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 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 soon as the ground thaws! Stay tuned!