Gardening update

I love Sundays, especially early in the morning, when no one is really awake. They’re so peaceful and simple.

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Noli and I went out this morning to check on the garden and make sure everything was going well, here’s an update on everything we are growing!

Basil: I wasn’t thinking and didn’t harden it off. Dummy. Soooo, it’s growing still, but it’s looking a little rough. But I think it’ll be fine. I might pick up a few plants just to be on the safe side. You can never have too much basil!

Beets: Attacked by the Spanish Leaf Miners. *insert crazy gardening lady with clippers and a spray bottle filled with soapy water*. Good news, although the leaves might look a little rough, the roots themselves are good and growing strong!

Cantaloupe: Still no sign..I didn’t keep track of when I planted it, although it was the same time as corn. (2 weeks ago?) I’ll give it a few more days and replant it.

Carrots: Carrots, you never fail me. You are delicious. I love you. (They are growing amazingly well, of course).

Celery: I’m not sure how this is going. It’s growing. It’s small..there’s no guarantees it’ll make it. I’m not placing any bets.

Cilantro: Harvested 3 HUGE bunches of this. We cut back the plants to the base and are waiting for more to sprout before it gets to hot and bolts.

Corn: It has started to pop up! Thank goodness! I felt like that took forever! Something about growing corn makes me feel like a real farmer.

Garlic: Everything is looking good so far. This is definitely one of the harvests I’m looking forward to most. Unfortunately we had to harvest one a little early (someone, or some furry black dog named Charlie, stepped on it).

Green Beans: I started these outdoors last-minute, in a spot that wasn’t even intended for anything. But they are growing great and I’ll be glad I planted them.

Horseradish: My one regret, NEVER GROW HORSERADISH IN ANYTHING BUT A CONTAINER. They will take over and conquer. The good news is, horseradish is delicious.

Hubbard squash: This beautiful plant has popped up and is looking strong and handsome. Has anyone else grown it? If you like pumpkin pie, grow this. Pumpkin doesn’t hold a candle to Hubbard.

Kale: Kale is doing beautifully, already harvested 3 HUGE bunches.

Potatoes: Wowee. These guys. They sure know how to grow. Handsome little taters.

Snow Peas: Growing STRONG, but….it’s getting hot. Like really hot. So I don’t think they’re going to be very tasty. But we’ll see!

Spinach: Damn Spanish Leaf Miners.. but overall it’s been a good harvest so far. Probably about 2 big bunches/or 3 salad bowls full (I’m going to get a better system down this week).

Strawberries: I’m so glad we have strawberries. If you don’t have berries in your garden, you need to get some. Your gardening life will never be the same. I think next year I’m going to double and/or triple our strawberry plants.

Tomatoes: This year I started my tomatoes indoors, and although they did great in the beginning, they became spindly from lack of strong light (we were using shop lights). Next year I’ll definitely build a mini green house, just for the tomatoes and peppers. I think they will do fine since we re-planted some of them sideways to give them more roots. A few we left as is to see if it made any difference. (8 in total). AND they are flowering which is a good sign!

Zucchini: I bought an heirloom plant of this about a week or so ago. I didn’t think I wanted zucchini this year, but when I went to the store and had to pay .69 cents for ONE zucchini squas. I about died, and immediately put a plant in the ground.

Things I wish I had room for: Cucumbers, broccoli and raspberries. And about a billion other plants. But these were the top 3.

Is anyone keeping track of their harvest this year? I decided to see how much money I’m saving this growing season and I’m keeping track of the number and weight of my produce! So far I’ve harvested: 1 lb of organic spinach ($4.12 per lb), 10 oz of organic garlic scapes ($7 per 1/2 lb), 1 lb 8 oz of organic cilantro ($1.46 a bunch), 3 lb of organic kale ($1.97 a bunch), 1 German Red organic garlic head ($3.50 ea), and 3 organic strawberries!
Estimate savings price for May: Est. $27.91
Total savings to date: Est. $27.91

So far so good.

And…I’ll end with a few pictures!

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Hey tomato flowers, lookin’ goood!

 

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My daughter already ate all the partially ripe berries. She knows what’s up.

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Bouquet of cilantro.

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Potatoes aren’t wasting anytime!

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Had to harvest this guy early, got trampled. Not sad one bit!

Just a friendly reminder!

It is CRUCIAL to keep your potatoes well watered, especially during the flowering stage and right after. 1-2 inches of water a week! When foliage turns yellow and starts to die back, discontinue watering.

La Ratte and Yellow Finn

La Ratte and Yellow Finn

Beets

 

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So I just planted my beets the other day, and in celebration I bought some from our local grocery store. I cooked them for about an hour in the oven and then chopped them up with some pears and nuts and put them in some mixed greens. It was a day to remember.

This is my first year growing beets and I decided to grow the Early Wonder variety. It’s a old heirloom variety dating back to pre-1811. Must be good if they’ve been haulin’ them around this long 😉

Here are some  facts about our little mediterranean native:

  • They are packed full of: potassium, folic acid, manganese, fiber, vitamin a, c, calcium, and iron
  • They are biennial- meaning they flower and set seed their second season
  • VERY cold hardy.
  • Sow directly into the ground, but soak the seeds in warm water for a few hours before placing in the soil. Helps with germination. (Which I didn’t do…shoot)
  • Each seed is actually a cluster of 2-6 seeds
  • Plants that reach maturity during hot weather will have less color and flavor. Dress your plants with compost and plant in the shade of another plant to secure your chances of a good harvest

Growing beets:

  • First off, pick a nice sunny location that has well drained soil
  • Amend your soil with organic material working it in to a depth of 8-10 inches
  • Sow seeds 2-4 inches apart, water well and add a thin layer of dressing. This helps to moderate soil moisture and temperature. *Keep beets watered well and you will have happy gardeners and happy beets*
  • Beets require lots of phosphorus to grow healthy large roots. If you run a soil test and you find in lacks in phosphorus give your plants a side dressing of bonemeal or rock phosphate. (Favored pH range for beets is 6.0-7.0)
  • Stop sowing seeds once the temperatures reach about 75 degrees, but start again 8 or so weeks before the first fall frost, for a late season harvest

Harvesting beets:

  • Beets taste best when they are 1.5-2.5 inches in diameter. After that they start to lose flavor and the texture becomes unappetizing
  • Beet greens can be harvested as soon as plants are an inch or two high. Older greens are best when steamed or sauteed.
  • When beets are ready to harvest, pull or dig them out then remove the tops by twisting them or cutting them off, being careful to leave a few inches of stem on the root to keep them from bleeding and losing their moisture. They can be stored this way, in the fridge for up to a week
  • For long term storage, layer the beets in damp sawdust or sand and keep in a moist cold root storage until ready to use

 

  • Beet seeds

 

 

Spring!

Whew. It’s been awhile. Sorry about that guys.

This year has been a tough year getting things going, I have a million things going on! It’s also an especially warm winter here in Utah so it’s been throwing my growing groove off.
Do people still say groove? groove.

Anywho… Anywho?

ANYWAYS.

I’ve had some up and downs. I tried soil blocking under the pretense that there was a good chance I would fail the first year. And I did. I got the blocks to form beautifully, and I even followed a recipe. I hate following recipes. But, I did anyways, and after the first few days in their little hut they started to smell STRONGLY of ammonia. Not a little ammonia. But like someone pee’d on it and stuck a plastic cover over it for a few weeks. I’ve read a few reviews on how you are supposed to let your soil blocking mix sit for a month to break down before you use it, so I’m going to try that and test it out. In the mean time, I’ve already gotten my seeds going in a pre-made seed starting potting mix, and they are chugging along quite nice.

Chugging…why do I keep saying weird things?

My tomatoes have formed true leaves and I’ve transplanted a few of the extra sprouts into their own container. Which, holy smokes, I thought I had lost them. With in 10 min they were flat on their backs and weaker than a candle in the wind. But with in a few hours they were back to their upright positions. Tip I learned: DO NOT GRAB BY THE STEM, only by the leaves. The stem is very sensitive and can be easily shocked.

Right after transplanting:

Shocked tomatoes, poor guys.

Shocked tomatoes, poor guys.

A few hours after transplanting:

Bouncing right on back!

Bouncing right on back!

And here they are now, a few weeks later. Lookin’ good ladies! (And gents..) I’ve also been giving them a few tablespoons of fish fertilizer once a week, and it’s been a great thing! Especially for the tomatoes that had some shock.

German PInk

German Pink

Bonny Best

Bonny Best

 

Sorry for the blinding light, but here are a few other things I’m growing so far: kale, oregano, chives, cilantro, broccoli, celery, parsley, basil, lavender and peppers. I definitely started the kale and broccoli a couple of weeks to early. So I’m going to try and transplant them outside and put covers over them till it’s a bit warmer out.

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I spent all yesterday working on our strawberry patch, removing the old mulch, weeding, and removing some of the strawberry plants that died. There are a few things that I’m going to do differently this year/next year. 1) Transplant some of the runners after the last harvest, that way that are in their semi-dormant phase. Yesterday, I removed some of the plants that were to close to each other and tried to replant them. I think they will be fine, but it took a tole on them. 2) Their roots are sensitive to moisture and light, so I’ll be more careful not to lay the bare roots out while I’m working on getting them replanted.  3) This year I want to fertilize them more. My strawberries did great last year, but I think they will really benefit from the fertilizer.  Tip: 1 lb of balanced fertilizer per 100 sq feet. With that water an inch per week throughout the growing season.

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Over the next 2 days I’ll be planting my lettuces, spinach, carrots, peas and potatoes! I’m a couple weeks behind on the peas, so we’ll see how well they do. Also, I’m growing potatoes for the first time this year. What is your preferred growing method? I’m short on space, so I was thinking about building some wire potato cages out of thick wire fencing. If you have a method that works, please share!

Overall, I think this is going to be a great growing season and I can’t wait to see what everyone else is doing and growing!

And to end, here’s a cute picture of my daughter 🙂

 

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Gardening Trays

Every year in my garden I weed, I pick, I pull, I trim and I harvest. I end up with handfulls, armloads, bucketloads of plants and produce. How do I move it? I use my hands, I use my shirt, I use bowls from the kitchen, I use the baskets that normally hold the throw blankets in the living room. Really anything that could hold something.

None of these things were really working well for me. I’d leave my kitchen bowls outside for a few days, my good shirt would now become another…gardening shirt. (Why do I always forget to put on the ratty shirts when gardening?!) My hands could never hold enough, and a few delicate tomatoes would go tumbling down the steps, and my basket used for blankets would eventually be covered in dirt and leaves because I would forget to clean it out before returning it to it’s rightful place. But the gardening stores around here never really had anything I liked. They had totes and cute baskets for holding fancy tea towels in..but nothing I wanted to fork out 30+ dollars for that was practical.

We’ve been tossing around a few ideas for gardening trays that would be useful in the garden. You could rinse your produce in them, shake off dirt, use them to hold your weeds or carry gardening pots outside with them (and whatever else you could imagine using them for.) Here’s our first draft.

Sketching out the ideas

Sketching out different ideas and measurements

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Beautiful oak

Beautiful oak

Sawing sawing sawing

Sawing sawing sawing

Oak box and a poplar box

Oak box and a Poplar box

So there they are! This is definitely the rough draft, things weren’t quite even in some places, and we are still working with what type of screws/nails to use on the boxes, especially the Oak boxes. I like the idea of using Poplar, they are easy to put together and affordable. We will definitely need to put a linseed finish on both of them (or something similar.) The Oak boxes are very sturdy and they just feel good in your hands. They are a bit heavier than the Poplar, but will withstand weather and use for a very long time. They aren’t as affordable as the Poplar, but I think they will be worth their weight in gold once finished. Also, I think we’ll do a couple different varieties and sizes. Make the Oak one with a mesh bottom and the Poplar one with wooden slats, maybe do a few smaller varieties for those that mostly have berries and herbs. Let me know what you all think! 

Seed Starting

It’s February!

Doesn’t it feels like the end of winter? It’s still cold, it still snows, but you can see the flowers, and the tree buds in the distance. The birds have started chirping more and the days just don’t seem as gloomy. And just because it’s 45 days until spring doesn’t mean you will be waiting until then to start planting!

Before you get started on all your glorious gardening plans, check to see what gardening zone you are in. The zone you are in will highly affect when you plant all your vegetables and fruit. For instance, if you lived in zones 7-8 you can start planting your gardening pea’s in January, whereas if you lived in Zones 5-6 you can’t start planting them until March! Planting zones really do matter! No one wants to have frost bitten peas, I can tell you that!

So for all you folks that live in Zones 5-6, seed starting is coming up! Here is a few tips for starting your seeds indoors.

1- GOOD Potting soil. I really like this company because it’s organic and has no artificial polyacrylamide.

Ecoscraps

2-Seedling containers. You can use anything from clay pots, plastic containers divided into cells, rolled newspaper, paper cups or even egg cartons. Although, I wouldn’t really recommend the egg shell/carton one, the cells are usually too small for most seed germination and long term growth. I think this year I want to try out the rolled newspaper method, it’s free and they compost well. But with any of these methods just make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom, or a way for excess water to escape.

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3-Light and warmth. There are a couple different ways you can successfully do this. You can use the window sill on a sunny side of the house, although you want to make sure the windows aren’t too drafty. If you are starting your seeds in late winter/early spring, make sure that they get enough strong sunlight. You can put them outside in a green house. Or, what we do, you can get one of those plastic or metal shelving stands and tie shop lights under each shelf with wire, and even have heating pads under them (No need to buy the specialty heating pads, just a normal one that has low settings). This specific method works beautifully for us.

4-Growth. Once your seedlings have sprouted make sure they get between 12-14 hours of light a day, keeping the light as close to the sprouts as possible, with out actually touching the leaves. Make sure you take off any sort of dome or plastic covering so the plants get enough air and don’t succumb to fungi. During this growth period trim off any additional seedling sprouts that appear in each sell or pot with a small pare of scissors. Pulling on the excess sprouts can traumatize the root system and weaken your main plant.

5-Transplant. If you started out using small cells or eggshells for your germination process, you’ll need to transplant them into bigger pots once they start to outgrow their environment. Simply peal the outside of the paper off if using newspaper, lift with a utensil or turn to its side if using plastic, or break off the shells if using eggs. Be very careful and gentle during this process, you don’t want to traumatize the plant and send it into shock.

6-Feedings. After about 3-4 weeks, the nutrients in the potting mix will be gone, so you will need to supplement the seedlings to make sure they get all the nutrients they need. Up until this year I have yet to use any type of liquid fertilizer, and always got decent results. But I’ve realized that certain plants never did that well from seeds, especially tomatoes and peppers, and it’s because I didn’t supplement the soil. All gardening stores will offer liquid fertilizers, but if you aren’t into spending the extra money there are ways to make your own: Homemade liquid fertilizer. Just remember, if using liquid fertilizers, double the dilution to water ratio. Seedlings are small and don’t need as much nutrients as full grown plants.

7-Patience. This is sometimes the hardest part. Waiting. But growing plants from seed is one of the most rewarding experiences. Take care of these little seeds and plants in every stage of growth and you will be rewarded with beautiful juicy produce all summer long.

So what’s with heirloom?

So let’s talk about HEIRLOOM. I started growing heirloom varieties of my favorite fruits and vegetables this year and I fell in love. Everything just felt, tasted and looked better. I swear my garden was fuller and greener this year than it ever has been before. Some might call that chance, but I call it heirloom seeds and a good soaker hose.

I asked a few skeptics why they doubted heirloom seeds and gardening. Here were their top questions they had, and here are my answers!

What does “heirloom” really mean anyway?
What does GMO mean?
What does Hybrid mean?
What’s so good about Heirloom plants?
Is it worth spending the extra .50 cents-1 dollar on each package?
What’s all the hype about?
Is production going to be higher or lower?
How do I even know that the seed I’m buying is actually heirloom?
What are the negative affects of GMO’s?
What are the negative affects of Hybrids?
Are heirloom plants harder to grow, will the average number of seeds grow better?
What’s the difference between organic and heirloom?


What does “heirloom” really mean anyway?
There are many definitions of heirloom, but generally it’s a type of fruit, flower, or vegetable that was being grown before WW2 era. Before WW2 big agriculture hadn’t taken over, so the demand to produce more, faster and bigger wasn’t an issue.

Ethne Clarke, editor of Organic Gardening magazine gave a perfect visual about what heirloom means. He said: “I think a lot of it has to do with the romance of history, growing something that perhaps grew in your grandmother’s garden or came from your native country. I just planted some peas that came from Ireland, they’re native to Ireland. My grandfather was an Irish farmer.

Heirloom seeds and plants are not hybrids and have not been genetically modified. When you plant heirloom seeds, you’re planting something that will work well in a natural ecosystem, that will give you usable seeds for next year, and that will give you the healthiest produce available.


What does GMO mean?
Short answer: It’s an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.

Long answer: GMO’s stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Scientist take any foods that can be changed at a gene level, and alter them for various reason. They take the little seed and genetically alter and change it so it can withstand all the chemicals and pesticides they are putting on it. They also alter it so it can do other things like repel certain bugs, make produce look bigger, and or stay on the market shelf for a whole lot longer than is normal. By doing so they risk  permanently changing the blue print of the plants. And with that they are affecting not only the soil but the nutrition of the plants, the health of the soil, and the ecosystem as a whole.


What does Hybrid mean?
A hybrid is a cross between two different plant varieties to get the best of each variety.


What’s so good about Heirloom Plants?
It’s the old school variety. Which means, they haven’t been genetically modified yet.

Tom Torgrimson said, “We say that with heirlooms, every seed has a story to tell. This variety was created somewhere by someone and was maintained over time, so there must be a reason. I think the most common reason is it was saved because this is a tomato somebody liked, and it was saved by a family.”

Here are the three different types of seeds a gardener or farmer might use:

  1. First Generation (F1) is a hybridized, patented, often sterile line of crop which can’t propagate further seasons on its own (that means you can’t save the seeds from your plants and plant them the next year).
  2. Genetically Modified (GM) seeds have been fiddled with in a lab to allow combinations of genes not possible through breeding — some lines of corn use information from cold-water fish to make themselves more frost-hardy, for example.
  3. Heirloom seeds are where it’s at. These varieties are allowed to pollinate naturally, with traits only selected for by generations of breeding. They might have been developed quickly in the last 50 years, or proudly tended and passed from generation to generation since the Civil War.

Original source


Is it worth spending the extra .50 cents-1 dollar on each package?
YES! Since heirloom varieties are open pollinated, you can save the seeds from your plants. So if you are careful all you need is to buy heirloom seeds once and you are set for a really long time, if not for life!


What’s all the hype about?
More and more people are starting to realize that the cleaner and more whole our food is, the healthier it is to eat. GMO’s have been found to increase all kinds of things you don’t want, including (but not limited to) the following:

  1. Allergies
  2. Toxins in the foods
  3. Contaminations between GMO’s and non-GMO’s
  4. Antibiotic resistance
  5. Changes in the nutrient levels of the food (in a bad way) (And this is just for corn!)
  6. Environmental damage along with the creation of the ‘super weed’.

Here are some other great links on environmental damage that has or could happen because of GMO’s: ISB News Report, Seed varieties disappearingNational Geographic’s Food Altered and Better Nutrition’s Say NO to GMO.


Is production going to be higher or lower?
I like what Rebsie of Daughter of the Soil said:

“When two dissimilar varieties are crossed, the result is a hybrid which will often be bigger, brighter, faster-growing or higher-yielding than either of its parents, which makes for a great selling point. But it’s a one-hit wonder. Subsequent generations don’t have the same vigour or uniformity, and the idea is that you don’t save seed from it, you just throw it away and buy some more. This is bad for the plants, bad for the garden and bad for you, but the seed companies make a packet out of it and gain increasing control of what we buy and grow.”

So to answer the question, growing heirloom might not give you as big of a yield as growing hybrid or GMO’s, but in the end it is worth losing a few tomatoes to grow a plant that is healthier for you and the soil. Also, when growing heirloom you will get the same type of plant every year after (using the seeds you collect) compared to hybrid varieties that may or may not grow the same after the first generation.

Ethne Clark, editor of Organic Magazine, said “The same reasons people are driven to conserve the rainforest, we need to think about conserving the biodiversity of plants that grow in our gardens. One of the best ways is growing heirloom varieties.”


How do I even know that the seed I’m buying is actually heirloom?
All companies that sell heirloom seeds are 100% heirloom, guaranteed. You will also find out the year after when you plant your harvested seeds.


What are the negative affects of GMO’s?
Scroll back up to the question ‘What’s all the hype about’ to find your answer.


What are the negative affects of Hybrids?
The biggest problem with growing hybrid is they don’t reproduce true in the second generation, making it near impossible to save your seeds. Making you rely on seed companies.

Dawn from Small Footprint Families said it best: “When the peasant farmers grew these new hybrids, they were indeed more productive, even though they required more fertilizer and water. But when they collected and saved the seed for replanting the next season—as they had done for generations and generations—none of it grew true to the parent crop, little food grew, and these poor farmers, having none of their open-pollenated traditional varieties left viable, had no choice but to go back to the big companies to purchase the hybrid seeds again for planting year after year.

U.S. companies like Cargill intentionally disrupted the traditional cycle of open-pollinated seed saving and self-sufficiency to essentially force entire nations to purchase their seeds, and the agricultural chemicals required to grow them.

Most of these poor subsistence farmers never had to pay for seed before, and could not afford the new hybrid seeds, or the new petrochemical fertilizers they required, and were forced to sell their farms and migrate to the cities for work. This is how the massive, infamous slums of India, Latin America, and other developing countries were created.

By the 1990s an estimated 95% of all farmers in the First World and 40% of all farmers in the Third World were using Green Revolution hybrid seeds, with the greatest use found in Asia, followed by Mexico and Latin America.

The world lost an estimated 75 percent of its food biodiversity, and control over seeds shifted from farming communities to a handful of multinational corporations.”


Are heirloom plants harder to grow? Will the seeds sprout as easily as GMO’s?
Heirloom seeds sprout and grow just as easily as hybrid or GMO seeds. That being said, because heirloom varieties haven’t been developed in science labs to withstand sprays and extreme weather conditions, heirloom seeds can be more vulnerable sometimes.

But that makes you a better gardener, a more natural gardener. You have to learn about the actual vegetable/fruit, like your grandparents and their parents did. You have to weed them, water them, and care for them, just how nature intended. Additionally, after harvesting, you can keep the seeds from your heirloom plants and plant them the next year without any problems. Good luck doing that with your GMO or hybrid plants!


What’s the difference between organic and heirloom?
Organic means living things grown with out pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Heirloom is just the description of the plant. So you can grow heirloom plants and still use pesticides and such.

WHEW. Long post. Hope that answered any of the questions my skeptics had. If anyone has anything else to add don’t be shy!

Garlic!

So I’m a dog person. I love dogs. All dogs. Except maybe the hairless ones. But every time I see a homeless dog my little heart aches and I call my husband and beg him to let me take another one home. He of course talks reason into my bleeding heart and tells me that we already have one, we don’t have room, ‘think of the dog hair!’ ect ect ect. There’s really no moment in my life where I couldn’t picture having a dog in my life.

Until they get into my garden, this time digging up my garlic.

At that exact moment, horrible thoughts flood into my brain: ‘CHARLIE, YOU BETTER RUN AND HIDE!’, ‘NO MORE! CHARLIE, PACK YOUR BAGS!’, ‘I’M TAKING YOU TO THE FARM, CHARLIE!’. The threats continue for a few more minutes, until I see his sad eyes and of course I go over and cuddle with him and tell him it’s okay.

Anyways, enough about that! We’re here to talk about GARLIC!

This year we grew a few varieties of garlic: Ukraine, Music, Siberian, and German Red.

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Everyone has different opinions on when to start garlic. Some say a few weeks before the first frost, others say after the first frost, and some even say it doesn’t matter as long as they reach their full maturity, which is 9 months. I think it really depends on where you live and the climate. Here in Utah it’s a good idea to plant anywhere within the first week of frost when the soil is nice and cool. You can also plant after the last frost when the soil has started to thaw, but you will get bigger and better bulbs if planted in the fall. (Or so I’m told by most gardeners. I’m going to plant a second set this spring to see how it works in Utah).

Three things I love about growing my own garlic:

1) It’s so easy! And I can grow them for the fraction of the price they sell them for in the store.

2) SO much variety. You really can only buy 1 or 2 types of garlic in the store, but when you are planting your own you can grow dozens of different varieties! YAY!

3) Taste. Garlic is packed with more punch and flavor (especially when it’s heirloom!) when it’s grown in your own soil.

Try growing your own garlic this year! Even if you don’t have a plot, you could always build a box or buy one!

There are three types of garlic:

Softneck: Grows best where winters are mild (tolerant till Zone 5)
Hardneck: Extrememly cold tolerant! Great for really cold bitter winters.
Elephant: A hardy garlic that can withstand winters till Zone 5 if heavily mulched

I would definitely experiment with a few different types and varieties when you get ready to plant. Every one is different and you might be surprised with what grows best in your area and what ends up being your favorite!

Growing garlic:

This year I broke up my cloves and let them sit in some water over night. Some people recommend a mixture of liquid seaweed and baking soda to help prevent fungus, but I didn’t have any and we really don’t have problems with that here in Utah.

Start by loosening the soil a good 12 inches and working in some well rotted compost.
Place the cloves 4 inches deep and between 6-8 inches apart. Make sure you place the pointy top up and the flat part down. Cover with soil and place 3-5 inches of mulch (hay, straw, or leaves) over the top.

Viola! So easy, right?

As you can see, I still need to mulch mine…

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Harvesting:

I didn’t know this about garlic but it bruises easily! So when you are harvesting them do so very carefully. Loosen the soil with a gardening fork or shovel before pulling them out. Lay them out to dry in a nice warm spot away from harsh sun light and rain. After a week or two, brush off the soil and cut the roots to about half an inch long. Wait another week and cut off the stems of the hardneck varieties, and trimming and braiding the softneck varieties. Hang your garlic in nice mesh bags or if you have braided your garlic, hang in a nice cool dark place, like a garage or basement.

And that’s it! Lots of great garlic all year long. Also, make sure you don’t peel the papery outer wrappings, it keeps the garlic from rotting or sprouting.

So go on now! Go plant some garlic! 😉

Organic gardening: how to get rid of slugs.

Has anyone else noticed the gross, slimy, new neighbors that just moved in? They’re really annoying. Always asking for food and leaving their trash everywhere. Really inconsiderate if you ask me.

The problem with slugs is they affect just about everything, feeding on the soft tissue of your fruits and vegetables leaving huge gnarly holes on your leaves. When I was a kid my brother would pour salt on them and I would sit there crying, begging him to stop, wondering why someone would be so cruel. I’ve now had a change of heart and I might be just as cruel as he was.

So how do you get rid of them once you’ve caught them? There are a ton of organic and natural options out there, although they might be more work, they are completely worth it! Here are a few options:

Picking and Soaping. My preferable option of termination is handpicking them off my plants and dropping them into a soapy cup of water. I do this in the evening or in the early morning before the sun is up. Also keep in mind, that for every slug you find there are 20 more you haven’t seen, so be vigilant! I’ve also noticed they love soaker hoses, so check near those as well.

Booby Trapping. Turning over pots and wooden boards are great ways to temporarily catch slugs and snails, just make sure you check before the sun rises or after the sun sets to catch them and scoop them into some soapy water before they leave. Also, sprinkling wood ash or sawdust around the plants sucks moisture away from the slugs and deters them from crossing.

Poisoning. Wormwood tea is made from Artemisia. It’s a botanical poison that repels most bugs, snails, and slugs. If you use it in the fall it will also kill all burrowing slugs that are hiding and/or hibernating. To make this wonderful tea Steep 1 cup of Artemisia in 1 quart of warm water for 24 hours. Strain the liquid and add 1 tbs of castile soap. Add 8 ozs. of tea to 1 quart of water and spray on the soil.

Shocking. Place copper strips or foil around your garden. The copper is supposed to send an electrical shock which keeps them at bay.

Pesticiding. If you have a more serious infestation you can buy iron phosphate baits at your local gardening store. THIS IS NOT ORGANIC.

Mother Nature. The most important thing you can do is create a happy ecosystem by encouraging certain bugs into the garden. Ants, beetle grubs, earwigs , birds, snakes, toads and turtles all love snacking on slugs!

Good luck in the hunt!

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Portia Westesen

Common Zucchini Problems

If you live in the humid region of the United States, growing Zucchini can be a real pain. High humidity breeds and homes thousands of bugs, so you need to watch your zucchini carefully. I suggest going out every morning to watch for a few things:

1) Is your plant wilting a ton? Check the base of the plant. If it’s covered with saw dust looking bits then it is the squash vine borer. Use a sharp knife and make an incision on the base of the stem, right above the infected area. Carefully pull it back and you should see the maggot/bug. Take him out and bury the cut you made in the plant. It should recover just fine.

A friend of mine, Jen, is an avid gardener in Oklahoma and recently had this problem! She was able to save some of her plants after taking those little grubby bugs out. Here’s a picture of her beautiful garden and a picture where the squash vine borer lived.

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2) Is your plant shriveling up, turning brown and falling off? Then that’s a pollinating issue that you’ll need to use a paint brush to manually help them pollinate. First you need to distinguish the male blossoms from the female blossoms:

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The male plants just have a nice long thin stem where as the females have kind of a plumpness (that eventually becomes a zucchini) under the flower. From there you take a small paint brush and run it across the center of the male blossom, where the pollen is. Then gently brush it over the center stigma of the female. Done!


3) Is your plant speckled and turning black? It’s the squash bug! Handpicking them seems to be the best way to kill them, just knock them off into a can of soapy water, but you can also use insecticide, like Bacillus thuringiensis, which is an organic insecticide. The best time to catch them is in the early morning hours when they’re still a little sleepy and not as alert.

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Squash home grown is so much tastier than store bought, plus in our grocery store it’s about .55 cents per zucchini! Outrageous.  With how much zucchini one plant can produce I’ve realized that it is well worth my time to keep it alive 🙂

Portia Westesen