Monthly Archives: December 2011

Winter Care For Garden Tools

The home garden tools are often forgotten from the time we place them in their winter

storage until next spring.  But, one of the best things you can do to care for your tools is to properly prepare them for the next gardening season.

You may be wondering what’s so good about doing more work in the winter when those tools will not be needed for several more months.  There are a couple of very good reasons to properly put your tools to rest for the season.

One, is the longevity of the tool.  Yes, your tools will last longer if properly cared for.  That may not be the first thing on your mind, as tools will last for several years without much care.  But, tools are expensive and will continue to rise in cost over time.  That old shovel or rake in the shed will look like a real bargain if you need to replace it.

The second reason is the most important.  Your tools will give you much better service and will be more of a pleasure to use if they are given the respectful care they deserve. 

For instance, if you do not clean that clay off of your shovel from the last time you used it, the next time you pick it up it will not go in the soil very easily.  That means you will have to put out more effort to shove that shovel into the soil, creating more sweat and fatigue.  I do not know about you, but I am not into sweat and fatigue.

Plus, a bonus is, clean organized tools make us feel better about ourselves.

How To Put Your Tools To Bed For The Winter

We will take our above mentioned shovel as our example of how to care for our tools.

The first thing to do is to take a scraper, like a putty knife, and scratch the caked on dirt from the shovel.  I do this each time I use my tools to make them easier to use the next time.

Then, get out the wire brush and scrub off the remainder of the dirt.  Now, squirt a little motor oil on the surface of the shovel and take a rag and spread the oil liberally over the metal surface.

My first, off the farm, job was in a green house at Indiana University working in the horticulture department.  The head lady there “insisted” that every tool be cleaned and oiled after each use.  All the tools looked great all the time and were always ready for use.  Plus, I learn how to care for my tools.

Whoa now, don’t put that shovel in the shed, yet!  What about the handle?  Inspect the handle for splinters and cracks.  If you find splinters take a fine toothed file and knock the splinters off and sand, with sand paper, to smooth the handle. 

If the handle is cracked you may be able to tape it up with electrical tape and it will hold for years.  If the crack is beyond taping you will have to replace the handle or buy a new shovel.

One last thing to do is take a rag saturated with linseed oil and wipe it over the

handle.  This will keep the wood in the handle, assuming it is a wood handle, from drying out creating those splinters and cracks.

Now, your home garden tools will be ready for your first job in the spring.

Great gardening,

Steve

Your Garden Catalog Is A Great Tool

Bet you never thought about that garden catalog you get in the mail as a useful tool for your garden?  The information found in that catalog is priceless.

When you read this article you will know more about finding the right varieties for your garden, the best way to plant your vegetables and finding new ideas for your garden.

Choosing the right vegetable varieties for your garden

What you plant in your garden needs to match where you are gardening and how you are gardening.

If you live in the north you want short season varieties that will mature before the first frost.  Down south you may be more interested in varieties that can withstand the heat of summer.

Some vegetable varieties handle the stress of drought more than others.  You best know your growing conditions and using the plant descriptions in the seed catalog can guide you to the best seeds to plant for your conditions.

Finding the best way to plant each vegetable

A good seed company will have an explanation of the best way to grow each type of vegetable in their catalog.  

They will give you information on the best culture for you to get top results with your chosen seed.  The company will explain if the plants will do better in the spring or can they be sown successfully in the fall.  

You will also learn how deep to plant the seed, how far apart for a particular variety and the best time to harvest.  Some will even tell you if a plant needs extra fertility and water.

A good seed company will give suggestions on coping with that plants main pests.  Usually, seeding rate is discussed and there should be information on how many seeds in a seed packet.

New ideas

This is one of my favorite things about garden catalogs.  I am always looking for new varieties of garden plants and flowers.  Every year I try a new vegetable or a new variety of a vegetable I already plant.  It makes gardening more fun and I often find a variety I really enjoy growing.

Then there are the gadgets.  Every catalog has new garden tools each year.  Most gardeners love their tools.  Then there are new ways to grow your vegetables, like the low tunnel craze that’s hot right now.

Can you tell I can’t wait to get my new garden catalog every year, and you will too when you discover all the information you have at your fingertips.  

From now on don’t just thumb through your catalog to pick out the same old stuff, look for the right varieties for your garden, discover the best way to plant each vegetable and, especially, look at the new tools and methods for growing a better garden.  If you will start looking at your catalog in a new way you will have a better winter.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

Protect Your Crop With Row Cover

Row covers are one of the best inventions that has come about since I started gardening.  They have solved many of the pest problems that I have fought for years.

Row covers are made from a very light, shear, spun clothe fabric that is laid over the vegetables.  They are a very easy way for a home gardener to protect their garden plants.

There are many advantages to using a row cover for your veggies.  They protect the entire plant, but also, let in light and rain, so the plants continue to grow normally.

This blanket of fabric protects from insect damage.  I like to put the fabric on right after I plant a row of vegetables.  There are many different sizes of covers so you can cover a low growing crop or a tall broccoli.  Bean beetles used to be a real problem until I started covering them.  Now, I can get beautiful beans without damage.  Plus, it is about the only way to control flea beetles without spray.

Covers create a mini microclimate for the plants.  They keep the ground more moist, protect from the wind and can extend the growing season in the spring and in the fall.

So, how do you use row covers?

You will start by deciding how wide your cover needs to be.  Consider the height of the mature plant you are going to cover.  A plant like broccoli grows quite tall and takes a lot of material.  I use 83 inch wide material for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, etc. that are tall.

As you can see I protect almost every plant with a protective blanket.  I have found that the plants do better with the extra protection and saves me a lot of work.

After, deciding the width of your material figure out how much material you are going to use by estimating the length of your garden rows.  You can buy row cover material in, almost, any length you want.

Usually, I will not just run a blanket of material down the full length, because I plant different varieties of vegetables in the same row.  So, I will cut the length that I need for each variety.

The cover is held to the ground by rocks, boards, sand bags or garden pins.  I just make my own garden pins out of wire and they work fine.  You must fasten the material down in some way to keep the wind from blowing it off of the plants and to keep those pesky critters from getting to the plants.

The only thing left to do is to get out your garden catalog and order your garden row covers.  You will be amazed at the difference they make in your garden.  Gardening is so much easier.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

A Garden Bench Is Real Handy

Do you have an outside garden bench.  I have been making do with the garden cleaning, potting, etc. with whatever I had.  But, I think this year I will put a garden bench on my to-do list.

A place outside to work at can really be a big help to a gardener.  What I want for my place to work near the garden is more than the traditional potting table.  I am thinking about a place to pot plants, work on tools, etc. and clean vegetables before taking them in the house.

Have you priced the ready made potting tables in the catalogs?  You would have to save a lot of money raising your own vegetables to pay for one of those.  A quick browse online returned some of the finest looking carpentry you ever want, but that is not for me.

I’m thinking an old table out of a garage sale would work just fine for this project.  It could sit under that tree out back for shade.  But, if want to build one from scratch you can find plans for building your own, or there are kits available for you to assemble.

If I can’t find an old table I will have to build my own.  There are several kinds of woods that can be used for a project like this.   

Cedar makes a nice looking table and will stand up to the weather really well.  This wood is often used for fence post, where available, and will last in the ground for several years.

Redwood is another great looking wood that weathers well.  Depending on where you live redwood can be the highest priced wood available.  Redwood is a great wood to work with.  It is free of knots and will take paint well if you want to cover up that nice natural look.

Treated wood can work for an outdoor project like this.  And, since the bench will not be in the garden it will not leach chemicals into the garden, but since I am a organic gardener, and wish to stay away from as many chemicals as possible, I would rather choose a different wood.

Natural hardwood, like oak, will last well if treated with oil.  Even if left untreated, but keep off the ground it will last for a long time.

Untreated pine can be used for a work bench and will last for some time.  I make raised beds out of pine and they last for many years in direct contact with the ground, so a table kept out of contact with the soil will last for many years.

Another feature I want on my work bench is a basin to clean my vegetables outdoors.  I was thinking about putting a sink in the table and catching the runoff from washing the vegetables in a bucket to put back on the garden.  The water would have dirt and vegetable parts in it and would be use to water plants in the garden.

A hose could be run from the outside faucet to the work bench for washing the vegetables, tools, or whatever.  Sounds like a real nice project.  Now, if it would only turn into spring I could get started.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

Here’s How To Make Your Gardening Easier

Organic gardening is a lifelong learning process.  There is always something you can learn from a fellow gardener, a magazine article or a book.  I thought I would try to give you one tip that would make a difference in how you garden.

It was a hard decision to make to narrow my choices down to one.  There are so many little things that make up organic gardening, or any gardening for that matter.  But, I decided to give you the one thing that made my gardening so much easier.

Actually, there are two things, but we will only detail one.  The one we will talk about is mulching.  The other thing is not a tip, but an understanding.  If you are gardening with chemicals you need to understand that the garden problems you are battling now will always be with you.

If you are an organic gardener let me reassure you many of your problems will fall away as you get closer and closer to what Mother Nature desires.  As, I have gardened over the years, more and more of the problems I faced when I first started have fell away.

As you get the soil in balance for nutrients your plants need and improve the viability of the soil your soil will reward you with fewer pest and disease problems.  

Mulching is an art you will want to acquire.  Mulch can be made from a lot of different materials.  I use straw most of the time in my garden, because it is easy to get locally.  But, you can use compost, dried grass clippings, newspaper, leaves, or you can purchase biodegradable mulch from your garden center.

The type of material used for mulch is not as important as what it will do for you.  Mulching will change your battle with weeds.  After my garden is planted and mulched I simply pluck out the weeds as I am harvesting or just strolling through the garden.  This is a very easy and simple process.

Mulching will take most of the work out of your garden once it is growing.  No more hoeing or breaking your back pulling weeds on the weekend.  Your mulch will suppress the weeds and retain the moisture around the plant roots.

I even mulch my pathways between the rows, so I can harvest in my garden anytime I want.

There you have the best organic garden tip I can give you.  This spring get out there and put mulch around your plants and enjoy your summer.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

Should An Organic Gardener Use Organic Seed

This is a question I have to ask myself every year at seed ordering time.  Should I go all organic with my garden seed?  It is hard to come up with a clear answer.  There are so many factors involved to consider.

We will try to look into the ins and outs of going totally organic in your garden.  We want to look at, do you really need to use only organic seed, finding organic garden seed and saving your own.

If you want to grow organic vegetables to keep the chemicals in grocery store foods out of your body, is it necessary to grow only organic seeds?  The short answer is yes.  But, not everyone growing organic is concerned about being totally chemical free.  They just want to have great tasting food.

There is little chemical residue in a seed, but there is residue.  If you are trying to be as chemical free as possible then you will want to seek out a seed company that grows chemically free.  

Many companies are starting to carry organically grown seeds as they are getting very popular today.

Check with catalog companies for the ones that are organic.  Some companies only grow organic, like Seeds Of Change.  Other companies will have mostly conventionally grown, but will offer some of their line as organic.

You will need to read the catalog description to be sure it is what you want.  Most seed catalogs plainly mark which ones are organic.  A big plus with the organic seeds is that a lot of them are heirloom plants.  Heirloom plants usually have more flavor than newer varieties.  

One of the best ways to know for sure what you plant in your garden is chemical free is to save your own seed.  This can be a fun hobby by itself.

Garden plants require different methods of preserving the their harvest.  You will have to look up each plant to be sure how to get good viable seed.  But, most are straight forward and just common sense.

You can start with the easy plants to preserve and move on to the more difficult ones as you gain experience.  There are some really good books that explain how to grow plants for seeds and how to harvest and preserve them.

Using organic garden seed is necessary to be totally chemical free.  But, the goal is to raise healthy food for your family.  Raising your food organically, even if you cannot get organic seed, will keep the majority of the chemicals out of your family’s diet.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

My New Hoop House

I wanted to show you my new hoop house.  It will be used to extend the season in both spring and fall.  This fall I had green beans well into November.  At present there is a broccoli plant starting to make a head, several kinds of lettuce almost ready to cut and spinach that was recently planted.

I do not know if the spinach will survive, being so young, but it is fun to experiment.

It has been stated that each layer of plastic moves you one more temperature zone to the south.  We sit close to the line between zone 5 and 6.  One layer of plastic will move me to the lower side of zone 6 and I can get to zone 7 with another layer inside the first.  That would move me to the south part of Tennessee or Northern Alabama. 

That’s exciting.  As this is the first year I have not had time to test all this out, but I will keep you up on what’s happening.

Before the hoop house I used a cold frame, which anyone can put together.  It is just a wooden box set into the ground about a foot.  It is covered with some type of window.  I used an old storm door on the last one. 

You cannot grow veggies during the cold part of winter in our temperature zone, but you can get them up and going before the coldest part hits and harvest all winter.

I liked to plant several staggered planting of lettuce and spinach, so I could harvest the more mature plants during the winter and have others ready to start growing as soon as the sun was warm enough.  Worked out great.

Another use for a cold frame is to start your own vegetable plants and flowers.  The plants will sprout and grow earlier in the cold frame giving you a jump on spring with your own plants.

You need to time your plants for their tolerance of the cold weather, as it can get cold in the cold frame.  And, you must watch for the plants that do not transplant well.  For those I started in pots inside the cold frame. 

This is a good, cheap, way to get started extending your growing season.

Great gardening,

Steve “sitting by the wood stove” Wisley

Gardening Can Feed Your Family

The interest in gardening, and especially organic gardening, has risen dramatically in the last few years.  Concern over the amount of chemicals in the enviornment and in our bodies, plus the raising cost of groceries in the store, has fueled the interest in gardening.

People are concerned about the amount of chemicals in our world, the affect of chemicals on our health, how to avoid disease with chemical free food and how they can garden where they live.  That’s a lot to cover in one article, but we will briefly touch on each topic.

The amount of chemicals in our world

Less just stick to chemicals in food as that is our purpose.  The most recent federal testing found 98% of apples have at least one pesticide contaminant, and 97% of bell peppers are contaminated.  Nine pesticides were found on a single apple, and eight in a single grape sample.

You pick up an apple and it looks clean, you see nothing on the surface.  But, the studies show that apple is, most likely, contaminated with at least one pesticide.  The next time you put a bite of food in your mouth, stop and think just how contaminated is this food?

The effect of chemicals on our health

It is no secret that we in the US are way down the list of healthy countries.  The US ranks 37 in health care systems of the world.  How can this be, we are in the most prosperous country in the world and our health care is in a crisis?  The greed of large companies in seeking profit over concern for their customer has ruined the best food supply in the world.

The amount of heart disease, cancer and, now, Alzheimer’s disease is rampant in our society.  You have to ask yourself why?  I can remember when Alzheimer disease did not even exist.  The National Resource Defense Council reports that there are more than 80,000 chemicals permitted in the US that have never been assessed for toxicity.

Many chemicals have been linked to cancer, birth defects, heart disease; the list goes on and on.  The effect of the chemicals on our health is undeniable.

How to avoid disease with chemical free food

One of the most obvious ways to avoid chemicals that directly impact your health is to grow and, or, eat only organic food.  Organic food, by definition, is grown without the use of chemicals.

It is highly recommended to grow your own food in a garden, or at least buy organic food stuffs.  If you can’t, or do not want, to garden the next best way to get good clean food is to buy from a farmers market or direct from an Organic
Farmer.

How you can garden where you live

You may think that you cannot possible raise your own food because you live in a city.  Even if you do not have a yard a lot of food can be grown in pots.  Even if you cannot do that you can often find garden plots available in many towns.  So, you have no excuse.  Your health is in your hands, you just need to get started.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

Gardening Can Be Fun And Healthy

There are many reasons why people garden.  Some garden to get healthy great tasting food for their family, others just want to lower their food bill.  Whatever your reason for wanting to garden you and your family can be more healthy and have fun at the same time.

Let’s take a look at why garden, why organic and how gardening can be fun.  In this article we will help you decide if gardening is right for you.

Why garden

Why should you garden?  Gardening is a lot of work…right?  First, work is in the eye of the beholder.  Gardening is work, but it does not have to be drudgery.  When people first start to garden they do not know how.  They think this is simple; you just scratch up the soil and drop a seed, come back in a few weeks and pick those bright red tomatoes.  

It is a little more involved than that and if you are thinking that you are missing the point.  The reasons for organic gardening are you get great tasting food, the food is free of chemicals, you have the peace of mind of knowing where your food comes from and you feel a great since of accomplishment, because you grew your own food.

Why organic

The amount of chemicals in the world is staggering.  I think the chemical load on mankind will prove to be one of the biggest mistakes we have made in this world.  Our science has out run our understanding.  We found we could produce these chemicals, and started to do so, without completely testing all areas of possible harm, especially what happens when these chemicals combine in the environment.

Organic farming and gardening raised food with the use of chemicals.  It is a persistent thought in our society that we cannot raise enough food without chemicals.  That is simple not true.  Organic farmers are seeing yields equal to the chemicals farms.  Plus, they are not destroying the fertility with their farming practices.

Gardening can be fun

As we mentioned above, some people think that gardening, especially organic gardening, is a lot of work.  Sticking our hands in the dirt is a trait passed down to us from our ancestors.  There is something satisfying about working in the soil and seeing something grow that you planted.

The work in gardening is mainly when you first start to garden.  Organic gardening is a little more work, because you do not just dump chemicals on your own food.  You need to maintain some form of compost and learn how to deal with the pest without the chemicals.

It is easy after you learn.  Organic gardening is just like anything else, you must learn the tricks to be successful.  Once you learn how to garden properly and involve the whole family in your gardening project it can be a very fun rewarding time together.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

Planting Peas

The biggest secret to planting peas is to plant as early as you can in the spring.  This year I planted peas in February.  Peas lose quality and production fast in summer heat.  So, the sooner you can plant the better.

Peas can be grown with great success in the fall, but they can be hard to start in the summer heat.  That takes a different process, so we will just cover spring pea planting in this article.

The steps to great peas are to prepare ahead, start early in spring, good fertility, watch the weeds and keep the rabbits out.  That should cover growing great peas.

Prepare ahead

Peas need an early start, so start thinking about planting peas in the fall.  Decide where you will plant the peas and prepare the soil for planting.  I usually will cover the row with straw to keep weeds from coming up.  Pull the straw back a week or so before planting to let the soil dry.

Start early

Plant your peas as early as you can in the spring.  It is best to plant at different times, in case it is rainy and the seed rots.  By staggering the plantings you are sure to get a good crop.  You can get treated seed to help with seed rot, but I prefer to keep every thing organic.

Good fertility

I like to side dress the peas, after they get started, with a little compost to feed them well as they grow.  Peas produce their own nitrogen, so they do not need any additional nitrogen.

Weeds

Weeds grow very quickly in the early summer, so it is best to be prepared and mulch the peas when they get big enough.  If I mulch the row in the fall I will just pull the mulch back and plant right in the mulch.  That way the mulch can just be pulled up around the plants as they grow.

Rabbits

Rabbits love peas as much as you do.  The only way I have found to keep the rabbits from eating my peas is to put up a fence.  You do not have to fence the whole garden.  Just get a roll of chicken wire about 2 or 3 feet tall and stake it around the row.  Rabbits can clean out a whole row of peas in one night.

I hope you enjoy your peas this summer.  They are delicious.  Just remember to prepare ahead, start early, use good fertility, watch the weeds and keep the rabbits out.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.