Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Container Gardening Tips

I'm a firm believer in container gardening. This type of gardening has many advantages, first you can control the amount of water the plant needs, and if the environment get bad like a storm you can move the plants to a safe place until the storm or whatever passes by. But the best part is you can be right there to watch them grow and develop. Now you want to make sure that your container is deep enough to contain the roots so you want to have enough room for the plant to grow. A good rule of thumb is the roots will grow down about half as far as the plant grows above ground. Another thing is please make sure your containers are clean and free of cleaning products. This will have a profound effect on how your plants do over the season because of the residual effect of cleaners.

I find it useful to use 5 gallon containers to grow most of my plants. This way you know the roots have plenty of room to grow. Be sure to put a layer of gravel on the bottom about one inch high and put about 8 to 10 holes in the bottom of the bucket to assure good drainage for the plant. And use the best soil you can get. I have found that a rich dark brown soil with some moisture makes the best medium for most plants. Before you put the gravel in the bucket make sure you rinse and clean the gravel to make sure it is free of contaminants.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Composting for Great Soil

Across the planet earth an amazing process is continuously taking place. Plant parts and animal leavings rot or decompose with the help of fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms. Earthworms and an assortment of insects do their part digesting and mixing the plant and animal matter together. The result is a marvelous, rich, and crumbly layer of organic matter we call compost, which is nature's gift to the gardener.



Benefits of Compost

Compost encourages earthworms and other beneficial organisms whose activities help plants grow strong and healthy. It provides nutrients and improves the soil. Wet clay soils drain better and sandy soils hold more moisture if amended with compost. A compost pile keeps organic matter handy for garden use and, as an added advantage, keeps the material from filling up overburdened landfills.


How to Make Compost

Start with a layer of chopped leaves, grass clippings and kitchen waste like banana peels, eggshells, old lettuce leaves, apple cores, coffee grounds, and whatever else is available. Keep adding materials until you have a six-inch layer, and then cover it with three to six inches of soil, manure, or finished compost.


Alternate layers of organic matter and layers of soil or manure until the pile is about three feet tall. A pile that is three feet tall by three feet square will generate enough heat during decomposition to sterilize the compost. This makes it useful as a potting soil, topdressing for lawns, or soil-improving additive.


Your compost pile may benefit from a compost activator. Activators get the pile working, and speed the process. Alfalfa meal, barnyard manure, bone meal, cottonseed meal, blood meal, and good rich compost from a finished pile are all good activators. Each time you add a layer to your pile, sprinkle on some activator and water well.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saving Tomato Seeds

This is a really simple process. Here's how you save tomato seeds:

1. Choose a ripe, perfect tomato.

2. Cut it across the center of the fruit.

3. Squeeze the seeds, gel, and juice out into a small cup or jar.

4. Cover the seed gunk with two to three inches of water.

5. Label your container so you know which variety of tomato you saved seeds from.

6. Set the labeled jar in an out-of-the way spot and wait.

7. After about three days, white mold will start to form on the surface of the water. This means that the gelatinous coating on the seeds has dissolved.

8. Once you see the white mold, pour off the mold, the water, and any seeds that are floating (floating seeds are bad - they wouldn't have germinated.) You want all of those seeds sitting at the bottom of the cup.

9. After you've poured the mold and bad seeds off, drain your seeds in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under running water. It's not a bad idea to move the seeds around with your fingers to remove any extra gel that may be clinging to them.

10. Dump your rinsed seeds onto a paper plate that has been labeled with the variety name. (Yes, paper plates. Not ceramic. You need something that will wick the water away from the seeds so they dry fast and don't get moldy.)

11. Make sure your seeds are in a single layer on the plate, and set it aside a few days so the seeds can completely dry.

12. Once they're dry, put them in a labeled envelope, baggie, or other container and store in a cool, dry spot. I like to keep mine in the fridge.


Tomato seeds will keep well and germinate reliably for up to ten years if stored properly.
So, there you have it. Save seeds from your favorite tomatoes, and grow them every year. You'll be helping to protect genetic diversity in our food supply and keep some great heirloom tomatoes growing. And you'll be rewarded each and every time you enjoy a ripe, juicy tomato straight from your own garden.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saving Bell Pepper Seeds

You want to start with a fully grown, ripe bell pepper. Allowing the pepper to grow to maturity will help ensure your pepper has healthy, robust seeds, resulting in a higher germination rate when planted.


Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the pepper down the middle from top to bottom. This will leave you with two halves, both containing plenty of seed.


Now take the spoon and scoop the seeds out onto a paper towel. Try to separate them from each other as much as you can. Let them dry out for a few days in a cool, dry area.


To store your seeds for planting next year, place the dried out pepper seeds in a paper envelope. It is optimal to then place the envelope in the refrigerator or freezer to maximize their shelf life.