grdnguru's blog

Time to get serious here...
Posted on Apr 22, 2018 6:45 PM

We've had a very beautiful set of weekend days here in the mid-atlantic and all I can say is - it's about time. After being way too busy with my job and major renovations being completed on our house, it was certainly glorious to get out of the house and into a mid 60's day today. Of course, as I sit here, my body is asking what the heck was that? See, our weather for the last month or so (if you dont live here) has been less than normal and actually quite cold. Today was a very welcomed relief. I am sure there will be a lot of tired folks tomorrow but it was worth it as far as I am concerned.
So, having been delayed, I jumped right into the garden with gusto.
Being a firm believer now in cover crops, it was time to cut it down and roto-till it into the ground. Yesterday, I cut the Winter Rye down so that it could begin to break down into the soil. I started with the three beds looking as such:
Thumb of 2018-04-23/grdnguru/ff75dd,Thumb of 2018-04-23/grdnguru/11da2d,Thumb of 2018-04-23/grdnguru/c4bf2e
Really nice crops of Rye thanks to the cooler temperatures so there is a plus from the cool spring weather! After having cut them with my weed whacker, they looked like this at the end of yesterday.
Thumb of 2018-04-23/grdnguru/53a049,Thumb of 2018-04-23/grdnguru/4cb9d8,Thumb of 2018-04-23/grdnguru/a0544f

So, as per my normal routine, I left the clippings to dry out. Usually, I leave them for a couple of days. But, after checking our long term weather forecast this morning, I decided that given we are to receive rain Tuesday through and including Saturday, I decided it was better to do the tilling today. So, after a little less than an hour, I had the three beds looking like this:
Thumb of 2018-04-23/grdnguru/aa01ba,Thumb of 2018-04-23/grdnguru/bd1443,Thumb of 2018-04-23/grdnguru/2aa2fa

My plan is to let the rains saturate the beds to allow for the build up of microorganisms and critters to feast off the clippings. I do have to point out that this tilling was done with a Mantis tiller that would disturb little more that the clippings from yesterday and the very top of the roots. I have seen a much more robust soil in terms of plant growth and soil structure each year. I am anticipating that the same will happen this year too.
I do have some major projects to undertake before summer weather arrives. I will be installing a greenhouse my wife and son bought me for Christmas. I have finally mapped out the area I want it located in. And additionally, I need to install my new water tank. I cant really call it a rain barrel as that doesn't describe it. Here is what it looks like.
Thumb of 2018-04-23/grdnguru/225754,
I have an area for it, I just have to build a base with cement blocks to support it. That will make it higher than my beds so gravity will do the watering. It has a metal cage around which will support the tank. It hold 275 gallons of water which allowed it to replace the 4 rains barrels I had from before. Cost was $75.00 which seemed frugal and it had food in it so all the boxes are checked for safety. I really need to get this taken care of so I am hoping for the weather forecasters to be wrong so I can get the base built this week.
Well, that's all I have for this installment. Here's hoping you are making progress in your gardens and are on track for a bountiful harvest to come! Happy Gardening everyone!

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Early Spring
Posted on Feb 13, 2018 4:25 AM

In what one can only describe as an early spring here, we had unseasonably warm and wet weather here over this past weekend. It was in the mid to upper 40's here on Saturday. It began to rain mid day Saturday and really didn't stop from there on. Sunday was even warmer as the temps went up the the low 60's.
Given this rain was predicted, I went out to my rain barrels and composters on Sunday morning in between downpours to set them up. I took the lids off of three of my composters to allow the rains to soak the leaves and compost to get them active again. I then hooked up two rain barrels to give me water to clean them out. I did this so I wouldn't have to drag hoses out given they are put away for the winter. Every drop counts as they say!
Not much has been going on with the actual garden as it is still very much winter here. When I went out to my garden on Sunday morning, my shoes were sinking into the muddy ground. I wont be venturing out there over the next couple of days to allow the ground to dry out some. But one certainly can't tell it is winter by the weather we are having. The long term forecast is for our temps to be about 10-15 degrees warmer than normal for the next 15 days. This is the same pattern we had last year, and just like last year, I am chomping at the bits to plant some early season crops. I am on the fence this year as I remember my remorse for not planting aggressively last year. I still have a little time to ponder that - but not much.
And, speaking of time, I will be starting the construction of my new greenhouse soon enough. It won't be this weekend as the weather forecast is for rain to start on Friday and probably not end until the following Monday. Looks like it will be another indoors weekend.
I will most likely begin planting root crops in my hydroponic system sometime this week. It is located inside a poly greenhouse that I have in my backyard. It's next to my shed so it is not affected by winds and actually keeps the low temps about 6-10 degrees higher than the actual lows. The nightime projected temps here are supposed to be in the mid to upper 30's according to the National Weather Service so I should be fine.
I hope you are beginning to get excited about gardening for another season. It certainly is time here in the mid-atlantic for it. Until next time, Happy Gardening everyone!

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Where the gardens are today (Part 1)
Posted on Jun 11, 2017 12:05 PM

I have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to assist two other gardeners in my area with setting up new garden areas for them. I say fortunate because it is a compliment of sorts to have people ask you for advice let alone trust you to plan and implement their gardens. It has been quite busy time maintaining my garden while working with these folks on their gardens all the while holding down a job too. But it is very rewarding too.
My gardens' activity has been pretty hectic to date. I expanded the garden area and made several decisions to make the garden more productive with food we enjoy eating and also to allow for foods that can be put up in the fall.
Last year I planted 4 paste tomatoes thinking I'd get enough from them to put up a few jars worth in the fall. Just to try it out. It was, to say the least, a huge disappointment. I have spoken to several gardeners who all related that their tomatoes were off last year. So this year, I bought 20 paste plants thinking an area of 81 sq. ft would be enough. Not quite as it turned out. Given last years crop issues, I did some research and found out that I have actually been crowding my tomatoes. Seems the ideal spacing is 2 ft. between plants in a row and 3ft. between each row of caged plants. So, I spaced mine so that I could get 15 plants in the isolated area where they wouldn't be impacted by any other plants issues. Here's a picture of the plot so far.
Thumb of 2017-06-11/grdnguru/cfccaf

The large boards on either end of the rows are set up so that I can tie them up in what is called the Florida weave method. I have never used it before but decided it lookd easier (in the long run that is) than staking and/or caging the plants. I do not like the cages that are sold everywhere as they are much too low height wise to handle plants that can grow to 6-8 ft. tall. I never really understood why they were always manufactured to such small heights. May have to do with the thin wire they use to construct them.
The Florida weave method entails running a string alternately around the plants at 10 - 12 inches from the soil line and then every 10-12 inches upwards to give them the support they need. Here is a picture of my first attempt at it.

Thumb of 2017-06-11/grdnguru/c0094e

You start at one end and weave the string on opposite sides of the plants as you go down the row and then loop back and weave the string to the other side of each plant. This kind of cradles the plant as can be seen in the picture. When they get to 2 ft height, I will then do the weave at that height. This will continue until they reach full height. I am by no means an expert so this will be an experiment. We have had some windy weather and the plants seem to have had no issues yet.
On another tomato note, I have 10 plants of various hybrid and heirloom plants in the ground that all seem to be doing very well too. After researching why I had so few tomatoes last year, I learned that either the hybrid tomatoes or heirlooms seem to do well each year but one always outperforms the other type. As I had predominately heirlooms last year, that may have been the source of my issue. So, this year, I have it almost split down the middle.
Thumb of 2017-06-11/grdnguru/c742d1
The two plants in the bowls are for my father in law for Father's day. He used to have a garden but has given it up for various reasons. I will put a cage around them for additional support. I used a mix of the cages I have and poles for support once they overgrow the cages. All he has to do is water them at this point.
Speaking of experiments. Last fall I grew out lettuce and carrots in a covered mini greenhouse. The carrots are still growing and I have replanted the lettuce to see if I could continue to grow using the structure. Here is where it is at as of now.
Thumb of 2017-06-11/grdnguru/9c65f5

I have two rows of leaf lettuce that are growing quite well. I continue to water the plants and need to pull some of the carrots to see if progress is being made or we are at a standstill. But, to have leaf lettuce this far into the season is a bonus.
I planted a row of Buttercrunch lettuce about a month ago and covered it under woven vegetable fabric. As can be seen below, it also is doing very well given the lateness of the season.
Thumb of 2017-06-11/grdnguru/ada0e3
There are 7 heads of the lettuce in the row and they seem to all be growing very strong. We're going to be having some nice salads soon enough.
I also have a bed of 16 Bell Pepper plants that are doing ok given our decidely cooler weather we have been experiencing. They are all healthy as can be seen in the picture below. I love peppers but I really do think I over grew yet again this year. I will probably end up giving some (alot actually) if they come in like last year. We shall see how that turns out.
Thumb of 2017-06-11/grdnguru/191f7a

I've also planted 6 cucumber plants. I have them trellised on my DIY structures. A local garden center closed about 2 years ago and I bought their onion set displays. Here is how they ended up looking in place after I painted them and added screening.

Thumb of 2017-06-11/grdnguru/914b03

They are really sturdy, wind resistant and somewhat compact. When I bought them, my wife was skeptical as was I. But, the cucumbers are starting to grow to a point where they are climbiming unto the screening. I will see how they fare as they climb.
In the backround of the same picture are three interconnected wire "ladders" that I have converted to yet more cucumber trellises. These were repurposed from being protective coverings for plate glass windows that were being delivered to the company where I work. I wired them together and then attached them to rebar I pounded into the ground. They held up 5 cucumber plants - cucumbers and all through some windy storms last year. These were being thrown out so I asked for them and was told if I can get them in my car - they were mine. And they were.
With the weather turning much warmer in the next week, the various plants should begin to become more robust. I will have to naturally watch them as the higher temps can cause issues. You may leave in the morning and come home to plants wilting right before your eyes. Don't stress! This is natural as the plants wilt to preserve moisture to survive. Just give them a good drink of water and watch them rebound. It doesn't appear to cause any long term damage. But if this happens repeatedly, that's mother nature telling you that you need to step up your watering game.
So, there you have the latest, greatest from my backyard. In part 2, I will recap what has been happening in one of the gardens that I am assisting the people into becoming full on gardeners. I will give all the details in the next week or earlier. Until next time, Happy Gardening everyone!!!!

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Oh, what a beautiful day!
Posted on Mar 27, 2017 5:39 PM

As the day began:
We had one of the most delightful days in a very long time Saturday. The forecasters were dead on this time. I planned on getting a very early start to the day given the forecast and what I really needed to get accomplished.
I actually look forward to beating the sun up because it is a very special time of the day to me. The world is quiet for a while and you can just take in all of God's beauty. It affords me time to breathe and just exist. Even the birds aren't quite up yet. And in the area where we live, that is saying alot as we have a very big population of loud birds. Sometimes I can imagine me as a farmer and being out in the fields and just taking in the day before getting on to the business of farming. You know, looking down from a hill over the rolling fields below just as morning is approaching. It has to be one of the best offices with a view in the world.
So, I was up at 5:15 and raring to go. I put on my headlamp as it was dark outside and began the day. I had a pile of limbs that needed to be cut up and bagged along with other yardwaste. I sometimes have to wonder what my neighbors think when they see me up that early. Then again, they may not even be up. So here was my view at 5:30AM:
Thumb of 2017-03-27/grdnguru/43710c
I said it was dark didn't I? I began clearing the pile and cutting up the pile when it occurred to me that most of the limbs were rather substantial. Then it hit me - why not?

Permaculture anyone?

I decided to practice a little permaculture gardening. Never heard of it? Well, it is quite complex but one of the parts of it is to use what your land produces. In this case, I decided to attempt to employ the various branches of the tree in my yard as plant supports in my garden. I tried it last year with my Peppers and it worked very well for me. So, I trimmed the various large branches down and bagged the waste products and the little limbs for disposal this week. When I started, I thought I might get maybe 10 or so limbs for Pepper supports. Here are the culled limbs.
Thumb of 2017-03-27/grdnguru/138265

After about an hour or so, I had all my limbs trimmed and ready for use in the garden. And the bounty from nature was far more than I anticipated. Here are the Pepper supports. All 15 of them!
Thumb of 2017-03-27/grdnguru/82d790
And here are the Tomato supports.
Thumb of 2017-03-27/grdnguru/3094d3

There are 11 of them.
Now, my experience is that these will last for about 2 or 3 years. But then again, who cares? I looked at tomato cages and supports and they can cost anywhere from $4 to $9 each. Even at $3 a piece, that is a savings of $78.00 all totaled not counting taxes. That seems significant to me. I have been and continue to be frugal if nothing else when it comes to my garden. Maybe I am a throwback given my experiences but it all adds up. And readily free materials are available if you look for them and use your imagination. I will go into this further in a subsequent post.

Sprucing up!

I've decided this year to tighten up the look of my gardens. I noticed that the fence posts that I use were pretty well worn from the many years of service so I bought some spray paint to bring them back to life. I think the results speak for themselves. Before:
Thumb of 2017-03-27/grdnguru/6486a8

and after:
Thumb of 2017-03-27/grdnguru/3301c1

A small but I think significant improvement. I'm going to paint the rest of them next chance I get.

Winter garden progress

During the day, I checked in on the progress of the winter garden I kept going all through the winter. I wasn't expecting the lettuce to be doing okay as the temps were high and this garden was covered with three layers of protection. So, I uncovered them in the 80 degree heat we had Saturday and this is what I found.
Thumb of 2017-03-27/grdnguru/031ddc

Quite an early salad garden! Not at all what I expected but I will take it. I removed the extra layer of the thick greenhouse plastic to insure that it wouldn't get too hot in the greenhouse this week. Of course, I will have to keep an eye on the weather to make sure it doesn't get too cold. At this point, it looks like it will be normal without any drastic low temps.

Shared garden?

I have a friend who with his wife wants a garden this year. They are really busy so I volunteered to help them this year with the garden. When he told me he'd have 400 square feet of garden I kind of thought he was over shooting it. He contacted me to come over to look at the space Saturday. Here are the spaces.

This is one plot.
Thumb of 2017-03-27/grdnguru/86a077

Here's the other.
Thumb of 2017-03-27/grdnguru/f419f3

And here's the rest of the above space.
Thumb of 2017-03-27/grdnguru/479f79

He wasn't kidding. This is probably a little bigger than 400 sq ft. It's what I call - big fun. The nice thing about this is that it runs east to west and there are no trees to shade the sun. The bulk of the space will be in full sun. Should work for most plants but it defintely won't work too well for lettuce and such.


Lots for sure. Just seems that you run out of time regardless of how early you get up. I have yet to ramp up with the community garden I have been helping out with and I am behind in growing my plants. I also was offered a space of about 4,000 sq. feet to share with a old time gentleman gardener who is acknowledging his age. We agreed that he would allow me to work the space and he would help out as much as possible as long as he could pick what he wanted. We would share the harvest. So, I am going from my 200 sq. feet to 3 total sites of about 4,800 sq. feet. It's a little daunting when you think about it but I do love to garden and stay busy. I will be retiring in a few years so I will have the time then to explore more options. Having a full time job and doing serious gardening is sometimes overwhelming. I mean, I put in 10 hours in on my garden and yard Saturday and it feels like I did not get enough done. Where did all this work come from? But, you know what, I got to spend 10 hours on things I needed to and in my garden. Not a bad day actually.
And you?

Hopefully you are ramping up your garden activities just about now. There is certainly alot to do this time of the year regardless of where and what zone you live in. I hope you are getting your hands dirty and the soil tilled. And, until next time, happy gardening everyone!

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Spring has sprung?
Posted on Jan 11, 2017 6:55 PM

This week we have had quite the little swing to spring. After a cold Sunday, we woke up to frigid temps and some wind on Monday. It was about 15 degrees when I started my car. It begrudgingly did start after a little hesitation. It was frigid for the day as temps did not get much above 26 around this area. Yesterday was a little better as we broke into the mid 30's. And today, it was in the mid 40's.. The high for tomorrow should top out at about 60 which will seem downright balmy compared to Monday. But, tomorrow will be the end of the unseasonable warm weather. By Saturday, if the weather forecasts are to be believed, we should be back in the 30's with a possibility of snow. Such is life in the mid-atlantic region. Swings of this sort are common place during winter. I took advantage of the temps today to check on my winter garden. I didn't know exactly what to expect given the unevenness of our weather. But, much to my surprise, it looked pretty good all in all.
Thumb of 2017-01-12/grdnguru/bbac84
While the lettuce looks worse for the wear from the temperatures, the spinach, onions and carrots look pretty hardy at this point. According to what I have read, this seems to be the result that I should be seeing at this time. I have hope that this will continue and it just might if the weather stays on the warmer side of normal for this region. Only time will tell but again, I am pleased with the progress at this point. I watered the plants and covered them back up having taken the opportunity to water before the cold temps set in for the weekend.
It hardly seems time to begin starting plants for the garden but I will be finishing the set up for starting plants in my basement this weekend. I plan on starting broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower(maybe). I also have to find some good seed starting mix so I will have to do some research and see what most people believe is the best. I tried an organic mix last year and I wasn't exactly happy with the way it ponded water on the surface. That, and the fact that the soil seemed to stay way too moist seemed to hinder the seedlings growth. Once I transplanted them and got them into the garden, they took off. But, by that time, they were delayed and just seemed to be unable to catch up. I learned a lesson that weak seedlings beget weak production. It's all part of the experience of gardening. Well, that's about it here in Baltimore. Just taking one day at a time and waiting for the gardening season to commence. Hope you and your families are all doing well and that you are enjoyed reading this post. Until next time, happy gardening everyone!

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