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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Garden Center Clearance Time?

Seed Catalogs are in the mail, compost is cooking, dreams and plans for the coming seasons are dancing in gardeners heads. All consuming our thoughts and making us just a bit distant to our friends. I myself have been out to the spent paradise, overlooking it’s new abilities. It’s Winter demise is actually picturesque to me, and I still get that Horticultural Therapy. I have my phone with me, looking at the pictures from last year as I am out there, planing.

But the big picture, the leftover products at box stores. The items in the overheads and last 3 things on a shelf, prices falling because they are discontinued from the new seasons product lines. Vendors don’t want them back, most times, and the store receives no credit. They get what they can, as the price tumbles, then toss in the compactor when the price is low enough to take the hit. Where does this leave you?

If you go to a big box store, and see the clearance items that are on the, let’s say, “Pot Wall”, the yellow “was/now” stickers, maybe there is a deal, or just the thing you were looking for. Same as the Hose Aisle, Bird Seed, Tools, and bagged goods, maybe even the Hard Scape Aisle. But in any case, with a little detective work, you can find some better deals. These aisles haven’t been as high maintained since late October, because of the Christmas Crash, and most of those other spots are considered “out of season”… Are ya seein’ it yet? OK, then here’s more. Most all of the merchandise for those aisles have been consolidated to the overhead where they belong on the racks. MOST box stores have been thru an inventory lately, so all the boxed freight in the overhead is plainly marked. Write down the SKU  or item number you see on a weathered box, search for it on the shelves, if you don’t see it, find an employee with one of those fancy phones and ask what the price is for that number. Maybe it’s not exactly what you want, maybe it will do, maybe, it’s a heck of a find.

On the fertilizer aisles, either large bags or the smaller boxed, check there too. Most, again, most of those stores can’t toss hazmat items away, and if it has gone to $.01, they most likely give it to you, it costs them a huge amount to send in a hazmat truck, away… Check the Chemical Wall too, same thing. Look in the overhead for anything that says, “Promo” anything. Then find that kid with that crazy phone.

It’s Gardening Deal time at the box stores. Right now, Christmas is on final clearance, there are Storage Events happening along with Vanities, etc, so no Gardening stuff is coming in yet. They aren’t even thinking about March. So give it a try, on the down-lo, see if you find some real deal goodies. You may even find some cheap racks in Flooring, and Light Fixtures in the Light Cloud. It’s time for deals folks!!

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.

 

It’s Been a Rough Summer

So far I’ve lost some veggie plants, a few small shrubs, and a few pounds from the heat this Summer. I would like to see some relief, but don’t think it’s coming. We’ve done OK as far as bagging and freezing some veggies, but not enough. Started a second round of Squash, Beans, Cantelopes. Peppers? They love this weather. We have Trinidad Scorpions and Ghost Peppers this year. They are doing great along with the rest. Fall is coming…

So with August here next week we have a few chores to do before Fall actually gets here. First, I need to finish pruning and picking up after all the storms that lit out through here. Then I can think about what to kill off weed’wise in the beds and the lawn. Lawns took a beating this year. Next month I will post a proper Richmond, Va. lawn schedule for you all. Easy and simple, it will be here and on www.Kevinsgarden.com, check it out if you haven’t been there yet.

We will have our Cold Crops ready to go as well.

It’s Time.

January…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It’s time to get ready. We all are ready. But for what? How did we do last year? How will I do this year? We are all sort of ready.

  Lets start by looking at last years notes. Oh, no notes? We need notes. Mother nature keeps notes, why don’t you? No pics either? I bet you do. Look at outdoor gatherings like cook outs, birthdays, etc. Pic backgrounds can tell a lot of stories. Receipts of when you bought certain plants or seed packets. Were you early or late last year? See where this is going? You NEED notes. Start a journal this year using notes and pics.

   Things to note. Weather, dates, temps, whats blooming at the present, whats not, what worked, what didn’t.  Add climate actions as well as daylight hrs. available. NOAA has great “length of day” charts narrowed down to your zip code. What and when bugs and funguses emerge. Prolific growth spurts, first buds or blooms. What went good with what, and what didn’t. Start noting phenological events such as when Forsythia bloomed, Oak tree leaves start, Roses shoot out, Caterpillars arrive, heavy Mole activity, Gnat storms, etc. This will actually help you stay involved with your gardening and help keep your application rates and timing of certain products to get the maximum results, instead of maximum doses. It will also reduce the labor involved, thus making projects a joy, not a groaning task.  Don’t forget your Frost Zone Data. Here in Richmond, Va. we are Zone 7a. Last average frost is around Apr 15th, first frost is around Oct 15th. Plan accordingly.

   Seed starting can be a yearly ritual to enjoy…Or loath.. We all get the “fever” about now. We are gaining daylight hours, we were extremely busy with the Holidays since about Nov 1st. We have nothing to do now but….look out the window and think of fresh green beans and squash. It’s easy to get involved too early, or is it? Keep in mind that the box stores always are a season ahead. Patio furniture is in, gas logs are clearance items now, and its still snowing. That doesn’t mean you can start your seeds indoors now. Look at the germination rates on what you are going to grow. Now add about one month for the transplant date. Most will put you well before mid April, and the poor little guys will be getting root bound and start ailing in the starter sets. Now your confidence is shot, and you vow never to do this again. Stupid seeds! Timing is the best thing to shoot for, and, the best thing to put in that notebook we talked of earlier. Everything is out there on the market to make you successful. Grow lights, terrariums, seed starting mixes, moisture meters, and Garden Coaches. You can have a great salad this summer, with that fresh corn and watermelon.

   Garden sizing has been the hub of great debates from many a people. My take is this. “I have never seen Mother Nature shop at a box store”. She can drop a seed in the crack of a sidewalk, and grow the most delicious tomato there, no human tending it, no added chemicals. Why can’t you? I have seen plentiful container gardens growing on patios, small plots 5ft x 10ft next to a crowded deck, and great herbs in hanging baskets on a balcony. I have seen Cantaloupes growing throughout an Azalea bed. There is no excuse anymore not to at least try, and keep notes. Mother Nature keeps notes in the form of Phenology. Forsythia blooms when the soil temp is 58 degrees at 4 inches deep for at least 5 days straight. Crabgrass needs that same scenario for 7 days to germinate. Therefore, you would put down your Pre-emergent at that time to get the most out of it you could. See? Record keeping… Nothing happens until something else happens, so do something. Get dirty!

Trial Thingy with Seeds

OK, you may think I am jumping the gun on timing here, but I have been saving Dryer Lint the whole Winter. I didn’t know why, but it hit me today, of, why… I started some Tomato seeds in my garage, some in regular starting mix, and a few in, well, Dryer Lint…  I used to put it out for the birds, and they haven’t been that active in the ball of lint this year, I think they were smarter than me, and went South.. WAY south! But the Crows! Oh man I have never seen so many here.. Quick! What Phenological reason is there for Crows massing up?

So I have this supply of clothes mulch leftovers, from the dryer.. So I’m thinkin’, veggies….  A few pots, I used it as mulch, a few, I used as the media, a few, I used straight soil…  Whats next, the stuff I get off the top of the ceiling fan? There’s some good stuff there too.. Somehow, I like to think the matter is a part of me.. John Travolta in the “Phenomenon”? The apple bite? Take it with you through eternity? I need to go check the vacuum cleaner. There may be gold in there too, plus a marble and a green Army Man or two, thanks, Jake.. I mean, You aren’t eating the floor debris, although the ten second rule may need a re-config here on growing from the root.. I dunno. I’ll let NASA figure that one out.

OK, Hell, they’re just Tomatoes and Egg Plant.. We’ll see who does best or the same or fails… I will let you all know.. But make NO mistake about it, I will eat it if it grows out of my shoe, as long as I know, it was my shoe…. I will keep them separate, for those who know me. When I bring you veggies, I will give you the ones from dirt and cow manure, like that makes it tastier…  I will enjoy the ones in the lint.