Friday, June 27, 2014

Why do I vegetable garden?

When you vegetable garden, you are investing a lot of time, effort and energy into this endeavor. You do it for the health benefits that come from working the soil as well as eating your bounty. You do it to share the harvest and to preserve for the future months. It takes time to learn what works and what doesn’t.

You certainly do not learn it overnight. But failure is bound to show its ugly face from time to time, due to bad weather like heavy rain and wind, incorrect planning or scheduling like planting too early or too late and other problems like pest control issues (weeds, insects and diseases).

You will get used to common practices in the garden that are mainstays such as composting. Every great garden has a compost heap within the garden or at least nearby. 

A good gardener will use EVERY resource made available to them like materials that will keep feeding the heap. Look for stables in your area for a constant supply of manure. Raise your own livestock to supply yourself with your own manure. I raise rabbits and it’s one of the best manures around, in my opinion!

As our world is changing politically, our government is making it harder to get our money’s worth, so look for heirloom varieties of seeds that you can save seed from, for each succeeding season. Collect and share seed. It’s a great way to make friends and to try new varieties that have never grown in your garden. 

Share your bounty with others and it will come back to you. I practice paying it forward on a regular basis, and have been blessed in many ways because of it.

When it comes to harvesting, do it at the right time. Your plants produce the best tasting produce when taken from the plant at the right time. Harvest too early and you have to ripen veggies inside the house (if they will ripen off of the plant), loosing flavor and sacrificing nutrients. Harvest too late and you lose the benefit of those same nutrients too.

In regard to processing, harvesting properly is one of the most important steps in your effort to provide for your family. Learn what type of processing works best for each vegetable. Canning is not always the answer. As well, neither is dehydrating. Find out what works best for the veggie you intend to process and also what works best for you. Find a good, tough, vacuum sealer. This will become one of the best tools in your kitchen.
At the end of the day, I can say that most every day that I’ve done something related to my garden, has been a wonderful experience. Don’t let failure keep you from growing a garden every year. 

Don’t let someone else change your mind just because you miss the mark. I’ve had more failures than I would really want to admit, but they haven’t stopped me. I now have a 7,000 square foot garden and it produces all sorts of good things for my family and me, so GO FOR IT!

Friday, June 20, 2014

How to Grow QUALITY Tomatoes!

Celebrity Tomatoes are a great variety to have in your garden, no mater (sorry, I couldn't resist!) where you live. I do grow lots of heirloom varieties, but this is one great Hybrid for my garden. The tricks that work for me are the following, but these apply to most any variety:
1. Grow your own transplants to at least one foot tall before planting in the garden. Planting your transplants needs to be timed properly for your region to allow the plants to reach this height.

2. Prep your soil with lots of manures or compost in the fall months and let the earthworms do the mixing for you. Why should you break your back, right? Here’s my article on quick composting

3. Plant 7/8's of the plant into the ground, pulling all but the top two sets of leaves off.
4. Throw a tablespoon of Epsom salts into the bottom of the planting hole. Once completely planted, scatter one more tablespoon on the soil surface.

5. Know the difference between a Determinate and an Indeterminate variety, so you know if it’s' okay to pinch out the side growth. Here's my article on the subject
6. Keep an eye out for the bad guys: The dreaded Tomato Horned Worm, or the Tobacco Horned Worm

7. KEEP YOUR SOIL EVENLY MOIST THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE GROWING SEASON!. This is a "must do!" Mulch if possible (I use straw mulch about 4-6 inches thick). Even moisture also helps to reduce the likelihood of cat facing (a bad cracking of the tops of the fruit). Here’s my mulching video over on YouTube, and my article on mulching.

8. Most varieties are in the so called "heavy feeder" category, so you can side dress with compost or a well-rotted manure. I would wait until after fruit starts to set, otherwise all you will get is a LOT of leaf and stem growth. (Side Note: I do not fertilize at all here in Texas, as I do all of my soil work in the fall).

9. Cage or stake your plants at planting time. Here's my article on the subject.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cutting, Planting and Harvesting Potatoes

I got my potatoes planted today (finally...I should have had them in no later than Valentine's Day here in Texas) before this oncoming flu gets any worse. Here's the steps to giving them a good start:
1. Purchase disease resistant potatoseed stock from your local nursery.
2. Cut into pieces (for more plants from one potato) with at least one eye in each piece.

Let them dry for at least one week (I was forced by weather and family duties to postpone planting right away).
3. Dig a trench in your planting row at least 3 inches, but I try to go 4 inches.

4. Place cut pieces in trench at 18 inches apart. Sometimes I place two small pieces together to make sure I get at least one plant to come up.
5. Cover and water!

Once plantings start coming up, you can protect them with gallon milk jugs with the bottom cut out, or like me, if we get frost I leave them alone as it will burn them back but not likely kill the plants. Mine re-sprouted after a late frost last season and I still ended up with a great harvest.

You'll know when it's time to harvest when the plants have dried up and died to the ground. Once plants die, I wait two weeks before I dig them up. This gives them a chance to toughen up their skins. I also pick them up off of the ground and place them on a drying table for a few days prior to storage.