grdnguru's blog

Posted on Feb 1, 2022 9:10 AM

The preparations stage is at hand in the garden. I've seeded in spinach and lettuce in my basement to get a head start. I'm hoping the temps will moderate in the next couple of weeks. I've seen several forecasts and quite frankly, it looks like a colder than normal February is at hand. But once the cold weather subsides, I should be able to use my greenhouse to get early crops of spinach and lettuce if all goes right.
I laid down 6 ml clear greenhouse plastic over three of my beds last Wednesday. My hope was that with the sunny but cold days we're having, that the sun will heat up and thaw out the soil so I can get an early crop in. Well, we we're blessed with about 3 inches of snow over the weekend and all my beds were covered. After two straight days of sunny but cold weather, the plastic covered areas have already melted the snow and are heating up as shown in this photo I took this morning. When I reached under a part of the plastic, the air was a bit warmer than outside and the soil was actually thawed to the point that I could push my finger into it. For early February, that's good.

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Once the temps turn warmer, I have several structures that I can use to protect the plants from frost. But, I will first harden the plants off in my greenhouse and then begin to plant out my garden. I have spinach and lettuce seedlings in my basement that are coming along fine at this time. I'm not quite sure how my garden will look this year as I have about 80 pots and grow bags to use. Seems I may have been overly enthusiastic with my purchases this past year. It a weakness for me in that when I see a pot that I know costs $15.00 retail and its in my hand priced for $3.00, that I can't just say no. I really have to just get a warmer day and spread them out in my driveway to survey what I have all in one place. Or maybe I'll do it at night so my neighbors won't see them and wonder what I am doing.

On another note, I was given 7 of these water drip kits as seen below. I didn't do anything with them last year. But I got to thinking and decided I would at least try them this year. After doing some research, I figured it out that in order to use these, all I needed to do was to buy additional tubing. This would allow me to effectively cover all my beds. I will most likely use them only on those really hot days where the sun just pulls the moisture out of the soil as you water it. And, it will be easier to have someone water the garden while I am on vacation. I have zero investment in them other than the tubing so it's worth a try.

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On a timely note, I would encourage anyone who needs fertilizer for this year to purchase it now. Last night (1-31), a major fertilizer processing plant in South Carolina burned down. It was a major plant and it will most likely affect the supply and pricing of fertilizer. From initial reports, it was so severe that there is little likelihood of the plant resuming full production anytime soon. But, time will tell. Just wanted to give a heads up as the fertilizer situation in this country is precarious with regards to both supply and pricing.

Well, that's all for now. It's getting close to being time to work the gardens and I think we're all excited for it. Until next time, Happy Gardening everyone!

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Here I go again!
Posted on Jan 14, 2022 2:11 PM

So much ground to cover, so little time. It is fast approaching the date to begin my many seedlings even though there is snow on the ground and an impending snowstorm this weekend. Kind of confusing but you just have to cut through it all. For my area and zone (7A), January 12th is 12 weeks from our last frost. There are certain crops that need about 12 weeks to grow to a size where you can transplant them generally without worry about a frost. You do, however, need to have a way to protect your transplanted seedlings in case of a later than normal frost. They are known to happen.
For me, this means that I will be seeding Broccoli and Cabbage into starter containers this weekend. I know, it's a tiny bit late but that really won't affect their growth. Then, on the 19th, I will seed in 2nd plantings of Broccoli and Cabbage with a 1st seeding in of Cauliflower. It's going to be a busy week but that's how things are in Winter with Spring crops. I will be tending these seedlings while also handling the greenhouse plants and my Longevity Spinach plants that I am overwintering in my basement area. This, while cleaning the various pots and planning out where I am going to grow the plants and also determine the placement of my grow pots and my nearly 60 various pots.
Speaking of pots, I recently bought the 7 pots below at a thrift store for a really good price. Around this time of the year, it seems as though people are donating the pots for plants they had over the holidays. I always keep an eye out and have learned where the store generally shelves them. I like to be frugal where I can and pots is one place you definitely can do that. These are very nice given they are larger than what I normally find and again, the price was unbeatable. This type of find plus a very good haul at an auction is why I now have almost double the pots that I had the beginning of last year.

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They will come in very handy.

Speaking of thrift stores, I went into one while out yesterday with a family member. We just went in to look around. As we were, I spotted something that I have had in the back of my mind for some time now. I saw it and knew what I would use it for besides the obvious. But, it had what looked like a non-operating adjustment lever. I decided to not buy it right there and think if I could still use it. I woke up this morning and decided to see if the piece was still for sale and if I could get the adjustment piece to work. I took a pair of needle nose pliers and went back to the store. The armature moved with little prodding thankfully. I pushed it a bit and everything seemed to work.

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It isn't brand new but it also was nowhere near the new price either. I am going to use it to mulch my leaves in the fall and to cut down the cover crops on my beds in early spring. This way, I don't have to use my lawnmower or trimmer to do the dusty leaves job. This will also allow me to have the cover crops lay directly on the beds instead of being blown about the garden area. And, it will not disturb the soil and the crops roots as much as the trimmer did. All pluses from my viewpoint.

I did decide to try an experiment yesterday. I planted one seed set of Broccoli and two seed sets of different cabbage varieties directly into a garden bed and placed my heavy duty cloches over each of them. I had the cloches in place for about 2, maybe 3 weeks before this. The soil underneath the covers was cool to the touch. The soil outside of the cloche covered soil was frozen. Even with that, I spread the seeds, lightly watered them and covered them with the units. I'm not too optimistic given we're in the direct sights of a winter storm this weekend. But hey, if you don't push the envelope once in awhile, you'll get bored.

Well, that's about all I have at this point. I'm hoping you will dive right into the garden and take a shot at producing for you and your families and maybe a few of your neighbors. If you have any questions, please don't feel bashful. So, until next time - Happy Gardening Everyone.

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New year, new challenges.
Posted on Jan 11, 2022 10:40 AM

Happy belated New Year!
So much has transpired over the last few months. Most notably is the new variant of Omicron. I am not so worried about its affects should I or my wife get it. From most accounts, it is milder than the previous variants. But rather, I am most concerned about its cascading affects throughout the world. And most notably, the crippling of the worldwide food supply chain.
It has permeated almost every nook and cranny of food production worldwide. There seems to be a building crescendo of issues in such magnitude that it defies reason that one should look forward and expect things to operate as normal. All one has to do is look at the shelves in almost any grocery store to see the effects this has had. You either can get the product you want or it isn't available. And, if it is available, its' at a much higher cost. This also reflects the reality of higher labor and other input costs.
I am a firmer than ever believer that this is the year where food will be the center focus of news stories. After all, food is perhaps the most important item needed for survival - other than maybe water. I don't have a crystal ball to predict things and have never tried to do so. But, I can see with my own eyes the slight unraveling of things that were for so long taken for granted. Food usually experiences a period of inflation before it starts to show signs of shortages. In spots, we have seen both happening.
The reason for this blog post is to highlight the need for people to begin growing their own food. This statement is based on a set of facts that are rooted in reality. The UN has stated that the world agricultural systems have been producing less food for each of the last 3 years. In the US, there has been a steady decline in food production for the last 2-3 years. The reasons for this are so varied that it would take up pages and pages of writing. I'm not interested in that.
I am not a prepper nor alarmist. My belief is actually this. It would be wise to start producing more of our own food as the supply chain (more importantly - supplies) becomes less dependable. I see 2022 as a year of tightening supplies and higher inflation. And, given this, I am being more intentional about what crops I am going to grow and how many. Its as simple as that. No grand plan, no frantic push.
As this is my direction, this blog will reflect the new reality. I hope I can assist anyone who wants to do the same or, for that matter, who just wants to grow a more productive vegetable garden. I've been gardening for over almost 50 years and have a very wide experience level. Again, take this for what it's worth. Everyone has to decide for themselves. I hope you will continue to watch this blog and start watching if you already aren't. I look forward to the coming year with much anticipation. Look for an upcoming post about where we are at this time. Until next time, Happy Gardening Everyone.

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Winter doldrums.
Posted on Dec 22, 2021 9:17 AM

Much has gone on since I last posted. All of my gardening is now taking place inside my greenhouse as of late. I did spread a crop of Crimson Clover over most of my beds before it got too cold. It is continuing to grow without any apparent harm from our recent frosts and cold weather. This is the first year that I grew this as I usually use Winter Rye. I changed to the clover because I researched the use of cover crops and the overwhelming advice was to switch the crop type occasionally to allow for variety and different inputs into the soil. As seen below, it did grow quite healthy and dense.
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My greenhouse gardening consists of Spinach, Lettuce and Carrots. I also have 6 plants of the perennial Longevity Spinach overwintering in my basement gardening area under grow lights. I found these through a Youtube website video where there was a discussion of what plants you should grow that are considered super foods. Turns out, these plants are great for way too many reasons to be able to list out effectively. I started with two and now have propagated four others very easily. I would recommend them given their health benefits. Here is a recent photo of them.

Thumb of 2021-12-22/grdnguru/c990e8
The greenhouse plants have been thriving as I have been harvesting lettuce and spinach regularly and continue to grow right along as seen below. The carrots are doing quite well and if everything holds, I should have some in mid January from the looks of them.

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Not everything has been centered around gardening. We had our first family Christmas open house in 3 years this past weekend. It was really nice to gather and enjoy each others company. It is so hard to get everyone in one place so we really cherish this event each year. I decorated the outside of our house for the first time in a while and I have to say, it turned out better than I expected it to.

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There is so much to do heading into the New Year. I am planning a better garden this next year. What I mean by this is that I believe it is now, more than ever, the time to raise a garden for more than a few fresh veggies. It is a time to use the garden as a major food source. I do not think with all that is happening here and across the globe, that we can rely on the usual abundance of food supplies that we have grown accustomed to here. I am going to use my abilities and garden knowledge to fully develop what I have to its utmost. I think it wise that more and more people have already begun to garden. I intend on assisting my neighbors in doing the same.

So, I'd like to wish each and everyone of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I may be writing again before the New Year but didn't want to leave it unsaid in case I didn't get the opportunity.

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On to winter!
Posted on Sep 28, 2021 7:53 AM

While out shopping with my wife, we stopped into a thrift store just to see what they had. The store - 2nd Avenue Thrift - is a very large store with a wide selection of items. As my wife was searching through the women's clothes selection, I naturally migrated over to the appliance and housewares area. As I went through the aisles, I saw a three level plant stand that caught my attention. I wasn't quite sure where I was going to use it but I decided to buy it and figure that out later. As seen below, It was a substantial metal piece that I hadn't seen before. Once I saw that it was priced under $10.00, I was convinced it was going home.
Thumb of 2021-09-28/grdnguru/092af7
I may repaint it but for now, I am going to leave it as is.

I have been working in my greenhouse getting the shelves set up for seedlings which I have been growing. I decided to use Terra Cotta pots. I was able to get most of these pots through an online auction during the summer. I bid $ 3.00 for the garden tools and pots lot and actually won. There were 20 pots of various sizes and a few other items that I am also using. I have the pots spread out among the established lettuce and spinach plants that I started mid-August.
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I have staggered the pots so that each plant will get sun on them in the winter. Hopefully, that will result in healthier plants.
I have roughly 64 seedlings growing under lights in my basement. They are not quite ready to transplant but that should be happening in the next week or so.
Thumb of 2021-09-28/grdnguru/7d2e9c
The lights are red-blue grow lights which do not show well in pictures. I run the lights about 15 hours a day on timers and water the plants from below. So far, so good.
I am going to plant the seedlings into the pots and also in the grow bag system I have. After today, the weather will be turning cooler so the timing is pretty good as far as these plants are concerned.
There is much to do and I hate to say it - winter is right around the corner. I do believe this winter is going to be much colder and snowier for the mid-atlantic. That adds a lot of other tasks to winter preps. Gratefully, I have the time.
So, until next time, Happy Gardening Everyone!

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