Saturday, October 31, 2009

Harvesting and storing Winter Squash

Harvest winter squash when the skin is hard and will not break under
thumbnail pressure. Appearance tends to be dull, rather than bright like
the summer squash at harvest-time. Spaghetti squash should be a golden
yellow. Always harvest before the heavy frosts. Hazards of leaving the
fruit on the vine too long include foot-traffic damage, theft, bug, and
disease damage.

Leave a 2" stem on the fruit. Cure at room temperature (70-85 degrees F)
for 10+ days before long-term storing begins.

Only put squash that is firm, heavy, and free of blemishes in long-term
storage. Store at temperatures from 45-45 degrees, with 50-70% humidity.

Small squashes, like Butternut and Spaghetti will only store 2-3 months.
Banana and Hubbard squash will store as long as 5-6 months under ideal

Good Harvesting!

Sorry. Storage should be at temparatures from 45 to 55 degrees farenheit,
and humidity of 50-75%.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eliminating Weeds - How To Do It.

Q. How do I eliminate weeds when just starting a garden?

A. I believe there is only one really effective way, without poisoning the ground (which is one way, of course).

Rake up all materials on the surface of the soil and remove them, until the soil is completely bare.

Take a round-headed shovel, and starting in one corner of your proposed new garden plot, turn over the soil, then break up the clods and remove all roots.

Continue doing this until you have used up your time and/or energy for the day.

Come back the next day and do it some more, until your time and energy coincides with your desires for a large garden.

When you have cleared and cleaned all the ground you physically can or are willing to either do yourself or hire done, that is your garden plot.

A small garden plot without weeds, and done using the Mittleider Method, will give you more vegetables with much less work and far more pleasure than a much larger plot that is poorly prepared.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Am I eating Vegetables - Or Fruits??


I love my vegetable garden, and I suspect you enjoy yours too. We eat one or two meals a day from our garden, and my wife Araksya is an outstanding cook when it comes to using fresh garden produce.
Sometimes I'll look at a meal with 6 or 8 items from the garden and think how great it is to have such a wide variety of vegetables to eat.

But I was reminded last week that many things we consider vegetables are really fruits, botanically speaking! Let me give you a list of the items from a typical garden that are actually fruits, rather than vegetables - even though we eat them as the main part of the meal, rather than for dessert.

Are you ready for this? Garden fruits actually include Peppers, eggplant, pumpkin, squash, and tomatoes.

While I'm classifying things, let's distinguish some categories of vegetables, as well:

Leaf Crops - Those whose leaves we eat include basil, brussels sprouts, beet greens, cabbage, chard, cilantro, endive, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, parsley, spinach, turnip greens, and watercress.

Root Crops - We eat the roots of beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, and turnips. And we eat tubers of potatoes and yams.

Seed Crops - We eat the seeds of several kinds of beans, corn, peas, pumpkins, and sunflowers. And we eat the seed pods of chili peppers, green beans, okra, snap peas, snow peas, and wax beans.

Stem Crops - We eat the stems of asparagus, celery, leeks, green onions, and rhubarb.

Flower Crops - We even eat the flowers of artichokes, broccoli, and cauliflower. And in places like Japan people prize the squash flowers, and eat the petals - hopefully after they are pollinated.

Bulb Crops - Let's not forget the bulbs of onions and garlic - these are used more often in our own family garden cooking than just about anything else.

Did I forget to list your favorites? As you put your garden to bed for the winter, begin to plan now for the vegetables and fruit you want to grow and eat next spring.

Good Growing,

Jim Kennard

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Composting For the Home Gardener

Compost includes 4 basic elements including air, water, carbon, and nitrogen.

There are two types of composting, aerobic and anaerobic, meaning with oxygen and without.

Anaerobic composting (without air) is a cold process, takes as long as two years to produce usable compost, and DOES NOT remove soil pathogens, bugs, and weed seeds. This method is NOT recommended for the family garden for the reasons stated above, plus the fact that it creates an unsightly, smelly mess in your yard that attracts rodents, etc.

Regrettably, anaerobic composting is what 99% of family gardeners usually end up with, because of lack of education and/or effort.

Aerobic composting must sustain temperatures of approximately 140 degrees Fahrenheit for three weeks minimum, which kills most soil pathogens, bugs, and weed seeds. It requires a constant supply of air throughout the pile, in order to provide oxygen to the microbes that digest and thus decompose the raw materials into usable compost.

Therefore, the pile should be thoroughly turned daily, and if all other elements are present in the right proportions good compost can be created in as little as one month.

Water is also necessary, but not too much at one time. The pile should be moist - like a wrung-out sponge - but not wet.

Carbon is used as the energy source, and most of the pile should consist of carbon. Common high-carbon ingredients include dry leaves, straw, and corn stalks. High-carbon ingredients will contain more than 30 times as much carbon as nitrogen - sometimes MUCH more - and are often called "browns".

Nitrogen is needed for the proteins that build the microbes' bodies. Ingredients with the most nitrogen are usually green, moist plant matter such as leaves, or an animal by-product like manure. Nitrogen-rich materials - often called "greens" - usually will contain carbon and nitrogen in a ratio close to 20:1.

NEVER use manure from carnivores, and even cow manure sometimes contains e-coli, which can cause sickness and even death. Therefore, any manure should be used with extreme caution.

For efficient decomposition you need a carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratio of about 30:1. If you have too much nitrogen your pile will smell, because the excess nitrogen converts into an ammonia gas. If there's too little nitrogen you will not sustain the necessary heat, plus the pile will break down very slowly.

Fresh grass clippings will have a C/N ratio of about 20:1, so mixing grass clippings and old leaves - one part clippings and two parts old leaves - will generally give you a good C/N ratio.

Unless it's contained in a Compost Tumbler or other container in which it can be turned easily while retaining the heat, you should start with a compost pile of at least 1 cubic yard, in order to have sufficient material to retain the necessary 140 degree heat for 3+ weeks.

Do it right, and you can have material that will improve your soil tilth, and even provide some (unknown) amount of nutrition for your plants.

Or save yourself the time and effort and give your plants a balance diet of natural mineral nutrients, as contained in the Mittleider Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed mixes, which you can mix yourself from materials purchased at your nursery or farm supply store.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Watering and supporting tomatoes

I'm glad you are watering. If you put ridges up a few inches from the plant stems, you enclose the water, and much more gets to the roots. It's almost impossible to over-water tomatoes in this hot weather.

Many people have the idea that to get your fruit to ripen faster, you should withhold water. That will, indeed ripen the fruit that is already close, because the plant is trying desperately to fulfil its destiny by leaving some viable seeds, before it dies from lack of water. But it will not continue to produce and grow more tomatoes in that situation, so you greatly limit your yield by reducing the water.

Regarding the plants falling over in the wind, without seeing them, I may not be a great deal of assistance. Do you have Stakes supporting the cages now? If you don't, I would get several 8'-long 2X2's, sharpen one end, and get help driving them into the ground 15-18" at least - and attached to the cages to support them and keep them from blowing over.

If you're already using 2X2's and they aren't strong enough, try it with 2X4's.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Determinate vs Indeterminate?

Determinate tomatoes do not grow tall, and they have a pre-determined growth cycle, generally with a harvest period of 1-2 months. They are close to the ground, and should be staked up to keep the fruit off the ground. If you don't want lots of tomatoes over the entire growing season and/or if you don't want to expend effort in caring for your plants, then determinate is your choice.

Indeterminate plants will continue to grow longer and longer, taller and taller, until frost kills them. For maximum yield in a given space we recommend growing them vertically by staking or guiding up a string using T-Frames. This requires some cost and effort in pruning, but the result is a thing of beauty, and your yield of healthy fruit is magnified greatly. Pictures on the group website include indeterminate tomatoes grown in outside as well as in a greenhouse.


Garden Disease Prevention and Control

Downy Mildew - Prevention and Control
Q. This winter I am growing cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli in the same raised bed with a row cover. The cabbage and broccoli are doing beautifully but the cauliflower develops mold(?) on the heads before they are fully grown. The leaves are large, green and healthy; and when I pull the plant out of the ground the roots also look healthy. Are the row covers keeping in too much moisture or are the plants developing a disease?

A. Yes to both questions, and the cabbage and broccoli won't be far behind the cauliflower in showing symptoms. However, before I address the specific problem you describe, let me say for all group members' benefit, that we encourage gardeners to minimize pests and disease by several important "cultural practices." These include:
1) maintaining a totally weed-free garden with wide, dry aisles,
2) pruning leaves off the ground,
3) watering only at the soil level (never sprinkling) and only in the actual root area,
4) growing seedlings in a protected environment and transplanting stocky, healthy seedlings into the garden,
5) feeding plants a complete, balanced natural mineral nutrient mix that encourages healthy, rapid growth,
6) if using row covers or "mini greenhouses," open the ends on cool days (50+), and set the covers to one side on warm days (70), to maximize sunlight and circulation, and reduce excess humidity build-up.
7) harvesting as soon as plants are mature.
By following these procedures your problems with pests and disease will be rare.
You may have been doing all of these things, and only the increased humidity and warmth of the row covers could have given the disease an opening.

You are probably experiencing Downy Mildew, a fungus disease. General symptoms for all affected vegetable crops, which usually happen under high-humidity conditions, include spots appearing on leaves and a downy white or grey mold developing in these spots or on the undersides of the leaves opposite these spots.
With broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, dark spots may develop on the heads as well as the leaves. Black streaks may be visible on stems and a white fuzzy growth may develop. Seedlings are especially affected.

The best solutions are preventative, and constitute physical controls, such as I have described above. Also, it's important to rake up and burn fallen leaves.
Now that you have the problem, if it is not too widespread, I recommend you remove all affected plants immediately and improve the physical conditions as much as possible.

Biological control is your last option, short of removing the entire crop. Several chemicals are sold to control downy mildew, including Benomyl, Copper, Folpet, Lime Sulfur, Sulfur and chlorothalonil. Counsel with the store from which you obtain any of these materials, and always, when using pesticides, read the entire label on the container and follow the directions. Because mildew will built up a resistance to fungicides over time, especially Benomyl, if the problem persists you will need to consider changing the materials used occasionally.

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