The constant challenges of an everyday vegetable gardener and dealing with all the aspects of planting as an amateur.

It is an awareness that helps to achieve Garden perfection.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Take those dead plants back!!

It is inevitable that "some" new veggie plants simply won't make it. If you are buying at the big box retailers such as Loews and/or Home Depot - take the dead plant back for an exchange or refund. I always retain my receipt, veggie tag  and the small container that the plant was purchased in until the time that I am comfortable the plant is well on its way to harvest.
By retaining the pot, the tag and receipt, the retailers never give you a problem, they give you another veggie plant!
Don't hesitate, it is money!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Know your Veggie plants, don't always trust the Nursery

I had envisioned these great, sweet tasting large peppers that were excellent "stuffed" - lesson learned, don't always trust what the Nursery staff thinks they know. These were suppose to be Pablano Peppers that would grow 4-6 inches long and a few inches wide and were supposedly excellent for stuffing (I didn't know the difference) but sounded good to me. Well, you see what I got, Jalapeno peppers - and they are hot!! Major disappointment.
Please, study your veggie plants and be somewhat knowledgeable before you run out there and start buying. I've learned that many of these nursery and big box plant store employees do not always know their product.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't expect what you don't Inspect

I found out quickly that all the planning in the world for the "right" veggies to be planted in your garden, isn't necessarily what you will end up with. BE FLEXIBLE. There are so many diseases and insects to control that it is in your best interest to "adapt immediately" to necessary change.
Maybe you envision several varieties of tomato plants, large smaller, grape etc  and then wilt or bug disease ruins your vision overnight. Have a back up plan. What would you do if ....... this veggie or that veggie suddenly rots? Delaying the inevitable always prolongs the time in which you will harvest.
Once you notice disease, GET RID OF THE VEGGIE PLANT if a quick spray for control does not work. You will only allow the disease to spread to other healthy plants.
Once I noticed the common southern "wilt" disease, I went into action with two plans - I immediately replaced my tomato plants with "disease resistant" tomato plants AND placed them in large containers. I did the same for our squash because we love it so much. Within a few weeks, we had another harvest on the way.

Procrastination is synonomis with veggie garden disease - move decisively and replace those beginning rotted veggie plants. The cost is minimal and the benedfits are HUGE.
This picture is a perfect example of Squash disease - toss it immediately and replant!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Replant Marigolds from this years crop

Marigolds are hardy, beautiful and provide a lot of color for any garden, and they are inexpensive.
In fact, once a Marigold flower is ready for removal, keep the flower, let it dry out and replant the seeds the following year. Simple, cheap and more importantly, a beautiful variety of color for your garden.

Fruit Tree sacrifice

We planted new fruit trees and had a nice crop on the one Asian pear tree. Problem is, some stems can produce so much fruit that the stem itself will tear away from the main trunk and you lose everything, As a result, and as difficult as it may seem, you have to remove a lot of fruit from these thin, sensitive branches that bear much fruit to allow them to mature and grow stronger in the following years.

So if you want to keep those fruit trees healthy and producing a lot of good fruit in the coming years,
don't feel bad about removing some good looking fruit when the tree is young.

Look at the pears I had to cut away already to retain the entire branch. Yes, made me sick but has to be done for the long run.

Removed from this Pear Tree,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Butterfly Bush and Spanish Petunia

If you want Butterflies in your Garden, this plant attracts both Butterflies and Hummingbirds.

We've spruced up the entire side of our driveway with PURPLE colored bushes and it is beautiful.
Not only with the Butterflies but we also added several Spanish Petunia plants (some referred to as Mexican Petunia) but they provide a gorgeous array of purple petunias "every morning, last throughout the day" and fall off at night just to reappear in the morning. They are very hardy and can be trimmed.

So we now have a row of beautiful purple colored flowers, in bloom Spring to Fall and make for an attractive sight along the house.

Both plants are low maintenance. Prune in early spring and require full sun exposure.

You can find these plants at any garden shop or the large home improvement centers and they are reasonably priced.

Hiding unsightly electrical boxes

Many of us have these unsightky electrical boxes installed near our yard by the local utility companies which are so UNATTRACTIVE.
We simple bought two great flowering plants (from seeds) which were dirt cheap - zinia and marigold. Look at the results - stunning and attractive and these two plants involve very little upkeep. It is a nice scene which is a cheap and attractive method to cover those awful looking electrical units.

Planting Fruit bearing Trees

Since planting fruit trees in the garden in March, which included Fugi Apple, two different Asian pear trees  and a Plum Tree. We were initially told by the Nursery owner that all trees are mature enough to bear fruit this year. Well, we have since learned that the Fugi Apple takes at least three years. We do have pears but that is another problem and we did get a few plums.

Regarding the Fugi, to realize fruit growth, the limbs have to hang downward. We were told to place weights (using string or similar) to pull the branches downward which will then help produce the fruit (in a few years). Seems like a lot of work and waste of time to me.

The few plums look great but will take some time to get a more abundant crop.
The Pears are another issue. The one tree was overflowing with new pears HOWEVER, because of the weight of the individual branches with pears, the branches could not support the pears and actually broke off, thus ruining several beautiful pears. We have corrected this by using heavy duty 'ties' and clips to support the smaller branches with a lot of fruit.

We also had to cover the trees with a net, purchased cheaply at either Loews or Home Depot and surrounded the trees with it. This keeps all rodents and deer away from the fruit. Since doing this, we've had no problems. See pictures.
If you look closely at all three pictures, you will notice the 'netting' around the tree and the 'tie' supporting the limb.
The netting is sensitive to an animal's nose so it does scare them off. It is the only thing that we found does work and it is cheap compared to a lot of sprays and similar chemicals that only contaminate your fruit.
We have since purchased a solar powered (non-hard wired) sensor which will hopefully startle the critters. We will keep you posted.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Live Oaks in the South

The south is abundant with gorgeous Live Oak Trees that can add beauty to your outside yard area. However, keeping them pruned and trimmed is the secret to a lovely shaped Live Oak. Look at ours
(first picture) and then look at a neighbors - what a difference. Inexpensive to maintain as well, I did it
myself. It is critical to clean out the inside of the tree to allow it to flourish with shape and growth. These
trees are great in the South but only if maintained to add the beauty and enjoy.

Disease Resistent Tomato Plants

How many of you understand the "codes" on the pamphlets of tomato plants at your local retailers? I didn't know what these letters in CAPS meant. In fact, you probably don't either unless you are an experienced gardener.

So the next time you buy tomato plants, check for CODES on the labels, there are several and each have a different disease resistant purpose. The best thing to do is 1) research common plant diseases in your geographic area  and 2) then select plants that have appropriate codes UNLESS you insist on non-modified plants in which case, plant those type in a large pot. In other words, if there are no codes for disease resistance on your purchase of a selected tomato plant, buy a large planting pot for it.

Tomato plants

In my search for tomato plants at various retail locations, prices vary for similar tomatoes.

Would you believe that these are our most surviving tomato plants, yet we spent 50 cents for each  at a local LARGE department type store (I don't want to patronize names). My point is, after planting probably 15 or so tomato plants from about 5 different retailers. the cheapest are the most vibrant.
You don't have to spend a lot of money to purchase, produce and eat your own crops. Look around for bargains,. they are out there, especially at your larger discount store chains with a garden shop.

Bird sanctuary in your garden

If you have trees near your garden area and want to spruce things up a little with no out of pocket expense, I have placed several  "no cost:" bird houses on the tree as a bird sanctuary. I simply took old wood from either what I had lying around OR from my neighbor who had weathered wood out for the trash. It is easy and fun and adds life to the garden. There is nothing like sipping on a cup of coffee or tea in the early morning and watching the birds while admiring your garden.
We also added some ferns to enhance  the tree house appearance.
It's cheap, fun and looks great!
And of course, the Birds need a place to bath

Raised Garden Beds - use Cyprus

After hours of research, I have found Cyprus wood to be the least invasive and long lasting for your raised garden bed. If you are concerned about good health and preventing leakage into the roots of your veggie plants - DO NOT USE TREATED WOOD. Regardless of the disclaimers by the large home improvement stores, there is some leakage.

Sure Cyprus cost a little more but isn't your long term health worth it??
You can find Cyprus in the upscale wood selection of most large home improvement centers. You will not find it with the general building lumber supplies.
Cyprus will also deter normal wood insects and it is more attractive.

Gardening Rule #1 - Protect yourself

Right FAT Thumb

Notice swelling and size differences

Protecting yourself while working in the veggie garden can avoid a lot of problems. WEAR GLOVES!!
With the numerous tiny insects invading your garden, you are prone to a bite, sometimes without knowing it for hours. Recently I returned from vacation and dove into my garden routine without gloves.
Sure enough, I awoke in the middle of the night, my right thumb finger started throbbing and I had incredible pain. This persisted for two days while I attempted to care for it myself - well, that doesn't work. My right thumb became enlarged and very hard around the flesh area and started to turn blue under my finger nail.
UNPROTECTED GARDENING will cost you time and money!! My next trip was to a local clinic with a large needle shot in the buttocks, followed by a week of various prescription drugs. THIS CAN BE AVOIDED BY WEARING GLOVES.
I've learned my lesson and hope that you will consider gloves which are inexpensive but can be very time consuming and expensive if you elect to go unprotected.

Got this note from a viewer:  Sorry to hear about the finger. 
About two months I was working without gloves and got an infection requiring antibiotics.  The damn thing lasted a long time and the nail finally was replaced.  I try to never work in the dirt without gloves.  I hope your bite/infection heals soon. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gardening in the South versus the North

Though I am not new to gardening, I moved from the North and learned that it is much different trying to grow vegetables in the South. I belonged to an organic farm coop and enjoyed eating safe veggies and had my own thriving veggie garden. When I came South, I quickly realized that the bugs and garden diseases are far worse, especially if you like organic gardening.

Wilt is a soil disease that can claim the life of a nice, near mature tomato plant if it is not disease resistent as indicated on the plants brochure. Your best defense is to plant your organic tomatoes in large pots as wilt disease can remain in the soil for years. Otherwise make sure you buy disease resistant plants but then forget about eating organic. Pots in a raised garden bed perform just as well as planting in the soil while assuring the comfort of a good tomatoe crop.
I never heard of nor experienced Wilt disease up North.