Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Farm Update!

It is really early in the season that we haven't even officially started Spring but this amazing So. Cal. weather allows it. I started many seeds a few days after Christmas have had to transfer many of them to bigger pots already.

It is hard enough to find space to put the seed trays but it makes it harder when bigger pots need to be added. This is where "hardening off" the plants comes in handy. Once the seeds have sprouted and are a few inches tall, I started placing the trays outside. I put them into my home-made greenhouse but not in direct sunlight. I only leave them out there for a few hours the first day and slowly add more time until they have been outdoors for about a week.

Once the seedlings have acclimated themselves to the outdoors, they get potted up and left outside all the time. Instead of buying small pots, I cut off the bottom of water bottles and plant in those. I know the roots may attach to the plastic but by carefully snipping it off, the plant should be fine. Some plants actually prefer being transplanted  because it creates a stronger root system. For example, when transplanting tomatoes, it is recommended to bury part of the stem. The stem will now grow roots and will help stabilize the plant better.

Not only were seeds started indoors but also in the garden and they are already popping up. Radishes, snow peas and carrots are showing life. Everything is growing in nicely and wit the help of chicken wire, I am keeping the neighborhood cats from making the garden their personal litter box. The chicken wire also helps keep the rows straighter and properly spaced.

Along with having with proper spacing, the chicken wire helps keep me on track to the areas of the garden that have already been planted. I did not make the mistake of sowing everything at once and end up with tons of vegetables only towards the end of the summer. Succession planting is very important and helps with this issue. I have been seeding more in the garden every 2-3 weeks in small batches and it seems to be working. Most, if not all, of the seeds from that first planting have already sprouted and are looking healthy. The second planting is just starting to come up and looking good as well.

The other half of the garden includes the 3 raised beds. I have not put anything into these yet because this is where most of the tomato plants are going. For now, the beds are simply covered with chicken wire and will be planted in another month or so. I will also be adding Eggplant, peppers and more root veggies. I am not sure where I am going to add all of these plants but some of the squash may go in the plants in front of the house. The beautiful squash blooms should look amazing up front and save us from having to buy plants to fill it in.

I think I've covered most of the "farm" but will regularly update with photos and general information.

Luis

P.S.: Here are some photos of the current state of the garden! Click Now!

A few links on "hardening off" your seedlings:

1. Veggie Gardening Tips
2. EHow
3. About.com
4. About.com 2

Monday, January 17, 2011

Let's Get Vertical!

Vertical gardening help those of us that have little to almost no space. The plants do not always need to be planted in the ground or beds but can also be grown in containers. A trellis or structure can also be made to fit into many containers. The only real requirement is for this structure is that it supports the plant and fruits as some can get really heavy. 

Teepees and trellises are some of the easiest things to build from inexpensive materials. All you need for a teepee is three posts or poles and some sort of rope or twine. If you are more of a handier person and would not mind spending a little more time, there are more options. Trellises can also be made of PVC piping or a heavier material but may not necessarily be cheap. Although, there are places out there that "up-cycle" and may even give away materials. If you are like me and are trying to keep costs low, these are great options. 

The main idea behind Vertical Gardening is to find better and more efficient ways of using your available space. Along with extending the variety of vegetables, vertical gardening also helps grow healthier plants. Better air circulation, easier to weed and more open space for smaller plants are a few benefits of vertical gardening. 

All plants need air circulating around them and having grow vertically is a step in the right direction. It helps the soil to not be soggy and keep the plant healthy. We may need to water a little more but by simply adding some sort of mulch helps cut down on watering. The mulch helps the soil hold the moisture longer but it should be checked on regularly. For those hotter times, we may actually need to water everyday or more than once a day. 
 
While checking the moisture in the soil, a weed check should also be done. Although, there should not be too many of them if there are smaller plants in between the larger plants. I like to mix in a row of carrots between some tomato plants and it leaves no room for those pesky weeds. There are many plants that can be added in that will not take up too much room. 

I will be doing an update on my farm later in the week and may include some photos that may include my teepee but a quick online search for vertical gardening should bring up many samples. Along with photos, you will also find much more information on the subject. 

I hope this post gets your creative juices flowing or at least gets the thoughts bouncing around in your head. 

Luis





Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Garden Plan for 2011!

Well,

It is that time of year and I am much more excited than last year. This is only my second time doing any major planting and it went pretty well last year. I just gotta get better about successive plantings. I had tons of carrots and radishes at the end of the summer. Luckily, we had a small get-together with friends and most of carrots were simply grilled.

I have created a simple diagram in Photoshop to show the sections of the garden. I only numbered them because it makes it easier.


Sections:

Directly in ground.
1. Swiss Chard, Lettuce and possibly other greens.
2. Cucumbers, Squash, Melons
3A. Carrots & Radishes - Planted-12/28/2010
3B. Carrots & Radishes - Planted-1/11/2011
3C. Beets, Parsley(Hamburg Thick Rooted)
3D. Snow Peas - Planted-12/28/2011

Raised Beds
4. Peppers & Eggplants
5. Tomatoes
6. Tomatoes? Root vegetables?

This is pretty much it for now and will hopefully be the final as I see how the seedlings grow. Although, nothing is ever set in stone. I may end up with more or less but in the end, as long as the garden produces, it does not matter.

Luis

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gardening Isn't Free, but It Can Come Close.

Many people say they do not garden because it is too expensive but I am here to dispel that belief. Granted, there are some things that simply must be purchased specifically for gardening but not all. I will try to give free or cheaper alternatives to some of those "expensive" items.

In order to start seeds indoors, there are a few things that are needed. Most people buy trays or peat pots to accomplish this but those can get expensive. These trays can be replaced by egg cartons, something that is usually tossed out. If you did not read my post about Egg Carton Gardening, please do so. A quick search on the net brings up many more articles on the subject.

The trays need to be filled with a growing medium and there is no alternative. Seed starting mixes are available in small packages and are fairly inexpensive. An upside to using trays is that for the first round of seeds, they do usually come with small pellets that when water is added, they expand. All you need to do is drop in the seeds. Additional pellets for future seeds can be purchased and extend the life of those trays.

Seeds are the main ingredient in any garden. The good news is that seed packets are cheap and can sometimes be free. Seed saving is huge for gardeners and it makes a big difference. Most of us already eat vegetables and fruit but fail to save those seeds. A short post about saving seeds can also be found here. As I mention in that post, different seeds require different things in order for them to be productive but it may be a nice place to start.

Once the last frost has passed and the seedlings are ready to move out to the garden, there may be more costs. Most people do not have the luxury of a place to start have a garden but no need to worry. Container gardening has been around for a long time and some plants prefer it over direct planting but containers are not free, or are they?

Vegetables and fruits can be grown in nearly anything but finding these containers is the fun part. The more popular form of containers are standard pots but are not the only option. The only thing stopping you, is your imagination. They need to be cleaned out and may need drainage holes but that is pretty much it. A more in detail post about container gardening can be found here.

Now that the plants have somewhere to go, those containers need filling. They can  be filled with compost that was made at home and it can help alleviate this issue. Regardless of mediums, soils or otherwise, it may need to be purchased. Some gardeners mix their own mediums with ingredients bought in bulk or use less of it and supplement it with other things. There is a plethora of information online about making your own and this post should help you get started. If the luxury of a garden area is available, the soil will probably need to be amended and home-made compost will help.

I think this covers most of it for now, but I am probably missing something, somewhere. There are many places out there to find cheap or even free alternatives to almost anything and everything you may need. The internet is a great place to start and open many doors but like anything online, common sense should be practiced.

If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask. The search feature on my blog can be a good tool to find previous posts but just remember I am not the absolute word in gardening and more research should be done.

Are there any other excuses for not gardening? I would love to hear them!

Luis