Archive for May, 2013

Timing is everything when it comes to successful gardening.

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As gardeners, we spend a lot of time researching varieties of plants, we spend time preparing our soil, we spend time pulling weeds,we spend time irrigating our crops,   we spend time cooking, preserving, and myriad other garden chores.  What many gardeners do not spend much time on is TIMING!

Timing is truly everything…do things too early or too late and your efforts will not be rewarded.  Doing things at the right time is one major factor in how successful your garden will be each season.  There are lots of great books and websites out there that explain this in much more detail than I can in this format, I encourage you to check out these great reads:

http://www.amazon.com/Four-Season-Harvest-Organic-Vegetables-Garden/dp/1890132276

http://www.amazon.com/The-Winter-Harvest-Handbook-Greenhouses/dp/1603580816/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y

http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Organic-Grower-Techniques/dp/093003175X/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_z

What I have gleaned from my reading and website perusing over the years are a few basic tenets of garden timing.  It’s tough to get it perfect all the time, but if you’re close, your garden will be more bountiful than you ever imagined.

First off…tomatoes!  There is a narrow window of tomato planting for us here in Kansas City.  We have crazy swings in our weather like the spring of 2012, but we can forget years like that and go with the long term averages.  Our BEST time to plant tomato plants is the first three weeks of May.  Plant any earlier than that and you are likely going to have to deal with frost/freeze issues that will kill your plant and cold soil temperatures that will keep your plant from growing.  Plant much later than that and your plants will not have time to grow and set fruit before the blazing hot temps of late June get here.  If you do plant late and your plants do not set fruit, do not be discouraged as they may set fruit in late summer when we have a cool period of weather and you’ll have a late harvest of plants in September and October.

Lettuces, radishes, cabbage, beets, kohlrabi, and other cool season crops should be planted as early as possible.  As soon as your soil is thawed in early March, it’s time to get these plants in the ground.  I prefer to grow all of my cool season plants in containers in the house and greenhouse in early-mid February, then transplants them to the garden as soon as there is a slight break in the weather.  I cover them with low tunnels made from spun bond fabric that lets the light and water in, but keeps the wind and bugs out and it regulates the temperatures enough so the tiny seedlings can get a good start.  If you try to plant these cool loving crops too late in the year, you will likely see them bolt to seed before the plants get big enough to harvest.  You can again plant these crops in late summer…early September is usually a good time frame for a harvest throughout the fall and into early winter.  Again…cover then with a low tunnel and you’ll be amazed at the salads you can grow into December!

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Squash, beans, cucumbers, corn, and other warm weather loving crops need to be planted only when the weather is very warm.  When daytime highs are in the upper 70’s and low 80’s and nighttime temps do not get below 55 or 60, it is time to sow these seeds.  Plant them in cold soil and they will not germinate.  Another issue of timing with these crops is to extend your harvest despite the efforts of nasty critters like the squash vine borer and cucumber beetles.  Cucumber plants do not typically live through an entire summer.  I find it is best to plant them in late May, then sow more seeds in July or early August so that when my earlier planted cukes die, the new plants are now big enough to keep me in good supply of slicers and picklers.  Beans should also be planted in mid-late May, then another planting in July to ensure a steady harvest of beans all summer and early fall.

The Squash Vine Borer (SVB) is my arch nemesis when it comes to growing hollow stemmed curcurbits.  You can spray them, hunt for their eggs, slice open the stems and remove the larvae by hand, but at one point, these monsters will kill your squash plants.  To get a continuous harvest of squash, I beat them with timing.  I KNOW that these monsters are going to kill my squash plants in July or early August.  I just accept the fact that they are going to do this and start new plants in containers in mid-July.  As soon as the dreaded day comes that I find my squash plants wilted and dying a quick death, I yank them out of the ground, toss them in a 5 gallon bucket of water to drown the larvae and put a new plant in the place of the deceased one.  This new plant is safe from the SVB as their breeding cycle is over and I get to eat zucchini all year long with just a brief break in between harvests as my new plant takes root and begins to set fruit.

Ok…now get your calendars out and start managing the timing of your gardens!  Here is a great link from the KC Community Gardens that will help you manage your garden timing:  http://www.kccg.org/gardening/calendar

 

 

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Not sure where to start!

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Wow!  What a whirlwind few weeks it has been!  Plant sales are all but done and we had a great year with soooooooooo many great friends returning year after year to fill their gardens with my seedlings.  It’s so good to see familiar faces (as well as a lot of new faces!) walking down the driveway with anticipation and hope for the upcoming gardening season.

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I’m so proud when they ogle the greenery of my gardens and then I take them on a brief tour which usually ends up with them taking home some lovely lettuce and other greens for a fresh salad.

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One of the best things  each year is seeing the children of gardening parents.  I know that all of these great kids are going to be spending less time in front of the TV and playing video games and more time with their hands in the soil and some sweat on their brow!

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Everything is growing well despite the cray cray weather we’ve had this spring.  Long periods of no sunshine, late snows, hard freezes, and a Mother’s Day frost have had all of us scrambling around trying to plant and at the same time being hesitant to plant.  Fortunately the weather has finally turned sunny and warm and everything is rapidly catching up in growth.

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The biggest problem for me this year has not been the weather…I’ve dealt with that with some hard work and perseverance.  The biggest problem by far has been the destructive cutworms!  I’ve lost 10 plants to them so far this year and many of those were varieties I had no replacements for.  I used Diatomaceous Earth…they broke through the circle.  I put two nails beside each stem…they chewed the plants down in between the nails.  I sprayed with liquid Sevin…they thought it was ketchup for tomato stems!  Tonight, I put aluminum foil collars around all 54 of my plants…I’m hoping this will finally be the cure for the cutworm damage.  I did manage to dig up two of the monsters and squish them with great satisfaction, but I know there are more than two!

photoSpeaking of eating things green…we bought a Vitamix!  This machine is a bit expensive, but well worth every penny.  We’ve been freezing fruits and tossing them in the Vitamix with giant fistfuls of kale, a few dollops of yogurt and some skim milk to make the best green smoothies ever!  We even used the leaves from the kohlrabi to make a bright green and tasty smoothie.  I fully plan to drink most of the garden this summer!

May212013garden 011Speaking of delicious, last night we had some fried chicken with delicious birds from Synergistic Acres.  This was some of the best chicken I have ever had!  It had an amazingly rich, full flavor and a great texture.  It actually tasted like chicken!  Store bought chicken has so little flavor and almost no texture at all…you might as well eat tofu most of the time.  These chickens get to scratch pasture and are fed no hormones or GMO grains which makes them delicious and much better for you.  I highly recommend that you order some birds from this great Kansas family owned farm.

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Spring Gardens in full swing…alllllmost time to plant summer crops!

Bright Lights Chard in a 20 gallon pot

Bright Lights Chard in a 20 gallon pot

I had to shovel almost 2 feet of snow out of my garden paths and off of my beds in late February and early March, but the effort has paid off with some beautiful lettuces, chard, kale, radishes, onions, snow peas, cauliflower, and beets.  I’ve removed the Agribond row covers from my beds as the plants are now getting quite large and the super cold weather is (hopefully!) behind us.

Kale and Kohlrabi

Kale and Kohlrabi

We’ve been having salads several times a week with plenty of lettuce, radish, and green onions.

Red Tide Lettuce Tsunami!

Red Tide Lettuce Tsunami!

Did I mention we have a LOT of lettuce?

Baker Creek Lettuce, Black Seeded Simpson, and Pac Choi

Baker Creek Lettuce, Black Seeded Simpson, and Pac Choi

We can’t get enough kohlrabi, so I planted a LOT of it this year and it’s sizing up nicely so far.

Kohlrabi is everywhere this year!

Kohlrabi is everywhere this year!

The fall planted spinach has been harvested and harvested, but it keeps coming back for more!  A strong root structure from slow growth all winter makes it super resilient to cutting.

Enough spinach to choke Popeye!

Enough spinach to choke Popeye!

One more gratuitous shot of another bed of lettuces and kale.

Romaine lettuce, European Mesclun mix, more kohlrabi and more kale fill this bed.

Romaine lettuce, European Mesclun mix, more kohlrabi and more kale fill this bed.

With the spring crops rolling in, I am eyeing the open spots in the bed and thinking about planting beans, cucumbers, squash, and corn, but the soil is still too cold.  I am going a bit stir crazy being this far behind due to the weather, so I turned my attention to getting my high-tech pepper system ready.  I planted 24 peppers in grow bags today .

Peppers do so well in grow bags...Tripper approves!

Peppers do so well in grow bags…Tripper approves!

I installed a drip system in this bed.  Each bag has it’s own stake and a 1 gallon per hour emitter.  Last year I used 2 gph emitters and found the water ran too quickly and ran out of the bag.  The 1 gph emitters hooked up to a rain barrel work very well.

A happy pepper plant and his own 1 gph emitter.

A happy pepper plant and his own 1 gph emitter.

Mother’s Day weekend is almost here and the long term forecast is looking good for planting tomato plants in the garden.  There may  be one low dip in the temperature the evening of Mother’s Day, but other than that it’s time to get the plants in the ground.  Make sure your soil is not too wet before you work in the garden or you’ll regret it for years with hard clods of compacted soil.

I have PLENTY of extra plants for those of you that didn’t pre-order.  Just stop by Mother’s Day weekend and I’ll hook you up with a garden full of wonderful varieties of tomato, cucumber, herb and pepper plants!

Tomato Plants o-plenty...just waiting for you to plant!

Tomato Plants o-plenty…just waiting for you to plant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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