Basics

From Antivist

Contents

Planting

  • Always plant your smaller vegetables toward the south side of the garden and your larger ones to the north side. This will prevent the larger plants from shading out the smaller ones.
  • A good general rule is to plant seeds at a depth three times the diameter of the seed. Fine seeds should be scattered on top of the soil and pressed down lightly.
  • Climbing plants such as tomatoes, peas, and beans should be planted near stakes or trellises.
  • Plant your seeds with enough room to enable you to move around the plants so you can weed them even after the plants have grown.
  • Fruit trees should not be planted in the lawn area. The watering and fertilizing schedule for lawns varies greatly from what fruit trees need.
  • It is a good idea to do your planting on a cloudy day or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat of the midday sun and prevent undue shock to the plant.

Gardening in Small Spaces

  • Hanging baskets (indoors or out)
  • Pots, baskets, buckets
  • Boxes, egg cartons
  • Barrels, wheelbarrows, oil drums
  • Window boxes
  • Greenhouses
  • Shared neighborhood lot

Seeds can be grown in even more unusual areas:

  • Open sections between bricks and concrete
  • Along fences, river banks, or train tracks
  • Around storage sheds or boulders
  • On a raft at anchor in a pond (protection from animals)
  • Soil beds on a roof built like flower beds and filled with fertilized soil

Be creative. The same places that weeds and other unwanted plants grow can be used to grow vegetables, fruits, or even herbs. http://greatessays.org/

Planning Your Garden

When planning a garden plot, remember:

  • Draw a garden plan. This is helpful in deciding what to plant where and can serve as a reminder to rotate the next year.
  • Every yard has some space available. You can even use part of your lawn, play area, or flower garden, or if a yard is not available, window boxes and planters are a great option.
  • The area where you want to plant your garden should have at least four to six hours of direct sunshine every day.
  • The soil should be able to drain well. (Holes in the bottom of planters or window boxes are useful). Fertilize the soil by adding fertilizer before tilling the soil. Continue to fertilize your garden throughout the growing season. Fertilizer can be made from any available organic materials or a commercial concentrate may be used.
  • Plant a variety of fruits and vegetables. Dark green and orange vegetables are rich in vitamin A while tomatoes, strawberries, green peppers, cantaloupe, and citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C.
  • Even in a very small garden you can 'borrow space' - by growing upward. Put up trellises and grow vegetables vertically instead of horizontally. Wherever possible grow climbing varieties. They take up less room- and you only need to weed the small area at the base of the trellis.
  • Make terraces for flowers, vegetables and small fruits like gooseberries and raspberries. Terraces give you much more planting space than flat ground. You can make terraces with railway sleepers or bricks or rocks, or even old tyres scavenged from the local garage. Build them as high as you can be bothered- the more tiers the more space.

Fences

Most fences don't grow anything, so try some of the following options.

  • perennial climbing beans- they'll come up every year and give you thick wide beans you can eat young and tender or keep till they are old for 'dried' beans. They'll also cover your fence with greenery and bright red flowers
  • chokos- eat the shoots as well as the fruit
  • hops- hops die down in winter and ramble all over the place in summer. Eat the young shoots in early spring; make beer from the flowers or use them to stuff hop pillows.
  • passionfruit in frost free places; banana passionfruit in cold areas
  • loganberries, marionberries, boysenberries and other climbing berries, trained up wire stapled to the fence
  • grapes - there are hundreds of grape varieties - suitable for any area, from snowy winters to tropical summers
  • flowering climbers like clematis, wonga vine, perennial sweet peas bougainvillea, jasmine, rambling roses - to attract birds, predaceous insects and for pleasure
  • edible Chinese convulvulus
  • sweet potatoes (temperate areas only)
  • or use your fence to stake up tomatoes, peas, broad beans.

House Walls

This is one of the most valuable areas of your garden. House walls store a lot of heat - and you can use them as a microclimate to grow fruit that may not survive in the open garden. We grow passionfruit on a pergola next to the walls here, bananas up the walls and sweet potatoes, cardamom and other frost tender plants in a garden below them.

Pergolas 
Pergolas cool the house in summer.Look for deciduous bearers like grapes, kiwi fruit, perennial peas, chokos or hops. Consider passionfruit or pepper in hot areas.

Lawns

Look at your lawn - work out how much of it is used - then plant the rest. Let pumpkins wander over it; plant potatoes; fill up the edges with small fruit like pepinoes, brambleberries, raspberries, kumquats, blueberries.

Under the clothes line

This is a low use area - trodden on only when you hang out the washing or bring it in. Surround the base of your clothes line with a couple of rosemary bushes or lavender (it'll make the clothes smell all the sweeter); pave underneath it, leaving lots of spaces for herbs like marjoram, oregano, chamomile and mints that don't mind being trodden on.

Edible Plants for Shady Areas

Many plants need shade or semi shade - especially those that originated as understorey plants in forests. Make use of shady spots with a ground cover of:

Asparagus 
Asparagus tolerates semi-shade from a pergola above it - but not deep shade.
Blueberries 
Blueberries tolerate light but not deep shade. You can also plant them where they get morning sun but afternoon shade.
Cape gooseberries 

These grow well under trees - especially in frosty areas where the trees give some protection.

Lettuce 
In hot areas lettuce grows best under a pergola; even in temperate area lettuce tolerate light shade and will grow under trees such as peach or almond that don't shade the ground completely.
Parsley 
See lettuce.
Sorrel 
This is a leafy, slightly bitter green. Grow it under trees.
Strawberries 
These are forest plants and grow best under trees. They are shallow rooted and won't compete with tree roots. Make sure they have plenty of phosphorus.

Don't grow grass in your shady areas - it'll choke out the fruit.

Plants for out of the Way Corners

Horseradish 
This is a good 'under tree' crop. Plant a piece of root and it will ramble all over the moist ground. The leaves are also edible (like silverbeet) but a bit hot for most tastes.
Jerusalem Artichokes 
These are a form of sunflower - wonderful tall colour in late summer. Plant a few and they'll multiply like the loaves and fishes and you'll never be rid of them. Dig up the tubers in autumn and bake them, boil, them, fry them or make soup. Tasty but gas producing.
Arrowroot 
You can eat this like sweet potato, or grate it and wash out the starch for arrowroot thickener. It looks like a canna lily - it is, canna edulis, high as you waist and pretty.

Consider 'indestructables' like Chinese mustard, Chinese cabbage, Chinese celery and collards. These are all frost, heat and drought hardy greens. Collards are like cabbage leaves - eat them the same way. They are slightly tougher but very, very hardy and prolific.


Starting From Store Vegetables

Ginger
Cut off a healthy- looking "finger" from a ginger root and plant it in a fairly large pot. Keep it moist but not wet in a sunny place. That one ginger root will multiply by up to eightfold. Replant one of the fingers and continue growing and regrowing for years.
Garlic
Garlic needs cold temperatures to set the plant. Just snap off the cloves from a head of garlic and plant them with the fat base downward, 1-2 inches deep, 2-3 inches apart, in rows 1 foot apart, preferably in full sun. Be sure to keep this shallow rooted plant watered, but not to the point where the soil is muddy.

Garlic planted in late October or early November should be ready to harvest usually in June or July, when the leafy tops fall over and begin to die. Air-dry the bulbs in a cool, dry place, either by cutting off the tops and roots and storing in a permeable container (old nylons work well); or, keep the tops on and braid them together, forming a utilitarian kitchen decoration.

You can simulate "winter" by letting the garlic grow awhile, then placing in your refrigerator or unheated attic. Bring it out after a month or so, and let it continue growing.

Homemade Rooting Compound

Just as in humans, hormones stimulate various functions in plant growth. The first hormone discovered to cause root growth is called auxin, and the synthetic version of auxin is what we find in commercially sold compounds today.

The willow plant is a natural source of auxin. Therefore, it can be very easy to make up a fresh batch of homemade rooting compound whenever you need to plant some new cuttings.

  1. Gather a handful of willow branch tips
  2. Chop or mash into smaller pieces
  3. Fill small container with pieces
  4. Fill container with water & allow to sit overnight
  5. Remove willow pieces
  6. Dip cutting into the water, covering the stem
  7. Put cutting into your potting mix (or moist sand)
  8. Cover with a plastic bag to retain moisture
  9. After roots form, re-pot

Also, don't get rid of the willow water when you're done with your cuttings. Save it to water your plants!

If you don't have access to willow, dissolve a few aspirins in a jar of water. Aspirin is made from willow bark, so it can have the same effect as the willow water.

Plant "Teas"

  • Another "egg" tip is never to throw away the water that eggs have been boiled in. This water, although not suitable for humans to drink, is full of minerals. Allow it to cool completely and then feed your houseplants with it. I inherited a few rather spindly specimens and, after a couple of months, noticed a marked improvement in their growth rate. Two small spider plants actually produced about six plantlets each and I was able to get another three (free) plants.

Sowing

Sowings should be made at four different times. This is because of the effects of frost and because seasons vary, some being early, others late in opening. For the latter season, the time between the early sowings should be increased in an early spring and made about the time that the earliest trees, such as silver maple open their buds.

To take advantage of the cool fall weather, a second crop of cool-season vegetables may be grown.

Fall garden vegetables do not thrive in warm weather and too early planting will stunt some kinds and cause others to become coarse, woody, or pithy and unfit for use.

Cultivation

The function of cultivation with vegetables is to conserve moisture by eliminating weeds, to close up cracks and provide a loose, rough surface which will absorb rainfall and prevent runoff. Deep cultivation destroys many roots, reduces the yield of most vegetables and is unnecesary. Shallow surface cultivation is recommended for all vegetables, especially in un-irrigated soils and in dry seasons.

Irrigation

Irrigation will be found desirable at some time in practically every season and often in many seasons. Except for hastening seed germination in a dry spring, irrigation is seldom needed before July and not after August.

Needless or excessive irrigation early in the life of the plants might cause the development of shallow root systems. However, vegetables should be kept growing steadily. Knobby, growth-cracked, hollow, rough-shaped, double and otherwise undesirable vegetables are produced when growth is uneven, especially when a period of abundant moisture follos one of prolonged drouth.

One inch of water, in one rain, or from irrigation should maintain vigorous growth of most vegetables for five to seven days during hot weather, and 10 to 15 days in cooler weather.

Smaller amounts or larger amounts of water at one time are less desirable, because the soil will be poorly aerated for a time and the loss from rotting, blight, etc. will be increased.

Some form of overhead irrigation is applicable to every conceivable condition. It may be either stationary or portable, hand operated of self-operating, laid on or preferably raised above the surface to suit local conditions. Its first cost in any case is not much greater than an equivalent of hose and nozzles but it will last almost indefinitely, whereas hose usually must be replaced in two or three years.

The nozzle throws a stream 1/32" in diameter and the stream of water breaks fall about 40' away with no wind.

To irrigate vegetables and berries the best way is to place straight lines of pipe 50' to 70' or 80' apart depending upon the pressure and with nozzles at 4' intervals. They may be laid on the ground but will work better if raised.

When placed on the ground, they are easy to step over, when 6' high, are less likely than tall ones to be shifted by winds, more convenient and easily removed and replaced for plowing and digging.

For small gardens, one line may be made to serve by having it in readily portable sections. Each line may be connected with a hydrant by hose or have its permanant supply pipe with a gate valve and a turning union to control the water distribution. For convenience, however, a water motor is far better than a handle because the whole area will be sure to get an even distribution or water.

Overhead irrigation in some form has the great advantage over all other styles in its applicability to every type of soil, in every elevation, every size of garden or field. As the water is evenly distributed in minute drops it sinks slowly in the soil without puddling or baking and neither seeds nor plants are injured. Also the gentle shoers cleanse foliage and encourage healthful, vigorous development.

High temperature (90 degrees or above) which usually accompany summer droughts deplete the supply of soil moisture and increase the water requirements of plants.

The chief sources of water for irrigation are ponds, reservoirs, artesian wells and municipal water supplies. Shallow rooted crops, such as radishes and onions, usually require more frequent applications of water than do tomatoes or carrots.

Light and frequent watering is inadvisable; applications of less than 1/4" is considered enough for seed beds and young vegetables and from 1/2" to 1" for maturing crops.

As soon as the irrigation season ends the machinery should be overhauled, the pipes thoroughly drained before winter, and repairs made when necessary. Before starting in spring the pipes should be thoroughly flushed out to get rid of any loose rust particles. Repairs and overhauling should not cost more than ten dollars annually for a system of one to four or five acres. If properly handled, the engine and the pump should last for 12 to 15 years and the piping still longer.

The initial outlay for equipment, exclusive of motor and pump is estimated at $400. The equipment can be depreciated for tax purposes. The item of repairs is practically nil.

Temporary wilting such as affects plants on hot days, is not necessarily a symptom of moisture deficiency. Plants will recover from such wilting if sufficient water is in the soil. But if they remain flaccid until early morning. They indicate permanent wilting, so water should be applied promptly for if the wilting is allowed to continue the quality and succulence of the crop is likely to be seriously impaired and the yield greatly reduced.

If porous hose is preferred, the supply pipe is located at the higher end of the field and a pressure of 15 to 20 pounds to the square inch maintained in the porous lines. Old fire hose can serve as temporary water supply. Hose may run up hill. A better distribution may be secured by having it run down. Lengths of 600' have worked well. Especially when heavy weight canvas is used near the source and lighter at the distal and when the current is up grade and the reverse when it is down.

Hose may last up to three years, longer if treated with a solution of one gallon asphalt paint. 1/2 pint of kerosene and gasoline thoroughly stirred before applying either with a brush or by soaking and running through a clothes wringer to squeeze out the excess. It must be dried for 24 hours at least before using.

In use the hose is merely laid between the crop rows the water turned on until enough has been applied, then moved to the next place. Soil conditions and methods of tillage will decide the width of effective distribution.

Water Measurement
Most gardeners have heard the rule of thumb: gardens need one inch of water each week. Some plants, of course, need more or less. Gardeners should measure rainfall and keep track of the amounts on a calendar.

Simple funnel gauges can be purchased at most garden centers. It�s best to have a record of rainfall in your own garden rather than relying on figures recorded at the nearest meteorological station, since the amount of rain can vary greatly over relatively small distances. For the average garden a good deep watering (1 to 2 inches of water) applied once or twice a week is all that's needed and none if rainfall is abundant.

Runoff

Rain either seeps into the ground, where it helps plants to grow and replenishes groundwater, or it becomes runoff. The results depend on many factors, including:

  • Rate - if a lot of rain falls in a short time, more water will run off the surface of the ground.
  • Topography - water runs off hills and down gullies but gathers in low areas.
  • Soil - sandy soil absorbs water more quickly but does not retain water well. Clay soil sheds water initially but retains it for a longer time after it has been absorbed.
  • Vegetation - plant growth on hills slows the speed at which the water flows downhill, so more water is absorbed and less runoff is created. Vegetation also reduces soil erosion.
  • Urbanization - asphalt and concrete cannot absorb rainfall, so much more water becomes runoff.

Planting Zones

USDA planting zones are based on average minimum winter low temperatures determined by historical weather data. There are also heat zones which help determine how far south plants can be grown. Vegetables and annuals are planted by average frost dates, which are also mapped. The following link offers more information:

Planting zones are the easiest way to get a general idea if a plant will survive in your area. However, other things like sun, shade, soil and moisture also play important roles; sometimes even more important.

Planting zones are only a guideline, but they are very useful. Local microclimates will also influence what you can grow. Slope of the land, elevation, large bodies of water, exposure and proximity of buildings, etc. can make areas warmer or cooler than the overall climate region.

Weeds

Pulling weeds is an effective and organic way to get rid of weeds, but it is also the most time-consuming process for killing off garden plant pests.

The good thing about pulling weeds by hand is that you know when you have pulled the weed out roots and all, it won't be coming back. Spending a lot of time in your garden pulling weeds also helps you get to know your plants, so you can spot and control pests or other problems with your plants.

Other Organic Methods

If you don't feel like pulling weeds but don't want to use a lot of chemicals on your garden, there are some other options:

  • Boiling water: It is said that pouring boiling water on weeds will kill the weeds as well as the seeds. Just be careful not to get any on you, or on the plants that you want to live!
  • Mulch: Not only can mulch help prevent weeds from growing in the first place, mulching can smother and kill existing weeds. Two or three inches of mulch will eliminate weeds and help hold water in your garden.
  • Soapy water: Another method is adding about five tablespoons of liquid dish soap to four cups of water. Mix it up, put it in a spray bottle and spray on the weeds, preferably on hot days.
  • Alcohol spray: You can do the exact same thing with four cups of water and between one and five tablespoons of alcohol, depending on the stubbornness of the weeds.
  • Vinegar: Undiluted vinegar is a great choice for killing weeds. Put it in a spray bottle and use on weeds, being careful not to spray your plants, because it can kill them, too.

If you're looking for how to kill weeds before they sprout, try cornmeal gluten. It�s a great pre-emergent herbicide that also adds nitrogen to the soil. This is a particularly good choice for lawns because it won�t hurt the existing grass.

Planting Soil Mixes

Cornell University Modified Peat-Lite Planting Mix:

for large jobs (1 part=one full wheelbarrow, about 4.5 cu. ft.) Peat Moss 2 parts Perlite 1 part Vermiculite 1 part Dolomitic Lime (raises pH) 4 cups Superphosphate (0-20-0) 5 cups Osmocote or other slow release fertilizer (19-6-12) 8 cups

for small jobs (1 part= a 32 oz. coffee can) Peat Moss 2 parts Perlite 1 part Vermiculite 1 part Dolomitic Lime (raises pH) 1 tsp. Superphosphate (0-20-0) 2 tsp. Osmocote or other slow release fertilizer (19-6-12) 1 Tbs.

The Rodale Instute Mix (organic): Very old, well-finished, and finely screened compost 4 parts Perlite 1 part Vermiculite 1 part Peat Moss 2 parts

Another organic mix (from the book, "Rodale Organic Gardening Solutions"): shredded peat moss 1 bushel perlite or vermiculite 1 bushel ground limestone 1/2 cup bloodmeal 1 cup colloidal phosphate 1 cup greensand 1 cup

Note: when using peat moss, premoisten the peat moss to aid moisture retention. In a hose-end sprayer, put one tablespoon liquid dish detergent in the jar. Set sprayer to mix one tablespoon per gallon of water. Thoroughly water the peat moss with this solution before mixing with other ingredients.

Home Gardening Do's and Don'ts

Do

  1. Use recommended varieties for your area of the state.
  2. Sample soil and have it tested every 2 to 3 years.
  3. Apply preplant fertilizer to garden area in recommended manner and amounts.
  4. Examine garden often to keep ahead of potential problems.
  5. Keep garden free of insects, diseases, and weeds.
  6. Use mulches to conserve moisture, control weeds, and reduce ground rots.
  7. Water as needed, wetting soil to a depth of 6 inches.
  8. Thin when plants are small.
  9. Avoid excessive walking and working in the garden when the foliage and soil are wet.
  10. Wash and clean garden tools and sprayer well after each use.
  11. Keep records on garden activities.

Don't

  1. Depend on varieties not recommended for your area, but do try limited amounts of new releases.
  2. Plant so closely that you cannot walk or work in the garden.
  3. Cultivate so deeply that plant roots are injured.
  4. Shade small plants with taller growing crops.
  5. Water excessively or in late afternoon.
  6. Place fertilizer directly in contact with plant roots or seeds.
  7. Allow weeds to grow large before beginning to cultivate.
  8. Apply chemicals or pesticides in a haphazard manner or without reading the label directions.
  9. Use chemicals not specifically recommended for garden crops.
  10. Store leftover diluted spray.

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