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.

Garden Coach Fees

Garden Coach Fees

Garden Coach Fees
I have been asked about my fees for one-on-one and groups. So here they are. One-on-One, $40 per hr, and you decide how long, how many times out to see you. Helping in Seasonal Gardening chores such as: — Indoor Seed Starting Racks — Seasonal chores of your property, detailed of when, how, why. Assisting by educating about specifics in your gardens, landscape. — Water Garden Maintenance, installations, repairs, education. — Apartment and balcony gardening, vertical, container, hanging gardening. — Placement of new Veggie Gardens, rehabbing old overgrown gardens.
Groups of 10 or more, $175 for 2 hours of lecture time, Q & A, at your location. I have been the guest speaker at several events of 300 plus, so larger groups don’t scare me, but sometimes goes longer than 2 hours, but Group Fee doesn’t change. Sometimes the group wants me to lecture on a specific topic, or we can just go where the questions lead up to. It’s always a fun time.
I have been “given” as a birthday present to many novice gardeners, a realtors gift to sellers and buyers, to help in the Curb Appeal for sale, or to help new owners figure out what they have/want to do, what they can and can’t.
My qualifications are listed under the Bio tab at www.Kevinsgarden.com and I continue to constantly achieve more, it’s my job as a “Grandparent Trained” gardener to keep above the trends, myths, media, climate.
I will try to get an online Podcast sometime. Sounds interesting. I will send the invite in a Monthly Newsletter, so if you are not on the list, you can sign up on the main page of my website.

March in Richmond Garden Time

March In
Richmond, Va.

Here we are in March, Richmond Va. wondering… Or are
we?
Most of the “Gardeners” here know, It’s go time. Others, wait for the
media, to say “GO”.  I’m sorry if you wait, we “Dirt Folks” , are ahead of you.

For the last few weeks, we have been watching birds, plants, sky color, and
aching bones, additional 2 1/2 hours extra daylight, to see when we need to go.
It’s now. Believe us.
OK, lemme clue you in. As the sky turns more blue from
grey, we start pruning what we didn’t finish in the Fall. We always know, there
will be another snow, and we count on it. Robins showing up, and neighbors
finally taking down old Christmas decor… Garden prep time is here.
It’s
March. What needs to be done now, needs to be done ri If you haven’t pruned your
Roses, get that done. Crape Myrtles are this month as well. Last ditch effort on
those tired ornamental grasses. Lawn? Pre-Emergent, NOW!! Sorry if you don’t get
that done if you follow our Lawn Sheet.. It will cost you more in about 45 days.
Way more.
Clean out any old fruit litter you may have missed. Have Stink
Bugs? They love old decaying fruit litter, so maintenance of your beds is
important.
Let’s talk lawn tools for a second. Oil them, sharpen them, or buy
new stuff. There. That’s it. You can’t build a house with a rusty screwdriver
and half a hammer. Can’t cook, with a 2 tined fork and 3 cracked glasses. Can’t
update your Facebook without a, well, I guess you can, but you get it.

By Now, if you started seeds indoors already, you are ready to feed
those babies. In a few days, they will be ready to take out and start hardening
off. If you haven’t, it’s now. Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant and Onions for the
summer garden. Cold Crops? Why are you waiting. GO. NOW. They are showing up in
plant form now in nurseries, so go ahead, plant them.
Garden Prep time is
now too. Solarizing beds starts now.

Solarizing Gardens
Solarizing is
simple.First thing is to finish clearing out your old beds. Rake out old rows
and fill in furrows. Till if you must, just be careful it’s not too wet, because
you can actually cause a compaction issue.  Add more compost if you have it or
need it. Top dress with about a quarter inch of composted manure. Add a little
10-10-10 and a little lime, then water. Cover the entire bed with clear plastic
and place bricks or lumber around to hold in place. After a few weeks you will
see new gtowth from weeds and old veggie seeds, bugs will hatch as well. It’s
ok, it’s supposed to. Around early April, you should be growing and hatching the
bad stuff really good. Watch the weather and when you see the frost warnings
come out, simply take the plastic off that evening and let Ma Nature fry
everything that night. There. Done. This will give you a head start on no
chemicals for a while. That was easy.

Indoor Plants
March
is also a great time to re-pot those tired indoor tropicals. Always add new
potting mix as the old falls out when breaking up the rootballs. Go up one pot
size to get more production from them, or separate the babies sprouting out for
new pots. Time to start feeding again thru the season. Use insecticidal soap
solutions to treat for bugs. water good the first time after re-potting to help
settle the new soil.

Water Garden
Folks
I know its a hard
chore but it needs to be cleaned out too. Remove the leaf netting now and skim
out what you can. Don’t start feeding those fish until the water temp stays
above 58 degrees. If you had moved the pump closer to the water fall for Winter,
it’s time to put it back in the far end to get complete circulation now. Check
for new shoots on those plants, it’s time to propogate them as well.

In case you missed my
WWBT segment on “More bang for your buck” it’s out on their website
now.

The Waiting Is The Hardest

I’ts the 11th of March, and again, i will be in the 70’s/80’s this week. I can only assume that the numbers and superfluous data that i’m seeing, we have a big snow coming around the 23rd or so.. But I want to garden. Mostly in the big bed, but also I want to plant in some repurposed
items. I have been collecting some things since the fall, I only hope I can find them all!! I don’t usually rhyme on purpose, but I’ve been up since 4:10. No wait, it’s Daylight Savings Time, my most favorite holiday, so it’s actually right now 4:00 a.m. , instead of 5…

We’ve been starting to get some of the experimental seedlings out of the dryer lint and into some actual soil. They did great. There is a nice rolling rack that gets the harden-off-ready pots out everyday now when it’s nice out. The Chandelier is planted and manure tea is getting good. Go to my Picasa Pics entry to see more pics. We’re having some fun now…..

Veggie Seeds in Richmond

Here it is, seed starting time again! Love this time of year. Trying to plan out what I want to plant, what to try, what not to plant, where everything goes… We always overgrow everything here anyway, usually give away a bunch. But its time to start with basic timing facts.

If you are starting indoors this year, then you should have some basics down:

On the packet of seeds, there is a germination or emergence time, and a harvest time in days. In the description of the plant, most will tell how far in advance to start, like Tomatoes, Egg Plant, Onions, and Peppers take the longest. Our last average killing frost is around April 15th. Notice I said, Average..  Me? I’m in the ground on the 15th, no matter what. I’m not afraid to cover a couple of times for frost, I eat first in my neighborhood. So back to the packet info. There’s also a Planting Chart for zone info. We are Zone 7a here in Richmond, Sunset Zone 32. Parts of Oregon are 7a, but different Sunset Zone. That’s just a mathematical equation for length of day, angle, intensity which sometimes comes into play for planting times and longevity of the season. That’s why I also do “succession” planting on the really fast harvesting veggies like Radishes, Green Beans, etc. Some I am picking thru Thanksgiving. That’s why I bought a freezer last year.

So starting indoors will be in about a week for me of Tomatoes and Peppers, maybe a few Eggplants. I have my racks set up already which is very simple. I have a 2 gang flourescent fixture and a 4 gang on 2 racks. I don’t use grow lights. All you need is different bulbs in them, like a soft white and a cool light, or any combination, just as long as they are different. Why? Because any two different tubes will give the same spectrum of light as a Grow Light, but way cheaper. My racks are on wheels so I can roll them out later in March on warmish days to harden them off before transplanting, which I have several ways of doing.

Here is the scenario:

Have your light fixture in place over your seed starting tray at about 2″ from the top. If you are us

ing the store bought starter trays, make sure to keep a slight gap in the lid or you may get a fuzzy black fungus growing in there. Use only a seed starting mix. Not potting mix. You don’t want any fertilizer to start, makes them lanky. As the seeds germinate, there will be only 2 leaves for a bit, they are not “true” leaves. They are looking for intense light to convert sugars to the roots. After the 3rd or 4th leaf appears, now the plant is looking for food. Some folks topdress with a potting mix at this time, or use a water-soluble fertilizer with an N-P-K of like 18-18-21 or so. Others just sprinkle a bit of 10-10-10. For the Organic approach, Fish Emulsion works great.  You still want the light at about 2″ from the top of the plant. If it’s too far, the plants get tall and lanky, then collapse. Dont forget to keep the soil moist, it does dry out quickly under light.

Simple huh? So while the seedlings are getting ready for transplanting in about 8 weeks, you should be prepping the bed. I usually compost layer my garden through the Fall, toss a bit of lime on it, and maybe a thin layer of manure and let it “cook” over the Winter. In early March, I will till all the goodies in, rake it out smooth, 10-10-10, water, and cover with clear plastic until early April… See my “Solarization Made Simple” entry. You’ll see why. But we’ll get to that later.

A Sweet Morning, and Blossom End Rot…

   Wow… If you didn’t get out this morning and appreciate this very sweet morning, then too bad. I did, and it was great sitting on my back porch with a cup of coffee.. Yeah, won’t be many more of these before the heat settles in. We are actually having a real Spring here in Richmond this year. Cool nights, warmish days, rainy days and more rainy days. Yep, here comes the dreaded Blossom End Rot (BER). Lots of moisture, cool nights, and then warm sunny days. Most folks see a slight yellowing on their Peppers, Tomatoes, and Egg Plant, so the first thing they do is throw the “All Purpose” MG fertilizer to them. I guess because there is a picture of a Tomato on the box with blooming flowers. Last thing they need is Nitrogen folks, read the NPK labels on the plant food before you buy. All this rain, and the calcium levels drop out in the soil, and now the plant cannot take up what it needs.. The one thing it doesn’t need is more (excessive) Nitrogen. I always tell folks to have their soil tested for anything planted, especially a vegetable garden. If when you tilled your garden in March, and you applied slow release lime, then you are probably OK. If not, here’s an old remedy that I know works. Add 1/3 cup of milk around the root base of your Tomatoes, now. You can’t stop BER after the fact.  Here in Richmond this year, you’re probably gonna have it. I have already “milked” my veggies. 3 Matches around my Peppers, and well, the Egg Plant will just have to get on with it. Other than that, everything else is coming up great.

  Let’s see, back to that NPK thing again. BER is a fungal condition that sets in, and has something to do with over Nitrogen feeding. Tall fescue has the same issues with improper feeding, rain, daylight hours, heat…. Those “Weed & Feed” jockey’s who feel the need to throw all that Nitrogen down now, well, the fungicides will be on the shelf very soon, feel free to pick up a bag or two, you’re gonna need it. All the milk in the fridge won’t help…. Ever notice that when a lawn starts getting a fungus, it’s either in a slight depression in the yard, or where there is some run-off. Same with Hardwood Mulch and that “Dog-Puke” fungus.. (Really, Google that and you will see it’s actually the name for it). That also occurs in mulch beds mostly applied in the late Winter or early Spring, when we get all this rain, and there is a slight depression in the mulched area. Looks like a Dog, well, “Puked” there. Nothing you can do about it, no way to treat it, and it does not affect your plants at all. Just happens. It’s just unsightly for a bit.

Yep. I am enjoying Spring this year. The Southern Oscillation is being good to us for a bit, except for the Tornadic outbreaks all of a sudden, which tells me that La Nina and El Nino are getting ready to switch back next yearish or so… We aren’t usually connected as a “Tornado Alley” city here in Richmond, but the storm fronts are pushing South East a bit. So be mindful of any storm for a bit, especially while we are going through these extreme temperature changes.

I will be posting more pics here soon at www.picasaweb.google.com/Kevinthegarden

3 Weeks From Transplanting…

We are almost ready to transplant, and I’m sore already!!

   In a few weeks, the seedlings will be in the garden. Then it will be up to Ma Nature to decide. I have been trying to help, but in the end, it’s all in her hands. I just hope she sees how hard I’ve tried this Winter. Today I turned in some very nice cooked compost, along with some good Winter Rye. I will apply some wood ash and 10-10-10 in a day or two. We’re heating up here already, and the babies are almost ready for real soil. The drip irrigation I will install afterwards will help out a lot, I hope. I think I did a really good job gardening my soil this past Fall/Winter.. Didn’t spend any money on it, but it looks like the stuff I could get like $50.00 per 5 gal. bucket with plenty of worms, and not the first grub…. I’m just a proud dirt farmer..

Heres some pics.

www.picasaweb.google.com/Kevinthegarden

Spring 2011 albumn.