weather permits. My experience is if it’s growing in there, I leave it or transplant it. I’ve never seen Ma Nature shop in a “box store”, and I know, I worked as the on site Garden Specialist at one for over 13 years. Never waited on her. Most people are ad followers, and simply over-comfort their gardens to failure. Sometimes, benevolent neglect, is the key.

This was a fun poll, especially since I had over 350 responses in 2 days from all the groups and face-to-face encounters. Most were seasoned gardeners, and knew their dirt. The beginners were wonderful in admitting their failures, and are learning, “eh, just toss it in” techniques. Wait until those folks learn “Soil Solarization”, like composting on steroids!! So thank you to all the likes and answers, obviously, this is a matter that needs to be enhanced on.

Garden Center Clearance Time?

Seed Catalogs are in the mail, compost is cooking, dreams and plans for the coming seasons are dancing in gardeners heads. All consuming our thoughts and making us just a bit distant to our friends. I myself have been out to the spent paradise, overlooking it’s new abilities. It’s Winter demise is actually picturesque to me, and I still get that Horticultural Therapy. I have my phone with me, looking at the pictures from last year as I am out there, planing.

But the big picture, the leftover products at box stores. The items in the overheads and last 3 things on a shelf, prices falling because they are discontinued from the new seasons product lines. Vendors don’t want them back, most times, and the store receives no credit. They get what they can, as the price tumbles, then toss in the compactor when the price is low enough to take the hit. Where does this leave you?

If you go to a big box store, and see the clearance items that are on the, let’s say, “Pot Wall”, the yellow “was/now” stickers, maybe there is a deal, or just the thing you were looking for. Same as the Hose Aisle, Bird Seed, Tools, and bagged goods, maybe even the Hard Scape Aisle. But in any case, with a little detective work, you can find some better deals. These aisles haven’t been as high maintained since late October, because of the Christmas Crash, and most of those other spots are considered “out of season”… Are ya seein’ it yet? OK, then here’s more. Most all of the merchandise for those aisles have been consolidated to the overhead where they belong on the racks. MOST box stores have been thru an inventory lately, so all the boxed freight in the overhead is plainly marked. Write down the SKU  or item number you see on a weathered box, search for it on the shelves, if you don’t see it, find an employee with one of those fancy phones and ask what the price is for that number. Maybe it’s not exactly what you want, maybe it will do, maybe, it’s a heck of a find.

On the fertilizer aisles, either large bags or the smaller boxed, check there too. Most, again, most of those stores can’t toss hazmat items away, and if it has gone to $.01, they most likely give it to you, it costs them a huge amount to send in a hazmat truck, away… Check the Chemical Wall too, same thing. Look in the overhead for anything that says, “Promo” anything. Then find that kid with that crazy phone.

It’s Gardening Deal time at the box stores. Right now, Christmas is on final clearance, there are Storage Events happening along with Vanities, etc, so no Gardening stuff is coming in yet. They aren’t even thinking about March. So give it a try, on the down-lo, see if you find some real deal goodies. You may even find some cheap racks in Flooring, and Light Fixtures in the Light Cloud. It’s time for deals folks!!

Just a Minute Please!!! 60 Seconds of Daylight

Anyone feel it? See it? We have gained on minute of daylight. One minute of bliss. February 7th, is one hour. March 6th, 2 hours.

Yeah I know it creeps up, but, as a gardener. those minutes add up. They come just as fast as they went in the Fall. This post is to remind you of the daylight. It is, time.

Time to really start thinking on the next cycle of growing. Time, to see the cool stars leaving our sky, making way for the new season. Time. Hear the ticking. See the light change. feel the calling.

OK maybe its just me. and my clients, and my kids, friends. OK fine. But according to the clock, it’s climbing. Don’t be left out. In the link find you, and hit calculate. 60 seconds is only one minute to you now, but as we progress in the new year, it will compound from 9 hours 34 minutes to 14 hours. 46 minutes…. Think about it.

Gardeners are not thinking of Black Friday, sales, feasts, travel, whatever. Our soil is thinking about living, with our new food, recipes, families, hopes, failures, whatever. But we will grow, food. For you.

Time waits for no gardener. We know, feel, live by it’s domain. So think of us, as we awaken earlier in the coming days, weeks, months. We want to feed you, we have chores. If you can not understand us, then get up with us. We are the ones that fixed your coffee, in the dark. Get up with us, and feel, see the dawn. In about a month, you, will be smelling the compost, seeing the fog, having that great cup of coffee, saving the grounds for the compost pile. The light is coming, and there is no stopping it. And you will know what it means to eat for free. Wash our dirty clothes and wonder how does this happen?

Have mercy on your garden person. We are up early for no reason, other than our own abilities forthcoming. We don’t get up for sales,TV shows, visits, whatever. We are the ones that keep you on time for the details, because…..

Daylight. One minute. I felt it. Did you?

 

Balcony Gardening Food Savings… and free seeds!!

OK, so you have a balcony or small patio. You used to garden somewhere else, now that you are 2 to 3 floors up, what can you grow? Or can you…..

Let’s say that you find 2 pots that are about the size of a 5 gallon bucket. There you can grow a Determinate and an Indeterminate Tomato. One is for sauces, one is for those great salads or sandwiches. Determinate types, you may want to remember how to can. 3 or 4 one gallon pots, there’s your Pepper varieties. Maybe one that is around 14″ wide and 12 inches tall? An Eggplant. A couple of window boxes and there are some nice Lettuce or other Cold Crops. Throw in another one, about 5 gallon size, and think of the Cukes or Potatoes vining everywhere. That old aquarium that leaks or has no use? Just 6 to 8 inches of soil, and Carrots, Radish, Parsnip, or even Pole Beans climbing out. That’s a lot of money saved in your grocery budget.

Wait, there’s more. There may be a pantry in a silly spot you don’t use much. Add some cheap lighting, a few recycled, up-cycled items and there’s a nice seed starting area for February. Tomato, Pepper and Eggplant, they take the longest, and will be ready for your transplanting in mid April.

So, being in an apartment or town home doesn’t mean you can’t have some garden therapy and save money by growing your own food. Share with neighbors, have fun, get the kids involved, it never ends. I will be giving lectures at apartment community centers through January so the tenants can have time to find their proper items. If you want me to give one to your community in the Richmond area, have your community center rep email me at Kevin@Kevinsgarden.com to set a date. Then the fun begins. I go thru everything from seed starting, container sizes, soil, racking, watering sunlight requirements, feeding, and more. The fee is only $10.00 per person, and one complex may want me there all day as the residents are able to attend, done that before, and it’s a blast because once in, I had people come back during the day asking if “This is the right thing”… I was there 9 hours, and got everyone. In case you missed my segment with WWBT’s “More Bang For Your Buck” about small space gardening, here’s the link.

 

 

 

The Farmers Almanac

My first article in the FA this month!! Kinda nice because the lecture requests are coming faster this year, and more… Already October thru March bookings and I’ve had a few who didn’t realize, now they do!

http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2014/08/25/putting-beds-bed/