Archive for the ‘water’ Category

3 2 1 Acclimate! Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

My babied seedlings of tomatoes and peppers have had a rough go of making it to the garden. For weeks I did really well. Watering when slightly dry, timing their artificial grow lights, repotting when necessary. Then I try to set them outside to acclimate a little and boom! I let them dry out too much, then they get sunburned, the children water them too forcefully and the dog topples all of them over. Good grief! So now I’m attempting some resuscitation to see who will make it out of my 20-some little plants. That would’ve been too many for our garden plot but now I’m hoping I have a 1/2 dozen of pepper and tomato each to put out some time this week.

Seedlings you do at home need time to toughen up to the outdoor conditions: wind, sun, night and day temps, all are much more severe than the conditions in your home, garage and in some instances the greenhouse where you purchased them.

What I should have done to acclimate them:

  • Mimic the sun time they will have with my artificial lights a couple weeks out
  • Start setting them out in a shady spot during the day when the temp is 65 and above
  • Move them to a sunnier location where they will get just a couple hours of sun
  • Slowly increase their time in the sun an hour or two each day until they are staying in the sun for a full 8 hours
  • Plant them in the garden when the nights are only getting down to the high 50s or 60s (right now!)

Oh well, this is the most success I’ve had starting my own seedlings anyway so I’ll chalk this up to another lesson learned the hard way.

Earth Day: Yes you can Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Make a difference . . .

  • Buy local products – less travel = less energy
  • Plant a tree – help clean CO2 from the air
  • Pick up litter
  • Walk or ride your bike
  • Buy earth-friendly products
  • Opt for basic cleaners – vinegar, lemons, baking soda, etc. all are more environmentally friendly cleaners, they do a great job both cleaning and deodorizing, plus they are quite often cheaper
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle – if you haven’t been recycling up to this point, now is a great time to start
  • Update an appliance with an earth-friendly one, but only if this appliance is not repairable
  • Take advantage of this weekends FREE SPRING CLEANUP in Aberdeen
  • Buy, and eat, whole foods – better for you and the environment
  • Eat at home – same as above
  • Use reusable grocery bags
  • Shut off your furnace and grab a blanket – unplug, switch off, shutdown and grab a book, board game or head outside
  • Use more organic methods of weed/insect/pest control/fertilizer – insecticidal soap, hand-pulling (bonus exercise), bone meal, fish emulsion
  • Start your own compost – less being thrown into the trash and free food for your plants
  • Reuse branches and scrap wood for raised beds or trellis – instead of buying new
  • Buy from a secondhand store
Budgets, building up and barrels Friday, January 29th, 2010

The minimal time I’ve been gardening at my home (7 years) I’ve learned to have, if not a strict budget, at the very least a focus of what I wanted to accomplish that season. The first year or two I was buying and collecting with abandon. It was a good start (but I did burn a hole in my pocket book). The best choices I made didn’t come from nurseries but through collecting and trading. I’ve acquired some tried and true specimens that I already knew would work well in this corner of our world. Hostas, daylilies and iris from my mom, roses I’d known grew well from childhood memories at my grandmothers’, native grasses, mints, sedums and thyme.

Now that I’d found some stuff to work with I moved onto more foundation plantings like shrubs and trees. Having all of ours wiped out by dutch elm, blight and scald those became the focus the next couple years. To save money we went to the nearly-annual city surplus sale and donated to the Arbor Day Society – for a minimal donation you get quite a few trees, though tiny, it’s worth it even if only a couple survive. We only splurged on the two trees planted the day our kids were born. Investing in perennials, trees and shrubs will always be a better deal as they, hopefully, come back year after year needing less and less maintenance as they become established.

Last year (and the year before) we put up a fence to enclose the backyard both for our kids’ and dog’s sake and to keep rough-n-tumble kids from breaking, beating and stomping the stuff we had planted. There is just something way too appealing about breaking branches.

Bringing us to this year’s focus:

  • Dirt — basically building up the veggie garden, raising or mounding the beds. This will help them heat up faster, drain better and hopefully provide more of a path to get to things. I’d love all raised beds as it would make the work easier but the building materials would probably be out of our range. By bringing in a mix of compost, dirt, peat etc. we will improve the soil quality. Before all of this I should finally get soil samples sent into the extension office so that I know where I’m at as far as pH and basic nutrient needs.
  • Water conservation — rain barrels and soaker hoses. Our old soaker hoses need replacing and they really are the smartest way to water. I’ve been talking about rain barrels for a few years and have never tackled the project. To buy one premade will cost a minimum of $150 from what I’ve perused in catalogs, but there are easier ways to make your own. I just need to find large plastic food-grade barrels that have never held any chemicals. They could be used as is by dipping watering cans into, or I can add spigots and drain hoses for greater ease with some strategic holes, faucet and hose attachments. Not only do you end up with free water, it’s actually much better water for your plants. City water around these parts is more alkaline and will increase soil pH. Just remember a couple mosquito dunks to kill the larvae.
  • Lastly, another tree splurge as there is another Pharris on the way to make his/her appearance in April. We haven’t nailed down the type of tree we want yet but I’m leaning towards an evergreen of sorts or an oak. I’ll have to call the nurseries and check on the availability of bareroot vs. container in early April.
Orchids Monday, January 25th, 2010

Orchids have always been a siren’s call for me. I’ve tried my hand at a 1/2 dozen and had one last for nearly 3 yrs. but it never bloomed after that initial siren call of demure burgundy flowers (dendrobium variety).

This variety, along with phalaenopsis and cattleya are some of the more common available for homeowners. Just this last weekend I found some marked-down to $5 at Walmart – not alerting me with their arching stem of blooms, there weren’t any, but with their thick, large, almond-shaped leaves. The leaves had lost their gloss, but were still green. A healthy one will have shiny green leaves that hold themselves up, not limp, leathery, brown or yellow. I didn’t have a chance to inspect the roots which, if healthy, should be a cool pale, frosted green with a fleshy look, not shriveled, brown or with noticeable decay. I did see some very pretty specimens at Shopko, but trying to conserve my budget I couldn’t hand over the $19.99 it’d cost for one. But, of course I wanted to.

So, if you get a chance – seems to be the season for them at the department stores – and want to try one. Take note of my above descriptions of healthy plants. Now for some care instructions (you may be thinking, “Why the heck should I listen to a girls who has killed a 1/2 dozen?” Well, I learn best from my mistakes which have been: not repotting, too much sun, old potting medium, cats, over-watering, lack of circulation, lack of humidity, fussing. Onto the solutions:

  • Light – east window or south window with a sheer curtain is best. Avoid direct sun from south and west, north isn’t enough.
  • Use a porous, clay pot or orchid specific pot – they usually have cut-outs to allow for more air circulation. Remove any plastic liner pots
  • Misting frequently is way better than watering
  • Orchid specific potting medium is best – usually fibrous bark that holds moisture but also breaths
  • Keep away from furnace vents, but they do like air movement – just not the drying type, so a ceiling fan is good.
  • Use a weak fertilizer when blooming – alternate fresh waterings with a watering/misting of a solution of orchid-specific fertilizer and water. This makes sure you don’t burn the roots or get a buildup of fertilizer. Better yet, opt for fish emulsion – a natural, slow-release plant food.
  • Use a wide tray, a couple inches deep, fill with pebbles or marbles and then add water just below the top of the pebbles – set your orchid pot directly on the pebbles. This creates a micro-climate of higher humidity.

Think circulation and humidity with orchids – they like water, but mostly in the air around them. An old fishtank might also be an option – set it up like a terrarium. It could make quite a lovely display.

Garden plans Friday, January 15th, 2010

Whether you are just starting out or are a garden pro (are any of us?!) it does one good to start garden plans early.

If you’ve gardened before, think back about what worked and didn’t as far as layout.

  • Were things too crowded
  • Too spread out
  • Too far from a water source
  • Could you not get to your peppers because of the jungle of raspberries

Taking note of these items always helps to improve on the coming growing season.

If you are new or like things orderly – here are a couple good sources for planning.

The square foot garden is great for beginners and those with limited space.

This garden-planning helper is just plain fun to dink around with.

At any rate – make sure your garden is:

  • By a water source
  • Away from fence lines – neighbors have been known to get carried away with weed killer so keeping your edibles a bit away from property lines will help ensure their survival
  • Little plants can get big fast so don’t think you can cram too much into a small space – then nothing does well
  • Low-lying areas can mean wet feet (rot, mildew) for plants so opt for higher ground
  • Vegetable gardens need a lot of sun – so stay away from big trees (which can also suck up all the moisture) or north and west sides of any structures