Soil Gardeners Strive to Have

The Ideal Soil Type: Loamy

loam-soil

Loamy soils are what gardeners strive to have. This soil type contains a balance of all 3 soil ingredients:

  1. Silt
  2. Sand
  3. Clay, as well as humus

The pH and calcium levels will be higher because of its organic matter content. Loamy soils are dark and mealy, soft, as well as dry. This soil type will have a tight hold on water and plant food, but it should drain well. Air should move freely in the soil all the way to the roots.

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You can test your soils by taking a handful and squeezing it like a stress ball.

Loamy soils will be smooth, have partial grit and form a sticky ball that will crumble easily. Although loamy soils are the ideal type of material to work with, fret not if you don’t have it in your garden. With the Gardner & Bloome soils and additives, you can get your soils to match what your plants need. There are many way to condition your soil. You can add beneficial soil inoculates, cover your soil with compost, or simply spray leaves and soil with compost tea.

A Soil Experiment:

If you would like to find out what soil type you have, here is a simple way to find out.

Fill a small jar with soil from your garden. Take samples from more then one place in your planting area. Shake the jar vigorously, then let the soil rest and it will settle overnight. The next day you should see the layers of the soil. Sand will be at the bottom, clay at the top and silt in between.

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Stay tuned for more blog posts! In the meantime, try the jar trick and send us what type of soil you have and how you are managing the soil. 

Happy Planting!

Grow a pear!

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Asian Pears: These pears ripen a little on the early side, often by late August, early September. The crunchy texture and creamy white flesh of the Asian Pear is exceptionally juicy! They are round, sweet and crisp. Some say they eat like an apple but taste like a pear. Unlike regular pears, the Asian Pear is sold ripe and maintain their crisp texture long after they’ve been picked.


The Grange offers three varieties of Asian Pears:asianpear

If you plan to plant pears, plant at least two varieties because they need to be cross-pollinated to produce fruit. Just make sure that they’re compatible with each other. 


Why is pollination so important?

Because you want fruit! Some trees need pollination to grow fruit. Here are some of the basics of fruit tree pollination:

  • Most fruit trees require pollination between two or more trees for fruit to set.
  • Pollination occurs when the trees blossom.
  • Pollen from the anthers (the male part of the plant) has to be transferred to the stigma (the female part of the plant). Completed pollination fertilizes the tree and fruit grows. Otherwise, flowers grow, but not fruit.
  • Pollination can be performed by birds, wind or insects. The most common fruit-tree pollinator is the honeybee that gathers nectar from the flowers, simultaneously transferring pollen between them. (A single honeybee may visit as many as 5,000 flowers in a single day.)

How it’s done:

  • For best pollination, don’t plant fruit trees more than 100 feet apart.
  • Consider the fruit harvest. Fruit that’s not picked eventually will fall from the tree. Place the tree where fallen fruit won’t cause a problem — away from decks, driveways and walking paths.
  • Fertilizer isn’t recommended immediately after planting trees. They go through a kind of shock when they’re put into the ground, and fertilizer can burn tender roots. Water is all that’s needed at first. Spread pine bark mulch in a 4-foot diameter about 6 inches deep around the tree to help retain moisture. Don’t use hardwood bark because it can release acids that lower nitrogen levels, which can weaken the tree.
  • Once the tree is established, use a mild, slow-release fertilizer, like a 10-10-10, for the first year, following the manufacturer’s directions. This promotes root growth, the overall health of the tree and a strong bud set, which leads to better pollination.
  • Water fruit trees once a week during dry spells, especially during the first two years after planting. Allowing a tree to go dry can cause a weak bud set or even cause the flowers to drop early. That means poor pollination and little or no fruit. Apply enough water to soak several inches into the soil.
  • Spray the trees with dormant oil to smother mites and insect eggs that later emerge and damage the buds. Spray it on the trees while they’re dormant, on one of the warmest and sunniest days in February. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for mixing and application, as well as all of the safety recommendations, like wearing a respirator, gloves and goggles.
  • To help honeybees pollinate fruit trees, don’t apply pesticides during bloom time. Bees are very susceptible to almost all pesticides. And even if other insects are the target, the bee population can be seriously damaged.
  • Remove nearby dandelions and other broad leaf weed flowers before the trees blossom so the bees won’t be distracted from their fruit-tree pollination job.

 Here are our 2017 Fruit Tree varieties:

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apricottree

cherrytrees

columnarapples

peachtrees

plumtrees

 

 

Ferment your Chicken Feed

What is Fermenting?

It is the process of covering chicken feeds in liquid and allowing it to sit for a few days. By allowing it to set, it creates probiotics that assist in digestion and gut health.

If you’re raising chickens for eggs, numerous studies have shown that fermenting chicken feed to give to your chickens can increase egg weight and eggshell thickness, and boost the chickens’ intestinal health and immune system, increasing their resistance to diseases including Salmonella and E.coli.

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(some) Benefits of Fermenting:

  • Feed consumption and waste will drop by 1/2 to 3/4 (this will save you money).
  • Poultry on a diet of fermented feed are generally healthier and less likely to contract disease.
  • There is almost zero waste as chickens don’t scratch through it, kicking it out of the feeder.
  • Egg yolks of eggs laid by hens on fermented feed will become noticeably larger, and shells will be more solid.

chicken

How to Ferment:

  1. On Day 1 fill a half gallon mason jar (or other suitable container) with your desired amount of chicken feed.
  2. Fill your container with filtered water until it covers the feed by an inch or two.
  3. Add a lid and set it on the counter to wait 3 days.
  4. On Day 2, repeat Step 1 and set the jar next to Day 1.
  5. On Day 3, repeat Step 1 and set the jar next to Day 1 and Day 2
  6. On Day 4, empty the fermented chicken feed from Day 1 into a bowl and feed it to your hens.  Watch them go crazy for it!  Wash your jar and repeat Step 1.  Place your jar at the end of the line next to the jars from Day 2 and Day 3.
  7. On Day 5, feed the fermented chicken feed in the jar from Day 2 to your hens, wash your jar, and start the process all over again.

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10 Tips For Successful Fermenting: The Do’s

  • Use a mix of grains, oats, seeds, legumes, crumble or pellets. You can make your own poultry feed formulation, or use a commercially available brand.
  • Use a loosely covered glass container.
  • Use de-chlorinated water – use either well water, purchased filtered water or let tap water sit out for 24 hours.
  • Wait until you see bubbles forming on the surface to feed (usually after about 3 days).
  • Store in a dark, cool place, not outside and not in the sunlight.
  • Your fermented feed will have a smell. That’s okay. It should smell sort of tangy-sweet, like sourdough bread.
  • Keep the liquid after you’ve strained out your grains to start a new batch.

 

fermentationbasket_contest

For a chance to win, click on the link below! *Basket must be picked up, no deliveries.
Winner will be announced 1/31/2017

Enter to win here!

 

Growing Garlic

Easy as 1-2-3!

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Growing garlic is a gardener’s answer to whose green thumb isn’t at their prime yet. It’s insanely easy to plant, care for and takes up so little space in your garden bed. The end results are beautiful and full of great taste garlic bulbs that you’ll be fully satisfied with!

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Selecting Your Garlic

They’re two type of categories for garlic:

  •  SOFTNECKS: Get their name because the whole green plant dies back and leaves nothing but the bulb with flexible stems that make it easy to braid. This category is easiest to grow in regions where the weather is mild and keep longer than hardnecks. However, they’re less hardy and are likely to produce small, very-strong flavored cloves.

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Red Toch

  • HARDNECKS: Have a stiff stem in the center that ends in a beautiful flower, or a cluster of little bulbs, which then dries to a rigid stick that makes difficult to braid. This category of garlic thrives best where there is a real winter. When growing in warmer climates, they refuse to produce and are more vulnerable to splitting.

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Chesnok Red

Planting Your Garlic

  • Plant your bulbs in mid- fall ( October for most temperate places in the U.S. or at least 3 weeks before the ground freezes) so your garlic can grow their own root system before winter arrives.
  • Make sure that the soil is loose, weed- free and very fertile.
  • Divide the bulbs into cloves but don’t remove all of the papery covering on each clove.
  • Plant the cloves root side down about 8 inches and 2 inches below soil.
  • Space your garlic 6 inches apart -> the further your garlic is spread, the better!
  • TRICK: You can plant your cloves around & between other plants in your garden in use as an alternative to pest control.
  • Green shoots will come up and will need mulcharound them.
  • Avoid pouring watering into the crown of your plants!

And that’s all of the hard work that it requires!

Harvesting Your Garlic

  • Depending on the type of garlic that you’re growing will determine when it will be harvested.
  • These varieties are divided by early, mid-season and late. However, it depends not only on your climate zone but on the weather you have during your growing season. Meaning; the warmer the growing season, the faster they’ll grow!
  • When the lower leaves have browned yet the upper leaves are still green… it’s time for the bulbs to be harvested.
  • Make sure to harvest your bulbs on an overcast day when the soil is dry.
  • Gently loosen the soil with a digging fork while making sure to keep it away from the heads and then lift them out of the soil.

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Putting Your Lawn Into Rehab!

Putting Your Lawn Into Rehab!

Lawns are an interesting phenomenon.  We homeowners will dedicate small and large pieces of land to the planting, care and maintenance of only one desired organism.  This botanical organism is prone to stress from naturally occurring events like sun/shade and rain/drought. In addition, the homeowner is trying to isolate this one plant from invasion by other plants and wind borne seeds as well as a Northwest bumper crop of moss and algae!

(Moles, voles, raccoons, dogs and cats are fodder for a separate blog!)

Before you throw your hands in the air and surrender your lawn to either the onslaught of marauding blackberry or pay enough to put your lawn professional’s kid through Harvard, lets break down the various aspects of caring for your lawn and maybe you’ll re-gain the confidence to bring it back from the land of the lost.

Your soil is a major player in the success of a healthy lawn.  The germinating seed must have something to root into. When it roots into thatch, moss or hard-pan, the roots stay small which translates to stunted growth above ground. For those who just want to throw out some seed and hope for the best, remember my corny adage, “Why throw babies out where the adults can’t survive?”

Aerating the soil is a great first step.  You can either rent an aerator or have a local landscape/yard care professional do the job for you. De-thatching is also recommended if it hasn’t been done in a few years.  It is very important that the new seed has soil to root into and not a layer of thatch or moss.  After de-thatching you should rake out the area.  Aerating will leave numerous plugs of soil on the surface.  Leave them there as they will break down when exposed to watering

If moss is a major problem, you can attack it either before or after aerating.  Moss can be controlled with Ferrous Sulfate, (iron) which will kill it and turn it black. Rake out the dead moss and throw it in the yard waste bin. Another method for controlling moss is to add lime to your soil twice a year.  This makes the soil less acid and more alkaline.  Moss, as well as native plants do not like alkaline soil so keep the lime away from Rhodies, Azaleas, Camellias, Blueberries etc.

Note – I had a major problem with moss over ¼ of my front lawn.  I started calculating the expense of trying to control it in this area and quickly realized I could put that money to better use!  I cut out the scraggly thin lawn and planted a few native shade-loving plants and it looks great, moss and all!

Note 2 – Moss is a natural organism which grows abundantly in the Northwest.  In addition to growing on the ground it will climb trees and call in a few friends like algae and lichen.

To some, this symbiotic relationship is not the most attractive but bear in mind it does not harm the tree at all.  In fact, most attempts to eradicate it will end up doing more harm to the tree than the moss.

Choosing the right seed for your lawn is just about as important as the preparation.  Blends of Perennial ryegrass work best in sunnier locations and Fescue blends are better for shade.  At The Grange we carry blends for everything from full blazing sun to heavy shade.  Our seed comes out of Northern Oregon and is ideal for this area.

Using a hand or push broadcast spreader is best to insure even coverage although smaller areas do well with hand spreading.  Once the seed has been spread lay down another thin layer of compost to cover the seed.  This will help keep moisture around the seed as well as protect it from birds.

For those who have “dog spots” (as I call them) one trick is to fill a 5 gal bucket ½ full with compost and about 2 handfuls of seed.  Add water to make a paste.  Scratch up the “spots” with a bow rake and make a “mud pie” from the bucket and pat it over the spot!

It is not critical to apply fertilizer at this time but if you feel the need, we recommend using an organic lawn food.  Organics will not burn the new seedlings and work to help improve the soil.

Now the easy part is done!!

Watering…watering…watering.  The new seed must be kept damp. This is why spring and fall are the best times to re-seed as the rains help to keep the soil moist.

Now, you’ve saved enough money to put your kid through Harvard!

Email any questions to me at Michaela@grangesupply.com

Vegetable Gardening!

VEGETABLE GARDENING

 

Vegetable gardening in the Northwest is always an adventure. Our ever-changing weather patterns have sent the urban farmer back to the drawing board, looking to utilize that unpredictability to our benefit.

Leading the way is the use of raised beds, containers and straw bales which help to warm the soil faster and allow earlier planting of seeds and starts.

In addition, raised beds, etc. give you greater control of growing conditions such as soils, fertilizer application and pest management.

There are literally hundreds of books, articles and publications that rely on specially blended soils, homemade fertilizers, PH adjusting amendments and more.

Our intent is to help you understand the basics, so you can then experiment and add your own personal touch.

There is no absolute right or wrong in gardening.  What works for you and produces the best results is the right choice.

 

Soil

Soil is a combination of ground rocks, decomposed organic plant material, sand and clay.  It also harbors trace amounts of minerals, insects, beneficial microbes, bacteria, fungal growth, water and air.

The Grange offers the following soils and amendments to compliment your particular type of garden.

 

Potting Soil – A lightweight blend containing a good amount of peat moss and perlite.  A great choice of indoor houseplants and any native plants that require an acid soil.

 

Planting Mix – Combination of topsoil, compost and PH adjusters. Great as an all purpose soil for garden beds and outdoor containers. Can be used for direct planting.

 

Planting Compost – Similar to the planting mix but heavier on the compost. Can be planted directly.  Best for planting fruit trees or larger broadleaf and coniferous trees.

 

Raised Bed Mix – Good, lighter weight “ready-to-use” soil for the raised bed or container,

 

Soil Building Compost – This is a good “all purpose” compost used for supplementing garden beds, top dressing flower beds and as a mulch to cover new grass seed.

 

Harvest Supreme – Mostly used to amend garden beds. This is a very rich compost that should be mixed in with existing soil.  It contains 15% chicken manure making it the only additive you will need for refreshing your garden beds.

 

For those folks who prefer the old standbys, we still carry chicken and steer manure as well as wormgold compost.

 

Fertilizer

N-P-K – This is the rating given to fertilizers that indicates the percentages of active ingredients.  The numbers differ in regards to what is being fertilized.

 

N – Nitrogen.  This is for greening.  Higher nitrogen is used for lawns, conifers and other “non-flowering” plants. Blood meal, fish meal, bat guano and ammonium sulfate are good sources for nitrogen.

 

P – Phosphorous. For buds and blooms. Those fertilizers listed for flower production will have a higher P percentage.  Bone meal, fish bone meal, soft rock phosphate and triple super phosphate are good sources of phosphorous.

 

K – Potash. This aids in root development and general plant health.  Higher levels of potash are good for root crops like potatoes, carrots and beets. Kelp meal, myriad of potash and wood ash are good sources of Potash.

 

Organic vs synthetic – The most noticeable difference is in the NPK ratings.  Synthetics can be concentrated to reach higher levels.  Lawn food can be as high as 46% nitrogen whereas organic lawn food is usually around 9%.

Synthetics directly feed the plant, organics feed the plant as well as the soil microbes.

Some synthetics are coated for a timed release feeding and will provide food earlier in the season when the soil is cool. Organics tend to last longer but usually activate when the soil is above 50 degrees.

 

Over-fertilizing with organics is usually just a waste of fertilizer but over doing it with synthetics can burn the plant and lead to shorter root growth and decreasing plant health.

 

Organic vs Certified Organic – “Organic” means the ingredients come from natural organic materials such as cottonseed meal, bone meal, etc.

“Certified Organic” means there is a paper trail documenting that the ingredients were grown free of GMO’s, synthetic pesticides, and chemicals.

 

What & When

Veggies are broken down to cool and warm season.

Cool season vegetables are those of which we eat the leaves, flowers and roots, (lettuce, broccoli, carrots, spinach).

Warm season includes those that provide us with seeds, pods and actual fruit, (tomatoes, green beans, squash). The one exception is that peas prefer a cooler season.

Contingent on the weather, cool season can be planted March through May with a secondary planting in August.  Warm season usually starts around late April to mid May or whenever the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees.

Feeding Pigs!

“Pigs can eat anything!” I hear it a lot! The truth is, pigs actually have very specific dietary needs but, sadly, there is a lot of confusing and misleading information about pot bellied pigs that can make planning a healthy meal a challenge. There are four aspects to a balanced pot bellied pig diet which I will discuss below: commercial feed, fresh produce, water and grazing.

The first component to a healthy pig’s diet is a balanced and fortified commercial diet. The commercial diet should be a high fiber, low calorie pellet that contains the necessary vitamins, minerals and protein your pig needs as the base of his diet. It’s important that you do not feed products designed for meat pigs, as the protein and calories are too high for pot bellied pigs.

We recommend Mazuri Mini Pig diets. Mazuri is available in three formulas:

-Youth: to be fed from 8 weeks to approximately 16 weeks

-Adult: to be fed from approximately 16 weeks to maturity for pigs that remain “active” (meaning with a healthy body condition)

-Elder: to be fed to senior pigs or pigs who are overweight

The second component  of a balanced diet comes from fresh foods. 25-35% of your pig’s diet should come from fresh vegetables and fruits. A “rainbow” selection of vegetables is best: leafy greens, cabbage, peppers, radishes, beans, broccoli, and squashes are all great options. Sugary produce such as fruits, tomatoes and carrots can be included (in moderation) although “sweet treats” are often best when reserved for training. Starchy potatoes can also be given in moderation.

Ideally, your pigs diet should be split into two feedings, morning and evening, with limited snacks in between.

One of the challenges in feeding a pig is NOT over feeding a pig. Pigs are hungry. If you ask your pig, he’ll tell you he’s starving! Obesity is extremely common in pigs and many people find that once the extra weight is on… It’s nearly impossible to get off.

Pay close attention to the feeding guidelines and consider your pig’s age, weight and activity level when determining his feed intake. While you don’t want to over feed your pig, it’s equally important that you do not under feed your pig. Cutting your pig’s required feed will not keep him small in stature. Remember, his genetics will determine body size and under feeding can lead to development issues. Find the balance, watch your pig’s growth and adjust his feed as necessary.

A very important and often forgotten diet staple is water. Just like any animal, your pig should always have access to fresh water. Pigs are susceptible to Water Deprivation Sodium Ion Toxicosis- in a nut shell salt toxicity from dehydration. So eliminate salty food and give your pig a lot of water. You never want a thirsty pig!

The final staple in a pot bellied pigs diet is fresh grass. Pigs need the opportunity to graze daily. In addition to the grass and foliage your pig consumes, he will get minerals from the soil. “House pig’s” not given the opportunity to graze frequently have iron deficiencies.

If you are feeding a balanced diet of an appropriate commercial pellet and fresh foods, you may not need to supplement. But, I have found that even with a well rounded diet, a pigs chronically dry skin can still be an issue. Adding a high quality fish oil, such as Alaska Naturals Salmon or Pollock Oil is a great way to introduce omegas to the diet to soothe dry skin.

This may sound like a lot for a twice daily feeding routine, but in practice it is easily achieved. For our pig 1 1/2 year old Ruth, I buy veggies twice a week (to keep the volume more manageable in my fridge). We pre-chop veggies so they are quick to grab and easy to portion. When it’s time to serve, we create the salad, add Mazuri Active Adult pellets (1/4 cup/twice daily), fish oil (we use Alaska Naturals Pollock) and then add fresh water to her bowl. That way she gets her pellets, veggies and we can make sure she drinks water with her meals.