Monthly Archives: April 2012

There’s Healing In The Garden

“When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and

health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think you will discover, as Ralph Waldo Emerson did, that digging in the garden has more benefits than just the produce that you grow.  There is just something about getting your hands into the soil.  All life, that we know, comes from the soil.  So, it only makes sense that we would feel a connection with that soil.

The most obvious connect is with the healthy, great tasting food you get to enjoy from all your labor.  If you grow your food organically, you are not only eating food that taste good, but food that will maintain and restore good health to your body.

It is a proven fact that conventionally grown food has far fewer nutrients in it than was present several years ago.  And, organically grown food has much more of those nutrients than the conventionally grown food.  More food value equals better health.

Another really big plus to working your garden is the sunshine and fresh air you are taking into your body.  It has been determined that people are grossly deficient in vitamin D since all the media hype about staying out of the sun because of skin cancer.  It seems that vitamin D fights skin cancer and a number of other health problems.  Mankind has shot himself in the foot again.

Think about most people’s lifestyle.  You work in an environment with noise, bad air and no exercise, with people who are giving off carbon all day long.  You get in your car after it has been sitting in the sun all day long giving off toxins from the materials inside, drive down the highway filled with exhaust fumes and rush into a home that is expelling toxic fumes.  You do not have a chance.

But, when you get home, change clothes and walk outside into your garden it is like someone moved you to another planet.  The extra oxygen for the plants makes your feel good, the sun on your skin feels warm and is producing vitamin D, and that warm breeze lets your shoulders relax and you feel so good.

Just taking care of your garden goes a long way in keeping you fitter and healthier.  There is work to be done in your garden, but it is enjoyable and rewarding.

After your work in the garden you feel relaxed and your soul seems to be a little more at peace.  All people want in life, when it is distilled several layers deep, is to feel happy and at peace.  Working outside and seeing something accomplished with your own hands gives you those feelings.

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”.
 

You Have No Excuse For Not Gardening

Today I was thinking about the food situation in our society today.  I could write a book on that topic, but I will try to keep it within the bounds of this article.

If you have read much of this blog you already know I am passionate about everyone taking the responsibility of their health into their own hands.  The best way to do that is by growing your own organic food.

Many times the argument for not gardening is the space and the amount of work involved.  As I was thinking about this I remembered an article about an experiment a person made in their own yard.  It is amazing what goes on in people’s minds.  Luckily I found the article.

The article was printed in Mother Earth News and was written by Rosalind Creasy with Cathy Wilkinson Barash in the December 2009/January 2010 issue.  You can find the article by searching on Mother’s site.

They started with a 5 by 20 space in the yard.  I do not know how good your math is, but that is only 100 square feet of space, smaller that most rooms in your home.  The area was spaded up, amended, fertilized with organic fertilizer and planted.

The garden was planted with vegetable plants from the local nursery that most people use in their homes, and could be raised by most people in the US.  This lady is a gardener, so she knew how to care for her garden, but that is something anyone can learn, hopefully from reading this blog.

To keep this short we will get to the bottom line.  They grew 77.5 pounds of tomatoes, 15.5 pounds of bell peppers, 14.3 pounds of lettuce, 2.5 pounds of basil and 126 pounds of zucchini.  Doesn’t everyone grow too much zucchini?

The value of all this produce came to $746.52, subtract the $63.09 for the expenses and that leaves you with $683.43 worth of good organic food for your family and lots of zucchini to share with all your family and friends.  The value of the food was computed by comparing with the present (at that time) price of the same type of organic vegetables.

Can you believe that?  And that was in 2007!  All of this food was grown on 100 square feet of yard.  But, you may be thinking…what about all that hard labor?  They reported it only took about 8 hours to prepare the garden and set out the plants, set up the tomato cages, install the drip irrigation and mulch.  

After that it only took about three times of weeding during the first month, but as soon as the plants grew large enough they did not need to weed anymore with the mulch smothering out the weeds.

At the end of the article they give some very interesting statistics.  For instants, if half of the households in our country planted a 100 square food garden like this it would total 96,419 acres of food.  The saving of groceries by these family gardens would be $14.35 billion.

That just blows my mind.  But, let’s take this a little farther.  What would the savings in health costs be if all those gardens were raising organic food for their families?  Forget the health costs, how would all those folks feel?

Hope this frees up your mind to think about the possibilities of raising your own good tasting veggies.

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”.
 

Growing Lettuce

LettuceA fun and easy (most of the time) thing to grow is lettuce.  Lettuce can be planted almost any time of the year.  But, the best times are in the spring and fall.  Lettuce is a crop that can be raised during cold weather that will kill out most other garden plants.  The biggest problem comes with hot weather.

Let’s start with the beginning, that’s always a good place to start.  With lettuce the place to start is with the soil.  Lettuce will grow just about anywhere.  It is best to give it a fertile well drained soil.

I like to mix a quarter to half inch of fine compost into the place where I plan to plant.  The compost needs to be fine as lettuce seeds are tiny and can get lost in cloddy soil.  I have sifted compost to get the fine quality that is needed.

When ready to plant I will take a small piece of wood, about 1 x 1 or 2 inches and make an impression in the soil with its edge, so it is like a mini row you make with a hoe.

Lettuce seeds are so small they are hard to handle.  I have one of those little hand seeders that makes it easier, but you can plant them by hand by taking a pinch of seeds and rubbing them out between your fingers.  You can always thin the plants after they come up, but that is more work.  As they grow you can pull the ones that are crowded and put them in the salad.

If you do not care if the row is not real straight you can just sprinkle the seeds on the soil surface and work them into the soil with your fingers.  They do not need much soil cover to sprout and too much will prevent them from making it.

Water the ground well before and right after they peek through.  If the weather is dry or hot keep the growing plants watered as they will stress easily.

In hot weather it is best to plant under a shade cloth or next to a larger plant that will give shade to the lettuce.  Lettuce will bolt in hot weather, that is, go to seed, which gives the plants a bitter taste.

The best strategy is to make secession plantings to keep some young tender lettuce on hand for your salad.  I try to plant more lettuce through the summer as the last batch comes through the ground.

You can use most anything to shade the lettuce.  I have covered it with a double layer of floating row cover, planted it under corn, tomatoes, next to the cucumber trellis and a lot of other places.  At times I have even planted lettuce in a large flower pot under a tree.

The secret is to just keep planting in a place that will give the lettuce the protection it needs and you will be rewarded with fresh tender salads all year.  We will talk about growing lettuce in the winter at another time.

Please let me know what you think about today’s article by leaving a comment.  Come join me on facebook and we can talk.

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”.
 

How To “Successfully” Plant Garden Plants

Knowing how to plant garden plants and have them survive, and thrive, is one of the most important skills to learn about gardening.  After all, if your plants do not produce you a good tasting bountiful crop what’s the point?

The most important ingredient in starting plants is water, but let’s go through the whole process from the beginning

1.  If you buy plants, be sure they have a healthy appearance.  The plant should be a good green color and have upright leaves.  Stick your finger in the pot to see if it is moist and squeeze one of the plants out of the container to see if it is root bound.  There will be a lot of roots and they will be wrapped around the potting soil.  Roots are good, you will learn by experience when to many roots are bad.

If you raise your own plants put them in the ground before they become leggy.  Leggy is when a plant outgrows itself.  It will look spindly and sickly.  The height of the plant will be out of proportion to the stalk of the stem.  

2.  And, get the plants accustom to being outside.  Set the flat or pots outside during the day to get them used to the sun and the wind.  This will toughen up the plant for the rigors of life in the open.

3.  I will set out plants in any weather, but it is easier when the soil is dry.  I will dig a hole the size to match the plant.  A tomato will take a much larger hole than a cabbage.  Dig the hole extra large and dump some compost in the hole.  

The amount of compost depends on the plant.  Again, the tomato will get a couple of shovels full of compost and a cabbage will get less than one shovel.  Mix the compost with the soil around the hole and make a hole the size of the root ball on the plant.  

4.  Fill the hole with water and set the plant in the hole.  A tomato will root anywhere the stem touches the soil, so if you have a tall plant set it with the top 3 or 4 branches sticking out of the soil.  The more roots the more fruit.  A plant like cabbage will set at just below where it was in the post.

5.  Now, soak the soil with water.  This will settle the soil around the roots, protecting them from being in contact with air that you mixed in with the soil while working with it.

Come back every day to check on the new plants.  If the soil has dried on top I will give them another drink.  If they wilt down on a hot day you may still be ok.  Just give them a big drink and a lot of them will come out of it just fine.
Setting out plants is not complicated, but you need to pay attention to details.  The amount of care you take now will determine the kind of harvest you will get later.

Hope you have great plants this year.

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”.
 

4 Tips For Sowing Garden Seeds

If you are growing a garden you have to plant seeds, right?  Planting seeds can sometimes be a little tricky.  There are so many different sizes and shapes and each seed has its own requirements.

Planting seeds is not difficult; it just needs to be done right.  It is disheartening to put the effort in planting your garden and not getting anything or having very few seeds come up.

I planted early carrots in the hoop house and very few came up.  I think the seed was old and pass its prime, kinda’ like me.  There are a lot of variables with seeds that you will learn as you garden.

Let’s start with seed sizes

Have you tried to sow those tiny little carrot seeds, or take lettuce; the seeds are so small that you usually get too many in a row and they are crowded.  What to do?  I have one of those little inexpensive hand sowers.  It looks like a dial with a spout.  You may have seen them in the catalogs.

It is very simple, but gets the job done.  That is my kind of tool.  You lift the top off, place the seeds inside, turn the dial to the correct size for the seed and tap until the seed falls off the end of the spout.  Simple!

Covering small seeds is a critical process  

It just takes a very light covering of soil to get these tiny seeds to germinate.  If you get them too deep they will not come up.  In the warm summer sun I will place a cloth over the seeds and keep watered well to get them started.  Once they sprout I remove the cloth.  Shade can be a good thing in the middle of the season.

To cover small seeds I will pick up a handful of loose soil and sift it through my fingers, letting it fall on the seeds very lightly.  Sometimes I will use very fine compost, if I have any.

Sowing larger seeds is pretty straight forward

But, there are a couple of tricks you may like to hear.  Watch your seed depth.  Each seed packet will have directions for plant that seed.  Try to follow the directions the best you can.

Something you may want to try is tamping the soil down over the row when done.  This provides good seed and soil contact and removes some of the air around the seed.  Don’t pack the soil, just firm it over the row.

Beans have a hard time getting up through the soil crust  

I like to put compost over the row of beans rather than pulling the soil into the row.  I just tamp it down like I do the soil and the beans have an easier time breaking through the compost than soil.  If you live with a sandy soil you may not have any problems, but if you are on clay soil, as I am, it tends to crust over and the beans will not be able to fully push their heads through the crust.

When I am done planting a row of seeds I will soak the row with water.  Every couple of days, depending on the weather I will water until the seeds get a start.  This ensures the seeds get through the ground.  If they lay there too long they can rot.

Temperature is also important.  Wait until the soil is warm enough to sprout the seeds before planting.  How warm you ask?  Depends.  Every seed is different.  Your seed packed will give you a lot of info about that.

Hope that is a help to getting your seeds in the ground and growing this spring and 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”.