Saturday, March 31, 2012

Top 5 Cheapest Containers for Your Balcony or Porch Garden

Here is a list of my Top 5 Cheapest Containers for your Balcony or Porch garden!  

5. A bucket!  All you have to do is wash out the bucket, drill a couple of holes in the bottom for drainage and put your potting soil right in!  This works fine for tomatoes, bush beans, lettuce, herbs, peppers...the list goes on and on.

4. Reusable Grocery Bag!  I've seen this done many times.  Take your reusable fabric grocery bag and put your potting soil right in.  If you're planting seeds or small plants, you may need to roll the sides down so its not shaded by the bag.  Since these are fabric the water drains out of them easily.  You might have to water these more often than other containers because they will dry out faster.  I've seen people grow lettuce, herbs, swiss probably could do a tomato or peppers too.  

3. Coffee Can!  Treat a coffee can like a small pot.  Just drill or cut a couple of drainage holes and you're ready to put the potting soil in!

2.  An empty 2 liter plastic bottle!  Cut the bottle in half.  Drill a couple of drainage holes at the bottom and then a small hole on each side near the top.  You can put string through the top two side holes and there you have a CHEAP HANGING BASKET!  Keep your plants small in this.  Mainly herbs or lettuce.

1. Cardboard box!  That's right, you can even plant vegetables in a cardboard box.  This is the cheapest container of all!  Fold the flaps of the box inward, line the inside of the box with a plastic bag.  Cut a few holes through the bag and box for drainage.  This should last one season. If you want, you can decorate the box, or glue plastic around the sides to make it reusable.  

These may seem extremely cheap, but that's the point!  Anyone can have a container garden for almost no money.  If you buy your seeds or plants at a dollar store, you can plant more varieties.  These containers will also work for flowers too!  Additional cheap containers can include, any type of plastic container, plastic tubs, aluminum soup cans, glass bottles, jars....the list could go on forever.  I've seen photos of container gardens that have been made entirely out of recyclable trash.  Another way to go cheap is to look for plastic, ceramic or terra cotta pots at garage sales.  People sell them for around $1.00 at the most.   So don't use lack of funds as an excuse not to plant your own seeds!  Try it out.

Garden Update:  So far, there are no pea sprouts yet but its still early.  I have noticed that there are literally hundreds of lettuce plants coming up on their own from last year.  We let the lettuce grow until it seeded itself, then mowed it off.  Now this year we've got lettuce coming up all over.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Burpee Seed Tape and Forster Seeds of Quality

Burpee Seed Tape...what is it?  Its a very easy way to plant!  They only come in a few varieties that I've seen and you need to get them early....because once they're gone you can't find them!  What they are is a felt "tape" with seeds inside.  You simply make a trench in the soil, unroll the tape and cover it with soil.  All you do then is water them and they grow!  I use these for radishes, carrots and beets because when you plant these types of seeds you have to thin the plants once they sprout.  Which means you have to go through all of your sprouts and select the strongest looking seedlings and spread them out in the row.  If you plant these seeds and do not thin them, you'll end up with plants too close together and they typically don't produce.  This tape has the seeds spaced out properly to begin with and there is no need for thinning.  These are a great way for beginners to gardening to enjoy a good yield without much effort.  There are other brands too, Burpee was the available brand today.

Now...what is Forster Seeds of Quality?  It is a new store in the Mount Vernon Ohio area.  The same family that used to own Glass Garden Greenhouse now runs Forster.  They've only been open a little over a year but they have a large selection of vegetable (including potatoes and onion sets) and flower seeds.  You'll also find soils, a wide variety of birdseed (that you can also mix up yourself), bird feeders, and hay bales!  Later in spring the back section will be filled with vegetable and flower plants.  There were already violas out in the front.  Some of the prices are a little higher than your big discount stores, but the way I look at it is there and you not only get the knowledge and customer service of a family that has run a green house for decades, but you get to support a local business.  They're open year round but do have different "winter hours".  Here is there store info.

Forster Seeds of Quality
669 North Sandusky Street
Mount Vernon, Ohio 43050

Call for their current hours.

*I do not know anyone at Forster Seeds, nor do they know this page exists.  I did not get paid to write anything about them.  The photo was taken from their Facebook Page

Monday, March 19, 2012

Organic Gardening Pest Control

The definition of Organic - "noting or pertaining to a class of chemical compounds that formerly comprised only those existing in or derived from plants or animals, but that now includes all other compounds of carbon."  This means all organic pesticides are chemical compounds derived from plants or animals and do not contain synthetic chemicals.

How do you keep insects at bay without using chemicals?  There are several ways to do this that I have used myself and that actually work.

1. Companion Planting.  Companion planting has been around since the Native American times.  You can use the companion planting method for pest control as well as to achieve a better yield of vegetables from your plants.  There are many vegetables, herbs, and flowers that actually repel certain insects, some even repel rabbits and deer. Planting some of these herbs between rows or plants will help keep damaging insects away from your vegetables. Here are just a few ideas to try.  There are literally hundreds of companion planting methods.  Plant Marigolds next to your tomatoes to keep the tomato horn worm away.  Catnip, chives, garlic, onions, rosemary, basil, mint, oregano, and thyme will ALL keep insect pests away from your vegetable plants.  Some flowers that can be used are Borage, Nasturtium, Marigolds, Petunias, Chrysanthemums (dried), calendula, and sunflowers!  Planting these flowers amongst your veggies will also help!  I've planted my squash around the outside of the entire garden before because both deer and raccoons do not like the fuzzy texture of the stems of the squash plants.  Planting herbs near your plants will also help keep rabbits away, as they do not like the smell.  You can even plant some Marigolds with your tomatoes in containers!  

2. Beneficial Insects.  You can actually purchase beneficial insects, worms and egg pods from your garden centers and from online catalogs.  The most popular insects you can buy are ladybugs, praying mantis egg pods, and carnivorous nematodes.  If you buy a container of ladybugs make sure you release them in the evening when the weather is relatively cool.  If you release them into your garden when the temperature is too hot they'll just fly away and not stay in the area.  Ladybugs will eat a variety of pests from your plants and they'll stay in your garden area.  Praying Mantis egg pods can be placed throughout your garden where they'll hatch and keep pests away!  Make sure if you are buying the Praying Mantis egg pods to look inside the container before you buy them.  If you open it and there is a praying mantis already hatched, do not buy it.  More than likely they hatched and the one that's left ate the rest of them!  They're cannibalistic! So make sure you've got the egg pods in there.  Carnivorous nematodes are worms that eat other worms.  They will come with directions on how to release them.  These methods work well!

3. Make your own pesticide!  You can use some dried chrysanthemum petals and cooking oil and make an oil to spray on your plants.  I also use a mixture of warm water, natural dish soap, and hot sauce.  Shake it up and spray it using a spray bottle.  Another recipe is to use white flour and cayenne powder.  Mix them up and dust them on problem areas.  Of course there is always the large variety of pre-made organic pesticides.  They also work but can be pretty expensive. My methods are cheaper and work also!

These are just a few ways to keep your garden organic without much effort.  There are entire books dedicated to all of these methods so feel free to do your own additional research.  UPDATE: I have STILL been unable to plant my peas!  The combination of my health, work schedule and weather has made it nearly impossible!  We have a few dry days coming up so I will try again in the next couple of days.  I will blog about my planting and also there will be some blogs about my chickens!  I have the coop....and I need to make some renovations to it and we'll be in business!  Keep reading!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spring 2012 Update

Dad's David Brown Tractor...I believe from the 50's

Just posting to give you a quick update as to what I'm doing.  I officially gave up on the apple seeds, they never sprouted.  So I might purchase a few fruit trees this year...if not this year then definitely next.  I also want to try out some strawberry plants.  Over the next two days I'm getting a free chicken coop from a lady at work AND I'm going to plant peas!  I'm planting a stringless variety from Johnny's Selected Seeds and also a variety from Burpee Seeds.  I'm excited to get the peas planted and the chicken coop!  I believe (although I'm not sure) the coop will hold 6 chickens.  This will be a good "starter flock".  I plan on getting a mixed variety and maybe 1 rooster.  I am only using them for eggs, we will not be using them for meat, although many people do.  Another exciting thing for this year's garden is that in addition to a tractor plough, we also recently got a rototiller for the tractor!  The garden this year is being expanded once again, to about 5,000 square feet!  I can't wait to get out there!

In the photo above you can see a small fence to the left, this is where I will plant the peas. I'm waiting for another couple of days to let the ground dry out some.  You can see this is VERY muddy!  Standing water on the right.  This is only a section of the garden plot.  I did notice that there were TONS of worm tracks and holes in the ground.  This is great because the ground will be well aerated.  So all of the horse manure we put on the garden in the fall has worked out well.  I'm going to do my best this summer to document this blog with photos and progress. I tend to get distracted once the nice weather finally arrives and then I don't want to sit inside at the computer.  This year I'm really going to get that done so all of you can see how big the garden is and the progress along the way.  I also plan on doing some blogs about the chickens as well.  If you have any comments, questions or topics you'd like to see on this blog in addition to the topics I'm already including please let me know!  Thanks for reading and hopefully soon I'll have some photos of the planting of the peas, sprouts and the chicken coop!