Category Archives: Garden Tips

Managing Garden Pests the Organic Way: My Arsenal of Pest Weapons

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There are many safe, non-toxic and inexpensive methods to manage pests in your garden.  Organic and natural pesticides can be very effective and are usually less toxic to wildlife, pets and humans rather than synthetic pesticides.

I’ve been gardening for nearly three decades and each year, there is always something threatening the bounty of my harvest.  Hail, rabbits, Japanese beetles, powdery mildew, aphids and more.  There will always be something but the key is to be aware, be flexible and be prepared to act.  Over time, I’ve assembled an arsenal of supplies and tricks to help manage the problem.   In this article, I am going to share what I actually carry with me to the garden and how to make most of them at home.

 

 

In my garden bucket:

Soapy Water Spray (homemade)

Soapy Water Spray (homemade) or Insecticidal Soap Sprays are highly effective against mites, aphids, whiteflies, and other soft-bodied insects as well as the softer nymph stages of some tough-bodied bugs.

Recipe:  Mix together 1 tablespoon of dish soap (pure soap like Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soup) Mix the solution thoroughly and pour it into a clean spray bottle and add 1 quart of water, or 5 tablespoons of soap per 1 gallon of water if you have a lot of plants to spray. Mix the solution thoroughly and pour it into a clean spray bottle.   Apply in the morning or evening when it’s cool.

Hot Pepper Spray (homemade)


Recipe:  1 gallon of water, 3 Tablespoons of hot pepper flakes (or 10 peppers chopped up finely if using fresh peppers (cayenne works the best – but you can certainly use jalapenos, Habanero’s or other varieties.)  Add the ingredients into a pan and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes. Heating the liquid will help to infuse the oils from the hot peppers into the water – making for a more potent spray.  Let the mixture sit for about 24 hours to absorb the hot pepper flakes – then strain and add a couple of drops of natural biodegradable dish soap to the gallon of mix.  (This helps the mixture stick to the plants better).

You can mix ingredients cold and let sit for 36 to 48 hours – occasionally shaking the jug if you prefer not heating.  You will need to strain the cold mix as well and add a few drops of dish soap and you are ready to spray!

Spray in morning and evening and wear protection on hands and eyes.

Deters mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, dogs, moles and insects.

Garlic Spray (homemade)

Recipe:   garlic, olive oil, dish soap and water.  Add 2 cloves of minced garlic to a one tablespoon of olive oil to 1 gallon of water.  Let the mixture sit and steep for at least 24 hours (48 hours is better) Strain out the garlic and add a couple of drops of natural biodegradable dish soap to the gallon.

Garlic spray doesn’t kill the beneficial bugs but its pungent odor simply makes the plants undesirable as a place to eat or lay eggs. This helps maintain the balance your garden needs to defend itself against ants, army worms, aphids, borers, slugs, beetles, white flies, mosquitoes.

BT Spray: (make it, solution only good for 24 hours)

The most common strain of the bacterium—BT var. kurstaki (sometimes called BT var. berliner)—kills hundreds of different kinds of caterpillars, including cabbage loopers, tomato hornworms, cabbageworms, corn earworms, European corn borers, and squash vine borers. BT var. tenebrionis (a new name—until recently this one was called BT var. san diego) kills Colorado potato beetles.

Purchase 12 oz solution of Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) (brands like Bonide).   About $12-15.  Mix in spray bottle with water according to directions.   Solution must be used within 24 hours of mixing to be effective.

Kills:  leaf eating caterpillars controls caterpillars, loopers, cabbage worms, gypsy moth caterpillars and leaf rollers.   Insects stop feeding and die within 2-3 days of ingesting BT Spray.

Diatomaceous Earth (purchased)

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder.   It 100% consumable by humans but deadly to certain insects.  It can be purchased in 4 lb bags from local nursery for about $14.

Kills insects by ingestion/dehydration within 48 hours indoors or outdoors.  For ants, bed bug, cockroach, flea, earwig, silverfish, cricket, millipede and centipede control.   Must be applied when plants are dry to be effective.

Beer (cheap stuff or leftover)

Place small cup of beer to attract slugs on group near affected plants. The slugs will be attracted to the beer, go for a sip, fall in and drown. Don’t submerge the top of the tin even with the soil level or you might also kill ground beetles which eat slugs.

Lacto-Bacillus Serum (homemade)

Lacto-Bacillus Serum is an easy to make fertilizer that helps enable plants to absorb the good nutrients that promote healthy growth.   The ingredients you need to make “labs” are simple — rice, water and milk.   Directions to make can be found at this link:

https://anaincolorado.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/making-lacto-bacillus-serum-organic-fertilizer-to-fortify-my-garden/

Flashcards

I keep a set of flashcards in my bucket with common pests and how to treat them and one set with each of the above sprays/powders/liquids and how its used.

 

In addition to the pest control methods I carry in my bucket, I also employ of mix of companion planting, barrier methods, trap crops and timing of planting to deter unwanted pests.  Stay tuned to a future blog post on these topics.

 

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Making Lacto Bacillus Serum (organic fertilizer) to Fortify My Garden

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Do you want to learn about a super easy way to increase the productivity and health of your garden?   This fertilizer called “labs” for short is easy to make and the results are amazing.  I learned about making lacto-bacillus serum from the head horticulturalist at the Denver Golf Courses who also heads a very productive donation garden at Harvard Gulch Golf Club in Denver.

The term Lacto-Bacillus Serum sounds fancy but in truth, this simple to make recipe provides a workhorse of beneficial bacteria for your garden and has multiple other applications including :

  • Speeding decomposition in the compost pile
  • Unclogging drains
  • Treating powdery mildew on squash plants
  • Eliminating odor in animal bedding
  • Improves growth of plants when applied as foliar spray and soil drench.
  • Improves their efficiency in absorbing nutrients so naturally, growth is enhanced.

“With the use of these microorganisms, the nutrients you spray or drench to feed your plants become more bio-available and are more easily absorbed by the plants. Technically, you can say that plants do not use organic nutrients directly. Microorganisms convert organic nutrients to their inorganic constituents which the plants utilize. Utilizing microbes, you will notice better plant growth and health.”   –The Unconventional Farmer.

Labs Recipe:

Ingredients:   rice, water, milk

Directions: 

  1.   Day One:  Immerse a cup of rice in a quart of water.   Drain the water into a canning jar – filling it about 3/4 full.   Discard the rice.   Cover the jar with a paper towel but it should not be airtight.   Store it on top of the refrigerator and after a few days, the liquid will separate.
  2.  Day Three:   Siphon off the center layer adding 1 part serum to 10 parts milk and put in another container, cover tightly and let sit for another few days.   Once curds appear, you can strain the liquid with a cheesecloth (the curds can be fried up and eaten).
  3.  Day 5-6   For the Garden  Add 1 part serum to 20 parts water to spray in the garden.   Use on plants weekly Store in the frig or add molasses to store at room temperature.  Stable for about a year.

Sources of information:

The Unconventional Farmer:   http://theunconventionalfarmer.com/

Build a Soil:  https://buildasoil.com/blogs/news/8634877-gil-carandang-lactobacillus-serum-recipe

Making Hoops

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Making Hoops

You’d think making hoops for hoop houses (aka mini greenhouses) would be easy but initially, they are not.   I bought a hoop bender several years ago from Johnny’s Seeds and made about 30 hoops for my garden and to sell to other gardeners.   Fast forward two years and I’ve sold all my hoops and need some more for my community garden and the one I run at our church.

My garden partner Susan and I finally got together to accomplish this task and once we got all our materials together — a pack of 10 ft long 1/2 inch electrical conduit, a work table with the hoop bender attached, tape measure, sharpie and work gloves, we realized that we needed a refresher.   We watched the video on Johnny’s website several times and logged onto YouTube to watch a few more.   We tested out the directions and had a few false starts.   How hard can it to create 4 foot wide hoops to fit over a 4 X 4 or 4 X 8 raised bed?

Here’s what we learned:

  • Mark each tube 16 inches from both ends and in the middle
  • Insert the tube into the metal sleeve at the end of the hoop bender and line up with the 16 inch mark
  • Bend the tube along the curve and then, line the middle mark up with the middle screw and bend along the curve
  • Take the tube out and repeat on the other side — line up at the 16 inch and middle mark
  • Measure the distance between the two ends to make sure they are just over 48 inches apart and try out in the raised bed to make sure it works
  • Repeat

If you have a big garden, its worth it to make your own hoops.   I bought the bender on sale for about $45 and the electrical conduit is about $2.50 a tube at Home Depot.  There are always fellow gardeners who want hoops so you can make extra to share.   Once we figured out the right method, it took us 15 minutes to bend ten hoops.

Another relevant article:

Extending the Season with Hoop Houses

Late Summer Produce and Planting in The Donation Garden — August 6

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Late Summer Produce and Planting in The Donation Garden — August 6

 

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In 2015, I helped start a donation garden at our family church in Littleton, CO and three summers later, the garden is still growing strong.   We donated over 400 pounds of organic vegetables in years one and two and hope to again this year.  The primary benefactor of the produce we grow is Sheridan Food Pantry.  Each Wednesday, we harvest, weigh and record the harvest before volunteers pick it up for delivery to the food pantry.

20664554_10212084087290872_4994398325057015282_nWith eight raised beds, several community plots and 30 X 30 square feet of plot space to plant, the garden is fairly large.  This year, my key partner in the project moved on to another area of ministry so I’ve been managing this project  practically on my own.  But despite her loss, I remain committed to the project and am excited for another banner year of harvests.   Stepping Stones, a center for adults with special needs has reached out to volunteer in the garden — and their help has been great.    My husband, boys and several friends have also chipped in to water and plant.  Next season, I hope to recruit more volunteers and increase the engagement of the church community as a whole.

20638649_10212084080730708_7954302197931968392_nAs with many gardens, some of the seeds planted did not come up and now that the spring crops have been harvested, there is abundant space for fall crops.   This week, I worked to prep the available space and devoted several hours to planting carrots, beets, cabbage, broccoli, beans, peas, and more.    The summer crops are producing well now and I’ve been harvesting summer squash, zucchini, squash, peppers, cucumbers, herbs and more.  Green tomatoes are growing on the vine, little green pumpkins are hiding beneath large leaves, miniature beans are appearing and the beets and carrots are almost ready to pick.

When the seeds come up weeks after planting in the smooth turned soil, it always seems miraculous to me.   Its always a joy when a thicket of green leafy vegetables emerges.   The hard work has paid off and our garden is thriving!

 

 

Planning My Fall Garden

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Planning My Fall Garden

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After years of planting a vegetable garden, I finally learned that one can plant continuously throughout the season.   By mid-July, garlic, peas, and spring crops have been harvested leaving room in my garden.    Planting more seeds will keep the weeds at bay and provide more crops for an autumn harvest.   Cooler autumn days are a mere month away,  so its time to gather seeds and make a plan to get those crops in while the days are longer and the temps are warm.   This method of following a harvested crop with another is known as succession and/or seasonal planting.

The following is a list of some of the crops I’ve successfully planted in late July/early August:

  • Arugula, Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mesclun, Pak Choy, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Peas
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Crops planted in late July are taking off by late August — beans, cabbage, beets, kale.

 

There are more options including curly parsley, claytonia, turnips, mizuna, radish, endive, leeks and mache.   For a successful late fall harvest, you need to time your cold-season crops properly.   They should be planted when the weather is still warm — in late summer or early autumn — and while there is still more than 10 hours of sunlight per day.     Cold-season crops should be almost mature by the time the cold weather finally arrives in late autumn.   Protecting the vegetables with a season extender like a cold frame or hoop tunnel will enable them to hold on through the winter.

 

 

 

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Getting the cold frame ready for late summer planting of cold crops.

Here are some examples of fall crops planted from locally purchased seeds:

Scarlet Nantes Carrot

  • Days to germination:  12-18 days
  • Days to maturity:  65-75
  • Plant dates:   August 1-31
  • Harvest date:  October 10-November 15

Early Vienna White Kohlrabi

  • Days to germination:  6-12 days
  • Days to maturity:  58 days
  • Plant dates:  August 10-September 10
  • Harvest date:  October 15-November 15

Chinese Cabbage – Pak Choi

  • Days to germination:  5-7 days
  • Days to maturity:  50 days
  • Plant dates:  August 10-September 10
  • Harvest dates:  October 5-November 5

Red Acre Cabbage

  • Days to germination:  7-12 days
  • Days to maturity:  65 days
  • Plant dates:  August 1-5
  • Harvest dates:   October 6-15

Ruby Queen Beets

  • Days to germination:  10-14 days
  • Days to maturity:  55 days
  • Plant dates:   August 1-15
  • Harvest dates:  October 5-15

When its time to start,  I gather my supplies, clean up the planting area and add compost if needed.   I set aside a day in late July/early August to plant seeds.  If I have time, I’ll do a second planting a week or two later.   I make sure to map out my crops on paper and mark the rows well so I can see what’s coming up.

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My friend Jen helped me plant carrots, beets, lettuce, kohlrabi, cabbage and more.. August 4, 2017.

This last round of crops is awesome but can be a challenge to process with the avalanche of tomatoes, peppers and other warm season crops that pile up just after the first frost — late September to late October in Denver.   Make sure to set aside time for cooking and preserving in September and October.  I often invite friends over to preserve together to make it more fun.  The investment in time will be worth it.   The planting is easy and  you grow more than you can eat or preserve, share the surplus with friends or donate to the local food bank.

I challenge you to plant a fall garden and you’ll be happy with the results!

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The broccoli in the raised bed survived the frost and we harvested into November.

 

 

 

How Many Vegetables Do You Need to Plant to Feed Your Family?

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0fc367b7cf7b927cc4d111279738629e-600x0-c-defaultHomegrown Pantry:  A Gardener’s Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round, Barbara Pleasant, (Storey Publishing), 2017.

Although I’ve gardened for years, I’ve never really sat down to figure out how much of each vegetable I need to grow to feed my family during the harvest season and how much I need to preserve for the winter.  My inexact method has always been to fill up the space in my garden with things I like, with plants that I buy and grow from seed and hope it all works out.    Sometimes, I have way too much and other times, not enough.

While on a family vacation last week and away from the constant work of my gardens during this busy time of year, I had the chance to visit to the local library and found some great books to read.  About gardening, of course!  The Homegrown Pantry peaked my interest because it spells out how many plants you need to grow of each variety to feed each individual in your household.   After looking quantities of plants on the list, I understand why many farm kids grew up with such huge gardens — half acre or larger!  While I will never have a garden as big at the days of yore, these guidelines are so helpful that I wanted to share them with everyone.   And put them in a place I can always reference.

How much to grow

Plant Per Person For preservation and storage Preparation
Asparagus 15 plants freeze, pickle, dry
Beans – Bush 15 row feet per person freeze, pickle, pressure can, dry
Beans – Pole 5 row feet per person
Beets 5 row feet per person 20 row feet per person Place in cold storage, pickle, ferment, can
Broccoli 3 plants per person for fresh eating 9 plants for freezing freeze
Brussel Sprouts 4 plants per person More for storage freeze
Cabbage 3-4 small heads per person for spring 5-10 per person for fall crop ferment, freeze, pickle, dry
Carrots 20 row feet per person refrigerate, place in cold storage, freeze, pickle
Corn 50 row feet per person freeze, can, dry
Cucumbers 8 plants pickle
Garlic 30-50 plants per person cool storage, dry, pickle
Kale and Collards 3 plants per person in Spring 9 plants per person in fall freeze, dry
Kohlradi 5 row feet per person in spring 5 row feet per person in fall freeze, dry, ferment
Onions 40 bulbs per person cool storage, dry, freeze
Parsnips 10 row feet per person cold storage, freeze
Peas – snap 15 row feet per person freeze, pickle
Peas – snow peas 10 row feet per person freeze, ferment
Peas – shell peas 20 row feet per person freeze, ferment
Peppers 5 sweet pepper, 2 hot per person freeze, dry, can, ferment
Potatoes 20 row feet per person cool storage, dry, can
Pumpkin 4-6 plants per person freeze or dry
Radishes up to 15 row feet refrigerate, ferment, pickle
Rhubarb 3 plants freeze, can, dry
Rutabaga 10 plants cold storage, freeze, ferment
Spinach 5 row feet per person in spring 10 row feet per person in fall freeze or ferment
Summer Squash 4 plants per person dry, freeze, can
Sweet Potato 12-14 plants per person cool storage, freeze, dry
Swiss Chard 4 plants per person in spring 4 plants per person in fall freeze
Tomatoes 6 plants per person freeze, can, dry
Turnips 12 medium turnips cold storage, freeze, pickle, ferment
Winter Squash 4-6 plants per household cool storage or freeze
Blueberries 5-6 plants freeze, can, dry, ferment
Grapes 3 plants per household dry, can, freeze, ferment into wine
Raspberries 6 plants to start freeze, can, ferment into wine
Strawberries 25 plants freeze, can, dry, ferment
Apples 3-4 dwarf, 2-3 standard dry, freeze, juice, can, ferment
Cherries 1 standard tree, 2 dwarf trees freeze, dry, can
Pears 1-2 trees dry, can, freeze
Plums, peaches, nectarines 2 trees freeze, can, dry, ferment

 

Vegetable/Fruit Per Person For preservation and storage Preparation
Asparagus 15 plants freeze, pickle, dry
Beans – Bush 15 row feet per person freeze, pickle, pressure can, dry
Beans – Pole 5 row feet per person
Beets 5 row feet per person 20 row feet per person Place in cold storage, pickle, ferment, can
Broccoli 3 plants per person for fresh eating 9 plants for freezing freeze
Brussel Sprouts 4 plants per person More for storage freeze
Cabbage 3-4 small heads per person for spring 5-10 per person for fall crop ferment, freeze, pickle, dry
Carrots 20 row feet per person refrigerate, place in cold storage, freeze, pickle
Corn 50 row feet per person freeze, can, dry
Cucumbers 8 plants pickle
Garlic 30-50 plants per person cool storage, dry, pickle
Kale and Collards 3 plants per person in Spring 9 plants per person in fall freeze, dry
Kohlradi 5 row feet per person in spring 5 row feet per person in fall freeze, dry, ferment
Onions 40 bulbs per person cool storage, dry, freeze
Parsnips 10 row feet per person cold storage, freeze
Peas – snap 15 row feet per person freeze, pickle
Peas – snow peas 10 row feet per person freeze, ferment
Peas – shell peas 20 row feet per person freeze, ferment
Peppers 5 sweet pepper, 2 hot per person freeze, dry, can, ferment
Potatoes 20 row feet per person cool storage, dry, can
Pumpkin 4-6 plants per person freeze or dry
Radishes up to 15 row feet refrigerate, ferment, pickle
Rhubarb 3 plants freeze, can, dry
Rutabaga 10 plants cold storage, freeze, ferment
Spinach 5 row feet per person in spring 10 row feet per person in fall freeze or ferment
Summer Squash 4 plants per person dry, freeze, can
Sweet Potato 12-14 plants per person cool storage, freeze, dry
Swiss Chard 4 plants per person in spring 4 plants per person in fall freeze
Tomatoes 6 plants per person freeze, can, dry
Turnips 12 medium turnips cold storage, freeze, pickle, ferment
Winter Squash 4-6 plants per household cool storage or freeze
Blueberries 5-6 plants freeze, can, dry, ferment
Grapes 3 plants per household dry, can, freeze, ferment into wine
Raspberries 6 plants to start freeze, can, ferment into wine
Strawberries 25 plants freeze, can, dry, ferment
Apples 3-4 dwarf, 2-3 standard dry, freeze, juice, can, ferment
Cherries 1 standard tree, 2 dwarf trees freeze, dry, can
Pears 1-2 trees dry, can, freeze
Plums, peaches, nectarines 2 trees freeze, can, dry, ferment

The Ice Saints of May

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IMG_9717I was not surprised when a Spring snowstorm blew through Colorado on May 18 and 19th.  This happens almost every Spring despite weeks of lovely sunny warm weather.   Because of this, I never ever plant any warm season crops until Memorial Day weekend.   On Wednesday night May 17, temperatures dropped below freezing and the next day snow fell heavily in the city and more in the mountains.   In the preceding weeks, the sun had been shining and we’d all been wearing shorts and digging in our gardens.   Many eager gardeners who’d  been seduced into filling their pots with Mother’s Day flowers and seeding their plots with warm season crops, had to scramble to protect everything from the impeding storm.

In the days before weather forecasts on radio and TV, gardeners of northern Europe would look to the feast days of the “ice saints” as a guide to planting their gardens.   I was alerted to this weather folklore by my German friend who is familiar with this historical planting guideline.   I did some research and from “Marlies Creative Universe”,

http://mcuniverse.com/2010/what-are-the-ice-saints/    I found this reference:

The “Ice Saints” Pankratius, Servatius and Bonifatius as well as the “Cold Sophie” are known for a cooling trend in the weather between 12th and 15th of May. For centuries this well-known rule had many gardeners align their plantings after it. Observations of weather patterns over many years have shown, however, that a drop in temperature occurs frequently only around May 20. Are the “Ice Saints” not in tune anymore? The mystery solution is found in the history of our calendar system: Pope Gregory VIII arranged a calendar reform in 1582, whereby the differences of the Julian calendar could be corrected to the sun year to a large extent. The day of the “Cold Sophie” (May 15) was the date in the old calendar and corresponds to today’s May 22. Therefore the effects of the “Ice Saints” is felt in the timespan of May 19-22. Sensitive transplants should only be put in the garden beds after this date.

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Being of Irish descent, I was not aware of this folklore but from personal experience, I know that planting warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, pumpkins, corn, cucumber and many flowers is not safe until late May.   When the storm arrived this year, I knew the feast of the ice saints were here.   No matter what the weatherman says, no planting until after the feasts of the ice saints!

Seasonal, Succession and Companion Planting – Workshop at Ute Trails Garden, 5/7/17

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Seasonal, Succession and Companion Planting – Workshop at Ute Trails Garden, 5/7/17

13177550_1116499921748060_2580476015789243526_nSince becoming a master gardener in 2013, I frequently give workshops at local community gardens.   Today, I had the opportunity to give a workshop at Ute Trail Garden in Lakewood where several of my friends garden.   I am sharing the outline of my program for those who could not attend or would also like to learn about seasonal, companion and succession gardening.

The following are methods used by successful gardeners to maximize their harvest, minimize pests and promote healthy soil.

Companion Planting

  • Some plants grow well together, others do not
  • Some plants, especially herbs, act as repellents, confusing insects with their strong odors that mask the scent of the intended host plants.
  • Dill and basil planted among tomatoes protect the tomatoes from hornworms, and sage scattered about the cabbage patch reduces injury from cabbage moths.
  • Marigolds are as good as gold when grown with just about any garden plant, repelling beetles, nematodes, and even animal pests.
  • Carrots, dill, parsley, and parsnip attract garden heroes — praying mantises, ladybugs, and spiders — that dine on insect pests.
  • Much of companion planting is common sense: Lettuce, radishes, and other quick-growing plants sown between hills of melons or winter squash will mature and be harvested long before these vines need more leg room.
  • Leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard grown in the shadow of corn
  • Sunflowers appreciate the dapple shade that corn casts and, since their roots occupy different levels in the soil, don’t compete for water and nutrients.

Seasonal Planting

  • Cold season vs. warm season crops
  • Last frost date – keep track – generally mid-to –late May in Colorado
  • Cold season crops can be planted before the last frost and some can overwinter under mulch examples: lettuce, kale, carrots, spinach, radishes, onions, sweet peas
  • Warm season crops are planted after the last frost and some need the soil to be warmer examples include pumpkins, squashes, many flowers, beans, basil, corn, sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers, melons

Succession Planting

  • Benefits of succession plantings: maximize space,  extend  harvest window, maintain a continuous supply
  • Make the most efficient use of space and timing to increase productivity
  • Two or more crops in sequence.After one crop is harvested, plant another in the same space.      Plant lettuce every 3 weeks; two crops of carrots
  • Interval succession planting.  Make repeated plantings of the same crop, planting the same variety at timed intervals.     Succession Planting Interval Charts.
  • Two or more crops concurrently.  Plant several different varieties, typically with different maturity dates    Sometimes referred to as “intercropping” and “companion planting.”
  • Same crop, different maturity dates. Plant several varieties, with different maturity dates — early, mid season, and late — at the same time. As they mature over the season, you harvest them one after the other.

Handout on Companion Planting:

01_Integrated_Pest_Management_and_Companion_Planting

4 X 4 Plot Planting Plan with Cold and Warm Season Crops:

4 X 4 Garden Plan

Vegetable Companion Planting Chart:

http://www.ufseeds.com/Vegetable-Companion-Planting-Chart.html

Pictures of Ute Garden:

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My friend Laura Stevens is one of the leaders at Ute Trail and gave me a tour of the community garden. Here she is in front of her plot. I love how she used thyme for her paths!

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Can I Show You My Jugs and My Rack?

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Can I Show You My Jugs and My Rack?

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Honestly, it’s not as bad as it sounds.   I am referring to the milk jugs and the new light rack I am using to grow seedlings for my garden.  When I found myself asking my garden pals this weekend if they wanted to see my jugs and my rack, I got a few laughs but I didn’t realize how totally funny it sounded until a male garden pal laughed and said, “Yes, I want to see your jugs and your rack!”   Oh, geez, this is a  slightly dirty spin on my garden projects — which are dirty to begin with!

The exciting news is that my experiment of using milk jugs as little greenhouses has sprouted success.   Thank you to hometown Wisconsin friend Maggie Strunk Leyes for inspiring me.   Here are two jugs with little sprouts inside:

I am also stoked about my new grow lights which arrived via Amazon last week and have been shining on my happy crop of tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.   The green glow of the lights has prompted some to ask if I’m growing marijuana plants.   But, although it is legal to grow 6 pot plants per adult in Colorado, I am not growing weed.

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Falling Head First Into The Garden — The Usual Early Season Psychosis

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April is a heady time of year for me.   Passionate discussions about all aspects of gardening (in-person, on the phone, via text message), frequent visits to local nurseries, intersecting projects and conversations, early morning inspirations and a parade of dirty shoes, gloves and digging clothes littering my floors are all signs that my brain and energy are focused on one subject – THE GARDEN.   Fortunately, the days are getting longer, I have time to work on a myriad of projects and garden geeks eager to talk and share surround me at every turn.

Making Lacto Bacillus Serum – organic fertilizerIMG_9452

  • Contacted John Swain, the horticulturalist for the Denver Golf Courses and designer/planter/co-manager of the donation garden at Harvard Gulch Golf Course and passionate home gardener.   A winter has come between our last fact filled gardener conversation so we had a lot to talk about.   As always, he is a fountain of enthusiasm and information and turned me on to two important sources as well as the benefit of using lacto bacillus serum in the garden (labs for short):
  • The Unconventional Farmer:   http://theunconventionalfarmer.com/
  • Build a Soil:  https://buildasoil.com/blogs/news/8634877-gil-carandang-lactobacillus-serum-recipe
  • Labs are a workhorse of beneficial bacteria (which is edible) and has multiple applications including — speeding decomposition in the compost pile, unclogging drains, treating powdery mildew on squash plants, eliminating odor in animal bedding and most importantly,  “Improves growth of plants when applied as foliar spray and soil drench. Improves their efficiency in uptaking nutrients so naturally, growth is enhanced. With the use of these microorganisms, the nutrients you spray or drench to feed your plants become more bio-available and easily absorbable by the plants. Technically, you can say that plants do not use organic nutrients directly. Microorganisms convert organic nutrients to their inorganic constituents which the plants utilize. Utilizing microbes, you will notice better plant growth and health.”   -The Unconvential Farmer.
  • Labs recipe:  I mixed myself up a batch and its still incubating.   Its easy to make and the recipe can be viewed on the link about from the Build a Soil website.   Basically, you wash rice and take the water and fill a Ball jar about 75% full and cover with a paper towel — make sure air can get in.   Store it on top of the refrigerator and after a few days, the liquid will separate.   Siphon off the center layer adding 1 part serum to 10 parts milk and put in another container, cover tightly and let sit for another few days.   Once curds appear, you can strain the liquid with a cheesecloth (the curds can be fried up and eaten).    You add 1 part serum to 20 parts water to spray in the garden.   Store in the frig or add molasses to store at room temperature.  Stable for about a year.

Garden Hacks

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  • Strawberries and asparagus grow happily together; plan to add strawberries to my new planted asparagus patch
  • Used my mole cages to sift compost into my cold frames
  • Sprinkle carrot and beet seeds together every few weeks to have a continuous crop
  • Marijuana growers have to dispose of growing mix are harvesting the plants; the vermiculate and soil less mix is great mixed into raised beds and helps lighten the soil
  • Dryer lint can be put in the compost pile
  • I used paint stirrers for marking seeds and plants.   Pick them up for free every time I stop at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Progress at Rosedale Garden – my 19th year in this community garden!IMG_9438

  • Planted purple and green asparagus in two 8 inch deep trenches this week; once sprouted will cover with 3 inches of dirt
  • Peas planted on March 15 finally sprouted, planted a third row on April 7
  • Prepped more beds and mapped out where everything is going
  • Seeded pumpkin bed with winter wheat; won’t be planting there for two months
  • Garlic planted in frozen soil in late December is up and growing; looks like its going to make it!
  • Susan has been making videos of me at the garden and I am learning how to edit them!

Opening up the St. Philip Donation Garden

  • Scheduled a work day for this Sunday to get started prepping the beds at St. Philip.
  • One volunteer came and we cleaned up two beds, added fresh compost and planted peas, onions and a variety of cold crops.   Watered and talked about plans.
  • Three plots are spoken for with another two gals potentially interested in volunteering in the donation beds.
  • This is our third year and I’m sorry that I’ve lost my partner of the first two years, Lerae Schnickel to another church ministry.   She was great to work with and its hard to move forward without her support.

Helping at a Jovial Gardens Neighborhood ProjectIMG_9480

  • Jovial Gardens is a really cool Denver-based organization that helps build gardens in neighborhoods.   One of their goals is to decrease food scarcity in the urban environment and  grow food for local food banks.  The group originally started in Edgewater, a suburb on Denver, and organized gardens in more than 40 yards in the neighborhood.   https://jovialconcepts.org/about-us/
  • My friend and master gardener, Teri Connelly is working with Jovial to install gardens in the yards of a number of her neighbors in Arvada.   Today, I had the chance to visit on a work day and saw work in progress in at least 6 yards.   The enthusiasm and excitement of the neighbors and volunteers was awesome.   Teri shared that in one front yard garden they harvested almost a 1000 pounds of organic produce last year.   I would love to start such a program in my neighborhood (Trailmark)  in Littleton.

Seedling Update on the Home Front

  • My experiment of seeding tomatoes and peppers for the first time has had mixed results.   All but one of the 12 varieties of tomatoes I planted has sprouted.   It took less than a week.   I learned that they need a heat mat and lights!IMG_9484.JPG
  • 8 of 11 peppers sprouted this week.   More time needed?
  • The tomatoes are very leggy but John Swain told me that they need grow lights and that its not too late for them to stabilize.
  • I only have one grow light so I’ve set it up for 14 hours alternatively above the trays of peppers, then the tomatoes.   Ordered a 4 foot rack with light from Amazon yesterday so hope it arrives this week.
  • Nothing has sprouted in the milk jugs I planted last week.  Time will tell