Monday, May 27, 2013

Frost Protection in May?

Believe it or not, on Friday we had a frost warning here in Southeastern Michigan. We have lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, tomato plants, squash and zucchini growing very well. We have some in above ground beds and others in Earthboxes.

While watching the news on Friday afternoon, I was surprised to hear the frost warning.
Linda and I scrambled to find some suitable items to protect the Earthboxes.
We settled on a few sheets and a cardboard box leftover from a recent patio umbrella purchase.

There are two Earthboxes hiding under the table that is draped with a sheet.
The folding table and sheet technique worked very well.

The rabbits were getting into our veggies, so we added the fence.
The sheet is draped over two blackberry bushes and provided good protection
for lettuce and a lot of baby Swisschard that is starting to produce very well.

I don't think we ended up with frost in the end, but last year we lost a lot of veggies with frost on May 15th. Frost on May 24th (Memorial Day Weekend) would have been a big bummer, but we were prepared just in case.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spring Planting Update

Here are a few pictures from our backyard urban gardening efforts:

We planted garlic in a bed around the perimeter of our deck in late-October 2012.
At this point we ahve 29 shoots of garlic well established and a few more developing.

The bulbs were covered with 4 inches of mulch.
We had lots of snow, but the garlic is doing well.

Strawberries in containers.
The stawberries were mulched for over-wintering.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Gathering Earthbox Supplies on a Rainy Day

It was cloudy and rainy this morning, so our goal of preparing more of our above ground beds and setting up our Earthboxes today had to be put on hold. We decided to pick up the rest of the garden lime, organic plant food, and potting soil instead.

The rain turned out to be a blessing. It turned out to be our lucky day after all.

We headed out to our favorite locally owned gardening shop and quickly obtained our Epsoma Garden Lime and Fox Farm Organic Fertilizer. The shop did not have any of the Pro Mix Organic Potting Soil that worked so well for us last year, but worked in our favor big time today.

I asked one of the employees if they had any Pro Mix Organic in the back somewhere. The answer was a quick, "No." But he did say that they had some Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix (OMRI certified).

I said, "I was hoping for some Pro Mix."

He replied, "How does $3.99 a bag sound for 1 cubic foot bags?"


We picked up 22 bags. (I'll bet he's wishing he'd have asked how many bags we wanted first.) :-)

An early picture from last year's set-up taken in late May 2012.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Planting Day

Burpee Organic and Heirloom Seeds

The weather here in S.E. Michigan is warming up as we wrap up first Sunday of April today.  We decided to plant some cool weather vegetables today.

We planted a row each of Georgia Collards (actually not organic or heirloom), Swiss Chard, Lettuce, Radishes today. We also planted 3 small rows of Red Onions.

Growing Watermelon in Compost Bags

I wrote a blog post last year about my attempts to emulate a You Tube video demonstrating how to grow watermelons by direct sowing seed into a a bag of compost.

I planted three Carolina Cross seeds purchased from the Burpee display rack at the local big box home supply store and crossed my fingers. If you are not familar with Carolina Cross, they are capable of producing 200 lb watermelons under the right conditions.

We had several days with temps above 100 degrees in my backyard last year. Apparently, the heat was not good for my watermelon-growing-in-a-bag-of-compost attempt. There were days when the watermelon could have benefitted from some additional water throughout the day.

It took two months for the water melon to form the first idications of fruit and another month to reach softball size. In mid-September I picked two or three very small melons with high hopes, but when they were cut open it was evident that my attempt was a failure. They were nearly 1/2 rotten. I think the lack of water must have contributed to the poor results. I watered through the slits cut into the top of the bag by inserting a water hose for about 3 minutes, but some days the soil was completely dried out by mid-afternoon.

I don't have space to plant the melons the traditional way - in hills. The plant-in-a-bag technique sounded perfect. Maybe I'll try it again this year (or maybe not).

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Permaculture Information and Inspiration

"When you're inspired by passion, nothing is too hard." - Valerie Herman, permaculturist

I am not knowledgeable about permaculture, but I do find it fascinating. While do some reading about it online today I discovered this video of Eli and Val's Garden near Jacksonville, FL.

Most of us can't embrace all of the practices Val and Eli have employed at their home, but as explained in the video they started with three small kale plants and kept adding on. What you see in the video is the culmination of 3 years work.

Caution: Before you decide to go whole hog with permaculture, please consider how your neighbors and township might react. In some areas of the country this type of urban agriculture is more accepted that in other areas.

I don't know for sure, but I suspect that Val and Eli have included their neighbors in their plans by being open about their vision for permaculture. Involving the local community and educating them about your plans can save you headaches and possible legal problems later on.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Vemicomposting and Vermiculture

I have been gearing up for a return to serious vermicomposting and vermiculture.  I live in an urban subdivision, so serious efforts in growing my red wiggler population take some creativity. But before our relocation to Michigan 2 years ago we had grown 1 lb of worms into 25 lbs within a couple of years.

The difficulty in growing a worm population is providing appropriate food and bedding sources for them. In a household of 2 people, like ours, kitchen scraps alone will probably not provide enough food for more than a few pounds of worms.

But thanks for the power of the internet, finding additional sources is not very difficult. In the past, I have turned to Craigslist for help. A "wanted" posting for rabbit manure or horse manure will probably yield good results in more areas of the country. I was able to obtain 250 lbs of aged rabbit manure for $25 several years ago. A recent posting has not turned up an immediate renewed source of rabbit manure in my current community, but my search continues. I if you have the inside track on some rabbit manure, I would be willing to trade some red wigglers for it if you are interested. Please contact me via the comment button below.

The worm squirm
Homemade worm bin (left) and vertical commercial version (right)

Raising worms to compost your refuse is not rocket science. Please don't do as I did and waste $70 on a commercially purchased worm bin. A quick You Tube search for "home made worm bin" will provide you many ideas for how to make your own. If you spend more than $10-$12 to make a basic worm bin, you've spent too much money.

And if you're like I am, you might like to do things on a larger scale than most folks. If a little is good then a lot must be even better right?

Update from 5/8/13: I found a local source that will provide all the rabbit manure I want for $7 per 50 lb feed sack full.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Gardening Peparations

It's Easter weekend and temperatures are in the mid-50's. Here in Michigan we're not out of the woods yet for an occasional morning frost, so we will have to hold off on planting anything significant that is frost sensitive. But I couldn't resist doing some garden prepping today anyway.

We added an additional above ground bed today.

These modular kits were purchased at Home Depot. They are economical and readily available, but the best part is that as your gardening efforts expand your gardening can easily expand also.

We also prepared our Earthbox gardening area with some additional leveling pedestals. These were actually recycled from our backyard. The previous owners used the pavers in the backyard, so re-purposing them was pretty easy.

In the next couple of weeks we will finish leveling the pavers and prepare our Earthboxes. The backyard deck works well because our vegetables have a practical place to "climb".