Posts Tagged ‘growing’

It Has Been A Long Time Since We Posted

Hello everyone,

I have been very neglectful in posting here. I had to have a second surgery on my leg which knocked me out of all of last summer. My dad had a garden for us but it as so hot, nothing did well. The key to that last statement is “nothing did well.”

If you were a new gardener and did not have any luck, don’t sweat it. Professional farmers had a hard time keeping crops alive last summer. We are back again this year with another garden. We are a little dry and are already having to water some, but everything looks good so far.

Here are some pictures to get us all started.

Garden-1 Garden-2

Garden-sweet-corn

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!!!

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/)

Charley Is Going Fishing

Charley is thinking about going fishing this afternoon.  Since it rained yesterday, the ground is too wet to plow.  As soon as the ground dries out enough for long enough, we are going to get some veggies planted.  In the mean time, here are some pictures of Charley’s Veggies that we might get to plant. 

squash-crookneck  charleys-veggies-hot-banana-pepper

charleys-veggies-rosa-bianca-eggplant  charleys-veggies-tomatoes

Lacey’s Garden – Tomatoes, Squash, Butterflies and Hummingbirds

Howdy folks.  It has been a while.  Not too much to report…my garden is growing lush and green.  I think some of the tomato plants are as tall as I am!  I planted fall tomatoes for the first time ever.  So far so good.  I tilled up an area of the yard that had been covered by a brush pile.  I added compost from my compost pile and manure to the soil so they should be happy there. 

I am getting one squash about every four days; though they are starting to produce a little more now.  Still no big ripe tomatoes; the black cherry has been giving one or two ripe ones every week.  Today there were five ripe ones on it for the first time.  Those do not even make it to the table…they are so tasty we eat them immediately!  The girls found the watermelons that are coming on; Clara is very excited about them. 

We have had some of the most beautiful butterflies visiting- swallowtails of all colors. Whenever I run out there with the camera, they fly off, so no pics yet.   I do have a photo of a swallowtail caterpillar that ate up all my dill (which is one of the reasons I planted dill).  Hummingbirds have been showing up, too, after the bee balm.  Yesterday, one hummingbird flew within 3 feet of my oldest daughter while she stood quietly in delight watching it.  It was not afraid of her at all.  It was a marvelous thing to see and share with her.  And all because of our garden!

I have a few different volunteers coming up and I am going to leave them to see what’s what.  One is a pumpkin and the other is either a squash or a cucumber.

I hope all of you are receiving a bounty of goodness from your gardens. 

ripe blackcherry tomato  vigorous tatume squash

bean blossoms and zinnias  feathery looking sunflower

garden fairies  gourd blossom

swallowtail caterpillar on dill weed  the girls  checking the watermelon

the girls finding new watermelons  vining gourds and zinnias

volunteer near the compost pile  volunteer pumpkin plant

Lacey’s Garden – Dragon Heirloom Carrots

Hello to all!  The garden is looking real good.   I picked some carrots the other day.  They are a purple heirloom variety called Dragon.  I have few pictures to show you of me harvesting and cleaning them.  I have beautiful lush foliage and only a few fruits on just about everything.  There are lovely green tomatoes on every vine.  If they ever ripen we will have tomatoes out our ears!  I have a picture of the one watermelon ripening on the vine; it is getting bigger everyday.  Also some pictures of okra.  Enjoy the pictures and be sure to take the time to enjoy the beauty and bounty that God provides every day. 

the garden my little helper

me in the garden digging carrots

Dragon carrots cleaning carrots

moon and stars wtermelon tatume squash

Lacey’s Garden – Digging Potatoes

Howdy folks! It has been a while since I posted anything. We have had a crazy few weeks what with our AC going ka-put and the girls and I having to stay at moms until it was fixed – gardening just kind of took a back seat! Thanks to my marvelous husband everything survived my absence because he watered it all for me and that is a big job!

Jason will post a video I took of my garden – it’s just a little tour where I introduce you to everything. Hope you enjoy it!

Today, July 1, I dug potatoes. It was so much fun! Even my girls got into it. Every time I stuck in the pitchfork it was like opening a box of surprises – never knowing exactly how many or how big the potatoes were going to be. I got everyone of the bushes dug except for the last one when it occurred to me to take pictures. Potatoes are definitely something I will plant again. One thing I learned is that the ground must be very soft or they stay too small. Add lots of compost to keep the soil soft and keep it moist but not wet.

Hope your gardening is going great!

digging it up Finding the potatoes

Last potato plant two little potatoes

Potatoes entire harvest

Lacey’s Garden – Farmer’s Market

(*Note – I was supposed to post this two days ago.  My bad.  -Jason)

My garden has finally taken off.  The plants are loving the fertilizer!   Of course, so are the weeds.  I can barely keep them out.  I plan on mulching with more straw but it is sold out at all the feed stores here in town.  I have enough lettuce right now that I was able to sale some at our Farmers Market this past Saturday and I think I am going to sale some this Saturday, too.  Here are a few pictures of my garden. 

baby cucumbers and flower climbing cucumber

 echinacea green leaf lettuce

 leaf lettuce, carrots and tomatoes moon and stars watermelon

 pretty flowers prettys

rainbow beet swiss chard

Veggie Garden Pictures

These pictures are from our neighbor’s garden – Darrel, Matt and Colby.  They grow these vegetables and take them to sell at the local farmer’s markets.  If you live in the Fort Smith, AR area, you can get their veggies at the Alma, Van Buren, Fort Smith and Greenwood farmer’s markets.

They stage their corn plantings.  These are the first and second.  When I took these pics last week, the 3rd hadn’t sprouted yet.

1st-corn 2nd-corn

Yellow straight neck and zucchini squash plants.

squash2 P6090125

squash1 zucchini

Tomatoes

tomatoes P6090137

Their second and third crops of veggies grown from seeds.

2nd-crop-seedlings 3rd-crop-seedlings

P6090130 P6090132

Up next is a report on Charley’s corn, watermelons and purple hull peas.

The Kid’s Garden – Tying Tomatoes