Saturday, August 30, 2008

Heat Source(s) for Mini-Greenhouses

Q. In your answer on 'extending your growing season' you mention using a small heat source for the 'mini greenhouses'. What heat source would you recommand and how is the best way to use it?

A. Depending on the size of your Mini-Greenhouse and the severity of your frosts, you may be able to keep your plants from freezing by the use of a couple of lightbulbs placeda little distance from the ends. Or it may require a 1500 watt electric heater, generally turned to low heat. You will need to be careful that you don't cook your plants or melt the plastic. And always turn it off/unplug it when the outside temperature rises.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Want a Better Garden Next Year? Plant In The Fall!

Have you been disappointed with your garden this year? Or perhaps it was great and you can't wait to do it again. Whichever scenario fits your garden, you may be thinking of how next year’s garden is going to be SO MUCH BETTER!

One way to help improve next year’s garden is to plant some of it this fall. Such crops as asparagus, garlic, leaks, onions, and strawberries are naturals for fall planting, because they take a long time to grow, and the extra months, even with only a few growing days, help them develop a good root system.

Garlic is especially good for fall planting because as a cool season crop it thrives in the early spring, thus getting a substantial head-start on the growing season, and experiments have shown that your garlic yield may even be doubled by planting in the fall.

All but onions can be planted two to four weeks before the first frost for harvest the following summer. Water them immediately after planting.

Onions should be planted after the first frost. Planting earlier is not advised because any top growth they may send up will be damaged by winter cold. Watering is not advised for the same reason.

Other vegetable seeds that could be planted in the late fall include parsnips, lettuce, radishes, and spinach. Care must be taken to plant into dry ground and late enough that the seeds do not sprout, however, or the hard winter frosts will kill them. Obviously, no watering should be done in the fall on these crops.

Be sure to mark the beds well. Otherwise you may forget and till them up in the spring, wasting everything you’ve done. Your planted beds should be protected from the wind and have a good snow cover if possible, to prevent the seeds from blowing away, and to insulate the soil against sub-freezing temperatures.

Do not plant warm-season vegetables, such as beans, corn and tomatoes in the fall. Any growth during a warm spell in the spring will only set them up to be killed by later frosts.

Remember to put Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed fertilizer mixes into your soil-beds before planting. Use 32 ounces Pre-Plant and 16 ounces Weekly Feed for each 30’-long soil-bed, or 1 ounce and ½ ounce per running foot.

Before doing the work to prepare your beds and plant in the fall, please keep in mind that fall seeding is not 100% successful. When they are dry, seeds are quite tolerant of freezing temperatures; however, at very low temperatures or when even slightly moist, your seeds may be killed. And even if your seeds do survive the winter, germinate, and emerge in spring, later frosts may damage or kill the tender seedlings.

Even with the problems stated, many gardeners still plant in the fall. They often mature earlier crops, and sometimes even get larger yields. If you are adventurous and anxious to get a head start on the spring growing season you might want to try planting some things this fall.

Please remember, however, our general recommendation for most crops is to get the early start in the spring by planting and growing seedlings in a seedling greenhouse, or a cold frame or hotbed. You may also want to look into growing in the early spring using the “mini-greenhouses” described in other articles, on the Foundation’s website, and in Dr. Jacob Mittleider’s gardening books.

At the very least, asparagus, garlic, leaks, onions, and strawberries are always a good bet for fall planting, so if you enjoy eating any of them, now is a good time to put them into your garden.

Good fall gardening.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Books Now on CD & by Digital Download!

Author: Jim Kennard

We are SO excited to announce the availability of 5 of the very important Mittleider gardening books, as well as his 9 Manuals, for digital down-load - right here on the FFEF website!

You can now have instant access to The Mittleider Gardening Course, Grow-Bed Gardening, Let's Grow Tomatoes, Gardening by the Foot, and 6 Steps to Successful Gardening.

Two books, Let's Grow Tomatoes and Grow-Bed Gardening are out of print, so this makes them now available once again. All books and manuals even cost 20% less than the discounted prices for which the paper copies sell on the website. Scroll down the pages on the website and you will find the digital books listed. Enjoy, and tell your friends!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crop Rotation Yes or No

Drastic Crop Rotation - Change the Entire Location Every Year - Good Idea??

Author: Jim Kennard

Q. My husband said you should change the location of your vegetable garden every year. Is this correct?

A. This idea is impractical and unnecessary. Most family garden areas are too small to even rotate crops adequately, much less having the space to move the entire garden to a new location.

If you maintain a clean, weed-free garden, grow your crops fast, harvest at peak maturity, and don't introduce diseases into your garden, you should be able to grow indefinitely in the same garden spot.

If one or more crops are over-run with pests or disease, you may need to avoid planting that crop for a year or more, unless you have a large enough area that you can move that crop some distance away, where the disease or bugs that have wintered over won't get to them.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Compare Mittleider Method With Commercial Produce Growers

Q. The commercial produce growers in my area use black plastic with drip lines. They mix fertilizer in their irrigation water and pump it to the plants. What makes the Mittleider method more productive and efficient?

A. Large commercial growers of things like lettuce, cabbage, etc., who water and feed accurately, especially those who feed regularly right in the water supply, and who eliminate weeds completely, are at least as good and productive as the Mittleider Method. They also have very large investments in materials and equipment.

The Mittleider Method is sometimes called "the poor man's hydroponic method" because it borrows principles and procedures from the large hydroponic, greenhouse, and field growers, and adapts and sizes them to the small family farmer and family-size garden. And we produce great yields without the large capital investment large growers must face.

Most family gardeners don't understand the importance of a constant water supply, just to the root zone of the plants. They don't appreciate the value of regular feeding with a complete, balanced nutrient, and they don't realize how much weeds rob their garden of nutrients that are essential to the well-being of their vegetable plants.

Beyond those three principles, the Mittleider Method teaches vertical growing, with the attendant pollinating, pruning, and protection issues the hydroponic growers handle so well.

These are the primary elements that set the Mittleider Method apart from typical or traditional FAMILY GARDENING and make it SIMILAR to (not better than) hydroponic and large commercial growers.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

How to build a mini greenhouse with PVC

Building Mini-Greenhouses from PVC Pipe

Author: Jim Kennard

I will give instructions for building a jig and then making PVC arches for 18"-wide boxes or beds.
Materials needed:
11 - 5' lengths of 1/2" Schedule 40 PVC pipe - to place arches 3' apart - for each bed or box you are wanting to cover.

6-mil greenhouse plastic - 5' wide and 33' long - one for each bed or box to be covered.

For Grow-Boxes only - 3 10' lengths of 3/4" Schedule 200 PVC pipe, cut into 24 15" pieces for each box to be covered. Plus 22 - 2 1/2" nails and small 2" X 4" block.

One 30" X 30" (or bigger) sheet of plywood, plus 6 - 2 1/2" nails.

One heat gun (to heat and bend pipe).

The jig for bending the PVC pipe:
With a pen, make 3 marks at the top of the plywood sheet - one in the center, and one each, 9" to the left and right of the center. Go down 9" on the plywood and make 3 marks exactly corresponding to the first 3.

Draw lines from the outside lower marks to the top center mark. Place marks on
both lines 10" up from the bottom. Go down 18" on the plywood and make 3 marks corresponding to the others. Draw lines between the marks.

Make marks 2" up from the bottom of both 18" lines. Drive nails into the 4 upper
marks, leaving 2" exposed. Drive nails into the marks 2" up from the bottom of the 18" lines, then drive nails 1" to the left and right of these nails.

Cutting and Bending PVC Pipe
Cut 5' lengths of 1/2" schedule 40 PVC pipe. Mark them at 18" and 28" from each end. Place one end of PVC pipe between nails on one side, with the end
at the 18" mark (2" below the first 2 nails). With heat gun, heat PVC pipe at each spot where PVC pipe encounters a nail, and carefully bend the pipe to fit the jig. allow to cool before removing pipe from jig.

For Grow-Boxes, place 15" pieces of 3/4" PVC adjacent to the Grow- Box at each end and at 3' intervals on both sides. With a hammer, and using the small 2" X 4" block of wood, hammer the PVC into the ground until the top is level with the Grow-Box. Pre-drill a hole through the PVC pipe 2" up from the dirt, and hammer the 2 1/2" nail through both pipe and Grow- Box. Bend the nail over on the inside of the Grow-Box to avoid getting scratched later. Slip the 1/2" PVC arches into the 3/4" PVC holding pipes until they encounter the nails - about 6" deep.

For Soil-Beds, just push the 1/2" PVC arches into the ground at the peak of the ridge on each side of the Soil-Bed - again about 6" deep.

Lay the 6-mil plastic over the entire box or bed, centered, with 18" overhang on each end. Place dirt on all sides of the plastic to hold it in place, as well as at the ends.

Whenever the weather is conducive, open the ends, and when it is above 60 degrees, take the plastic off from one side.

Remember, you must watch carefully that it doesn't get too hot in your mini-greenhouses. A thermometer in at least one bed is a good idea, to measure the temperature, and make adjustments in the exposure.

Remember also, that brassica's can grow in cooler weather than the warm- weather plants. Tomatoes, corn, peppers, etc. must be near 70 degrees or
above to do well.

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