Monday, May 30, 2011

"How To" Organic Gardening: HOW TO PLANT ONION SETS

"How To" Organic Gardening: HOW TO PLANT ONION SETS: "In the April article Companion Planting several site were given with lists of companion planting guides. Although these guides suggested ch..."


In the April article Companion Planting several site were given with lists of companion planting guides.  Although these guides suggested chive as a good companion plant for tomatoes I did not want my chive(perennial) in the main garden so I would have to dig up later.  I am going to try substituting onion around my tomatoes instead.

 I am planting onion sets close to the bottom of my tomato cages.  The tomatoes(caged) should not shade my onions much and close to the bottom of the cages will prevent me from stepping on them.  When the tomatoes are fully grown, getting close to the bottom of the cages is not necessary for picking and the onions should be ready to pull about the time the tomatoes are done producing.  I will also be planting marigolds with the tomatoes as well.

onion sets, blunt end(root) in ground, pointed end up
Onions sets are "set" into the ground about 1 inch deep and about 2 to 3 inches apart.  If you are trying to achieve the large fall onions as I am I will set my plants about 3 inches apart.

See the HOW TO PLANT ONION SETS for an illustration of planting.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"How To" Organic Gardening: Direct Mulching

"How To" Organic Gardening: Direct Mulching: "I have talked about mulching around your plants and how that organic matter will break down during the summer and feed your plants as well a..."

Direct Mulching

I have talked about mulching around your plants and how that organic matter will break down during the summer and feed your plants as well as help with weed control.

Mulching your vegetable garden or flowers plot with other organic matter that you would rather not just sit on top of the ground can be down in several ways.  You can construct a mulch pile by starting with a layer of dirt, maybe 4 to 6 inches, adding organic matter such as vegetable or fruit peels, coffee grounds,  which would include your coffee filters,grass clippings, leaves etc then adding another layer or dirt and alternating until the mulch bin was full and then start another one.  Turning the mulch pile(airing it) from time to time will help the organic breakdown or you can just let it sit and it will break down on its own but will take a little longer.

My Grandmother and Father would do direct mulching.  That is, they would put any of the kitchen leavings in a trench or just dig a hole and cover it.  I think this was more a process of disposing of "messy" garbage for my grandmother than it was organic gardening at first.  Time was, regular garbage pick up was not available so digging a hole and covering with dirt was a sanitary way of disposing of kitchen and garden waste.  When people could see that grass or garden vegetable would thrive over these "holes" the light bulb went off that this must be a good thing.  Of course, Native American Indians could have told you that before the light bulb.

It is an absolute must that all refuse be covered well with dirt.  If you don't, you are giving a fertile breeding ground for files and misquotes and more to lay eggs to reek havoc on your garden and make your gardening experience miserable.

Since I don't have a much pile to dump winter refuse into I put my winter waste into tightly closed plastic containers and set them on my porch.  My porch is cool and the tightly covered containers keep the smell at bay.  Then in the Spring I can dig a ditch, pour in the winter gold and cover.  This feeds the garden globally where the mulching around the plant during the growing season feeds the plants directly.

Organic matter will break down to encourage worms to visit your garden and when rototilled in, break up any type of clay soil you have all the while adding great vegetable or flower food to your beds.

Meat product should not be put into your garden, it encourages meat eating animals to visit and dig in your garden.  If you want to add chicken, beef or pork bones to your garden make sure your holE is at leas 8 to 12 inches deep and add lime to the hole.  The lime will break down the bones faster and keep the smell under check to keep meat eating animals(dogs) from digging in your garden.  Bone meal and fish meal are sold commercially and are great additives for your garden but it they still smell good...dogs and cats will dig for them.  If you fish, clean your fish into a bucket and added the fish guts and bones to the garden with a little lime.

BOTTOM LINE:  Only paper, plastic and metal products should be going into the garbage can if you plant a garden almost anything else can go into your garden.  Save our planet and bury your organic garbage, even in the flower beds or just in your lawn. Dig around a clup of lawn and take the grass off top.  Dig your hole, deposit the organic matter, put the dirt back in and top with your grass plug.  Tamp into the ground and voila lawn fertilizing.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

"How To" Organic Gardening: Onion or garlic Chive, planting and drying

"How To" Organic Gardening: Onion or garlic Chive, planting and drying: "About a month ago a friend(Susan) told me to stop by and dig up some Onion and garlic Chive. She had more than she needed and I could have ..."

Onion or garlic Chive, planting and drying

About a month ago a friend(Susan) told me to stop by and dig up some Onion and garlic Chive.  She had more than she needed and I could have as much as I wanted.  So I took her up on it.

digging up chives
Susan lives in a beautiful place on 2.5 acres in Central Illinois that her and her husband are renovating.  Unfortunately my video camera was not working so I only got a very stills to share on digging up the chives.  As with most things I dig up I use the potato fork to pry plants out of the ground.

Chives are also good for companion planting.  Plant these in among your flowers for a great green back drop or around your garden.

Onion chive
The onion chive leaf most people are familiar with.  They are long, slender hollow leaves.  These leaves can be picked at anytime during their growth, short, medium or tall.  This plant is a favorite of window box gardens and pots right outside the kitchen door.  Fresh chive is ready for all those dip recipes.  Both types of chives will flower and the flower is edible.  Put these fragrant tasty flowers in your fresh salads to add color and flavor.  The onion chive has small purple flowers similar in shape to clover flowers.

flowering chive

The group of chive on the right would make about 1/2 of an 8 oz jar of dried chive.

The garlic chive has flat hollow leaves and be used and dried in the same way onion chives is used and dried.
Garlic Chive

The garlis chive has larger white flowers.  These chive can be planted around the edges of your garden to deter bugs and within your flower beds as really effective green back drop that is edible.

To dry the chive, cut some leaves about 3 inches above the base of the chive plant.  You plant will create addition leaves all summer long so don't worry about killing it or not having enough fresh fro cooking.  Chive is a perennial and I have planted mine on one edge of the garden for future use and divided some of the clumps into smaller clumps to sell at the Farmers Market.

Planting chive here on the other side of trees

When you have a small bunch cut bring inside and run water over to rinse off any dirt and then cut in 1/8 to 1/4 pieces for drying.
Cut Chive

Then I put my cut chive in a container lined with paper towel to absorbs moisture and let set on my kitchen table to dry.  This can take a week to two weeks.
drying chive
Once the chive is dry, store in a jar that will close tightly.

Store in a cool dry place just as you store your other herbs.  The best way to store any herb is a dark bottle.  That is why the "canned" spices will be fresher longer than the clear bottle spices.

Here is the video on HOW TO DRY CHIVE.
Do you dry any herbs from your garden or grow herbs for your summer cooking?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"How To" Organic Gardening: Plant Tomatoes

"How To" Organic Gardening: Plant Tomatoes: "It has been some time since my last post because my cameras decided to go South just when I need them. Now that I have them replace I can i..."

Plant Tomatoes

It has been some time since my last post because my cameras decided to go South just when I need them.  Now that I have them replace I can illustrate planting the garden again.  Sorry for the delay.

I had to go ahead and plant quite a bit of the garden so we will go backward and times with a description of how things got started by we will primarily go forward.


Plant Starts
I had some good success with growing my own tomato starts this year, third year trying it and first year getting a crop to start with so that saved some money on buying plants.  This year in my area a garden center is charging $1.90 for four plants, Orschleins started by charging $1.90 and reduced to $1.79 for six pack and looks like Wal-mart is charging $1.90 for a six pack.  The three types of seeds cost me $5.00 and I got over a dozen cherry tomatoes and Romas and a couple of Beefmasters.  So I had to buy a dozen slicing tomatoes.  I have enough Cherry tomatoes and Roma tomatoes left over to take to the Farmers market to see if I can get a few coins there, maybe make up for buying some.

Plant in soil to finger mark
When you plant tomatoes you want to dig a hole that is deeper than the top of your dirt in the starter pot.  Bury them up to at least the first leave level, the second leaf level is the best.  Tomatoes will sprout roots all the way up their stems, so planting up to the first or second leaf level give you more root coverage and stability for the plant.

Know your soil.  Buy a soil tester or ask gardeners in your area about the soil quality.  Unless someone has prepared your soil for good balance, the soil in your  area will be like everyone else's.   In my area the soil is calcium deficient, lots of clay.  The organic matter you provide will start to break up the clay as you turn it under year after year but will not add enough calcium for tomato plants.  In Missouri int soil is calcium deficient.  Add about 1 cup of calcium, or  gypsum to your soil and work it in with a hoe before planting.  This is supposed to help your tomato plant absorb the calcium they need.  In extremely wet seasons tomatoes have a hard time absorbing the nutrients they need from the soil to make good tomatoes and adding calcium in some form to the soil is supposed to help with this.  BLOSSOM END ROT  is another symptom of not enough calcium and too much water.  In very wet, rainy seasons it is difficult to have a well drained area for your garden(probably a good reason for raised bed gardens).  Last year was the first year I knew about adding calcium to the soil and I was glad I did when the season turned out to be very wet.  I had a good tomato crop while others were complaining about blossom end rot and bad production.

Once the tomato is planted surround the plant with organic matter, grass clippings, straw, shredded paper or whatever you have.  This method will keep the weeds away from your plants, provide constant moisture and as it decays feed.  This organic matter can then be plowed under to rot more through the winter months preparing your garden for next season.  NEVER put new manure directly next to your plants.  If you have found a source for manure, great but make sure it sits or is applied away from you plants until it breaks down a little or it will burn your plants.

Now you are ready to add stakes.  Although staking tomatoes is not mandatory, most gardeners will.  You can buy a variety of bush tomatoes but the production out put is not as good.  Commercial grower will stake their tomatoes in a row and string twine down each row from stake to stake, I have not tried that yet and maybe that is a test for next year.  This year I will be staking individually with wire cages and surrounding stakes with string.

You can use wire cages to surround your tomatoes to keep them off the ground.  Use concrete wire or pig wire, that is wire fencing that has at least a 6 inch square hole.  You have to be able to reach inside the cage to get your tomatoes, so a 6 inch holes in necessary.   I have some cages given to me that stand about 4 foot tall but you can get wire that is as tall(wide) as you want it. Form a round cage out of wire that is at least 18 inch to 2 foot in diameter.  I cut the wire in the middle of one of the horizontal pieces of wire all the way up one end of the wire which give me enough to wrap around the other end of the wire to secure it together.  Then when cutting the next piece from the roll of wire I cut close to the vertical piece to I have a straight edge to attach the other end to.  Then the third piece is cut in the middle again until I have all the wire used.

Once the cages are made, place one over the tomato plant and position it so the tomato plant is in the middle of the cage.   Twist the cage to mark where the cage will be secured.  Remove the cage and dig a 6 inch trench around the plant.  Place your cage back down around the plant and cover the bottom of the cage with soil and tamp in.  Then take a heavy wire or wooden stakes and weave it into the cage on one side and pound into the ground.  Once tomatoes are large enough to fit the cages they lean heavily on the cages causing them to fall over and wind will knock them over unless they are secured into the ground.  Move your mulch back into the cages.  I am planting onions around some of my tomatoes and some marigold plants around others to help keep bugs off my plants.


Cloth staking
To make "stake" type cages.  Use stakes that are 4 foot to 6 foot long.  You will need to pound into the ground at least 6 inch and 12 inches is better.  Put stakes about 12 inches from the base of the plant, I use three stakes per plant in a triangle shape but 4 stakes can be used in a square.  You can use two stakes and I will talk about that next.  Using the three or four stake method you can tie your tomatoes as they grow to the stakes or just create a cage with cotton string around them.  I will use the three stake method to create a "cloth" cage and talk about the tieing method with the single or two stake method.

Having the stakes in the ground, tie a piece of cotton string(cotton is important, it degrades when polyester will not), I use cloth(torn up sheets or t-shirts work great)around the first stake, pulling tight to next stake, winding around the second stake twice, then on the the third stake.  The wither start a new string or wind the original up about 1 inch and then around the stakes again forming a cage.  I will wind string up about 12 to 18 inch and then come back as necessary to wind more.  The cherry tomatoes usually grow about 6 foot tall where the roma and beef master tend to be shorter at the 4 to 5 foot height.  If you use string use a fairly heavy string because string the size of let says kite string is to small and will break and cut into the tomato when it leans on the cage.


My dad would use a single stake to stake our tomatoes.  He would use a six to eight foot pole, at least 6 foot  out of the ground and pound the stake in the ground 12 to 18 inches.  This single pole held the entire plant so it is essential to have a sturdy stake substantially placed into the ground.   Place a single stake about 6 inches from the plant, another directly opposite if you are going to use two stakes.  Then wait until you plant grows tall enough to be tied.  As you plant grows, put a piece of string(sloth strip) around the main stem of the plant, cross the strip and tie onto the stake.  Alternate from one side to the other as the plant grows.  Larger limbs of the tomato can be secure in the same way.  Best just to show you as the season progresses.

My stakes are in place now and I am waiting for the harvest.  We will be spraying a solution of Epson salts on the tomatoes and other plants to prevent some bugs and again help the plants absorbs the nutrients they need to create great vegetables.  So more later on tomatoes.  Take a look at the PLANTING TOMATOES video for planting tomatoes and INSTALLING METAL TOMATO CAGES or using STAKES AND STRING for webbing to stake your tomatoes.

How do you stake your tomatoes?