Friday, May 30, 2014

Gopher Problems

In our family, my husband is the gopher trapper.   Pocket gophers are pesty critters that eat the roots of  plants. They seem to wait until the plants are nice and mature and almost ready to harvest then they beat you to them.  Any plants that mysteriously die rather quickly and have no roots have become a victim of pocket gophers. If they are actively dining, you can see the plants jiggle then by the time you make it over there it's too late.  They leaves holes in your beds or mound of dirt as a calling card.

So how do you get rid of them?  Stann uses the metal traps with the prongs.  When a hole shows up, dig down until you find the horizontal passages.  Place the trap with a string attached to the trap into the hole.  The string in secured on the surface on a fork or stake so they don't pull the trap down into the hole.  Cover the trap with a board so its dark and check periodically. That's my husbands job too.  He takes gopher hunting very seriously.  My husband says its best to locate two holes and put a trap in both.  Good luck.

Set the traps and attach a string.

Place in a horizontal passage preferably in two hole.

Secure string with a fork or small stake. Cover hole with a board and wait.

Check everyday.  After trapping one watch for new holes because they usually come in pair or more.

In preparing raised beds I do not recommend putting weed cloth or screen on the bottom of the beds.  The weed cloth blocks your veggies roots from reaching deep into the ground.  Remember what you see on top of the soil is usually the same underground.  Good, deep root systems are essential for healthy harvests.  The screen allows the gophers to dig tunnels under your beds and you have no way to trap them. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Planting Tomatoes

Planting Tomatoes

Four types of tomatoes are planted in my garden:  favorite heirlooms, reliable hybrids, sauce, and cherry tomatoes.  I start my tomatoes from seeds and now is the time to get the transplants in the ground.  Be sure to leave 3-4 feet between tomato plants.  Healthy plants should be large and have plenty of room.  It's best to plan on staking tomatoes.

Tomato transplants are not buried at ground level.  When planting we will dig a hole twice as wide as the plant, mix in compost and small handful of organic fertilizer.  Cut the bottom leaves off plant and lay tomato on its side.  Gently angle the leaves up and bury the plant.  Half of the stem should be buried.  This stem will grow additional roots and make for a healthier plant.  If your transplants are struggling with the intense sun cover them in the afternoon with a light weight floating row cover.

After one week give them a drink of fish emulsion.  (2Tbs per gallon of water)  Remember to stake up plant as it grows and prune off any leaves that are not healthy.

Favorite Varieties

I'm always trying new varieties but these are some that are always replanted year after year.

Heirlooms:   Green Zebra, Pineapple, Paul Robenson,  Old Ivory Egg

Hybrids:  Early Girl, Celebrity, 4th of July

Sauce:  Principe Borghese (for sun dried), Martinos, Opalka, Sheboygan, Romas

Cherry:  Sungold (Absolutely the best), Gold Nugget, Tomatoberry

A days harvest.

Good companions:  borage, carrots, basil, onions

If you are buying tranplants look for plants with 4-6 leaves, dark green color, and when you pull the transplant out of the container it should have 1/2 roots and 1/2 dirt.

Be sure to rotate where you plant tomatoes to prevent a build up of soil bourne diseases.

Watch for a post on tomato diseases.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Early Summer Buzz

I've been busy this week planting warm season crops- beans, corn, cucumbers, summer squash, melons.  Winter squash and pumpkins will be planted next week.  To determine how deep to plant lay a seed in your palm and plant it 3 times deeper.  Beans seeds can be soaked overnight but it's not necessary.

Melons, squash, and pumpkins are heavy feeders.  Before planting the seeds and dig a 10 inch hole through in a handful of my dry fertilizer mix ( 1 part blood meal or guano, 2 parts bone meal and a handful of azomite) and compost.  I mix this with the soil and pat it down then plant the seeds in the hole.  As the plant grows fertilizer is right at the root zone of the plants.

Favorite varieties:  Watermelon-  Moon and Stars, Jubilee
                               Muskmelons- Jenny Lind, Ambrosia, True Chartenias
                               Zucchini- Cavili (light green small seeds)
                               Summer Squash- Horn of Plenty
                               Sweet Corn- Silver Queen & Jubilee
                               Beans- Slenderette & Royal Burgandy
                               Cucumbers, Slicing- Summer Dance & Armenian
                               Cucumbers, Pickling- Homemade & National

Enjoying Spring Greens Organically Grown

Beautiful lettuces in variety of colors.

Pac Choi a great addition to a stir fry.

Chinese or Napa Cabbage

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Planting Potatoes

Beautiful weekend in New Harmony!  I love it when the wind decides to rest.  My husband, son, and father-in-law worked on the new fence going up around the garden and pumpkin field.  The deer and rabbits enjoyed more of my garden last fall than we did.  My husband is always so wonderful at making my dreams come true, fixing, building, and repairing all kinds of projects for me.  I worked at planting corn and potatoes- two of my families favorite crops.

Potatoes come in a favorite of colors inside and out. Each variety is suited for a specific use  And the a potato has endless uses:  boiled, steamed, fried, mashed, roasted, baked, and even smashed potatoes. They have varying storage and maturity dates.  Homegrown potatoes taste soooo much better than store bought and they can easily be grown without pesticides. If harvest small and early they are called new potatoes or harvest at maturity for full sized potatoes.

Trench for potatoes. Plant 8-12" apart.

Potato Plantin' Pointers:
Potatoes are planted from whole or partial seed tubers
Use only  certified seed potatoes because they are disease free
Cut potatoes so there is an eye or two in each piece or plant whole seed potatoes
Allow to sit overnight if cut
Dig a trench, put potato seed in and cover with 2’ of soil
As plant comes up hill more soil around until trench is filled
Plant around April 15th- May 15th    
Potatoes require good soil moisture levels.  Irregular watering results in knobs and cracks.
Near end of summer plants begin to yellow and leaves start dying
 Harvest storage potatoes when vines die or new potatoes whenever tubers form
Avoid heavy fertilizers
Plant in wide rows

Potatoes can be categorized by maturity (early, mid-season or late) or skin types
Russets:  Russet Burbank
Smooth: *Katahdin,* Kennebec, *Carola, Yukon Gold
Colored: All Blue, *Red Norland, Dark Red Norland, *Viking Purple

I plant early, mid-season, and late varieties.  Mountain Rose and Purple Viking are one of my favorites. Baked they are so moist and sweet.  They aren't a great long term storage potato but they usually don't last that long.  Red potatoes are usually early maturing and a must for my garden.  Kennebec, Katahdin, and Carola are my late season and storage potatoes.

Potatoes can also be white, yellow, purple or ping fleshed.  Try a variety.  One of my favorite sources is Irish Eyes but seed potatoes can be found at any garden center.

Blights:  spray regularly with neem, serenade, and sea kelp.  Prune off diseased leaves

Crop rotation a must.  Remember potatoes are in the same family as tomatoes.  Use 3 year rotation

Tuber greening:  cause bitter taste after cooking.  To prevent keep covered with soil.

Rough skins, cracks and irregular shapes:  moisture fluctuations even moisture is the key