Latest Adventures

My latest article in Farmers Almanac. Also I should be on WWBT tonight again about “Small Space Gardening” in their “More Bang For Your Buck” series.

http://www.nbc12.com/clip/11401312/more-bang-for-your-buck-inexpensive-small-space-gardens

http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2015/04/13/hybrid-heirloom-tomato/

Next article will be about Wood Boring Bees, Succession Planting, and some other seasonal stuff.

Companion Planting and other Garden Things

 

Companion Planting. Does it Work?
Digging through the charts I have found very few dissimilar yes and no’s in the Companion Planting realm. I know I do a few, not all, but the success is there. I have even planted against the recommendations a few times just to see. Failure of the plant was the outcome. So as you are going into the beds, or even in them, you should try to seek out some of these charts. If you are in, simply inter-plant some things, and if you are planning to go in soon, act accordingly.
If you followed my Solarizing a Garden Bed” articles, and in Part II, you can now see it works. I have volunteers and weeds dying everywhere the plastic was. So why stop there? Just a few corrections in the bed, and you can achieve less bugs, fungus, and some prolific growth on most of your veggies. Companion Planting has been around as long as we have gardened, well, shortly after anyway, because attention was there, as to what did and didn’t do well. Look up 3 Sisters Gardening for an example, or, read the ingredients on any jar of spaghetti sauce, and plant those Herbs near your Tomatoes, even in pots near them. Someone knew what went great with them?
Not only Companion Planting, Solarizing, and composting but also, as we creep into this season, don’t forget to add some whole milk to the Tomatoes, helps with the Blossom End Rot because of the rains. Just a little timing on these matters will help you through the growing season. Do the milk now if you are in, or add it as you plant them. 1/3 cup to each plant. No feeding for 3 weeks after the milk, no Nitrogen. Then you can, but please don’t buy your fertilizer by what is on the picture on the label. Read the NPK analysis. Close to even across the numbers is best. 18-18-21 or 10-10-10 area is OK. But if you get an “all purpose” type, it will have too much Nitrogen, and you will have very nice green plants, hardly any bloom. I know if you are saving your eggshells, that’s calcium too, but it is a slow release. The whole milk is instant, and that is when you need the replacement, before the first blooms set. Yellow leaves at the bottom before the first blooms, yeah, it’s look out time!
So if you find these charts about Companion Planting, follow some of them, and if you keep a Garden Journal as I always suggest, you can compare your notes about who did and didn’t do well before. Who was too close to what, etc. You will see an improvement in your gardens, and produce picked. Some of the charts deal only with either insects, fungus issues, fruiting, inhibiting. But some have them all, so don’t get confused, just pick a plan. As always watch the weather, some of you may still have some frost coming, even hail storms. Keep some plastic handy and be able to cover, but water first, the wet soil will add humidity under the plastic and prevent frost from burning the leaves, or put a 5 gallon pail of water inside, that will help as well. Hail can be devastating to a garden. I always kept 3 gallon pots, or cut off the bottoms of milk jugs to place over the plants, that’s IF you know it is imminent hail coming. Place a bamboo stick or something similar through the hole in the container to help keep the pounding and wind from removing the container. Whew! Maybe these will help. Been there, done them.

I will be shifting from Go Daddy to Weebly soon, so if you don’t hear from me, Bing me, and find me. I will add my secondary email just in case. Kevinthegarden@gmail.com.

Wait! Don’t Throw That Out!! Part XXVI ?

For over two decades I have been trying to get folks, either in the Water Gardening realm, to the Grow it Yourself people, NOT to toss out things that could be a sustainable “Growing Medium”. See my events about Seed Starting in Dryer Lint, shoes, pocketbooks, etc., if you forget. Even the “never before now always” composters are finding out about the gold they had been tossing out for ever. So now, again, the mysterious “Grow Bags”. I go to clients homes, and sometimes on trash or re-cycle days, and right there, right there, in their trash are the very things they are going to buy, the very thing, I am there to talk with them about. Growing stuff.

So here’s some of the things, I save, to grow in. Balcony Gardening, starting seeds, whatever. If I find it, I’ll grow in it. So should you!

First is an up-cycled store rack. Great for balcony Gardening. Balcony Garden 5

Ask your grocery store, if they are tossing any racks. Grow in it.

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Next is the “Grow Bags“. But FREE bags. Grocery Store wine bags, the ones they give you. There’s even a hanging Tomato Plant there. It is inside a pot with a slit and hole cut in it inside the bag for support. Just picture it upside down in the bag. Fill with soil. Same material the expensive bags are made of.

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Then we get to some other things like Onion Bags with Okra growing in it, Old water jugs with Tulips, some kind of canvas bags I found with Herbs, used clear salad containers, water bottles for cuttings, those clear zip up things that quilts, sheets come in make great Cold Frames or Hardening Off containers… Well, the list is very long. I even use my old spice containers for seed starting. Different spices, different holes, different seeds. And of course, there’s Dryer Lint for starting seeds.

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So what happens when I show up at a clients home anyway? First is the issues they contacted me about, and seasonal timing. A plan is made, instructions and education. After that, any concerns about future projects. Of course, if it can be re-used, it will be. Don’t go to the dump just yet. I may see the very thing in the pile you would need. Balcony Garden People can find a host of items everyday to up-cycle. Either with other tenants, or in the community trash. Everything will look like a container. If you think you need a Personal Garden Coach, then get one. Most, like myself, even do community groups like Apartments, Clubs, and Cul-de-sac classes.

Don’t forget to sign up for my Monthly Newsletter at http://www.Kevinsgarden.com. Email me your pics of your projects as well at Kevin@Kevinsgarden.com. You can also find me on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf-TfudVKyD56l_F77dH01A. Somewhere on my website I still have Outtakes if you need a laugh.

Solarizing a Garden Bed, Part II

If you have been following the articles of mine about weed and insect abatement, you may like this. A few weeks ago, I posted an article about Solarizing a bed. I had pics of mine, and we had some cold weather, a random 70 degree day weekly, and lots of sunny days. In the time from the last article, things grew and hatched under the plastic. I checked the soil temp a few times, and found outside the bed was hovering around 52 degrees at 4 inches, but in the bed, a nice 61 degrees at 4 inches. Yep, things were happening under there. I could even see bug trails on the underside of the plastic in the moisture. We had here in Richmond, a hard freeze late Sunday night/early Monday morning, and I uncovered my “horizontal greenhouse” Sunday evening. The temp got down to 21 degrees that morning, and Ma Nature didn’t let me down. Lots of things got fried. Hopefully the coming season will be kinder, weed and bug wise. Simple steps most times can help alleviate bad things later, or at least get me ahead of the game. Even the new compost volunteers fried, there were some in the middle about 2 weeks ago, saw them thru the plastic!!

DSCN1416First Day around March 3rd.

005Pulled off plastic around March 28th, then had hard freeze/frost.

009Looking pretty special now. Cooked!! and getting worse.

Usually I would leave on for about 6 weeks, but watching the weather, looks like a good while of lows only in the 40’s here, so I wanted to fry what was there. Notice the thicker weed ring around most of the bed, where the plastic overhang the bed. It will finish up dead in a few more days too. Stuff really works. Now it’s easier to lessen any chemical useage, and hopefully the companion plantings are gonna work as well for the future months. Next article is about Companion Planting.

As always you can visit http://www.Kevinsgarden.com and sign up for the monthly newsletter and keep up with my antics, and what you should be doing now.

 

 

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.

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.

 

February Is Cold, But How Warm?

February Solar Temps Compared To Ambient?

Here in Richmond, Va., we have finally gotten a Winter Blast that reminds us it’s still, Winter. But, we have also achieved about an hour and 20 minutes of daylight. Check your gained time here at the USNO website, just fill in the blanks. What’s that mean to a gardener? Well, it’s like this. The angle of the Sun is rocketing from low in the South, back to East, basically. The soil temps from this angle is warming up. By the time Forsythia blooms in March, we will have 2 hours gained. But the ambient temp now is around 11, and the real feel is about 0 to -4. Was worse the other day, and tonight, worse yet. But the Sun is helping in this February blast.

Last week I had pipes freeze. No way to get anything to the well house and tank to apply heat. so, I took a digital thermometer and placed in the shade a few minutes, and as it got down to 50 degrees or so, I then put it in the direct Sun. It jumped up to 75 degrees. Now, I have done this next thing before, and it works. I took 3 large mirrors, and pointed them all at the inlet pipe and accumulator tank under the house. Had to readjust every 45 minutes or so, but from around 11:30 to 2:30, the water came back. The well house is on the North side of this old house. I could feel the heat every time I stepped in front of the mirrors, and it was warm inside that pump house. Pic below is of my endeavors. The pipe is behind tank.

Frozen

The next thing I had to try after the snow, was to see if on the same North side, if I could use the same method melting an ice dam. Here’s the pics of that chore. Before and after, about 3 hours time. Just an experiment, wasn’t going to do them all!!

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What’s this have to do with Gardening? Everything. For Hoop Houses, Green Houses, Cold Frames, Solarizing your beds, if you can’t get heat to them in an untimely cold blast, find a mirror and use the Sun to your advantage. Place a few jugs of water inside, and point the mirrors at the jugs. They will get to 75 degrees this time of year. There, that’s it. A little work, but save the crops and your work if you get caught in the ice.