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Thread: 2010 Garden Thread

  1. #26
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by southsideamy View post
    Anybody have some ideas one where you can buy vermiculite? I follow the Square Foot Gardening, but I've always had to buy a teeny bag of vermiculite because that's all they have at Home Depot/Lowe's...it's for potting plants, not a garden.

    I've never been able to find a good supply....any ideas? I'd like to expand my raised beds substantially this year, but I'll be limited if I can't find vermiculite.
    I've not had much luck at Lowe's and Home Depot, although I did find some 4 cubic ft bags for sale once at Menard's. I've found that the best places to buy it is either from a local greenhouse or garden center. Garden centers charge you more than might seem fair, but it is only a one-time expense for SFG. Greenhouses and landscape suppliers buy the stuff in bulk, and the one time I asked to buy some form the local guys they sold sold me a couple cubic yards for just a few bucks (I forget how much but it was wayyy less than the garden ctr)
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #27
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    Dreaming of salsa

  3. #28
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Late last year, I cleared out a bunch of very tall and thick overgrown shrubs from one side of my property and I can tell that the back yard will get much more sunlight because of that this year.

    So I am thinking that maybe this will be a good year to build a raised garden plot? I was planning maybe 20 feet long by about three feet wide. I imagine that I can get all of the materials to do this from my parents house (it's nice having a farm I can go to for scrap wood, some real organic fertilizer , straw, etc... and having it all for free) and then, depending on how well it turns out, I can worry about maybe getting some rocks or bricks to put around the garden which might look a little nicer than the wood (maybe something like this: http://www.acheson-glover.com/community/images/w200.jpg... of course, not curved and not nearly as elaborate and no pavers on the ground etc.).

    Anyway, all I am planning to plant this year would likely be tomatoes, peppers, some peas, beans, maybe zucchini, and possibly lettuce. Any ideas on how high up I should raise the bed? Is the idea of raising it just to make it a little easier to section off areas, make sure things are level, and have spots to walk through and whatever?

    Any other tips for the first timer?
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  4. #29
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    Anyway, all I am planning to plant this year would likely be tomatoes, peppers, some peas, beans, maybe zucchini, and possibly lettuce. Any ideas on how high up I should raise the bed? Is the idea of raising it just to make it a little easier to section off areas, make sure things are level, and have spots to walk through and whatever?

    Any other tips for the first timer?
    Raised beds have a few advantages:
    • Easier to tend
    • Usually filled with "clean" soil from elsewhere so weeding is minimized
    • Warms up earlier in the season for earlier planting
    • If you can reach from all sides, it provides a growing space that is free from compaction and will result in healthier plants.

    Depth isn't too critical, depending on what you want to grow. The Square Foot Gardener says 6 inches or possibly less is adequate. The ones at our community garden space are 12 inches high. Regardless, if they are going to be on earth, I would bust up that soil a bit before assembling and backfilling. Good for water percolation, roots and beneficial bugs to migrate in. If you are putting them on top of a weedy patch you would like to control, you can put weed barrier down or cardboard (again, before backfilling) which will curtail growth long enough to kill pernicious plants (in theory).

    So, this year I am going to try a modified square foot gardening method. I have so far created 6 3'X3' raised beds (raised, but not bound by anything). Amended them, turned the soil, got things nice and fluffy. I will put some cheapo low wire fencing around each (leftovers hanging around the yard) and run the string from that frame to make the squares (too pricey and time consuming to build wooden frames and permanent cross members this year). I have another long row that is about 30 feet long by 2 feet wide waiting to be turned for a total of 115 sf of growing space.

    Now if I can just keep the dog from trampling them...

    Right now I am considering for first plantings (and have seeds for):
    lettuce (various)
    Spinach
    Peas
    Turnip greens
    Kohlrabi
    Carrots
    Onions

    Not planning to bother with starts - just direct seed and see how it does. I had great luck with most of these items from seed last year, so I don't foresee any problems. I have an automated watering system that was with the house (and irrigates the xeric plants around the property). Trying to figure out how to integrate that with the square foot design. They say to hand water, but there will likely be times when we are away, so I would like to have the option for the autodrip.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  5. #30
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    Right now I am considering for first plantings (and have seeds for):
    lettuce (various)
    Spinach
    Peas
    Turnip greens
    Kohlrabi
    Carrots
    Onions

    Not planning to bother with starts - just direct seed and see how it does.
    "No 'maters or peppers?" he asked incredulously.

    I seeded a flat of Mrs. Maister's petunias last weekend and they have yet to germinate (usually takes about two weeks), but the cabbage is doing well and half the broccoli just emerged a few days ago. I'm a little concerned about the two parsley cells not emerging as they were planted 15 days ago today.

    I intend to start my peppers indoors this coming weekend and the weekend following that (weather permitting) will direct seed the peas, thereby inaugurating the 'real' gardening season. April 3 will hopefully see the direct seeding of all the cool weather crops: lettuce, spinach, radishes; and transplanting the strawberries, cabbage and broccoli.

    I'm also trying to branch out a bit this year and take more of an active interest in the flower end of things. I ordered a few packets of some interesting perrenial seeds from Park Seed Co. this year (and I don't remember what exactly those were).
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  6. #31
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    "No 'maters or peppers?" he asked incredulously.
    But of course! They are the lifeblood of late summer eating, afterall. I was just listing the cold hearty crops going in next weekend. The peppers and 'maters go in after things have warmed up a bit more.

    I'm going to try and grow tomatoes from seed outside this year. No indoor starts or hardening for me (he said boldly, never having tried this before). I got a whole bunch of great looking heirloom seeds (for free from a local community farm!) that encourage outdoor seeding. Crazy old varieties. Don't recall the names, but some were purple, dramatic green and red stripes, a sort of Roma with squared sides - all kinds of crazy stuff. I don't even eat store bought tomatoes anymore...

    As for peppers, after last year's hiatus from lots of hot peppers, I'm back on the spice path. I'll grow some bells, but otherwise, I've got some Anaheims, jalapeños, a purple Chilean pepper (about the size of a jalapeño), serranos and some local hybrid mix of small hot peppers. My supply of dried hot peppers (mostly jalapeños and some serranos) is finally dwindling after a year and a half of storage. Some were air dried, but most I did in the oven at a super low temp (140 I think it was). Great on, well, anything. But especially pasta and pizza!
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  7. #32
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    Apartment Gardening

    Sorry if this is not the proper location for this question, but you all certainly seem like experts on gardening. I live on a second floor apartment (more like a first and a half story apartment, as the apartment below me is a half-basement apartment.

    For the first time in a while I actually have some outdoor living space in the form of a balcony. The balcony is shaded by another balcony above it, but it does face west so it will get some sun. Does this seem like a feasible place to grow some vegetables? If so, what would work in this situation?

  8. #33
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by rcgplanner View post
    Sorry if this is not the proper location for this question, but you all certainly seem like experts on gardening. I live on a second floor apartment (more like a first and a half story apartment, as the apartment below me is a half-basement apartment.

    For the first time in a while I actually have some outdoor living space in the form of a balcony. The balcony is shaded by another balcony above it, but it does face west so it will get some sun. Does this seem like a feasible place to grow some vegetables? If so, what would work in this situation?
    West facing is ok. Even better if you are on the corner with some additional southern exposure. But basically, you will get most of your direct sun in the latter part of the day which will mean it is hotter, but the UV exposure will be less than a south face. Not sure if your neighbor above you will shade you too much, but you just need to keep an eye on the space. Try to note at what time sun begins directly hitting the planting area and that will tell you how much sun you will get (being west facing, direct sun will start at that time and extend pretty much until it goes down). Bear in mind that between now and the height of summer, the sun's path will change from moving across the southern sky to passing almost directly overhead. This may impact your exposure times.

    As for what to plant, there are a few key things to consider. First is, when are you willing to get going? Cultivated plants can be divided into cold hardy and warm weather (or more if you really get into it). Cold hardy can be planted as soon as the "last chance of frost has passed" - the standard message on the back of the seed packets. If you find your local county extension services website, you will find that info for your area there. Cold hardy plants are things like peas, cabbage, lettuce, beets, radishes, spinach, onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Also, some of these can be planted even before the last frost date (some packets will say "as soon as the soil can be turned" which will pre-date the last frost date by a bit).

    The other big Q is how much planting space you have - this will inform what you choose to grow as some plants take up a lot of room.

    Later in the season, when things have warmed, you can plant warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, etc. If you planted some cold hardy crops, these will likely be ready to come out by then (many will "bolt" and send up a flower stalk after which the leaves become bitter and inedible). Depending on where you live, these may have a big window for planting. Squash and related plants (cucurbits) for example, can still be planted in the height of the summer and do quite well into the early fall (here we have squash bug problems and so we try to plant them after the beginning of July to avoid them).

    Again, you will have limited space, so you may want to be choosy about what you plant. Corn, for example, will take up a lot of space and a lot of nutrients and may take more space and resources than is worth it. I suspect where you live, finding decent corn from a farmstand is not so hard... Squash and related plants also sprawl a lot (though they can be trained or tied to the balcony as they go, which could look cool!) Because of this, I tend to choose vegetables I know are either hard to get locally or are expensive. Tomatoes and peppers are pretty darn easy to grow (though tomato diseases can be a problem) and the quality of the fruits is beyond anything you will find in the store. Most herbs will do great in the summer, though some can be planted in the cool weather (like cilantro and parsley) - basil loves the heat and hates the cold. Other herbs like sage, rosemary and oregano are perennials and so will stay with you all year long (though will be dormant and require cutting back in the winter)

    Then when you hit the fall, you can plant all of those cold-hardy plants again. Depending on how fast it gets cold, you may need some sort of plastic or fabric cover to protect things from frost, but if you are diligent, you can get one more round of crops in after the summer has peaked.

    Gardening is a messy experiment that you can eat! Try anything, follow the directions on the packets or seedlings and just go for it. The worst that can happen is the plants won't make it. But how much investment have you really lost? On the other hand, one meal with fresh grown produce and you'll be hooked. And there is always next year...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  9. #34
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Wahday, I have wonderful luck seeding directly outdoors. That is all I did last year. No indoor starts. No plants from the store. Just seed. I even planted late as I had to dig the garden first.

    The tomatos and peppers produced heavily, although we did lose most of the tomatos to the fungus. Considering the results, I will keep on growing from seed without the hassle of indoor planting. Yes, it may take longer to get a crop, but it saves a lot of work.

    Most of the ground here is still covered in snow. It is hard to think of gardening.

    Rcgplanner, I doubt you will have much trouble growing things on your balcony. I have grown many veggies where they are in shade at least part of the day. In fact, I tend to save some of those locations for plants like spinach and lettuce that like cooler temperatures.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #35
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    Thanks Wahday and Cardinal, I have placed a book on container gardening on hold at my local library so I hope to do a bit of reading up on the subject. I am getting some serious spring fever here in central IL. Almost all of the snow pack is gone after a week of temps in the 40's and the heavy rain on Sunday. It is supposed to be in the 50's today and 60's tomorrow.

    The next sunny day, hopefully a weekend, I am going to try to gauge how much sun my porch gets. I am lucky that my fair city has 3 Farmers Markets, so I won't be growing a ton. I am planning on trying my hand with some tomatoes, peppers and some herbs (basil mostly). Some greens, such as spinach is also a possibility.

  11. #36
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    Quote Originally posted by rcgplanner View post
    For the first time in a while I actually have some outdoor living space in the form of a balcony. The balcony is shaded by another balcony above it, but it does face west so it will get some sun. Does this seem like a feasible place to grow some vegetables? If so, what would work in this situation?
    I used to grow all sorts of odd things when I lived in an apartment (corn, carrots, wheat...). The most important thing to identify is how many hours of direct sunlight you get. This weekend I would get out a piece of chalk and mark where and at what times the southernmost portion of your balcony gets sunlight. If you get more than 6 hours you can grow almost anything. If you get less, all is not lost, as you can still grow shade tolerant veggies like lettuce, radishes, beets, cabbage, peas, spinach, broccoli and the like.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  12. #37
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Ok all your green thumbs. I am hardly a gardener. I know how to take care of a lawn and rose bushes, but that's about it. My wife and I want to start a composite pile for some of our trash, anybody know how to start one (preferably with worms). I have no clue where to start. Thanks peeps.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  13. #38
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  14. #39
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Ok all your green thumbs. I am hardly a gardener. I know how to take care of a lawn and rose bushes, but that's about it. My wife and I want to start a composite pile for some of our trash, anybody know how to start one (preferably with worms). I have no clue where to start. Thanks peeps.
    Worm composting is great. However, its not "hot" composting in the sense of microbial activity that raises the temperature of the pile. So, if one is using worms to try and process weeds or any other undesirables, the seeds of these plants will not be sterilized by the worms (although worms will make the soil itself sterile). Just something to be aware of. But worms process an amazing amount of material!

    I am about to build an in-ground worm composting space with a hinged lid outside my back door. I find (and I've only done this on and off a few times) that the worms are fantastic at processing kitchen waste in particular (and some people have small vermicomposting units in their kitchen - often little more than nested 5 gallon pickle barrels). I think this is mainly because the pieces are broken up so much smaller than yard waste. That stuff I put in two different compost areas - smaller stuff goes into a compost bin that is kept moist and has a lid (came with the house) while the bigger items go into a "managed pile" of larger items which means I occasionally rake up around its edges. Adding the worm zone, I'll have a short, medium and long range processing plant...

    Composting can be as simple as a pile in the corner of the yard or as advanced as a multi-tiered system or tumbler. Really, though, we are just talking about decomposition which is something that just happens anyway. Composting is just actively managing that system and you can do that at any level you desire. In the end, it (we) will all turn to humus.

    Here is a pretty good link to composting in general also with a small section on worm composting (though maister's is probably better): http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/FEATURE/backyard/compost.html
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  15. #40
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    When I was growing up in the 50's, every family fishing trip was preceded by a visit to G'Pa's compost pile for worms. It was a large box-like affair with a screened top. At the time, it never occurred to me that he might be using the composted material for his garden or G'Ma's houseplants.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  16. #41
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by rcgplanner View post
    I have placed a book on container gardening on hold at my local library so I hope to do a bit of reading up on the subject.
    Since you will be gardening in a very tight spot, check to see if your library has:

    The Urban Homestead. Coyne and Knutzen (2008).

    It has a great section on patio or balcony gardening, how to combine multiple plants in 1 container to save space, and which ones are best for combining. It also has a section showing you how to preserve and jar your excess fruits and vegetables. I believe it also makes some interesting suggestions about claiming underutilized outdoor corporate or public space and planting edible foods there (I could have this confused with another book though.)

  17. #42
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Okay, got the raised beds constructed and started the tomato and pepper seeds inside this weekend. Plan to transplant the broccoli and cabbage this weekend.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  18. #43
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I managed to get a few more asparagus plants in the ground yesterday. The rhubarb is coming along nicely, reminding me that I have a gallon bag full in the freezer. The brussel sprouts I left in the ground last year are sprouting, as is a row of onions also from last year.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  19. #44
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    No outdoor space to garden but I did buy some soil and basil seeds today to try to grow it indoors. I'll see what happens.

  20. #45
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Last year we didn't do well in the raised bed out back, except for the cayenne peppers which grew like crazy and I have enough of those dried for the next couple years. This year we are mostly doing containers on the pool patio which limits amounts but that's OK for our family of 3:

    strawberries
    pomegranates
    2 types of tomatoes, grape and plum
    tomatillos
    green bell peppers

    I have 2 types of blueberries developed for N FL in the back yard to cross-cultivate/pollinate/whatever.

  21. #46
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    I'm awaiting the arrival of this year's nursery stock: three hydrangeas and 5 white cedar seedlings. I think the cedars I planted last fall are terminal. They don't look dead yet, but they sure don't look bright and green like the rest of the line.

    I also have 6 spruce seedlings left over from last spring's Earth Day fesitivities at the college where I work. I over wintered them in pots, but they need to be planted permanently. I think that I may do that this weekend since I will be out at the farm.

    I also need to create "houses" to keep the white-tails at bay until I can build semi-permanent protection for them (ie, metal poles and v-mesh wire about 4-5 feet high). I was walking through the field where I want to plant them (it's along the property line between my property and the county ROW), and it was hard to walk without stepping in deer doo! Luckily, my old dog isn't all that interested in rolling in excrement any more (BTDT way too many times over the years). If I move out here when I retire, I'm gonna call this place Deerfields.

  22. #47
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Wouldn't you know it, no sooner do I get the peas, spinach, beets, cabbage, broccoli, and lettuce started and the spectre of SNOW rears its' ugly head
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  23. #48
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Wouldn't you know it, no sooner do I get the peas, spinach, beets, cabbage, broccoli, and lettuce started and the spectre of SNOW rears its' ugly head
    You've already planted? The general rule here has been to wait until after the second weekend of April because of the threat of snow. I was really late getting plants in the ground last year, but ended up with tomotoes until the end of October.

    The cilantro is already coming up. Only it's growing a good 25 feet from where it was planted last season. Strange...

  24. #49
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by biscuit View post
    You've already planted? The general rule here has been to wait until after the second weekend of April because of the threat of snow.
    The Last Frost Date here is around May 10 when one can safely plant non-frost hardy things like the tomatoes, corn, peppers, and beans, but for those into spring gardening it's possible to plant frost hardy plants like peas, onion sets, cabbage, etc. amost as soon as the ground can be worked....they can withstand a good frost, just hope you don't end up with a foot of snow that lasts several days (possible but flukey). I'm comforted that if we get snow they aren't predicting it'll last for any length of time - so my veggies should pull through.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  25. #50
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    My basil has sprouted, took about a week. I think I'll get some more pots and try a few other herbs.

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