Mini Greenhouses are Valuable when Starting from Seeds

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.” –WE Johns

Greenhouses allow gardeners to expand their growing season. For most of us, having a normal size greenhouse isn’t possible. However, you can easily make mini ones out of milk jugs or other non clear container. You want to use opaque containers where the sun won’t be so bright on the tender seedlings. Drainage holes need to be punched into the bottom of the containers. Cut the milk jugs in half almost all the way around, leave the handle section in tack. Fill the milk jugs with potting soil in the bottom half, moisten the soil with warm water but don’t saturate it.¬† Put your seeds barely in the soil. Tape the container closed around the middle with duct tape. Make sure to label it withe the type of seeds and date started. Now just place them in a sunny place outside where they can also get moisture through the opening (where you left the cap off). Seedlings should emerge within 2 weeks. The best seeds to start this way are hardy annual flowers, cool temperature vegetables, and herbs. I have several varieties of marigolds, thai basil, snow peas, and baby leaf lettuce. Milk jug greenhouses are easy to start and require little attention. Once the seedlings are seen to be established inside the jugs, you will need to remove the tape and open them up. At this point, you have small pot plants that can be transplanted into your garden or remain in the milk jugs.

Other mini greenhouses are the tray varieties. I have a couple of those to start in a few days. I will have tomatoes and peppers in those trays. But unlike the milk jug greenhouses, the trays remain inside. They also need additional heating and light sources by way of heating mats and special grow lights. Because the space for the seeds are much smaller in the trays, it is recommended to use seed starting mix instead of potting soil. I did this last year and it worked out great!

The body can be viewed as a greenhouse for God’s grace. The Holy Spirit will put seeds or ideas in our minds. Over time we tend to those ideas and allow them to grow into thoughts and actions. He gives us special resources by way of bible studies and each other to learn from and share his love with.

Don’t Forget to Add Growth when you Add Plants to your Design

“Where you have a plot of land, however small, plant a garden. Staying close to the soil is good for the soul.” –Spencer W. Kimball

Having a garden takes time and careful planning, in order for it to be successful. You should do some research on the plants you want to plant. Or at the very least, read the planting instructions on the plant label. Make sure the plot of land will be big enough for your amount of plants. Or that you have enough containers, preferably one for each plant.

I like making diagrams for my garden. I even color coded the places where flowers were going this year. I design the garden, first off, to utilize crop rotation (not planting the same kind of plants in the same area 2 years in a row). Secondly, I take advantage of companion planting. Making sure the plants that are beside each other benefit each other whether by insect attraction or repellent, ground or shade coverage, and soil nutrient needs. Thirdly, the diagram shows me exactly where the plants are to be planted in the garden. Therefore, preventing me from accidentally pulling up good plants instead of weeds in the beginning growth of the garden.

Each year, I record the plant growths and any adjustments needed to make for the next year. The space I need for walkways and around the plants always changes. Next year, I will increase the amount of flowers I need to fill in the gaps from this year. I spaced the peppers out fairly well this time. They had enough room to grow but not too much for a ton of weeds to sprout. However, I forgot to add maturity growth for the pole beans and tomatoes. On paper, the spacing of the pole bean trellises  seemed to look fine. But now the beans are full-grown, the vines have reached across from one trellis to another making a tunnel of bean plants instead of rows. Likewise about the tomatoes. The 50 plants are in neatly spaced rows on paper and in the garden, with one exception Рvery small (if any) walkways between. I forgot to add the diameter of the tomato cages at the top and some tomato plants branch out quite a bit. So I have not only a bean jungle, but a tomato jungle too.

You can make diagrams or maps for your life too. Just be aware that the paths you plan may not always be the ones God wants you to go down. He doesn’t forget to leave room for growth. The more you seek him or research his design, the more room he will supply for your flowers and fruit to blossom and grow.

 

Why I Love My Dirt Stained Garden Notebook

“A gardener’s best tool is the knowledge from previous seasons. And it can be recorded in a $2 notebook.” –Charles Lamb

Every gardener should have records on their garden. It shows that you care about what you planted. Some purchase day planners to keep track of the garden. You can even print off pages from websites to make your own. The ultimate goal for a garden notebook is the same – a reference or guide-book to aid in the success of your garden to harvest time and into the next season.

My notebook is old. It has seen my gardening adventures grow over the years. It has dirt on its cover and several of its pages. It goes out into the garden with me numerous times a growing season. It is where I can record what is going right and what I need to change for the next year. It is where I have the plants listed that are in my garden. My specific notebook has pocket sleeves dividing it into sections. In those pockets is where I keep my gardening receipts, a diagram of the garden, a detailed list of the current plants, crop rotation guide, and companion plants guide. In the sections of the notebooks is where I have records of the pH values of the soil, what treatments have been made to the soil, when I have started seeds, the date time progression of the seedlings to transplanting into the garden, and of course the progress (success or fail) of the garden plants.

Therefore, my notebook serves me well. I can look in it and plan my next year’s garden based upon this year’s results. For example, I tried growing cucumbers for several years with little success, so then I stopped trying. This year I had about a dozen squash and zucchini plants. I only got 1 of each as the vegetables. The plants were healthy, plenty of male flowers but very few veggies produced. I am not going to try to grow them next year. This was the third year growing them and the production decreased each year.

A book of knowledge, a guide-book, and a reference book. Isn’t it nice to have these! God gave us one for our lives as well – it is called the Bible. You can read how past events changed the future results. Concordances and devotionals lend a hand in companion planting and making sure the soil is properly fed. You just have to ask for guidance and be willing to tend to the heart as well.

Garden Supports to Love, Natural or Man-Made?

“Encourage, lift, and strengthen one another. For the positive energy spreads to one will be felt by us all.” –Deborah Day

Supports in the garden benefit both the plants and the gardener. They can be man-made or ones that occur in nature. Most man-made supports are made from various metals and shaped into cones, circles, squares, and lines. Examples of natural supports are corn stalks and bamboo poles.

Benefits that supports give to the garden include stability to the plant, more air circulation, and more sunlight for the leaves. Tomato plants need a lot of support. The stems tend to grow tall and the weight of the fruit can be heavy. If they didn’t have some kind of support, the stem is more likely to break – damaging or killing the plant. If not enough leaves are getting sunlight, production of vegetables and fruits are diminished. Enough air circulation around the plants is crucial to limit the possibility of viruses or other non-beneficial conditions for plant production.

Using garden supports helps the gardener in several ways. Not only do they keep the garden healthy, the supports make it easier to maintain and harvest the garden. Pole beans, by their nature, are to planted at the base of poles or trellises. This allows the bean vine to climb vertically and the beans to hang down. This makes them easier to pick and takes up less square footage in the garden. Tomato cages come in varying sizes and shapes (cone, square, and circle). The function is the same – to support the plant from breaking with the fruit and making it easier to harvest.

I use a combination of supports in my garden. I start out using metal tomato cages and wooden posts with string trellis for my beans. Once the plants have outgrown the boundaries of those, I add bamboo poles to aid in supporting the plants. This year a series of strong storms broke most of my bean poles. So I weaved in bamboo poles into the trellis and the beans are very happy.

Did you know God wants you to have a support system in your life too? He wants you to have folks to turn to when storms beak your footings. Let it be God, family, friends, and even coworkers. As long as they hold you up, keep your soul well, and allow you to produce the fruit you are meant to produce. Just remember support is needed by all.

Do You Have Perseverance for Your Garden to Harvest?

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that gets us back into the slow circles of nature is help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” –May Sarton

Gardening isn’t a fast process, especially vegetable gardening. It takes a lot of perseverance or patience to tend to a garden. A lot of awareness to the plants’ well being, especially when obstacles or discouragement try to set in.

If you are starting from seeds, you have certain steps to go through along a time line to ensure your seeds become strong seedlings worthy of transplanting. You have to be aware of the weather and wait til the conditions of the soil are just rights to put plants into it. If you rush to put them in the ground (whether from seedlings or plants purchased), you may risk losing them or damaging them cause of the coolness of the soil.

Did you know there are approximate harvest dates to vegetables? I use to think those dates were from when the seed sprouted to harvest. Boy was I wrong. Those approximate dates refer to the time period after the plants are in their forever homes, whether that is in the ground or in containers. So you must have more patience and diligence with the weather and soil conditions to provide what is needed for the plants to grow. Sometimes you even have to lend a hand with watering and fertilizing. Even more perseverance when you see other people’s gardens already having ripe produce and your garden is just beginning to set flowers and fruits out.

Every patch of dirt is different, so every garden grows at its own pace. Every person is different and methods of success is different. Have patience and faith in the processes. God has patience with us. He has perseverance to see you and your garden to harvest. God will show you grace with his gifts. Rest up for your harvest. If God’s involved, it will be sufficient.

When to Pluck Intruders Out or Let them Bloom

“Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished.” — Frances Bacon

Intruders to the garden include some insects, some animals, and of course – weeds. A weed is any undesirable or troublesome plant growing in an area where it isn’t wanted, like in a vegetable garden. They can take the nutrients out of the soil, crowd the area, and can even injure the desired crops.

In years past, I have been very diligent about plucking weeds out of the garden. I would do so by hand pulling and tilling in between the rows. This year, I have been more relaxed when dealing with the weeds. Some of my rows are closer together and pulling out too many could disturb the root system of the crops. Also, we have an outdoor cat now. He ventures in the garden (which is fenced – but he still can jump over) when we are in it. I don’t want to entice him to ‘use’ the freshly tilled dirt – so I’m not tilling it this year.

Common animals, as intruders to the garden, can include groundhogs, deer, and birds. Well, the groundhogs in our area haven’t figured out how to get in the fence – thankfully. The deer are usually not interested in it either. I had 2 nights where part of the fence was knocked down. I hung up balloons and cans on that side of the fence until I could get better stakes for it. Worked nicely – no problems since. Now keeping the birds out can be tricky. I have used bird netting and hung up old CDs around the garden in the past. Right now, I am trying something called bird scare tape. It is a metallic-like red on one side and silver on the ribbon. You twist it when wrapping the garden as far up as you can around the perimeter. You can also tie it above the plants. Supposedly, the birds see the reflection as fire and they will not venture in. So far working great.

The insect intruders I mainly have to deal with are aphids, tomato hornworms, and Japanese beetles. I try to walk through the garden daily and check for unwanted bugs as well as check on the development of the plants. I hand-pick the Japanese beetles off and put them in soap water if there are only a few. If there are many, it is time to spray the plants with Seven insecticide. I do the same with tomato hornworms. Aphids have a knack for hiding under the leaves, so look closely. If you find a lot of them, insecticide soap works well to kill them without damaging the plants.

I have a hill with monkey grass growing on it. Weeds grow over top of the grasses. Usually I pull the weeds as soon as I see them. However, I noticed that the weeds had bloomed before I could get to them this year and numerous bees and other insects were on the flowers. I decided to not pluck these intruders out. Their blooms were providing nutrients to beneficial insects.

Decisions of what plants, that grow wildly, to keep or get rid of depends upon their seen purposes. I am more than likely to keep them in my flower bed and wait to see what blooms. However, I will pull most of them out of the vegetable garden. God made the plants. Some are more beneficial to people than others. Some are made more for the animals and insects. They all share a purpose of covering the ground to hold in the rain. They all share a purpose of being beautiful. God has a purpose for it all – just wait and see.

Mistakes are to be Learning Adventures- Not Disappointments

“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” — Psalm 126:5

I remember being told once that I wasn’t learning if I didn’t make mistakes. Well, my learning adventures with gardening have been abundant. I have learned, that for me, container gardening is great for herbs but not so much for tomatoes, cucumbers, or peppers (if I wanted a large harvest). I have learned I need to start with quality seeds. I tried buying plants for a few years. The harvest wasn’t as abundant as I had hoped. So I decided to try growing plants from seeds. Mistakes I made were to watering too much, not having the soil warm enough, not having quality seed starting soil, and not enough light. However, after more research and trial & error, I have been able to grow plants from seeds. In fact, this year I was impatient for the seeds to germinate, so I planted more. To my surprise I ended up with more plants that I had space in my garden!

Mistakes can also add to later frustration. Like when I didn’t test the pH values of the soil and had to use more fertilizer to get good growth. The wrong balance in fertilizer can also give your plants more leaf growth instead of fruit development. Too much nitrogen can do this. So when I planted my tomatoes, the next year after pole beans (which give nitrogen back to the soil), I had more leaves than tomatoes.

If you view mistakes in life (as well as gardening) as learning adventures, you will grow as a person. Sometimes you may need to make notes to not repeat the mistakes – that’s okay. God tells us life isn’t perfect, no person on earth is. You will encounter trials. You will make mistakes. Just remember that God is always with you no matter what. He will provide you a harvest in some fashion, regardless of your mistakes. You and you efforts are never a disappointment in his eyes. Keep trying.