Putting Your Lawn Into Rehab!

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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!

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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!

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“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.

 

Straw Bale Gardening!

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STRAW BALE GARDENING

The Grange way!

Straw bale growing is a gardening method used for raising vegetables and herbs directly on a bale of straw!  Straw is preferable over other baled grasses, (orchard, timothy, etc) because they tend to have more weed and grass seeds.

 There are advantages to this type of gardening.

1 – The bales are not permanent and can be added to the compost pile at the end of the season.

2 –  No digging or soil prep is needed which means they can be grown on hard rocky surfaces with success.

3 – Weeds and garden pests will be held to a minimum.

Preparation

The bale should have two to three strands of twine holding it together.  Choose the area that will provide the most amount of sun exposure as well as water accessibility.  You can lay down landscape fabric to help prevent weeds from below.

 Days 1-3

Once the bales are set, water thoroughly and keep moist. This is important as the bales will start to create heat as they decompose.

Days 4-6

Sprinkle the top of each bale with one cup of Ammonium sulfate, (21-0-0). This speeds the decomposition process.  You can use organic nitrogen such as blood meal or fish meal but it will take longer to start the breakdown process of the bale.

 Day 7-10

Sprinkle ½ cup ammonium sulfate on top of the bale. 

Note – Although keeping the bales moist throughout the entire process is a critical, make sure not to over water which will leach out all the fertilizer and nutrients. 

Day 11

 Feel the heat on top of the bale. If too hot check every day until the bale cools to around 99 degrees or lower.

 Planting Methods

The bales should be ready for planting in about 3-4 weeks.

There are two ways to plant the bales; 

1 – Create pockets 3-4 inches deep and fill each with planting soil. The number of pockets will vary depending on what you are planting. This works well for plant starts

2 – Put a 3 inch layer of planting soil on top of the bale and plant directly into it.  This method works well for seeds

 Management

Watering is very important to straw bale gardening as the water moves through the straw quickly.

Drip irrigation hoses with timers can be very effective and take a lot of guess work out the process.

A regular fertilizing regimen should be established to replace nutrients being used by the microbes to break down the bale.

Nitrogen is normally the fastest to go.  A lack of nitrogen will result in the plants turning yellow, (chlorosis)

We recommend using a good organic fertilizer such as Gardener & Bloome specific to the particular crop, i.e, tomato vegetable, bud and bloom, etc. 

Fertilize every 3 weeks and water in lightly so as not to wash the fertilizer off. 

Weed control is usually not a major problem as the bale is above the ground surface and any that take root in the bale can be easily picked off.

Ground dwelling insects such as cutworms and root weevils will not be a problem as the bale is usually used for only one season which breaks their life cycle.

Other harmful pests can be controlled by the use of Bon-neem, pyrethrins, or beneficial insects.

At the completion of the growing year the bales can be recycled in the compost pile or simply worked into the existing soil.

 

POTATO PLANTING

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Planting Potatoes

Potatoes are easy to grow in the Northwest.  They can be grown in the ground, raised beds or containers.

They like at least ½ day sunshine and good watering.  Make sure you have good drainage as standing water will cause root rot.

Note – Seed potatoes are specifically for planting.  Potatoes from the grocery store are treated with a bud inhibitor which will greatly decrease the amount harvested.

You can plant the potatoes whole or cut into thirds with at least 2 “eyes” per piece.  If cutting, allow the cut to “harden off” for a day or two. Dust pieces with sulfur to help prevent early and late blight.

Soil should be well drained and slightly acidic, (pH 5.2 or higher). Plant in rows 10-12 inches wide in a trough 4-6 inches deep.  Add just enough soil to cover the pieces.  As the plants grow, add more soil burying the new growth.  Continue this procedure until the plant starts to flower.

Potatoes are prone to excessive top growth and scab when given too much nitrogen. Use a fertilizer like 5-10-10 side dressed every 3 weeks.  A good “homemade” organic fertilizer is mixing 1 part nitrogen (fish or blood meal), 3 parts phosphorous (bone meal or fish bone meal), and 2 parts potash (kelp meal).

New potatoes can be harvested at 10 weeks.  Decrease watering in late summer as the plant starts to yellow and fall over. When this happens cut the foliage away and start harvesting.  Dig up gently to avoid punctures. If container grown simply turn the container over and sort through the soil.

Brush off any dirt clinging to the potato and store in a cool dark place.  Do not wash until ready for cooking.  Washing too early shortens their shelf life.

At The Grange we carry a full line of fertilizers and “simples” (organic ingredients for the do it yourselfer) and natural fungicides.  Starting the 2nd week of February we will offer 12 different varieties of Seed Potatoes.

Fruit Trees

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The days of enjoying fresh sun ripened fruit off your own trees are back!

When I was growing up I could easily climb a 25 to 30 foot tree for fruit, but somewhere in the interim, gravity has arbitrarily gotten stronger and I’m good if I can reach the can of sliced peaches on the top shelf.

In recent years there have been great advances in producing fruit trees in dwarf and semi dwarf sizes.  Most dwarf trees will top out at 8+ feet and semi dwarf at 10-12 feet.

The obvious benefit is a tree easier to prune and care for with little reduction in fruit quantity and quality.  Numerous home gardeners have even discovered how easy it is to grow their trees in containers.

 Controlling the size of the trees is accomplished by root grafting, (also called “bottom budding”).  The theory behind this procedure is that shorter root growth means less water and nutrient uptake thereby controlling the height of the tree. This was started in the 1960’s with mixed results but has been greatly improved with the introduction of root stocks such as, M27, Gisela and Mazzard.

 Fruit trees like sun and well drained soil.  In regards to fruit and berries, sun = sugar. When planting a grafted tree be sure not to bury the graft as it can result in graft rot or suckers, which are branches growing from below the graft.  They are not representative of the tree variety.

 Another popular innovation for the home gardener is branch grafting. This creates a tree with 3-5 different varieties of the same fruit.  The obvious benefit is assurance of cross pollination on one tree instead of two or more.

 The Grange has become the “go to” place for fruit trees.  Around mid February we will offer over 170 trees not to mention a great line of other fruits and berries! We carry some of the most popular varieties as well as a few you may not have heard of but are sure to enjoy.  We will have dwarf and semi dwarf trees in single variety, combo and espalier

 

 

Companion Planting Cheat Sheet

Follow this cheat sheet to help your plants thrive with their right companions in your garden bed!

ASPARAGUS

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Companions:

BASIL

PARSLEY

TOMATOES

BEETS

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Companions:                                       Enemies:

BUSH BEANS      LETTUCE               POLE BEANS

ONIONS               CABBAGE

GARLIC

CABBAGE FAMILY

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Companions:                                       Enemies:

SAGE                BEETS                           TOMATOES

ROSEMARY     CELERY                          PEPPERS

POTATOES       GARLIC

ONIONS           SPINACH

CHARD            GERANIUM

LETTUCE

looseleaflettucevarietiesCompanions:                                                 Enemies:

CARROTS                CUCUMBER                     CELERY

RADISHES               BEANS                              PARSLEY

STRAWBERRIES     ONIONS

BEETS                      CABBAGE FAMILY

ONION & GARLIC

Onion-and-garlic-varietiesCompanions:                                                     Enemies:

CARROTS                   TOMATOES                      LEEKS      PEAS

RADISHES                   LETTUCE                         BEANS

STRAWBERRIES        CABBAGE                        PARSLEY 

PEAS

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Companions:                                     Enemies:

LAVENDER         BEANS                    ONIONS

CARROTS          CORN                       GARLIC

TURNIPS            RADISHES

CUCUMBER

*Grows well with most veggies & herbs.

PEPPERS

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Companions:                                            Enemies:

TOMATOES          CARROTS                     BEANS

GERANIUM          ONIONS                         KALE

BASIL                   EGGPLANTS                 CABBAGE FAMILY

POTATOES

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Companions:                                                   Enemies:

BEANS                         EGGPLANTS               PUMPKINS       MELONS

CABBAGE FAMILY      PEAS                           CUCUMBERS    TOMATOES

CORN                                                                SQUASH  

SPINACH

images Companions:                                     

STRAWBERRIES                             

PEAS

CABBAGE FAMILY

Tomatoes

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Companions:                                            Enemies:

BASIL                 CARROTS                        POTATOES

OREGANO         CELERY                           FENNEL

PARSLEY           GERANIUM                      KOHLRABI

CHIVES              ASPARAGUS                   CABBAGE FAMILY

ONIONS            PEPPERS

CUCUMBERS

THYME

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Companions:

CABBAGE

ROSEMARY

imagesCompanions:

CARROTS

CABBAGE

SAGE

BEANS