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.

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