Posts Tagged ‘scuffle hoe’

Growing a Vegetable Garden 201

Well, the Mushroom Chapter is now closed, our beautiful vacation to Vancouver Island, BC has come and gone, and the fields and gardens are finally planted.  I decided it was high time to write another blog entry, and to let you know what we’ve been up to this past month.  (For those of you who haven’t heard, we are no longer growing mushrooms.  The barns that were home to oyster and shiitake mushrooms for almost 12 years are now being renovated for our new venture, Willow Tree Storage.  We hope to have a Grand Opening some time next month.)

This spring certainly offered challenges, weather-wise.  It arrived late, and it seemed to take forever to warm up and dry out.  Once it did, we didn’t have rain for at least a three-week stretch.  This meant that some of Ralph’s corn seeds had to wait for much-needed water so that they could germinate and start growing.  Also, because of the deep snow cover we had in the winter, my greenhouse got flooded with the spring melt, and I had to wait a bit longer than normal for things to start drying up inside.  Having said all that, though, we’ve made the best of it, and things seem to be moving along quite nicely – especially with the gentle rain we had this evening.

I thought I would write a sequel to the very well-received blog I wrote last year, Gardening 101. As I’ve been working in the garden and greenhouse, I find myself wondering about how those of you who are relatively new to gardening have been faring.  I also wanted to share with you a few observations and tips of my own that may help you, whether you’re a novice or not.

pigweed

Redroot pigweed, my arch enemy in the gardens!

Weeds

Over twenty years ago, I heard a saying that has stuck with me ever since:  “The best method for weed control is the Santa Claus method.  Hoe! Hoe! Hoe!” All kidding aside, it’s true.  My favourite hoe is a scuffle hoe, also called a stirrup hoe.  You can learn more about it here.  The best time to hoe, in my experience, is when the weeds are small.  I mean, REALLY small!  Trust me, it’s much easier to slice through the root of a tiny 1/2 inch tall weed than to try to chop through a 1/2 inch root!  Also, I find that hoeing early in the morning on a day when it is going to get hot is best.  It’s cool while you’re working, so you’ll do a good job, but as it gets hot later in the day, the weeds’ roots will dry and the weeds will shrivel, so there’s no need to remove them from the garden.  I just leave them in between the rows.

Of course, all the bigger weeds can be pulled by hand.  Make sure you get all the root, if possible, since some weeds, like redroot pigweed will send out multiple new shoots if they are just cut off at soil level.  Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way!

Another good way to help keep down weeds is by using mulch.  I used chopped straw, and because it helps hold moisture in the soil, the weeds are easier to pull out.  As well, many weed seeds will not germinate, or will not make it through the straw.

For more tips on weed control, here’s a great article from Johnny’s Seeds in the U.S.

 

Insects

This has been a relatively dry spring (once the snow melt dried, anyhow), and we find that there is usually more insect pressure during droughty conditions, than in wet conditions.  It pays more than ever to be vigilant, and to keep an eye on plants that may be more succeptible to insect damage.  Some of the early vegetables, including radishes, kale, cabbages and bok choy, are veritable insect magnets.  The trick is to get them planted early, so they can get established and a good size before insects appear, or to cover them with row covers.  The covers allow rain and light to come through, but prevents insects from chomping on your precious veggies, and from laying eggs on the leaves, for future generations of chompers.  The other thing is that it is important to walk you garden and inspect your plants as often as possible, preferably every day.  Unfortunately, some insects, such as flea beetles, can really make a mess of your vegetables in a few short days.

The worst offender is the cucumber beetle.  A few years ago, I had neglected to check on my cucumber plants for several days.  In the meanwhile, the cucumber beetles had moved in, and the damage they did to the leaves and flowers of the plants more or less wiped out a big part of my crop.  Yesterday, I checked my pumpkin patch (same family as cucumbers), and sure enough, found at least a dozen of the litte critters.  Since relocation is not an option, I squished all the bugs I could find.  I did some research, and learned that a deep straw mulch may deter the bugs from travelling from plant to plant.  Worth a try, so they all got mulched.  This morning, I scouted the patch again.  I learned that although the single beetles are difficult to catch, if I placed one hand under the leaf they were on, a quick clap of my hands usually got them.  Also, bugs that are occupied with “doing the dirty deed” are a lot easier to get!  One more option I am going to try this week, is a spray recommended by a neighbour.  The “recipe” is 2 tablespoons artificial vanilla flavouring (apparently, only the artificial one works!) mixed in one quart (or litre) of water.  Spray so that the whole plant is drenched.  From what I’ve read, it’s the smell that tricks the beetles from recognizing the plants.   I will certainly let you know how this works.

 

General Tips

The spinach was seeded this spring.  The tomato plants and dill are "volunteers"

The spinach was seeded this spring. The tomato plants and dill are “volunteers”

Try successive planting.  Simply put, this means planting your garden, and then as some crops are harvested, to reseed that area right away.  The spot that had early radishes in it can later be home to beets and carrots, which are harvested later.  Also, you don’t have to plant all your bush beans at once.  By staggering the planting by a week or two, you will also spread out your harvest time.

Lettuce is traditionally a cool season crop, with early spring and early fall being the usual times to seed.  There are, however, many varieties that can take the heat of summer, and mature in 25 – 30 days from seeding time.  I love a mixture called Bon Vivant, which I buy from William Dam Seeds.

And don’t worry if your garden isn’t “picture perfect”.  Many of us don’t have the time, or help, to keep on top of all the chores in the garden.  Do your best.  Sometimes, “mistakes” or procrastinating can lead to good things.  I often don’t have time to pull old plants out of the garden or greenhouse in the fall.  This year, I have another beautiful harvest of “volunteer” lettuce plants, since the mature lettuce plants from last year went to seed, and got a head start.  I also have some great tomato plants coming along, and dill and cilantro sprinkled throughout the greenhouse 😀

Thanks for visiting!  I look forward to your comments and questions.  Happy Gardening!

DSCN0285

The lettuce in this photo is from last summer’s plants, gone to seed!

 

A few more pictures:

My first year for sweet potatoes.  They are in tubs, in the greenhouse.  Lots of heat that way!

My first year for sweet potatoes. They are in tubs, in the greenhouse. Lots of heat that way!

First blossoms on the Kibitz Ukrainian paste tomatoes

First blossoms on the Kibitz Ukrainian paste tomatoes

We ALWAYS grow our own potatoes.  This year, we are growing them in straw beds.

We ALWAYS grow our own potatoes. This year, we are growing them in straw beds.

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