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.

Brooder: The Baby Chick Stage

FIRST & FOREMOST, make sure that you’re ready to fully commit to taking care of these little furry ones! It requires more than just food and water, just like with any other pet. They don’t require a lot to be happy but still require some of TLC!

Do Your Homework

  • Check your local ordinances and zoning codes for your city. Each city has their own regulation on how many backyard chicks you’re able to have.
  • Figure out why you want chicks… Is it for a bountiful amount of fresh eggs? Is it because you want to know where your food comes from? Or is it just because you’ve always wanted to raise chickens?
  • Research all of the CHICK BREEDS to figure out what fits your wants the best.

Brooder Set up

  • Get all of the chicks supplies and brooder set up before they arrive to your home.

Brooder

During the first few weeks with your chicks, place them in a secured, warm area with access to food & water 24/7.

The options of what to use for your brooder are endless! 

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*Chick Pro TIP: Cover the top of your brooder with chicken wire to protect them from predators and to prevent them from flying out. Also, place a piece of cheesecloth to over the chicken wire to block dust from getting into the box.

Bedding

Clean bedding is essential to keeping your baby chicks health in good condition. Proper sanitation can help reduce the risk of diseases. 

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Using newspapers can create a slick & wet surface that can cause damage to their legs. Using cedar shavings can create irritation to their respiratory system. Using white shavings, NATURE’S SHAVINGS, is absorbent and is easy to spread out along the bottom of your brooder!

Make sure that the brooder’s bedding is dry and changed often.

Heat Lamp

Heat plays a key part in your baby chicks survival. Using a heat lamp and a 250 watt infrared bulb is the key. You can adjust the brooder’s temperature easily by just raising and lowering the heat lamp.

Set up your heat lamp above the feeder and opposite end of the waterer. If you do place the lamp over the chick’s water, it will heat up and cause algae to grow.

*Chick Pro TIP: Keep a spare bulb handy. Your chicks brooder temperature needs to stay consistent.

Thermometer

During the first week your baby chicks are with you, their brooder temperature should be set at 95 degrees. After that week, reduce the temperature 5 degrees per week.

Get an thermometer to place inside the brooder to help you regulate and maintain the heat easier.

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*Chick Pro TIP: If you see your chicks huddled together underneath the heat lamp, turn up the heat… If you see them holding their wings out or panting and far away from the heat lamp, turn down the heat!

Waterer & Feeder

94e70de4ae9220487cd04132c4e37046 Your chicks will need easy access to their food and water at all times. Place the food dish at one end of the box and the opposite end of the box for the water dish. This prevents the chicks from kicking their food into their water.

Change your baby chicks water at least once a day. Make sure that the waterer base is not too deep or wide so that your chicks won’t fall in!

Feed your chicks with a chick starter mixed with some chick scratch during their first 8 weeks. Using chick scratch helps your chicks process their food and prevent PASTY BUTTS!

Enjoy watching your flock grow!

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No Gardening Space? No Problem!

Many of us aren’t fortunate enough to have spacious yards to enables us to plant various fruits and veggies.  With limited gardening space, it requires us to be more picky & selective on what to plant each season. Especially when we have high hopes of having a bountiful harvest from what we’ve planted.

Luckily, there are plenty of SPACE SAVING options available. Using one of these methods can also help you achieve that end result that every gardener desires… A SUCCESSFUL HARVEST WITH ENDLESS AMOUNTS OF VEGGIES & FRUITS!

During this time of year, it’s the right time to plant your SEED POTATOES & ONIONS SETS OR TRANSPLANTS. Click below to figure out which SPACE SAVING method will fit best with your ‘small’ situation.

You Can Grow POTATOES…

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In a Wooden Box                                   In a Garbage Can 

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        In a Sack                                              In a Tower

You Can Grow ONIONS…

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Vertically on a Windowsill               In a Burlap Sack

container Onions                   growingleek-211x300

      In a Container                              In a Mason Jar

Master Gardeners TIP: Onions are cool weather veggies that can be easily grown indoors year-round!  

Guide to Growing Garlic

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 mulch around 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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Fall Gardening Tricks

Fall is the perfect season to prepare your garden for SPRING! During this time of year, it’s all about cleaning up landscape while preparing for the gardening season ahead.

Other than cleaning up & preparing for the spring season, you can also grow veggies! Colder temperatures doesn’t mean you have to stop gardening completely. Remember those COLD SEASON VEGGIES you planted right before the warm season began…? Those plants can make another appearance in your garden again. Hardy plants, like kale & broccoli, thrive in colder temperatures and can even survive occasional frost! The colder season also wards off pests making a great, natural pest control for your garden. Another great plus to having a fall vegetable garden means more to harvest! Your harvest time is extended longer that has an end result of more food!

Here are few tricks to help your fall garden grow into a success:

Clean Up

  • Rake up & remove any debris in your beds to decrease pests, diseases and weeds.
  • Cut off any diseased stems on your perennials.
  • Dig up & remove from your garden all of your sensitive bulbs and tubers.
  • Clean up your shed and sharpen your gardening tools!

Soil

  • To enrich the soil, add an inch or two of good rich compost before planting.
  • Add a layer of mulch that is 3 to 4 inches thick to help buffer plants’ root systems from fluctuating temperatures and moisture levels throughout the colder seasons. (Remember to avoid piling against the stems, crowns & trunks which can cause the plant to rot.) This also helps with suppressing the growth of weeds.
  • Before planting your seeds and/or transplants, make sure your soil is moist and warm.

Protection

  • The key of success in your fall gardening is to prevent the plants from freezing.
  • Extreme cold & damp conditions are the enemy and can cause your plants not to flourish.
  • Options for protection against the cold are:
    • Cold frame

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  • Polytunnels (also known as ‘hoop houses’)

 

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  • Row covers

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  • Sheets or blankets (use whenever sudden cold weather arises)

Planting

  • In the fall, it’s best to plant hardy seeds (poppies) and flowering bulbs (daffodils).
  • For a list of cold hardy vegetables to plant, refer to this.
  • You can also plant fruits like: blackberries, blueberries, cherries, plums & pears.

 

In your spare time, you can plan ahead of what to add into your garden when spring comes around! Come up with a general plan of what you what and when to plant.. Do your research ahead of time to make sure you don’t leave anything out and have yourself fully prepared before spring arrives!

Growing Dahlias

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Dahlias are perennial flowers that come in various shapes, sizes and colors. These flowers thrive in cool and moist climates which make them perfect for us Pacific Northwesters to grow! However, many struggle with growing these plants into blooming beds of rich color and then turn away from trying to grow them ever again.

Here are TIPS that’ll make you rethink twice about how difficult it is to grow dahlias.

 Preparation for  Planting

  • Soil temperature should be at 60 degrees.
  • Location of planting should receive full sun ( 6 to 8 hours of sunlight)
  • PH level of your soil should be 6.5- 7.0 and slightly acidic. Dahlias grow better in rich, well- drained soil.

 Planting

  • When planting the dahlia tubes, make sure the hole in the soil is slightly larger than the root ball of the tube with some compost or peat moss into the soil.
  • Plant the tubes 9 to 12 inches apart. For small flowering types, space two feet apart and for tall, large flowering types, space three feet apart when planting.
  • Plant tubes that have a little bit of green growth instead of ones that appear to be wrinkled or rotten.
  • Do NOT cut or break individual tubes as you would with potatoes and plant them WHOLE.
  • Plant them with the growing points, or ‘eyes’ pointing up and about 6 to 8 inches deep.
  • Do NOT water right after planting since this encourages rot to happen. Instead, water when you notice sprouts have appeared above the soil.
  • Do NOT cover with mulch or bark which can challenge sprouting to happen.
  • Blooming will start to occur about eight weeks after planting.

 Fertilizing 

  • Do NOT fertilize at planting.
  • Use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen (5-10-10 or 10-20-20 are recommended).
  • Apply fertilizer when plants begin sprouting and then every three to four week from mid- summer to early Autumn.

Watering

  • Do NOT water the soil until the Dahlia plants appear.
  • Do NOT over water which can cause the tubes to rot.
  • Once plants are established, do a deep watering two to three times a week for at least 30 minutes ( a little longer during warmer climates).

 Pruning

  • To achieve nice stems for cutting: compact plants, pinch out the center shoot above the third set of leaves.
  • To get the most out of your cut flowers, place them in very hot water (160 degrees F) and leave it in there until it cools down.

After Season Care

  • Foliage blackens when the first frost happens.
  • In zone 8, dahlias can be cut back and left in the ground during winter but cover with a deep, dry mulch.
  • In other areas, the tubes should be taken out of the ground. Wait a few days after the foliage blackens to remove from the soil.

 

Still think Dahlia’s are difficult to grow? 

Come to our DAHLIAS SEMINAR on JUNE 7 at 11 A.M. to learn from a MASTER GARDNER on how to be successful with this flower!

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Reduce Your Carbon Footprint This Month

 

The month of May celebrates and encourages you to put your eco-driving skills into use while driving on the road! With summer being just around the corner, it’s time to start deciding where your summer destinations may be. For many of us, that means it’s time for a road trip! Begin this summer on the right foot by improving your fuel efficiency and reducing your carbon footprint.

eco-driving

Here are five ways that you can use in your everyday driving:

  • Check your tire pressure– Properly inflated tires can increase fuel efficiency up to 3 to 10 percent.
  • Stay on top of routine services-  Make sure your engine & everything else is running in tip top shape to ensure maximum gas mileage. If you want to save some cash, check with your local dealership to see what deals they may have going on for services.
  • Lighter foot on the gas pedal– Start slowly accelerating and decelerating while driving and soon enough it will become a habit.
  • Drive at a steady pace- A consistent pace, especially during longer drives, can greatly improve your fuel efficiency. Put that cruise control into use!
  • Clean out your car and remove excess items- Extra weight in & on your car can lower your miles per gallon (mpg). Especially those roof racks!

Eco- driving improves road safety but also improves the quality of our environment. Eco- driving can help reduce our air & noise pollution. Studies have shown that one car driving with 4000 revolutions per minute (rpm) produces the same amount of noise as does 32 cars travelling at the same speed but with only 2000 rpm. Proving that eco-driving can help reduce one of the main problems that areas with a crowded & denser population are dealing with for traffic.

While you’re lending a helping hand in saving our planet when switching over to eco-driving, you’ll also be cutting down your fuel cost! It’s a win win situation for you and everyone else!