Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Gee, We've Had a lot of RAIN!

After getting 10.24 inches of rain last night, I'm afraid the following meme could be me - I haven't even been out to check the garden, yet.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Perfect "Tulle" to Prevent the Birds from Eating Your Tomatoes

Are you like me, in a constant battle with birds eating holes in your tomatoes just as soon as they begin to turn the slightest bit red?

I have wanted to enjoy truly vine ripened tomatoes for years, but have never been able to enjoy that pleasure because if I didn't remove the slightly colored fruit as soon as it developed, I would get up the next morning to find the birds had found my tomato first.

This year, I made a serendipitous discovery.  I had purchased some light weight fabric veggie bags at my local Whole Foods store at about the same time my tomatoes were beginning to ripen.  One day I decided to see what would happen if I tied one of the drawstring bags around the ripening fruit.  Low and behold...my tomato could ripen without the birds even noticing.  It seems to work quite well on single tomatoes but unless the drawstring was pulled tight over multiple ripening tomatoes - something would always get at them, pulling the bag off and eating or pecking great holes in the fruit.

At the fabric store, I discovered that "Tulle" fabric was the closest thing to the fabric the veggie bags were made out of.  I have made a number of additional drawstring bags out of just a half yard of fabric and have enjoyed vine ripened tomatoes all summer.

Update:  Making bags became a drag.  I discovered cheap, as in 33 cent a pair, knee-high stockings pulled over ripening tomatoes also served the same purpose and got the same results.   The knee high stockings came in small round clear plastic balls which I found at my local Walgreens Pharmacy.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Boycotting the Monsanto owned seed company Seminis


My friends I am not a fan of Monsanto.  The attached article provides some steps we can take to ensure we are not supporting this company.  Never forget that Monsanto gave us Agent Orange.  Monsanto is creating Genetically Engineered crops also referred to as GMO's or Genetically Modified Organisms. GMO crops in the USA now include 
Soybean, Maize, Cotton, Canola, Squash (I believe this is summer squash), Papaya, Alfalfa, Sugarbeet
 I personally do not believe GMO's have been adequately tested to determine their long term safety for human consumption.  I view the "Research" done by Agrabusinesses, like Monsanto, with the same jade eye I had for the "Research" done by the tobacco industry in the 50's, 60's and 70's - they were quick to tell us there was nothing wrong with their product and that it was in no way connected to disease.   We now know that was a LIE.  Currently at least 60 countries from all over the world are banning foods containing GMO crops, the USA is not among them.

"How do you keep your garden safe from seeds produced by Monsanto/Seminis and other companies who are not aligned with your ideology?  
You're going to have to do research that's harder than reading lists that have been copied and pasted around the internet.
Step #1 Pick up the phone and call the seed company you want to buy from and ask if Seminis supplies their seeds. If Seminis is their supplier keep looking until you find another seed company.
Step #2 Repeat Step #1 until you find a company that doesn't. Or at least until you find a seed company that carries the particular seeds you want that aren't supplied by Seminis. Some companies may only carry certain seeds from Seminis, and you may end up having to make a moral trade-off if you really want to grow a particular, flower, vegetable or fruit. 
You should also learn to collect and save your own seeds or try buying some cool heirloom varieties of the veggies you want to grow."
(from the attached article)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It's summer, The leaf footed Stink Bugs Have Arrived

I was in the garden this morning, picking produce when i found this little crowd gathered on one of my tomatoes.  

This is the nymph of the leaf footed stink bug.  After they hatch out, they prefer to hang out in groups, sucking the juices out of tomatoes (their preferred crop) or peppers.  Have you ever noticed little, hard white spots on your tomatoes after they've ripened?  I've seen them in years past, on the plum tomatoes I was growing. This and the resulting adults are the culprits.

I had invested in a spray bottle earlier in the year, figuring I'd try a good spray of ivory soap solution on most pests before moving on to Bt or some other organic deterrent.

It worked!  I kept spraying until they stopped moving.  Now the trick will be to stay ahead of Momma Stink bug and destroy her children every time I see them until I can put an end to her and her sisters.  

I LOVE square foot gardening.  When you follow the system as described by Mel Bartholomew in his book Square Foot Gardening, you are closed to your plants, the plants themselves are closer together, there's hardly any weeding to be done, you can take care of problems quickly - sometimes even finding the bad guys before they have a chance to wreck havoc on your garden.  It really is a wonderful system!  I have an ambitious 6 - 4' x 4' garden but even few boxes produce a satisfactory harvest.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Eliminating Fire Any Colonies, Pests from Your Garden: Organic Gardening

Eliminating Fire Any Colonies, Pests from Your Garden: Organic Gardening (click on link)

fire antFor those of us living in the south, we struggle with a problem our friends in the north do not...Fire Ants.  These ants have a nasty habit of swarming when their mound is disturbed and biting, biting, biting which leaves welts on your skin that itch like the dickens.  If you scratch them the resulting scab remains for weeks and weeks at a time.  Rubbing alcohol applied immediately after being bitten seems to reduce or even prevent the welt from forming.  They are a gift from south of the boarder and have been making their way into the US.  Areas that don't experience a hard frost are plagued with them.  Most folks use "Fire Ant" killer, a harsh chemical that does destroy the mount but it's not something you want to put in your vegetable beds and by transfere eat it yourself.

I wanted to share this information from the Organic Gardening magazine people cause I used one of the suggestions.  Earlier in the year as I was moving from my winter garden to my summer garden I had several fire ant mounds in at least two of my 4' x 4' boxes.  With the help of a visiting family member, we poured at least 3 - 4 gallons of scalding hot water on each of the mounds and it worked.  The ant colony was destroyed and I have been ant "free" in those boxes ever since.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Growing Sweet Corn for the Very First Time

Getting Started
With 6 - 4' x4' grow boxes I felt there was plenty of room in my square foot garden for a box just dedicated to growing sweet corn.  I ordered "Country Gentleman", an heirloom, shoe peg white corn from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds.  According to the chart from the AgriLife Extension,  I could plant corn in my part of Texas anytime in March, so I planted on March 17th.  Although the typical planting instructions for corn is one seed kernel per square foot, in a square foot garden you can plant four kernels per square foot.  

                                                                                                Outsmarting the Critters
I had read that birds and squirrels love newly sprouted corn and will gorge themselves on the fresh sprouts as they  begin to poke through the soil.  I had previously built chicken wire covers for just such an occasion and after carefully planting half of my 4' x 4' square I placed the cover over the box.  It worked like a charm.  My corn sprouted and grew to the height of the cover without any birds or squirrels helping themselves to the tender plants.  I planted the second half of the grow box the following week as I didn't want to have all the corn ready at the same time.  Next year, I'll probably start planting earlier (weather permitting) and plant the second half of the box two weeks later instead of one week later.

Kitchen Skewers for Pest Control
It has been fascinating to watch the stalks grow taller and taller, seemingly overnight, after each watering.  I found that some of the leaves on three of the plants were being eaten and after careful examination found the little green worms causing the problem.  They had wedged themselves deep into the curls of the new growth and were hard to just pick out and destroy.  I found that a long wooden skewer from the kitchen, commonly used for shiskabob, was long enough and sharp enough to move the worm to within range of destruction.   

Natural Disaster Flattens Corn
About two weeks ago, we had a very heavy rain storm, with a great deal of wind, during the night; when I got up the next morning my tall, beautiful stalks had been knocked down flat to the ground.  They weren't broken off, just pushed down by the wind and heavy rain.  I should have taken a picture but I was more concerned about getting them back up then photography.   I propped up what stalks I could but there were really too many to tip back up without support.  I built a PVC frame structure around the outside of my grow box, using those green stakes from the gardening department to hold the PVC in place.  Then I wrapped a sturdy rope about 3 feet from the ground around each of the vertical legs of the frame so that the corn would have something to lean against.  It took several days to get everything back up again.  Some of the bigger stalks needed to have additional support, which I provided by pushing thin bamboo stakes from the garden center into the soil near the base of the stalk and tying the stalk to the bamboo.  I am pleased to say every thing is now back to the way it was before the storm.

Things I've Learned Thus Far
I've learned that the flowering part of the corn stalk appears first, followed about a week later by a purple tassel of corn silk along the middle of the stalk.  According to the Master Gardeners at the extension service, corn is usually pollinated by the wind.  Every so often I've gone out and shook a stalk or two in hopes that the ears will pollinate more fully and completely.  I haven't picked anything yet but I hope to be able to do so soon.

And here is the product of my labors.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Growing Potatoes in a sack

In an earlier post I mentioned that I was planning to grow potatoes in sacks.  There was a link attached to that entry for how to make Tater tote grow sacks out of black weed stop material.  I didn't follow the measurement instructions carefully and instead of sacks that measured 14 - 16 inches across, I had sacks that measures about 10 - 12 inches across.  Even with the smaller sacks I still enjoyed a measure of success.

I found the smaller sacks were hard to keep up right, I think a sack with a larger base would stand up without falling over as the potato plants grew.  I had watched an uncle grow potatoes in hay and I was able to located a large black garbage bag of loose hay at a local feed store, at a good price, and grew my potatoes in the hay.  I had sewn 8 sacks and I harvested  1.75 lbs of potatoes.  Next year, I will create more and larger sacks, weigh them down with bricks instead of stones, grow them in a different section of the compost heap and see if I can grown more and larger potatoes.

Surprisingly, I had no problem with potato bugs.  I have vivid memories of picking ugly, light orange potato bugs off my family's potatoes as a kid; but the worst I had to deal with were the occasional pill bugs that seemed to enjoy making holes in the leaves of the plant.

These were all about 2.5 - 3 inches across.  There were a few itty bitty ones but I was told by an Idaho potato farmer that those were common.