Posts Tagged ‘growing food’

STARTING SEEDLINGS IN A COLD FRAME

A cold frame is a simple structure placed in the garden that features structural sides (usually made of wood) and a top made of a transparent material such as clear plastic or glass. Starting seeds in a cold frame eliminates several of the difficulties of starting seeds indoors. However, it requires a small investment of time and money in the construction of the cold frame and careful attention on cold nights. Here’s a brief run down of what you need to know for successful cold-frame seed-starting.

  • WARMTH. From early March on, cold frames warm up significantly almost every day. When unvented, the interior temperature can easily top 90 degrees on a sunny day. The soil in seedling trays or soil blocks absorbs much of the solar radiation and heat, and the soil easily reaches temperatures that initiate seed germination. However, on cold nights the cold frame provides only 10-15 degrees of protection (depending on wind and the previous day’s high), so providing a bit of heat to stave off frost overnight is sometimes necessary. Sometimes throwing some old wool or polyester blankets on top can be enough; sometimes running a light bulb or Christmas lights within the box can do it. Generally some extra heat is wise if the outside temperature is predicted to drop below about 26 degrees and the frame contains frost-sensitive seedlings such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, and certain flowers. (A cold frame with only brassicas and lettuces and greens will need no additional heat.) On sunny or warm days, venting is necessary–anything from cracking the lid to removing it entirely. Keep a thermometer handy: experiment a bit and you’ll get the hang of it.
  • MOISTURE. Seeds sown in a cold frame can be watered with abandon–no mess to worry about. Do monitor the seedlings at the end of the afternoon, as solar heat and breezes from venting can cause rapid moisture loss on a warm or sunny days.
  • LIGHT. When you use a cold frame, the  mighty sun takes care of your light requirements: no supplementation is necessary. Just be sure to place the cold frame in a spot that gets full sun exposure. (Keep in mind that leafless trees will fill out and shade the cold frame before tender seedlings can be put in the garden.)
  • HARDENING OFF. Seedlings grown from the start in a cold frame require almost no hardening off, as they are exposed to temperature swings and breezes from a young age. Maybe give them one or two days of resting in a semi-protected spot outside of the cold frame before putting them in the ground; other than that, you’re golden!

Summary: Cold frames provide an ideal environment for seed-starting. Gardeners are assured ample natural light and need not bother with much hardening off before transplanting. Cold nights are an issue: gardeners must monitor for sub-26 temps and provide additional insulation or supplemental heat on those nights if frost-tender crops are in the cold frame.

Pruning Raspberries

Pruning Raspberries

Raspberry Patch

Pruning raspberries is essential because fruit is only produced on new raspberry canes. The old growth must be removed from your raspberry patch each year.

There are two types of raspberries:
an everbearing and

June bearing

Ever Bearers

Our favorite type of raspberry is the ever bearer / primocane. These raspberries bear fruit in the summer on canes that grow up in the spring.

It’s much easier to grow ever bearers than June bearers. After the first freeze in the fall of the year, cut off all the canes at ground level. Easy Pruning!

Use a wood chipper to chop up the old raspberry canes. Add the chips back into the garden soil. The organic matter helps improve the soil.

Ever Bearer Raspberries July 15



The chance of the raspberries getting cane borer is reduced when you cut off all the canes.

If you want a June and August crop of raspberries, you can do it with some extra work.

After it freezes in the fall, prune the tops off the canes that bore fruit during the summer. Prune these canes
3 ½ feet high. Next year, fruit will grow on the lower part of the cane.

These short canes will produce berries in June. In August, the new canes that grow from the roots will produce berries at the top of the cane. They will continue to produce fruit until it freezes.

When pruning raspberries this way, remember to prune out the short canes that bore fruit in June.

Pruned Raspberries

Most people don’t bother with getting this double crop because:

  • The raspberry plants produce two small crops instead of one large crop.
  • There’s a lot more work when pruning raspberries this way. It’s easier to cut off all the ever bearing canes each fall.

 

 

  • Caroline – mid to late August until first frost (going strong when first frost comes)

Growing Strawberries

Fruits such as strawberries are just as easy to grow as vegetables in a garden.  You can plant your strawberries in a formal bed, or use them as a ground cover.  There are three main types of strawberries you must choose from when you want to start a new crop.  The first type is known as “June Bearing” strawberries, and these plants will produce fruit in the late spring.  Generally this type of strawberry ripens in a two to three week window.  The next type of strawberry is known as “Ever Bearing” strawberries, and they produce fruit in both the spring and the fall.  Finally the third type of strawberry is known as “Day Neutral”.  These types of strawberries produce fruit throughout the entire growing season.

Strawberries do best with full sunlight and need a minimum of six hours a day of sun.  The more sun your fruit receives the larger the crop will be, and the quality will be better as well.  Strawberries need a well drained soil, and sometimes like a sandy soil.  Strawberries prefer the soil pH to be between 5.3 and 6.5.  It is advisable to test your soil with a soil testing kit or have your soil analyzed by your local county agricultural agency.  Since strawberries can get Verticillium wilt they should not be planted where either tomatoes or peppers were recently planted.

June bearing strawberries are best planted in what is known as a matted row system.  Here plants are set in the ground 2 feet apart, and then in rows 3 feet apart.  This allows the strawberries to send runners freely through the free space.  Keep in mind that June bearing strawberries don’t bear fruit until the second year.  The Hill system of planting strawberries is used for day neutral and ever bearing varieties.  You should set your rows to be about 8 inches high and about 24 inches wide.  The plants are set in the ground about 12 inches apart, and should be set in rows.  With these types of plants you should remove the runners the first year so you can bear fruit.  As time passes the strawberry plants are less productive.  Therefore they need to be replaced after about three years of production.

Strawberries can be planted in the spring right after the danger of your last frost.  If the plant you are setting in the ground have any root damage, they should be trimmed prior to planting.  If the plants have any flowers they should be removed as well.  Set the plants in the ground with the roots pointing down, and spread the root system out.  The crown of the strawberry should be set so the midpoint is just even with the surface of the soil.  If the plant is set too deep it may rot.

Strawberries need to be properly watered, yet not over watered.  Make sure you water your plants in the morning so that the sun can dry the leaves, thus preventing diseases.  Black plastic should not be used as mulch for strawberries, as this raises the soil temperature, and strawberries don’t like an elevated soil temperature.  Remember to fertilize your strawberries for the best possible crop.  It is best to fertilize just after the plants are set in the ground, and also after the fruit is harvested.  When picking your strawberries use a delicate hand, as the fruit is soft and will tend to bruise rather easily.

Three Sisters Garden

What is a Three Sisters Garden?

It is an ancient method of gardening using an intercropping system which grows corn, beans, and squash crops simultaneously in the same growing area that is typically a rounded mound of soil, often called a hill.

Corn is the oldest sister. She stands tall in the center.

Squash is the next sister. She grows over the mound, protecting her sisters from weeds and shades the soil from the sun with her leaves, keeping it cool and moist.

Beans are the third sister. She climbs through squash and then up corn to bind all together as she reaches for the sun. Beans help keep the soil fertile by coverting the sun’s energy into nitrogen filled nodules that grow on its roots. As beans grow they use the stored nitrogen as food.

How do I grow a Three Sisters Garden?

In mid-Spring clear a sunny garden area of grasses, weeds, and large stones. The area should be roundish in shape and at least eight feet across. Cover the area with a few inches of compost or well rotted manure. Turn the compost in to loosen the ground and create a moisture retaining growing medium with increased fertility. Water it well. Check the growing area frequently over the next few weeks to remove any sprouted weeds.

In late-Spring sow about seven or eight corn seeds in the center of the growing circle, in a ring pattern, spaced out about six inches from each other. Plant the corn seeds an inch under the soil, firm the soil above by patting it down with the palm of your hand. Water the growing mound well. The corn will sprout and begin to grow in about two weeks.

After the corn has grown to about ten inches high, using a hoe or hand trowel, pull up some soil from the growing mound around the base of the corn stalks. The corn should not be buried entirely, it’s upper half should be above the soil that has been mounded around it’s stems. The corn will send roots into the mounded soil to hold it steady and upright in the wind.

After mounding soil around the base of the corn stalks sow about a dozen pole bean seeds in a ring pattern six inches outside the corn stalks. Push the bean seeds about an inch under the soil and firm the ground above them by patting it down with your hand. Water the growing mound well. The beans will usually begin to sprout in about 7-14 days.

About a week after the beans sprout, sow six or seven squash seeds in a ring about 12-15″ outside the beans. Push the squash seeds about an inch under the soil and firm the ground above them by patting it down with your hand. The squash seeds will sprout in about a week.

As the corn grows the beans will begin to climb, you can help them early on by wrapping the bean vines around the corn stalks. The squash will begin to grow it’s vines and the large squash leaves will soon cover the growing mound and shade its soil. On occasion help the squash continue to cover the mound by turning the ends of it’s vines towards the center of the mound. Water the mound well during weeks where there has been little or no rain.

When can we harvest our Three Sister’s Garden?

Corn may be harvested while in it’s green corn stage, but tradtionally it is left to ripen and is harvested in Autumn. The cob is sun dried and stored for winter use. To harvest green corn observe the silky threads coming from the tops of the ears, when the silk is dry and a dark brown color the corn may be harvested. To remove an ear of corn, hold the stalk a few inches below the ear. Pull the tip of the ear toward the ground until it snaps off.

Beans may be eaten fresh or allowed to mature and dry on the vine. Fresh beans can be harvested when the pods are firm and crisp, but before the seeds within the pods have begun to swell. Pick beans in late morning after the night-dew has dried from the plants. This helps to prevent the spread of bacterias which can harm the plants. Pick the beans carefully to avoid bruising or snapping the growing vines. Bean plants will continue to flower and more bean pods will develop if they are harvested before bean seeds can mature.

Squash should be picked only after its skin has hardened thoroughly. Be careful to not damage or break off the stem of the squash…this can wound the squash and it will begin to rot. Cut the stem 3-4″ from the fruit with a sharp knife. Allow the squash to sit in the sun for a few days to cure and the stem to dry. Store squash in a single layer and not touching each other, which can foster rot. Squash can last at least two months, depending on the variety.

Enjoy growing your Three Sisters Garden!

Protecting your garden

Keep the birds at bay with this jangly kitchen-gadget scarecrow.

 

Tin Man

What you’ll need

  • One 7-foot-long 2- by 3-inch wooden stud
  • Two ¾-inch wooden dowels
  • 4 large brass hooks
  • Twine
  • 2 metal spatulas
  • 4 sets of metal measuring spoons
  • 2 metal saucepans
  • Metal coffeepot
  • Metal colander
  • Wire
  • Old pair of jeans, shirt, and suspenders
  • Bandana

How to make it

  1. First, set one end of the wooden stud 18 inches into the ground. Next, cut the two dowels to measure 3 feet long and 1 foot long, respectively. Screw the brass hooks into the ends of both dowels.
  2. With twine, securely tie the longer dowel to the stud 10 inches from the top. Hang the spatula ‘forearms’ from the hooks and use safety pins to attach metal measuring spoon ‘fingers’ to the spatulas.
  3. Tie on the shorter dowel 18 inches below the top one. Then loop leg-length pieces of twine around the hooks on the short dowel.
  4. Now dress the scarecrow in jeans, using suspenders to hang them from the ‘shoulder’ dowel. Thread the twine through the legs and tie saucepan ‘boots’ to the ends. Button on a flappy shirt.
  5. For a head, fit an inverted metal coffeepot atop the stud. You can even drill holes in its side and screw on metal washers for eyes. Tie a bandanna around the ‘neck.’
  6. Cap it all off by using wire to firmly fasten a metal colander hat to the coffeepot handle and then attach measuring spoons for hair.

 

Make a bean pole teepee

 

A bean teepee creates a wonderful hiding hole for young kids during the summer months at the same time as providing a perfect support for growing pole beans!

You can locate your bean teepee either in the vegetable patch or in a spare corner of the garden – it adds the dimension of height and is not only useful and fun, but quite ornamental too. Just bear in mind that the teepee will cast a fair bit of shade once the beans have grown.

How to Make a Bean Teepee

You will need: 7 – 9 long bamboo poles, some twine, string or even masking tape, and runner or pole beans.

circular shape for bean teepee Start off by finding a suitable spot in your garden and dig the earth over in a circular shape. A circle with a diameter of 3-4 foot is usually perfectly adequate.Beans like well-drained soil, so add some compost and fertiliser if needed – like in this example!
positioning poles for bean teepee Firmly push the ends of the bamboo poles into the ground by about 3 inches on the outside of the circle.Leave a gap between two of the poles to act as the entrance to the bean teepee.
tieing bamboo poles together Tie the bamboo poles together firmly near the top using twine, string, a bit of old rope or even masking tape.There is absolutely no fine art in tieing the poles together – the main and only aim is to ensure they are all VERY firmly held in place, as no matter how careful kids are, they are likely to knock the poles when going in and out of the teepee!
planting pole beans Plant the runner or pole beans about 2 inches deep. Plant them on the inside of the teepee rather than the outside, as this makes it easier to hoe and keep weeds down – anything growing on the outside of the bamboo poles are weeds!It is usual to plant two beans per pole. That should ensure at least one healthy plant per pole.
bean teepee ready to grow Water generously.Beans usually take between 7 to 14 days to germinate. Once the seedlings appear, protect them from slug attacks.

When the beans are a few inches high, loosely tie them to the poles. From then on, they should find their own way up.

When the plants reach the top of the teepee after about 7-8 weeks, nip the growing ends off. Keep them well watered during a dry patch, especially once the pods have started forming.

Once the dense foliage of the runner or pole beans has climbed up the bamboo poles and provides a cover, your bean teepee is ready for it’s inhabitants. Pop a blanket inside for the perfect private hide-away!

Tips

Once the first bean pods are ready to be harvested, keep picking them every few days to ensure the plants keep flowering and producing more pods. Once a pod reaches full maturity, the flowering process is shut down.

Beans can be planted outside once the risk of frost is over, usually late May or the beginning of June in the more northern areas.

For an even more colourful display, interplant climbing flowering plants too, such as climbing nasturtiums or black-eyed Susan.

Cats love these shady hide-aways too!

How to build a planter box

Step 1: Build the Frames

Build the top and bottom frames out of the 1×2 cedar strips. You’ll be butting the ends together, so no mitering will be necessary. Fasten two 26″ strips to two 13″ strips to form each rectangular frame. (You’ll need to ensure that the length remains 26″; to do this, butt the ends of the shorter strip against the longer strips. The thickness of the two longer strips will add an inch to each end of the shorter strips, increasing their length to 16″. Do this at each end of the longer strips to form a rectangular frame 26″ long and 16″ wide.) Apply a bead of wood glue to the junctions of the strips; then nail together with a single nail in each junction in preparation for inserting screws to hold them more securely. Predrill the ends prior to screwing them together; this helps keep the ends from splitting. Then insert a screw in each corner.

Step 2: Attach the Side Panels

Stand the two frames on their sides and apply a bead of wood glue to the inside face of the bottom side frames (the long sides). Attach four side panels to each long side, smooth sides out, and nail from the inside to hold them in place. Make sure the frames are flush with the panel ends on at least one side, or the bottom panels won’t fit properly. If the panels are jagged on the other side, you can always smooth them with a trim saw later.
Because you’re nailing from the inside, you may have to drive the nails at a slight angle. The advantage of this is that it conceals the nailheads from the exterior face of the window box. Repeat on the other side of the box.

Step 3: Attach the End Panels

Stand the half-completed box on its end and apply a bead of wood glue to the inside face of the bottom end frames. Attach two panels to each end in the same manner that you used to attach the side panels, once again ensuring that the ends are flush on the bottom. Repeat the process on the opposite end.

Step 4: Attach the Bottom Panels

Check and adjust your box for square if necessary. Attach three bottom panels to form the base of the planter box, using wood glue and screws. The base will reinforce and brace the box. Drill several holes in the panels so that water can escape, or simply leave a gap between the panels.

Step 5: Finish the Box

Lightly sand any rough edges and corners to smooth out splinters. If you wish, you can stain, seal or prime and paint your planter to suit your home’s decor. Because you used cedar, however, it can stay unfinished: cedar is one of the best lumbers you can use for exterior applications. This planter is a good size for potted plants, but you may wish to add a plastic liner and fill it with soil (add a layer of gravel first). If you do, don’t forget to cut holes in the liner to line up with the drainage holes in the bottom of the planter.

Pruning Fruit Trees

By pruning your fruit trees, you stimulate shoot growth, control the size and shape of the tree, and improve the quality of the fruit.

If you have not pruned before, don’t worry! It is not difficult, and you’ll get a real feel for how to prune fruit trees the more you work at it. And it’s worth every minute!

 

You’ll want to follow a few specific fruit tree pruning instructions for different types of fruit trees. For instance, apple trees need a different pruning system than peach trees. Here are the basics:

 

 

  • The Central-Leader System:

    This is used for pruning apple trees, pear trees, and sweet cherry trees. A “central leader” is the main stem or trunk of the tree from which other lateral branches develop.

    Fruit tree pruning instructions for this method are based around thinning the lateral branches.

  • The Open-Center System:

    Used for peach tree pruning, as well as pruning plum trees, nectarine trees, apricot trees and sour cherry trees where there is no dominant, vertical trunk (central leader).

    Open center fruit tree pruning instructions are based around three or four main limbs set at wide angles with about five lesser branches on each.

  • The Modified-Leader System:

    Mostly used for nut bearing trees, this can also be applied when pruning apple trees and pear trees. Modified-leader fruit tree pruning instructions are based upon giving the central leader and three or four lateral branches equal importance.

 

With this in mind, here are basic fruit tree pruning instructions that will get you off to a good start to getting the balance you want of shoot growth and fruit production:

     

 

 

General Fruit Tree Pruning Instructions

 

  1. Always use sharp shears or saws so your cuts are clean. Use pruning shears on young trees and limbs less than 1/2 inch diameter, and lopping shears for your bigger cuts. For mature fruit trees, use a pruning saw.

  2. Begin by removing dead wood and broken branches. Then cut out any wood that crosses or rubs against any other branches. This opens up the middle so the sun can get to all the fruit.

  3. Make your cut close to a bud, to a joint in the branch, or to the trunk; never leave a stub. The pruning cut should be just above a bud. Make the cut at a backwards angle of about 30 degrees.

  4. Prune stems just above a pair of opposing strong shoots or buds. If shoots or buds are staggered, choose a strong one and prune just above it.

  5. Keep more horizontal branches, and prune more vertical branches.

  6. Remove suckers (shoots) from around the base of the tree.

  7. Get rid of all debris which can harbor pests and disease.

 

 

Growing a Vertical Garden

Vertical garden

 

 

1

  • Start any gardening project in spring, when air temperatures rise to 60 degrees F. Vertical garden vegetables don’t need warm soil, but do require frost-free nights.

  • 2

    Choose your wall for the garden. Put the vertical garden in a spot that gets full sunshine all day, with good air circulation and protection from any drying winds.

  • 3

  • Use deep, sturdy rain gutters for the vertical garden, to give vegetables room for growth and support. Cut the rain gutters to fit on the wall you choose, and build at least three to four “stories” of gardening space. Drill holes every 10 inches in the bottom of the gutters, to ensure drainage.

  • 4

    Secure the gutters to the wall with eye hooks, screws or nails every 6 inches. Leave 2 to 3 feet of space between each layer of gutters to give the plants room to grow.

  • 5

    Mix organic compost, peat moss and potting soil in equal parts as your planting mix. This mix gives the vegetables plenty of nutrition and drainage. Fill the gutters full of your mixture, then turn starter fertilizer such as 6-24-24 or 8-32-16 into the top 4 inches of soil to provide more nutrition.

  • 6

    Plant small, compact vegetables in a vertical garden to minimize space usage and avoid stressing the structure. Plant lettuce, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, herbs, beets, peas, carrots, garlic, onions and radishes. Choose only small tomato, cucumber, bean and pepper cultivars. Also plant flowers in with vegetables to make the garden more attractive.

Home Canning 101

So, you’ve planted seeds or seedlings and then watered and weeded all summer. Now it’s time to harvest, and while much of your garden’s bounty ends up on your dinner plates, baked into goodies and eaten fresh as your pick it, there is generally an excess of fruits and vegetables. After all, you can only eat cucumbers at every meal for so many days in a row before you start to feel like you are, in fact, a cucumber.

This is where food preservation and canning comes in. Canning is a wonderful way to store your fruits and vegetables from the garden or the farmer’s market while they are in season and make the harvest last through winter when local and seasonal foods are scarce.

Canning in both water baths and pressure cooking heats the food, killing any microorganisms that may grow, and also creates a vacuum seal in the jar. The vacuum seal will prevent any air from coming in contact with the preserved food that could encourage cell growth and cause the food to spoil.

1. Start by sterilizing your jars.

Wash your lids and jars in hot soapy water. Then move them to a boiling water bath for ten minutes to sterilize. Remove jars from the water bath, but leave the lids in the hot water until you’re ready to use them to ensure they don’t come in contact with anything before you seal your jars.

2. Fill your jars.

There are a few things to remember when filling your jars. First, be sure not to fill them completely. Produce expands during the boiling process, so leaving adequate space at the top prevents the jar from leaking and making a mess.

After filling your jar with produce, unless canning jams, jellies and preserves, you’ll be pouring liquid to submerge the fruit or vegetables. Pour the boiling water, pickling solution or juice to cover up to the top of your produce.

Make sure there are no air bubbles along the sides of the jar and that the produce is submerged in the liquid. Wipe the rims of the jars down with a clean cloth and cap with the flat sealing lids and rims.

3. Process your jars.

Preheat water in your pot or pressure cooker. For hot produce, water should be preheated to 180º F, and for cold produce, it should be around 140º F. This will help prevent the jars from cracking when they are placed in the pot.

Water should be an inch or two above the top of the canning jar when they are placed in the pot for a water boiling process. Use a pressure canner according to the manufacturer’s directions to determine the amount of water needed in the bottom prior to adding the jars.

Add the jars using your tongs or jar lifter, and place them in the vessel so they are not touching. Place the lid on your pot or pressure canner. With water bath canning, bring the water to a slow boil and then start your timer to process for the length of time dictated by which vegetable you’re canning and the altitude at which you live. For pressure cooking, you’ll want to check for the length and temperature needed for your region as well.

4.  Remove your jars and let them cool.

Place your jars on a flat wood or cloth-covered solid surface to let them cool. Let them sit for a day to completely cool. While cooling, your jars will start to pop, creating the vacuum seal.

After they have cooled, press down on the center of your jars to ensure they have sealed completely. Any lids that spring back have not sealed and can be placed in the refrigerator and eaten first.

5.  Label and store your preserved food.

Label your jars with the contents and the date. You can write directly on the lid with a Sharpie or download and print or purchase specialty labels for your jars.

Once you have them labeled and have wiped off any food pieces or water from the outside of the jar, store your food in a dark, dry place until you’re ready to enjoy.
 

 

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