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Chosen as one of the Top 30 Organic Gardening Blogs – March 2018

Sharing a Reader’s Story

For those of us who love animals and have had a special pet, we know how much love and laughter they add to our lives.

As you’ve probably guessed, this story is not about gardening, but it’s such a good one that I had to share it with you.

Steve, a long-time friend and reader from Missouri, and his wife were living in Mexico 11 years ago. They bought a little long-haired Chihuahua. Because his coloring forms a mask around his eyes they named him Zorro.

This 8 pound ball of fluff started living up to “hero-status” while they were still in Mexico by alerting his family to a poisonous snake that had accessed the house through the garage. Steve was able to kill it before anyone was bitten.

Zorro – 8 pounds of heart.

On two other occasions Zorro alerted his family to something going on downstairs. Upstairs, they were ready for bed, but this little canine was persistent about getting them up.

When Kathie, Steve’s wife, went downstairs into the kitchen, she immediately smelled gas. The stove knob had been somehow turned on even though it has a safety turn.

Steve said, “Had we gone to bed we would have been gased to death not to mention one time was in the winter, we could have been blown up.”

Final Thoughts

The love for a special animal adds another dimension to our lives.

I think it safe to say that Zorro has added even more than most.

Zorro

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All content including photos is copyright by TendingMyGarden.com. All rights reserved.

Cilantro – If You Want To Try This Idea – Now Is the Time

If you’ve grown Cilantro, you already know it doesn’t like warm temperatures. Often when seed is started in the spring and temperatures turn warm, even small young plants stalk and set seed.

Some years ago when I started growing this herb, this happened to me.

As it turns out, it was the best thing.  Here’s why.

I had planted a dozen seedlings in a small area about 3′ x 3′ at the end of a bed. It turned very warm and all 12 plants shot up and set seed. I left them undisturbed.

The following fall the seed germinated. I had gorgeous cilantro plants that gave me all the cilantro I could use. Then they made it through the winter unprotected.

Wintered over plants give you a lot more herb to use for a longer period of time than those just started in the spring. (At least that’s what happened in my garden.)

And plants from seed dropped in the garden don’t seem to stalk-up as quickly as the ones started from purchased seed. When they do, I let them drop their seed and start again.

Best soil temperature for germination is 55ºF to 68ºF; so now is the time. If your soil is already too warm, germinate the seed indoors where it’s cooler.

You don’t need anything fancy to check your soil temperature.  This is the soil thermometer I use.

If you haven’t already tried growing cilantro this way, you might want to give it a go.

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All content including photos is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com. All Rights Reserved.

Make Gardening More Fun/ Save Time & Money with Fundamentals (seed, nitrogen, onions, forced growth, peppers, hybrids)

As I brought out in the last post, we’re not required to know every detail to be successful in gardening. With the few essential facts (a/k/a fundamentals) we can achieve success. Nature will do all the complicated stuff for us if we give her a chance.

The Seed

Although it’s been more than 56 years since I was in high school, I still remember studying  “seed “in botany class.

Here’s what I learned:

A seed contains all the nutrients needed to get seedlings off to a good start.
To germinate put seed in moist soil (or grow mix) when temperatures are warm enough.

That’s it. Knowing these 4 essential facts allows anyone to start seed without additional information.

What’s Promoted

There’s an extremely popular fellow who does videos. He’s organic and I think sincere.

In spite of that, he promotes (and I think he believes it ) the use of a lot of things that are not needed if a gardener is following along with nature.

He and numerous others recommend adding various fertilizers, composts, and such to grow mix before starting seed. In most cases this is NOT necessary, as the seed has everything the seedling will need for some time.

Below are seedlings I started in jug bottoms. Three to a container growing in plain grow mix which has no nutrients. As you can see they’re just fine after being in the same container for 6 weeks or more.

Seedlings in plain grow mix for 6 weeks or more.

Your Growing Strategy May Indicate Doing it Differently

For example: maybe you want to grow your plants much larger before transplanting and not have to pot -up as they grow.

You could start with a container large enough to accommodate the size plant you’re hoping for. Let’s say a 12” plant.

Add nutrient dense soil to the grow mix, or shredded leaves, or compost. Plant 3 seeds. Keep the strongest.

As the seedling outgrows the seed (its nutrient source), the rich soil, shredded leaves, or compost will provide for the growing plant until it’s transplanted to the garden.

To me it seems obvious, that in most cases, all these advertised additions to grow mix are about selling products, rather than what you need to get the desired results.

Nitrogen – Statistics Show It’s the Most Over Used “Amendment”

It’s easy to understand why the average gardener thinks it necessary to use additional nitrogen. Almost everything you read about many vegetables (and especially onions) say that nitrogen should be applied before and during growth.

The chemical companies have done a good job of “selling” the need for “added” nitrogen.

I can’t over emphasis the fact that if you’re working with nature and replenishing organic materials which will turn to organic matter, you do NOT need to concern yourself with having enough nitrogen.

Nature is efficient and precise. She will release the nitrogen needed by plants at just the right time when temperatures and growing conditions are right.

You need do nothing but watch.

Onions and Nitrogen

Much of what you read about growing onions, especially from commercial sources, recommends adding nitrogen as many as 3 to 4 times after planting.

In most cases when nitrogen is recommended it’s for more and faster growth. In the case of onions it’s said to produce larger onions.

In the almost 40 years that I’ve grown onions, I’ve NEVER added nitrogen. I can tell you first hand, that you can get large onions without added nitrogen.

In spite of the fact that I don’t even want large onions, because the medium sized onions better fit my everyday use of them,  I STILL get a lot of very large onions. Even with planting closer than most folks to try to size them down some, many get softball size.

These have almost finished curing. I like medium size onions, but I still get a lot of huge ones even though I take steps to keep them smaller.  (Such as planting closer together.)

Onions – Storage and Nitrogen

In spite of their recommendation to add nitrogen, a newsletter from one supplier mentioned growing onions with a low nitrogen supply as one way to prolong natural dormancy (for longer storage).

Allowing nature to decide the perfect amount of nitrogen needed, you’ll get good sized onions and onions that store better.

Another Statement I’ve Found to Be Incorrect

Another thing that is commonly said and believed is that all plants should get off to a fast start and keep growing quickly. Often the recommendation is to add nitrogen to force growth to make that a reality.

Had I taken that conventional advice years ago, I would never have known that statement is incorrect. But I didn’t take it, and my warm weather crops, especially my peppers, proved to me it was wrong.

Here’s how:

As you may recall, I germinate my seed inside and the next day they go outside; under protection of course when the weather warrants it – and it does in late winter and early spring.

Most warm weather crops are not going to grow a lot until the weather warms. Peppers especially.

If I plant peppers in mid March – they germinate, grow to about 2 inches, look nice and green and healthy and then proceed to do absolutely nothing until it warms to suite them in mid June. Then they grow to 4 to 6 feet (depending on variety) so quickly it’s amazing.

And they produce dozens (and depending on variety it can be hundreds) of peppers.

It took 7 stakes to hold this one plant.  I counted at least 100 peppers when the picture was taken last October. Plant is over 5 feet tall.

 

Peppers ripening in abundance. Plant is an inch or so taller than I am (5’6″)

Another Fundamental Concept – There’s Always a Price

One of the basics to keep in mind is that when you force growth you’re going to pay some type of price for that, even if you can’t “see” it.

One of the most common “prices” that many gardeners pay for added nitrogen is lush growth and no fruit.

Hybrids Are a Great Example of Exchanging One Thing for Another.

Most hybrids are created for their fast growth and lots of fruit. (Appealing to market growers, and to basic human nature of wanting more as quickly as possible.)

An open pollinated version might be a lot slower to produce and gives less fruit, but it has more nutrition. Good stuff takes time.

It’s fun to play, but just keep in mind that nature keeps track of everything. When you change one thing, something else changes as well, even if you don’t know about it.

Philosopher and writer Alan Watts worded it well:

“—every act of interference with the course of nature changes it in unpredictable ways.

—The more one interferes, the more one must analyze an ever growing volume of detailed information about the results of interference on a world whose infinite details are inextricably interwoven.”

Is It Really Necessary?

As I mentioned in the last post, many products and even growing methods are deemed necessary ONLY as a result of exchanging nature’s simple (but efficient) way for something complicated.

By knowing the few fundamentals, you’ll be able to discern the difference.

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Suggested Reading:

Peppers – It Ain’t Necessarily So

Answering the Question: Do You Need to Add Fertilizers to Your Garden to Feed This Year’s Crops?

Organic Residues – the Needed Energy for Soil Fertility

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All content including photos are copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.

Gardening – The Few Things You Need to Know for Success

When I first started gardening almost 40 years ago,  I was always trying to figure out why this, that, or the other was wrong.  Much of what I perceived as being wrong was just the way nature does things.

Over the years I came to realize that success in gardening involves knowing only a few fundamental things.

And yes, of course, there is always something else we can learn, but fortunately for us, knowing everything is not a requirement for success in the garden.

Fundamentals like proper soil preparation, keeping the soil covered, replenishing the organic materials/matter in the soil, good air circulation, and paying attention to what’s happening are basics that allow you to be successful without knowing a lot of details.

Once you understand the fundamentals, which are always few in number, you don’t have to be too concerned about anything else. No need to look for some exotic answer to solve what you perceive to be a problem.

More than likely if you’re working with nature, all will be well.  All you have to do is watch, tend, and continue to learn.

Through The Ages Others Have Come To The Same Conclusion

One of the most profound quotes I’ve come across that supports the concept was from Mortimer J. Adler, author of How to Read a Book.

Published in 1940 it was an immediate best seller. And remained a nationwide best seller for more than a year.

The book was revised in 1972 to accommodate various changes in technology that effected literacy. For example, radio and tv.

Understanding the Purpose of the Book Gives More Meaning to the Quote

What had not changed since 1940 in the author’s opinion – (which I find accurate if based on my own schooling experience) – was the the lack of instruction in reading skills beyond the elementary level.

Thus, for “all intents and purposes” a “student remained a 6th grade reader till well along in college.”

That is probably more emphatically true today than in 1972.

The purpose of the book was to change that condition for the reader.

The Adler Quote

In talking about mankind knowing more (having more details) about the world now than in the past years, Adler states,

“— knowledge is NOT as much a prerequisite to understanding as is commonly supposed.

We do not have to know everything about something in order to understand it; too many facts are often as much an obstacle to understanding as too few.”

Continuing to Learn Once We Understand The Fundamentals

Facts or Marketing?

One of the reasons that it’s important to understand fundamentals before we tackle all the details, is because of the difficulty (especially for beginners) in separating what’s actual fact from what’s marketing to sell a product.

Many products and even growing methods are deemed necessary only as a result of nature’s simple way being exchanged for something complicated.

As a result what is often stated as a fact is not necessarily “truth” and is only a “fact” as it applies to conventional agriculture.

Final Thoughts

I’ll give you some examples in the next post.

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Suggested Reading

3 Books That Can Change Your Garden, Your Health, and The Way You Look at Life.

3 Keys to Successful Gardening – More Proof They Work

Organic Residues – The Needed Energy for Soil Fertility

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All content including photos are copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.

One of the Top 30 Gardening Blogs and Other Awards I Didn’t Tell You About

I received an email today from a professional writer that I have looked to as a mentor for many years. He advised that I should let readers know of any awards that I ( TendingMyGarden.com) receive.

This post is me taking his advice.

2018

  • March 2018 – was notified that TendingMyGarden.com had been selected as one of the Top 30 Organic Gardening Blogs on the web.

You’ll notice the gold ribbon award to your left.

Every notification comes with a badge to display, but I have only displayed the most recent because of space.

  • February 2018 – notified that my site had been ranked in the Top Gardening Blogs.

2017

  • Selected for inclusion in the Top 40 Gardening Blogs of 2017

Here’s what they had to say about TendingMyGarden:

If you are interested in gardening, tendingmygarden.com is the site that you really need to visit. It’s got a whole lot of information on the most important aspects to gardening, including which plants to grow or how best to grow which stuff. If you are going to have the best garden you can, this resource is indispensable.

2016, 2017, and 2018

  • Selected for inclusion in the Top 100 Gardening Blogs Every Gardener Must Read.

(They choose from thousands of the best gardening blogs in their index using search and social metrics.)

Final Thoughts

I’m very pleased that my site was selected for inclusion in these lists.

If you have benefited from my writing and if you participate in any form of social media, I hope you will share this post and help spread the word.

Many thanks in advance for your help.

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In case you’re on a mobile and can’t see the award ribbon in the left column, here it is again:

Badge for being selected as one of the Top 30 Organic Gardening Blogs.

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All content including photos are copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com. All Rights Reserved.

Tool I Use for Ornamental Grass Cutback, Perennial Cutback (spring or fall), Hedges

As I detailed in my post on Yaku-Jima-Japanese- Silver-Grass, it’s just about the most beautiful and carefree of the ornamental grasses. It adds charm to the landscape in all seasons and is never invasive.

I’m now in the process of cutting them back. I do a few each day, so I won’t have to “make it a job”.

To keep these grasses looking their best, it’s best to cut the old growth before new growth begins in the spring.

Another bonus of this grass is that the blades of grass are soft. They won’t cut you like many of the ornamentals do.

Use to Hate This Job

I didn’t realize it then, but it was because I was using the wrong tool. You’re probably wondering why it took me a couple of decades to get the right tool.

I’ll explain.

Most of the tools we worked with for years were tools we inherited from the previous owner of the property where we first gardened. Most were of poor quality.

For more than two decades we hardly made enough to survive (as detailed for you here) much less buy new hedge shears. There was no use in even complaining, because it was either use what we had or the job didn’t get done.

After many years of establishing this mind set, it never occurred to me that I needed anything any different than the tool I had, even when we were making enough to buy new shears. The ones I had weren’t broken, so why would I need a new tool?

I just happen to read something one day (I don’t even remember what it was) that caused me to have an ah-ah moment about using the best tool for the job. Then I researched hedge shears.

My Choice – ARS HS-KR1000 Hedge Shears

After reading specs and reviews on many, I decided on the Japanese made HS-KR1000  hedge shears which are used by many professionals and botanical garden staffs.

They’re made to cut soft plant stems like new growth on hedges, ornamental grasses and various other perennials with soft stems.

HS-KR1000 resting on top of the grass I just finished cutting.

One of the Sharpest Landscape Tools

The steel from which they’re made is superior and is treated to stay sharp for a long time. I’ve had mine several years. They still cut as when they were new and I’ve never sharpened them.

One of the reviewers on Amazon, said that he’d been using the same blades for 20 years! Once a year he gives the blades a “quick touch up” (sharpens) with a water stone K1200 grit. (Blades can easily be removed to sharpen.)

ARS is a Japanese company that is known for the sharpest landscape tools that with proper use and care will stay that way, at least for a very long time.

The blades are replaceable if need be.

After each use dry the blades and clean (if dirty). Then lightly oil the steel. This prevents rust and helps keep the blades sharp and the shears looking brand new.

Long Handles – One Piece

Handles are about twice a long as the 7″ blades. (Means less stretching for you and me.)

And they’re all one piece so they won’t break or come off.

Designed to Make the Job Less Tiring

If you’ve cut for an hour or more with almost any of the inexpensive hedge shears you know how tiring it can be to your shoulders and back.

These ARS made shears are light weight (1.7 pounds) and designed for perfect balance and optimum comfort. This allows you to cut for longer periods of time without tiring.

The tool is made to take the “force” of cutting which means less stress to your arms.

I love how one Amazon reviewer put it: “allows an hour long chopping session without gobbling a whole bottle of vitamins when you’re finished.”

Superior Performance

Not only is the quality and design of this tool superior, but its performance is superior.

Saves time and makes the job easier.

Advantages Over Electric Shears

  • You have more control than with power tools.

As a result shrubs like boxwood will look more manicured than “hacked at”, which is the look that often results when power tools are used.

  • No cord to accidentally cut/ or no battery to buy or charge
  • Powered by the gardener.
  • Easier to use

Friend and reader, Julie, in Utah wrote to me after buying and using one of the Silky pocket saws I highly recommended in a post.

She had been trimming (rose bushes) with an electric trimmer and was surprised to find this little Silky hand saw much easier to use. And that’s almost exactly what one of the reviewers said about these shears:
they were much easier to use than his electric hedge trimmer.

These excellent hand tools (the Silky Pocket Saw and ARS HS-KR1000 hedge shears) make jobs so easy that there’s really no reason to use a power tool.

Safety –
The blades and the points on these shears are extremely sharp. When I walk with them I have the blades closed and the pointy edge facing the ground. If I were to fall, I want those points to go into the ground, not into me.

Check to Get the Best Price

Check around to make sure you get the best price. Even on Amazon, several sellers offer these.

Check the Return Policy

With any product, no matter how good, you can end up with one that’s defective. Check the return policy before you place an order to be sure you can get a replacement or your money back.

Try Them Out Right Away

It’s a good idea to give the shears a test run as soon as you get them so you’ll know they’re ok in case there’s a time limit on returns.

My Observations That Might Help You

A couple of reviewers reported that the shears lost the fantastic cutting ability after a brief use. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was due to improper use of the shears.

These shears are made to cut soft plant stems like ornamental grasses, other soft stem perennials, and new growth on hedges (as opposed to woody stems deep into the bush).

Trying to cut woody stems that are work for loppers can dull blades.

It can take a bit of practice to learn what the tool will and won’t do.

Examples:

#1 – When my ornamental grasses are dry these shears will made quick work of them. If I try to cut after a rain, it sometimes grabs the grass without cutting, especially at the thick base.

#2 – The tallest parts of the grasses can easily be cut using all 7 inches of the blade. When I get down to the base of the grass, it’s thick and I can’t just “charge” into it with all 7 inches of blade. Cutting the base in thin strips with the front two inches of the blades works great.

Shears opened so you can see.

#3 – There are times I have to change my angle of approach to have the shears cut properly. I wish I could explain that more clearly, but I don’t know the technical part of it. More than likely a professional landscaper or someone who works for a botanical garden could offer a much better explanation.

Final Thoughts

Compared to the inexpensive shears available at big box stores (and online), these ARS HS-KR1000 shears are on the high end in price.

But if you want a tool that should last a lifetime and makes garden trimming and clean up much easier with its almost effortless cut quality, you’ll want to consider these.

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Empowering Partners

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All content including photos are copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com. All Rights Reserved.

February Garden Talk – Onions Seedlings – Unconventional Tips – Planting Cole Crops Early – Discovering Easy Seed Starting and Other stuff

Planted 4 varieties of onions with  good storage potential on January 15th. Yellow Parma, Australian Brown, Stuttgarters and Mako. They’re up about 4 or 5 inches.

Onion seedlings outside in containers.  Started January 15th.

 

Spinach just germinated two days ago.

Friend and reader, Betty Taylor, in Tennessee grows Stuttgarters and has given excellent reviews on their keeping ability.

If you’re interested in bees you’ll want to take a look at Betty’s site.  She’s the person I’d want to talk to if I were going to raise bees.

She doesn’t post a lot. According to Betty she only posts when she “has something to say” and that may not be often. But when she does it’s worth the read. Her latest posting tells what has to be done in January and February to manage the hives.

At the last minute I found some seed for Clear Dawn, another long keeper, introduced to me by friend and reader, Jack, in New Jersey. Even though I knew I’d be late getting them started, I ordered anyway. Planted on Feb. 3. Took much longer to germinate than the ones started in January and they did so sparsely.

Strategy to Have Onions as Early as Possible

One of my onion “strategies” to insure that I have onions to eat as early in the season as possible, is to order the short day variety Texas Legend as transplants. Planted either in late February or early March, they’ll have plenty of time here in Virginia to grow enough tops to insure a good sized onion when bulbing is triggered. I’ll be eating them as spring onions and mature onions while my long day onions from seed are still growing.

Two Pieces of Conventional Advice and My Unconventional Counter.
#1
If you’ve read anything about growing onions from seed, especially on forums where everyday gardeners chat, you’ve encountered the advice about giving your onion seedlings a “hair cut”.

Supposedly when onion seedlings get 5 or 6 inches tall you cut them back to 3 inches. According to those who promote this idea, it’s suppose to allow the bulb and top to grow thicker for transplanting.

The first year I grew onions from seed I followed that recommendation. The second year I asked myself, “Why are you doing this when the tops of the onions are needed to help the plants grow?” I stopped following that advice.

I don’t think there is any need for it. Seedlings always do great for me and once transplanted to the garden they sit up straight and keep growing.

Recently was pleased to come across an article by a Virginia market grower (I think it was Pam Dawling) who doesn’t cut her seedlings either and for the same reason that I stopped it. It was nice to know I was in such good company.

So if that’s something you do,  you might want to rethink it.

#2
Another thing promoted as a “have-to-do” is fertilizing seedlings of vegetables. Some of the most popular gardening video folks will tell you to add this or that fertilizer to the grow mix before you plant. Some will have you mix up a spray to use every week or 10 days.

They may or may not realize it themselves, but that’s more about selling a product than giving the plant what it needs.

Everything a seedling needs for nutrition to get it started those first few weeks or a month, are contained in the seed. I’m sure you have plenty to do without adding the job of fertilizing to your list. (I cover this in my Secrets to Seed Starting Success. )

This picture was taken in April one year before transplanting to the garden. Seed was started in March. None of these had any “fertilizer”.  Just the seed in grow mix.

Planting Cole Crops in the Garden – Is It Too Early?

With gardening a lot of what we do to get that possible reward of early fresh veggies is chancy. Or as a friend puts it after she plants early, “Let the experiments begin!”

Enjoying a warm day or two in February and hearing the birds tell you that spring is here (or close by) makes it hard to resist planting something in the garden.

A friend emailed me recently and said she planted peas, beets, and carrots, turnips, parsnips, spinach and radishes directly into her garden February 17th. Made me want to run right out and do the same. (Except for peas.)

Over the years I’ve found February and even early March too cold for peas. But – as always – mother nature has the last say. If conditions stay right those peas could do great and my friend will be enjoying fresh peas while I’m still waiting for bloom.

What Might Help Should Winter Conditions Return

According to the Farmer’s Almanac winter conditions will be with us off and on through March again this year. So if you’ve planted and then see temperatures forecast much lower than what your plants would like, a 2 or 3 inch layer of straw, pine or some row cover fabric might get them through.

Have Backup Just in Case

When you’re taking a chance with the weather, plan for backup. Extra seed or extra seedlings. That way if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, you’ll get a second chance.

Seed Starting Gets a Bad Rap

In the age we live in, most of us are under the impression that we need lots of space inside and equipment to start seed. Once we know that’s not true, it’s pretty easy to figure out that all the information out there basically stems from selling seed growing equipment (that is not really necessary unless you really want it.)

The only way I found out is because I didn’t have the money for all that stuff and still had to grow from seed or not have food to eat. So I found a way.

A Gardener of 45 Years Finds Out You Don’t Need a Lot of Stuff to Grow Seed

Jim, a friend and reader from Illinois is an experienced gardener of 45 years. Over the years he has shared pictures with me and I am in awe of what he has accomplished and how beautiful his produce is!

He recently acquired my Secrets to Seed Starting Success.

He writes, “I’ve thought about seed starting for years, but always thought I’d need all this “stuff” to do it, along with a place to do it, which I don’t have. You (in Secrets to Seed Starting Success) make it do-able —

“You offer alternatives and it makes the reader relate what you say with their own home or conditions.

“Some of what you write (in the form of) directions or guidelines I find especially beneficial. I might not follow exactly, but the “list” helps me lay out a similar plan for myself. It’s kinda like you’ve done all the hard work, and you’re helping others try the same with more confidence!”

“You’re really making a difference! Thanks especially for sharing it all.”

Winter Lettuce and Mache Beds Turn to Spring Ones

My winter lettuce beds are quickly turning to spring beds. It’s growing much more quickly now and the extra seed sown with the transplants last fall has germinated. It’s so bountiful I have plenty to lift and transplant to another bed.

Good Planting Days

Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 24 and 25, 2018) are good planting days according to the Farmer’s Almanac.

I’ll be starting cabbage, Sierra Batavia lettuce, Concept lettuce, Collard greens, and Komatsuma (or Komatsuna) in containers. Also, iberis (candy tuft), more asclepias (butterfly weed), soapwort, and climbing snapdragons.

Poppies and Sweet William seed I’ll sow directly into various borders.

Final Thoughts

The season is underway.

If you’ve been following my 3 keys you’ll only have to concentrate on starting your seed and/or pulling back the straw to plant in your permanent beds that are always ready when you are.

Why not try at least one thing new so you can learn even more this year.

Expect some losses and know that some things will do better than others – through no fault of your own. That’s just how life and gardening is.

Enjoy every minute. Forty Springs (or even 70 or 80) is way too little time.

Write to me if you think I can help.
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Check out Secrets to Seed Starting Success here.

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All content including photos are copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com. All Rights Reserved.

Ginger and Turmeric – Growing Your Own is Easy – A Discussion of Various Aspects

Ginger and turmeric are two of the top most beneficial herbs you can grow. They’re good for just about anything that ails you.

But it’s difficult to get quality when you’re limited to the grocery store or even health food stores. The great stuff comes from growing your own which is pretty easy to do.

Disadvantages of Store Bought Rhizomes

Most of what you find in stores has been imported and irradiated. And if it’s not organic, who knows what chemicals it’s been subjected to.

If you use it for planting to start your own you take a chance on it harboring diseases such as bacterial wilt, fusarium wilt and/or nematodes. You have no way to see those until one or more shows up in your garden. By then, it’s too late.

Are Supplements as Good as the Real Thing?

These plants have become so popular you’ll see their components such as curcumin, which is considered the active ingredient in turmeric, in supplement form. Only thing is, you’re not getting the entire package in a supplement that nature offers in the plant.

Turmeric or any other plant usually contains a lot more than just one thing. Together they can produce a combined effect greater than the separate effect of just the one compound.

Reasons to Grow

We all know that anything fresh out of your “true” organic garden packs a lot more nutritional punch than anything you get from an unknown source that was harvested weeks or months ago.

That alone is reason enough to want to grow your own ginger or turmeric. As a bonus they’re beautiful plants. Turmeric especially is a real eye catcher.

Turmeric in my border in late summer. Leaves and stalks can also be used for teas and flavoring.

And both can be grown in pots if necessary.

I may not have perfected my simple technique of growing these tropical plants yet, but I’m pleased with my progress so far. And if I can grow it with my far less than perfect conditions, I’ll bet you can too.

Not All Gingers are Edible.  There are many ornamental gingers.

Zingiber officinale is the species that produces the tradition edible ginger. It’s about 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall. And, as you may have already discovered, there are different varieties within the species.

Life Cycle

Both plants have a growing season (about 6 months) and then go dormant for the remaining 6 months.

These tropicals need warm soil temperatures to break dormancy and sprout. Unless you live in the tropics, try to pre-sprout. Pre-sprouting gives the plants a longer growing time which means more ginger or turmeric. (If you can’t pre-sprout, don’t worry, you can still grow them. We’ll get to that in a minute.)

How to Pre-sprout

Some time in February place the rhizomes flat in a pot filled with slightly moist grow mix. Cover with 1/2 to 1 inch of soil. And place the pot in a warm place (70 to 80 degrees).  They can take a while to sprout; even 4 to 6 weeks. (Ginger may take longer than your turmeric.)

Tip: Your grow mix only needs to be slightly moist. If you over do the water, the rhizome can rot.

No Place Warm Enough to Pre-Sprout?

If you’re like me and don’t have a warm place for pre-sprouting, just wait until soil temperatures reach 55 degrees and plant in the ground (or your pot). When it finally gets warm enough they’ll sprout.

Suggestion about Pre-Sprouting

Unless you just want to experiment, don’t get too caught up in all the complicated procedures you can find online about pre-sprouting ginger. You can keep it simple as I laid out above. Your ginger won’t care.

Season of Growth

Even after sprouting these two plants don’t seem in big hurry to grow. They take their time for a couple of months. As summer was nearing it’s end, my plants had more noticeable growth.

Ginger plant in my border in late summer. Leaves and stalks can also be use for teas and flavoring.

If you live in a colder climate with a shorter growing season (and still grow outside either in the ground or pots) you just won’t get as much growth as you would if you were in the tropics. But in most cases you’ll get enough for your own use.

Insure that you do by growing more than one plant. You’ll find it beneficial to be able to alternate harvest between clumps.

Growing Conditions

Soil

If you’ve followed my “3 keys” and have improved your soil and continued to add organic materials and mulch, then you already have (or are working towards) a soil in which ginger and turmeric will thrive.

No matter what you read (either complicated or simple) about fertilizing with this, that, or the other, all you really need to have great nutritious ginger or turmeric is to have great soil.

Natures principle of renewing the soil each year with a diversity of organic materials like crop residues, leaves, straw, grass clippings etc. will, in almost every case, insure that you have the balance of macro and micro nutrients you need.

Sun

Both ginger and turmeric are tropical plants. They like sun. Some of my plants get full sun all day; others have some shade in the afternoon. All are thriving.

It’s worth a mention that for the last few years, this area has not had the long lasting severe heat and drought of years gone by. If that were to return, those plants in full sun may not do as well.

As with most vegetables, heat (above 90ºF) and extreme dryness restricts (limits) growth.

Jack, (friend and reader) who inspired me to grow ginger in the first place, and Lisa (you’ll remember from this post) reports that their plants enjoy part shade.

Lisa’s potted ginger and turmeric enjoying part shade.

Water

Both ginger and turmeric like “rain in due season”.  As with most vegetables and herbs, they don’t like water logged soils and they don’t want to be constantly wet.

Good drainage is imperative.

Again, if you’ve followed the “3 keys” your soil will in all probability retain enough (and the right amount of) moisture to keep these plants happy.

If you feel you have to water do so wisely. Don’t get carried away.

Jack’s example:

When Jack first planted ginger he kept 2 jugs of water close by the ginger for dry spells. In spite of being prepared, things got busy and he wasn’t very mindful of keeping them wet as he intended. They still did well.

Going Dormant

As temperatures start to fall again in late autumn, leaves start to yellow and die back as plants go dormant.  You’ll know this when leaves and stalks are 100% dried and no longer yellow or green.

IMPORTANT: If you water your plants, whether in the ground or in pots, stop when they show signs of going dormant. Otherwise, water may hamper the natural process. (Rain is ok.)

Harvest

There are numerous approaches to harvesting ginger and turmeric depending on what you want or need to do.

Harvest after the Plant is Dormant

The traditional time to harvest is after the plant is fully dormant. Rhizomes can be harvested anytime until growth starts again, which about 6 months.

Harvest Before Dormancy

When you’re growing ginger or turmeric, especially for the first time, it’s gonna be hard not to dig around and see what’s going on under there and break a piece off.

And of course, there’s that delectable “baby ginger” and “baby turmeric” that comes earlier in the season. More tender and mild, and no need to peel as it is without the tough skin found on rhizomes harvested after the plant goes dormant.

The Advantage of Harvest After the Plant is Fully Dormant

When you allow the plant to totally die back it transfers all the energy to the roots (rhizomes). They’ll have a stronger taste and store better because of it. It gives them time to develop the tough skin that “baby” ginger and turmeric lack. That skin is what helps the rhizomes to store better.

Harvest Anytime After Growth Starts

One of the great advantages in growing numerous plants, is being able to harvest anytime after growth starts without depleting your supply.

And yes, of course, pieces will be small. But at this early stage your objective will be to get a piece of high quality, fresh, tender and delicious ginger that you can’t get any other way.

How to Preserve roots for Immediate Use

Store at Room Temperature

Fresh ginger or turmeric rhizomes (especially those from your garden) can be rinsed and dried and stored nicely at air temperature for a couple of weeks or possibly even a month before they start to shrivel and get soft.

(You can still preserve them at this point by pureeing and freezing for cooking and flavoring.)

Store in the Crisper of Refrigerator

Some folks wrap the rhizomes in a paper towel (which absorbs the moisture) and place them in plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Keeps it nice for several weeks. Eventually it starts to shrivel and soften.

How to Preserve the Roots (Rhizomes) for Planting Next Year

Plants in the Ground

Plants grown in the ground are easy to keep if you can prevent freezing with a thick layer of mulch. That’s all you need do until next growing season. You can harvest pieces anytime before the next growing season.

Plants in Pots

If you grow in pots, move them under protection when you see signs of dormancy, let them dry, and store as is in cool dry place over winter. You can harvest as needed.

Lisa’s potted ginger inverted. Plant looks as if it is going dormant.

Lisa’s ginger washed and ready for use.

Lisa and her husband have harvested from the pots of dormant plants this winter. She told me recently that they’ve really enjoyed this. Remaining rhizomes will be used to start the new season.

Plants fully dormant, Lifted, Washed, Dried and Stored ??

I’ve seen this advice in several places. I’m not sure it works. If you see it and take the advice, might be a good idea to plan for back up in case you fail.

I’m not saying you can’t be successful with this. I’m saying I’ve not experienced it yet.

Here are two examples of what didn’t work.

#1 Jack’s example
This first example involves baby ginger that has not developed the tough skin that is said to help it store. So that is obviously one reason the attempt to store it was unsuccessful.

Jack’s ginger harvest in Oct or Nov. 9 oz.

Jack sent me this picture of this beautiful 9 oz piece of baby ginger he harvested in October or November of 2013. I’ll let Jack’s words, written in April of 2014, give you the sad ending:

I tried saving an entire root (the one I sent you a picture of) down in the Crawlspace in a 4 gallon pot.  Tonight, I went down to bring it up to repot it into fresh soil, but when i dug it up, I found it shriveled up – next to nothing.  What a waste!

#2 Theresa’s example
Just before that severe cold hit in December of last year, I dug one of my most beautiful ginger plants. To attempt to keep it fresh until after the cold, I put it in the the middle of a 3 gallon pot filled with grow mix. Left it inside the garage. Dismissed it from memory.

Checked it again at the beginning of February and it had softened and started to shrivel.

Maybe my rhizomes should have air dried more and should have been stored without the grow mix in a cool dry place.

I just don’t know for sure. So if you give it a try, I’d suggest planning  for back up until you get it right.

Both of the examples above obviously show flawed procedures. (In other words – what NOT to do.)

More About Plants Wintering Over in the Ground

The weather this past December turned so quickly, I literally had only one day to prepare for the unexpected cold. (If you’re a regular reader you know that I move like turtle, so nothing is done quickly around here.) When I finally got the plastic on the 8 beds of lettuces it was just about dark. I was just able to haul enough straw to the ginger and turmeric plants to top them with a foot or more.

Before writing this post, I checked several plants to see how they’d fared during the uncommonly cold temperatures we had back in December and January. I didn’t uncover much.  Just enough to feel and make sure the rhizomes were still hard, which they were. It seems the mulch was enough to do the job.

About Dividing

When I see sprouts from the plants, which more than likely will be in late May or the first of June, I’ll dig some of the bigger plants to divide and replant. Looking forward to this as it will be a first for me.

If I had a place warm enough to pre-sprout, I could dig some now, divide, and pre-sprout in pots.

Without reading one word about it, anyone can look at ginger and see the “natural” breaks. In almost every case, each of those piece will have one or more growing buds. Growing buds should be obvious once the plant has sprouted.

With turmeric it’s also easy. Just break off little fingers of turmeric to replant.

Lisa’s potted Turmeric unearthed for fresh eating rather than planting.

Replanting

Push into the soil 1/2 to 1 inch. Then mulch.

Soil can be moist, but (if you’re a waterer) don’t do any additional watering (except rainfall) until they get going.  (That’s a precaution to prevent rot.)

Where to Get Starts – My Experiences

Many have written to me asking where to get starts. Here’s my reply.

*I’ve already mentioned my reasons for not wanting store bought ginger or turmeric root for starts.

*Also, I’ve ordered ginger from no less than Baker Creek which is a great company for most seeds. I was surprised at what I received. Small ginger pieces had been placed in two small pots. They never sprouted even when the weather warmed.

Cheaper cost but in the long run more expensive. Two puny pieces that didn’t do anything for $10.

The good stuff is anywhere from $16 to $19 a pound and worth it if you can fit it into the budget.

*Finding HawaiianOrganicGinger.com (They’re certified organic.)

Hugh Johnson (aka Biker Dude, the founder) has been growing organic ginger for export since 1992 – longer than any other grower out there according to the website.

They seem to sell out quickly every year. Up until this year their minimum was 5 pounds. A lot for an average gardener. When I visited the site this year, I noticed they’ve changed to a one pound minimum. But add $20 for small box shipping.

At this point in time you  have to make reservations for ginger (instructions on their site) and they’ll let you know in late March if they can fill your order. They still had enough turmeric when I visited last, to give you a firm commitment right away.

The advantage of buying their ginger is that they start with tissue culture material which is free from pathogens.

After learning about this type of pathogen free start for commercial growers of potatoes from Jim Gerritsen, one of the foremost potato growers in the US, this was an appealing benefit.

It takes 5 years from tissue culture material to get the seed-quality rhizomes HawaiinOrganicGinger sells as seed. It’s beautiful stuff .

It was a little disappointing to learn that although they grow outside, they grow in large beds well above ground with new growing media every year. They’re not specific about their fertilizers but it smacks at hydroponics.

I don’t know enough to be sure. But in the long run that won’t matter because I used theirs to grow mine which will be “real” organic and filled with nutrients. See my post here for more information on this.

Even though I had to order too much, it was worth it. Made a huge difference in plant performance over what I had previously.

How I Preserved my Excess from HawaiianOrganicGinger.com

I minced the excess ginger and then turmeric. Put each in  a sterile glass quart jar. Poured organic vinegar containing the “mother” over each to the brim. Replaced the tops and refrigerated. Lasts at least a year. Great for daily use and saves me time especially since its already chopped.

I also froze some pieces. Grated frozen pieces taste close to fresh.  Then I rewrap and return to the freezer.

*I’ve recently come across Windcrest Farm (windcrestorganic.com). I couldn’t determine from the website exactly how it’s raised but I don’t think they use tissue culture to insure pathogen free. However, it looked good. And ordering shouldn’t be a hassle.

I emailed them because I couldn’t find what I needed on the site. Mary Roberts, the owner, responded the next day with the information I wanted.

They’re in the process of updating their website. You may want to email Mary at windcrestorganics@gmail.com and ask her for the links to order ginger and turmeric seed.

Please mention that you got her name from “Theresa Martz who writes a gardening blog.” I didn’t mention TMG to her when I first corresponded with her, but I’d like for her to know that’s where you heard of her.

Final Thoughts

A special thank you to Jack and Lisa and her husband for taking pictures and allowing me to share with you.

Hope this discussion answers a lot of your questions.

If you’re not already growing ginger or turmeric, why not give it a try.

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Related posts:

Three Keys – More Proof They Work

At Last you can Order

Information to think on before your purchase —hydroponics, etc.

Garlic and Mulch – A Readers Experience

Potatoes – Green Sprouting Advice from a Leading US Grower

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All content including photos are copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All rights reserved.

Cutting the Mountain in Half — Even When You’re No Longer 20

Some very meaningful comments were made on the last post. This will serve as an answer to the folks who took the time to voice their feelings and the many who didn’t, but have similar concerns.

You’ll recall last year I cut up the 35 foot tree that fell on my property. I’m only this year getting to move the logs.

Since they were too heavy for me to lift, I tied a rope to each log and pulled it from the wooded area adjoining the back of our property to our carry-all trailer where I put limbs.

I’d pull, go forward a few inches, pull again, and then continue the process until I got it to the trailer. Each log took about 20 minutes because it was so heavy.

The entire time I was doing this I was thinking about how fortunate I was to be able to do it. It was very invigorating and exciting because I’m finding a way to do things that I thought I might not be able to do.

Addressing Reader’s Concerns

Patricia (one of two readers with the same name who left comments) wrote , “At 71, I realize all too quickly I am not 20 and indestructible anymore.”

At almost 75, I feel that age is a definite advantage. Hopefully, we’re much more wise than at 20 and more knowledgeable as well. If we’re living a healthy lifestyle and keeping active both mentally and physically we should be able to do a lot.

Betty said she tries “to slow down and enjoy the process of ‘washing the dishes’ or whatever else I’m doing–as if doing it were the whole point and not the having it done.”

She knows this secret to enjoying life. If we can enjoy the small things of life, then we can be “happy” even during the difficult times.

As Pat brought out, there will always be repetitive tasks as long as we’re alive.

Gail said, “inspiring and a great reminder on being in the now, and as Betty said, actually enjoying the washing!”

Tammy has just bought a homestead that they’ve wanted for many years. The work involved in that can definitely be overwhelming. And Tammy, I’m in hopes that the information on TMG will help you stay out of overwhelm and enjoy every minute of the process.

Kay wrote, “At 74, I seem to always be in overwhelm!! my thoughts now are should I deal with starting seedlings or just buy them from the High School vocational group.”

Kay, why not make a plan to allow yourself to buy a few plants from the High School group when the time comes.  In the meantime, start a few seeds on your own. If you have my book Secrets to Seed Starting Success, you know how easy it can be.

By allowing yourself the backup plan of buying plants, it takes all the pressure off of your seed starting. Try not to take things so seriously.

Kay also said, “and I look at all the work outside that I will have to tackle in a couple of months!!
Along this same line Steve said, when we finally “peep out of our holes — we find what we left clean is messy and what we left messy is worse.

Strategy for Cutting the Mountain in Half

If we don’t take on more than we can handle (too big a garden, too many borders) and if we work consistently little by little when the weather allows through fall and winter, that should take care of the problem Kay and Steve and many others face.

If you’re using many of the ideas I’ve suggest in the more than 600 posts on TMG, you won’t have to till the soil, your beds will already be prepared and ready for planting, your flower beds will also be ready and things will look pretty much in order by March.

You’ll still have plenty to do, but it should be handleable.

In the past when I’ve mentioned to various people that I work outside a little each day through the winter (as long as there is no snow on the ground) they can’t understand what there is to do.

Here are some examples of what can be done right now:

  • Look for vole holes and trap. Now’s the perfect time while garden beds are easier to see.
  • Transplanting — plants, bushes, and shrubs are dormant now, so it’s the perfect time to transplant
  • Take cuttings of shrubs or bushes that you need more of and stick them in the ground to root
  • Prune rosebushes and anything else that needs pruning
  • Cut last years dead blackberry canes out
  • Edge borders and mulch the edges heavily. (This will really help with those spring weeds that pop up.)
  • Mulch blueberries after a nice rain.
  • Cut back dead vegetation in your borders and leave it in place.
  • Thin perennials that need thinning for a more robust performance this year. (large clump of daylilies, mums, asters, rudbeckias, ground covers, etc.)
  • Move straw or other mulch to the garden and pile it up in various spots, so it will be easily accessible when you need it in the spring.
  • Plan where you’re going to plant your onions and spring lettuces.
  • Haul away limbs and logs that you don’t have the equipment to “grind” for mulch.

(I’ve seen people pile up limbs in huge piles. This is a real welcome sign for snakes and some other undesirables. Years ago, I knew a fellow who did that. The next year he set the pile on fire and dozens and dozens of snakes went in every direction.)

  • Cut ornamental grasses (If you feel that you’ll still have severe cold in February and March and need the tops to protect it’s base, wait until the end of March to cut.
  • If you have a fence around your garden, work to get out the wire grass that intertwines with the fence. Try to dig out phlox, chives or anything else growing into the fence. (Do the best you can with this.   It’s hard to get it all.)
  • Check your garden and know what’s there while you can see everything. That way you can avoid “surprises” later in the season. (Groundhog holes — that kind of thing.)

Final Thoughts

I hope you’ve found this post helpful in cutting down the mountain of work you felt was ahead of you.

Gardens give us the opportunity to enjoy life even more. And to provide healthful food for ourselves and our families.

It’s important to try to enjoy every minute of what we do.

And we don’t have to be 20 to cut the mountain in half. 🙂

Gardening and Life in General – One Step (Dish) at a Time

If you’re a long time reader you already know my thoughts on never underestimating the power of a little.

In spite of that, I still need to refresh that concept in my mind when I’m close to being rendered incapable of doing anything by the thoughts of all that has to be done.

Well known by all of us as overwhelm.

Since Bill died, there has been so much for me to do that I stay on the precipice of overwhelm almost all the time. For the sake of survival and most especially for the sake of making myself a better, stronger person — I do everything I can to prevent the fall into that pit.

Drawing from Various Sources

To accomplish that I draw from a variety of sources. Usually articles by others who have or had an awareness of life. And the ability to express what they learned and felt in order that others may benefit from their experiences.

One Unlikely Source

I enjoy the sometimes humorous perspective of Bill Bonner on world finances and events and enjoy subscribing to his “Diary”.

One popped up in my inbox the other day with an article written by one of his associates, Chris Mayer, a financial analyst.

(I wasn’t kidding when I said in a previous post that I draw help and inspiration from the most unlikely sources. And yes, sometimes it’s over my head, but most of the time there’s one simple and meaningful take-away that adds value to my life.)

Mr. Mayer begins the article by telling us that he had been reading a book by Alan Watts.

Rather embarrassed that I didn’t already know who Alan Watts was, I Googled.

  • In brief, Watts (1915-1973) was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker. You can check out his living online library and museum of his works at alanwatts.org/

Anyway – on with my story –

I was delighted to see that Alan Watts had also written a story about the power of a little.

It was just too good not to share. So here it is as quoted by Mr. Mayer along with his introductory words to the quote .

A Mountain of Dishes

“Watts writes about the frustration or dread you may feel upon realizing you have a large or repetitive task ahead of you. He likens it to having a pile of dishes to clean.”

Here are Watts’ — words, from Eastern Wisdom, Modern Life:

“You begin to think as you wash them that you’ve washed dishes for years, and you’re probably going to have to wash dishes for the rest of your life, and then in your mind’s eye you see this prodigious pile of dishes piling up as high as the Empire State Building… and you are appalled and oppressed.

But dispelling this dread isn’t a matter of trying to forget about washing dishes, it is realizing in actual fact you have only one dish to wash, ever: this one; only one step to take, ever: this one.”

Final Thoughts

Soon-coming spring will bring most of us another mountain of dishes.

No matter how long our list,  one step or dish at a time will be how we get the job done.

I’m always thinking of you.

Theresa

Related Posts:

Never Underestimate the Power of a Little

A Principle for Insurmountable Tasks

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All content including photos is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com. All Rights Reserved.