Thursday, December 27, 2012

Companion Planting with Grapes

Grapes do well when planted near hyssop, geraniums, clover, basil, beans, oregano, peas, blackberries, garlic, chives, rosemary, tansy, and mint. You should avoid planting cabbage and/or radishes near where grapes are.

Grapes are grown for many reasons, two of those reasons being for juice and/or wine. Be sure to check out our wine presses if you are growing grapes for these reasons.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Companion Planting with Strawberries

Strawberries are a great container plant, (try growing them in a metal wash tub sometime) but they also work as a companion plant. Suggested companions for strawberries are:
Bush Beans

The borage helps to strengthen the strawberry against insects while the thyme deters worms. Lupin helps to attract honey bees.

When companion planting with the strawberry be sure to avoid cabbage and plants that are in the cabbage family.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Gift Ideas for Gardeners

Sometimes it is hard to know what to get someone as a gift. If you are trying to find an idea for a gift for someone who enjoys gardening, then you are in the right place, we are going to share our top 5 gardening gift ideas with you.

A flower box is a great gift idea for a flower gardener. You can also fill the box with small flower pots, seeds, or flower tools.

 A great lawn ornament will be appreciated by someone who loves spending time outdoors making their yards and homes look beautiful.

 A bucket filled with garden tools is also a great gift idea.

A Solo Hand Sprayer is a great gift for any gardener. Hand sprayers come in handy for many yard and garden applications.

Does your garden enthusiast love watching birds in his/her yard? Then a bird feeder would be a great gift.

Are you a gardener? What kind of gifts do you always love?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Companion Planting with Sunflowers

Sunflowers are quite beneficial to nearly any garden, especially those with aphid problems. If you plant sunflowers in your garden you will notice the ants moving the aphids onto them. Sunflowers are hardy enough that they can survive the aphids and keep them distracted from your other plants.

Sunflowers also attract hummingbirds, this is beneficial not only for the pollination of your garden but also because hummingbirds eat white flies.

Sunflowers can also provide shading to plants that do not need as much sunlight or are easily blighted by the sun.

If your sunflowers are not helping control your insects in your garden as much as you would like, use a garden sprayer to spray your organic pesticide onto your plants.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Companion Planting with Corn

Corn is one of the original companion plants since it is a member of the planting method known as the Three Sisters.

The Three Sisters is a combo of plants that includes: corn, beans, and squash. The corn acts as a pole for the beans to climb up and the beans provide nitrogen to the soil for the corn and squash. The squash covers the ground helping to keep moisture in the soil.

But those aren't the only companions for corn.
Amaranth, beans, cucumber, white geranium, lamb's quarters, melons, morning glory, parsley, peanuts, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, soybeans, squash, and sunflower are also companion plants for corn.

When growing corn you should keep in mind:
  • Corn needs nitrogen rich soil.
  • If planting rows they need to be at least 3 feet apart
  • Corn needs 1 inch of water a week
 To keep your corn and gardened watered you may want to look into watering hoses and sprinklers.

What are your tips for growing corn?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Radish Companion Planting

Radishes make great companions for radish, beet, bush beans, pole beans, carrots, chervil, cucumber, lettuce, melons, nasturtium, parsnip, peas, spinach, and squash.

Radishes can help to deter cucumber beetles and rust flies.

They can help protect squash from squash borers.

Radishes can also help corn by fighting corn borers, but you must let the radishes go to seed.

Radishes also lure leafminers away from spinach plants. The leafminers will damage radish leaves, but this does not stop the radish roots from growing. 

Radishes also make great container plants. So if you only have room for some flower boxes, you can still grow radishes.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Companion Planting with Potatoes

There are many plant companion settings. Plants that help one another out by promoting healthier growth, warding off certain pests, and helping keep the soil's pH at a healthy level for the plants around them. Let's look at the Potato's best companion plants:

The potato is helped the most by the horseradish plant. Horseradish helps to increase the disease resistance of the potato plant. Beans, cabbage, and corn help the potato to grow better. The Colorado potato beetle is repelled by tansy, nasturtium, coriander, and catnip.

Potatoes are a great food to grow in your garden as they complement nearly any meal that you can think of. They also make great plants to grow in small amounts of space. There is a guide on growing 100 lbs of potatoes in just 4 square feet of space at: be sure you have a large harvest basket if growing this many potatoes!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Companion Guide for Brassicas

There are many plant companion settings. Plants that help one another out by promoting healthier growth, warding off certain pests, and helping keep the soil's pH at a healthy level for the plants around them. Let's look at Brassicas as companion plants:

For those that are not familiar with the Brassica plant family, these plants include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kohlrabi. These plants repel wireworms which make them a great companion for potatoes, corn, wheat, and other cereal plants.

The plants that help the brassica family are alliums, borage, dill, geraniums, nasturtium, and rosemary. When planting your brassicas be sure to avoid planting them near anything from the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers) or any mustards.

A tip on when and how to plant brassicas from Outreach Outdoors: Plant turnips, rape, and/or radishes 60-90 days before your first frost, or mid to late July in the Midwest. Plant kale and swedes 150-200 days before your first frost or in late April here in the Midwest. Be aware that some kales will have a much shorter growing season, thus a much later planting date. Conventional planters, no-till drills, or broadcasting seed can all work. Seed should be planted at 1/8 – 1/4 inch deep. Till the soil, firm the seed bed with a cultipacker or by driving an ATV over the plot, broadcast (or drill seed) and repack.

If you are going to be broadcasting you may want to look into the Earthway line of Broadcast Spreaders.

When planting companion plants together, keep in mind that even plants that help one another in other climates, soil conditions, etc. don't always get along, as we post about companion plants, be sure to always know that each garden will vary slightly from another and what works for some may not work in your garden.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Understanding a Garden for Beginners

There are many sources that are predicting food prices are going to start to go on the rise soon. This has caused many in the public to start to think about growing their own food. Many of you  have never grown food before or have done so in small amounts, so what do you need to know about starting your own garden next spring? What steps can you take now and through the winter to help get yourself on track? Well, let's discuss these things and see what we can do to help you in your decision as to whether growing your own food is what you want to do.

There are somethings that need to be determined despite the type of garden you are planning on having. These things are:
  • What is your level of sun exposure? Most vegetables like 6+ hours of full sunlight. 
  • How is your soil? You may want to have your soil tested.
  • Determine your garden placement, closer to the house deters wild animals, away from trees as trees can drain water and nutrients from plants. Keep in mind sunlight levels.
  • Decide your garden type (we will discuss these further in a moment).
  • Learn more about watering your garden so that you are prepared for next summer.
  • Make sure you have appropriate garden tools on hand.
  • Go ahead and get out the seed catalogs and start placing orders so you have what you need on hand.
  • Find out your first and last frost dates so that you know when to start planting and then when to have everything harvested by.

The best place for a beginner gardener to start is somewhere small. Many beginner gardeners start with container gardens, growing food in containers is lower maintenance than beginning with a wide row garden. Container gardens are also a great option for those with smaller yards, or no yards. It also allows you to grow foods to supplement your groceries without growing more food than you will need. If you want to preserve your own foods for the winter months it is possible to do with container gardens so long as you only want to preserve small amounts of food, otherwise you will need a lot of containers. With a container garden, there isn't as much prep to do during the previous fall or winter before starting your first container garden. However, if you want to use your own compost to fertilize your plants you will want to look into composting.

Another favorite gardening method for beginners, and those with minimal gardening space is raised bed gardening and/or square foot gardening. This requires a box of sorts to be built, your building material is your choice, some use boards, other use cinder blocks, etc. Determine the best area in your yard for your raised bed garden. A raised bed garden is also beneficial for someone who has very poor soil, as you can fill your bed with the soil that your plants need. Some benefits to having a raised bed garden are: less soil compaction since you will not be walking on the soil around the plants, higher yields of vegetables, saving yard space, easier to supplement soil, easier to control insects and weeds.

The Farmer's Almanac has the best information on planting a row garden for beginners, to find this information visit and scroll about 1/4 down the page under the heading: "Deciding How Big".

This fall and winter you should spend time researching your chosen gardening method, the plants you want to grow, learning how to compost, and getting your soil ready. By spring your soil will be ready, and you will have the knowledge you need to start getting hands on experience in a garden of your own.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tips for Your Garden in October

Summer is gone and fall is well upon us. So what do you need to be doing in your garden to prepare it for next year? Well we have some tips to get you started on your October gardening tasks.

Once you have had two or three hard frosts you will want to take pruning shears and clip back all the stems and foliage on your herbaceous perennials.

After a few more frosts you should add mulch to your perennial flower garden. One inch of mulch will help the soil to retain moisture and protect the roots.

Plant any spring flowering bulbs.

Sit down and make notes of which plants did best in your garden and which plants seemed to have trouble thriving. You can use the winter months to do research and determine what needs to be done about the plants that had problems, this can help you decide what you want in your garden next year.

Remove diseased or insect ridden plants from your garden. This will keep the disease from spreading to other plants and if the insect affected plants have eggs, etc. in them then disposing of these plants will help to control the insect problem for next year.

Regarding Tomatoes:

If it hasn't frosted already, then you will want to pick all of your tomatoes before it does. Pick them even if they are not yet ripe. If you aren't planning on eating all of the ripe ones right away you can freeze them for future use. The unripe tomatoes need to be hung upside down if you have picked them with the entire plant, if not then you can store them in a brown paper bag in a cool dark area to help their ripening process.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Preserving Your Herbs

In many cases herbs are the first thing that new gardeners grow, herbs can be grown indoors in containers, on small balconies, and other small places since they tend to be smaller in size. So now that you have your herbs, how should you preserve them so that you can enjoy them throughout the coming months?

Before you preserve and store your herbs you will have to harvest them. When harvested before blooming your herbs will have the best flavor. This is because their essential oils are the highest at this time. 

If your herbs have a very strong flavor such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, lavender, mint, sage, or bay then you will want to dry them.

To dry your herbs you can either air or room dry them for small amounts, but if you have a large a mount of herbs to dry you may want to invest in a food dehydrator to help the task go by a little more quickly.

For room/air drying you will want to fasten your herbs together in small bunches of stems with either a rubber band or twine, tie these bundles tightly since the stems will inevitably shrink as they dry. Then you will need to hang your herbs upside down in a warm, dry place. As the leaves become brittle, strip from stems and store in glass jars that are labeled and dated appropriately.

For your herbs that are more tender or have more subtle flavors, you will want to freeze them. You can freeze your herbs either as cubes or as a paste.

To freeze as a paste you will want to gently puree the herbs with a small amount of olive oil. (According to Mother Earth News the ration should be 1/4 c. oil to 1 c. herb leaves). Then you can freeze your paste in a plastic freezer bag.

To freeze as cubes just chop the herb leaves coarsely and pack them into ice cube trays loosely, add water to the tray and freeze. Once your cubes are frozen you may remove them and store in a plastic freezer bag for up to three months, so be sure to label and date your freezer bags. These cubes can be added to sauces or soups to amp up your flavor in your food dishes.

Friday, September 14, 2012

September Gardening Tasks for Perennials

September is the time that the days begin to cool and being outside for extended periods of time becomes more enjoyable. So while you are outdoors there are a few things that can help your garden along. Or at least make your garden prettier.

Tasks for Perennials:
You will want to start now and continue working with your perennials over the next few months (once your soil has cooled to less than 60 degrees).  Plant your spring blooming bulbs in well drained soil and plant about 3x deeper than the diameter of the bulbs. For this particular month you will want to focus on planting:
  • Tulips: Plant so bulbs aren't touching. For abundant tulips plant 10-20 bulbs in a hole that is one foot in diameter.
  • Early blooming perennials can be divided. Be sure to give plenty of water after they are replanted.
  • Dig up, divide, or transplant any of your perennials that are becoming crowded.
  • If you want some fall color in your yard now is the time to plant:
    Mums, Winter Pansies, Flowering Cale, Cabbage
  • Plant your seed perennials by scattering them in rows or in an open bed. Once it is spring these seedlings can be moved to their more permanent locations.

To make dealing with the replanting of bulbs easier, you may want to consider investing in a bulb planter.

For more September gardening tips visit: September Gardening Checklist

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Starting Composting

If you are planning on having a garden next year, now is a great time to look into composting. Compost is a great material that will help your garden to grow.

Composting is also a great way to cut down on how much you are sending to the landfills. When you compost you will be reusing many degradable products that are ordinarily thrown out.

So how do you start your compost?

To make things easier you can invest in a composter to hold your compost or you can create your own compost pile.

First you will want to select a spot that is near a water source, this spot needs to be dry and shady.
Then  you will add your brown and green materials (list for appropriate materials below). Be sure that the larger pieces are shredded or chopped, you will add the materials continually as you collect them.
Moisten your dry materials when they are added.
Once you have established your compost pile, you will want to mix in grass clippings and other green waste, bury vegetable and fruit waste under 10 inches of your compost material.
If you are using a compost pile, cover with a tarp to keep it moist.
When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color your compost is ready to use. This can take anywhere from two months to as much as two years.

Green Compost Material:
Bone meal
Coffee grounds
Egg shells
Fruit and fruit peels
Grass clippings (fresh)
Juicer Pulp
Plant Trimmings (that have not been treated with pesticides)
Tea leaves
Vegetables & peelings

Brown Compost Material:
Buckwheat hulls
Coffee filters
Coffee Grounds
Corn Cobs
Cotton/wool/silk scraps
Grass clippings (dried)
Leaves (dead)
Peanut Shells
Peat Moss
Pine needles
Shredded paper egg cartons
Shredded newspaper
Tea bags

Do NOT Compost:
Pet Feces
Meat and Bones
Diseased Plants
Seeding Weeds
Wet Grass
Inorganic Materials 

As you add materials to your compost, you will want to turn your pile periodically. Every 3 to 5 days tends to be a good amount of time. If you have a spinning composting bin, the turning will be easier, if you have a compost pile then you will want to use a pitch fork or shovel.

Previous Compost Posts:
Revisiting Composting

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fall Lawn Care

Once the worst of the summer heat has passed, you will want to be sure you implement your fall lawn care regiment. We will go over a few tasks to get you started here, but depending on you location, type of grass, etc, you may need to do more to keep your lawn at its healthiest. But here are the first steps to take this fall in caring for your lawn:

Get out your garden sprayer, clean it (to be sure no residue from past uses is left in it) and spray herbicide on any weeds that have crept up in your lawn. Be sure to clean your sprayer well before put it up for storage during the winter.

Fall is also an ideal time to aerate your lawn. This will encourage your grass to uptake oxygen and nutrients and it helps to combat all the compaction that typically takes place on the lawn during the traffic that lawns see during summer months.

Be sure to get leaves up off of your lawn as they begin to fall. When your grass is covered by leaves it is unable to receive the nutrients it needs to store from the sun during the winter. Also leaves are a great addition to the compost pile. (Read more about composting.)

If your fall is a hot dry one, then you will want to water your lawn.

Also, fall is a great time to fertilize your lawn if it needs extra nutrients.

If you are seeing bare patches in your lawn, reseed now.

What fall lawn care tips do you want to share? Please leave your tips in the comments below.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Top 5 Posts from July - August 2012

In the past month we have had a huge amount of traffic to our blog! We are so happy to welcome new readers to our blog. We want to do a recap of the top 5 blogs on our site that you guys have been visiting so much this month.
  1. How to Help Stressed Tomatoes: This blog gives some tips on how to help your tomatoes and what the signs of stress for a tomato plant are.
  2. What is Lasagna Gardening? This is a guide on what a lasagna garden entail and a how to on how to create your own.
  3. How to Freeze Your Peppers. This blog tells you how to best freeze your peppers. This is great for those with extra peppers from their harvest and need to know how to keep them for the winter months.
  4. July Gardening Tasks. Be sure to bookmark this blog so you know what to do next July in your garden.
  5. Uses for Summer Squash. Squash is as very versatile vegetable. It goes in so many dishes that it is amazing all the different things you can do with this summer veggie.
We hope you enjoy rereading these blogs, and we would love to hear from you about what information you would like for us to go over in future blogs!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Freeze Your Peppers

Have a lot of peppers from your harvest? Freezing is a great way to store your peppers for use in winter soups, chilis, and other recipes.

The process of freezing your peppers is quite simple:
  1. Wash peppers.
  2. Core peppers.
  3. Remove seeds & white membranes.
  4. Pat dry.
Options for freezing:

Option 1: Divide peppers into small batches (just enough for certain recipes) and freeze in containers. This makes it easier to use the peppers than having to defrost a huge amount of them at once.

Option 2: Pre-freeze your pepper halves on a baking sheet in the freezer. Once fully frozen place in freezer bags and put back into the freezer. This is easier to get and choose what amount you need as the pre-frozen peppers are less likely to stick together. 

A great way to store your frozen peppers after they have finished freezing is to use a vacuum sealer. This will help save space and keep them from getting freezer burn.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tips on Preserving your Produce from the Garden

Need some tips on how to preserve your garden harvest to keep it from spoiling before it can be shared or eaten? Then you have come to the right place.

First step: Choosing Produce: Be sure to choose the nearest to ripe and most unblemished produce that you can. If there are blemishes in an otherwise good piece of vegetable or fruit, be sure to thoroughly cut out the damaged areas before storing.

Tips on preservation methods:

Dehydration: You can dehydrate certain fruits and vegetables either using a dehydrator or using a handmade drying rack. (you can find a tutorial on a DIY Solar Dehydrator on Follow the instructions that come with your dehydrator for the best outcome of your dried preserving methods. Some of the best fruits and vegetables for dehydration are: apples, grapes, peaches, pears, tomatoes, apricots, bananas, berries, figs, melons, plums, (okay most fruits are great for dehydrating), green beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, peas, peppers, zucchini, squash, garlic, and more.

Canning: Canning is a vast world of different recipes, types of produce, etc. The main tip is to be sure you know the acid level of your foods. This will determine whether the food needs to be canned using a water bath canner or a pressure canner. A great guide that will help you in any canning endeavors you will undertake is the Ball Blue Book.

Freezing: The National Center for Home Preservation has a list of some awesome links to guides on how to freeze a huge variety of produce, since each fruit and vegetable is a bit different in the method of how it should be frozen you should look into their info at:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What to do with Harvested Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a staple in most people's diets, they are found in salsas, pasta sauces, pizza sauce, sandwiches, salads, some breakfast recipes, and much much more. But still there are many who find themselves stumped when they are harvesting their tomatoes as to what to do with them to store them for the winter, or just to enjoy them now.

There are ways to make your own tomato sauces, you can either go with a mix that will help you such as Mrs. Wages Tomato Sauce Mixes or you can create your own from scratch. (Homemade Tomato Sauce Recipe)

If you create a lot of tomato sauce, you will be able to can the extra to use throughout the winter. There are other things that can be made from tomatoes that can be preserved and put up for the cooler months.

For an easy salsa for putting up, you can use the Ball Fiesta Salsa Mix. There's also a huge variety of salsa recipes online and in canning books. Just be sure to keep track of if your salsa will be acidic enough for waterbath canning, or if you should look into adding lemon juice to be sure that the acid is high enough. Tipnut has some salsa recipes and canning tips at her Homemade Salsa blog.

For the fresh tomatoes that you want to enjoy now, Southern Living has an article called 24 Recipes for Fresh Tomatoes.

You can also dehydrate your tomatoes, for ideas on using dehydrated tomatoes in recipes etc, visit: Tomatoes Coming Out of Your Ears.

What is your favorite way to eat, store, or just enjoy your tomato harvest?

photo credit: S@Z via photo pin cc

Monday, July 30, 2012

Eating Local Food

Perhaps you didn't get a chance to grow a garden this past year, or didn't have the experience and were shy to start. That's okay, you can start a garden next year. (We have some tips over at Starting a Garden) But what do you do if you didn't grow any food, but want fresh local produce?

We have come across a very neat website that allows you to search for the type of food purchasing you are interested in by your location. You can choose to search for Farms, CSAs, Farmers Markets, and more. This website is:

Local Harvest even has a blog that gives gardening tips, food news, and more. And by finding and supporting the local food growers in your area, you will be helping to build your local economy. If you find a place that you love to shop for local food, keep them in mind when you start growing your own food, sometimes you need extra produce to supplement your own stock, especially if you are planning on putting away food by canning, dehydration, freezing, or pickling.

Purchasing local food is important in many ways, beyond just helping to build your local economy.

Local food is:
  • fresher than produce that is trucked in from far away
  • local food fosters community growth by allowing people of the community ways to interact with one another and with the people who grew their food
  • higher in nutrients, in addition to being fresh, fewer nutrients leak out when you receive and eat your produce closer to the time that it was picked from the plant.
  • you can talk to the people who actually grew the food, ask about their methods and learn more about the process.
What is your favorite local food?

Did you purchase some local food in bulk? Get some canning supplies and preserve it to make it last longer.

Monday, July 23, 2012

How to Help Stressed Tomatoes

If your tomatoes are starting to look stressed from the unusually warm weather we've been having, there are a few things that you can do to help revive them and get them to prosper for the rest of the gardening season.

The first step you will need to take is picking off as many of the wilted leaves on your tomato plants as you feel comfortable with and getting rid of them in your preferred method, just do not return these leaves to the soil that your tomatoes are growing in.

Step two is to arrange a shade cover for your tomatoes to help protect them from getting too much sun.

Now is also a good time to make some compost tea to give your tomatoes a nutrient boost straight to their roots. Just use a good garden sprayer to apply.

For more tomato saving tips visit:

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Was a Victory Garden?

If you've been perusing the internet lately searching for info on gardening, you may have come across vintage posters and signs stating things like:

Plant a Victory Garden, Our Food is Fighting
Your Victory Garden counts more than ever!
The Fruits of Victory
There are many many more vintage posters like this. But where did they come from and what was their purpose?

During the World Wars (I & II), the United States had to hand out ration cards to families, limiting them to a certain amount of food each week. This was to help ensure that there was enough food to be sent to the soldiers who were fighting. To encourage the public to make their weekly food allowance stretch, the Victory Garden was brought about.

At the time of the wars, trains and trucks were used to transport soldiers and vehicles, not foods, so people were limited to locally grown produce and foods. By 1944, near the end of WWII, 40% of all the vegetables grown in the United States was grown in a victory garden. Nearly everyone that could participated in growing victory gardens, even in cities apartment dwellers would all pitch in and have a roof garden for their building, sharing the labor and the food.

Even the public school systems got involved, growing victory gardens in the school yards to supplement the children's school lunches.

When harvest time came around people would bring out their canning supplies and can the excess produce for storing to use during the winter. Just this simple act helped many families stretch their ration cards year round.

The Victory Garden helped not only to feed families here at home during these wars, but they also ensured that enough food was able to be sent to the troops on the front lines.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Vegetable Harvesting Guideline

There are many different vegetables that people like to grow in their gardens. Each one is a bit different about when it is ready to be harvested. Here is a guideline to help get you started:
  • Watermelon: When your melon is ripe the white spot on the bottom of the melon should change to a deep yellow. Some people can hear a change in the sound made (hollow sound when ripe) when the melon is thumped with a finger. 
  • Turnips: When turnips have gotten too ripe they will be woody, to prevent this, harvest your turnips when they are 2-2.5" in diameter at the soil line.
  • Tomatoes: Harvest tomatoes when they are fully colored and slightly soft to the touch. Gently twist and pull from the vine. 
  • Summer Squash:  Best when picked young, needs to be checked often, pick when skin is soft enough to poke your fingernail through.
  • Spinach: Harvest by cutting at the soil line before you see a flower stalk beginning to shoot up as spinach goes to seed quickly.
  • Radishes: Radishes mature quickly. You will see the shoulders of the bulbs popping out of the soil line when ready for harvesting. Be sure to not wait too long to harvest, as if left too long, they will become tough and eventually go to seed. 
  • Potatoes: For full size potatoes, wait until the tops of the potato plants dry and turn brown. Start digging from the outside perimeter and move in cautiously to avoid slicing into potatoes. ‘New’ potatoes can be harvested when the tops start to flower. Carefully dig at the outer edges of the row. 
  • Peas: The pea pods should look and feel full. Peas are sweeter if harvested before fully plumped. To truly determine if the peas are sweet enough, they should be tasted.
  • Onions: Onions can be dug once the tops have ripened and fallen over. Allow the onions to dry in the sun.
  • Leeks: Harvest when about 1 inch in diameter.
  • Eggplant: Slightly immature fruit tastes best. Should be firm and shiny. Cut rather than pulling from the plant.
  • Cucumber: Check daily and harvest young. Timing and length will differ with each variety. The fruits should be firm and smooth. Over ripe cucumbers can be very bitter or pithy.
  • Corn: About 3 weeks after the silks form, they will turn dry and brown. The kernels should exude a milky substance when pricked. 
  • Cauliflower: Your home grown cauliflower heads will probably never match supermarket size. Harvest when the head looks full and while the curds of the head are still smooth. 
  • Carrots: When ready for harvest the tops of the carrot will show at the soil line and you can gauge when the diameter looks right for your variety. If the diameter looks good, chances are the length is fine too. But you will need to pull one to be certain. Carrots can be left in the ground once mature. A light frost is said to improve and sweeten the carrot's flavor.
  • Cabbage: The cabbage head will feel solid when gently squeezed. Needs to be harvested when it reaches maturity or it will continue to grow and split open.
  • Brussels Sprouts: The sprouts will mature from the bottom up. You can begin harvesting once the sprouts are at least an inch in diameter. Harvest by twisting off or cutting the sprout from the stem.  
  • Broccoli: Don't expect your home grown broccoli to get to the size of supermarket heads. We eat the unopened flower buds of broccoli, so check frequently, especially as the weather warms up, to ensure you don't let the flower heads bloom. Harvest when the buds are about the size of a match head.
  • Asparagus: Begin harvesting when spears are 6-8 inches tall and about as think as your small finger. Snap them off at ground level and new spears will continue to grow. Stop harvesting about 4-6 weeks after the initial harvest, to allow the plants to produce foliage and food for themselves.

For baskets, buckets, and other containers to help carry in your harvest visit Bucket Outlet.

Monday, July 2, 2012

July Gardening Tasks

Hard to believe that June is already over. Now that it is July, what should you be doing in your garden?

Now is the time to plant garlic, rhubarb, and many different onions for next season.

Also plant out more salad crops to keep a continuous flow of harvest-able plants throughout the summer.

Mid-July you will want to have your cool season seeds planted.

Begin harvesting produce as it is starting to ripen. Some plants that are harvested from immediately will actually create more produce. 

Transplant your strawberries that have rooted from runners. If you do this now, the new strawberry plants will bear fruit next year.

Also be sure to keep your plants watered. For watering tips visit: How Should You Water Your Garden?

And don't forget to continue weeding your garden beds.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Gardening Maintenance

It's the little things that make your garden continue to look beautiful throughout the summer. However, those little things can add up if you don't stay on top of the tasks.

In the Flower Garden:
Time to get out the garden pruners and get started on your flowers. Dead head your annuals and perennials. Dead heading is the task of either picking off or pruning off spent blooms. This helps to stimulate new growth on your plants.

If any of your annuals have died it is time to pull them out of the garden. If the plant seems healthy (other than being dead) send it to the compost pile.

Don't forget to weed your flower beds and be sure they have enough mulch.

If you have perennials that are taller and are starting to have trouble with swaying you may want to stake them to keep them from breaking.

While you are tending to your plants watch for pests. Be sure to treat your plants for the type of pest problem they are experiencing. There are many ways to treat your garden for pests from organic to chemical, and home-made to store bought. Do proper research to find out which methods are best for you and your garden.

Plant your fall and spring blooming bulbs in late summer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Scare off Garden Pests

There are many critters and insects that want to share in the bounty from your hard work and some will wipe out the food before you have a chance to enjoy it yourself. So which critters are the most common, and what can you do to get rid of them?

The biggest offender for most gardens is deer. Most deer are caught gobbling up the garden's plants late in the evening or early in the morning. But if you haven't seen them, their damage to plants is obvious. Their teeth leave a jagged irregular cut in vegetation that they have been snacking on. (We've gone over how to deter deer from your garden in the past also).

Raccoons come in a close second for the biggest garden offender. Unlike deer that will eat nearly all the garden plants, racoons main focus is corn, melons, and tomatoes. The biggest sign of a raccoon in your garden? Their foot prints.

Rabbits and various rodents tend to leave plants looking like they have been cut by scissors. Also, these types of pest tend to avoid corn, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, cucumbers and several types of peppers. But the plants they do enjoy, well those can be ruined by these creatures food forages.

And as any of us know that deal with fruits, birds can do quite a bit of damage, even to some vegetables.

So what can you do to keep these critters away from your garden?

Be sure you locate your garden as far away from the edges of the woods as possible. Be sure to keep the area around your garden well mowed and keep places for animals to hide either completely gone or to a bare minimum. When animals feel that they have an easy get away, they are more likely to target your garden for their food source. If they feel that it is too dangerous and too open, then they may pass your garden by and find food elsewhere.

Use scare crows, wind chimes, fake owls, and objects that smell like a human, such as hair from your local barber. Assaulting all of the animals senses will make them more fearful of your garden.

For deer, a fence can help to keep them out. However, a traditional fence raccoons will just climb over, while rodents can squeeze through the fencing, but with an electric fence other animals will be deterred as well as the deer. Be careful with an electric fence, be sure to turn off the current to it before going into your garden to ensure that you do not give yourself a shock. Also, if you have young children who will be near the fenced in garden, an electric fence is not the best option. If you decide to go with an electric fence, you will need to get electric fence supplies and learn how to safely install and use one.

For more tips on deterring wildlife visit the source below.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Can you over fertilize your garden?

Actually, it is quite easy to over fertilize. How do you know if you've done so?

One of the first things that starts to happen when you've over fertilized is that they leaves start getting a much darker green, even to the point of being a bluish green. They will also start to get a leathery feel to them. The upper most leaves will start to wilt and be limp to the touch. After almost 2 weeks you will notice that the edges of your leaves will start to discolor and look burnt.

So if you have over fertilized, what should you do?

Flushing the soil is about the only thing that you can do, and this does not always work depending on how badly damaged your plants are when you realize they have been over-fertilized. But it is worth giving it a shot.

To flush the soil you will want to first rinse all the plants to be sure there is no residue of the fertilizer on the leaves otherwise the fertilize will rinse off them with the next rain and get into the soil, resulting in a repeat of the over-fertilization of the soil.

You will need a soaker hose. Set up your hose around the soil that has been over fertilized. be sure when you turn on your hose that the water comes out at a rate that allows it to be soaked into the dirt instead of puddling on top of it. Continue watering like this for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this process again in 2 hours and throughout the day.

Friday, June 8, 2012

How Should you Water your Garden?

Before you lug out the garden hose and begin watering your plants, there are a few things that you should keep in mind when watering your garden:

If you have newly planted seeds you will want to water often. For germination to take place, moisture is important. For watering seeds, you will want to water them lightly but consistently.

After the plants have started growing, you should water once or twice a week. Water plants deeply so that their roots are encouraged to grow deeper. Shallow roots on the plants make them dependent upon more frequent waterings. Water them long enough that about 6 inches of soil is saturated.

During extremely hot weather and droughts your plants will need to be watered a bit more frequently as they will start to suffer and show signs of wilt.

To keep your water from evaporating too quickly you will want to water the plants in the morning or evening, preferable before 10 a.m. or after 5p.m. (the later the better, especially on particularly hot days.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Garden Tips

Here are some summer gardening tips to help your garden stay healthy all summer long:
  • Water plants in the mornings, before the temperature begins to rise. You will want to water at least once a week, and water plants deeply to prevent the roots from becoming too shallow and drying out quickly. 
  • Prune rose bushes back after the first bloom. Cut back all dead wood as well. 
  • Monitor plants regularly for pest and disease problems and treat accordingly.
  • Check container plants daily for their watering needs. 
  • If you enjoy having birds visit your yard be sure to provide fresh water for them, a bird bath will do the trick. 
  • In your garden be sure to continue wedding regularly.

We would love to hear your summer gardening tips and tricks, please share with us in the comments or on our facebook page at:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Some Garden Tips and Tasks for June

For your vegetable gardens you will want to:

Start any warm weather vegetables as soon as possible, vegetables such as Corn, Beans, Peppers, Egg Plant, Tomatoes, Squash, Pumpkin, etc.

Be sure to weed your vegetable beds to keep the weeds from taking over. A lawn weeder is a great tool that can help to weed anywhere in your yard, vegetable, or flower beds.

Protect you fruits from birds with garden netting.

Mound the soil up around your potato plants to prevent the tubers from being exposed to sunlight and turning green. A green potato contains solanine which is a natural toxin and is poisonous. So do not eat any green potatoes.

Thin vegetable seedlings to be sure they have ample room for growth.

For flowers, trees, & bushes you will want to:

Pinch back mums for fuller bushes and more blossoms next fall. Continue pinching back until about June 15th.

Begin planting morning glories, cypress vine, scarlet runner, hyacinth bean, and moon vine.

If you are cultivating a living Christmas tree now is the time to shape & sculpt it. 

It is also a good time to shear, prune, and/or pinch your Junipers, Cypress or Conifers.

Container plants may need daily watering now that the weather is starting to dry out.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Deter Deer from Your Garden

One of the most damaging things for your garden, is for it to be discovered by deer. We have some tips to help keep your garden deer free.
  1. Create a fence with VHS tape. This is a great way to recycle these old tapes. Put some sturdy stakes around the perimeter of your garden, use the vhs tape to rope of the perimeter of your garden, be sure to pull the tap as taut as you can without breaking it. This will cause the tape to create a buzzing noise that will frighten off the deer.
  2. Put up an electric fence. An electric fence will definitely help keep the deer away. Be sure to read all the instructions to ensure that you are using the fence safely.
  3. It is said that deer do not like the smell of strong deodorant soap. Place decent sized slivers of the deodorant soap around the perimeter of your garden.
  4. Use garden netting to cover your plants to keep the deer from being able to get to them.
  5. Surround your garden with items that make noise and movement. Anything from wind chimes to whirligigs to tying bells on string that the deer will have to disturb when attempting to get into your garden.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

10 Ways to Maximize your Garden's Harvest

There are many things that everyone has heard that will help their garden grow to it's biggest potential. There are many magazines on the market, blogs on the internet, friends, farmers, experts, etc. who all have an opinion on some of the things that you should be doing.  Well, we want to add our list to all that info, perhaps you will find some ideas here that you want to try, or others have been telling you about (if it comes from more than one source, it just might work...right? Well, we'll see...)
  1. Grow foods that grow well for you. Be sure to repeat crops that you have had success with in the past as certain plants thrive in different climates and soil types. When you grow an abundance of foods that do well for you, then you will be sure to have them on hand for meals and for preserving for the winter months.
  2. Plant edible perennials. Plants that come back each year save you time in planting and the maintenance for these types of plants is usually limited to weeding, fertilizing, and mulching. Some examples of edible perennials are: rhubarb, sorrel, Jerusalem artichokes, horseradish, bunching onions, and even bamboo shoots.
  3. Plant crops that are compatible. (see our list of companion plants) Companion planting allows plants to help each other grow, whether by shading plants that do not need as much sun, or by releasing beneficial nutrients into the soil that other plants need. 
  4. Think about trying vertical gardening. This is great for those with limited space. Use trellises for tomatoes, pole beans, and cucumbers to maximize space and help them grow.
  5. Harvest plants when they are their peak. It is best to pick your vegetables and fruits in the morning. This is when your plants are full of moisture and nutrients. 
  6. Use free fertilizer. Grass clippings make great mulch for your gardens, also creating your own compost pile is a way to have free fertilizer.
  7. Be sure to use the correct tools in your garden. Long handled spades, garden trowels, and hoes that you can use to standing up are great for bigger gardens, however, if you have beds or container gardens then you will want to use shorter handled tools. Be sure to keep the edges on your spades and hoes sharp so that they work better. 
  8. Water your plants efficiently. Mulches help to hold in moisture, and soaker hoses help to get the water deeper so that your plants roots grow deeper and won't dry out as easily. To help with watering during droughts capture water in rain barrels to use in your garden.
  9. Write out a garden plan in late winter. This is a great time to go over all of your preserves, what did you run out of that you would have liked to have more of? You should grow extra of that this year. Do you have some foods left that you aren't sure will be eaten? Grow less of that plant this year, or maybe not at all depending on you and your family's feelings about that food. Grow smart, grow foods that you will eat and appreciate.
  10. Create small spot gardens. Spot gardens are mini gardens that are grown in spots in your yard where there is more than 6 hours of sunlight each day. You will want to create deep, fertile gardening beds in these spots. Or you can use large containers for spot container gardens.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Planting for Mid April

Sprout Robot is a neat little website that tells you when to plant things for your area. So what do they say you should be planting if you are in the Red Hill General Store area? (SW Virginia)

Green Onions
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Chinese Cabbage
Leaf Lettuce
Summer Squash
Head Lettuce
Asian Greens

Start Indoors: Eggplant, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes.

So grab your gardening tools and get to it! And take a second to tell us what you are planting this year.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What is Lasagna Gardening?

The term lasagna gardening seems to floating around some of the gardening communities lately. But what is it?

Lasagna Gardening is a garden that is created by layering several different materials, one right after the other, with no need for mixing or tilling. The materials go through natural decomposition that does the work of mixing for you. Another name for this method of gardening is "sheet composting".

You can do a lasagna garden in a container or just right on top of the soil. You will first need to decide which you are doing and where. Then you will need to work on your layers. For your layers you will need some "ingredients". The ingredients that you will need for your lasagna garden are similar to what you would put into a compost pile. Some examples: grass clippings, leaves, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee and tea grounds, weeds (be sure they have not gone to seed), manure, compost, seaweed, shredded paper, pine needles, garden trimmings, peat moss, etc.

You will begin by laying out a layer of cardboard or several water soaked newspapers over the area that will container your lasagna garden. Then you will create a layer of green (materials that are high in nitrogen such as, peat moss, manure, coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, grass clippings, etc.) Next is your brown layer (materials that are high in carbon such as leaves, hay, straw, shredded newspaper, egg shells, saw dust, wood ashes). You will continue to alternate layers until your "lasagna" is 2 feet tall. Your final layer on your garden will be compost or manure. (If you keep a compost tumbler or heap this is a great time to use the compost you've been building up in there)

If you are starting your lasagna garden in the fall, it will be ready to plant by spring. However, if you are beginning in the spring, there are a few things you can do to help it be ready to plant almost immediately. While you are creating your lasagna garden add more soil-like amendments when layering, such as, finished compost, peat moss, or topsoil in between each layer. Finish off the entire bed with three or four inches of finished compost or topsoil, and plant. The bed will settle some over the season as the layers underneath decompose.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Patio or Balcony Gardening

For those who want to garden, but are limited on time or space, a great method to use is container gardening. With the containers on your patio, porch, or balcony they are close by for tending. Growing your own vegetables this way can provide you with fresh produce right at your fingertips while also saving some money on your grocery bill. Another great benefit of this type of gardening is that issues with soilborne diseases, nematodes, or bad soil conditions are remedied.

Beginnings of a container garden in a round washtub.
There are many types of vegetable crops that can be grown in a container:
  • Broccoli (1 plant per 2 gallons)
  • Carrot (2-3 plants per 1 gallon, need containers 2 inches deeper than the carrot length)
  • Cucumber (1 plant per 1 gallon)
  • Eggplant (1 plant per 5 gallons)
  • Green Bean (Space plants 3 inches apart, a 2 gallon minimum)
  • Green Onion ( 3-5 plants per 1 gallon)
  • Leaf Lettuce (2 plants per 1 gallon)
  • Parsley (3 plants per 1 gallon)
  • Pepper (1-2 plants per 5 gallons)
  • Radish (3 plants per 1 gallon)
  • Spinach (2 plants per 1 gallon)
  • Squash (1 plant per 5 gallons)
  • Tomato (1 plant per 5 gallons)
  • Turnip (2 plants per 2 gallons)
The containers that you can use vary, as long as it drains well then it can be used. If you have buckets you want to use, be sure to punch drain holes in the bottom and fill the bottom inch of the bucket with gravel so the holes aren't easily plugged by the dirt.

When thinking about what seeds to start for your container garden, you will want to go with plants that are easily transplanted as they do best in containers. Some items you can germinate your seeds in: backing pans, plastic trays, pots, or even a cardboard milk carton. Your seeds should be started in a warm area about 4 to 8 weeks before you transplant them into their final container. Also you will want to germinate them in an area that receives plenty of sunlight.

There are some plants that will need cages or other means of support, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and pole beans.

Maintaining your container garden:
Inspect your plants each day and water, trim, train, remove pests, weeds, treat diseases, and/or prune them when it is needed. Continue your gardening education by talking with experienced gardeners in your area. They will know the best about what plants fare well in your region.

If you have plenty of yard space, but are dreading the time it takes to plant it, you might want to check out the Earthway Garden Seeder. It can save a lot of time and hassle.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Last Week of March Gardening Tasks

Things that you may want to be working on in your garden this week:

Planting leaf lettuce: keep in mind that they need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day.

Start your leeks (inside): remember to plant one starter container for every leek you want to grow.

Plant green onions: your onions will need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day.

Plant carrots: they need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day.

Start tomatoes (inside): plant one starter container for every 10 to 12 lbs of tomatoes that you want. Also don't forget to invest in tomato rings and cages for when you plant them in your garden.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Companion Planting with Peas

Peas are a great addition to any garden, they taste wonderful cooked, or in salads, they are also a great addition to soups. A wonderful little vegetable. So what plants will your peas thrive by or help by being planting near them?


Just don't plant those precious little peas next to:

So once you've grown and harvested your pea pods the fun of shelling them begins. Many people still shell peas by hand, but some  people use a pea sheller to help in the process, just make sure you don't run unripe or overripe peas through them or you'll end up with mashed peas.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Companion Planting with Lettuce

Lettuce is a staple in many gardens, no summer salad is complete without it. To help your lettuce be its best in your garden you should plant it near radish, kohlrabi, carrots, or beans. Mint can also be helpful if planted near your lettuce as it helps to repel slugs.

When harvesting your lettuce if it is not head lettuce, cut it off just above the stem (sometimes this will encourage the lettuce to grow more leaves). If it is head lettuce then you should cut it just above the ground.

For harvesting, sometimes harvest baskets make things simpler, as they give you a great way to carry your fresh produce easily into your home.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Companion Planting with Hot Peppers

Hot Peppers are great companion plants to a lot of other plants, especially in areas of your garden where you have trouble with root rot and Fusarium diseases. The hot pepper's root helps to get rid of those types of problems. But for plants that help the hot pepper, you need to look at plants like the tomato, green pepper, and okra. These types of plants help to shade your hot peppers, keeping them from drying out and helping keep some humidity for them. Many hot peppers will need to be planted together also as they fare better while growing.

Plants to avoid planting near your hot peppers: beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, caulifllower, cabbage, and/or fennel.

Remember when harvesting and preparing hot peppers to wear gardening gloves or other protective gloves, as some peppers are hot enough to burn your skin, and you also do not want to wipe near your eyes with the juice and oils from the peppers on your hands.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Companion Planting with Onions

Many people enjoy onions, whether on burgers, sandwiches, in soups, salads, or just plain, they are definitely a great little way to add a little spice to a meal. So it would make sense to plant them smartly in your garden by planting them near plants that either benefit them or that they benefit.

Onions repel and/or distract aphids, carrot flies, and other garden pests. They are very useful in a garden, but shouldn't be planted near beans, lentils, peas, or parsley.

After cutting an onion you can keep it fresh longer using an onion saver container.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Companion Plants for Summer Squash & Zucchini

It can be difficult to find companion plants for the zucchini and squash, as these two plants take up a lot of room and are big eaters. There are three plants that can be beneficial to the squash and zucchini when planted together in your garden:

Nasturtiums: these little edible flowers are a trap crop for certain insects such as flea beetles and aphids. If these types of pests are giving you problems in your garden then you may want to consider planting nasturtiums around your squash and zucchini as a border plant.

Beans: beans release quite a bit of nitrogen into the soil, which can make them beneficial to the heavy eaters squash and zucchini. However since they tend to be a running crop also, you will want to train them to grow up trellises or poles in order to plant them with the squash and zucchini.

Corn: this plant grows well with squash and zucchini as it grows up while they grow out. Also the squash and zucchini will benefit the corn by shading the ground and preventing weeds that tend to choke out corn from growing.

Another note: Nasturtiums are a great addition to salads, they have a sharp peppery taste. When you harvest your nasturtiums you will want to pick or cut the flowers and leaves as needed. Floral shears make easy work of harvesting nasturtiums.

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