March and a “Gardenistic” Approach to “Gardenology”

How Many Times Does It Take?

So it’s March. In about 4 days, we will see two more hours of daylight, we will turn our clocks back, we will see Forsythia soon bloom, and we have made our plans for the upcoming garden season. We’ve cleaned our tools, started seeds indoors, shoveled enough snow exhausting ourselves into oblivion. Ran out of projects for “snow day kids”…. Or have we?

For me, as a garden coach, it has been great. Most of my clients have been, like me, chained inside because of this weather Ma Nature has tossed at us this long Winter. Our homes are so clean inside for lack of anything to do outside because of the newly named, “Polar Vortexes”. I have enough exes, don’t need another with a fancy name. OK, back to my clients. Most have gotten the message about “home grown” food. Most have gotten very creative about finding a place to start seeds indoors. Some found a closet and rigged lighting, some just a table, some, found racks for free at stores like I suggested. Now the good part about the weather. Parents have gotten their kids interested in growing indoors as “snow day” projects. I have received a lot of cool feedback on my previous posts about how they made something fun, productive, and a good learning experience for their kids. Funny how the young gardeners don’t realize the “Gardenology” class they are attending while out on a snow day. I think some can’t wait till the next one to add to their crops!!

While at a clients home recently, who I knew they had a “Grow Room”, they showed me some interesting ways their kids were getting involved. They all had their own flat of seeds started, personal garden journal, plot picked out in the garden bed, and yes, they have to “grow” bigger this year, and what each was going to produce for upcoming menus for the season. It was kinda funny, that the youngest was “allowed” to be the Cold Crop Queen!! She’s 6. And her flat was up and going. I had a chance to chat with them about transplanting, feeding, irrigation, soil amendments,  last years bugs, etc. They were into it so far, they’re stuck, as gardeners… Or is it, “hooked”? Either way they are in for the long haul of a life of great memories and peaceful therapeutic progress. Nice way to grow, and the parents didn’t realize they were cultivating 5, yes 5, new gardens within their kids. “Gardenology” is something to practice. I understand, from my clients, that their kids, can’t remember the last time they played a video game. When they call the kids for dinner, they come running out from the grow room where there are crayon pics of charts on the wall, on the wall now, not on paper, dates, plans and all “organic” treatments. We talked about companion plantings, succession planting, crop rotation, NPK, and phenology. I think my “new” clients are putting their WII and games on EBay to purchase new garden tools. I talked to the really chatty 11 year old a lot about my big time garden writer friends on Facebook, and thought she’d be the next big garden speaker.

Yeah, it’s March. What did you do with your “snow day kids”? I bet this crew, won’t buy any veggies at all this coming season. I will go back to this home-turned-greenhouse, and include them in my upcoming garden lectures. I kind of have to. Ya see, I started it with the parents, 2 years ago, and they had never put a seed to soil in their lives. This year, they are going total edible landscaping. If they can’t eat it, they ain’t plantin’ it.

Garden Coach Fees

Garden Coach Fees

Garden Coach Fees
I have been asked about my fees for one-on-one and groups. So here they are. One-on-One, $40 per hr, and you decide how long, how many times out to see you. Helping in Seasonal Gardening chores such as: — Indoor Seed Starting Racks — Seasonal chores of your property, detailed of when, how, why. Assisting by educating about specifics in your gardens, landscape. — Water Garden Maintenance, installations, repairs, education. — Apartment and balcony gardening, vertical, container, hanging gardening. — Placement of new Veggie Gardens, rehabbing old overgrown gardens.
Groups of 10 or more, $175 for 2 hours of lecture time, Q & A, at your location. I have been the guest speaker at several events of 300 plus, so larger groups don’t scare me, but sometimes goes longer than 2 hours, but Group Fee doesn’t change. Sometimes the group wants me to lecture on a specific topic, or we can just go where the questions lead up to. It’s always a fun time.
I have been “given” as a birthday present to many novice gardeners, a realtors gift to sellers and buyers, to help in the Curb Appeal for sale, or to help new owners figure out what they have/want to do, what they can and can’t.
My qualifications are listed under the Bio tab at and I continue to constantly achieve more, it’s my job as a “Grandparent Trained” gardener to keep above the trends, myths, media, climate.
I will try to get an online Podcast sometime. Sounds interesting. I will send the invite in a Monthly Newsletter, so if you are not on the list, you can sign up on the main page of my website.

Balcony Garden Simple

Growing “Upstairs”

   Since the dawn of man we have been growing our own food. And as we did, other staples showed up to eat our food, and so we also had, meat too. Now these days, those “staples” still show up sometimes, and they are now “pests”. So we developed ways and chemicals to “shoo” them away from our beloved veggies. Balcony gardening, those problems just aren’t there.

Now that it’s almost impossible to afford rural living with so many small towns turning big, where there is no room to spread out, we are spreading, up. The economy is getting so bad we are finding ways to keep out internet, FIOS, cell phone, car, habits, there are ways to cut costs, and now we think about food. So where do we start?

Balcony Garden 101

So when you wake up in the morning, where is the Sun? In the evening, again, where is it? Just how much light gets to your balcony? Ya see where I’m starting right? Let’s also think about room. How many square feet do you have and are there banisters and railings? You’ll need them if they are there. Can you afford a good variety of pots from 8″ up to at least 5 gallon size? Obviously you should do cheap or you cut into profit. Can you install hangars or eye hooks for hanging baskets? On a 4’x10′ balcony with railings and ability for about 5 hanging pots, I have helped folks get to where they were having to take their “overflow” to work and give to neighbors produce, and still have way too much for them. And the aesthetics were wonderful. The last thing to accomplish is watering. Can you just deal with 5 to 8 trips from the sink and a watering can every few days, or is your nearest sink within 50′ of the balcony, because then you could purchase one of those “Coil” type hoses and the small adapter for the spigot, and you’re in there. All you need now, is soil, plants, and farmer go for it.

Garden the Containers First

Well, actually second, but this is priority too. First would be which plants can you grow from the sun, room, etc. questions above, but this will get you motivated. You are going to need pots, Potting mix, gravel or Styrofoam peanuts, and veggie fertilizer, watering can or that fancy hose. Check into those “Gro Boxes” they are worth the investment and can grow thru the seasons. Self contained tote sized gardens. For your climbers, search out simple trellises or simply put a Tomato Cage in the pot, and let the Pole Beans go along with Cucumbers. Terra Cotta pots dry out quicker and most Porcelain pots have no drain holes. Drainage is important.

As you are starting your pots, add about 1 1/2 inches of stone or the peanuts first, this is so the soil doesn’t clog the drain holes. Then add your Potting soil about half way, pull your plants roots apart a bit if they’re crowded, it’s ok if they rip a bit, they will form more. Place the plant in the soil and backfill up around the root ball. Water gently until water comes out the bottom. if the soil settles below the roots, add a bit more. That one is done. Tomatoes, I plant at least 2/3 of the entire plant below the soil. Those leaves below, will turn to root, from root you get bloom, from bloom, Tomatoes! Seeds that are directly in the pot, are about 1/4 inch below the soil. This would be like your Cucumbers, Squash, Radishes, Carrots, Beets, Beans, Herbs. Use tables, plant stands, fancy saucers, etc. to liven up the scenery.

Care After The Plantings

If you do the watering can thing, get one that pours “gently” and you can control the flow. Don’t want to wash out the babies downstairs. Those coil hoses are OK if you are within 50 feet of a sink. Remember to get the faucet adapter. The hose is usually in the garden center, the adapter is in the plumbing department. Specialty fitting.

Usually while its mild out, you can get away with watering about every 6 days or so, after the heat sets in, you may have to step it up a bit. I like the saucers, if its dry, the soil is getting dry. Fertilizing can be done in a slow release granular type, Liquid types are like every 3 weeks or so. We’ll do fungus and bugs later in the month or so, but until then, have fun and respect the parameters of your balcony. Rotate the pots every so often if you think they aren’t getting enough sun. Check the web for apartment gardening or balcony garden pics.. You can grow too.

The Waiting Is The Hardest

I’ts the 11th of March, and again, i will be in the 70’s/80’s this week. I can only assume that the numbers and superfluous data that i’m seeing, we have a big snow coming around the 23rd or so.. But I want to garden. Mostly in the big bed, but also I want to plant in some repurposed
items. I have been collecting some things since the fall, I only hope I can find them all!! I don’t usually rhyme on purpose, but I’ve been up since 4:10. No wait, it’s Daylight Savings Time, my most favorite holiday, so it’s actually right now 4:00 a.m. , instead of 5…

We’ve been starting to get some of the experimental seedlings out of the dryer lint and into some actual soil. They did great. There is a nice rolling rack that gets the harden-off-ready pots out everyday now when it’s nice out. The Chandelier is planted and manure tea is getting good. Go to my Picasa Pics entry to see more pics. We’re having some fun now…..

Goochland Garden Club

This morning I had the privilege to talk with the Ladies of the Goochland Garden Club. What an energetic group they are. Most clubs like me to wait somewhere until it’s time for me to lecture, some allow me to sit in. I’m glad these gals let me sit in, I got to hear all that they were up to, and man, are they busy. They put out so much business that they had done, and were gonna do, I forgot what I was supposed to talk about. But it got me thinking on how important  community involvement is. How nice it is to see the span of years in age, and they all had a common goal. And that is to give

As I was being introduced, I was actually thinking, “I can’t compete with them”. But then when I started to get into my subject matter, they made me feel welcome. They wanted to know what I knew. I never have given a lecture in all these years where I didn’t learn something from my group, but these ladies made me remember the basic values in my endeavors, and that is I have been, given… I have been given simple values as a child, and what I did with them was up to me. I chose, to give. So Thank You Ladies of this club, for allowing me to intrude.

I was given two topics to talk about, and I think we covered about nine. I could still be going, if it wasn’t for food, and yes they had a very nice spread, including Peach Tea, haven’t had that in probably two decades. It’s not often that I write about my classes or lectures that I give, but this one was especially pleasant. I am happy this group is doing the things I heard about during their meeting. Not just because it was about gardening, but because it was a community that cared, that, like me, want to leave what they found, better than how they found it.

Thank You Ladies of the Goochland Garden Club, for having me.

Kevin Cutlip

Veggie Seeds in Richmond

Here it is, seed starting time again! Love this time of year. Trying to plan out what I want to plant, what to try, what not to plant, where everything goes… We always overgrow everything here anyway, usually give away a bunch. But its time to start with basic timing facts.

If you are starting indoors this year, then you should have some basics down:

On the packet of seeds, there is a germination or emergence time, and a harvest time in days. In the description of the plant, most will tell how far in advance to start, like Tomatoes, Egg Plant, Onions, and Peppers take the longest. Our last average killing frost is around April 15th. Notice I said, Average..  Me? I’m in the ground on the 15th, no matter what. I’m not afraid to cover a couple of times for frost, I eat first in my neighborhood. So back to the packet info. There’s also a Planting Chart for zone info. We are Zone 7a here in Richmond, Sunset Zone 32. Parts of Oregon are 7a, but different Sunset Zone. That’s just a mathematical equation for length of day, angle, intensity which sometimes comes into play for planting times and longevity of the season. That’s why I also do “succession” planting on the really fast harvesting veggies like Radishes, Green Beans, etc. Some I am picking thru Thanksgiving. That’s why I bought a freezer last year.

So starting indoors will be in about a week for me of Tomatoes and Peppers, maybe a few Eggplants. I have my racks set up already which is very simple. I have a 2 gang flourescent fixture and a 4 gang on 2 racks. I don’t use grow lights. All you need is different bulbs in them, like a soft white and a cool light, or any combination, just as long as they are different. Why? Because any two different tubes will give the same spectrum of light as a Grow Light, but way cheaper. My racks are on wheels so I can roll them out later in March on warmish days to harden them off before transplanting, which I have several ways of doing.

Here is the scenario:

Have your light fixture in place over your seed starting tray at about 2″ from the top. If you are us

ing the store bought starter trays, make sure to keep a slight gap in the lid or you may get a fuzzy black fungus growing in there. Use only a seed starting mix. Not potting mix. You don’t want any fertilizer to start, makes them lanky. As the seeds germinate, there will be only 2 leaves for a bit, they are not “true” leaves. They are looking for intense light to convert sugars to the roots. After the 3rd or 4th leaf appears, now the plant is looking for food. Some folks topdress with a potting mix at this time, or use a water-soluble fertilizer with an N-P-K of like 18-18-21 or so. Others just sprinkle a bit of 10-10-10. For the Organic approach, Fish Emulsion works great.  You still want the light at about 2″ from the top of the plant. If it’s too far, the plants get tall and lanky, then collapse. Dont forget to keep the soil moist, it does dry out quickly under light.

Simple huh? So while the seedlings are getting ready for transplanting in about 8 weeks, you should be prepping the bed. I usually compost layer my garden through the Fall, toss a bit of lime on it, and maybe a thin layer of manure and let it “cook” over the Winter. In early March, I will till all the goodies in, rake it out smooth, 10-10-10, water, and cover with clear plastic until early April… See my “Solarization Made Simple” entry. You’ll see why. But we’ll get to that later.

Garden Regulating?

Really? I can’t grow, what?

So here I’m thinking all is safe around me as long as I can garden. I can grow, fix, adjust, sweat, pick, enjoy, trade……. Wait, I can’t trade certain veggies, Mr. Guv’ment man? Whats that? I can’t grow tomatoes or green beans? Why are you in my backyard anyway? Just make sure you don’t go over there…

That article is popping up again about the Government saying that there are certain vegetables that you can’t grow, and that you can’t trade with a neighbor, because your backyard garden space is not USDA approved or inspected.. I mean come on, really? But, they are taking position, to regulate the growing of Mary Jane instead of banning it. About time, but for the lack if anything else to do, now they are telling me, “No more Black Krims, or Yard Long Asian beans in the back yard”. I can see it now, all those who can garden, will have the prettiest Pot growing in the yard, but no veggies. Well there are veggies back there, ya just can’t see ’em un till you fire up a bowl… I guess that means that Michelle Obama wont be gardening on the White House lawn anymore, well not veggies….

I can see it now, helicopters flying over, g-men rappelling down, yanking out the garden, slinging tomatoes everywhere…. But there’s the pot, undisturbed…. Excuse me, but just when did we flip over to Bizzarro World? Really…

See, they want to regulate your garden, and maybe even tax it, I read that too, because you won’t spend the money for veggies. They want you, to be controlled on how much produce you can grow of certain types of vegetables, in your own back yard. This isn’t about power-hungry HOA’s, this is the Federal Government folks. Absurdity at its best.

Well, I’m gardening. I have a lot of people to feed. I already feel like I’m sneaking around because I’m starting seeds indoors already. Yep, I’ll be out there in a couple of months, putting the babies in the bed, sweating, getting dirty, watering, and keeping a lookout for any helicopters.