Soil Gardeners Strive to Have

The Ideal Soil Type: Loamy

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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!

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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.

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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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POTATO PLANTING

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

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