Thursday, April 29, 2010

WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN APRIL 29, 2010

Spring in my little corner of heaven has been unusually pleasant.  Temperatures have been moderate with a
couple of exceptions and we have been blessed with some sunny weather.  Compared to last year, the vegetable
garden is doing quite well.  We have been enjoying lettuce that overwintered in the cold frame.  It is a combination of mescluns; All American Mix from Johnny's Selected Seeds and Provencal Mix from
The Cook's Garden.  These two varieties have provided us with a mix of mild and tangy.  We have become
big fans of tangy greens.  Our lettuce transplants are finally happy in their
new home.  Spinach and mesclun direct seeded in the lettuce patch are
up.  This 4x4 patch will give us plenty of greens for over a month.  In addition, I transplanted lettuce seedlings to another part of the garden
that will give us an additional two weeks.  This will keep going until Thanksgiving.  In about two weeks we won't need to purchase greens
for eight months.




We've got kale seedlings in the ground, broccoli seedlings and cabbage seedling almost ready to transplant.
We received leek plants and shallots which are now in the ground.  Check out the garlic patch in the photo
below.  We have been building up the number of cloves planted from the original 35 we received when we
bought seed garlic 3 years ago to the 60 we planted in October.  The goal is to plant enough so that we never have to buy garlic again.  My wife Catherine loves the garlic we grow in garden.  She likes the ease of peeling, the moist firmness of the cloves and the mild, fresh taste.  This is one vegetable well worth growing.


May we have a drum roll please?  The really big
announcement is that asparagus season has begun.
For us, this is bigger than Easter.  We will enjoy this
wonderful vegetable for about two months.  I always
cook a nice dinner on Mother's Day and it always features our own fresh picked asparagus.  Catherine found a recipe for pasta with asparagus, fresh peas and
progiuto.  Can't wait.  Speaking of peas, ours are up and doing very well.  They have company.  We discovered fava beans and now grow them with our peas.  They should be ready to eat about
the 4th of July.  


I have planted carrot seeds and beet seeds but they are not up yet.
Radishes planted three weeks ago are looking good and starting to
bulb up.  Just received 3 batches of onion plants.  With help from
Catherine I will plant those tomorrow after work.


Potatoes have been in the ground almost two weeks but not yet emerged.  We like fingerling potatoes and have planted a varitey
called "French Fingerlings".  They have beige skin and pinkish flesh.  I'll let you know how they taste sometime in July.


I could go on and on, but need to sign off for now.  If you have any
questions or comments please contact me at gcgarnache@gmail.com.
All the best,
Greg

Sunday, April 18, 2010

BENEFICIAL NEMATODES

One of the most challenging aspects of vegetable gardening is the vast assortment of insects and diseases that Mother Nature introduces to your garden each year.  Over the years I have tried various chemical treatments,
sticky traps, soapy sprays and home remedies.  More recently, I have discovered a natural way to fight back.
My new weapon? BENEFICIAL NEMATODES!  These are microscopic parasitic worms that seek out grubs
in the soil.  I have discovered that most of the worst garden pests spend part of their life cycle as grubs in the
soil in your garden. When introduced to the soil the nematodes seek out grubs, enter their bodies, inject a
lethal dose of bacteria and then eat them.  Bravo! Way to go 'tode!


Among the pests which have reeked havoc in my garden are; asparagus beetles, squash bugs, squash borers,
potato beetles, corn worms, cabbage worms, coddling moths, tomato horn worms and aphids. Most of these
insects have a grub stage.  Hopefully, my nematode buddies will find and destroy these nasty creatures.

I have received nematodes from a number of sources over the last four years.  This year, I bought nematodes
from a company called March Biological Control.  Their price seemed fair compared with the competition.
1 million nematodes, enough to treat 3000 square feet, cost me $15.50.  Postage was an additional $16.25.
The postage paid for FEDEX 2 day air.  This is very important because nematodes are living creatures
that are sensitive to moisture and temperature stress.  The nematodes arrived on a sponge surrounded by
plastic.  Accompanying the nematodes was a freezer gel pack.  Nice touch.  March Biological Control is
the only company that I have bought nematodes from that has taken these precautions.  In addition, I received
a "heads up" email alerting me to the shipment and advising me to keep the container out of the sun and
to put the container in the refrigerator.

Application is relatively easy.  I squeezed the sponge into a 2 gallon bucket of water to release the nematodes.
I then added a couple of cups of the nematode water to every watering can full of water and applied to all
of my vegetable beds.  I also applied nematodes to the ground around some of my apple trees.  I will report
on the results periodically over the course of the gardening season.  Check this out.
All the best,
Greg

Saturday, April 10, 2010

CROP ROTATION - THE FOUR CROP METHOD

Back in the 1990's I was an average gardener trying to work out the basic issues, plot layout, which crops
to plant together, which crops to keep away from each other, what to feed my crops, what to do about
insect infestations.  Let's face it, I was confused.  Enlightenment came in the form of an article I read in a
gardening magazine (Organic Gardening?).  It was about the concept of crop rotation and its importance
to successful vegetable gardening.  This article changed my life.

As I recall, the author was a small scale commercial farmer.  She had worked out a simple, manageable
system that anyone could implement in their home garden.  The key to her approach was to organize
your crops into four basic groups: legumes, leaf crops, fruit crops, and root crops.  This works best if
you can divide your garden into fourths.  I've got 16 beds in my basic rotation and this works very well
for me.  An important thing to remember is to keep like vegetables together in the same bed.
At left is a typical leaf crop bed.  There are various lettuce varieties,
cabbage, broccoli and spinach in this bed.  The photo was taken in early
May in 2007.

Now that we have our garden layout organized around a four crop rotation
we can now consider soil amendments and nutrition.  One of the benefits of
legume crops is that they add nitrogen to the soil.  Leaf crops love nitrogen.
That's why leaf crops follow legumes.  It's genius!  At the end of the legume
season you can prepare this bed for all of the crops to follow by adding two
soil amendments; green sand and rock phosphate.  Rock phosphate is rich

in phosphorous a key element in growing healthy tomatoes, peppers and other fruit crops.  It takes a good
year to break down in the soil so that it can be used by the plants.  That's why you want to add it now.
Green sand has potassium which is needed for healthy root crops.  Green sand takes about two years to
break down in the soil, just in time for your root crop rotation.  In addition to these amendments, I plant
a green manure crop in the legume bed in the fall.  This will add more nitrogen to the soil and organic matter
when the crop is tilled into the soil in the spring.  In the spring I will add some compost to the soil before
I till.

One additional benefit to crop rotation is that moving your crops to a different bed every year confuses
the insects that prey on your vegetables.  It doesn't eliminate the problem entirely.  However, it does
help.  There will be more on garden insects in future posts.
All the best,
Greg