Giving a Personal Garden Coach as a Gift For Christmas

Richmond Virginia Gardening Gifts

Wondering what to give that certain somebody, kid, friend, relative, co-worker, etc. for Christmas? See my link at www.Kevinsgarden.com for  purchasing a Personal Garden Coach as a gift. I’ve been given as a gift and auctioned off for years, either as a birthday, Christmas, and even by Realtors for their clients. Once, I was the “most wanted’ gift in the Chinese Christmas Game, if you know what that is.

Some folks just need that bit of confidence, to keep them dirty, and successfully growing or improving their outdoor living. Let’s get dirty!!

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

Seed Starting Time

Seed Starting Time!!
Yes, It’s that time again. Days are getting longer, Seed Catalogs are in the mail, and we are, OFF!! Only a few short months, and we are in the ground, and there are some chores to do beforehand outside, but for now, we shall grow, something.
Racking, table top, pantries, under the stairs, in front of the window, doesn’t matter where, it’s time start looking for that out-of-the-way spot. There are several options, several methods, and the seed catalogs are in the mail. Some of you already have your first shipments. Some are “Old Hat”, others, “new-at-it”. Let’s talk basics.
First is where. Finding that “spot” that is out of the way, not near a cold entry, and not under a heat vent. Somewhere that is a constant temperature above 54 degrees. Seems chilly but it will work. If you know Forsythia, it blooms when the soil temperature is 54 degrees at 4 inches for 5 days, and we have gained 2 hours of daylight. Most germination occurs soon after. I have my main rack in the laundry room. 4 shelves, 2 light fixtures. Plenty of room. As I do laundry, I tend to the seedlings. I have seen nice set ups in an unused pantry as well. The “Pantry Thing” usually works great with the Apartment Folks, or in a big front window or patio doors. Just make sure to turn them weekly.
What to use to start the seedlings. Egg cartons, plastic salad containers, newspaper cups, toilet paper tubes, old plant flats, bottoms of milk or soda bottles, store bought starter flats. As long as it fits under the lighting fixture and holds soil or dryer lint… Also, how do you sow the seeds? I save empty spice shakers. They all have different sized holes, and there are different sized seeds. I get the flats ready, put the seeds in the shaker, and “season” the flats. So much easier to shake and sift.

DSCN1204
Next, lets chat about proper lighting. My fixtures are 2 gang, 4 foot florescent fixtures. I never use high dollar “Grow Lights”. I have  one Cool White and one Daylight bulb in each. With that combo, you will get the color spectrum of light from reds and oranges for germination to the blues for leaf production through photosynthesis as they emerge. And way cheaper. They are on a timer, 8 hours on 16 off per cycle, 2 inches above the seed flats. As they grow, I raise the lighting fixtures. Remember, if you only have a window area, make sure to turn the flats weekly 180 degrees, they will be doing that “lean to the light” thing, making them leggy. Notice the difference in color in the bulbs below? This tabletop rig is about $7.00 in PVC pipe and the light fixture is around $17.00 including bulbs. No need to glue it together so it can be easily disassembled for storage.

DSCN1190DSCN1199

1979500_292175280932085_201411916_n    This is a FREE rack from a store I found that I currently use.

Always a question from my readers is “What soil?” Here’s the deal about germination. No Potting Mix. No NPK. Just about any seedling, as it emerges from the seed, produces 2 leaves, which are not “true leaves” but seeking light to perform photosynthesis. The root does not want any food yet, not until 3 to 4 leaves emerge, that’s when they are forming feeder roots. I have used straight Peat Moss in the past, but in the last 4 years, I save all my dryer lint in coffee cans, and use last seasons seeds to start. That equals FREE… As the seedlings get those 3 to 4 leaves, then I feed with home made Manure Tea that I start “steeping” when I see mostly 2 leaves. And I always feed from the bottom, so the nutrient is wicked up through the dryer lint, and the roots have to go deeper to get to it. I make my plants work for it!! More root, more bloom! Below is a comparison between a starter soil and dryer lint.

1959805_292174874265459_919426497_n1505293_292174917598788_230495819_n

 

 

 

 

 

Insects and fungus. Always a particular when starting seeds indoors. One of the things I always do is spray home made Insecticidal Soap in the starter medium for Fungus Gnats. I have also used a Bt solution as a topical spray if needed. To alleviate fungus conditions, a small fan about 5 feet away on low will help there. If you are using those Seed Starter Greenhouse kits, a pencil under one corner of the lid helps greatly for ventilation, or even a small fan.
The first seeds you want to start indoors are Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant, Lavender and Onions. They take the longest. Most packet seed has that “Emergent” chart on the back. For example, if it takes 3 weeks to germinate, add 3 weeks to that, and then subtract that time from your last “Killing Frost Date” in your zone. That’s when you would start indoors. This time frame will give you a week to 10 days in the end to get them hardened off before planting. Hardening off is not only to get them climate adjusted, but also natural sunlight adjusted. This goes for your Perennials as well.
Forcing bulbs and late Winter cuttings is always a fun time. Hyacinth and Paperwhites, Forsythia, Dogwood, Japonica Camelias, Azalea, give gardeners the “illusion” that Spring is coming. Winter has a bit to go yet, but my vases and grow racks tell me otherwise. When my Forsythia pops indoors, seed racks are planted.

Simple enough. Next month we will cover the “emergence of the seedlings”, and more info on the care after you see them, then the fun begins.

 

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.

Rage Against the Ad, Part 3

Box Stores End Gardening.. What?

As a gardener, I remember always having things to do in the Winter as far as gardening. Somewhere in the past, the media, ended gardening ideas for Winter. It’s like that movie where Christmas was almost cancelled, there was a war on. With the huge amount of people gardening these days, and I’m talking specifically, the “Grow Your Own Food” folks, there seems to be an end, to gardening. There is, a war on.

Do you believe it’s over, when it comes to that last Tomato, last Squash, last weeding? Let me tell you, there’s more. Way more. If, and I say, if, you are one of the few that kept a journal, either written or photo, of your efforts, then you have the ability and responsibility to “Garden in the Winter”. It’s not over when those ads tell you. Think about the other side, of department stores. When do the flip flops, bathing suits, shorts, patio furniture, etc., go “on sale”. Summer isn’t over, in July, the ads say it is, because Fall sweaters are on the rack by mid August.

See? But we don’t realize they do it to gardeners too. Just because the name brand product ads shift from constant  “down your throat” wrong advice blitz from April to the end of July/early August, and then non-existent, most of you shut down. Me? I have fresh picked veggies for Thanksgiving. I’m nowhere near done. My shorter days thinking, goes towards finishing the beds, proper dressing and cover crop, looking over my pics and notes, for next February, when it actually starts new. I’m separating and labeling my saved seeds, labeling, converting my rotation of crops on paper, gathering things to up-cycle for seed starting, re-organizing my seed racks, taking down my cold frames, cleaning hard used tools. Ever wonder why the seed catalogs come so early? Well they aren’t early, they, are on time, the box stores are late, trying to clear out Christmas, and then have some stupid bathroom fixture sale, they can’t even order product like lime, amendments, garden tools, of things of the like. They are “out of season” and turned off in the system. By the time the seasonal items are actually in an ad, gardeners are well under way, and new gardeners, are lost.

I can’t tell you how many times over the past decades, when I ask if, anything, the  person tells me it’s too early yet. When I break out my phone  and show them what I’m doing, let’s say, mid February, and show them my seedlings up and under light in a cheap seed rack, then I have a new client. Then, they are pounding the stores about why nothing is in the store for gardening. Love the answers they get.

Most of my “Seasonal Only” clients are now year round gardeners. They are getting their Winter Gardening supplies in July, saving them for November, to create their own gardening indoor projects. I get pounded in late January early February with requests, pondering, “can I’s”, whatever, from almost as many thru the “season” gardeners. About 30% of those, repeatedly send me pics of “the thing” they are building, and do I think it will work. Then, Late February, mid March, silence. But I hear them, working, thinking, whining, trying….

Yep, the media has all but killed Winter Gardeners. There is a huge up flow of people tired of their food being tainted, by the very same chemical companies, that are in charge of the ads. Late ads, and wrongly timed advice. See, they don’t want you to grow, especially food. That’s why there’s ads, so the ordinary weekender can just keep trying instead of succeeding. How many times I heard, “Well I do this every year, because the ad says so.” And we’re talking simply about over seeding a fescue lawn. Same with the veggie garden people. See the pictures on the name brand water soluble fertilizers? “All Purpose” with it’s flowering annuals and a Tomato and Pepper? Ever read the NPK on that box? Those folks I am guaranteed to get an email from about the very tall leafy Tomato plant with no blooms, in late July. “But the box”, they’ll say. I know that company generates more dollars in that 12 facing display than they would by actually promoting their “Tomato” food. Watch the commercials next spring. Oh yeah, they have another product to counter the Blossom End Rot if you are lucky enough to get any to blossom. Same as the mid Summer fescue fertilizer pushers. That’s when the Fungus Controls come in by the pallets. They know, they told you wrong, and you will need this, better luck next year, just gimme your money. Fescue lawn mostly Bermuda? They make a product to control it, or are you following the ad for feeding wrong?

This Winter, do yourself a favor, especially if you are confused. Find a Personal Garden Coach, we are here to stop you from watching the ads, be successful, save you money, as you make money growing your own food, and helping the environment. Winter is where I  am invited as a guest speaker, lecturer, given for Christmas, to help generate that kick start in gardeners. We have plenty to do on our own properties and scheduling garden chores, but as we educate others, our life gets easier. Our job is to grow. Not only you, but ourselves. We know how to make gardening mistakes, most of us have done things just to see, or to prove to others. Now I’m all about this article, it needs to be understood, that “ads are the bads” when it comes to gardening. Sales are great, don’t get me wrong, but the education you would get, can stop you from buying by the ad.

Invest in your educating yourself and your family. Change the channel when a commercial is on, keep a garden journal, make your own trends.

The Farmers Almanac

My first article in the FA this month!! Kinda nice because the lecture requests are coming faster this year, and more… Already October thru March bookings and I’ve had a few who didn’t realize, now they do!

http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2014/08/25/putting-beds-bed/

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.