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Poly Floating Row Cover - slits for daytime ventilation. GreenHouseWorld.com

Have you ever used these?  Why not?!  Your family never did?  The cost factor?  They sound great!  They’re not just for big farmers, you can get them from nurseries and most seed catalogs!  I’m going to give them a try this year.

USES  Use for warming your plants both for starting spring crops early, and to ripen finishing fall fruits.  Use for frost protection, spring and fall.  Keep away harmful insects that eat or lay eggs, spread viruses.  Keep out birds and bunnies.  A caution:  ‘Colorado State University entomologists have found that overwintering insects can be trapped under the covers next to their favorite plants and be ready for action in spring. Some of these insects are tomato hornworm, onion and other root maggots, flea beetles and the [Colorado] potato beetle. Cultivate the soil before planting to reduce the number of surviving insects. Better yet, rotate crops so the survivors do not find their favorite plants nearby.’  OK?

How they work!  If for heat and growth, lay down black plastic mulch for soil warming and weed prevention. Make your slits in the plastic, plant. Put on your row cover. You can put it over hoops, over tomato cages or wires like hardware cloth bent into an arc, tented, or laid right on your plants, installing enough so your plants have room to grow up underneath. Anchor it well so no marauders can walk under or slither in. You can water right through it. Cover a row, or cover your entire raised bed!  If you are using the garden cloth row covers for freeze or grasshopper prevention, don’t let the covers touch your plants.  Since they are good both to keep your plants warmer when planting early, and help with cool weather frosts and freezes, this is one time you can have it both ways!  🙂

They come in lots of varieties – ask questions, shop around.  Select for your needs.  Get a rig that’s easy to lift for tending, and harvesting, especially if you use them to protect your strawberries from birds.

Garden Cloth, easy to install at home using tomato cages - U of Maryland Extention

Insect protection

  • The surest way to protect plants from hungry grasshoppers is to cover them with a barrier, such as a floating row cover or lightweight cloth. Be sure to hold the covers above plants with hoops or stakes, because grasshoppers are more likely to eat their way inside if leaves are pushing against the fabric.
  • Beets & Chard  Leafminers are the most common pest.  Cover plants with fine netting or cheesecloth or floating row cover to protect them from adult flies.
  • Effective in controlling cucumber beetles, squash borer and squash bugs.
  • Flea beetles on arugula, cucumber, eggplant, radish.

Double up under the covers!  Plant your main crop you want to protect, interplant with a smaller understory plant on the sunny side!  You might put in some eggplant with arugula and radish interplanted on their sunny side.

Remove and store when no longer needed! 

Lay right on your plants! Burpee.com

Danger of frost is past
The insect’s cycle is over.  Know your insect.
You no longer need more warmth
To allow pollination.  Especially melons, cucumbers and squash, that depend on insects for pollination. 

Sustainable.  Pesticides need to be applied weekly and/or after every rain, but with row covers they can be avoided completely.  Keep your soil clean, and our ocean safe.  Not only that, they save the time it takes to apply any formulas you may concoct, and if you are careful, you can lovingly reuse your row covers!  You can use them several times a year, per weather need, as different plants need protection as insects cycle, and next year too!  This is the best kind of ‘dirty laundry!’

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SeedSaving Biodiversity HeritageBeautiful image from Thomas Rainer’s Landscape of Meaning Blogspot

Seed saving is really a no-nonsense game! It’s important right at home because the plant that grew best does well at your location! It’s important to our world community, as Thomas Rainer says, to preserve our garden heritage & biodiversity! Besides, it’s fun!

Did you let a couple of your carrots become full grown plants with elegant flowers that brought bees and pollinators?! If so, clip off some of those dry seeded heads, let them dry some more, then bag and tie with a ribbon to give as gifts to other gardeners! Or put the seeds in a snazzy little jar, label with year and name and tie on a ribbon! And, of course, store some for your future plantings! That plant has done well in your microclimate niche and will make tons of more healthy carrots for you! Fennel is much like carrots, and has a lovely scent. I use it to flavor my rice, and they say it aids digestion! Parsley is a biennial, seeds in its 2nd year.

Per goingtoseed.wordpress.com all Brassicas can be grown as biennials (planted in late summer and overwintered to produce seed in their second year). If you want seed the same year, the trick is planting early enough for seed to mature.

Lettuce seeds are very tiny and take some patience. Put a bag under the tufted seed heads, pull them off into the bag. Later, sit down and separate the seeds from the tufts. Don’t keep them in the heads because they can rot. Since there are so many seeds, it won’t take long to gather a year’s supply. You really need to record your lettuce types, so if you plant from 6 packs, keep those name tags! Important: some lettuce seeds are surface planted, barely patted into the soil, others need to be planted a 1/4” deep.

Onions, garlic and leek are pretty and fun! You’ll see the black seed dots all over the drying flower head. Put a bag over it, tilt down and shake it, Baby! If you want them anywhere and everywhere throughout your garden, fling a few far and wide! They will come up where and when conditions are right for them, and adorn that spot. Or simply clip off and lay a seeded head where you would like a patch to grow. The head provides natural habitat just like it does in nature, protecting the seeds and keeping them moist. Cilantro is so pretty and fragrant! I let it grow randomly, flinging some of its seeds across my garden when they start to get a bit of rose shading. As seed it is called coriander. Let it dry completely on the plant if you want to jar it for gifts or storage for cooking or future planting. And if you love basil, gather ye basil seeds! 

Arugula and other Brassicas like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower come neatly in little pointy pods!  Let them dry on the plant and they are yours! You can fling them too, but the plant has a pretty big 1 ½ to 2’ footprint and some height if you let it grow fully, plus they like a lot of water. So I’m a little more careful where I dribble those seeds. Okra comes in big fancy dress-up pods! Let them dry on the plant then, over a bag or bowl, break open the pod to collect those awesome black seeds!

Here’s a clever tip for home growers from the UK Real Seed Catalogue! Many of the brassicas (cabbages, cauliflowers etc) love to cross with each other. Right. So only let one kind flower each year: you don’t really want to end up with some sort of sprouting-cabbage, or brussels-kale. But that’s ok – the seed keeps for years and years – so you simply let only one kind of Brassica flower each year and not worry about cross pollination. You can still grow all the others – radish, Mizuna, turnips, arugula – to eat of course, just don’t let them flower.

Now if you are in a community garden or have nearby neighbors’ with flowering plants, this might not work. It is recommended to separate different varieties at least 1000 feet for satisfactory results or at least 1 mile for purity.

Let beans grow to full mature fat pods and dry on the vine for full nutrition from their mother plant. If it is July, even August, if you’re having a hot summer, tuck a few into the soil for another round.  Otherwise, pop your bean seeds out of the pod and store for next spring’s planting.
Seed Pods Brassica Immature MatureWhen are seeds mature? Seeds that dry on the vine may turn black in pods as Brassicas often do, as shown in the image. They may become brown in the air like beet or cilantro seeds. After lettuces flower they sprout little tufts. Below and attached to the tufts, are the tiny seeds, white, gray, brown or black. Be sure the seeds are dry when you pull the tufts. Bean seeds rock! They dry to many colors, some are speckled! Wet seeds are as you see them.

Dry seeds are easy to harvest, what about WET seeds, like tomatoes? No problem. Heirlooms are true, hybrids are unpredictable but fun. Put the little guys in water, let sit no more than two days. Recent studies show tomato seed germination is best when seeds are soaked for only one to two days before they are rinsed and dried. Fermentation times longer than three days substantially lower the germination rate from 96% to only 74% on the 4th day! Word. Scrape off any scum that has formed. Rinse, add water, do it again, until you have clean seed. Dry. See all the tips and details!

Other seeds, like in mature cukes, melons, peppers (different varieties need to be 500’ apart to prevent hybridizing) and squashes, are so simple. Let a cucumber yellow and dry.   Just take the seeds out of an over mature fruit, clean, rinse, and spread them in a single layer on a screen, coffee filter or piece of newspaper, or a paper plate to dry. No ceramic or plastic. You want the water to wick away. They will stick to paper towels. Use a little dishwashing soap to remove sugar from watermelon seeds.  Pepper seeds are dry when they break rather than bend.  Oh, and melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and squash need even more personal space – at least a half-mile is required to prevent hybridization.

Eggplant takes a little more work.  Wait until it’s dull and shrivels on the plant.  Cube it, mash the seeds out.  Put them in water, toss the ones that float.  Dry for 2 to 3 days, a week or more if your weather is damp.

Corn will hybridize. If you want what you want, then don’t save, buy new seed each year.  Here are some of the important details at the International Seed Saving Institute.

Know that hybrid anything will have mixed results, usually not true to the parent plants.  Just saying.

Label everything with name and year! For example, beet and chard seed are virtually indistinguishable. Arugula seeds look a lot like broc seeds. They do.

Store in airtight jars except legumes (beans & peas), which store best in breathable bags. To keep them dry, put a small cloth bag with about one-half cup dried powdered milk beneath the seed packets. Let them languish in a cool, dark, dry place like the fridge. Avoid opening the container until you are ready to plant. Check them occasionally for insect infestations. Remove seeds with bore holes and pray for the rest.

Stored seeds will retain their viability for different lengths of time depending on the type of seed, when harvested, how harvested and how you store it. You will see different lengths of time online. Here is a general guide:

Veggie Seeds Viability varies by Years!

May you and your plants be happy and your seeds very healthy!

7.22.16 Updated



The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Cucumber Flowers

June is another grand month for planting, more heat, fast growth.  Plant in spots that have already finished; plant for succession, a continued harvest of your favorites!  If you couldn’t take advantage of April or May, step up to it now!  Seeds are good, transplants are faster if your summer palate is salivating!  Hotties like corn, cucs, beans, jicama, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkins, New Zealand spinach, all squashes!  I’ve planted corn in August and got great October corn!  Plant tasty year-rounds – beets, carrots, chard, cilantro, radish, turnips.  Tomatoes with basils now and next month.  More tomatoes if you will be dehydrating for camping, winter stews, snacks.   Try something new –maybe something you can’t get at the store!

Why are we discussing okra in June? Because it is time to plant okra seed for fall gardens. Depending on the variety, first pods are ready for harvest about 2 months after planting. If you plant in mid-June, you will not harvest until mid-August. If you wait until later, cool nights will decrease production. Of course, many gardeners have okra already growing that will continue to produce until frost. If these plants are too tall, they should now be cut back to a height of 4 feet so that re-branching and production will occur before cool weather arrives.  If you are an okra lover, it’s double your pleasure because it is in the hibiscus/hollyhock family and makes breathtakingly lovely flowers!  Okra is like little stars in a salad; you cut it in thin slices across the raw pod.  Or cook it traditionally, steamed, in stew, jambalaya over rice, or deep fried.  If you are driving through Mojave, there’s a restaurant on the main drag that fries it to perfection!  Perhaps the most important thing to know is okra has to be harvested while small to medium, while tender.  Otherwise, you end up with an unchewable tough monster.  Big is not better, trust me.

Biodiversity really works!  Mix it up, spread out your plantings.  Solid blocks (except for corn for pollination) of one plant or overplanting same kind plants in leaf touching rows are particularly susceptible to pest and disease spread, gopher loss.  Lose one, lose ‘em all.  To further confuse pests, pop in some herbs, basil with tomatoes, marigolds, as an understory in the between spaces!  Grow arugula and lettuces in the shade of your mighty corn!

Two on one trellis!  Check out the good size dark cucumbers hanging, and the ‘hammock’ supported melons!

Enjoy your luscious harvests!

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Now, let’s look at July in more detail:  Definitely time to be gathering info about fall plant varieties, getting your seeds for August planting!  As plants finish, spaces become available, get that soil ready with compost and manures.  Get some hardware cloth and install some gopher barriers. 

Wise Harvesting!  Now that the initial rush of harvesting your new veggies has passed, and it has, at times, become a labor, it is not the time to slack off!  Harvest frequently to keep your crop coming!  Do not store on the vine.  Pick zuchs and cucs small and tender. 

Maintenance practices make a difference!  See June’s info for more details! 

  • Water & mulch.  Mulch for moisture, water deeply and less frequently.  Stick your fingers in the soil to see how moist it is.  Keep strawberries moist or they will stop producing.  Water short rooted plants, beans, lettuces, cucs, more frequently.  Keep seed beds moist, water twice a day if you need to.
  • Feeding!  Epsom salts your peppers, blood meal for yellowing Nitrogen needing plants.  Scratch in a little manure to keep lettuces fat and happy.  Seabird guano (NOT bat guano) keeps plants flowering and producing!
  • Pollinators!  That’s bats, bees, beetles, birds, butterflies, moths, and wind.  The creatures need year round food, shelter and clean water.  Selecting Plants for Pollinators – California Coastal Chaparral Forest and Shrub Province is a must see article!
  • Pests – insects and skunk prevention, gopher management.
  • Diseases – pick before you water, so you don’t spread disease.  Water in the AM to let leaves dry off to keep mildew at bay. 

Make compost, compost, compost now for fall planting!  Use trimmings, spent plants, plants that bolt, healthy but no longer wanted, in your compost!  In August we will start planting fall and winter crops, and they will be wanting your fine organic compost!  Chop things up so they degrade more quickly.  Keep your pile moist so it will decay.  A dry pile is a dead pile.  Add some red worms to the pile so you will get some worm castings as well, and your pile breaks down more fully.  Bring your kitchen trim!  Add a few sprigs of yarrow from time to time and that will speed decomposition.   

Instead of leaving the big air holes open in the rubber compost enclosures, you might decide to install a very large heavy mill plastic bag to keep your pile moist!  Put a few holes in the bottom for drainage.  When enough compost has formed, you can just remove the bag to a storage area out of the sun, or empty it where you want to plant next, incorporating it with the soil there.  Or if you don’t use a bag, just remove the enclosure and plant right there, right in your compost!

Bountiful Storage!  Freezing, canning, seed collecting, making medicinal products like creams and shampoos, teas, powdered herbs, candles, flavored oils & vinegars, or drying flowers, are all wonderful ways to extend the joy of what you grew, whether you keep them or give them as gifts!

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