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What I've learned this year

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What I've learned this year

Post  Judy McConnell on 7/17/2014, 10:08 am

1. Experience is great - you who have been through SFG have most of the answers to newbies' questions.

2. There is no guarantee that disease will NOT be brought in on nursery grown seedlings (OR present on uncertified seeds).

3. Commercial Mel's Mix is NEVER as good as home-made (following Mel's book)

4. Table top gardening is the best for old backs, but TTs get expensive if you have to buy them.

5. Five gallon buckets work GREAT, but can be a pain to water without self watering "bottoms".

Think that this winter will see attempts at homemaking tts, self-watering buckets, and sources for disease-free or resistant-to-disease seeds.

I would love to find a way to over-winter strawberry plants in tts without adding heat strips (that might be the only way to save the plants???)

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Re: What I've learned this year

Post  walshevak on 7/17/2014, 11:54 am

I'm a bit further south than you, but I overwintered my strawberries in my TTs by heavily covering the plants with straw and blocking the prevailing wind under the bed with another bale.  Plants lived, but I can't say I got a good harvest this year.

I have self-watering buckets for my tomatoes this year, but last year with the buckets on bare ground produced better looking plants all started from seed.  Of course, the weird spring weather this year and the fact I bought starts might have something to do with it.  My volunteers in bare ground buckets are in much better shape than the starts.

Kay

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Re: What I've learned this year

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/17/2014, 9:20 pm

Table tops are pricey, aren't they? Even if you build them yourself.

Re tomatoes in buckets, I've got a bunch and wow do they suck up water in our 90 and 100-degree weeks lately. I'm starting to water them twice a day now. I do have one in a self-watering bucket, and it is resisting wilting better than the others that were just plopped in normal buckets. In fact it looks fine even on the worst days, whereas my tomatillos and tomatoes can look very stressed, and the tomatillos lost a bunch of leaves one particularly hot day.

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Re: What I've learned this year

Post  Marc Iverson on 9/15/2014, 3:38 am

So many things; here's a few:

1. Composting can require huge dedication, especially if you live on a hill. I get all the free chicken manure and horse manure I want, but lugging it up and down our hilly property requires great fortitude and builds strong muscles all by itself, no gym membership needed.

2. Compost materials left unturned do indeed take a very long time to turn into very little compost. I hauled literally a couple of tons of horse manure up the hill behind our house, the only place it wouldn't be an eyesore, and turned it here and there, watered it here and there, gave it compost starter here and there and added copious amounts of kitchen scraps and cardboard and fall leaves(!!!) and newspaper, and after shoveling away the undecomposed top layer today, found only a few buckets of good compost. Spectacular compost, even. But nowhere near what I expected.

I'm not saying there isn't more to be found, but it would take a lot of sifting to find it.

3. Seed packet instructions can disappoint. For instance, when seed packets say to sow as soon as the danger of frost is over, they're being too general. Malabar spinach was the best example of this. The packet said guess what, but the seeds refused to germinate until true summer weather, in soil mix after soil mix, indoors and out. After that, they did just fine; before that, virtually zero germination and every seed rotting. Buyer beware.

4. Sometimes a plant you expect to keep producing is simply "done," and sometimes ones you expect to stop producing will keep going. I had peas producing in 100 degree heat, but I had a pepper plant go from vigorous to just biding its time to death in the middle of a long, happy, well-watered summer in wonderful soil.

5. Tomatoes around here simply don't produce when it gets too hot, and if they do, the fruits tend to stay very small. Mostly, the flowers just drop. For me, July and most of August is a dead zone. Temp cools? Suddenly the sob story reverses and I get explosive growth.

6. Tomato plants can grow in 5-gallon and other buckets, but their soil dries out so fast in comparison to beds that they need frequent and thorough watering, sometimes twice a day. And that can settle their soil so fast, and drain it away so fast, that additional soil or compost may be required, and/or additional nutrient supplementation.

7. Courtesy of the kind folks at this site, that you can sometimes get rid of the bitterness of lettuce and other leaf crops by picking in the morning, by chilling the leaves, and by soaking them in cold water. This rescued a lot of my summer-grown lettuce for me.

8. Once again, it's all about the soil. I've had wonderful success where the soil is good, MM or not, and absolute disaster where the soil isn't. I thought I could coax good performance out of the poor area with poor soil via mulching, careful water, and plentiful fertilization. But I couldn't. This is one of the things that attracts me by far the most about SFG: Mel's Mix. With it, I've had success where I shouldn't. Without it, I've failed where I "should" have succeeded.

9. Seedlings and transplants need not just good but hygienic soil. I transplanted many very nice seedlings into slightly larger pots and wound up killing them off, if not quickly then slowly. Almost all of the few that weren't killed were stunted.

We had late blight and the usual variety of many diseases last year, and they were waiting in last year's Mel's Mix that I had exposed to the same elements as I had in my pots. It's only when I started germinating in pure vermiculite and transplanting into fresh MM or compost that I stopped killing off all my seeds and transplants.

10. You can still succeed after failure! After killing off most of my spring seedlings and transplants, I started over and am now growing many things successfully.

11. Charity is awesome. I volunteered at a local elementary school, the most depressing and decrepit looking one I could find, because that one looked like it needed the most help. I partly did it to help satisfy the need to have 70 volunteer hours to fulfill the requirements of the Master Gardener's course I took this year, but have kept on going long since I got those hours down, and am still working there next(this) school year.

It's great to spread what gardening knowledge you gain around, or just to chip in and add some elbow grease to such projects if you can. The kids really appreciate it, and have fun. And it's not like there's a huge rush to help kids out who need it. You'll feel you're making a difference. And who knows, maybe the children will be inspired.

And the parents and community appreciate things like volunteers working community gardening projects, phone help lines, the farmers' market, etc. Gardening is such a benign, helpful thing to everyone that it puts everyone in a good mood and on their best behavior, making helping out gardeners, or potential gardeners, so rewarding and overall pleasant a task. I strongly recommend taking a master gardening course, both to help yourself and to help others, as well as joining your local gardening clubs. There seems to be one or many nearly everywhere. Even the most zealous ideologues seem to be able to keep it together without any problem when talking gardening, a subject of such simple, unassailably honest goodness that it always seems to unite rather than divide.

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Re: What I've learned this year

Post  plantoid on 9/15/2014, 8:05 am

@Judy McConnell wrote:1. Experience is great - you who have been through SFG have most of the answers to newbies' questions.

2. There is no guarantee that disease will NOT be brought in on nursery grown seedlings (OR present on uncertified seeds).

3. Commercial Mel's Mix is NEVER as good as home-made (following Mel's book)

4. Table top gardening is the best for old backs, but TTs get expensive if you have to buy them.

5. Five gallon buckets work GREAT, but can be a pain to water without self watering "bottoms".

Think that this winter will see attempts at homemaking tts, self-watering buckets, and sources for disease-free or resistant-to-disease seeds.

I would love to find a way to over-winter strawberry plants in tts without adding heat strips (that might be the only way to save the plants???)



 For some types of strawberry plants that produce runners . Try this method that lots of commercial farmers use .



Just before the first frost  dig them up .  Take only well rooted runners and a couple of plants , split the plants by hand leaving a bit of root on each part , trim off dead leaves with scissors fairly close to the plant ., shake off all soil and place them in tie top poly bags which you have expelled most of the air from .
 Place them in a fridge in the crispator drawer at the bottom, fridge set to three degrees Celsius ....  no higher .

Take care to pack them in a strong unsealed box to stop them getting damaged  .


They should be OK for potting up in six inch pots & grown on by placing the potted up runners a north facing windowsill in a frost free room ( cool bedroom ?? ) to  kick start them about three weeks before the last frost , after last frost place outside in a sunny but not hot place for a week them plant the potted plants where you want them .water them sparingly till they start to produce plenty  of leaves then liquid feed them and water often .
Use a clean unused thick straw mulch under the leaves to keep the fruits off the soil .


Don't plant them back in the same area that has been used for strawberries for more than three years, as the strawberry sawfly will have started to infest the soil with it's grubs/maggots & these will munch the roots of the plants thus either killi ng them or making them very weak..

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Re: What I've learned this year

Post  Judy McConnell on 9/15/2014, 6:31 pm

Thanks, Plantoid - great suggestions for handling strawberry plants. 

The funny thing about strawberry sawflies - not being familiar with them, I looked them up and the ONLY google records I found were from the late 1800s-early 1900s.

Judy McConnell

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Re: What I've learned this year

Post  sanderson on 9/15/2014, 8:35 pm

This is what I have learned during the calendar year of 2014.
1.  Horse manure is a great ingredient in compost.
2.  I won't plant cucumbers, cantaloupes, squashes, etc., too early in the spring in cold wet MM.
3.  In hot arid summers, deeper TTs (with their evaporative wood bottoms) seem to hold the moisture better than shallower 6-7" beds.  Even with mulch.
4.  I won't start seedlings indoors until mid Feb.  Having seedlings ready too early when the soil is still cold made me plant them too early for my particular backyard, and some rotted.
5.  Cheap fluorescent lights are fine for indoor seedlings.  My lamps need to be closer to the seedlings, they really won't burn the plants!
6.  I was the only person in Fresno who failed with tomatoes (due to leaf hopper transmitted curly leaf). Embarassed
7.  Corn is thirsty.
8.  Plant something new each year to keep it interesting.
9. If something isn't working, don't keep trying it the same way and expect it to suddenly work. Ask questions on the Forum to find out what you can change to make it better.

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RE: What I learned this year.

Post  DorothyG on 9/16/2014, 11:34 am

My cucumber trellis must be much stronger. Embarassed  Growing cucumbers on a trellis is the only way to go for us.  

Blue Jade (miniature) corn tastes awesome and they will grow and produce just fine when planted 4 inches apart.  No problem with pollination.

Mountain Spring tomatoes are delicious, juicy, and need way taller stakes than I used this year.

Six spinach plants isn't nearly enough for even table use for us.

The three, heirloom varieties of green beans I planted are not something to plant again.  Yields sucked and the taste just wasn't there.

Don't plant turnips again.  Daughter doesn't like them as well as she thought she did.
Plant double or triple the amount of peas.  She likes them so well we had none to put up.

Plant carrots and turnips somewhere else.  They didn't get enough sun.

Cabbage worms are mean, evil little critter but even worse are snails!

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Re: What I've learned this year

Post  CapeCoddess on 9/16/2014, 12:02 pm

1) Some years will just be too cold.
2) Powdery mildew resistant varieties make a huge difference in my garden.  Milk/water spray prevents PM elsewhere.
3) Baby aspirin added to the hole at tomato planting time and again when watering mid season protects against blight...so far.
4) Planting squashes late helps to avoid the squash vine borer.
5) A second planting of cukes a month or so after the first one is a wonderful thing!
cheers
6) Drugstore heating pads, windows & fluorescent lights work great for seed starting.
7) Fall peas & beans are too 'chewy' for me.  Spring planted are the BEST!

CC

PS Good info about the Blue Jade (miniature) corn, DG.  Thanks for that.


Last edited by CapeCoddess on 9/16/2014, 12:16 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: What I've learned this year

Post  Marc Iverson on 9/16/2014, 12:12 pm

@DorothyG wrote:
Plant double or triple the amount of peas.  She likes them so well we had none to put up.

This one for sure! I had lots of peas producing for a long time, but I didn't tire of them, would have liked to put some up, and was sorry to eventually pull them out so I could do summer plantings. A pea pod is a small thing, too, especially picked young, so if I want the feeling of abundance, I'm going to have to plant them in really, really big numbers.

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Re: What I've learned this year

Post  herblover on 9/16/2014, 2:45 pm

I will have to remember the baby aspirin idea!  Never heard of that. 
What I learned this year
1.  Succession planting plan worked out really well
2.  Sometimes you do need to give a variety a second try (Dixie Golden Giant tomatoes)
3. Not so sure I will keep planting beets; take up space for a long time for the yield but I really do like them.

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