Getting Garden Ready

It’s Time!

Time to start thinking of that plot again, are you going bigger, same, smaller? Don’t know where to start again? If you need help in planning, correcting, or just don’t have time, I will be your Personal Garden Coach. Hiring me for any gardening advice or help can allow you to achieve better results, Water Gardens, starting a community garden, new DIY projects, garden beds, containers, last years problems, indoor seed starting, and the list goes on. Everyone has different situations, and as a Personal Garden Coach, it’s my job to get you on the right track. Hiring me is a better way than wondering if, the whole season. I am available within 10 miles of Glen Allen, Va., for personal consultation, a little help, or just more gardening education and ideas. Fees vary from one-on one to groups of 10 or more. Have a community room or a central home? Groups are cheaper, and everyone gets answered.

If you are interested in my help, email me at Kevin@Kevinsgarden.com . It’s time to start!!

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Farmers Almanac Links

My links to the Farmers Almanac. Newest one out now about Seed Starting, there is an error in editing, but I emailed them about fixing it. Sorry!!

http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2014/08/25/putting-beds-bed/
http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2014/10/13/october-gardening-chores/
http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2014/11/03/rake-not-rake/
http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2014/12/29/garden-damage-control/
http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2015/01/30/seed-starting-basics/

 

Growing in Strange Things, Still a Garden, Right?

So the last polling of a few social groups, and again, out in town from just plain folks I caught in the “Gardening Mood”, I have compiled yet another list. This time it was “What is the weirdest thing you have ever planted in?” They range from things to stuff, and a few were actually done by many. Here is the responses.

A mixture of compost, native dirt, egg shells, kitchen waste and beard when shaved off,  grew hens n chicks in a pair of Victorian high top ladies shoes, the kitchen sponge (and there were many replies), dryer lint, bean plant growing up out of the drain after a camping trip, Parrot food caught in the drain, sprouted, gave back to Parrots. Is that “up-cycle or re-cycle?” Newspaper strips and a hat, Baby Carriage, sand box as a kid with nice corn, 55 gallon plastic barrel and burlap bag full of elephant poop, a commode (several replies, and all in the front yard), old sinks, a maple tree sapling growing out of a joint in a bike, Marijuana around a police station, this was an answer I swear, wash rag after cleaning up salad counter, wheel barrows, old garden carts, and 2 used old grills so they didn’t have to bend over. A “Bagster”, cinder blocks, light bulbs, birds nest, Wasp nest, abandoned of course, Conch Shells, and remember that “Talking Bass” years ago? Well, someone used that too. A few tree stumps, forgotten culled bulbs that grew next season every which way in the bag and another in the box, shot glasses, jeans, socks, onion bags, bones, jars, purses, spike heels, tires, and disposable diapers. Holes and cruxes in trees, old fountains, fire pits, lamp shades, steer manure bags, straight coffee grounds, with success. Then there was, “Children”… But then this explanation, which I had completely forgotten about, which went… “But, then again, you could read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle who used the Radish Cure for getting a child to bathe … she planted radish seeds on the kiddo and they sprouted!” I never did that with mine, but would have bet it would work sometimes.

The way I see it, if Ma nature can grow a Maple tree in a bicycle joint, then everything is open game to plant in.

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!!

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.

 

 

 

Vendor Confusion is Wreaking Havoc

…and killing your success…

For the 13 1/2 years that I worked at the “Orange Box” as their Garden Specialist, I had to endure several vendor seminars to hear their blathering, about their products. Information that I watched everyone else in the room, suck down like it was gospel, and they never had grown a thing. I could tell, just by their questions, and the answers made me ill. Was it truly an attempt to educate, or was it just a ploy for more dollars to the vendor, limiting your success, because you were told, wrong? Ever notice, that as a huge ad comes out with any “Buy this, get this free and apply this now”, or whatever, that over there, on that shelf, is a product that will be in the next ad, claiming “If you have this, then apply this now”, with a picture of some un-Godly thing growing in a lawn or garden. They know you are being told wrong, but there is another chemical, to correct it. Don’t believe me? Look in the overheads, see what chemical is on like 4 pallets, that’s the next ad. Then do your homework on that product. You will see the “If you did this, then you need to do that”.

After about the 3rd year, I couldn’t take anymore from gardening my whole life, so I started asking questions I knew that vendor didn’t know the answers to, or wouldn’t truthfully answer. My absurd affliction of watching and knowing the climatology of my zone, and observing my customers failures because the same info being shoved at us, and why last year the same info was there, but people were failing was my dilemma. Their info was the same that was on the commercials, again. Yep, all the speaker could do was back up a few sentences, and start again. I was finally asked not to attend anymore lectures. And my attitude towards them and my clients, changed.

I didn’t set out to  kill their products, well, not at first, but I led my clients through scenarios of their past years of anything gardening, no matter what the project was. Especially when they say they “do this every year”. As we looked into their media generated practices, the switches were clicking on. In just one particular season, I was being inundated by clients wanting to see, “that guy”. See, I wasn’t dogging weekly sales plans, they were growing, because of repeat customers, and their friends. I told the truth, and their landscapes were improving. Funny how many times I was told not to tell their neighbor what I was telling them at first. But then, the neighbor was brought in to see me, because of the invasions of those “Un-Godly Things” they were growing. Don’t get me going about grass seed, just read the label on the back, it’s done by an independent lab, and they tell the truth about that particular batch. Add the percentage of seed blends and see if it’s near 100%. There is one in particular, that gets close to 50%, but “It’s NEW and IMPROVED!!” Please.. Just read the label. There’s more.

As the years went by, more info was out about “Organic” gardening and these vendors were clamoring over each other to produce all organic lines of money. Yeah, they went to the limits, even with the Federal Government, that there was a certain percentage of what they had to admit to that was “organic”. By Federal Law, a vendor only has to have their organic products labeled at 85%. The other 15%, they didn’t have to tell you what was in the product. Read any label listed as organic, see for yourself. If there’s no label of ingredients, then either pass on that product, or thank the MSDS.com people that they, would. Scary. Watch what you buy, and join MSDS.com, you will change your practices immediately. Reference to the movie, “Erin Brockovich” when she was at that one home, discussing where the chemicals were coming from that was killing families, the water, and the Mom frantically jumped up and got her kids out of the pool…. Imagine your backyard, the same way, the vendor doesn’t care, but there is another commercial.

A few years ago, I was asked to help a client figure out why most of her veggie garden failed for the past couple of years. She was a farm girl, and knew how to garden her soil first. When I arrived, we walked the landscape first, and it was beautiful. It was a horse farm, and she was completely organic. Last years manure was here, this years was there. But I noticed a weird situation. In the established beds, no weeds. But in the lawn areas, plenty. She used no chemicals at all. As we got to the veggie garden, I could see the nice composted manure, some sporadic rows of veggies, but mostly, bare everywhere else. After a few minutes of asking about and her answering me, her practices, her hay farmer showed up to drop her bales. We continued the tour, but something in me wasn’t right. I took several pics, and her time was up, and I ensured her I’d get back to her. A few weeks later, I was listening to a podcast about gardening with out “The Government” in your back yard. Something the gal said, got me riled up about a suspicion I had earlier. I did some digging, and the next day, called on my client. When I got there, two of her friends, horse farmers as well, were there, and had the same issues in their failed gardens. So as a group, I asked where they got their hay. They all, and a few more friends, got it from the same hay farm. Imagine that the three, all at once, explaining that they don’t know why I was asking about the hay distributor? After finally having the floor, all I asked was “Does he use 2-4d on his fields”? My client immediately called, and he said yes, so there are no broad leaf weeds…. Horses and cows, that eat the hay treated with 2-4d, eliminate the chemical, it’s in the hay. The chemical can be dormant for four years, unless there is a broad leaf anything, to consume it. Silence in a field is strange. Then the phones came out, and friends were called, because this garden problem had been discussed at length at their horse club meetings, and everyone was using the same practices and had the same hay producer.

Now, I wasn’t wanting to end someones livelihood, but the story, is true, and ties in with the first part of this article. How many failures does it take, especially with seasoned gardeners, before they quit too? My info to these people wasn’t just from articles I read. As a Garden Coach, some proof needed to be found. There was actually a middle visit at this farm, and it was to get some of the composted manure for me to make some manure tea for myself, and was offered all I want. But it wasn’t for my gardens. It was experimental, because of my suspicions about the manure. I used it on some of my own seedlings, some from just watering, and some by spraying on. All died or looked like they wanted to. The chemicals from the hay, was in the poop.

In the discussions I’ve had and lectures given over the years, not just in regular gardening practices, but also water gardens, people don’t understand what’s in the chemical they are “sold”. For example the aquatic chemical used to “clear up algae blooms” at about $23.00 per pint, is simply Hydrogen Peroxide. Just a cap full per so many square feet of pond. All it does is sterilize the existing algae so it can’t reproduce, it dies, and is fuel for the next bloom, again and again, until they are sold a mechanical filter or a magic light fixture. I gotta tell ya, I’ve never seen such a thing in a real pond. But the vendor has a method of making a simple project cost you out of enjoyment, it’s now a chore. Simple practices in the maintenance of any water garden, makes it just that, a garden. But you aren’t supposed to know about moving the pump seasonally, and more.

My Apartment gardening clients are all of a sudden, a new breed. There has been a little info out there about containerizing veggies, but none from vendors. I have had several in the past few years, start with a few, and now no room out there. I did have enough that had an interest, that WWBT’s “More Bang for Your Buck” series aired me on just that. And you people went crazy in your gardening on balconies. But, unless you know someone with compost, you have to buy bagged. Just read the label about potting mixes, garden soils, and keep it cheap. Anything that boasts about “water retention”, “longer feeding”, or any other “thing” and has great pics on the bag, let it go. In containers, you have the luxury of no weeds, and maybe less bugs, but…. You have to control your watering and feeding times more than an in-ground garden. Drainage and fungus is where your extra education needs to be above others. So you don’t want that “new and improved” anything. There’s more, but you are a 3rd floor gardener, and it’s worth the effort.

With the onslaught of GMO vs Non-GMO, there is a question of that vendor side as well. If you aren’t saving seeds already, it may be too late soon. With the formation of Seminis Seed Company, a Monsanto entity, it appears that all seeds in the companies they are buying up, will be GMO, and will not reproduce from seeds of that plant. You will have to buy all your seeds from now on. End of the world folks. Some will reproduce, but will not be the same plant. I have already seen some of this, and the packets planted, were not all the same, already. The “vendor” states they are healthier, more resistant to a nuclear blast, etc… But, you have to buy again next year. And yes, the Government is involved with this too. Pretty soon, my seed stash I save year after year, will be illegal, and they will raid that one kitchen drawer we all have, with just “stuff” in it. Imagine it, “Seed Cops”.

Any type of gardening is supposed to be therapy in my book. I already work, I don’t want a pleasure to be work. As a kid, there weren’t many chemicals or bagged goods like today, and we ate good. Certain weeds meant something about the soil, weather, nutrients, etc. Rotating crops, gardening your soil, companion planting, inter-planting to attract good bugs, were all you needed. I’ve never seen Ma Nature shop in a box store. I can go out to the middle of nowhere, and see beautiful things growing, and not the first empty bag of anything. So why can’t you grow without a vendor? Make it pleasurable, therapeutic, and profitable to garden again. Who’s your Garden Coach? Class begins as I step out of my vehicle with my clients, I have a compass, and a watch, and it’s the first thing I note, then it’s on. My interview with you simply includes, my exploring your “chemical closet”, your previous practices, ask about your non-existent garden journal, and then, what do you want, as we tour your property. Then you’re mindset will change, and you are gardening again. Simply keeping a journal, will keep you from listening to those commercials, when the vendor says, “Do this now”.

In my public lectures, weather they are small groups or upwards to 200-300 people, after about five minutes in, they find out I am not a vendor. Questions come early on of what the commercials are that week or what the box store has in their ads, and why am I saying different?…. As I answer them, also with scenarios of what I know what is going on in a garden, certain veggies, weather, whatever, that if they are following the ads, then they start admitting, they have that problem too. Then I ask, why? Now, I got them.

Go Grow Something.