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Archive for March, 2012

Four Things to Do to Get Ready for the Summer Garden

If you are a square foot gardener (We are all cubic here…), It may seem early to be thinking about summer with all of the spring growth coming on, but gardening is a multi-dimensional activity.

We think in three dimensions. The first two involve plant spacing. The third is how deep the root systems grow and how do we plant so that we have deep enough soil for the root zones. Did you know that Beets can have roots 10 feet deep? There are more dimensions. For gardening, you have to include the time dimension. Subjects like time stacking, days until maturity, days until first frost, etc are subjects for another post.

Get Ready for the Sun!

In our climate, summer is death to the spring garden. Once temperatures exceed 95 degrees, most flowering vegetable plants continue to grow but stop producing. Last summer was a killer and all of my tomato plants withered and died from the 100 degree plus heat and the drought.

Things to do to stretch your growing season:
1. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
A thick layer of mulch will stabilize the soil temperature and give the plant a longer growing season. Protect your plant’s roots with a thick mulch layer. An organic farmer friend of mine uses hay, but you can use just about any organic material. Some people use different color mulches to reflect the sun back up the plant. A white mulch will keep the soil cooler while helping plants in low sun conditions to get more light.
2. Water deeply
Keep your plant’s roots moist (not soggy) and don’t let them dry out to the bone since a very thirsty plant is one that stops growing. If your plant stops growing, then you are one more day closer to summer without the harvest.
3. Use shade cloth if it gets too hot
This can extend your growing season before the killer 95 degree days hit. Different shading densities can be purchased at your local garden supply store. This will slow the photosynthesis of your plants but will also moderate the peek temperatures. Check out the Shade Cloth here.
4. Pick plants that can take the heat.
Plant Tomatillos instead of Tomatoes. These can take the heat and produce Tomato like product. Pick Cherry Tomatoes instead of the full sized varieties. Cherry Tomatoes will often produce then regular ones won’t. Peppers slow down in the extreme heat but generally keep producing. Okra loves the heat and will produce all summer.

If you have any comment or new post ideas, don’t hesitate to comment or email greenthumb at cubicfootgardening dot com.

          

The making of Coriander (Cilantro) seeds

Oodles of Coriander Seed

The Coriander plant, also known as Cilantro in Spanish and Dhania in Hindi, produces a small round seed that can be ground up and used in many various dishes and delicious fresh leaves.

The leaves are best collected fresh (or dried) and are used in rice dishes, salsa, guacamole, salads, chutneys, and much more.

The seeds have a different flavor and are used for many different purposes. In Indian food, it is used in a curry spice mixture, and as a snack eaten whole.It is used in the making of some sausages, rye bread, beer, and many other dishes. Coriander leaves and seed are used all around world. In my garden, they also take on a special place during this time of year. In preparation to make the seed, the plant produces a delicate flower that adds tremendous beauty to the garden. Insects of all types love the flower. The Soft and Delicate Flower of a Coriander(Cilantro) plant

The soft Coriander/Cilantro Flower

 

When the plant shoots up and produces flowers (bolting), the flavor of the leaves becomes more spicy and less desirable in my opinion. This is similar to what happens when lettuce bolts as well.  
 
Coriander/Cilantro is a cool weather plant and will end its life after the seed dries out and the weather heats up. Don’t try to grow this in the summer unless you live in colder climates.
 
Any comments? Leave a comment or email me at green thumb at cubic foot gardening dot com!
          

A Garden Tour

I took a brief video of the early winter garden. I hope you enjoy.

 

 

If you liked it, email me (greenthumb at cubicfootgardening dot com) or leave a comment. My next video will be based on your suggestions.

          

Top 5 Reasons for Using Rainwater Collection in Your Garden

I strongly recommend using rainwater collection for your garden. There are a hundred reasons to use rain and I have tried to summarize the top 5:

1. Pure Rain for Pure Plants

You are growing this garden to feed your family. The contaminants in local water supplies are scary and are bad for your plants. Flourine, Chlorine, Trihalomethanes, Lead, Benzene and many more. The World Health Organization lists 157 contaminants in water. If you want to reduce your exposure, use rainwater. I used to live in a town where we all knew not to water the plants with tap water because the tap water always killed them. If the plants don’t like it, you probably shouldn’t use it. Where we live today, the tap water just smells bad…

Rainwater from the Special rain tap!

2. Low Cost

Where we live, we are charged for both water and sewer based on water consumption. Our water utility charges a crazy amount for water and it is unaffordable to keep a garden going without rainwater. If you want to save money, use the water God provides from the sky.

3. Low Impact

Energy flows through your property in the form of heat, wind, sunshine, and water. A key permaculture concept is to capture energy closest to the source and prevent it from leaving your property (the sink). Collecting water at the highest point on your property will allow you to use gravity to feed it to your gardens. Using rain prevents you from using all of the energy required to collect it from surface or ground water, filtering it, purifying it, and distributing is miles to your home. Using what you have without using the water system is your selfish (in a good way) act to use the resources you have at your fingertips.

 

4. Resilience

In bad times, there is security in knowledge and systems to grow your own food. Whether you lose

Downspout collection system

 your job or the power goes out for an extended period of time, having access to a low cost food source is a huge blessing. Rainwater allows you to use what flows through your property without cost (after the system setup is complete) and increases your resilience in hard times.

5. Emergency Water Supply

Having rainwater collection also can provide you with a drinking and bathing water source assuming you know how to purify it (a topic for another day). Water is life and you and your plants need it to be healthy.

Rainwater can be collected in something simple as a bucket, a barrel, or a full sized rainwater collection tank. Your location, lot layout, and budget will determine what you can do but don’t be discouraged from trying something small. 

Water tanks can range from 30 gallons up to 10000 gallons

Our tanks are 1000 gallons each and will fill up with just a few inches of rain. Rain where we live often falls in huge amounts all at the same time so having a big collection system will increase how long you can go without having to go to the tap. I have two friends that have 35000 and 45000 gallon systems and rely on their rainwater for most of their water needs.

Did this inspire your to act or do you have a question? Email me at greenthumb at cubicfootgardening dot com or leave a comment!

          

If I Can Grow it, You can!

Lettuce is one of the easiest plants I have ever grown. When the hot southern summers are overruled by Cold Miser, it is lettuce time. We started our lettuce in September/October and have had fresh greens from December through March.

Growing Red Lettuce is easy

Growing this Red Lettuce is easy.

 

We are growing 4 different types of lettuce in the garden and it is very easy. Most of our lettuce is grown from seed saved from last year’s garden. We just take a pinch of seed and put it in 4 corners of a “cubic foot” and water it every once in a while.

The lettuce will grow to fill the available space and will self regulate the size of the plant depending on how crowded it is. Don’t worry about planting it too close together.

There are many different type of lettuce that can range from very mild with little taste to very bitter and nasty. I recommend always growing mild lettuce with very little bitter varieties. If you grow one or two bitter varities, you can sample it while still having plenty of mild to fill your harvest bowl.

Romaine Lettuce with Garlic and Pansies

Romaine Lettuce with Garlic and Pansies

 

Warning: Don’t make the mistake I made in my first winter garden. We planted lettuce from the garden center and most of them were bitter and nasty. I ended up with a garden that looked good but that I didn’t want to eat. Grow what you will eat!

You may notice the netting in front of the lettuce. Our garden is a front yard garden and has made an excellent deer buffet until the netting was up.

With a mild winter or just the onset of warmer days, the lettuce gets the message that it is time to reproduce! This is called bolting, and it can ruin the taste of the lettuce. The plant will grow tall and begin forming flowers and then seeds. Since we save seeds, we let some of our varieties do this so we will have plenty of lettuce next year. If you want to prevent your lettuce from doing this, cut the tops off. You can’t do this forever, but it can get you more lettuce and less bolting for a time. When the lettuce bolts, the “sap” will turn to a cream milky color and will become more bitter. It can still be eaten but it is a bit less enjoyable.

Green Loose Leaf Lettuce

Some people plant new lettuce plants every week and this will result in different aged plants which also can always provide non-bolting lettuce for a time.

If your lettuce is wilting, it is usually just telling you that it’s thirsty. We have not had any pest problems in this garden in lettuce. We have been blessed and don’t have snails or slugs.

Our garden is fully organic and we only water it, feed it every month or so with Medina HastaGrow organic plant foliar feed. I don’t get around to doing this very often but it doesn’t seem to matter. The garden is happy.

I recommend gardening with lettuce. When the fall comes along and temperatures drop below 85-90 degrees, plant some lettuce and eat all winter. 

Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.