Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

One Customer’s Parks Whopper Tomato Plant

Here is what Peg has to say about her Parks Whopper Tomato:

YIKES!  After 3 years of failed gardens thanks to deer, rabbit, squirrels and deer, I decided to plant ONE tomato plant in a 20 gal. pot on my deck with the hopes of getting a few tomato’s a week. Well, as of today my “Whopper” has produced over 70 tomato’s!!! averaging 12 ounces each.  The first ones were picked on 7/1/13. The plant is now over 7 feet wide and just won’t quit! Kudos, Parks Bros.

The stick on the ground in front of the plant is a yard stick-to give you a sense of size.  Just picked 6 more tomato’s  this a.m.  What would I have EVER done if I planted a dozen plants! LOL

Best,

Peg

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Ozark Beauty Strawberries

Our Ozark Beauty Strawberries are ready now. They even have small strawberries on them. Ozark Beauty Strawberries are everbearing strawberries which means that they produce strawberries consistently through the spring. They will produce some off and on in the summer and then again some in the fall.

The strawberries are small but sweet. You need a good sized patch of them if you are looking to harvest a large amount.

Charley’s Vegetables Ozark Beauty Strawberries will be available in Garden Centers across the south over the next few weeks as the Garden Centers open up and stock up. You can see the list of Garden Centers here.

If you don’t live near us or one of the Garden Centers, you can buy direct from Becky’s Bloomers at www.buygardenvegetables.com.

Click for more information on How To Grow Strawberries.

strawberry ozark beauty 4in

strawberry ozark beauty

Picked Some Veggies Last Night

After being gone a week, we got out in the garden with Charley and picked us some fresh vegetables. The garden looks good and is doing well. The heat has Charley watering a little more than usual. Our pepper plants are a little short because he planted them later than usual but we are still getting a lot of peppers. The squash have done their thing and will be plowed up so the Charley can replant some squash seed.

I have never picked okra until last night. I am not sure I ever will again.

Had some of the cantaloupe for breakfast and Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes at lunch. Both were delicious.

vegetables_50 cantaloupe

crimson-sweet-watermelon garden-9

garden-sunset okra

peppers-8 roma-tomatoes

vegetables_31 vegetables_37

Been A While Since I Posted

It has been a long while since I posted anything here. Last summer’s massive heat wave here made any thing to do with gardening disastrous. Last summer’s stationary high set in on us, and we were dead center of it. Where we live, we in a river valley with the Boston Mountains to our north and the Ouachita Mountains to our south. The high press basically put us in the bottom of a pressure cooker. Out highs would be 5-15 degrees higher than towns 50 miles away from us in any direction. Basically, it was merciless and miserable, and our garden cooked on the plants.

In addition to that, I had to have another surgery on my leg which left me out of commission June and July so all the stuff I planned on doing about gardening and add it here. Now here I am a year later and still on crutches. So I am not sure if any of my gardening will happen again this year. At the very least, I want to build a couple of raised beds. We will see.

As for now, here are some pictures of this year’s Charley’s Vegetables and Herbs from March.

tomatoes2 egplants1

egplants2 mint-orange

peppers4 sage-pineapple

sage-tricolor SANY2402

spearmint squash

watermelons herbs

tomato3 tomato1

squash1 squash4

Vegetable Field Day

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9 Steps To A Successful Garden

Gardening-supplies

A quick list of how to have a successful garden.

  1. Location – all gardens need as much sun as possible. Gardens need a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day. 12 hours of sunshine is better.
  2. Tools – you will need tools to prepare the soil and plant your vegetables. Standard items are hoe, garden rake, shovel, hand trowel. If you are more power tool oriented a tiller works well in preparing the soil, but there is not a lot you can’t accomplish in the garden with a hoe and a shovel.
  3. Compost or other organic soil amendments – adding these elements to your garden can help your plants be healthier, resist diseases better and produce larger yields.
  4. Add any fertilizer recommended on the How To Grow pages.
  5. Plants – the top vegetable garden plants are: Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers, Squash and Okra. Watermelons and Cantaloupe are almost tied with Okra.
  6. Water your plants in well after you have planted them then water them as needed until they get established and start growing. After they are established, water them good once a week with a deep slow soaking.
  7. Be sure to follow up with additional fertilizing as recommended on the How To Grow pages and prune and stake your tomatoes.
  8. Pull weeds or hoe early and often.
  9. Harvest as recommended so that your plants will keep producing.
  10. Bonus: stagger your plantings so that you have ripe vegetables all season long.

Composting for Beginners

image We all like to fertilize our gardens. It sort of makes us feel good, like in some small way we helped our budding plants become the bountiful harvest we always knew they could be if they just set their minds to it.  And we also like to do things we think are good for the environment.  Composting lets us do both.

Not only is composting a great way to dispose of yard clippings, leaves, and food waste in an environmentally friendly way, it also provides your plants with a virtual buffet of beneficial nutrients and increases your soil’s water-holding capacity.  It can even enhance your plant’s ability to ward off insects and disease.  Plus if you have children or grandchildren, it makes for a fun and interesting at-home science project.  And it’s not nearly as hard to start a simple compost pile as what you might think.

First you need to make a house for your compost.  Now compost isn’t finicky about its surroundings.  It’s just as happy in a store bought bin as it is in a homemade bin.  You can make a simple, inexpensive bin from welded wire, chicken wire, or even plastic garden fencing.  Just make a circle or square of 3 to 4 feet in diameter with the building material of your choice and make sure the ‘walls’ of your compost’s new home are at least 3 to 4 feet high.

Next, add some ingredients.  You can start with something easy like brown leaves, sticks, or plants that have passed their prime.  Then throw in kitchen scraps, grass clippings, chopped leaves, or other dead plants as they become available.  Every so often, add some water.  Not enough to make a swimming pool mind you, just enough to keep your compost pile moist, like a wet sponge.

Some people like to mix their compost piles every so often.  This is optional.  Compost piles will naturally break down on their own, but mixing them does help to move things along.  If you are the mixing type, invest in a pitchfork to help you shake things up.

Your compost is ready when you can no longer tell what the original ingredients are.  If your compost matures before you’re actually ready to use it, make sure you cover it to keep any rain from stealing away those nutrients you worked so hard to obtain.

And it’s that easy!  A treat for your garden and a good deed for the environment all in one!

Lacey created a compost pile last year that was a huge success.  The compost pile picture featured above is hers.  She says layering your compost pile with ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ makes all the difference in the world.  Browns are dry materials like dead plants, brown leaves, pine needles and small sticks.  Greens are your wetter materials like fresh grass clippings and kitchen scraps.

Now, I know you’re just as ready as I am to start your very own compost pile this year, but before you go, keep these dos and don’ts in mind….

Do Add
– leaves hay and other dead plant material
– fruit and veggie trimmings
– herbicide-free grass clippings
– paper or cardboard (torn in small palm sized pieces)

Don’t Add
– meat scraps
– fatty, salty, or sugary foods
– chips and/or sawdust from treated wood
– manure from omnivores (humans, dogs, cats, etc.)

Ok, I think you’re ready!  Happy Composting!!!

Growing Lettuce

lettuce7 While lettuce is not an item in our Charley’s Vegetables line, it has an honorary position as an easy-to-grow early season vegetable.

Lettuce is a hardy annual that can tolerate light frosts and can be easily grown from seed or transplants. Lettuce need sunny locations early but can tolerate some shade and as the days get warmer, more shade is better. Sunlight combined with warm summer temperatures usually make the lettuce bitter. Lettuce grow best when the day temperatures are between 60-70 degrees F and when planted in well-drained soil that is kept evening moist with light watering.

Leaf lettuce is the most popular type of lettuce grown by gardeners, but you can also grow iceberg, butterhead, and romaine lettuce.

Sow leaf lettuce in rows with 10-20 seeds per foot and space rows about 12” apart. Thin out seedlings after sprouting to a spacing of 6” apart. If transplanting, plant individual plants 6” apart. For head lettuce plant 12-18” apart. Lettuce can be planted in between other crops that shade the lettuce during the heat of the day.

Lettuce has shallow roots so cultivate or hoe shallow to keep the weeds down. Overwatering can cause disease problems, and any overhead watering should be done in the morning to allow the foliage time to dry. Mulching is also beneficial since it keeps the leaves off the ground and the soil cool.

Generally, lettuce should be planted and enjoyed in the spring then abandoned when the it gets hot and the taste gets bitter.

Lettuce mature between 40-80 days depending on the variety.

Harvest leaf lettuce when the plants reach 5-6” tall. Harvest the older outer leaves first.  Harvest bibb lettuce when the leaves begin to cup inward. Harvest romaine lettuce when when the leaves have overlapped and formed a tight head that is about 4” wide and 6” tall. Crisphead lettuce is ready to harvest when a head is formed that looks like head lettuce in the grocery store.

Click here for more information on growing lettuce from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Office.

Soil Testing

We mentioned testing your soil in the previous post. Here is a great article on soil testing by Janet Carson with the UA Cooperative Extension Service.

testing-testing-123 Soil is an important part of growing a garden, yet it is often taken for granted. People spend thousands of dollars planning a landscape, buying the plants, but without a decent soil to grow in, the results, may not be what you had in mind. So lets get to the root of the problem.

Traditionally, Arkansans complain about the lack of soil, and the abundance of rocks. Or they may have “gumbo”–i.e., heavy clay, pure sand, or it’s so acidic, you could make vinegar from it. Fortunately, there isn’t a soil or planting site out there, that can’t be amended or corrected. It just may take a while. Learning your problems before planting, will make solving them much simpler.

Your first step should be to have a soil sample tested. This is a very simple process. Take a shovel and go six to ten places in the area you are planning to plant in. Dig down six inches –which may require a pick axe, but we do need a full soil profile. Then take a slice of the full six inch profile and place it in a bucket. Repeat this process six to ten times. By now, you have probably worked up a sweat, and gotten a great exercise workout. Mix this soil together, to get a good representation of what you will be growing in, and take a pint of it to your local county extension office. It should be relatively dry, since it will be shipped in a cardboard box, so let it air dry first.

If you will be growing distinctly different plants–such as lawns, vegetable gardens, perennials, etc, you can have several different soil samples tested. Simply repeat the same process for each one. A full pint of soil is needed for each sample you want tested. If you have a problem area in the yard, you may want an isolated sample from it to compare with the rest of the yard. Don’t divide your yard into too many samples, unless you plan to fertilize each area separately.

When you take your samples to the county extension office, they will ask you some routine questions to fill out the accompanying soil sampling form. In addition to the pertinent personal information, such as name and address, you will also be asked what you will be growing. If you are having more than one soil sample tested, you will also need an identifying name for each sample. Vegetable, lawn and flowers would suffice, just make sure you know what the name corresponds to, should you use something like 1, 2 or 3. Now all you have to do is wait on your report, which should be mailed to you within a week or two.

At this time, there is no fee associated with the routine soil testing process in Arkansas. Fees associated with fertilizer sales pay for this service.

When you receive your soil report, it may look a bit confusing. There are a lot of numbers and nutrients listed. There will also be a recommendation for the plants you are growing, as to fertilizer and liming needs. A fact sheet entitled “Understanding the Numbers on Your Soil Test Report” should accompany each soil test report. This should help to explain the level of the nutrients in your soil—what is high, and what is low, and even what some of the terms mean. Some people prefer to just follow the recommendations, and ignore all the numbers.

Some key items to look for include the pH of the soil. The pH of the soil is a measure of acidity or alkalinity, often referred to as a sweet or sour soil. Many soils in Arkansas are acidic, but knowing how acidic can determine your liming needs, if any. Many garden plants like slightly acidic soils, and some even prefer it–azaleas, gardenias and blueberries in particular. An optimum soil pH range for most plants is 5.8 to 6.3. Slightly lower or slightly higher isn’t a big deal, but some plants will suffer in soils with strongly acidic soils, while acid lovers struggle when it is higher than 6.5. If it has been determined that your soil sample is too acidic, there will be a recommendation of how much lime should be applied to get your soil in the proper range. Lime does not move quickly in a soil, so applying it prior to planting, where it can be tilled into the soil is ideal. If by chance, your soil is too alkaline, elemental sulfur or aluminum sulfate will be recommended to lower the pH.

Nutrients needed for plant growth are all listed in the soil report. They include phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper and zinc. Nitrate-nitrogen and sulfate-sulfur are also there. On the soil report there will be a listing of each of these nutrients and a rate or level that they have been extracted from the soil, usually in pounds per acre. An example, for phosphorous: values below 20 are low, 20- 40 is moderately low, 40- 60 is medium, 60-80 moderately high, with 80- 100 being high. Again, the fact sheet will give you a comparison level.

Salinity or E.C. is another important consideration. Remember that all fertilizers are basically salts, and too much salt in the soil can cause injury to plants. This is also included on the report, and includes all soluble salts. If the readings are too high, there will be no fertilizer recommendations or fertilizer reductions until these levels go down.

There are other numbers and terms listed, which are important to soil scientists, and may stand out if there is a problem, but should not be of a huge interest to the home gardener. Knowing your soil pH is important, and getting your nutrient levels in line is also needed for good plant growth. If you have specific questions, call and visit with your local county extension agent.

If there are problems to your soil site, amending is important. But do remember, if you alter your soil with lots of organic matter or other amendments, it will change all your nutrient and pH levels, and it is important to test your soil again. Fall is an ideal time to test your soil, since often plants are nearing the end of their growing cycle, fertilization is ending, and you can prepare for next year in advance. Plus, you beat the spring rush, when everyone else is thinking about it.

This story first appeared in the AR Gardener Magazine.
By: Janet Carson

(Testing picture from http://blog.statcounter.com/2007/11/)

January Garden To Do List

Here are a few items you need to do to prepare your garden in January if you want to get an early start on your plantings:

Plan your garden – What do you want to grow?  Are there any new varieties you want to try?  Where are you going to get your plants?

Order your seeds if you plan on growing your vegetables from seed.

Have your soil tested and add any recommend amendments to the soil as you prepare it (plow in the additives like lime etc.).  Your local county extension office can do the soil test for you.

If you use compost, now is the time to work it into your soil.

For those of you with limited space, now is the time to build any raised beds or square foot gardens if you plan on utilizing either this spring.  For more on square foot gardening check out this book and this book review.

square-foot-gardening-system-urbangardencasual