Archive | Gardening Resources

3 tips on how to prep for the new growing season

Harvesting your own organic veggiesI always like to start planning for the next growing season during January and February. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you plan to grow some delicious garden vegetables this next season.

1. Crop Rotation

This is a basic gardening practice that helps to ensure that your plants always have the maximum nutrients they need. Whenever you plant something in an area of your garden, that particular plant will extract certain nutrients from the soil. If you plant the same plant in the same area the next year, it won’t do as well. It gets even worse the 3rd year. This is because of nutrient depletion. In addition, if you don’t rotate crops, your plants can be more susceptible to disease and pests. So, if you plant tomatoes in one area one year, plant corn there the next year. If you plant beans in one area, plant lettuce there the next year (beans put nitrogen into the soil and lettuce thrives on nitrogen). It is also helpful to alternate planting deep root plants and shallow root plants in each area of your garden to help with soil structure.

2. Find out what vegetables should be planted when

Every climate has different growing seasons. It is important to figure out what grows best in your area and when you can plant it. Here is a helpful link to a hardiness map where you can enter your zip code to find out what zone you live in: What are Hardiness Zones. Now head over to this site that has the most popular garden vegetables grown in the U.S. and their respective hardiness zones: Vegetables. Once you figure out what grows well in your area, you can begin to plan on when you should amend the soil, what plants should be started indoors, and what can be planted directly into your garden. If you live in the Northwest, here is a helpful chart that will give the specifics on when you should plant vegetables and whether or not you should direct sow or start indoors: Veggies Calendar.

Growing Cucumbers3. Soil Amendment

This is one of the most important aspects of gardening. I had one year where my soil was not amended well (meaning that I didn’t have a good blend of compost and essential nutrients). Most of my veggies that year had little to no yield. I was so disappointed. Finally, I tested my soil with a cheap soil test kit like this one: Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Soil Test Kit. I discovered that my soil was nearly nutrient depleted in phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. I did some research on how to better amend my soil and I came up with a soil amendment recipe. Here is a link to the recipe: It’s all about the Chicken Poo! (Garden Soil Recipe). The recipe is comprised of Composted Chicken Manure, Teufel Compost, Fish Meal, Flax Seed Meal, and Rock Dust for trace minerals. Each year that I have amended my soil with this recipe, I have gotten incredible yields.

Here’s another idea to consider, many of us are really good at growing certain veggies. This is often due to the microclimate that we live in (for more on microclimates, see this article: You Grow Potatoes and I’ll Grow To-mat-toes). If you have certain veggies that you grow well, think about connecting with a few neighbors to plan your gardens together. When it comes time to harvest, you can do your own neighborhood produce exchange – everyone wins! And, the added bonus is that you have built some community in the process – another win!

That’s it. Do you have other tips for getting ready for the next growing season? Let us know in the comments.

For other helpful tips on how to plan your garden, see these articles:

  1. Recommended Book: How to Grow More Vegetables on Less Land than You Can Imagine
  2. Gardening with Free Apps
  3. Block Party!
  4. TogetherFarm: In Practice
  5. Edible Landscaping

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Alarming Report on Global Food Waste

Food waste from Cedar Rapids and Marion Wal-Mart and Sam's

Food waste from Cedar Rapids and Marion Wal-Mart and Sam’s

This is a short post.  I wanted to pass along an alarming report I saw on Red Orbit regarding food waste.

A few key quotes from the report:

“It Is estimated that 30–50% (or 1.2–2 billion tons) of all food produced on the planet is lost before reaching a human stomach.”

– Dr. Tim Fox, CEng FIMechE Head of Energy & Environment, imEChE

“It’s absurd that farmers around the country are not harvesting 30 percent of their crops for fear they will not meet supermarket standards. The report gleaned that data from an earlier study (2008) that looked at potato harvests. That study concluded that 6 percent of crops are lost at the field level while another 22 percent are thrown away or diverted to other markets during processing.”

TogetherFarm was founded on the realization that a lot of home-grown produce goes wasted.  Our long-term goal is to set up a produce sharing feature on the web site so people with a bounty of home grown berries or tomatoes can share produce with others in their area, ensuring it doesn’t end up in the green bin or on the office counter.

We also want to direct local efforts toward giving excess backyard harvests to local charities where the food can be used/donated rather than composted.  We’ll keep you posted on our efforts as they progress.

In the meantime, check out the report here including a link to the original PDF report:

http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112761464/food-waste-2-billion-tons-annnually-011013/

 

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Recommended Book: How to Grow More Vegetables on Less Land than You Can Imagine

The winter months provide a great time to plan, prep and read for next year’s growing season. A number of years ago, I was gifted a gardening book titled, “How to Grow More Vegetables”. It was one of the books that got me excited about urban gardening and the potential of growing a significant amount of vegetables in my own small front yard. The book describes how to prep your soil, when to plant your vegetables, crop rotations, and is focused on all-organic gardening. The book also has a good section on sustainability to help you not only grow lots of vegetables but to be able to do it long term in a way that is beneficial for the environment. Another section covers companion planting. This is where certain plant types benefit each other when planted close to each other – like corn, beans, and squash (link to Wikipedia article on Companion Planting). The book ends with master charts for planning and sample garden plans. Overall, I would highly recommend this book because of its comprehensive approach to gardening, especially for gardening in small spaces. The content is written in a way that is very accessible and beneficial for gardeners of all levels of expertise.

Click on the link below to pick up a copy of your own on Amazon.com:

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Stop Watering Those Tomatoes!

Stop Watering Those Tomatoes!

Sungold tomatoes in my raised garden bed.

This article will explain why to stop watering your tomatoes and when to stop watering your tomatoes.

One tip that I’ve always found helpful, although a little counterintuitive, is to stop watering tomato plants mid to late summer. “Stop watering,” you say. “That’s seems silly.” Here is the reasoning.

Tomatoes work hard to grow new green foliage all through the growing season. The more water you give the plant (and nutrients), the larger it will continue to grow. As soon as you stop watering the plant, the plant begins to realize that it is coming to the end of the season and begins to focus on producing fruit rather than growing new foliage. When you stop watering the tomato plants, the fruit will ripen quicker too.

The reality is that this does not work with all tomato plants. If you grow your tomato plants in smaller containers, then you need to keep watering them well throughout. The plant cannot survive without a deep root system. If a tomato plant is marked by the nursery as a variety that is suitable for container gardening, then chances are you will need to water it evenly throughout the grow season. If you want more info on how to best plant your tomato plant, then check out this article: Planting Tomatoes – Best Kept Secrets.

Stop Watering Those Tomatoes!

I stopped watering this Sungold tomato plant about 4 weeks ago. It is doing excellent and producing more fruit than we can eat!

I’ve tested out this theory a couple of seasons and here is what I have learned. This techniques seems to work well with Sungold Tomatoes and Brandywine Heirlooms. Those are the two varieties I grow each year. One of the most helpful things I’ve learned is to make sure the plant is well supported if you decide to stop watering. If the plant isn’t supported, the branches start to droop and can sometimes even break off – not so helpful!

Let us know if you’ve tried this before or if you have other techniques that work well with tomatoes.

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