The Wealthy Earth

A square foot gardening blog

August 29, 2015
by Jim
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Square foot gardening-Winter planning

arugulaWith day length shortening, temperatures beginning to cool, and precipitation shortly to follow now is the perfect time to plan your winter garden. It’s a lot easier if you live in zones 8 and higher, but for zone 6 and below, we have some thinking to do.

The first step that I like to take is to simply list the items I want to grow. There’s information floating around on the internet that show 30+ different crops that can be grown in our zones and lower during winter. I’ve tried virtually all of them over that past 5 years and have had a great experience. But I’ve also found that many of those crops were things we didn’t enjoy eating. Maybe I should say we didn’t enjoy eating them as much as other tested and tried things. It’s a thrill to know that you’re able to go out and harvest minutina, but it didn’t do much for out taste buds.

Here’s a short list of things that I’ll be getting ready very soon. Spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, mache, beet greens, radishes, tatsoi, carrots, claytonia, and mizuna. We love simple salads just harvested in January from the garden. There’s other items that I may grow if I decide I want to stir-fry a few dishes. Things like bok choi, mustards, turnips, and leeks would be good choices.

I came across a really fun blog a year ago. I’m not a subscriber but I check in every once in a while to see what she’s doing. And, she’s doing the same thing as I am! But she’s much better at showing it. Take a look at her winter garden-you can find it here.  I love what she does.  You’ll also notice that’s she’s kept a record of the amount of produce and veggies harvested during the winter months.  Think about that quantity.  Although there’s a lot of money to be saved-for sure-the real reason to winter garden is the taste!  And with virtually no work, it’s the most enjoyable of all gardening season.  Or, at least it can be.

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August 29, 2015
by Jim
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10 Tips for naturally controlling pests in your garden-Guest Post

buchengallmucke-470437_1280Are the pests in your garden driving you mad? Before you reach for the insecticide in a desperate bid for sanity, stop a moment and read my tips on getting rid of pests naturally, no harsh chemicals required. With these pest deterrent and control ideas, you should have a bad-bug-free garden in no time!

1. Use spices to deter ants
Prevent ants from building a nest around the root balls of your plants by sprinkling cayenne pepper or curry powder around the edge of your square foot plot. Apparently, the insects hate the stuff, and won’t cross a line of these spices.

2. Attract ladybugs
Our spotted friends are fantastic at keeping aphid populations down, so a good way to tackle these pests is to encourage ladybugs to enter your garden. Heather Rhodes over at Gardening Know How offers some great advice on attracting ladybugs to your yard.

“(In order to get) ladybugs to come to your garden (you need) to make sure they have enough bugs to eat. While it may seem counterproductive, leaving aphids and other pests alone will help with attracting ladybugs.

“It may be helpful to plant decoy plants that will attract and provide aphids while you keep your desired plants bug free until the ladybugs come to do it for you.”

Why not designate one of your square foot plots as a pest control station? You could use it to either sow plants that will attract aphids to encourage ladybugs; or, if your garden is more established, grow plants that will attract beneficial insects.

Though attracting pests may seem strange, it could help to create diversity in your garden, which is great for controlling all pest populations.

3. Keep mosquitoes at bay
Mosquitoes are an incredibly irritating pest, as instead of attacking our plants, we’re the ones on the menu! However, there are a few things you can do to try to keep your garden a mozzie-free zone:
• If you have bird baths or other water sources in your garden such as free standing water features, change the water in them twice a week, and ensure that any areas that collect water are drained regularly.
• Install a bat house in your yard – bats can each hundreds of mozzies in just one night! The Flatbush Gardener offers some fantastic tips on where to install your bat house.
• Add sage or rosemary to the coals of your barbeque next time you cook outside – the herbs will repel mosquitoes. It’s also a good idea to grow rosemary, lavender or basil in one of the plots of your garden, as this can help to deter mozzies even when you’re not cooking outside.

4. Dig a pond
“Ah, but you just told us to remove standing water from our yards to keep mosquitoes away!” I hear you. However, though ponds can potentially be attractive to mosquitoes, with a little planning and preparation, the mosquito population can be kept under control.

Darcy Logan over at Do It Yourself offers some great tips on keeping your pond mosquito-free. “Common goldfish, killifish, and guppies are three types of fish that are known to eat mosquito larvae and will get along well with other fish,” says Darcy, who adds: “Trim any vegetation that hangs over the edge of the pond that might provide shelter for mosquito larvae.”

Now that the mosquitoes are out of the way, you can get on with enjoying your pond and the pest control benefits it provides. Your pond could attract toads and frogs, which will do a sterling job of eating slugs and snails – pests which could decimate your plants, given half the chance.

A pond will also help to make your garden attractive to a larger range of wildlife, meaning that it will be more diverse; and with diversity comes better population control. The more diverse your garden is, the less you’ll have to worry about pests.

If that isn’t enough of an incentive for you, then this post on why a pond is a great addition to your property from the Swallow Aquatics blog may just convince you!

5. Scare the crows
If birds are becoming more of a pest than a pal, deterring them a little might be beneficial for your garden. Try hanging some brightly colored baubles on the plants that they’re attacking the most – unless you have the space to create a full on scarecrow, of course!

6. Crush eggshells to deter caterpillars
Once caterpillars become butterflies, they’re incredibly helpful and a fantastic friend to any gardener. But while they’re growing up, they’ll eat pretty much everything in sight. Keep caterpillars away from your beloved plants by surrounding the base with a ring of sharp crushed eggshells.

7. Use your leftover coffee in compost
The scent of coffee is apparently disgusting to many pests, including ants, mosquitoes, aphids and slugs. Mix the leftover grounds from your coffee maker in with your compost heap, or apply it directly to the top of your soil.

8. Deter deer
As beautiful as deer are, they can be a nightmare for your garden. There are lots of different methods to keep them at bay – try a few ways to see which works best for you:
• Next time you have a haircut, save the trimmings. Place the hair directly on your vegetable or flower plots; or put the hair into a stocking and hang it above your plants. The scent should keep deer away.
• Make a hot pepper spray. Mix a quart of water with a half cup of dried hot peppers, and bring to the boil in a saucepan. Drain the mixture and discard the peppers, then pour the solution in a spray bottle so that you can spray your plants with it.
• Place soap flakes around the edge of each plot, or hang a bar of fragrant soap above your plants.

9. Use the hose
Picking each and every bug from your plants could take all day, so if you want to get rid of pests in a hurry, switch your hose to a fine spray and use the water to knock the insects off the leaves.

For a more permanent solution, add a vegetable-based soap to water in a spray bottle and spray onto the bugs – it will dissolve their outer shell, and kill them. Use this carefully, though, to avoid killing the good guys!

10. Create a barrier
Using a cloche, or another type of cover that lets in sunlight, is a great way to protect plants from pests. There are covers available that also let water in; or you could opt for a cloche which works as a miniature greenhouse – particularly great for vegetables – and lift the barrier when you need to water your plants.

Conclusion
I hope that this guide has provided you with some ideas on how to get rid of pests without resorting to harsh chemicals. The fewer harsh chemicals you use, the better your garden will be able to eventually create its own mini ecosystem, which will mean that pests are kept under control without you needing to lift a finger.

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August 27, 2015
by Jim
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Fall square foot gardens

muirThis is a great time of year to begin direct seeding your lettuce. All the things that loved the spring season can be done one more time before the gardening year ends-at least for those living in zones 4-7. Lettuce, radishes, chard, spinach, arugula, bok choi, and cilantro are some of the things that can be started right now. But, don’t wait too much longer!

Why don’t you try a variety of lettuces this fall? I’ll be planting 8 or so varieties that all taste and look different. The fall gardner is one of the easiest and rewarding to grow-the pests are leaving, temperatures are cooling, and we get more rain to lessen our workload in the garden. If you have a brussel sprout transplant now would be the time to put that it too. It’s got to be a pretty good sized transplant but you’ll be rewarded with some delicious treats come the end of October or mid-November.

I’ll be hosting a guest post shortly on the topic of pest management. Keep an eye out and tell me what you think about some of the ideas.

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August 22, 2015
by Jim
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Square Foot Gardening Harvest

TWE Summer basket #4This time of year is a lot of fun. All the planning put into the garden are paying off by way of large harvests. Lettuce, carrots, basil, cherry tomatoes, squash, zucchini, chard, cucumbers, melons of various varieties, corn, etc. The most enjoyable part for me has been the summer lettuces. We’ve had a pretty hot summer and I’ve been able to grow the specialty lettuces right through the season. And we’ve got more hot weather coming in the next week. Once you hit that 85+ degree mark it’s very difficult to grow lettuce without having it bolt and go to seed.

I’ve been able to grow vegetables and produce for 8 families this summer. I think I’ll keep all those customers for the fall season as well. I love the idea and concept of CSA’s. When I think of CSA’s this is what comes to mind: lot of work requiring time that I don’t have. If you know neighbors or friends who belong to CSA’s they love them but are always a little perplexed by some of the items they get in their baskets. It’s been estimated that 15-20% of CSA items are thrown away because customers don’t know what to do with that kohlrabi-or whatever different thing they might have in their basket. To compensate for this CSA’s will add a recipe card for ideas of how to use unknown or unfamiliar things.

My baskets have no recipe cards because they contain items that everyone knows what to do with. There’s no recipe cards needed for the items you see in this basket. You may think it’s boring but my customers are always getting organic produce and veggies that have been harvested just a few hours earlier. I’ve had comments saying that nobody can beat the taste of these lettuce, cucumber, or cherry tomato varieties. And the squash/zucchini varieties are very popular as well. I do vary the varieties and color of the lettuces throughout the 6 week period. Either way, I think it’s tough to beat the taste of my salad greens and veggies.

If you haven’t gotten the harvest you expected or things don’t seem to do grow well, you might want to consider learning the square foot gardening method. The backbone of the system is the soil-which is perfect for anything you’d like to grow. There is the upfront cost of putting it together, but how much does it cost you in terms of money and frustration to have those same old tiny tomatoes that don’t grow to full size-and it’s been going on for years? Or carrots that don’t come up? Or, how about the critters that attack your garden every year? And we haven’t even mentioned the weeding! The square foot gardening system is so easy to learn. You’ll have 100% of the harvest in 20% of the space of that old traditional row garden.

Labor day will be here in a week. This spells the end or the beginning of the end of the gardening season for the year. I don’t know about you but I’m getting ready for my fall crop. And since I haven’t spent a lot of time weeding and watering I have a lot of energy left to devote to that.

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August 20, 2015
by Jim
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Thinking fall in your square foot garden

cherokee and concept lettuceI say square foot garden but it could be any garden. This is the perfect time to put in your entire fall crop. Everything planted now will be harvested by mid to late October-and you’ll be so glad you attempted to grow during this season. Because it’s been a long summer of pulling weeds, watering, etc. many gardeners think about ending their growing season around the Labor Day weekend. It’s the official end of summer and things are winding down.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact for me, this is coming up on the best time of year to garden. Why? First, most of the pests have headed south or will be soon. Second, the season usually gives us water from Mother Nature so this cuts back on your watering time. Third, all the great crops of spring are now back!

In the next couple of weeks I will be emptying squares and replanting with the following crops: lettuce, spinach, red ace beets(for the greens), arugula, bok choi, carrots(for winter as well), leeks(for winter), swiss chard, radishes, tokyo bekana, and mizuna. Some of these will be harvested at once but others will be left to continue through the winter months. And there’s a whole other bunch of fun crops that can be planted in a few weeks that do best during the winter months. More on that later.

I hope you give the fall garden a try. You’ll find it’s a lot easier and a lot less work than spring and summer gardening. When you harvest your first head of lettuce along with some spinach and swiss chard for an evening salad you’ll be so glad you did

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