gardening tips Archives

Wordless Wednesday

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Just Bought Our First Poly Tunnel Cloche

poly tunnel clocheI think it’s a great home gardening tip to have a poly tunnel cloche in the garden early spring to help heat the soil up quicker so I can get some of the seeds I’ve started indoors outdoors sooner.

We just bought one a couple of weeks ago. While it was still miserable and raining outside I was sitting in the comfort of my living room putting the poly tunnel together.

Once it stopped raining and dried enough for me to walk in the veggie garden I put the tunnel in our vegetable garden to allow it to start heating up the soil so I can put my starter plants and seeds out a little earlier.

I like the idea that I can use my poly tunnel to extend our growing season. I am most curious to see how that works and for how much longer.

Our Mini-Greenhouse

mini greenhouse in windowA couple of years ago I bought a 3 foot by 6 foot mini greenhouse so I could put plants our earlier and as it turns out it’s a great seed starting station to grow plants from seeds indoors when it’s still snow covered here in Moncton, New Brunswick.

I put it together and saw that it would fit perfectly in front of our only south facing window which just happens to be in our kitchen. It’s nice to grow herbs all winter long. All we had before the mini greenhouse was a six inch wide windowsill which didn’t hold a lot of anything.

The only thing about the mini greenhouse is that it doesn’t heat our garden soil like the poly tunnel is doing.

Pre-Heating Our Garden Soil

After the rain stopped long enough so I could walk in the vegetable garden without sinking past my ankles I put the poly tunnel cloche out along with two thermometers, one inside the tunnel and the other just outside it.

I checked it in a few hours, even though the sun was behind dark rain clouds, and it was already 10 degrees warmer than the outside. Plus the soil was starting to heat up as well and by the end of the day the soil was warmer down a couple of inches already. The following morning it was still 60 degrees inside the tunnel.

It’s May 19 today and just 2 degrees Celsius so I haven’t put anything in the poly tunnel as yet. I am going to wait a couple more days. The forecast is for better weather with higher temps at night. Getting so excited.

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mini greenhouse in windowI find winter to be such a long wait to get back to gardening, I get cabin fever long before it ends and have been thinking it would be nice to be a snow bird and fly south for the white months.

But having my mini-greenhouse certainly helps me deal with winter as I can do a bit of gardening. I also get to start a whole lot more starter plants from seeds in our south facing kitchen window.

Before next winter I want a couple of grow lights so I can use the entire mini greenhouse. At the moment I can only use three shelves so the bottom two are used for storing garden supplies.

Putting Our Mini Greenhouse Outdoors

started tomatoes seedsI started six varieties of tomatoes which got an early start so I had to transplant them into bigger containers but that didn’t hold them for long. Now they are ready to be transplanted again.

It’s suppose to rain all day as well as tomorrow so I am going to take that time to work indoors transplanting tomatoes and a few other veggies.

This is what they looked like just before I transplanted them. The image isn’t the best because I took the picture with them in the greenhouse sitting in front of the window. I should have pulled the blind down. But I think you can see how leggy they were getting.

tomato plants for transplanting

We should have lots of tomatoes this summer which means we have more to can for the winter. We also tried a few varieties we haven’t had before. Curious to know what they taste like and what meals they go best with.

repotting tomatoes
Re-Potted My Tomatoes

I have decided to grow our tomatoes in containers this year so I can grow other things in the garden. Last summer the tomatoes and squash took over most of the garden so I think I use the space a lot better if the tomatoes are growing elsewhere.

I am planning to put tinfoil around our mini greenhouse next winter along with grow lights so I get better lighting all around my starter plants. I think it will help them from getting leggy.

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ph soil test kitI really have no idea about the PH balance in our yard soil but I do understand it can vary from one location to another, even in a small yard.

I haven’t done any testing and just learned that I don’t actually have to send soil samples to a scientist for testing. Apparently I can go to my local nursery and buy a soil test kit for PH balance.

I have worked hard over the past few years amending our garden soil to the point it drains better and grows great produce but if I can do better by doing a PH test so I can improve the soil I’m going to do that.

Testing Our Garden Soil’s PH Balance

Made a new friend on Google+, Douglas E. Welch. I read a post he made a few days ago that was talking about soil PH testing. The first thing I did was to check online for Soil PH test kit so that if I can’t find them locally I will order online as soon as I get home so I can have a test done early enough to make a difference this year.

Get Down To Where The Roots Live

After reading and watching a few videos I know that it’s important to remove the top few inches of soil and debris to get to where the roots live as that’s where they will get their nutrition.

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Tips For Beginners To Organic Vegetable Gardening

vegetable gardening tipsMoney’s becoming tighter every year but we have found a way to save some money and that’s by starting a vegetable garden to save on the grocery bills and we are not alone.

Because we’ve become vegetable gardeners we have also started eating healthier, the more we learn. We are also feeling more energetic because of the exercise and good eating.

Every year our lawn is getting a little smaller and our veggie garden a little bigger. I like the idea that we spend more time in the garden than behind the lawnmower.

Being A Vegetable Gardener Isn’t All That Hard

trees are way too tall and block our garden from getting sunLike most things in life there is some learning to be done so we pay attention to all the vegetable gardening tips we find online and from friends.

About the first thing we learned was that vegetable gardening is like real estate where it’s all about location. Get your garden started where it’s going to get the most direct sunlight because a veggie garden will need about 6 or 8 hours of it each day.

I’ve talked about this before but just because you don’t have a back yard doesn’t mean you can’t do some vegetable gardening. I started my first tomato garden as a container garden on an 11th floor balcony, which got lots of summer sunlight. When we rented home where we couldn’t dig in their yard we used container gardening to grow vegetables.

Below are a few vegetable gardening tips that will help you get started correctly.

1.  Start With A Garden Size That’s Manageable

veggie garden afterI have wanted a vegetable garden for many years but wanting and doing are two different things. I wasn’t 100% sure I would stick with so I started a very small vegetable garden, just to be sure I wouldn’t start it and give up after the first year.

Turns out I love vegetable gardening and the second  year I increased our 4×4 foot garden to something like 4×8 foot and kept increasing it each year. It’s now about 10×20 feet and if I have the energy I will make it even bigger for 2013.

When I talk about energy I am kind of referring to the fact we have a few trees along our property line that have grown 8 or 10 feet taller since we started and I have to cut them down before next spring.

2.  Buy And Use The Correct Garden Tools

garden gloves and tomato plantWe had a few garden tools that we found here when we bought the place and now I know why they left them behind, it’s because they were all rusty with wooden handles that were cracked and full of splinters.

We have purchased all new garden tools since then and keep them clean so they will last for many years to come. We do like to buy them at the end of the gardening season here in Moncton when we can find really good deals and can afford better tools.

What Tools Do You Need:

  • a spade
  • a garden fork
  • a hoe
  • a hand weeder
  • a wheelbarrow
  • a rake
  • a garden hose
  • rain barrels

Don’t buy tools just because they have a good price on them. Do some research and look for the name brands that stand behind their work and from a store that allows returns.

Jenny and I don’t have a rain barrel yet but we will be looking in a few weeks, once gardening has ended for the year and stores want to get rid of stock. We may even be able to buy two at the regular price of one.

As for a wheelbarrow we have decide to buy a regular single wheel wheelbarrow, after borrowing our neighbours and finding out that it wasn’t difficult to balance, like I thought it might be. Thanks Geoff.

3.  Join A Garden Seed Club

We joined a seed club by Mike The Gardener and get 4 packs of garden seeds every month, in the mail.

You can search your favourite search engine to find which growing zone or plant hardiness zone you live in so that you are growing vegetables that will do well where you live. Just type ‘plant hardiness zone’ +location’ in the search engine and you will find a map that shows your zone.

Start saving your vegetables seeds to share with friends and neighbours or trade seeds.

4.  Keep Pests And Weeds Out of Your Garden

garden slugsI can’t tell you how annoyed I was when I first started veggie gardening and had to deal with those slimy slugs.

We wanted to be organic gardeners so there were no poisons or pesticides. I tried a number of home remedies that just didn’t do as people claimed but I didn’t give up. Eventually I learned about products like Slug-B-Gon and SlugOut and my slug problem was stopped.

Always look for an organic and safe way to get rid of bugs. You can even try growing plants that tend to keeps some pests away, like onion, garlic, and chives.

Try placing a couple of inches of mulch, which is untreated, around each vegetable plants. It will help to keep moister in the ground longer, keeps weeds from getting sunlight and keeps dirt off the leaves.

5.  Your Veggies Need Lots of Water

People can go a few days without water before it started to take its toll and the same thing goes for your garden plants. They need water on a regular basis, especially when Mother Nature isn’t providing it as well as she could be.

Learn about each veggie you plan to grow so you know about how much water it needs weekly. Using mulch in your vegetable garden is going to help keep that water from evaporating so be sure to use it.

At the same time you don’t want to over water your garden so periodically dig down a little and see how far you have to dig to get moist dirt. This will help you learn when and when not to water.

A root system that sits in water will quickly drown if it doesn’t drain well.

I like to water my garden early morning before the sun ever hits it. This give time for the water to run off the leaves before the direct sunlight hits them which can burn the leaves. You also don’t want so much water than you have a mould or fungus issue.

Take a look at the Food4Wealth site where you will find help growing a better vegetable garden through an ebook and videos.

We would love to hear your vegetable gardening experience as well as our readers.

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tree over our garageIt’s just my personal opinion but I really think our little vegetable garden was perfect this year. I’ve had so much fun with it and we’re already looking forward to next spring to start all over again.

Even though I have been so pleased with our garden it could have done so much better if the trees running along our east property fence hadn’t grown so much since we bought our home.

I’m sure they have grown 8 to 10 feet since we moved in and have blocked the early morning sun all summer long. They have to go.

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Our vegetable garden doesn’t get any early morning sunlight

Time To Remove A Few Trees

Jenny’s off work this week so I thought it would be good to start on the trees while she is here to hold the ladder so I don’t break my neck or drop branches where we don’t want them, like on our garden or raspberry patch.

This particular tree is going first. It blocks the sun from our garden in the early part of the summer but it’s also hanging right on the garage roof and when the wind blows it’s rubbing the edges of the shingles and destroying them. It’s gotta go.

Hold The Ladder Steady Dear

ladder on the treeI grabbed the ladder from the garage and stood it up against the tree which is two trees, one growing straight up and the other hanging on the garage, so I started with the half that was hanging on the garage.

I started by cutting all the lower branches I could reach without climbing very high but once they were gone I needed Jenny’s assistance, holding the ladder.

The angle of the tree makes the ladder look unstable but it was secured with both feet on the ground and the top of the ladder was firmly against the tree. But it’s always better safe than sorry or broken.

I used every ounce of strength I had to get the first tree done but ran out of steam. I did get all the branches off the tree but will have to cut the trunk down once my muscles stop hurting.

The amount of branches I removed made a huge difference as it now lets in so much light behind the garage. Once I get the second half of the tree cut down it will also give us a view of the sky again.

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The image above shows how the tree was hanging over the garage but it ain’t doing it any more.

clearing out a hanging treeNow we can see right through the fence and the garage. We had a hard time walking behind there because the branches hung all the way from the top of the garage to the ground.

All the trees that block our vegetable garden are on our side of the property fence so we don’t need permission to cut them down. Also we have no power or phone lines near any of the 6 trees that are being removed. Jenny and I will be able to just take our time and take them down safely.

Our little garden will be so surprised come next spring when the sun hit it early morning instead just before noon.

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Why Not Make Your Own Seed Tape, It’s Easy

onion seed tapeEven though I belong to Mike The Gardener’s Seed of the Month Club I still look at the seed racks whenever I go to a garden center.

A couple of years ago I was in Canadian Tire for something and of course went to the garden center to see what was on sale and I checked out the seed racks. That’s when I saw something new. They had seeds that came in strips of tissue paper and spaced just right for easy planting. Especially for those tiny seeds I have trouble planting exactly right.

Of course I had to buy a couple and try them out, but also to see how they made them. I bought a pack of radishes and another of onions as they have small seeds. It seem way more efficient than dropping too many seeds at once or having them blow away in the wind.

I didn’t use them all as I only had a small area to garden in so I have an example to show you. You can see they look very simple to make and it’s an idea I wish I had thought of.

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These are the radish seed I had left over.

I’ll Lose Less of Those Tiny Seeds

mike the gardenerIt seems that every year seeds get small or is just my eyes. Yeah, it’s my eyes and my fingers don’t handle small seeds like they used to.

There are a lot of seeds that are too tiny, like onions, radishes, lettuce, and carrots. When I make the tape indoors at the kitchen table, with a big bright light I have no problems and once they are done planting couldn’t be easier.

Make Your Own Seed Tape

This is a DIY project you can get your kids involved in so they learn more about gardening. It’s a good thing to do on a cold miserable night when nobody wants to be outside.

Everything You Need Is Right At Home

Once you have the seeds you want to use for your project there are only a few things you need and most likely have them in your home right now.

  • You’ll need scissors
  • As well as ruler and marker
  • You can use paper towels, toilet paper or even newspaper
  • Flour paste to stick your tape together
  • Q-Tips to spread the flour paste
  1. Cut the paper into strips about an inch wide and make them as long as you want.
  2. Check the seed pack to see how far the seed should be apart from each other.
  3. Use your ruler and marker to mark the distance between seeds.
  4. Mark the paper so that you know the depth to plant it later.
  5. Place a seed at each mark.
  6. Apply your flour paste along one edge and fold the paper over to cover the top of the seeds.
  7. Press firmly so both edges are glued together and you’re done.

How To Plant Your Seed Tape

Planting could not be simpler. Look at the depth the seeds should be at and put a groove in the garden row to the right depth. I like to spray the seed tape once it’s positioned and before I cover it with earth. Then I like to give it another spray of water to wet the soil.

seed tape onions and lettuce
It only takes a minute instead of a half hour.

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Take Time For Some Garden Tools TLC

garden rakeMoney is always tight so I don’t always like spending money on gardening tools but I love shopping for gardening supplies, so it’s important to me that I take care of the garden tools we have. It’s fun seeing all the new things but we have to choose wisely as well.

I remember the splinters I used to get as a kid raking the lawn. That was because I would forget to return the rake to it’s proper place and the wooden handles would get wet and dry so many times the handles would split. Today I take better care of our garden and yard tools.

Learn How To Maintain Garden Tools

The garden tools that were left behind by the previous owners were in bad shape and I was certainly glad I had a tough pair of gardening gloves to save my hands from splinters and blisters.

Garden tools can last for years and years if you just take a few minutes to clean them before putting them away, each time. It’s so much better working with tools and equipment than function as they should.

Keep Your Lawn Mower In Tip Top Condition

We chose to own an electric lawn mower instead of a gas mower so we wouldn’t have to burn gas and oil. So all we have to care about is keeping the lawn trimmings cleaned out from the underside and caring for the electric cord.

If you own a gas lawnmower be sure to:

  1. clean out grass clippings
  2. change the oil periodically
  3. clean the air filter for better performance
  4. clean or change the spark plug as needed

I could tell that those gardening tools left behind were left outside more than once, perhaps all winter or most of the summers. Of course they could also have been much older than I though but it’s more likely they were not taken care of.

Get Some Tool Hooks

I have added a few rows of hooks on our garden shed wall so that I can hang shovels, rakes and other garden tools. We also have a set of shelves we can store our smaller garden tools so that they are not left in a pile to rust.

I am going to get a peg board with hooks so that I can have more space in our garden shed and use the shelves for other things like pots and containers. It’s nice to have them organized instead of looking here and there wondering where I last used that tool.

Clean Your Garden Tools After Every Use

I don’t know about you but every time I use a shovel, spade or trowel dirt sticks to them. Dirt that sticks usually means there is moisture and they seem to start rusting over night. For this reason it’s important to clean them right after using them. I clean all the dirt I can find and even wash them. Then I hang them up as usually, so they can dry and also so I can find them next time I need them.

I remember back to my childhood. Dad kept used oil in a bucket and it was my job to clean the garden tools, well all the farm tools, and then put the metal pieces in the oil to prevent rust from starting. If I didn’t do this I would certain have extra chores and maybe even a sore butt.

Any tools that were left out meant I had to get the wire brush out and clean every spec of rust and then put them in the oil bucket.

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2012 vegetable gardenThose who have followed along with us on our vegetable gardening tips blog or our home gardening tips blog will know Jenny and I have really been enjoying the fact we have a place to grow a vegetable garden.

We started in 2009 with a 4 foot by 4 foot square that took me a couple of weeks to prepare for planting. It was the hardest thing I had taken on since having a heart attack in 2004 and the most rewarding.

I have add just a little more garden each year and now have a 10×20 foot vegetable garden and have no plans to stop increasing it’s size.

The fact I joined Mike The Gardener’s seed of the month club and receive four packs of vegetable seeds and a few flowers as well, has me excited every time I get a pack in the mail. I spend the winters planning what I will start from seed each year. It’s a great motivator to grow more and more plus saving money on the groceries is always nice.

There are some things I would change and is what this post is all about today.

What Would I Change About My Garden?

1. I Would Definitely Build A Few Raised Beds

raised bed for square foot gardeningHindsight is 20/20, so my dad used to say and looking back I’d have to agree. There as so many things in life I would change but today it’s about gardening.

So as far as changing something about our vegetable garden I would change from digging the heavy dense clay in our yard to building a series of raised beds instead.

It sure would have saved a lot of back breaking work digging and amending the clay so our veggie garden wouldn’t hold so much water for so long.

2. Thought About How To Get More Direct Sunlight

When I started our vegetable garden I started where I thought we would get the most direct sunlight spring through fall. What I didn’t take into consideration are the trees along the east property fence. Man did they shoot up over the past 4 years and now we don’t get direct sunlight on the garden until well after 10am and it’s 11am before the entire garden gets full sun.

backyard gardening tips 

I am not moving the garden, it took way too much energy and time to get it where it is now so the next best thing is to get rid of the trees blocking the sun.

Fortunately we have a friend who loves using his fireplace and will be happy to take the wood to his house so nothing goes to the landfill.

3. I Want A Garden tiller

jean tilling vegetable gardenUp until 2012 I dug my garden by hand which took me so long I was always planting my vegetable late. This year would have been the same had Judy and Jean not arrived with their garden tiller and did the job in a half hour.

I don’t think I can do another year of digging and turning soil by hand so we are looking for a little garden tillerof our very own.

I think I would be able to use it in our raised beds as well.

Garden Tillers For U.S. Gardeners

Garden Tillers For Canadian Gardeners

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Our Tomato Plants Were Blown Down Last Night

tomatoes on tomato plantEvery morning I get up I can hardly wait to see how my Vegetable gardening is doing, if it’s day light yet. Once it is I am out there with my trusty Canon camera taking pictures.

This morning, New Brunswick Day, didn’t start out very good. As I looked out the window I could see my tomato plants lying or sprawling. The wind last night brought them down and instantly I felt depressed.

I couldn’t believe all that hard work was undone in one night. I had plans to start canning tomatoes and learning how to make salsa and in my mind that wasn’t going to happen.

I was so bummed I completely forgot to take my camera out with men when I went to see how bad things were. But here is a picture of what they looked like yesterday.

tomato plants staked 

Normally I rush out to admire our gardens each day but I kind of dragged my behind because I didn’t really want to see just how much I lost.

The first thing I did was look at the base of each plant and noticed that not a single tomato plant had snapped off. I also notice that one tomato plant was still standing, which was kind of strange.

Next I examined each plant to look for other damage and how many green tomatoes were snapped off the plant. The good news was that I couldn’t see any damage at all. Now that was very strange but I was feeling a lot better all of a sudden.

I started tying them back up again being careful not to do any more damage than there was but a half hour later I saw that nothing, not even a single tomato, had been damaged.

branches for stakesI scratched my head for a bit, as I had just been bitten by a mosquito. Really I was trying to figure out why the one tomato plant was still standing.

Then I noticed I had used a tree branch as a stake for this one as I had run out of the other stakes I had purchased. The tree branch was rough and had little knots where other branches had been cut off. Then it all became clear.

The stake I purchased were smooth so the when the strong winds blasted them during the night they strings slowly moved down the stake allow the plants to collapse on the ground without damaging them.

This year I started a new garden plot directly out from the kitchen window and planned it for a flower garden.

To start this garden I placed cardboard on the lawn and piled soil on it. I didn’t want to leave it like that until next year as it would be full of weeds and some would just wash away in the rain, so I planted four tomato plants but because I had no stakes left I use four more branches. Those tomato plants were still standing as well.

I’m thinking I’ll use branches for stakes next year instead of those smooth stakes. I also like the look of branches because it reminds me of my childhood growing up on the farm where we made our own stakes.

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