Apartment Resident? Can YOU Garden?

Yes You Can!

I have written about, been on TV, given lectures to, and just plain said yes, you too can garden on a balcony. It’s all in your mindset. If you can’t garden down in the ground, garden up. Everything from seed starting to picking veggies is right at your fingertips. I can show you how. This is the time to start your planning, collecting and getting organized to grow. I know it’s not as easy as tilling a plot and planting. It takes your basic knowledge to be heightened just a bit. Your garden is different, but just as rewarding.

If you are living in an apartment or town home in the Richmond Va area, I can give your complex a lecture in your community building. I have found a few recently who already want me to do this. In my lectures I will give ideas on what to grow in, lighting requirements, soil needs, watering tips, and more, and if need be, an avenue for your fellow residents to combine different produce to share with each other.

If you are not local, email me ay Kevin@Kevinsgarden.com and maybe we can get a Google+ hangout going with your neighbors.

Group lectures are only $10.00 per person instead of the $45.00 per for one-on-one. We had a lot of fun last year, and this year seems to be more out there, that’s another reason that now it the time to act. I will be available with an appointment only basis due to the influx that I am already seeing. Saturday anytime, and weekday evenings if need be, just make sure that it’s cleared through your property managers.

I will be producing Vblogs as we encounter the season later to remind you of what may be happening on your balcony garden because of weather, insect, etc. problems.

Click here for the link to WWBT “More Bang For Your Buck” episode last year.

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.

 

Composted Leaf Mold Starts in Your Own Yard

Composting Leaf Mold

So, what happens each Fall, when we start getting leaves? We always say, or mean to, re-use them in our landscape, compost, garden beds, and what happens? Time doesn’t run out, daylight just gets shorter. In a recent article I wrote for  Farmers Almanac about raking vs mulching, I had a very good hit with emails about “Leaf Mold”. Yes, Leaf Mold is a good thing, and even better if its a free thing. I have in the past, and will again, hear from folks who got a soil analysis, and always, there is a comment from the County, to add leaf mold. “Where do we buy it”? First thing I ask about is if they have deciduous trees, most say yes. I ask where the leaves are from last year, and I find the same answer, “at the dump”.

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In the article in FA, I suggested folks seek out the leaves getting blown to the curb to be picked up, and ask if they can have a bunch. But you should scatter them in your yard and mulch them and bag up with a mower. The pieces compost faster than the whole leaves, but your garden life will change. Just make sure you aren’t picking up diseased leaves, or Black Walnut. Oak, Maple, Hickory, Poplar, Beech, are a few that I haven’t seen a lot of fungus activity. Flowering Pear, and Dogwoods, are really taking a beating the last couple of years, so, pass on them.

Generally, insects aren’t a problem, since the layering of the leaves in the beds, will freeze, and then start “cooking” later, and will kill most insects in them. If you are composting, and have been saving grass, and other greens, leaf mold is a magic kick for the ratio.

So like I said in the previous articles, and lectures, I have used all I need from my own trees, and have a surplus of already mulched leaves. Come get them, bring your own bags. There are also an abundance of Pine Tags, rake your own, I’m done. Don’t let these valuable resources hit the landfill. Just send me an email if you are in the Richmond area and are “Tree Challenged” and want some.

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Leaf litter ready to go!!

See www.Kevinsgarden.com and sign up for my newsletters. If you want the leaf litter and Pine Tags, email me at Kevin@Kevinsgarden.com

My links for the Farmers Almanac and other media are below.

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/23612768/grow-your-own-food?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9405593
http://www.nbc12.com/story/25093965/grow-a-garden-on-your-balcony?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9992677
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/

There are other articles in my blog http://www.Kevinsgarden.wordpress.com that will help you successfully have a great gardening experience.

Pickin’ Veggies…

Zucchini, Peppers, Squash, Radishes. Eating Summer already. Couldn’t wait for this. Tomatoes are gorgeous. Glad I put the milk down last month. Be eating them soon. Gonna have to, loaded. My Egg Plant and beans are blooming great. Cherries all done, Blueberries are next. June is a great month for gardening, huh?

Had to venture out a bit to help a friend garden on her balcony. She wanted a jungle, she got one. Topsy Turveys (3) window boxes full of herbs, peppers, and more herbs. Made me home-made Pesto last week from her “Garden”. I may have to start designing “Balcony Gardens” in the future. Had some potted up volunteers from my landscape, now on “The Balcony”. She’s hooked. One of my Daughters has been doing it for a couple of years now. Second year Raspberries on hers plus veggies and herbs as well. Amazing how much you can stuff on one balcony. All you need is one chair out there anyway… Yep, everyone gets hooked. A little dirt, a few seeds, water, hooked.

 We’re having fun now.