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What’s Your Zone??? April 7, 2009

Posted by liajo in garden thoughts and ideas, How to tips.
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planting20zonesYou need to know the zip code your mailing a letter to.  You need to know the area code your calling.  And if your planting a garden you need to know the planting zone.

It’s simple really.  Find your zone on the USDA hardiness map and match it to the back of any seed package or plant tag.  I’m a zone 5.  Most plants can be grown in several zones.  You’ll see some thing like “for zones 3-8.” 

You can extend that a zone a little by starting seedlings inside and using greenhouses and containers.  I also have a heated sun room.  It helps me grow some container plants I couldn’t other wise have.     

I started my tomato and pepper seedlings a week ago yesterday in the sun room.  Almost all the tomatoes have came up.  No peppers yet, but the seed packs said 10 days to 2 weeks, so I’ll wait a little more.

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Don’t Til the Dirt April 4, 2009

Posted by liajo in garden thoughts and ideas, How to tips.
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This is a repeat of what was about my first blog.  But it’s worth saying again.  Please don’t til the dirt in the garden.2560784473_655051884e

Deep tilling of the garden does damage that won’t be repaired for years to come.  Remember there are millions of living things down there.  Things we can’t see, but that do so much good.  When you til the dirt you upset their homes and lives and sometimes even kill them. 

There is a much better way to plant.  I know because I’ve been doing it for several years now.  And it is so simple.  In a couple of weeks I’ll remove the winter cover from the garden beds.  In my case that’s leaves, other garden scrapes and newspaper.  Then I’ll dump on a couple of inches of my well aged compost on the beds.  I may use a hand spade to work in the new compost a little bit.  I’ll use an old tree branch to make my rows, sprinkle out the seed or place in seedling, cover lightly with dirt and I’m done.

It works great for new beds also.  Lightly break up the existing dirt, dump on lots of compost, at least several inches thick and plant.  I did this with a new strawberry bed last year and they grew like crazy.

If your interested in finding out all sorts or ways to have a garden without tilling the dirt, check out my favorite source, Mother Earth News at www.MotherEarthNews.com.

Proceed with Caution April 1, 2009

Posted by liajo in garden thoughts and ideas, How to tips.
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organic20produceIt seems like everyone is looking for ways to save money, and many have decided that growing their own food would be a great way to do that.  I agree, I haven’t bought a tomato product in years.  But if your new to vegetable gardening please proceed with caution.

One local gardening expert was on the news saying anyone could grow their own vegetables with an investment of $30 or less.  I think the money estimate may be kind of low. 

And besides money you need to consider time.  Watering, mulching, weeding, pruning, staking and even harvesting, it all takes time.  I love doing it but my husband considers it a form of punishment.  He helps with fence building and greenhouse building and then heads inside and waits to eat the fresh produce.

In order for the garden to be sustainable through the winter you need to plant a lot, and know how to store it.  Last year I had about 12 tomato plants for 2 people.  That’s a lot of tomatoes,  and they’d rot if I didn’t preserve them.  My favorite way of persevering is drying.  I dried pounds of tomatoes and zucchini which I then froze in single serving.  Their great in all sorts of dishes.

Trust me, I want everyone that has a yard, patio or window sill to grow a garden.  But I also realize that as fun as I think my growing gardens are, they aren’t every ones idea of fun.  I also want all these new gardeners to keep gardening for years to come. 

So plant your seed, but realize the true cost pay off may be a couple years down the road.

Everything you need to know… March 30, 2009

Posted by liajo in garden thoughts and ideas, good things, How to tips.
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about starting seedlings you learned in kindergarten, or day care or girl scouts.  Really, I promise.  Think back.  The teacher had a paper cup for each kid.  You made a couple of holes in the bottom and filled them up with soil.  Then you read the story of Jack in the Bean Stalk and each kid got a bean seed which you poked down into the soil with your finger.  Some water was added and a piece of plastic wrap or baggie was put over the top of the cup.  In about a week all the kids had a bean sprout.

seedlings1Guess what???  It still works, and is a lot cheaper than buying seed starting kits at the local nursery. 

I started a bunch of pepper and tomato seeds this weekend.  I used paper cups (with holes in the bottom) filled with a seed starter soil mix.  I made one mini greenhouse out of an aluminium cake bottom pan with a plastic top.  Actually Saturday morning it had cinnamon rolls in it, which I finished off before planting the seeds.

In about six weeks I should have some good sized seedlings ready to go outside.

Winter Composting January 5, 2009

Posted by liajo in garden thoughts and ideas, How to tips.
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I practice composting all year.  During the winter months I continue to collect kitchen waste for the compost pile.  And it doesn’t even get smelly.

I have a good sized galvanized pale that sits on the cabinet.  I keep it lined with several pages of newspaper.  It’s large enough to hold 5 to 7 days worth of waste for me and my husband. 

I always recommend a galvanized pale, it doesn’t hold odors the way plastic does and it’s way cheaper than a ceramic container.  Adding coffee grounds daily also helps to keep odors at bay.

If the weather is warm I may empty the pale on the regular compost pile.  If it’s really cold then I just dump it right on the vegetable beds, which are about 5 feet from my back door.  The garden is fenced so I don’t have to worry about the dogs digging around in the waste (Bubba would eat almost anything he found.)  And by spring, most of the waste has decayed right into the beds, so I’ve got nice rich soil when I’m ready to plant.

No Watering November 16, 2008

Posted by liajo in How to tips.
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green20livingThis post is in response to a comment I had from Jeannie at http://pinecottage.wordpress.com.  She asked about gardening with water restrictions which can be tricking.  Actually she said they are not supposed to water outside at all.  Now those are tough gardening conditions.  I have a few ideas that might help some.

First is mulching.  I mulch everything.  It really does help to hold in any water plants get.  I don’t use anything fancy, just grass clippings and leaves.  Jeannie lives in a mountain area and pine needles are supposed to be great for mulching also.  

Second, recycle water.  I do this in two ways.  I have tubs and barrels all over the yard that catch rain water.  I even use the wheel barrel.  After a good rain, you’ll have water for a week or so.  If you have rain gutters on the house place a large barrel (55 gallons) at the down spout.  You can buy a complete system on line or make your own.  Make sure there is a cover.  It will help to keep the mosquito from breeding in the water. 

For container and house plants I recycle the rinse water from doing the dishes.  I don’t have a dish washers, so all the dishes are done by hand anyway.  Many plants, like roses, love a little bit of soapy water.  I even have friend who recycled her sons bath water.  When I was growing up I had an aunt that lived on a farm.  All the “gray water” from the house went straight to the vegetable garden.  This actually upsets water companies, something about only paying for the once and using it twice.  Give me a break.

Third, use a greenhouse.  This was my first summer growing vegetables in a greenhouse.  The tomatoes loved it.  A very little bit of water made nice humidity.  Something we don’t have much of in Colorado.  Pick the right type of plants though.  The peppers hated it, it was too wet for them.

Forth, try and buy native plants, especially flowers.  I’ve done a lot a reading on native plants and plan to choose my flowers more carefully.  Bottom line, if it’s native to the area, it should survive with the water mother nature provides.

I’ve never tried this last one but it may work.  Jeannie lives in an area that probably gets a lot of snow.  If you can recycle rain water, you might be able to recycle snow.  Here’s what I’m thinking.  Some type of barrel that can with stand the frost/freeze cycles.  Fill it with snow during the winter and let it melt.  If anybody has tried this let us know.

I must admit, I’ve never gardened with no water, that has got to be a challenge.  I hope some of the above ideas help and good luck.

Waste not October 5, 2008

Posted by liajo in How to tips.
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Kitchen recycling for the compost pile is one of the easiest and best things you can ever do for your gardens.  I have a 10 quart galvanized pail on the kitchen counter.  No it doesn’t stink up the kitchen.  Two things really help ensure there won’t be any smell.  Use galvanized or steel instead of plastic and put your coffee grounds in it. 

I keep my pail lined with about four pages of newspaper and in goes every type of kitchen waste.  Vegetable and fruit scrapes, egg shells and coffee grounds.  I include scrapes of bread, which worms happen to love and paper towels. 

About once a week I take the whole thing to the vegetable garden and dump it in the corner.  In the winter I may dump it directly on empty beds.  I use the newspaper that lined to pail to make weed barriers.

Kitchen recycling is not only a waste not system, but it’s also an ashes to ashes approach since most of the waste came out of the gardens to begin with.

Don’t till the dirt!!! September 30, 2008

Posted by liajo in How to tips.
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I was web surfing last night looking for some advice on potato growing.  I ran across a great site with lots of useful information about potatoes and other vegetables and fruits.  I decided to look around the site a little more and clicked on an article about “how to start a garden.”  In the first paragraph the new gardener was told to till the earth as deep as they could.  I wanted to scream. 

When will well meaning gardeners stop giving such advice??  You should never till the earth.  There is an entire micro ecosystem under there that we can’t even see, but whose homes we are destroying.  These little critters are vital to the health of any garden. 

The easiest and quickest way to a new garden is to lay bags of potting mix on the ground open holes in them and plant directly in them.  Check this out on www.MotherEarthNews.com.  If you want a “traditional” garden then very lightly hand till the earth to a very shallow depth.  Next layer on a three to four inches of good composted soil and plant.  Never and I mean never till the earth as deep as you can.