Organic Gardening Tips and Plants – How to

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Organic
Gardening Tips

Terra Viva Organics

Gardening
Update

Low
Cost Season Extension

Hold
Your Water

The
Bulbs Are Coming!

Zucchini
Whoopie Pies


Gardening
Update

With the cool weather near, it’s time to start thinking
of protecting your plants. We have found an innovative
package that allows you to put up a mini greenhouse over
your plants without breaking the bank.

Each kit is constructed
from 4 Mil. UV protected polyethylene film and 10 gauge
galvanized wire ribs. The plastic will protect plants
from frost up to temperatures of 28*F (-2*C). Easy to
erect with no tools required.

Small
greenhouse – stands at approximately 1ft X 4ft
when assembled. Perfect for starting seeds and protecting
salad crops and young seedlings.
Large
greenhouse – stands at approximately 2.5ft X
4ft when assembled. Protects larger plants in your
garden or potted plants on your balcony.


Low
Cost Season Extension

by Arzeena
Hamir

When the days start to shorten and night temperatures
dip, do you often look over longingly at your neighbour’s
greenhouse, wishing you too could keep plants producing
into the fall? Investing in a greenhouse, especially a
heated one, is an expensive step. For those of us who
aren’t quite ready to make the leap, there are a number
of inexpensive options to protect plants from wintry weather.

Cloches and cold frames
can help extend the harvest of summer crops into fall,
keep cool season crops growing through the winter, and
help plants get a good start in the spring. They can
protect plants from moderate frosts, and increase daytime
temperatures by 5-20 degrees F.

Cloches

Originally, cloches were
constructed out of glass bell jars and were used to
protect individual plants. However, glass is fragile
and expensive. You can make similar cloches out of plastic
pop bottles or milk jugs. Cut off the bottoms, take
the lids off, and place them over individual plants.

If your plants are too
large or you have just too many you can adapt this method.
A cloche can also be constructed using ½” PVC pipe and
sheets of plastic at least 5 feet wide and about 10
feet long. Cut 4 pieces of pipe into 5-foot lengths
(angle the cuts) and bury each end into the soil at
least 6 inches so that you have what looks like a series
of crochet hoops. Space each pipe about 3 feet apart
and then drape the plastic over them. You can secure
the plastic by weighing down the ends with bricks or
rebar or clip the plastic right to the pipe with large
bulldog clips. Alternatively, you can use 10-gauge wire
instead of the PVC pipe.

Cold frames

Cold frames are very much
like mini greenhouses but with solid sides. They can
be constructed using storm or sash windows and a simple
wooden box or bricks for the base. No bottom is required
which enables you to just lift the cold frame and move
it around your garden. One trick to keep in mind is
to make sure that the back of the box is about a foot
higher than the front so that you can angle the lid
and take advantage of as much sunlight during the winter
and early spring.

Floating row covers

Floating row covers, often
sold as Reemay or Agrofabric, are made of spun-bonded
polyester or spun-bonded polypropylene. The fabric allows
light, water, and air to move through but enables you
to have 2-8º of frost protection. The row covers are
available in a variety of weights but for frost protection,
0.5 ounces per square yard is the minimum requirement.

Although the fabric is
light enough to “float” over your plants, winter winds
can cause abrasion so the cover should be supported
with wire hoops or short stakes. To prevent the cover
from blowing away, the ends should be weighed down with
stones or buried right into the soil. Remember to leave
enough slack to allow room for your plants to grow.

The lifespan of the row
cover is usually 2 seasons. When the fabric becomes
a bit too ratty, use it to help germinate seeds. Placed
over bare soil, row cover fabric acts as a mulch, keeping
the soil moist and raising the soil temperature slightly.
Seeds germinate very well in these conditions.

There are few points to
keep in mind before deciding which method of season
extension to choose.

  1. Temperature differences
    – plastic will raise temperatures much higher than
    row covers. While plastic is great for winter lettuce,
    cool season crops like cabbage and kale don’t need
    such high temperatures.

  2. Materials
    not all plastics are alike. Make sure the material
    you use is UV treated and at least 3 mil. thick. Non-treated
    plastic will degrade and crack within just one season.

  3. Moisture – If
    you use glass or clear plastic over your plants, remember
    that water doesn’t come through and they will need
    watering from time to time. Floating row covers don’t
    have this problem.

  4. Ventilation
    – On sunny days in the early fall, it’s easy for temperatures
    within cloches and cold frames to go up more than
    20 degrees over ambient temperatures. Ventilation
    will not only keep temperatures moderate, but it will
    also help bring down humidity.

      Resources:

      Terra Viva Organics
      http://www.tvorganics.com/main.cfm?action=showfeature
      – mini greenhouse kits $12-$25.

      Gardener’s Supply
      Co. http://www.gardeners.com/ – floating row covers, plastics

      Johnny’s Selected
      Seeds http://www.johnnyseeds.com/ – row covers, plastic mulch

      Arzeena
      Hamir
      is an agronomist and President of Terra
      Viva Organics. When she’s not planting peas or picking
      zucchini, she answers questions about organic gardening
      at: advice@tvorganics.com. You
      can also read her gardening articles on Vegetable
      Gardening at http://www.suite101.com/join.cfm/47083


      Hold
      Your Water

      by Sharon
      Hanna

      The Ten Commandments
      of Water Consciousness

      Lately I have been
      noting with some alarm the frequency with which
      the preciousness of water is being regarded. Here
      are some hints to help you conserve water, loosely
      adapted from the latest American Landscape Nursery
      newsletter. Use this info for yourselves and don’t
      be afraid to remind your neighbours. They will appreciate
      it in the long run, and so will the planet.

      1. Place your plants
        in groups according to the amount of water they
        need. This way, you won’t over- or under-water
        parts of your lawn or garden. Sloping garden?
        Place drought tolerant plants at higher elevations,
        and thirsty ones at lower elevations. The water
        from the higher areas will trickle down to the
        water-demanding plants.

      2. Always water in
        the early morning, before 9 or so. Mid to late
        afternoon watering loses much to evaporation,
        and evening watering encourages diseases such
        as mildew. (You’d be sick too, if you went to
        bed wearing wet pajamas)

      3. Water slowly and
        deeply. Wear a walkman, or practice meditation
        as you water. Use the opportunity to slow down
        and get up close and personal with your plant
        material. More and more I find myself forgetting
        what is out there, and time flies. It is a delight
        to be surprised by the first indescribably red
        flowers of Lobelia cardinalis.If you like to water
        by hand, watering wands are effective, and put
        the water where you want it to go.

      4. Invest in a new
        good-quality sprinkler, and throw away your leaky
        hose. Leaks waste water.

      5. Avoid placing watering
        devices where they waste water on your driveway,
        deck or porch.

      6. Keep up with regular
        mulching, pruning, composting, and taking care
        of your plants. Strong plants require less water
        than weaker ones.

      7. Mulching holds
        in moisture, and reduces evaporation. Use grass
        from the mower, shredded pea vines, or whatever
        is handy. Even newspaper makes good mulch.

      8. Avoid babying your
        plants (except newly-planted ones). Like people,
        plants need to “work out” to develop strength.
        It’s fine to pamper the newly-planted, as they
        need time to establish strong roots.

      9. Keep the garden
        reasonably weed-free, as weeds compete for water.
        Move container plants to shady areas during particularly
        hot and sunny spells. This will not only reduce
        water loss due to evaporation and watering, but
        keep your plants from blowing out in the heat.

      10. Use a drip watering
        system. This can save up to 60% of the water used
        by sprinkler systems.

      11. If you can stand
        it, practice ‘letting go’ – let your lawn go dormant.
        According to some experts, we may not be lucky
        enough to have a choice one of these days.

      12. Choose an alternative
        to lawn such as wild flowers or tough ground cover.
        Most lawn grass will re-appear and green up quickly
        when (is there any doubt?) the rain returns.

      © Sharon Hanna,
      Horticultural Writer for Terra Viva Organics


      The
      Bulbs Are Coming!

      by Don
      Trotter

      Hello Fellow Earthlings,
      and welcome to one of the most exciting times of the
      year for gardeners. The Bulbs are Coming! Soon there
      will be an abundance of new fall bulbs in garden centers,
      nurseries, and home center garden shops for you to
      drool over (I always do). This discussion will be
      on how to prepare a site for those little gas tanks
      of color before you actually plant them. This way,
      when you do bring them home, a healthy plot will be
      waiting for them. But first a little background on
      bulbs.

      A very large group
      of plants that store energy in fleshy capsules during
      their dormant period are referred to as bulbs. Only
      a few of these plants are true bulbs. Tulips, Lilies,
      Onions, Amaryllis, and Daffodils are some true bulbs.
      Gladiolus and Watsonia are classified as corms.
      Begonias, Ranunculus and Dahlias are classified
      as tubers. All of these plants store energy in a
      fleshy gas tank that allows them to live during
      harsh weather. This storage organ is commonly called
      a bulb. Enough science, let’s actually talk about
      growing them.

      Different types of
      bulbs require different methods of care. Some bulbs
      like tulips, hyacinths, and crocus may actually
      require that you refrigerate (not freeze) them for
      several weeks before planting. This is to stimulate
      a true dormancy response from the plant. Here in
      Southern California we are forced to perform this
      yearly ritual of digging and chilling our bulbs
      if we want to have these types of bulbs in our gardens.
      This is because the soil does not get cold enough
      during our mild winters to send the plant into dormancy.
      Other bulbs like narcissus, some daffodils, freesias,
      gladiolus, and watsonia will just grow and grow
      with little or no effort on our part. A little food
      in the spring and once again in the early summer,
      and they are totally happy. Other bulbs require
      that we dig them and store them in a cool, dry,
      dark place until it is time to set them out to grow.
      Tuberous begonias are this type of bulb. Bulbs that
      are actually rhizomes like bearded iris are another
      plant and forget type. The one thing all of these
      plants have in common is that they really appreciate
      it when a gardener takes the time to prepare a healthy
      bedding area where they are to be planted. I have
      a tried and true formula for site preparation when
      considering bulbs in our gardens. It has worked
      for me for years and is very simple to do. So let’s
      do it!

      First I think about
      which bulbs I will be putting in the garden and
      make sure that they will get the best sun exposure
      I can provide them with my site conditions. I then
      lightly cultivate the soil in the area where the
      bulbs will be planted. I then put out a little mixture
      of minerals and nutrients for them so the soil has
      a chance to digest these supplements before I actually
      set out the bulbs. This proactive approach to bulb
      gardening has been in practice for centuries in
      Europe and still works today. The last thing I do
      is apply what?, yup, you got it, MULCH! A three
      to six inch layer of good organic compost as mulch
      over the soil and the minerals will loosen the soil.
      It will also add essential organic matter, and increase
      the availability of future nutrition to the bulbs
      by activating a legion of beneficial microorganisms
      that process these ingredients into plant foods.
      My favorite thing about this exercise is that when
      I do bring the bulbs home I’m not wrestling with
      the soil to dig holes. This bed preparation method
      really makes the hardest soil easy to work in within
      just a few weeks. My little mineral mix consists
      of the following ingredients:

      1 part cottonseed
      meal
      1 part alfalfa meal
      1 part kelp meal
      1 part Kelzyme
      1 part soft rock phosphate

      I put this mix down
      at a rate of five to seven pounds per 50 square
      feet of bulb garden and then add my mulch. By using
      this mixture you will ensure that your bulbs will
      be happy and healthy when they emerge in the spring
      to shower you with color. This mix and the mulch
      will help your soil quality as well for future plantings.
      The really great part is that you only need to apply
      it once a year. I like that.

      Got Questions? Email
      the Doc at Curly@mill.net Don Trotter’s natural
      gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally
      sensitive publications. Check out Don’s books for
      lots of helpful gardening tips Natural Gardening
      A-Z, The Complete Natural Gardener, and soon to
      be released Rose Gardening A-Z, all from Hay House
      Publishing www.hayhouse.com and available at all
      bookstores and on-line booksellers.


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