Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to Grow Garlic

Many people cook with garlic but never consider growing it.  Buying a single bulb of garlic at the store is around $.50.  Unless you want Elephant Garlic...which is a very large variety and that will run you around $6.00 a pound.  Growing garlic is probably the easiest, lowest maintenance crops I can think of!  Garlic takes around 10 or 11 months to be ready for harvest.  Fall planting is generally what is recommended and what I do.  I usually pick a day that's going to be relatively nice toward the end of October.  Choose a spot in your yard or garden that gets a lot of sunlight, and has good drainage.  You don't want to plant your garlic in an area that's too damp, or the cloves will rot.  Once you have your spot picked, you'll want to order garlic from a seed company.  You could attempt to buy a bulb of garlic at the grocery store, separate the cloves and plant them.  I don't recommend this because you could be getting a hybrid of garlic that won't produce.  Also the bigger cloves you'll get at a seed company will produce large bulbs of garlic when you harvest.  The next step is to separate the cloves from the bulb if they're not already separated.  Plant each clove upright and around an inch under the surface of the soil.  Each clove should be 4 inches apart.  If you're planting rows the rows should be 18 inches apart.  You'll know its time to harvest the garlic when the leaves begin to yellow and brown and die.  If you wait too long the bulbs will split apart, and if you try to harvest too soon the cloves will be too small.  Most varieties if planted in October will be ready around September of the following year.  If you get an "early" variety then you'll be ready to harvest sometime around August.  The leaves will tell you when its time!  Good luck!! This is a great "starter" plant that requires little care.  Try it out and you'll have garlic for the whole year for yourself!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Could Gardening Become a Felony?

This could be one of the most important informational blogs I ever write.  A friend of mine emailed me a link to this article.  Its difficult to even believe this could be possible.  I'm going to just post the article link and have you all read it.  There are petitions to sign, emails to send.....and people to contact.  Please read this and pass it along to everyone you know!  CLICK HERE.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Freezing Vegetables

Someone initially suggested I write a blog on storing your harvested vegetables.  I decided to write one on freezing instead.  Here's why.  A lot of raw storage methods require a cellar.  Most of the people I know in the California area either have no cellar due to living in an apartment or they don't have an extra room that the temperature can be below 40 degrees to store them in!  Raw storage can be a bit complicated, as temperatures and relative humidity need to be controlled.  So I'm going to suggest freezing your vegetables.  I will cover both water bath canning and pressure canning at a later date.  Here's a list of vegetables and the process of freezing them!

Water and Steam Blanching means : scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time and placing them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.

Wash, sort by size. Snap off tough ends. Cut stalks in 2-inch lengths or leave in spears.
Water blanch: Small stalks: 1-1/2 min. Medium: 2 min Large: 3 min.
Steam blanch: Small: 2-1/2 min. Medium: 3 min. Large: 4 min.

Wash. Trim ends. Cut if desired.
Water blanch: Whole: 3 min. Cut: 2 min.
Steam blanch: Whole: 4 min. Cut: 3 min.

Wash. Remove tops leaving 1 inch of stem and root
Cook until tender: for small beets, 25–30 minutes; for medium beets, 45–50 minutes. Cool promptly, peel, trim tap root and stem. Cut into slices or cubes. Pack into freezer containers.

Wash. Trim leaves. Cut into pieces.
Water blanch 3 min. Steam blanch 3 min.

Brussels sprouts
Wash. Remove outer leaves.
Water blanch 4 min. Steam blanch 5 min. (medium-sized)

Wash. Discard course outer leaves. Cut into wedges or shred coarsely.
Water blanch: Wedges: 3 min. Shredded: 1-1/2 min.
Steam blanch: Wedges: 4 min. Shredded: 2 min.

Wash, peel and trim. Cut if desired; leave small carrots whole.
Water blanch: Whole: 5 min. Sliced : 2 min.

Discard leaves and stem, wash. Break into pieces or leave small heads whole (no more than 4-inch diameter).
Add 1 Tbsp. vinegar to water. Water blanch: Whole: 6 min. Cut: 3 min.
Add 1 Tbsp. vinegar to water. Steam blanch: Whole: 7 min. Cut: 4 min.

Remove husks and silks and trim ends. W ash.
Water blanch medium-sized ears, 3-4 ears at a time, 5 min. After blanching, cut kernels (about 2/3 depth) from cob, bag kernels, freeze.

Corn on the cob
Remove husks and silks and trim ends. Wash.
Water blanch medium-sized ears, 8 min. Cool. Drain. Wrap ears individually in plastic wrap. Pack wrapped ears in plastic freezer bags.

Wash, peel, slice 1/3 inch thick.
Water blanch 4 min. in 1 gallon of boiling water containing 1-1/2 Tbsp. citric acid or 1/2 c. lemon juice. Or, saute in oil and pack.

Select young, tender greens. Wash. Trim leaves.
Water blanch 2 min., or steam blanch 3 min. Avoid matting woody stems.

Wash. Snip or leave on stalks.
For basil only, water or steam blanch 1 min. For other herbs, blanching is not necessary. Freeze in a single layer on cookie sheet.

Peas Garden/ Snow/Sugar
Shell garden peas. No need to shell snow or sugar peas.
Water blanch 1-1/2 min., or steam blanch 2-1/2 min.

Onions/ Green Onions/ Leeks
-For onions, remove peel and chop. -For green onions, trim and slice or
leave whole. -For leeks, make a cut through leaves
and bulb. Do not cut roots. Wash thoroughly. Trim tops. Leave whole or slice.
May be frozen without blanching. Bag and Freeze. (For best odor protection, wrap onions in plastic film before putting in bags.)

Peppers Green/Red/ Sweet/Hot
Wash, remove stems and seeds.
Freeze whole, or cut as desired. No heat treatment needed. (See Guide E-311, Freezing Green Chile.)

Peel, cut, or grate as desired.
Either cook in water or saute grated potatoes in oil. Grated potatoes for hashbrowns and mashed potatoes freeze well. For new potatoes, blanch whole potatoes 5 min., blanch pieces 2-3 min.

Sweet potatoes
Wash and dry.
Bake just until tender; cool. Peel and cut. Pack in flat layers or roll in lemon juice and brown sugar. Or, puree with orange juice.

Winter squash/ Spaghetti Squash/
Wash and remove seeds
Bake whole or cut in half. Place cut side down on baking sheet Cook until tender. Scrape pulp from rind, or remove rind and cube. Cool Pumpkin and freeze cubes, or mash pulp, cool, and pack.

Zuccini/ Summer squash/
Wash, trim ends. Cut into slices or strips.
Water blanch 3 min. or steam blanch 4 min. and freeze. also be breaded and sauteed in oil. Cool and freeze. For sauteed sqaush, place waxed paper between slices before freezing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Garden 2010

I know it has been a long while and I would love to welcome you all back!  Many things have happened since I last blogged!  I switched to a new department at work in the early spring, I finished P90X, and spent a lot of time working in a 2,100 square foot garden!  I recently got a new camera so next season I will have many more photos to include.  This season I only got a few with a borrowed camera.  You can see the few I posted by clicking the "GARDEN PHOTOS" link.

This growing season I definitely had some setbacks.  While all of the peppers, tomatoes, green beans, kale, onions and many other things did very well, I had a few things that didn't do well at all.  For instance I planted over 250 pumpkin seeds and had planned to set up a stand to sell them.  This should have yielded around 500 pumpkins.  Due to the excessive heat and lack of rain I had about 4 tiny pumpkins! I was really disappointed.  But sometimes we lose the war against Mother Nature.  Also the corn this year didn't do well for me and although I'm not certain, it was more than likely lack of rain.  Excessive heat that begins early and continues throughout the season can sometimes cause vegetables to ripen very quickly.  This isn't detrimental to most vegetables, you just get to enjoy them earlier. The pumpkins started turning orange really early and were completely ripe by August.  Normally you don't pick pumpkins until the vines die which is usually in September and sometimes October.   So if you had a similar experience do not worry, you're not alone!

Now that last season is over its time to start thinking about next season.  What are you planning to try?  I'm planning to try a couple of vegetables that I've not tried before.  I'll include a complete list of seeds at a later date.  Right now I've only committed to a couple.  Did anyone try gardening this season?  Did you plant vegetables?  Or Flowers?  Let me know what you did and how it all turned out!  I promise not to take so long to blog!  I hope you all keep reading!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Roma Tomato Sprouts!

Hello everyone! March 16th, I planted Roma Tomato seeds as well as Jalapeno and Serrano chile seeds! The tomatoes are sprouting already! This is the fastest they've ever sprouted for me! It took only 5 days! I took a picture on my phone...lets see how it looks on here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Your Health...

Its no secret to most of you that I've embarked on a fitness journey about a month and a half ago. This started out to solve a variety of health problems that were going on, two of which include having asthma and high blood pressure. I decided to take matters into my own hands and try to lose some weight and commit to a more active lifestyle. So far everything is going well. I started doing P90X (yes the one that's on the infomercial), and have not only reduced my blood pressure significantly but I've also not needed my asthma inhaler at all since starting. In addition to that I've lost over 9.5 inches off my body and greatly increased my energy and endurance. Feel free to click that P90X link above and ask me any questions you'd like to about my progress or the products!

What does any of this have to do with gardening? Quite a bit actually. While doing research on how to get healthy I came across several articles on gardening. It seems that people who tend to a garden have the advantage! Physically gardening can be demanding, depending on the role you take with it. The acts of digging, planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting can be a great workout. Also mentally its been proven that people who work around or interact with plants recover from mental fatigue faster, it also helps relieve stress, depression, lowers blood pressure and can serve much like a "moving meditation". Not to mention everything you are caring for is really healthy, no fat, no sodium, almost no calorie FOOD! You can eat as much of it as you want! Just make sure before you go outside to tackle this workout STRETCH! This is very important..to help prevent soreness and injury. I actually have this book on stretching, its great!

UPDATES: I started seeds indoors March 16th. This is a good time to plant by the moon for my area of the country. I started Roma Tomatoes, Jalapeno Peppers and Serrano Peppers. As soon as I can get my camera working, I'll post some pictures I promise! Also a friend and fellow reader told me about this heirloom seed company. Its called Seed Savers. Thanks for the tip Julie!!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

What is Companion Planting?

Companion Planting is an old practice that dates back to the Native Americans. It simply means to plant specific crops together for the benefit of both plants. An example of this is planting pole beans next to corn. Pole beans fix nitrogen for the corn. The corn provides a "living trellis" for the beans to climb. Both crops benefit! Some crops provide protection from pests. If you plant squash in with the corn its leaves and vines provide shade around the bottom of the corn and help to preserve soil moisture. Also the squash vines help to deter raccoons who will eat the corn. They don't like trudging through the prickly vines to get to the corn. So how do you know what to plant where?? Here is one good list I found. There really are entire books written about this topic but a good list will get you started.

Companion planting can also be practiced in containers too! You may have to get a larger container based on what you will be planting but many of the vegetables "companion" plants are herbs which don't take up a lot of space. Here is a website dedicated to seeds specifically for containers. Check it out!

Spring is not far off! Get your seeds now! I have heard from more than one source that the prices on produce in the grocery stores will be significantly higher. So get yourself ready....so all of your produce will be virtually free!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Couple of Facts About Organics

I heard a couple of interesting facts today about eating organic. I generally don't use pesticides on anything I grow. But you should be aware that just because something is organic doesn't mean it's pesticide free. There are in fact still about 100 pesticides that CAN be used on organic vegetables and fruits. Someone asked this question "In times like these when people can't afford to buy organic vegetables and fruits, is there a healthy alternative that costs less?" The Dr. on whatever radio program I was listening to replied "The government has thrown the word organic around so much that now people are confused. Organic vegetables and fruits contain identical nutrition as regularly grown vegetables and fruits.

The key is to buy LOCAL. Locally grown produce will taste better than produce from the grocery store." Its true, if you eat things from the grocery store and they're out of season for your area they are shipped in from thousands of miles away. Which in turn means, they're picked before they're ripe and forced to ripen on the way to whatever store they're going to. Tomatoes and a variety of other vegetables are forced to ripen using an ethylene gas chamber. Ethylene gas is a natural occurring gas in nature. Its produced by some plants and also by humans through combustion. In the presence of a closed room filled with this gas, certain vegetables and fruits are forced to ripen. This is why when you buy a tomato in January it has no taste, because it was picked green and forced to ripen. Keep in mind that while this is a naturally occurring gas, it was also used in high concentrated forms as an anesthetic. I don't want to eat that....do you? All the more reason to just grow it yourself if you have any space at all!!

OH and a couple of you asked me about heirloom seeds. I actually JUST received a catalog in the mail from Baker Creek Seeds. This whole catalog is NOTHING but heirlooms! The prices are very reasonable. They have everything from peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, melons....greens...corn you name it! Definitely check them out! Until next time....where I'll probably tackle some "companion planting" ideas! Keep reading....the snow is almost over...I hope!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Holy Tomatoes Batman!

Its almost time to plant seeds indoors!!! I apologize for the delay in blog writing....I have been occupied with various things and I must admit its a little difficult to think about gardening with nearly 2 feet of snow on the ground. (My garlic sprouts are no longer visible outside!) But if you live in the Mt. Vernon, OHIO area then the correct moon phase for planting indoor seeds starts March 15th!! If you choose to make your first gardening experience the ever popular Tomato, then this blog is for you.

Tomato Types: There are two types of tomatoes. Determinates and Indeterminates. I'll make this simple. Determinates are better for containers and small space gardening. They tend to fruit earlier and are a more compact bushy plant. The Indeterminates are a later producing variety and vine out a lot more. They most definitely need the support of stakes or cages. You can grow indeterminates in containers as well, you'll just have to support the plants with stakes or cages.

For first time gardeners I suggest buying transplants from the store....you can plant from seed if you insist, just know that those seeds will require grow lights, a heated seedling pad and babysitting for 2 months. There are many choices to pick from when you check out your nursery. Ask yourself about the space you have. If you're planting in the ground expect for 1 indeterminate tomato plant to have a height somewhere between 3-10 feet. They also need to be 3 feet apart. Now think about your uses....do you make sauce or salsa? If you do then you'll want to choose a variety like Roma or some hybrid "sauce" variety. If you use them for sandwiches.....think about Beefsteak, Supersteak, or Big Beef. If you use them in salads think about getting Cherry, Grape, Sweet 100, or Sweet Million. If you're a little more experienced then choose an heirloom seed to try. An heirloom is an "original" variety of tomato in which the seeds have been "passed down" from gardener to gardener over generations. They're great to grow, they do take a little extra work. Most of the tomato plants you'll buy from the store are not heirlooms. Hybrids will have more disease and bug tolerance than will an heirloom. Sometimes you can find an heirloom Brandywine tomato at the store....but generally you need to start those from seeds.

Now that you've decided on a type of tomato...how do you pick a good plant? I look for plants that are nice and green, no discoloration, and no speckles. I also don't buy plants that already have tomatoes on them. This is because when a tomato sits in a pot for too long (specifically the small nursery pots) they are forced to fruit early. Your plant won't get very large and will stop producing early. This has been my experience. So I look for plants that have not yet bloomed.

Once you have your plants or seedlings. If you have seedlings you've grown indoors, you must harden them off. Meaning they need to get some outside exposure to toughen them up a bit. This can be done by sitting the seedlings outside for a couple of hours a day (morning) and then brought back inside. Do this for 2 weeks. The transplants you buy from the store don't need to be hardened off. If you want earlier tomatoes, then buy some black or red plastic to put over the ground 2 weeks before you plant. This helps to preheat the soil....translating to earlier tomatoes.

Planting. Dig a hole in the ground or pot, then put some well rotted compost down at the bottom of the hole. Place the tomato plant in the hole and cover with soil. You should bury some of the stem in the ground...even almost up to the leaves is fine. The tomato can produce roots off the stem making it a stronger plant. Once the tomato is in the ground, stake it or cage it. Don't wait, its difficult to do once the plant is big, and you end up breaking vines trying to do so.

Watering. This is the most important part. You can even skate by if you neglect to fertilize regularly (don't ignore it altogether)....but don't forget to water them. Irregular watering can cause the tomato fruits to rot on one end, crack and split...or be misshapen. None of which are a good thing.

Bugs and worms. Ok....be on the lookout for Japanese beetles (ohio)....and tomato horn worms (everywhere). There are of course many other bugs that can attack your plant, these are the most common. If you have access to buy ladybugs and/or praying mantis pods from your nursery, do so! Ladybugs and praying mantis will eat damaging bugs. If you buy ladybugs....release them at dusk, they'll stay in your garden. If you release them during the heat of the day they will all fly away. Praying Mantis pods can be placed around your garden to hatch. If you leave the pod in the container you bought, they will hatch and eat each other and only one will remain living. I know its not a lovely thing to think about but that's what will happen! You have only one option when it comes to the tomato horn worm. These are large green worms that you'll have to pick off by hand (or use a stick....my preferred method) they will eat everything in site. Get rid of them!

Fertilize. You can buy Miracle Gro if you want to....they make a special tomato fertilizer. I prefer used coffee grinds. They're organic, free and work well for tomatoes, peppers, and a variety of flowers. Like roses and hydrangea. Save a coffee can, put your used grinds in it and stick it in the freezer. Use that to mulch your tomatoes with. It works very well! I usually fertilize every 2 weeks.

I think that's about it! If you follow these steps you should have plenty of tomatoes for you and probably your neighbors! Can't wait for March 15th! Get your seeds early!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gardening for Others

With the recent tragedy in Haiti many people are looking for ways to help their fellow man. The situation in Haiti has affected all of us. Here are some ways you can help them. Donate to Hope For Haiti Now or to The Red Cross. Not everyone is capable of going to Haiti to help in the recovery efforts. So I've come up with a few ways to help out your local community that anyone can achieve. One way to help is to Plant a Row for the Hungry. This is an organization started by the Garden Writers Association that suggests that we gardeners plant an extra row of veggies and then donate the harvest to local food banks. There are even some seed companies (Nichols Garden Nursery for one) that will give you a free packet of seeds for this purpose along with your order. You can go here to locate your local food bank. Some smaller cities (like Mt. Vernon) may not have the facilities to keep fresh produce. So call around your area and ask. If the local pantries don't want the fresh produce, contact local churches who cook meals for the hungry on a nightly basis. They can use the fresh veggies in their meals. If you don't have space for the row you can also volunteer in a food pantry, donate to this New Zealand organization called Fruit For Our Children or you could even grow an extra tomato plant in a pot...and donate the harvest from that pot! There really are countless ways to help. Some larger cities have community gardens that have volunteers to perform maintenance duties in the garden. All it takes is a simple Google search. The bottom line is, if you want to help, you can.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gardening on Your Porch or Balcony

This blog is for all of my readers and friends who don't have a yard....but do have a balcony, patio or porch. If your balcony, patio or porch gets 6-8 hours of full sun daily, you can grow vegetables in containers. If you get morning sun only you can still grow lettuce, spinach, and most herbs. Here's a short list of vegetables to choose from. There are more though.

Tomato- Cherry, Grape, Celebrity, Early Girl, Better Boy
Snap Beans- Bush type
Zucchini-most types
Radishes-Cherry Bell
Baby Carrots
Peppers-Jalapeno, Serrano, Habanero, Anaheim, Poblano, Thai Hot, Hungarian Wax, California Wonder, Most bell peppers.

Generally speaking you will need a 5 gallon pot for each plant. Root vegetables will need to be a longer 5 gallon window box being at least 12 inches deep. Plastic, ceramic, terra cotta, wood are all fine choices for containers, however they must have drainage holes in the bottom. You'll also want to set your containers on blocks or bricks so the water will drain freely. If you've never grown anything, I'd suggest getting the Bush type Snap Beans, and a Tomato to try out. Lettuce is fairly easy but in both Ohio and California (the 2 places I've gardened) you're going to have problems with slugs and snails who will devour leafy veggies overnight.

When potting your vegetables I suggest getting an organic potting mix. If you're not trying to be organic that's ok, Miracle Gro potting mix will work fine also. I'll type this next line in all caps....because it's important....haha. DO NOT USE MIRACLE GRO GARDEN SOIL IN A CONTAINER OF ANY KIND. I say this because Miracle Gro Garden Soil confuses everyone. It says "Garden Soil" so it must be good for the garden right? It is good for the garden, if you're planting directly into the ground. This particular soil is mixed into the soil in the ground. It contains manure, if you try to use it in pots, the manure will burn up your plants and they will all be dead in a week. As long as it says "potting mix" or "potting compost" or "potting soil" it will be fine to use in your containers.

Watering is the next step. Plants in containers will dry out much more rapidly than the ground. Always water in the morning. Plants need the water throughout the day for photosynthesis. It isn't a good idea to water in the evening because the cooler temperatures cause the water to evaporate at a slower rate. This can cause disease, and root rot. Both will kill your plants. You'll want to water the plants thoroughly, not sprinkle them. Sprinkling a small amount of water on the plants can cause the roots to surface, and the sun exposure will kill them. In the heat of the summer in California, you'll want to water your plants every morning. Tomatoes and peppers can handle the heat in California. If you've got herbs, place them where they'll receive morning sun. If the temperatures rise to 100 degrees your herbs will burn up in a matter of hours. Bring them inside if you've got nowhere else to put them in the afternoon. In Ohio you might not have to water every single day. If you're uncertain about when to water you can buy a soil moisture meter. They range in price from about $7 on up into the hundreds. Here's one made by Rapitest that works well, and requires no batteries. I've used this one and so have several of my gardening buddies. Its also available at most stores in the garden section.

Fertilizing is next. I recommend getting an organic liquid fertilizer that can be diluted in a watering can. There are hundreds of kinds just look in your nursery for one. Plants in containers need a more regular fertilizing routine. If the potting mix you bought isn't enhanced by Miracle Gro or some other fertilizer you'll need to fertilize once a week when you water. If the soil you buy already has fertilizer in it, I wouldn't bother fertilizing for at least a month. This goes for all vegetables except hot chili peppers. If you are growing chili peppers for the heat, I suggest planting them in black plastic containers. The black containers hold more heat, and there is a direct correlation to the soil heat, atmosphere heat and chili heat. Also, once the pepper produces its first flowers stop fertilizing it. This will make the peppers hotter. Allowing the peppers to dry (to a slight wilt, SLIGHT) between waterings will also create hotter peppers. I know this sounds scientific but it's something I learned last year. None of my chili's were hot. This year...they will be.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gardening by the Moon Experiment

Gardening by the moon phases has been around for thousands of years. Over the last several months I've read about this practice and will be trying it out for the first time this year! It can seem like a rather daunting scientific procedure but the truth is, its all very basic.

During specific phases of the moon, the gravitational pull of moisture to the earth's surface causes the seed to absorb more water, and therefore bursting the seed coat sooner. This directly affects how quickly the seed germinates, root growth and leaf growth. It is suggested that seeds planted (even those started indoors!) during the correct moon phase will produce quicker, be healthier and have more crop yield. I know this may sound complicated but I've located some websites that have free lunar planting calendars. So, even if you don't want to learn the whole science behind it you don't have to! Here are two places to check out calendars. This Organic Garden site has a wealth of information on moon gardening. There is also a calendar. The Farmer's Almanac has the best calendar I think, because you can actually enter your zip code and it gives you a customized calendar for your specific area. Both calendars will actually tell you what days are best for planting seeds. For my California readers, you could be starting some seeds indoors now! I'm going to start tomatoes and a variety of chili peppers indoors this year by way of the moon phases, I encourage you to try it out as well! Lets see if there's a difference! From what I've read, there is.

I've just placed my first seed order. Here's a list of what is on the way:
Early Jalapenos
Heirloom Roma Tomatoes
Fernleaf Dill
Serrano Peppers
Cherry Bell Radishes

I ordered these from Nichols Garden Nursery.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Its Snowing

However...you can still decide where you'll put your garden. For the beginner I wouldn't make a garden plot much larger than 10 feet by 10 feet. This is ample space to pack lots of veggie plants in without being overwhelming. If you live in a large city, most of them have community gardens where you can pay a small fee to have your vegetable garden on their land. If you aren't interested in the community garden, some veggies may be planted in pots on balconies! As long as you're getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day (tomatoes and peppers prefer at least 8 hours) you can grow them. Start paying attention to how much sun your yard actually gets. Take into consideration where your water supply is. You don't want to plant too far away from your garden hose. Once you've determined the area you'll plant....its time to make a plan. You can simply draw it out on graph paper. There should be at least 3 feet between each row and in general 2 feet between each plant in the row. Some plants take up more space than others. The seed packet will tell you how far apart to plant. If you leave no room to walk between the rows you're going to damage plants trying to harvest and also when you water. Some of the plants won't do well if they're packed in too tightly. If you're not interested in drawing it out...there are many free online planning tools and some printable free plans. If you live in a rural area, you'll want to consider a fence. This can be made of inexpensive wire fencing, chicken wire and garden stakes. The fencing doesn't need to be elaborate...just somewhat sturdy and tall. It will need to be at least 8 feet high to keep deer out. They'll eat pretty much all of your garden with a few exceptions...onions, garlic, squash, and pumpkins. City dwellers need not worry about the deer.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

It's Never Too Early

To start planning your vegetable garden, that is. Although tempting, I don't recommend waiting until the last frost to decide what you'll plant and where you'll plant it. If you have never planted a seed before in your life this is especially important. Over the last couple of years I've noticed that waiting too long to purchase your seeds may result in not getting what you want. I think in part this is due to the economy (people trying to save on food bills) as well as many more people trying to become "green". You can of course order seeds online, but be prepared for the shipping costs to exceed the price of the seeds. If you are a first time vegetable gardener going to the store in late Feb. will be perfectly fine for you to obtain a wide variety of seeds to try. Here in the Mt. Vernon Ohio area are a few of the places I like to get seeds.
  1. Glass Garden Greenhouse
  2. Country Colors Greenhouse
  3. Mt. Vernon Hardware
  4. G.R. Smith's Hardware
And of course a host of large chain stores as well. Here are some online places I've ordered from and have been happy with both the variety and service.

  1. Burpee Seeds
  2. Nichols Garden Nursery
  3. Totally Tomatoes
If this will be your first season growing vegetables I suggest getting 3 or 4 different vegetable seeds to try. You may find out you love gardening or you hate it. If you get only a few packets to try you'll still gain plenty of experience and plenty of vegetables! If you've spent many seasons gardening like myself, try some new varieties!! Every year I try several new chili pepper seeds (because these are my favorites!). So go order your seeds and next we'll tackle how to plant them, crop placement, fertilizing and much more!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Welcome to Amy's Harvest

Happy New Year and welcome to Amy's Harvest! This blog is for anyone interested in vegetable gardening, those who are active gardeners and those of you who've never planted one seed! I will be using it to share information I've learned through experience over the years as well as chronicle the goings on of my own garden! As time goes on I will post more photos and better organize my blog page. So for now, grab your shovels and lets go play in the dirt....well...as soon as the ground thaws! Stay tuned!