Frugal Fall Gardening

The first warm days of spring are now long gone, and the “dog days” heat of summer is starting to wane a bit. By late summer and early autumn, many gardeners have “thrown in the trowel” and are ready to relax a bit. That’s a shame, really. Because fall can be a great time for garden activities. While you may not be growing enough squash and zucchini to feed a small army, you can still get out of doors and garden to your heart’s content. Plus, I’ll let you in on a little secret…fall gardening is relatively cheap and frugal zealots like me love it! Fall is a great time to work on gardening chores like transplanting. It’s also a great time of year to stock up on gardening items and equipment at a fraction of the cost.

Get End-of-Season Deals

Cooler weather in the fall is the perfect time for planting many trees, shrubs, and other perennials in most areas of the country. The soil is still warm, but even cooler weather is around the corner and there’s not as much risk of your trees and shrubs dying from the heat. Many greenhouses and nurseries will deeply discount their nursery stock at this time of year, clearing room for Halloween pumpkins and Christmas trees. This makes it an even better time to plant some new fruit trees, some ornamental shrubs, or whatever suits your fancy. Many nurseries will also discount leftover summer plants and container plants. You can take them home and allow them to overwinter in the house if you really like a good bargain.

Gardening tools, yard equipment, and generally all gardening supplies will be discounted this time of year. (However chainsaws never seem to go on sale.) Lawn mowers, weed trimmers, and most yard maintenance equipment will be discounted. Patio items such as lawn furniture, outdoor grills, and even nice outdoor pots and birdbaths can be found at deep discount. So if you’ve had your eye on something special for “outdoor living” all summer, now is the time to purchase.

You may even find heirloom seeds, organic fertilizer, like ProtoGrow, and other gardening items on sale.

Find “Free” Stuff Around Your House

Tired of paying lots of money each season for bags of mulch? Make your own organic compost and use it for mulch instead! Fall is a great time to tackle the compost chore. Build your own compost bin, or simply make a compost pile in the back yard. It’s a great “weekend warrior” project you’ll use season after season…and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

Want access to free plants? Look no further than around your yard. (And perhaps a neighbor’s yard or two.) Many mature, established perennial plants can be divided in the fall. This gives you free flowers to use around the yard, and to give away to family and friends. Dividing plants costs you next to nothing, aside from your time and labor. Why not host a plant swap with a few gardening buddies? You’ll all go home with some nice (and free) plants to enjoy. Many garden clubs take the opportunity this time of year to hold plant swap parties or to have sales where they feature plants and cuttings from their members gardens. This is another excellent way to get your hands on some nice plants for less money, and often the garden club donates their profits to good community causes.

Don’t waste a pretty late summer or fall day inside. There’s plenty you can still do out in the garden. You just have to do it!

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Got allergies? Fight them naturally…in the garden!

Many of us suffer from allergies as the seasons change. Before you pop another allergy pill, try a few of these natural remedies you can grow in your own back yard garden.

Fight Allergies With Foods.

Have you ever eaten anything really spicy and noticed that your sinuses seem to open right up? It’s more science than it is a wives tale. Studies have shown that spicy foods act as a natural decongestant and can help clear your airways when you’re stuffy or your allergies are bad. So, then…do you grow hot peppers, such as chili peppers? If not, you should. Hot peppers are a cheap, easy, and best of all, natural and temporary decongestant. You can grow them easily at home and then dry them out for long term storage. They will store for very long periods of time.

With ProtoGrow as your go-to natural liquid fertilizer, your garden will produce more chili peppers than you could ever need! (This year I harvested nearly 10 pounds of peppers, thanks to ProtoGrow.)

Try Butterbur.

Butterbur is said to be the Zyrtec or Claritin of the herbal world. Butterbur is nothing more than a weed to most people, but it is a powerful allergy fighter. It is also said to be a good home remedy for chronic coughs and even asthma. (Of course, you should consult your doctor first.) Some studies have even shown butterbur to be as effective as the drug cetirizine, the active ingredient in Zyrtec. What makes butterbur so attractive are its natural healing qualities combined with the fact it doesn’t seem to cause drowsiness, like most over-the-counter allergy medicines.

Want to try to grow your own? It’s easy to do. Butterbur grows well in shady areas. It loves to grow near ponds and creeks. Best of all? It’s a low maintenance plant. The butterbur plant produces large leaves and fragrant flowers all through the summer. The stalks, flower stems, and flower buds are all edible. Before the age of modern refrigeration, the broad leaves of the butterbur plant were used to wrap-up butter during hot spells, hence the plant’s name.

Go With Ginger.

Adding ginger to your diet can also help fight allergies naturally. Peel and cut some fresh ginger root and add it to boiling water. Let it steep for about ten minutes and then drink. You can sweeten the tea with local honey (another great allergy fighter, by the way). Ginger works on your body’s natural anti-inflammatory processes and will offer you some allergy relief almost instantly.

Growing ginger at home is very easy as well. It even grows well indoors for colder climates, and it will thrive in pots or containers. You can literally grow enough ginger root to last an entire year and still have some to give away to family and friends!

Ginger loves a nice sheltered spot with plenty of filtered sunlight and warm temperatures. It likes moist and rich soil. It does not like direct sun or soggy soil, so plan accordingly. The best way to grow ginger is to start with a few rhizomes that have begun to re-shoot in the early spring. You can buy these at local gardening shops or order them online. If you have friends who already grow ginger, just ask them for a few rhizomes…they should have more than enough.

 

 

 

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The Power of ProtoGrow in Pictures – Harvest time

ProtoGrow has really delivered this growing season. Where I live, we’ve had rain – some say too much rain – and many crops have suffered and rotted from the overabundance of water.

But my garden? It’s overflowing with produce. And I know ProtoGrow has something to do with it since it is the only thing I’ve changed from prior years.

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I’ve had so many jalapenos I’ve had to can them, because there’s no way we could eat them that quickly while they were still fresh, and there were way too many to fit into my dehydrator. I know, it’s a good problem to have, isn’t it? (Canning them is really easy to do, by the way.) I canned 10 pints of jalapenos just this past week. Talk about growing like crazy…

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I had so many cherry and grape tomatoes that I kept loading up the dehydrator with more and more and more…

The sun-dried tomatoes will taste just like summertime when I use them this winter in pasta, soups, stews, and so on. Dehydrating my abundant cherry tomato harvest was as easy as: 1) wash 2) cut in half 3) stick in the dehydrator and leave overnight

That’s it!

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See the peaches? You can use ProtoGrow on your fruit trees, too! The trees will love you for it, and you’ll get bountiful harvests like these. (Notice my nice watermelon in the background? Another part of the harvest.)

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I canned peaches all day – and while it wasn’t exactly easy work, I will thank myself for it come cooler weather. Biting into a home canned peach is like pulling one off the tree…the flavor is fresh and amazing.

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This is just one of many cabinets in my kitchen – filled with canned tomatoes, jellies, peppers, and dried herbs fresh from my garden. If I harvest much more, I am going to need another pantry to fill. (My husband is ignoring those comments, by the way.)

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In addition to the jalapenos, I dehydrated several jars worth or chili peppers. I use them to make hot pepper vinegar for topping our fall and winter greens and peas. (Delicious!) I also grind them up to add some kick and spice to certain recipes. You can never have too many dried peppers on hand. Thanks to ProtoGrow,  abundance wont’ be a problem this year.

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I canned 20 quarts of green beans, and put almost that much in my freezer. I’ve never frozen green beans, but thought I’d give it a shot since I was quickly running out of shelf space in the kitchen pantry.

Thanks to the growing power of ProtoGrow, my record harvests this season have allowed me to put back a ton of food for my family. I won’t be worrying about food security this fall and winter. I only wish I had another acre of land to work with, and then we’d really be growing like crazy!

This year’s food preservation so far:

  • Canned tomatoes (puree, juice, whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, spaghettis sauce, salsa…lots and lots of salsa!)
  • Canned jalapenos
  • Dried jalapenos
  • Dried chilis
  • Dried cherry & grape tomatoes
  • Canned green beans
  • Frozen corn (both on the cob & off the cob)
  • Strawberry jam
  • Peach jam
  • Canned peaches
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Frozen blackberries
  • Frozen crowder peas
  • Frozen lima beans
  • Refrigerator pickles
  • Garlic – drying now, will be braided and put away when completely cured
  • Potatoes of all varieties – will be put in the cold cellar

We had so many squashes and zucchini too – but we ate all of those fresh, day after day. Next year, I’ll plant even more squash and zucchini so I can store some for fall and winter.

Believe me when I say that ProtoGrow really is a miracle all-natural liquid fertilizer. It has made a huge difference in our harvests this year and I am going to be using it each and every growing season.

 

 

 

 

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End of Summer Garden Clean Up

As the end of the summer growing season comes to a close, you may want to complete a few chores so you’ll be ready to go when spring rolls around again. That is, unless you are growing a fall garden!

Harvest what’s left in the garden…to the very last drop.

Don’t let it go to waste! Get all the bounty you can from your garden. Squeeze out every drop of summer goodness. You’re tired now, but you’ll thank yourself for the last-minute work, later on when summer is but a memory.

A few ideas to get you going:

  • Hang herbs, like rosemary and lavender, and let them dry. Freeze herbs like basil and chives. You’ll enjoy having the flavoring of fresh herbs all fall and winter long.
  • Use up the veggies. Freeze the last of the corn, the beans, and what-not for fall soups and stews.
  • Make one last batch of garden-fresh salsa to enjoy when nights grow cold.
  • Freeze berries for smoothies.
  • Pickle cucumbers.

Like Mama said, always clean up your messes.

Clean out your pots. Empty any dead plants and dump into your compost bin. (Don’t compost anything that is diseased or infested with bugs, FYI.) Don’t have a compost bin? Make that a fall and winter chore for next year.

Deal with overgrown weeds and grasses now. Make your flowerbeds tidy for fall. Mulch anything now that needs to overwinter on the ground.

Wash the patio furniture and get the garden knick-knacks like birdbaths ready for cooler weather in the next few weeks. Store your pots indoors or in a garage or building where the cold weather won’t crack or damage them.

Organize your gardening tools. Take inventory and make notes of what you need to purchase for next year. Many gardening supplies are on clearance at this time of the year, so take advantage and stock up for next year! (This is how I always purchase my tomato trellises.) Canning supplies are often on sale now, too.

 

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Smart Gardeners Keep Records

Want to know a gardening secret that has the power to make you a gardening pro overnight? Get yourself a gardening notebook.

The gardening notebook will do as much for the home gardener as a good shovel or a nice pair of gardening gloves. Your gardening notebook can be simple or it can be fancy, or it can be somewhere in between – much like the gardens we grow.

Do you find yourself asking questions year-to-year such as:

  • What kind of lettuce did I sow last year? And where did I buy it from?
  • I think my tomatoes were planted too early last season…what date did I set them out?
  • When was our first frost? It seemed a little later than usual…

My first gardening notebook was nothing more than a sheet of paper where I made notes for myself. Over the years my gardening notebook has evolved into a nice three-ring binder which has become an invaluable resource that I look at very often.

Want to get started? 

Don’t be tempted to make your gardening notebook too complicated, or you won’t use it. Here are a few tips for starting and using a gardener’s notebook.

1. Divide the notebook by seasons and growing sections. Spring Garden, Summer Garden, Fall Garden, Flower Garden, and so on.

2. Always record important dates:

  • Seed starting dates
  • Planting dates (for transplants and direct sowing)
  • Harvest dates
  • First frost
  • Killing frost/cold snap

Keeping track of these dates over a period of a few years will help you identify patterns for your area and climate and will greatly increase your success rate.

3.  Keep a section just for food and vegetables. List the names of the plants, types of seed, where they were purchased or ordered, and keep notes of their performance. This will help you spot what grew well and what didn’t. (If you’re like me, you *think* you will remember each year when you’re ready to buy seed, but the memory fails a bit as you get older!)

4.  Keep a list of things you want to try in the garden. A “wish list” of sorts.

5. Some gardeners even store empty seed packets in their notebooks so that they can re-purchase seeds with ease.

6.  Always, always, always make note of where you purchased each seed or transplant.

7.  Track germination rates, if you start your own seeds. Make notes such as: “Planted 20 tomato seeds from XYZ brand packet. 18 germinated, 2 did not.”

8.  Write down how many plants you set out and make notes if it was enough or too many. This is especially important for the gardener with limited growing space.

9.  Add in monthly “To-Do” lists for your garden. This way you keep track of exactly what garden chores you like to do each month or season. It’s easy to forget some things, such as trim the hedges or order my ProtoGrow (you don’t want to run out!).

10.  You can even keep a section for houseplants. This will help you remember when it is time to re-pot them and fertilize them, and so on. (If you are like me, sometimes the houseplants get neglected during full-blown gardening season!)

11.  Track days to maturity. By writing down your germination dates, transplant dates, sprouting dates, and then harvest dates, you can end up with a treasure-trove of information about your garden. Sure, seed packets will list a number for “days to maturity” on their labels, but this fluctuates with seasons and your local climate. Again, keeping precise records like these will greatly improve your personal gardening and growing success over time. This way, when I plant something and it doesn’t sprout when I think it is supposed to, I can go back and check my notebook and thus, ease my panic a bit.

12.  Keep vital local info in your notebook. This may include handouts and charts you get from your local farm and garden store, local extension office, and so on. I have a handy-dandy “Vegetables of North Carolina” chart that I refer back to year after year. I picked this little gem up for free from my local farmer’s market.

13.  Make harvest notes. Record dates of harvest, how much was harvested, and so on. It is a great way to keep up with the amounts, and even pounds of food you grow. It’s also a good way to see what is worth your time to plant and what isn’t – one year I planted eggplants and only harvested one. I decided after that year it was in my better interest to give that space to something else and just buy my eggplants at the farmer’s market until I could better my eggplant-growing skills.

14.  Keep track of when you fertilize. “Fertilized my tomatoes with ProtoGrow when first fruit sets appeared.”  Write down this information so you won’t forget season-to-season.

15.  Make a general notes section. List information such as damage from insects, special information, and anything else that you might want to remember.

Some gardeners take their notebooks a step further and add pictures from the garden each season. Personally, I don’t do this but I might someday when I have more time on my hands. Your gardening notebook is your own – so make it work for you and keep it as fancy or as simple as you desire.

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Fall Gardens – What to grow?

It seems a bit crazy to talk about fall gardening when summer is at it’s hottest, but nevertheless, it’s the right time to get planning and even planting for your fall garden.

In most areas, fall gardens will need to be started in late July through August to allow the seeds plenty of time to grow and mature before the first autumn freeze. The shorter the summer growing season in your area, the sooner you’ll need to start.

What to plant?

Nearly everything you planted in the spring can be grown in your fall garden, too. Cool season plants, like carrots, cilantro, lettuce, and arugula – they will tolerate a light frost and will thrive in the shorter daylight hours and mild temperatures. But there are a few “fall favorites” you might want to try this year if you’ve never grown them before.

BroccoliBroccoli seedlings should be planted 9-10 weeks before the first frost date for your area. This means you’ll be planting them during the last hot summer days; so it is critically important to keep them hydrated and to mulch around them so the soil will remain cool and moist. Feed your broccoli plants with the all-natural fertilizer ProtoGrow after they’ve been transplanted into the garden and have sustained the transition (Usually 2-3 weeks after transplanting)

Brussels SproutsBrussels sprouts are one of my fall favorites…they are absolutely packed with nutrients and flavor. If you try only one new thing this year, let it be these little beauties. Brussels sprouts take approximately 3 months for sprouts to appear; they are ready for harvest when they are firm and green.

Cabbage – Plant cabbage seedlings 6-8 weeks before the first frost. Make sure you protect your cabbage seedlings from the intense sun, and water deeply as they are heavy feeders. Cabbages do best in soil that is rich in organic matter.

CauliflowerAnother fall favorite – but somewhat tricky to grow. You’ll need very healthy soil and you’ll need to keep the plants watered well. Fluctuations in temperature and moisture can cause your cauliflower t to “button.” This means the plant will only produce small, undersized heads. So, consistency is key. Don’t let this keep you from giving cauliflower a spot in your fall garden – just know in advance it may take a learning curve to grow them well.

Mustard Greens – Mustard greens are tender, healthy, and yummy. Packed with nutrients you’ll love these little gems. Sow your seeds approximately 6 weeks before the first frost. Seeds will germinate in soil that is 45 to 85 degrees in temperature. Keep the soil consistently moist  (but not too wet) for the most tender greens.

Radish – Sow radish seeds 4-6 weeks before the first frost, depending on the variety. Larger radishes need to be sown a little earlier, around 6 weeks ahead of the frost date. Make sure your soil is well drained, but otherwise you can plant them and forget about them. Radishes are quick growers and are very easy to grow because they require very little extra care or attention. Try a new variety, such as a breakfast radish.

Spinach – Sow spinach seeds 5-6 weeks before first frost date. Spinach will grow better in the fall than it did in the spring, as the short days and cool moist weather is a favorite. A healthy, established spinach crop will last into winter and can survive cold temperatures down into the 20s. Good fertile soil and a feeding of ProtoGrow will encourage tender greens.

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Ways to Save Your Garden Bounty

Thanks to ProtoGrow, my garden is growing like crazy…which means it is also producing like crazy. (That all-natural fertilizer really does work!) This was the scene around my house yesterday:

BEFORE…

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AND AFTER…

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Folks, I canned 20 quarts of what we call “spicy tomatoes.” They are a perfect base for your fall and winter soups, stews, pots of chili, and more. (We’ve also been known to use them as “poor man’s salsa” in a pinch.) In the winter, when I crack open a can of my homegrown and home-canned tomatoes, I can almost feel a fresh burst of summer. The tomatoes taste like I just picked them yesterday, when in reality, summer has long faded away. Canning your homegrown tomatoes, and other produce, is a great way to eat fresh all year long.

Each year, as my garden gives me copious amounts of produce, I look for new ways to use every bit of the harvest, letting nothing go to waste. When I was a beginning gardener, I gave much my produce away when our family couldn’t eat it right away. I still give a little bit away, but by far and large, most of my gardening efforts are put back into feeding my family year round. What we don’t eat fresh from the garden is either canned, frozen, or dried; saved in some way to feed us down the road.

I’m very concerned about food security. I want to make sure I have plenty of ways to feed my family in the event of an emergency. (A short paycheck, a job loss, a power outage, a hurricane — emergencies can take on many different forms!)

Ways to Save That Garden Bounty

1.  Yes, you can…CAN! 

Canning is growing in popularity for obvious reasons. It’s both a yummy and economical way to put up food for your family. Don’t know how to can? Don’t have a long-lost grandmother to teach you how to do it? Never fear! There are plenty of courses available on DVD that will teach you the basics. I taught myself how to can and preserve food with just a Ball Blue Book and the internet. True story.

2. Freeze It

Freezing is also a great way to put up food for later enjoyment. I love to freeze fresh corn, strawberries, and blueberries for my family to enjoy when the days grow cold and the garden has stopped producing these little gems. And fresh pesto! We love to make our own pesto from basil from our garden and freeze it for pasta dishes all winter long. Freezing produce is easy to do. You may find, however, that you get so addicted to this method you will want to buy an additional one or two (or three) freezers to have around the house.

3. Dehydrating is Easy

You can dehydrate all kinds of things – from herbs, to sun-dried tomatoes, to your own beef jerky, to complete meals in a bag! All you need is a little bit of knowledge, and maybe a nice dehydrator (however many dehydrated foods can be done with just a pan and an oven). Your kids will love homemade fruit leathers and you will love knowing they are eating good, fresh, homegrown food that doesn’t have tons of preservatives and additives and toxins thrown in. If you invest in a dehydrator, they are super easy to use. Just slice up your veggies, or place your items in the dehydrator, plug it in for about 24 hours, and just go about your business. You’ll have all sorts of easy-to-store healthy snacks in less than a day. Imagine putting fresh dried oregano on your pizza in the dead of winter…mmmm! Tastes so much better than store-bought.

4. Do good…give some away.

While I do keep 80-90% of what my garden produces, I do try to give a bit away to family, friends, and neighbors. This helps cultivate the idea that growing your own food is a smart idea, and helps educate others about eating locally. Plus, it’s just nice to share. Believe it or not, my little garden has inspired several of my neighbors to plant SOMETHING – even if it is just their own tomato plant. I think that’s a great thing.

Some people like to give their extra produce away to church food pantries, soup kitchens, and other agencies who help feed the poor. I think this is a fabulous idea – but be sure to check your local regulations as many of these agencies have to turn away fresh food if it doesn’t come from a “preferred” vendor such as a grocery store. (Sad, isn’t it?)

Whatever methods you choose to preserve the bounty…we wish you a happy harvest. This fall and winter you will be thanking yourself for taking the time to learn a few new tricks in food preservation. And, who knows…you may just see a nice reduction in your grocery budget as well.

Want your home garden to give you huge harvests like I’m getting? Make sure you are using ProtoGrow, the all-natural fertilizer that makes your garden…GROW LIKE CRAZY!

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August Chores in the Garden

August is almost here. When I think August, I think hazy, hot, and humid. It’s the time of the year when both the garden and the gardener can be looking a wee bit tired and run down. But never fear – there are ways to fix that!

August Chores To Consider:

1.  Water and weeding must go on. Do not stop these two critical chores, no matter how tired and worn-down you are. The garden will thank you for it.

2.  Re-edge your garden beds where grass is taking over.

3.  Freshen up your mulch. Add in and top off the beds with good, clean mulch.

4.  Repair storm damage. August comes with thunderstorms and sometimes tropical storms and hurricanes depending on where you live. Pick up debris, prune away damaged limbs, and so on as necessary.

5. Do not let weeds go to seed. Pulling them up now is a critical task you need to accomplish. For every weed you pull, you just might save yourself hundreds in the future.

6. Think about your fall veggie garden. Order seeds and start them indoors ASAP.

7.  Think about sowing lettuce, cilantro, radishes, carrots, arugula, kale, peas, and other “spring” crops for a fall harvest. Sow small amounts now, and then repeat (depending on your climate & the crop) until cold weather becomes an issue.

8.  If you grow asparagus, let your asparagus ferns grow crazy – they will need to grow, grow, grow until the frost comes. This growth will feed the crowns under the soil. Pull the weeds around asparagus, but let the ferns do their thing.

9.  Save some garlic heads for replanting this fall. Or, order some new garlic to try.

10. Can some of the bounty from your garden – canned tomatoes in the dead of winter are like a taste of summer all over again!

11. Harvest your herbs, dry, and save for winter. Save dill for late summer pickles. Mint, lavender, rosemary, chamomile, basil, and sage…all can be harvested either just before bloom or as they flower. You can freeze parsley, rosemary, and chives. Have you made fresh basil pesto to freeze for winter?

12.  Dig and divide daylilies after they are done blooming.

13.  Pick some new fall flowers to enjoy. Order them now or be on the lookout as summer winds down. My favorites for fall are colorful mums.

14. Consider letting your favorite annuals overwinter indoors (even though they will look ragged) to save for next spring’s transplants. You will need to provide good light. Depending on the annual, this may or may not work. But it is worth a try to save a little money in the garden next spring.

15.  Order any flower bulbs you will want to plant for fall and winter.

16.  Keep making homemade compost. Don’t forget to turn it regularly! And don’t let it dry out completely in the heat. You will need to water it a bit to keep it cooking.

17.  Give your veggies a final summer feeding of ProtoGrow for a good late-season boost and this will increase your final harvests. If you are still seeing fruits or fruit sets on your plants, you will need to feed them an all-natural, organic fertilizer like ProtoGrow for best results.

 

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Want to Store Seed Packets?

This time of year many garden centers discount their seed packets for clearance. It seems any gardener who has “got the bug” for growing things has a stash of seeds somewhere in their home. Either for next season, for an emergency, for a rainy day, or my favorite…JUST BECAUSE!

Saving seeds, either from your heirloom plants or by purchasing extra supply, is a thrifty and smart way to garden.

We will discuss how to save your own seed here on the blog very soon. But for today, I want to tell you how to save those seed packets you’ve been watching go on sale.

Extra seeds, if stored properly, will have a decent shelf life. However, germination rates will drop naturally as time goes by. So, you will need to use and rotate your stash of seeds from year to year, if at all possible. Some seeds, such as lettuce seeds, are only viable for a year or two, even under the best of storage conditions. So make sure to do your research on the varieties you are storing so you know how to properly rotate them. (There is no financial benefit to buying extra seeds only to let them go bad in the storage process!)

How to Store Your Seed Packets

1.  Store the seeds in their original packaging, or in a labeled envelope with the date of purchase clearly marked. Place the seed packets in a plastic baggie (optional) and then place in a jar or box with a tight fitting lid. This will protect them from light and moisture. Some seed saving purists will put a little rice in the bottom of the storage container to absorb excess moisture.

2.  Place your seeds in a cool, dark location. (I place mine in a cool extra coat closet in our house that we hardly ever open.)

3.  You can freeze your seeds, or place them in the refrigerator. However, moisture must be accounted for. Humidity becomes a concern with freezing your seed, as a blast of warm air on previously frozen seeds can damage them if you don’t take steps to prevent harm. Freeze small quantities/packets of seeds. This way you can pull out a small amount of necessary seed without exposing your entire collection of seed to temperature and humidity fluctuations.

4.  Remember – you are saving seed to USE. Use your saved seed within a reasonable time frame (usually 1-2 years) and replace with more seed to save. You are not saving seed for ten years down the road. This is why buying heirloom seeds is a great idea – you can save your very own seed and you will not need to buy seeds again. (We will cover this technique in a future blog post, so stay tuned!)

 

 

 

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6 Ways to Water Your Garden Well

The dog days of summer. It’s hot, hot, hot. Your plants need adequate water to survive in the heat. Here are a few tips to help you water your garden well.

1.  Check the soil.

Before watering, check the soil moisture. Push a finger into the ground, a few inches deep. If the soil feels dry, you need to water. If the soil is moist below the top 2 inches of soil, you can delay watering. It is okay for the top 2-3 inches of soil to be dry, but anything below that level should be moist.

2.  It’s all about perfect timing.

Water your plants early in the morning for best results. In the warm temps, you want to give your plants adequate time to soak up the water before the sun beats down. Watering in the morning insures that your plant will retain the most moisture possible – without precious water being lost to evaporation either by the sun or by wind. If you can’t water in the morning, water in the evening after the heat of the day has passed. But don’t water TOO late as your plants need to dry off before the sun goes down completely to avoid encouraging disease.

Whatever you do – don’t water in the heat of the day (midday to early afternoon) if at all possible. This will waste your water as much will be lost to evaporation. Watering frequently in the heat of the day will also train your plants to crave more water than they really need.

3.  Water deeply.

Most plants need approximately 1 inch of water a week to survive. More established plants will not need as much moisture as their roots will stretch and go further than a newly transplanted or newly planted flower or plant. Seeds and seedlings demand moisture like a newborn baby needs their mother’s milk.

Make sure you water deeply and evenly, without drowning your plants. And remember…rain water is always preferred of tap water. Use water from rain barrels if you can.

4.  Soggy plants aren’t happy plants.

The saying “too much of a good thing” is true when it comes to watering your plants. Don’t over water. This will encourage root rot, plant disease, and a whole host of other issues. Waterlogged plants will take up less oxygen and can die as a result of their “drowning.” Follow tip #1 and check your soil before watering to avoid overwatering your plants.

5.  Avoid top-down watering.

Some plants, like tomatoes, do better when you water the base of the plant and keep the foliage dry. (Of course, you can’t avoid this with Mother Nature’s rain…) Soaker hoses are a good idea for many plants. They will water adequately without soaking the entire plant. If you have to water with a sprinkler or wand, make sure you are watering the plant at the base as much as possible (and not the sidewalk, wasting water). And it goes without saying, always water gently. Do not use the JET spray feature on the nozzle, please! Misting or using the “gentle shower” setting is always your best bet.

6. Mulch away!

A good organic mulch placed around the base of most plants will help keep life-giving moisture in your soil. Compost is a great all-natural mulch that serves this purpose well. You can also use dried untreated grass clippings, straw, or even wood chips. An added benefit of mulch? It helps keep disease out, too!

 

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