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.

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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!!

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.

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?

 

How Much $$ are YOU Saving?

Composting, Leaf Mold, and Saving Seeds

Some believe that as December hits, gardening has been well done. Not me. I’m still getting ready for late Winter. I said Late Winter, that’s March. This years garden was very late because of moving. I didn’t get the plot plowed until late July and it was in a rocky, clay, first time tilled spot. But I had “debris” that the last tenant just blew aside. I found some gold, and ate for free for the most part. Next year, all free.

My compost pile is doing very nice. My roommate and I are continuing to contribute to its mass. We have a simple coffee can on the counter, and most everything we don’t use, is in there. It’s amazing how I see my compost as “The other garden” as it grows. And, It’s free. Also, as the Summer Garden dwindled, all that green litter, went into it, again, free. Towards the end of Summer, veggies were growing in it from seed, and Celery, Parsnip, Turnip end cuts were re-growing. That, lets me know it’s good stuff when it supports itself.

Compost (1)The pic doesn’t do it justice. From just a cleared out spot in the yard in July, you can now see it from the house an acre away. And it is all garbage to some, but gold to us. Funny that some folks who have been here just look at me and say, “You’re kidding right?” Nope, just a weekly trip out with that coffee can.

 

 

 

For a lot of people leaves are such a misunderstood item. I have always used mine, no matter where I’ve lived. I recently wrote an article for Farmers Almanac about Raking vs Mulching leaves. Just makes sense to re-use them, they are free too. When I’m done with what I need, I give the rest away. They are already mulched, and ready to be amended into a garden or use as mulch. So much nutrients in those free leaves. And, you can’t buy them at a box store. Think about how a tree in the woods is fed. No one goes out there and tosses Miracle Gro at them. A tree drops its leaves all around its base for the most part and the leaves naturally compost into its feeder roots. As I mulch mine when they first start falling into my lawn, I am adding a valuable amendment into my lawn.

Leaf MoldAs they start falling harder, I start bagging with my mower, and save for my beds, especially the veggie garden. In around mid February, I will add as a top dress to the garden, and turn in about mid March, when I will “Solarize” that bed. Solarizing is cool, I have an article around here somewhere.

 

 

 

Saving seeds has always been a must for me. I don’t like buying them, especially now because of the GMO debacle. Towards the end of the seasons, I collect one or two veggies off each plant and save those seeds, herbs, I let bloom a bit, and save them, Fall crops just need to bolt, and there are seeds. I have them in individual marked zip-loc bags, and I am saving also, all my dryer lint thru the year for starting those Tomatoes and Peppers in late February indoors. Search for the dryer lint article or hit this link when I was on TV about it.

So as I wait for the coming season, I am already ahead in the wallet department. All of my efforts, just simple doings, will save me money, and I will eat free. From the size of my compost, seed allotment, leaf mold, which also has free nutrients, I will be around $200 ahead with free stuff. And, I know what is in all the materials I use. No chemicals, growth hormones, mystery stuff. I know what I am eating all the time. So can you. Truly organic is what you control. Just because the bag is labeled as such, it’s really only 85% “organic”. Read the ingredients, there is mostly another 15% missing….

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.