Archive for May, 2009

A sampling Friday, May 29th, 2009

Soil sampling does cost a few bucks but it’s money well spent. The benefits include:

  • fertilizing smartly, means less throwing money blindly at a posed problem
  • lawns looking better, more grass, fewer weeds
  • veggie gardens have fewer problems when they are grown in the right soil
  • flower gardens with more blooms and sturdier growth
  • healthier, stronger trees

How to: Pick up a sample bag from your local extension office. Decide what you want tested: lawn, veggie garden, flower garden etc. Dig down 6 inches in several places of the targeted site. Mix these diggings together in a paper bag to get an average. Let them dry thoroughly if wet. Fill the sample bag to the indicated line with this soil. Mark off what you want tested  – basic ph/nitrogen test will be one amount, additional testing costs a little extra and is indicated on/with the bag. Fill in the rest of the info and then return it to the extension office. You should get a reply in a couple weeks detailing your soils needs. You can also send in multiple samples: a couple for different areas of lawn, one for veggie garden, etc.

Spotty lawn Friday, May 29th, 2009

If you are seeing yellow spots in your lawn and you know it’s not Fido, it may be iron deficiency. Many turf builders contain iron so try that out or send in a soil sample.

Herbalicious Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Having run out of space in our regular veggie garden spot, we’ve been forced to come up with some others. The Hub is in the process of digging up about a 6×6 square for tomaoes. Herbs are some more things that have yet to find a home. I hadn’t picked up any but was wondering through Menards and they’d restocked their herbs since I’d been there last. The pickings were slim but the few pots they had looked strong and healthy. I even got a bonus with an oregano and thyme planted in the same pot! Here’s the list and what I like to do with each.

  • 2 basils – great for pesto, pizzas, sauces, etc.
  • 1 oregano/thyme – great for marinades, roasted veggies
  • flat leaf parsley – pesto, garnish, soups, salsas, salads
  • sage – poultry
  • cilantro seeds – fresh salsa, fresh veggie salads, gazpacho, dips, beans

PLANTING: Cilantro is the problem child – usually bolting and inedible by the time the tomatoes, onion and peppers ripen. I’ve found that be putting it in a place where it gets just a few hours of morning sun and shade the rest of the day. Pinch it back hard, quite often so it doesn’t go to seed. Basil and parsley are a great veggie garden accompaniment and plants in well around tomatoes with regular garden soil. Oregano and thyme, for sure, do well in a more arid, rockier spot. Good drainage is key. Sage is a slower grower from what I’ve seen but it’s quite pretty so sticking it into a flower border is a nice surprising accent.

Top left, clockwise: basil, oregano and thyme, basil, flat-leaf parsely, sage.

Top left, clockwise: basil, oregano and thyme, basil, flat-leaf parsely, sage.

Garden Line is on! Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Tuesday nights on PBS from 7-8pm is Garden Line. Out of Brookings they have a lineup of rotating specialists to come in each week and answer questions from e-mail or by phone call (calls must be made during live air time) 1-866-595-SDSU. Questions can range from flaura to fauna and everything in between. Some of tonight’s topics were:

  • Bird feeding: choose thistle to keep down on nuisance birds
  • Creeping Charlie: thrives in shade, replant area or landscape as plant is difficult to get rid of once established
  • Onions: Using starts can result in small produce, David Graper, director of McCrory Gardens, suggests trying seeds or seedlings for larger onion heads.
  • Pasque flower – our state flower: Is in the anemone family, typically the earliest bloomers – sometimes right up through the snow.
Hark I found a Larch! Thursday, May 21st, 2009

larch5-2009American Larch, Larix laricina, is an elusive find  around these parts. The ones I’ve found have come with 3-digit price tags. So can I just profess my love for Menards: I was wondering around the garden center area while the kiddos played in the very awesome play yard and a meanered through the trees and there were several cute, soft-needled specimens of larch. So I gulped and twisted the yellow price tag into view and it read $19.99. OMG!

Larch are unique as they look like an evergreen but they loose their needles after turning a golden color in the fall. So, if you try one don’t think it has died this fall when all of the needles fall off. Another awesome thing is that their needles are soft, so, for the look of an evergreen without the ouch – larch is an awesome choice. There aren’t many around here so this will still be an experiment – one I’m very excited to take on!

Garden sale: It’s the sh . . ! Monday, May 18th, 2009

That’s right, one of the hottest commodities at the annual Prairie Partners garden sale is well-aged horse manure. Thanks Patsy!! Last year, even though I was early I still didn’t get to the manure in time, so this year I made The Hub come with so he could go directly to the brown garden gold and grab 2 bags (I’d taken more but didn’t want to be greedy. This is what we use for the veggie garden and around newer shrubs or heavy feeders. I like to keep the chemical fertilizers to the annual flowering plants. And, to be a perennial in my garden you’ve got to make it without extra amenities.

So, if you know a farmer or there’s a bat cave near you – see if you can pick up well-aged manure or guano. Well-aged is more than a couple years or you’ll burn your plants. And, I add guano because that’s supposedly one of the most nutritionally high fertilizers you can get. I guess I’ll make do with ponies and the bunnies.

Seeds don’t always like it Hot Hot Hot! Monday, May 18th, 2009

Plants have really got to be confused now. 50+ degree jumps from a couple nights ago. It’s amazing anything survives that. I know I was wilting before noon as I tried to get my pots watered. Not quite ready for the 87F accuweather is saying it is at 5:30 pm.

To combat the hot and breezy conditions, I’ve added a bit more mulch and plan to focus on that the next couple days. We just got our radish, carrots and spinach seeds in so those will need some good moisture (as I’m about a 2 wks late with them). Also planted were my three sisters. I don’t think I hit the required 10×10 minimum for space so I’ll have to work on manual pollination. Sounds a little kinky, eh?! So I’ll check into that so I can reap the benefits of fully fruited corn cobs. The bees and other bugs will take care of the squash, pumpkins and beans.

Watering seeds takes a little care. I pick a very gentle shower on my hose sprayer attachment so as not to displace or uncover the seeds. I put a little straw down to keep the moisture in as well as trying to prevent the soil from crusting which makes it a bit hard for the little seedlings to break through. Crusting is very typical with our clay soil.

Three sisters Friday, May 15th, 2009

The three sisters is not about my family – I only have one sister and if I get one as good as her, well, I don’t need any more ; ) Nope, 3 sisters is an ancient method of planting 3 staple crops to this area. Corn, beans and squash/pumpkins. Benefits:

  • More produce in a smaller space
  • Beans vines use corn stalks as trellis
  • Corn is anchored in strong wind by bean vines
  • bristly squash vines grow along the ground as a natural predator barrier
  • Eating carb heavy corn, protein heavy beans and vitamin rich squash give a very balance diet.

The Hub has been working on tilling a suitable area – 10×10 square approx. I will then plant hills. Some hills will contain both corn (ChubbyChecker) and beans (green) and the alternating hills will be my perfect pie pumpkins. The hills will be spaced a few feet apart. 3 rows of hills will be planted. Corn needs to be planted in several rows in order to sufficiently pollinate the ears. You can also pollinate these yourself to ensure full ears. I’m really excited to try this ancient method and I’ll be looking into more tried and true gardening methods from the ages.

Ready, Set, RoundUp – or not Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
Best weed tool

Best weed tool

The weeds are up as high as my plants and I have RoundUp on my mind. Soil around here is so hard and clay that to pull weeds in unturned earth is next to impossible. More often than not the crown is left and only the leaves and stems rip off begrudgingly.

For those not wanting to use chemicals of any sort there are still a couple options. A garden fork is one of my faves. I’m not talking pitch-fork or it’s heavier tined cousin. A weed fork/cutter/popper is a long headed instrument with an inverted V-shaped notch in the end. Stick the V down right next to the weed an inch or two down and lever it back — the weed will pop right up with crown intact. Getting the crown is most important with most weeds. If the crown stays in contact with dirt it will simply send up new shoots. I have a long handled and short handled version of this tool it also works well to plant small bulbs and annual plugs.

Another non-chemical option for weed control is straight vinegar. Just put it in a spray bottle or using a sponge brush and spray or brush on the encroaching weed. This works the best on a hot day – really helps to burn the plant back. It won’t be quite as effective as RoundUp on large weeds but it’s something to try if you want to stay chemical free.

Finally, some tips on using RoundUp. Avoid spraying on a windy day. RoundUp becomes inert quickly – once it hits the ground. Guard plants by either putting a plastic bag over them or shield with a piece of cardboard from drifts as you go along. Always follow the instructions and never mix more than you will use or in a higher concentration than the directions say. Better yet, buy the handy pre-mixed. MORE IS NOT BETTER. Masks and long pants, shirt and shoes are a very good idea. Always store chemicals out of reach from kids and animals.

Economics Monday, May 11th, 2009

Give adequate space in a garden – cramming into a limited space just means a huge jungle to fight come July. Start small if you are a novice and grow from there.

Water in early morning, long, and less often to reap the most benefit.

Have garden close to water source, less hauling so your more apt to take care of it.

Only ever plant what you and your family will eat.

Plant items for canning to use later: tomatoes, apples, salsa, beets

If you don’t can, then plant freezable items: corn, peas, beans, pureed squash/pumpkin and berries

Before harvesting think of a good dark, cool place that will be suitable to store items with a longer shelf life like: squash, onions and garlic

Puree and freeze herbs in ice cube trays – once frozen, transfer to freezer bags.

Team up with other gardens for produce trading later