65 Degrees at Christmas- My Bulbs are Sprouting

Welcome to Christmas season 2015 and in Central Virginia a time of spring-like temperatures have delivered a very warm and unseasonable Christmas holiday.

Now the lack of fireplace use and chestnut is not the only concern with this weather,especially if you are a gardener.

This warm weather has caused many trees to begin budding early and many flowering bulbs have sprouted after the short cold period early in the fall.

Will the flowers be ruined for spring time color? Will they be damaged?

What about the trees? AND

Is there anyting we can do to counter the problem?

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There is not much threat of damage if the bulbs do not flower and only the green leaves sprout. There is a good chance that the flower will arrive in spring , though it may be ealier than is the norm. Do not to do anything to try and help the bulbs. The flowers are still inside the bulbs.

Mulching is not recommended as this may kill the plant and bulb and prevent future growth. A heavy spread of frozen mulch can do more damage than strange weather. Now a light spread of compost or composted mulch around and on the leaves might be helpful – I would suggest that the leaves still be visible and open to the sun. Photosynthesis cn still occur and the bulbs will remain viable. You may still lose the bloom this year but the bulb will survive to produce another season.

There is even less that can be done for trees that have begin to Bud Out.

Be patient, enjoy the weather since snow shovels may be needed soon enough and this warmth will be gone.

Tis the season for Compost (prep for Spring Now )

Summer is over and a few crops remain…What is the most important thing to do after you have cleaned up the garden?

You now have plants and leaves and roots that were removed when finished and these can be the basis of new soil next season if handled properly, and composted. To compost these remainders you can:

  • chop them and work into the soil
  • burn them and put the ash in the soil OR
  • add to compost bin or pile

Now the naked garden can be left alone until planting but a better option is to add cut grass, chopped leaves, coffee grounds and food scraps – NOW and let them  work into the soil over the next 3-5 months.

Green manure crops may be planted to feed and improve and protect the soil. Many of the popular “manures” are legumes that capture nitrogen and fix it into the soil and the greenery that does grow breaks down quickly next season when chopped into the soil .

BUT THE BEST ACTIVITY NOW FOR FUTURE GARDEN SUCCESS- is composting in bins or piles.

  1. It is “free” since you have plenty of material in the Fall- fallen leaves, cut grass, kitchen waste as well as newspapers and cardboard from Christmas gift packages
  2. it is simple, collect and pile ( you can get fancy and work the pile- it is recommended  for speed
  3. fill the pile and let it age and create new Young piles/bins

Tools or Supplies needed or suggested:

A) spot for the pile or bin

B) Material or barrel for bin, pile ( not required but helps a lot)

C) lawnmower to chop leaves and larger scraps (smaller pieces ,speed the process)

D) shovel or fork to turn the scraps and speed the process

More info  below.

Compost pile:

http://www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com/how-to-start-a-compost-pile-in-4-easy-steps/

http://www.sodgod.com/composting/

Hot Compost ( for winter and speed ):

http://visual.ly/hot-composting-temperature

http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/sustainable-living/green-living/what-to-do-with-your-compost-in-winter.aspx

Composters to buy:

http://www.best-garden-composters.com/

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Coffee to Wake Up …The Garden

Coffee grounds are a great addition to the home garden and the growing plans around the entire yard. If you have discovered a local coffee shop with a supply of grounds ( larger than average family making 1 or 2 pots of coffee a day) and can bring them to your house and garden you now need to know how to use them.

The most obvious is COMPOST. Add the grounds to the pile(they tend to be 2% nitrogen and <1% phosphorous and potassium) and thoroughly mix with leaves, grass, paper, kitchen scraps and seedless weeds from the garden.

This post will be a list and attached articles will fill in some information.

COFFEE GROUNDS from a shop:

1. Add grounds to the compost pile, bin or container. {different blend percentages are suggested- look some up}

  1. Raise your own worms for casings, and the grounds mix well with other food scraps s food for the worms= they love them.
  2. Spread on the lawn, under trees and bushes(heavier for acid loving plants)
  3. Top dress the garden , especially in the offseason, with the grounds. They will break down and add nutrients to the soil
  4. Slugs and snails hate coffee grounds – protect susceptible plants with the grounds
  5. squirrels and rabbits can also be deterred by the grounds underfoot
  6. Acid loving plants will love a ring of grounds that are worked into the ground/soil around the base of the plant .

The following articles address some of these ideas.

The most obvious and simple use is as compost, but The amounts can be important:  

http://www.planetnatural.com/coffee-grounds-compost/

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/composting/ingredients/coffee-grounds-gardening.htm

More than compost- other uses for the grounds: 

http://www.ehow.com/how_8038252_use-coffee-grinds-vegetable-gardens.html

Some plants love the grounds directly on them:

http://thegardeningcook.com/coffee-grounds/

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Planning and Planting a Drought Tolerant Vegetable Garden

In Virginia we have had summer heat and dryness earlier . May and June presented many hot dry days and for some people the result is a stunted garden that was hit with heat before the roots and established at a safe depth to thrive in the heat of summer.

After we/you do some “regular” watering to keep everything growing………

WHAT CAN BE DONE FOR THIS SEASON?

The next question is , HOW CAN WE PREVENT THIS PROBLEM IN THE FUTURE?

Immediate Solution / Actions:

Water more frequently in smaller amounts. Water directly without sprinkler or over head water spraying gear. This will limit evaporation and get the most water to the roots. The plants will get stronger as the roots spread and reach more deeply into the soil. They will also get more of the necessary nutrients from the soil (and those added), as the roots grow and reach the plant becomes stronger. The stronger plnt will have deeper roots and greater ability to survive tough weather

HOW to MULCH  EACH PLANT ? :

If you have mulched already- how thick is it? What material did you use? What if the soils is naked now?…..What do you have to mulch with right now?
BIG MULCH QUESTION(s)- Can water flow through to the soil/roots? Does it remain damp?

You will need a BIO-degradable material and I have found cut grass to be the best option, since it is readily available, porous and lightly colored ( so it won’t get too HOT !!)

Rake up  some freshly cut grass ( or use the grass catcher when cutting)  and spread it  around the base of each plant or along the rows. Strive for a 2-4 inch layer of grass . May build up to 4 inches over 2 or 3 lawn mowing efforts.  give each newly mulched plant a bit of water to fix the grass in place and to start the process.

Mulch will serve a few purposes- 1) keep the ground cool   2) break down for soil amendment and BIGGIE 3) will help soil hold the water and keep it with the plant and roots.

Other mulch materials- chopped leaves (if whole- runner through mower), pine needles, shredded paper mixed with leaves or grass [don’t shred

LEAVES OF GRASS

] , wood chips, saw dust, or compost.

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PLANTING and PLANNING What goes Where??

Now that we have so many diseases and pests in the garden we have to have a planned rotation to prevent damage to the crops and the garden that is the result of a carryover from the previous season.

Some diseases and some “visitors” may remain in the garden over the winter and be prepared when spring returns BUT if the new plants are different and from different species and families the bugs and “bugs” may not be able to bother us.

I keep a schematic from yer to year to facilitate movement planning but this post will address what plants to have close to one another ( to maximize space and create  symbiotic environment  in the garden) because the work well together. .

Many plants thrive when close to each other and other combinations should not be created.

My favorite combos include:

1. I love cabbage (and broccoli,cauliflower,brussels sprouts,kale) so ONIONS, BEETS ,CUCUMBER, and some herbs fill the partner role.

2. I also love squash so partners include:  NASTURTIUM,ONIONS,OREGANO. If planting on hills or mounds- melons are a great teammate.

3.  and of course for Tomatoes: I am partial to ONIONS/GARLIC, BASIL AND OREGANO . Especially when harvested they can be used for many dishes.  Other useful partners include borage, peppers, parsley and bee balm.

These plants are good companions because they share soil nutrients, repel invaders from one another, and in many cases they fill all available surface preventing weeds.

I rarely plant something by itself( other than roses- which are quite selfish in the soil).. I like the idea of biointensive planting and harvesting as much as possible from each available foot in the garden.  Many of these plants also host useful/helpful insects.

What do you like to grow?  Why?

What partners does your favorite have?

Recently found a chart with a nice summary- not much explanation but a good listing.

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/vgen/companion-vegetable-garden.htm

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Be a Real Cheapskate – Grow Your own Fertilizer Part 2

In an earlier post Comfrey was the garden partner for grown fertilizer. In this post, Stinging Nettles ( Urtica dioica ) will be discussed. Stinging nettles are also a valuable food source as a dark leafy green it is a nutritional powerhouse in the kitchen as well as the garden.

     How to Use as Fertilizer:
1. Carefully harvest the leaves and stems (avoid roots and seeds)with snippers and gloves or in large patches use a scythe( pick up with fork or gloves. They are called STINGING Nettles for a good reason.
2. Fill a bucket or barrel with the harvested leaves and greenery, top completely with water and COVER for 2 weeks
3. After 2 weeks you will have a potent mixture loaded with – iron, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, copper and chlorophyll.
4. Removed most of the remaining solids and add to compost pile or spread around plants as a potent mulch.

Nettles are often considered a weed and may grow with abundance , over-reaching your need as fertilizer and food. they my be harvested and placed in compost piles and bins. They add a potent energizer to the compost
                                 Using the new PLANT FOOD ***
This mix will be highly concentrated and should be used in a 1/8 -1/10 mixture. In a gallon of water add approximately 2 cups of nettle tea.
Spread on the garden every every 2 weeks during or before a planned watering or rainfall

NETTLES ARE A VALUABLE FOOD SOURCE.

They are loaded with vitamins and minerals and rival the ever popular kale, spinach and collards in nutritional content. Nettles must be cooked or steamed before eating to eliminate the needles. They can be used in smoothies and there are many popular Green Smoothie recipes.
Nettles also make a delicious and potent Tea. Dry the leaves in a warm dry room or spread on cookie sheets in oven at lowest setting for several hours. Chop/grind the dried leaves and store until brewed.

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Be a Real Cheapskate- GROW your Fertilizer Part 1

Russian Comfrey ( Symphytum uplandicum) and wild comfrey ( symphtum officinale) are partners to consider adding to your garden because when established ,after  year 1 , it provides plenty of “free” fertilizer for your plants and an energizer for your growing compost piles(bins).

Wild comfrey tends to spread so plan ahead and put it in a spot that allows for  that or control the expansion by planting in buried pots, buckets or old storage bins (make sure they have drainage) control / limit  the spread.
Comfrey has the added benefit of being a useful medicinal herb (See link below).

It is  a relatively tall plant that  likes to reach out and spread its “wings”, so set it in places where it can do so and not cast too much shade or crowd out neighbors, especially permanent plantings like trees, berries and bushes.

The average home garden will benefit from 4-6 plants . It is be propagated from cutting or established plants can be divided .  It is an attractive plant with attractive blue-purple flowers and a fuzzy green leaf.

            How to Use Comfrey in your garden:
A. Liquid Fertilizer: 1] fill bucket with leaves(not necessary to pack tight) and top completely with water and cover the bucket with lid or board and set in sun for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks the liquid should be dark brown-black. IT WILL STINK, BUT THT IS OK!!
2] Combine dark liquid with clear water and ratio of 1-2 cup liquid/1 gallon water
3] add spread around plants every other week during regular watering or before a rain.
B. Transplant Kickstart: Put 3-6 leaves in bottom of pot or garden hole when transplanting fruiting plants.
C. Power Mulch : Place a layer of leaves around plants, can be covered with cut grass or leaf mold
D. Compost Activator: add and mix into compost heap/bins. include flowers and stalks
MEDICINAL USES-
http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/comfrey-medicinal-uses-zmaz92jjzshe.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfrey

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