Thanksgiving – A Time for Leaves

Thanksgiving seems to be synonymous with leaves falling. Trees that have not dropped their leaves usually do so on Thanksgiving or shortly after.

Bill and I always enjoyed spending more time together in the yard on Thanksgiving day; usually raking leaves and pulling them to garden beds on a big sheet of plastic.

That was several blessings rolled into one: having Bill with me, the beautiful day, having the health to get out and rake, and the leaves themselves.

Leaves could be likened to a tool you use to accomplish certain things in your garden.

They most often perform the job of feeding the soil, improving the soil (texture, drainage, etc), mulching (covering the soil), and perhaps protecting various plants from winter kill.

To Get the Best Results with Leaves (or any mulch)

As with any tool, you have to know how to use it correctly to get the best results and to prevent results you don’t want.

Thick piles of leaves or other organic materials (either whole OR shredded) can become matted and prevent needed air or rain from getting through.

That could be the downfall of herbs or other plants that you want to save from winter-kill by mulching. They’ll succumb to smothering (no air) or even dry soil (no rain getting through) rather than the cold.

Adding Layers in Steps

As I’ve detailed in many prior posts, I rough cut and leave plant residue on the beds at the end of the season.

Some residue, like that from summer poinsettia which serves as a cover crop in some beds, is bulky at first. After 3 or 4 freezes it becomes very brittle and is easily broken and reduced in bulk by just pushing on it.

The picture below shows summer poinsettia the day I pulled it and laid it on the beds.  Since it’s taken at an angle, I numbered the beds so you can better understand what you’re looking at.

The blueberry bushes are barely visible at the top left. The bed in front of them has summer poinsettia residue on it.  In beds 2 and 3, I’ve used half the bed for winter lettuce (just planted) and the other half (to the right) has the summer poinsettia on it; so do all of beds 4 and 5.

Not shown to the left of the center path are more beds.

Click to enlarge the picture for better viewing.

Summer poinsettia just pulled and laid on top of beds.

Rain goes through this first layer easily.

When leaves are raked and ready AND soil is moist throughout, I apply a several of inches of loose whole leaves.

Keep in mind that if you have leaves (or straw) piled up for any length of time (waiting to be moved to the garden) part of the pile can become matted together. You’ll want to shake those apart for the best results.

I covered this in more detail here.

Next I add straw. The only reason to add the straw as the last layer is to keep the leaves from blowing away. Straw, especially if it’s damp will hold the leaves nicely.

Reduces in Bulk Quickly

Within a few weeks one would never know by looking that I had all that organic material on the beds. It reduces in bulk quickly, and even with relatively cold temperatures of a Virginia winter, all but the very top layer has decayed by spring. I just pull back the thin layer of straw and plant.

By looking at the beds in winter, it hardly seems possible that all that organic material was placed on them in the fall.

Want More Details and Examples?

Below are four posts that give a lot more details and examples of how to use leaves and other mulches.

If you want even more, use the search box in the upper left and search “mulch”. I’ve written more than 50 posts that address this subject either in great detail or by giving mention to an important point.

Final Thought

As I count my blessings, you are among them.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Related Posts:

Mulch – Keeping the Moisture in or Keeping It Out.

How Much Mulch is Enough?

What You Add This Fall Is the Secret to Fertilizing Your Soil for Next Spring.

Mulching -Weeds, Annuals, Crop Residue to the Rescue


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Is Finished Compost the Only Thing You Need for Your Soil and Plants?

If you’re an organic gardener, even a beginner, I can almost bet you’ve heard of and/or read about compost.

Have the articles that you’ve read given their definition of compost? You can’t assume that their definition of compost is the same as the one you have in your mind.

It’s important to have the same meaning or description of compost as the writer. Otherwise, your brain can “file” the information incorrectly and at some point in the future you’ll have readjust what you thought you knew.

With that in mind here are my definitions of compost-terms used in this article:

  • Compost is a mixture of decaying organic materials.
  • To compost means to convert to compost (or decaying organic materials).
  • Finished compost is compost that has finished decaying and has stabilized (meaning, it is unlikely to change further).

Magic Elixir?

As promoted as it is, it would be easy to consider finished compost the magic elixir that guarantees success in the garden.

Whether it does or not, would depend on how you use it.

Energy from Organic Residues is Needed for Soil Improvement and Fertility

Soil scientist Richard Parnes documented invaluable information for us in his book Soil Fertility. And it’s information you usually don’t see elsewhere.

The book came out of the research at Wood End Laboratory, a soil testing facility in Maine. Originally published in 1985, it was updated in 1990 and then again in 2013. It’s available to the public for free online.

As mentioned in a previous post, Parnes states that energy from organic residues is required to maintain soil fertility and there is no substitute.

What Are Organic Residues?

Organic means they’re derived from living matter.

Residues are things that remain after a process — such as growth or decay. Grass clippings, your kitchen scrapes, straw, vegetation from a harvested crop, compost, etc.

How to Achieve ALL the Benefits from Organic Matter

Parnes explains that in the process of decay, organic raw materials pass through several stages. Each stage has a unique effect on (or contribution to make to) the soil.

The amount of biological activity (from all the soil organisms involved in decay) is determined by how much energy is available from the organic residues. If residues are already partly or totally decomposed (like compost) then you have lost energy.

Parnes puts it this way: “ — the lost energy has been exchanged for beneficial organic by products.” For example, with compost its “value lies in the nitrogen and minerals it contains, which eventually become available” to plants.

Another example would be shredded leaves. Certainly they will still benefit your garden, but you will lose a stage of the decay process which would contribute to the soil in its unique way.

It’s important to understand that it’s the high biological activity (during the decay process) that actually

  • improves the physical condition of the soil,
  • improves its drainage,
  • gives it the ability to hold water,
  • promotes aeration and,
  • provides food for the soil organisms.

Then the soil organisms can

  • fix nitrogen from the air,
  • form symbiotic relationship with roots of plants,
  • produce vitamins and growth hormones,
  • prey on plant pathogens, and
  • all the other things that benefit your plants that scientist don’t yet know.

Diversity and high activity by soil life is necessary to achieve all the benefits of organic matter (starting as raw organic residues) in the soil.

Final Thoughts

After hearing what this noted soil scientist documented, you may want to rethink what you expect from or how you use finished compost.

I know I did.

You may also find it beneficial to review the two posts I’ve linked to under Related Posts below.


Related Posts:

Organic Residues – The Needed Energy for Soil Fertility

Mulching – Weeds, Annuals, Crop Residue to the Rescue


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A Reader’s Onions Make the Cover of Onion Catalog

A fellow reader of TMG has just had his Copra onions make the cover of the 2018 catalog from Dixondale Farms. As I’ve mentioned before, they’re one of, if not the biggest onion grower in the world.

You can see the same great close up of Jim’s Copra onions if you go to their website.  It’ll be the first picture that comes up in the alternating pictures at the top.

You may want to note the following:
Being curious about why his picture was chosen, Jim emailed them. Dixondale advised him that there is an industry shortage of Copra onion seed, and they wanted to reassure their customers that there was no shortage of Copra seed within their organization. They did this by highlighting Copras on the cover of their catalog.

Jim is especially proud of these onions because he gardened for years without knowing the secrets of producing the big onions that he wanted.

I emailed him and asked him to tell me why he was now able to grow these large onions for his family’s winter use.

He replied: “IT WAS YOU…AND YOUR TMG RESOURCE MATERIAL that changed everything around for me regarding onions!

— I emailed you several years ago asking for help. After I read your book, I started searching your site and located information on growing storage onions. It was then that I learned there was such a thing as “transplant onions”. ” (Transplants are onion seedlings grown elsewhere and then transplanted to your garden.)

Jim, continued, “I had  just followed a habit I learned from my dad….and would plant onion ‘sets’ in hopes of growing large onions. At best, I might get one that would reach the size of a golf ball, but never anything larger. Then after reading several of your articles on the topic, I learned about transplant onions. —“

I had mentioned Dixondale in one my posts and Jim immediately placed an order. Within days he received his first batch of transplants and stuck them in the ground. Since then (3 years) he’s grown the large onions he always wanted.

He ended his email by telling me, “I’d still be trying to figure out why I couldn’t grow a nice large onion if it hadn’t been for Theresa and her TMG site.”

Jim grows about 300 onions which he says is enough to carry him through the winter.

Here’s a picture that he sent to me last year of his onions and garlic curing.

Jim’s 2016 crop of onions and garlic curing.

If you want to see something spectacular that Jim did with Sunflowers this year, check out the post I just put up on my other site .

Final Thoughts

Congratulations to Jim on having his photo chosen for the cover of the catalog!

If you’re growing Copras from seed you might want to get your order in as soon as possible. I don’t know how severe the shortage is, but if you’re dependent on Copras for storage onions you won’t want to come up short.

Onions are easy once you know the simple secrets. And if you’re a regular reader you probably do.


Related posts:

Growing Onions – Top 3 Guidelines for Success

Onions – Seed, Sets, and Transplants

Growing Onions


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Early Fall/Late Summer Garden – Pictures and Observations

Click the pictures to enlarge them and get a better look.


All except one tomato plant gave up producing about 6 weeks sooner than usual. That means no tomatoes for me in December and/or January.

The most beautiful and most productive tomato plant was the one in the fence border close to my back door. It’s still producing! And it’s why I’ll have tomatoes in November.

The first picture was taken in September. (Note the sedum has turned pink.) Click to enlarge so you can see more of the fruit. The plant cascades to the ground, so there’s fruit there too.

Tomato plant in fence border. Mid September.

The second picture was taken Oct. 20th (Note the sedum has gone from pink to rust color.) As you can see, it’s still beautiful and heavy with fruit.

Tomato plant in fence border on October 20th.

Below is one of my many harvests from the plant pictured above. (The one pink/red tomato in the right foreground is from another plant.)

Harvested from the tomato plant in fence border one day in October.


Peppers are a highlight of the fall garden.

Always slow to get started in my garden, they’ll produce all the peppers a gardener could want once conditions suit them.

They gave me a bit of a scare this year. At least a half dozen of the biggest and most beautiful plants only had one or two peppers on them all summer.

Pepper plants are beautiful in the fall garden.

It was as if nature waved a magic wand on September 1 and suddenly the plants were covered with small peppers. By the end of September the fruit was so big and so heavy that I had to add more stakes so the branches wouldn’t break. Most of these plants  have 5 or 6 stakes for support. They could’ve used more if I’d had any.

This picture was taken October 19th. Seven stakes support this pepper.

My friend, Charles, who is a conventional gardener of 50 years recently visited me and wanted to see the garden.  He was amazed at the peppers.

As we stood beside the plant pictured above we counted more than 50 peppers and there were at least that many that we didn’t count!
Some days later he emailed and wrote, “I don’t think I have ever seen pepper plants with that many peppers!”

The pepper on the left is a Buran. It’s still a little green, but will turn totally red within another day or so.

I’ve been eating 2 to 3 red peppers a day since about mid September.

The big chunky pepper (pictured above) is a Buran.  It’s a new variety for me this year. Have saved seed for next year from one of the biggest and best fully ripened ones.

Buran doesn’t get as tall or produce as many as varieties like Marconi or Corno di Toro. But they’re prolific enough to make it well worth growing. Very meaty, large, and sweet especially once they turn red.

Bridge to Paris and Marconi peppers fully ripened.

In case you’re new to gardening, all peppers turn red when they’re mature. When they do, they’ll be sweeter and they’ll have a lot more Vitamin C in them.

Turmeric and Ginger

Turmeric and ginger are two of the most beneficial herbs you can add to your diet. However, finding quality rhizomes can be difficult.

What I’ve seen in stores never compares to fresh-just-harvest ginger or turmeric from healthy soil.

This Turmeric plant is a real eye catcher. Lush, green, and almost 4 feet tall.

A piece of ginger (pictured below) planted in my garden or border with 2 or 3 buds (nodes) has produced as many as 26 shoots in just 5 months this season. (Ample rainfall was probably in part responsible for that.)

It seemed to me that the greatest growth was in September as the plants appeared to double in size.

Ginger growing in one of my borders.  Plants are about 2 1/2 feet tall.

Aster – Great for Beneficial Insects

If you’ve ordered the hot pink aster from me in the past, below is the parent plant from which yours was taken.

Aster novae-angliae is native to most areas of North America east of the Rocky Mountains except the far north.


Saving this Marketmore cucumber for seed, I left it to mature until the vine was dead. I brought it inside a couple of days ago. Once it starts to soften, I’ll scoop out the seed.

After fermenting for five days in a jar of water, the good seeds will sink to the bottom. I’ll take the scum off, rinse the seeds in a colander, and dry on a piece of screen for about 3 weeks.

Cucumber seed stored properly (cool, dry, dark place) will remain viable for 8 to 10 years. You can’t get much better than that!

A Marketmore Cucumber that I’m using to save seed.

I had cucumbers well into October.

Dinner on October 1 with cucumbers! (A first for me. ) Everything pictured is from the garden except my bread. (Lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, and chopped onions, garlic, pepper with oil and vinegar.)


Easy to start from seed.

These asparagus were grown from seed and then transplanted to a grow bag for the season.  Next spring I’ll lift the roots. select the biggest,  and plant in a permanent location.

And yes, that’s poison you see to the right that needs to be removed.  I can never totally get the root out because it’s entwined in the fence. Thus, the poison comes back every year. One of many reasons to hate fences.

A grow bag is a temporary home for these asparagus seedlings.


Most of my strawberry plants were lost last winter while making some major adjustments to beds.

Had only enough to snack on this spring.   They’ve made a comeback and look great this fall.

Strawberry plants in October.


Fall and winter are great for trapping because holes are readily visible. Traps are under the upside-down pots in the picture below.


The patch of green in the top-middle of the picture is peas.  They produced only enough to snack on.  But – they’re still blooming and may have time to produce a few more pods.

The green plant with red in the picture below is summer poinsettia.

Covering the Soil

I use the annual, summer poinsettia, as a cover in various parts of the garden.  Mustard is also shown here, which I seldom plant.

Note the ginger plant at the top center.

Looking at an angle across four garden beds. Summer poinsettia, mustard, ginger and some asparagus ferns at the top.

The summer poinsettia, which sometimes reach my shoulder, is always covered with bees and other beneficial insects.

A type of wasp on the summer poinsettia seed.

I don’t know this blue fellow’s name, but isn’t his color magnificent?  Anyone know what they’re called?

When these guys visit, there are dozens of them.

Sweet Potatoes

I still have one sweet potato vine to take up. (Planted 6 slips; lost 3 to a critter.)

Friends harvested theirs more than a month ago. When I heard they’d harvested, I got so excited I dug two of mine. Big mistake. Mine had not finished growing, so I didn’t get as many from those as I would have had I waited.

Every garden is different.  Although my friends only live a mile away, their garden is on a different time schedule than mine.

I’ll take my last bunch out of the ground just BEFORE frost is expected. (If dug after a frost they don’t keep as long.)

Sweet potatoes just out of the ground.  The little one to the right would have had another 6 weeks or more to grow had I waited.


Because I’ve been planting lettuce every week or 10 days since August, I have it in all stages of growth.

My last plantings of October 11 and 21st are still in containers. They’ll be moved to the garden soon, but I won’t anticipate a lot of growth from them UNTIL spring.

More than likely these October seedlings will be the ones to give me lettuce early next spring, long before my spring plantings are ready to be harvested.

Three plantings of lettuce.

I notice more and more problems with germination in purchased seed no matter how reputable the source.  Newly purchased Sierra Batavia, a favorite of mine,  didn’t germinate this fall. Nor did Winter Density.

Fortunately, I had newly saved seed from this year’s garden.  I planted Winter Density and Sierra Batavia and they both germinated in 3 days.

Sierra Batavia lettuce seedlings planted in a container in mid October.  Germinated in 3 days.

Five varieties of lettuce planted in August. I’ve been picking a large bowl full every day or every other day for a month.

Below is a 9 foot just-planted bed of lettuce.  Four varieties. Four rows about 5 inches apart.  I estimate being able to eat out of this bed by Christmas and into January and February.

(It’ll be covered in freezing temperatures.)

A just-transplanted bed of lettuce seedlings. You’ll note another ginger plant in the top right corner.

A close up of newly transplanted lettuce seedlings.

Pots of  Rooted Rosemary Cuttings

I never got around to transplanting these.  I’ll try to winter them over in the garden with a bit of protection and transplant in the spring.

Rooted rosemary cuttings sitting in pots at the garden entrance.


Potatoes loved conditions this year and I had an abundance.

Still have some in the garden that I’ll harvest before a hard freeze. (Potatoes don’t taste good if they’re dug after the ground freezes.)

Potato vines in this unharvested area never stopped looking good. Here it is the end of October and they’re still growing.

This September dinner from the garden includes an easy potato dish. Steam the potatoes till done. Mash. Add a beaten egg and a little water. Cook in oiled skillet until brown/crisp on bottom. Turn with a spatula to brown other side.

Final Thoughts

As I approached my garden yesterday just before evening, I realized how misleading it can be to the unknowing eye. Many look and never know I have a garden.

But I do. And it gives me the food I need to sustain me.

Approaching the garden before dusk on October 28

There’s not much food (if any) you can buy at the stores that is health giving. Your very best bet is to grow your own. If you can’t do that, hopefully you know a farmer you can trust.

After that, buying organic would be your best option. But be aware that more and more “organic” is not always what it should be.

Be in control as much as you can. It’ll make a big difference.

Let me know when I can help you.



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Garlic is a Family Affair at the Greenberg’s in Wisconsin – Pictures and Making Memories

I emailed Troy Greenberg ( yesterday to see how close he was to selling out.

He replied today with the news that they’re only a week or two away from being sold out!

In addition to taking, pulling, and shipping orders it’s also planting time at GetGarlic.

Fortunately, garlic is a family affair at the Greenberg’s. Everyone pitches in and shares the load.

Rows planted last night and today (Saturday) total 37 with almost 500 cloves per row; and still more to plant. (I can certainly understand why Troy said his back and legs hurt!)

Somehow he finds the time to take pictures to record activities involved in growing garlic each year; and – in the process – the growth of his kids.  I loved it that he shared them with me and thought you’d enjoy them too.

On most computers you can click the picture to enlarge it and take a better look.


4 of the Greenberg clan, Conrad, Elias, Lydia, and Lorna, pulling apart bulbs to ready the cloves for planting.


Cloves are sorted and ready to plant.


Troy’s son, Conrad, prepares the planting holes with the tractor. (This was done by hand until last year.)


Lydia and Lorna take a break from planting to smile at their Dad as he takes pictures.

Final Thoughts

So many great family memories can be made in our gardens.  Your kids and grandkids will carry those memories all their life.

Do everything you can to make them great ones!


Related Posts

Garlic – A Good Harvest Possible Even with Too Much Rain/Tips, Proof, and Some Fun

Garlic Reminders

Introducing Get

Welcoming Back Get


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View TMG on your Mobile – Is it Mobile Friendly Now?

It’s been a long time coming, but finally I’ve made some changes that should have made TMG mobile friendly.  I don’t have a mobile phone, so I can’t be 100% sure until I get your help.

Would you take a look for me and let me know what you think?  Can you navigate and get to a list of recent posts as well as search for stuff? Here’s a link to the post about Mache which has a picture to check too.

Also would you take a peak at as well? I’ve made changes so that will show mobile friendly.

Thank you so much for your help.  I’ll be looking forward to your input!!


Mosquitos, Ticks, and Other Bugs – What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?

Since it’s been found that some diseases can be carried and spread through insect bites, the media is all over it. As much as they go on about something like this, they seldom offer a natural solution to the problem that really works.

Even though there is much information out there about how we can take care of ourselves, it takes some living and experience and/or time to know what’s true and what’s not. Information that can help us doesn’t always show up as quickly as we need it.

DEET – Should You Use It?

Probably the recommended chemical of choice to keep bugs at bay is DEET. (Don’t stop here and rush out to get some.  Read more before making that decision.)

As you probably know DEET is in hundreds of products — and sometimes in concentrations up to 100%. It’s been shown to harm brain and nervous system functions although most accounts you read say that has not been proven. (I’ve noticed that’s usually what most proponents of any harmful substance say when studies show it to be harmful.)

Rashes, numbing or burning lips, dizziness, disorientation, headache, skin irritation, difficulty concentrating, and nausea are also attributed to using DEET.

Recently I read about a study of National Park Service employees where 25% of them reported some type of health effect attributed to DEET.

Many Natural Products Are Just as Effect

There are many natural things you can use that are just as effective or more so than DEET. The “naturals” usually give protection from 6 to 8 hours. That might not be as long as DEET, so just reapply after 6 hours.

A Teacher Reports What Park Rangers Told Her Class

Couple of months ago I was in line to check out at our small, local health food store. The lady in front of me (who was a teacher) was talking to the owner about just having come from one of the area’s state parks with her class. The subject of tick and mosquito protection had been brought up.

The park rangers told the kids they use citronella essential oil and Badger Balm for protection. (Badger Balm would be the carrier for the essential oil.)

The carrier for an essential oil dilutes it and would keep it from possibly irritating the skin. How many drops per 1/2 tsp of carrier oil will depend on the individual essential oil.

Before you buy any essential oil read about it first. There are lots of sites out there that go into much detail about what each oil does, the suggested dilution, and any precautions you should take when using it.

Badger Balm

In case you don’t already know, Badger Balm is olive oil, beeswax, castor oil, aloe extract and the essential oils of birch and wintergreen. It’s an organic product that the company says contains no petroleum or chemicals of any kind. (In spite of being certified organic, I think some of the oils in their products may not be organic because they can’t get them for one reason or the other.)

A little of these balms go a long way!

It wasn’t clear to me if the rangers used the product that Badger offers which has citronella already mixed with the Badger Balm or if they used the plain balm and added their own essential oil.

My guess is they use the all in one product for convenience. Badger’s product for bug protection is a mixture of essential oils like citronella, cedar, lemongrass, rosemary and geranium which all have bug repellent properties.

Most essential oils can be mixed to receive the benefit from more than one at a time. You’ll easily see that when start looking around for information.

Many Essential Oils Repel Insects.

The Rangers told the kids they could also use cedar wood essential oil or lavender essential oil as well as the citronella.

Lemon eucalyptus is an excellent one and has been proven to be just as effective as DEET.

Mixtures -Getting the Benefits from Many Oils

Bill always kept a product called Bug Barrier ointment (now called Bug Block in stick form) in his “emergency kit” when he was out painting in the field.

It’s a mixture of the following insect repelling essential oils and Beeswax.

• Eucalyptus
• Cedarwood
• Rosemary
• Citronella
• Lemon Grass
• Lemon
• Tea Tree
• Peppermint
• Cinnamon
• Garlic
• Plantain
• Echinacea Oil
• Botanical Menthol
• Neem Oil
• Unbleached Beeswax

It’s organic and herbs are wild harvested whenever possible. 100% pure plant essential oils, with NO inert or inactive ingredients.

Thus, you’re getting the maximum concentration for potency and effectiveness in this product by Dr. Richard Schulze.

The real thing is going to cost more than something diluted. For example on some products you’ll see a certain percentage of the essential oil (let’s say 30%) and 70% inert ingredients. They could be harmful or not. You have no way to know. In most cases their main purpose would be to dilute the oil and therefore keep the price low. So be aware of that when you’re looking.

Want to Mix Your Own?

If you want to buy the essential oils and mix them in a carrier yourself or use just one, you’ll want the most reputable companies. If you’re interested, but don’t want to do all the homework on essential oil, there are some folks out there that have already invested all kinds of time looking for the best companies.

Don’t Want to Take a Year to Research?

The young woman who writes the web site WholeNewMom did an entire series on essential oils. I thought she did an outstanding job!

You can read all the details yourself on her site. She answers about every question you can think of. After MUCH research she ended up recommending Rocky Mountain Oils and/or Neal’s Yard Remedies. After checking them out, I would be inclined to go with her recommendation.

So What Do I Use?

I still have Bill’s unopened tube of Bug Barrier which I’ll keep just in case.

I could count on one hand the times I used the spray form of Bug Barrier that we use to keep at the back door.  Mainly I used it when May flies came out.  And every once in a while there would be a day that mosquitoes were worse than usual.

Other than that I don’t use anything.

Final Thoughts

If you’re bothered by mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs, being outdoors is not as much fun. Having something like a good essential oil or a mixture of good essential oils can really make a difference.  And make that difference safely.

We all know that improving the health of our soil will make our gardens better able to fend off pest and disease attacks.  A health body that has the right nutrition will create a strong immune system and help make us “unappealing” to bugs.  And if we are bitten, our immune system will be able to take care of it for us.


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3 Ways to Plant in Dry Conditions – Make That 4

The ideal time to begin fall succession planting (in zone 7 at least) is mid-August if conditions will allow.

In years past, because of drought, it was October before I could transplant September- started seedlings to the garden. The big disadvantage to that is that you miss the late summer warmth that allows crops to grow enough to have an abundant harvest by October.

Rain was plentiful this summer. Made me think the fall planting season would be the easier than ever. The first planting definitely WAS.

Radishes germinated within a couple of day. Lettuces started mid August and transplanted the end of August are now fabulous and giving me a big bowl of lettuce daily. Had I missed that first start in August under great conditions, I wouldn’t be getting lettuce or radishes in the abundance that I love.

Three varieties of lettuce started in mid-August, my first planting for fall.


I pick this much lettuce every other day from the lettuce bed shown above this picture. Even without rain for more than a month it renews itself every day.

The rain stopped at August’s end. The first few inches of soil has been desert-dry since the first of September. Rain has been in and (disappointingly) out of the forecast more times than I can count.

Succession planting has to be continued anyway or I won’t have an abundant harvest late fall, through the winter and into early spring.

Here are the strategies I’ve used that you might find helpful as well.

#1 – Gives me the Best Results

  • Choose your spot.

Rain water gives the best results. Since my reserve is low I usually choose a small 3′ x 5′ section to plant using this strategy.

  • Soak the area with rain water. (This is the secret to this method.)

I hauled in about five gallons of rain water to soak the soil in the area chosen. (I use 5 gallon buckets half filled because it’s all I can carry.)

  • Cover with straw and let it settle overnight.

You wouldn’t have to wait, but my “gut” feeling said I should; so I did.

  • Transplant (You can also use this strategy to direct-sow seed.)

Next day I brushed back the straw. Ran my 3 pronged tool through the top couple of inches of soil. Put the transplants in. Watered them in with rain water.

  • Cover again with a light layer of straw.

If you have enough rain water,

  • water again in one or two days.

After that you can probably go at least 5 days, or maybe more, without watering the seedlings. And with these cool nights they might just make if fine even without rain.  Most of mine did.

Two rows of Winter Density seedling and a row of radishes of the far side using Strategy #1.  The radishes were direct seeded. Lettuce seedlings were transplanted Sept. 16. No rain yet.

#2 – Watering after planting

  • Choose the area.
  • Direct sow your seed. (Or put in transplants)
  • Cover lightly with straw and then water well with rain water.
  • Water every other day if you have enough water.

I watered a bed using this strategy 3 days in a row using about 1 1/2 gallons of water on a 3 x 5 space.

Ran out rain water. Seedlings are still doing ok, but if we get rain they will “jump”.

#3 –  Should you wait for Rain?

Long time reader and good friend Pat recently wrote:

Our weather has been very warm here, and SO dry!  I cleared a bed for fall plantings, but I want to wait for rain.  It’s in the forecast for this weekend.  BUT I’m getting ready for a trip to San Diego to visit family next week.  I think I will just wait til I get back.

Here’s what I suggested:

Right now you need as much fall growth as possible to go into winter. And a week or so will make a difference.

Go ahead and do the plantings (I assume you are direct sowing seed) and cover lightly with straw (or grass clippings, etc.) While you’re away it will rain and you’ll probably have seedlings up when you get back.

This morning I got another email from Pat:

I got the snap peas, chard, German giant radish, and collards planted early yesterday.  Then the rain came!!!  Hallelujah!  And there will be more on the way. 

Bonus Strategy

And then she mentioned another strategy that she thought of because she didn’t have time before her trip to clear more space in the garden for her spinach and kale.

I’m thinking of starting spinach and kale in my self watering planter.  My hubby won’t have to remember to water it!  And I can transplant them later.

Final Thoughts

Since we can’t know the future, waiting for perfect conditions is almost always a poor strategy.

And although we don’t know which of our actions (or plantings) will bear fruit and which will not, one thing we know for sure:

If we don’t plant, we won’t harvest.


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Six Reasons to Grow Mache

The first two reasons:

  • It’s one of the most delicious greens you can find.
  • AND it grows in the winter without protection. Brush back the snow (or chip into the ice) and harvest.

Without considering its other great benefits, those are reasons enough for almost any gardener to want it.

Mache is well known in European countries. It’s available in grocery stores there in spring, late fall and winter.

Being low to the ground, mache has to be hand harvested. That makes profit difficult, so it’s seldom seen in US grocery stores.

Friend and reader, Amy, whose husband is German, was with me in the garden one fall. Mache was everywhere. She knew exactly what it was because whenever they’d visit her husband’s home in Germany (in cool seasons) they’d enjoy this green in abundance. Later, she told me how delighted and surprised her husband was when she served the mache salad with dinner that evening!

Reason 3 – It reseeds.

Once it’s established you’ll have it every year without any work.


Reason 4 – Seldom available unless you grow it.

Growing your own is about the only way you’re gonna be able to enjoy this green.

Reason 5 – Mache can almost single-handedly make a tremendous contribution to your health at a time that you’re not able to get other greens to supplement your diet.

If you’ve studied nutrition you already know that almost all the minerals and vitamins we need to be healthy come from plants.

In the spring and summer we have a multitude of plants to choose from to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals we need. But in the winter, fresh greens are hard to come by.

Power packed with Vitamins A and C, mache also  provides iron, Vitamin B6, manganese, copper, potassium, phosphorus, Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and tryptophan (an amino acid).

These vitamins and minerals make it beneficial to your vision, immune system, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, skin-bone-teeth health, brain health, blood sugar levels and more.

Reason 6 – Growing it as part of a plan for emergencies (when there’s no access to stores and power is down) could help you stay alive and in good health.

It has it’s feet in the wild and is more likely to outlast things in the garden that need protection in cold weather.

For part of your emergency plan in warmer weather try malabar and/or magentaspreen. They have their feet in the wild as well and are edible for a much longer time than many garden greens. They’ll last until frost, and by that time mache will have made its appearance in the garden.

Final Thoughts

September is the perfect time to sow mache in your garden.

When you get all those rave reviews serving it as part of your Thanksgiving and/or Christmas feast, let me know.

Related Posts:

Growing Winter Greens – Starved for Lettuce and other Greens

Mache – Why Grow it and Secrets to Having Enough

Mulching, Weeds, Annuals, Crop Residue to the Rescue



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Fall planting – Lettuce – New Variety – Garlic – Winter Rye Strategy

Although we still have a few weeks of summer remaining, the change to fall is in the air.
It’s a great opportunity to enjoy one of the best and most enjoyable times to grow your own food.

Started my first planting for fall lettuce about mid August. Transplanted the seedlings to the garden day before yesterday. No rain. Soil was bone dry so carried in some buckets of rainwater to water them in thoroughly.

I seeded containers with 5 more varieties yesterday and will continue to plant at least every other week through October.

Key to a Continual Supply of Lettuce

If you want lettuce all through the fall, winter and into early spring just one planting of lettuce won’t do it. Succession planting is the key: plant some lettuce; in a week or two plant more; repeat.

For more tips to help you have all the lettuce you want, review the lettuce posts listed at the end. (I’ve written dozens of posts on lettuce; so if you put lettuce in the search box <upper left column> more will come up.)

New Variety (for me anyway)

It’s hard to beat my favorite varieties of lettuce: Winter Density (a romaine) and Sierra Batavia (a crisphead). Both delicious! And considered (by me) to be the best of the best in taste, performance and beauty.

Thanks to a friend, I’ve now discovered a variety that I like just as much as my favorite two. As a matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say that if this “new discovery” were in my garden along side the other two varieties, I’d be eating more of it than the others.

After looking at what various suppliers had to say about this new one, I understood why I liked it so much. It’s a combination of a batavian crisphead and a romaine!

It’s tolerant of hot weather. My friend brought me a crisp, beautiful head in the hottest part of July this year. Sweet as could be without a hint of bitterness!

I have high hopes of a great fall performance. And if it does well under my protective covers through the winter I’ll be overjoyed!

The variety is Concept. Why not give it a try. Serving it at your big Thanksgiving (and/or Christmas) dinner should bring all kinds of rave reviews.

Garlic – Tip for stress-free planting in October or November.

As fall and holidays approach, everyone seems to get busier.

Select the beds that you’ll plant with garlic and prepare them now. When the time comes to plant, all you’ll have to do is separate the cloves, plant, and mulch.

Mid October is a good time to plant in areas further North. Planting garlic that early here in Virginia gives me too much above ground growth before the cold sets in.

I wait until November to plant. That gives my garlic plenty of time to establish strong roots underground, but not make too much growth above ground.

Seed Garlic

Most seed garlic ships in October, in time for planting in almost all areas.

I’ve noticed the most popular varieties sell out rather quickly. If you haven’t ordered, it’s a good time to check it off your list.

If you choose to order from you might want to take advantage of the great savings on their Northern White, a porcelain variety that is big, beautiful, and easy to grow. And remember, you’ll get even more savings by ordering before Thursday, August 31, 2017. For the added 10% savings use the code earlybird2017. (That’s a total savings of 24% off the Northern White!)

(Click on the icon in the left column to shop.)

Winter Rye Strategy and Tomatoes (and other warm weather crops)

Now’s a great time to choose where your tomatoes are going next year if you plan on transplanting your seedlings into the stubble of winter rye.

With the help of still standing tomatoes and my garden chart I’ll look for spots that have not had tomatoes for at least 2 years; preferably 3. In late October or November I’ll sow winter rye seed into those spots.

Most of my beds are about 3’ wide by 16 feet long. Spots chosen for tomatoes will vary in size. I’ll sow the winter rye only where the tomatoes will go.

Makes it easy in the spring. I look at the rye and know exactly where my tomatoes are going to reside.

This strategy works great for almost any warm weather crop like cukes, squash, melons, peppers, eggplant, etc.

Final Thoughts

Even if you’re a beginning gardener, fall can be one of the best times to garden.

Grab the opportunity if you can.


Couldn’t resist adding two pictures of my entrance path bordered by the annual, summer poinsettia, that I use as a cover crop in some of my beds each year.  It’s above my elbow in height and beautiful.  All kinds of bees and insects swarming on it everyday.  They love it as much as I do.

The first is a close up view. The second shows more of the garden. (Pepper, tomatoes and asparagus ferns are visible as well as the summer poinsettia.)

Entrance path bordered by summer poinsettia at the end of August.

Taken from the entrance gate to show summer poinsettia and some of garden.

Related Posts:

Growing Garlic – A Good Reason to Grow Your Own

Growing Garlic – Yours Large Enough for You?

Lettuce – Making Sure You Have Enough for Fall/Winter/Next Spring

Still Eating Lettuces from Your Garden In January/or Not?

Lettuce – A Reminder – Ways to Have a Continual Supply from Fall Through Spring

Lettuce – Varieties to Keep You Eating All Year or at Least 10 Months

Lettuce – Sierra Batavia

Growing Lettuce Plan for a Continual Supply

Winter Rye as a Cover Crop – 2 Strategies


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