Garden

Starting Seeds

I don’t start too many vegetable plants indoors. That’s because houses are great for humans but are very unnatural for vegetables, herbs and annual flowers. Most homes are too dark, dry and hot. As a rule flower and vegetable plants do better if they are started in a greenhouse, cold frame or in a hot bed. The only plants that I do start indoors are geraniums, tomatoes, green peppers and sometimes melons.

Geranium Seedling

Geranium Seedling In Peat Pellet Pot

Here in northwestern Pennsylvania we have a fairly short growing season. There will be another 4 or 5 weeks before cold sensitive fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers or cantaloupe can be safely planted in the garden.




It never makes good sense to start bedding plants early.
Seedlings that are started too early can be subject to damping off and are often leggy and unhealthy by the time they are set in the garden. Pumpkins especially shouldn’t be planted until the weather is downright hot! Early planted pumpkins never do as well as late planted pumpkins.
It’s better to direct sow seeds into a garden a little later rather than set unhealthy bedding plants in a garden  too early.

Zinnia Seedlings

Direct Sown Zinnia Seedlings

I’m an old school gardener and subscribe to “planting by the signs”. I always try to pick a favorable day for sowing seeds if possible. If you are interested in moon sign gardening, any good current geocentric almanac will have tables or charts for the moon’s phase and position in the zodiac for any given day with some basic information.

When I start seeds without the benefit of a hot bed or cold frame, I usually will use  egg-shell seeding pots, peat pellets, peat pots or plain old-fashioned terracotta flowerpots. Some plants like squash, watermelons, cucumbers, eggplant and cantaloupe will do best when started in its own pot. And some annual flower and vegetable plants like marigolds, petunias, lettuce, cabbage, onions and tomatoes don’t resent being started as a group in a single pot and are easily divided and transplanted.

Starting Marigold Seedlings In A Clay pot

Marigold Seedlings In a Pot

In general, smaller seeds can be planted as a group – and large seeds do best when planted alone.
I like terracotta pots for starting annual flowers and some vegetable bedding plants because terracotta retains moisture, drains well and can “breath”. Clay pots work very well in hot beds or in a cold frame.
Terracotta pots are reusable year after year and are easily scrubbed out and cleaned. Because I often use an old pot, I always make sure that the pots are well scrubbed in hot soapy water before I sow seeds.
It’s important to kill any bacteria or fungus that may have been held over on the pot from the prior year.

Clean Terracotta Pots For Seeds

Terracotta Pots Scrubbed Clean Before Sowing Seeds

Young seedlings grown indoors are susceptible to damping off and other troubles. When possible I use a commercial sterile seed starter mix. I find that it works best to wet the potting mix with very warm water before covering the seeds. But when I’m pinching pennies I don’t always want buy ready mixed starter. It’s expensive! Sometimes I’ll just mix 1/3 sand with 2/3 ordinary garden soil. Any soil can be made sterile by placing into into a 200°F hot oven until the soil’s temperature reaches about 170°F.

Many seeds only need heat and not light to germinate. Once seeds are up they can be moved to a warm sunny window during the day and removed to a warmer location at night.
Cantaloupe, eggplant, basil, peppers, watermelon and pumpkins all benefit from a source of steady bottom heat.Those types of seeds grow best between 65°F-80°F. In fact all cold sensitive plants do well in a hot bed that is heated from the bottom with horse manure. Some people use electric grow mats with good results. But I’ve always been too cheap to spring for an electric mat or pay for the extra electricity. My reasoning is that I garden to save money – not spend money!

The top of most refrigerators is a good warm place to start bottom heat loving seeds. That’s what I mostly do now days. But a make-shift hot bed is easily constructed with an old window sash and cinder blocks or straw bales. Just form a square or rectangle and then fill the interior with a load of about 18″-20″” of fresh horse manure on the bottom. Tamp the manure down firmly; then wet the manure with either water or urine and cover. Wait a about a week and topped off the manure with 4″- 5″ of good screened garden soil and cover again. Wait a couple of days for the soil temperature to start to rise and then plant. Be sure to vent the hot bed on warm days or you’ll cook the plants. Pretty simple really.

And just so you know, one way that you can tell if the weather is truly settled enough to plant cold sensitive bedding plants in the garden is by the size of oak leaves.

Safe To Plant When Leaves Are As Big As Mouse Ears

Oak Leaves As Big As a Mouse Ear

If the leaves on an oak tree are the size of mouse ears it’s safe to plant tomatoes, beans, some squash, cucumbers and corn.
For eggplant, pumpkins, peppers and cantaloupe it is better to wait for oak leaves to be more fully developed before setting them in the garden.

Planting By The Signs

The term “planting by the signs” is a colloquial expression or folk term for the ancient practice of timing agricultural and gardening tasks by the moon’s lunar phase and astrological position in the zodiac. For our ancestors, the understanding and application of natural lunar cycles and rhythms to their lives was literally a matter of life and death. By applying the principles that had been passed on to them by each preceding generation, our forefathers and mothers managed to survive famine and disease. Unlike like us, they lived closer to the earth and didn’t have the benefit of 24-hour grocery stores, insecticides, antibiotics or electricity.

Vegetable Garden

Early Summer Vegetable Garden

It wasn’t important to our forebears to understand the science of why something worked. What mattered to them was that it did work. Predictable lunar cycles and phases were a fact of life for them. It’s the reason why almanacs were so widespread and heavily used. And it’s the reason why next to the Bible, almanacs were the second most important book in nearly all Christian households.

UNSCIENTIFIC & PURE NONSENSE – or MAYBE NOT?
For those of you who may think that using the moon to garden or that“planting by the signs” is pure superstition, I would encourage you to suspend judgment and consider what generations before you accepted as self-evident. Experiment for yourself and engage in a closer scrutiny of the natural world. You may just be surprised.

Up until the modern scientific era and the Age of Enlightenment, most people around the world used the information that follows below for their own benefit. In fact most American farmers and gardeners routinely used moon sign planting practices well into the 1930s.
For those who consider agricultural astrology to be witchcraft or evil or un-Christian; well, at one time people thought the same thing about electricity, epilepsy, and anesthesia for childbirth. Please keep in mind that God created this world and the universe. The laws and principles that govern our world and universe are His laws and principles. It doesn’t really matter what you call it.




Moon sign gardening and agricultural astrology is an involved subject. It is impossible for me to do the topic justice in this short article. Instead my purpose here is to present a brief summary of the history and concept of moon sign planting, and to give a general overview of its use in the modern family garden. A simple “when to plant” gardening chart is included.

THE MOON
“Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and for years.”
Genesis 1:14

Every month the moon goes through a predictable cycle. It takes approximately 29.5 days for the moon to complete its full cycle. During the monthly lunar cycle the moon’s cycle is divided into 4 phases. Each phase or quarter lasts about 7 days.
The moon’s quarters divide two significant visual manifestations of the moon known as the New Moon and the Full Moon. The new moon is the interval of the lunar cycle when the moon is not visible in the night sky. The full moon is the period when the moon is completely round and illuminated.

NEW MOON → 1st Quarter → 2nd Quarter → FULL MOON →3rd Quarter → 4th Quarter →NEW MOON

The monthly lunar cycle begins with the new moon. This 7 day (+ or -) period of the lunar cycle begins in darkness. During the actual day of the new moon, the moon is not visible in the night sky. The day after the new moon traditionally begins the part of the lunar cycle known as the 1st Quarter.

Lunar Phases

The Phases Of The Moon

During the 1st quarter the moon begins to increase its visibility and light. If you look up at the moon during this time you will notice that the moon is becoming more crescent-shaped each night. The crescent moon in the night sky is formed by a shadow from  the sun. The tips of the crescent moon point to the sun. The top and bottom tips of the crescent moon are called “the horns of the moon”. The horns of the moon are an important concept in folklore and myth.

In the Northern Hemisphere the horns of the moon point to the left as the light of the moon increases. In the Southern Hemisphere the crescent direction is reversed and the horns point to the right. The increase in the light of the moon is known as a “waxing moon”.
As the moon begins to outgrow its crescent shape it moves into the 2nd Quarter of the lunar cycle. During the 2nd quarter, the moon is increasing in light and is soon become a round orb known as a full moon.
During the full moon the moon reaches its maximum light. The full moon marks the halfway point of the lunar cycle.

Beginning the day after the full moon the moon gradually begins to decrease in its light. This phase is known as a “waning moon” and signals a decrease of light. The day after the full moon traditionally begins the 3rd Quarter of the lunar cycle. Once again the moon will slowly begin to assume a crescent shape as it moves into the 4th Quarter. The 4th quarter is the time that the moon is returning to the new moon to begin the cycle once more.During this phase of the lunar cycle, the horns of the moon point to the right if you are located in the Northern Hemisphere; and point to the left if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.

ORIGINS OF MOON SIGNS
Thousands of years ago ancient astronomers observed that many of the constellations that they studied were evenly spaced in an imaginary circular belt along the sun’s and moon’s apparent path in the sky. The always moving and seemingly changing constellations were a back drop in the sky for both the sun and the moon. Many of the constellations in the belt appeared to be in the shape of animals or mythical figures.

Arabian Astrologers

Arabian Astrologers Scanning The Heavens

The circular belt that early astrologers perceived was divided evenly into 12 sections or “signs”. That belt is called the Zodiac. All the sections or signs of the zodiac are represented by living creatures except for one. The name zodiac is derived from the Greek and then Latin word for “circle of animals”.

Our forefathers believed that during the time when the sun and the moon passed through different sections of the zodiac, that life here on earth took on and reflected certain cosmic energies and qualities. The zodiac became an analogy for forces in nature that were not completely understood. Early man recognized that both the sun and the moon had a life altering effect for living creatures.
The sun brought the change of seasons, and controlled the cycle of life and death for the natural world. The moon on the other hand, also controlled the cycle of life and death, but in a much more subtle way.
Our ancestors understood that the moon was mysteriously connected to the movement of the ocean tides and to the weather. It influenced animal migrations and sleeping patterns. And what was most mystifying, was that the moon also influenced the menses cycle of women and childbirth. In fact the moon became associated with women and with fertility.
Primitive man knew that the moon has a profound effect on plant, animal and human life here on earth.
We moderns aren’t connected to the raw and primeval world of our ancestors. In fact most people aren’t connected to the natural world at all. Instead we are connected to digital devices. We sadly fail to comprehend what our ancestors instinctively knew about the lunar cycle and our world. We fail to notice what is literally going on over our heads in the nighttime sky.

The Zodiac

The Zodiac

 HOW IT WORKS

Each year the sun passes through all the sections or signs of the zodiac. The sun spends about 30 days in each sign.

Every month the moon just like the sun also passes through all 12 signs of the zodiac. The moon spends just under 2 ½ days in each sign.
Each of the 12 zodiac signs is associated with a different quality or attribute.The zodiac as a circle begins in Aries and ends in Pisces.

THE ZODIAC SIGNS

Aries – The Ram
Taurus – The Bull
Gemini – The Twins
Cancer – The Crab
Leo – The Lion
Virgo – The Virgin
Libra – The Scales
Scorpio – The Scorpion
Sagittarius – The Archer
Capricorn – The Goat
Aquarius – The Water Bearer
Pisces – The Fishes

The 12 signs of the zodiac are sorted into 4 groups that correspond to the 4 ancient elements:

      • Water
      • Fire
      • Earth
      • Air

The elements assigned to the signs of the zodiac help to define and clarify the energies and traits that are associated with them.

The Water Signs are:
CANCER
SCORPIO
PISCES
Water signs are said to be feminine, wet, productive, nutritive or fruitful.

The Fire Signs are:
ARIES
LEO
SAGITTARIUS
Fire signs are said to be masculine, barren, unfruitful, harsh and dry.

The Earth Signs are:
CAPRICORN
TAURUS
VIRGO
Earth signs are said to be earthy, sturdy, stable, substantial and feminine.

The Air Signs are:
LIBRA
AQUARIUS
GEMINI
Air signs are said to be masculine, fickle, fluctuating, vacillating and airy.

The Signs

Signs Of The Zodiac

QUADRUPLICITIES

The signs of the zodiac are further divided and grouped by their modes of action. The signs are split into three subdivisions containing four signs each. The three groups of zodiac signs are labeled as Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable signs.

Cardinal signs are those signs which generate, produce or begin a new condition. Hence Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn are the signs which herald each new season. Cardinal signs correspond to the North, East, South and West points of the compass.

Fixed signs have a settled or stubborn quality to them. Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius are fixed signs and are ascribed to the well-established seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Fixed signs are stable and committed. They are sometimes considered to be “earthquake signs” due to the belief that earthquakes occur shortly before or after a lunar eclipse when the moon was in a fixed sign.

Mutable signs are unstable and unpredictable. They are symbolic of the inevitability of change. Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces are the signs assigned to months before one season ends and transformations into the next season. Winter breaks with Pisces. Summer comes after Gemini. Autumn is heralded by Virgo. And Winter begins after Sagittarius. The Mutable signs are considered to be the reuniting, resolving and reconciling energies of the universe and cosmos.

WHEN & WHAT TO PLANT
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1
Knowing the correct sign to plant in is important.
But knowing what phase of the moon to plant in is even more important.

By combining good gardening practices with the fundamental principles of lunar timing; along with the moon’s current zodiac position; modern gardeners and farmers can use the wisdom of our ancestors to grow better food and more beautiful flowers.

Planting By The Moon Sign

Planting Peas By The Moon Sign

In general terms, things tend to increase in the light of the moon; and then decrease in the dark of the moon.

Plants or vegetables that grow above ground should be planted during the 1st and 2nd quarters of the moon. That is when the moon’s light is increasing. Broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans and corn are all planted at this time.

Plants or vegetables that grow beneath the ground should be planted during the 3rd and 4th quarters of the moon. During the 3rd and 4th quarters the light of the moon is decreasing. Crops that are grown underground for their roots or tubers should be planted at that time. Potatoes, turnips, carrots, and beets are best planted during a waning moon up until the day of the new moon.
Plants, grains, herbs or flowers that have exterior seeds  do best when planted in the 1st quarter. Corn, broccoli, wheat, marigolds, dill weed and chamomile are examples of plants that produce exterior seeds.

Seed Marigold

Seed Marigold

Plants, flowers, grains or herbs that have interior seeds are most often planted in the moon’s 2nd quarter. Squash, watermelon, green peppers, tomatoes, green beans, poppies, pumpkins and peas are examples of plants that produce interior seeds. Cucumbers are the exception to the rule. They should be planted during the moon’s 1st quarter.

Bulbous flowers like tulips, crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths are planted during the moon’s 3rd quarter. Best results are seen when underground crops or bulbous plants are planted in a fruitful sign and sometimes an earth sign.

Be aware that the closer the day is to the new moon all planting becomes somewhat less favorable. Traditionally no crops are planted on the day of new moon.
To destroy weeds and pests, gardening activities done during the 3rd and 4th quarters are more productive when timed to coincide with a dry or barren sign .

Keep the action and quality of the sign quadruplicities in mind when choosing a day to plant or when attending to gardening tasks. Cardinal sign days signal creative energies and new beginnings. Fixed sign days bring a steadiness to the day. And days that are in mutable signs can have an uncertain quality to them.

ARIES

Aries

Aries The Ram

Aries is the first sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Ram or Head. It is a masculine, barren, dry fire sign. It is the cardinal fire sign and is associated with the planet Mars and the god of war. This is a good sign to destroy weeds and pests. It is a reliable sign to harvest fruit and root crops during the moon’s 3rd & 4th quarters.
TAURUS

Taurus

Taurus The Bull

Taurus is the second sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Bull or Neck. It is a moist, earthy and feminine sign. Taurus is the fixed earth sign and is associated the planet Venus and the goddess of beauty. Taurus is used to plant crops and flowers when hardiness, stoutness or firmness is an important factor. When the moon is in Taurus during the 1st and 2nd quarters, cabbage, lettuce, kale and other leafy vegetable are planted. Hay, beans, peach and pear trees can be planted in Taurus. During the 3rd and 4th quarters root vegetables like potatoes, turnips, radishes, beets and carrots are planted. Taurus is useful for planting all bulbous plants and flowers.

GEMINI

Gemini The Twins

Gemini The Twins

Gemini is the third sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Twins and rules the Arms and Chest. Gemini is the mutable air sign and is associated with the planet Mercury and the messenger god. Gemini is masculine, dry and barren. It is a good sign for cultivating and stirring up the soil to destroy weeds. Lawns can be mowed at this time to retard growth and root crops and fruit can be harvested in Gemini during the moon’s 3rd and 4th quarter. Gemini is never a good time for transplanting or planting. That said, some moon sign gardeners like to plant runner and pole beans in Gemini and have good success.

CANCER

Cancer

Cancer The Crab

Cancer is the fourth sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Crab and rules the Breast and Stomach. Cancer is the cardinal water sign and is associated with the moon and with women, motherhood and nurturing. Cancer is fruitful, moist and feminine. Of all the signs, Cancer is the most productive and is best used for all plantings. It is an advantageous sign for watering the garden or for irrigation. When the moon is in Cancer during the 1st and 2nd quarters it is an excellent time to graft fruit trees or begin potted stem cuttings. All root vegetables can be planted in Cancer when the moon is in the 3rd or 4th quarter. Alfalfa, melons, tomatoes, wheat, fruit trees and roses all do well when planted in this sign. Keep in mind that because Cancer is such a moist and watery sign, it is not a good time to harvest potatoes or to dry herbs, tomatoes or onions. Things have a tendency not to dry or cure properly in Cancer.

LEO

Leo

Leo The Lion

Leo is the fifth sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Lion and rules the heart and the back. Leo is the fixed fire sign and is associated with the sun and with the concept of father. It is a masculine sign that is deemed to be barren, dry and fiery. In fact of all the signs, Leo is judged as the most barren. Like Aries it is considered to be a “killing sign”. Leo is principally employed to kill weeds, destroy roots and to girdle trees. Leo is also utilized to mow lawns to retard growth and is a good sign to harvest fruit and root crops. Herbs, garlic and onions dry the fastest when harvested in Leo.

VIRGO

Virgo

Virgo The Virgin

Virgo is the sixth sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Virgin and rules the bowels and intestines. Virgo is the mutable earth sign and is associated with the planet Mercury and youth. It is sometimes called the “flower lady” by country people. It is a feminine and moist sign but is considered barren. Virgo is not typically used for planting. Instead like Gemini, Virgo is useful for cultivation. That said, many old-timers believe that Virgo is a good sign to plant vines and for planting certain flowers.Honeysuckle, moon vine, morning glories; peonies and irises are sometimes planted in Virgo.But flowers planted in Virgo produce little seed. Shade trees can be planted in Virgo and will make some leafy growth.

LIBRA

Libra

Libra The Scales

Libra is the seventh sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Scales and rules the kidneys. Old-timers call it the sign of the “Reins”. Libra is the cardinal air sign and is associated with the planet Venus. It is a masculine sign that is moist and semi-fruitful. Interestingly, Libra is the only sign of the zodiac that is not a living creature. Libra is used for planting crops where fleshy growth and spreading roots are desirable. Barley, corn, wheat, rice, oats, millet, spelt and rye can all be seeded and planted in the 1st and 2nd quarter of Libra. Grain planted in Libra will produce a reasonable but not a heavy harvest. Libra is the best sign for planting all vines and is especially useful for fragrant and beautiful flowers.

SCORPIO

Scorpio

Scorpio The Scorpion

Scorpio is the eighth sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Scorpion and rules the reproductive system and genitals. Scorpio is a feminine sign and is fruitful, moist, and watery. It is the fixed water sign that is associated with the planet Mars. Next to Cancer, Scorpio is considered to be almost as fertile. When a Cancer day cannot be used to plant or prune for growth a Scorpio day works almost just as well. Scorpio days during the 1st and 2nd quarter of the moon is used to plant beans, peas, eggplant, cucumbers, asparagus, parsnips, carrots, pumpkins gourds and all types of melons. As with Cancer, do not harvest potatoes or other roots crops because they will not keep in storage.Medicinal herbs are often quite potent when planted or started in Scorpio.

SAGITTARIUS

Sagittarius

Sagittarius The Archer

Sagittarius is the ninth sign of the western zodiac. Sagittarius is the sign of the Archer and rules the hips, thighs and buttocks. Sagittarius is a dry, barren and masculine sign. It is the mutable fire sign and is associated with the planet Jupiter. Sagittarius is used like other fire signs to destroy weeds and pests. It can be a good sign for planting garlic and onions during the moon’s 3rd quarter.

CAPRICORN

Capricorn

Capricorn The Goat

Capricorn is the tenth sign of the western zodiac. Capricorn is the sign of the Goat and rules the knees, bones, hair, teeth and skin. Capricorn is the cardinal earth sign and is associated with the planet Saturn and time. It is a practical and earthy feminine sign that is a little drier than Taurus. During the 3rd and 4th quarter of the moon, Capricorn is useful for planting potatoes, root crops and bulbous plants and flowers. Evergreen trees, shrubs, hedges and living fences can be planted in Capricorn during the 1st and 2nd quarter of the moon. Plants that are used for their seeds, like buckwheat and sunflowers can also be planted in Capricorn.

AQUARIUS

Aquarius The Water Bearer

Aquarius The Water Bearer

Aquarius is the eleventh sign of the western zodiac. Aquarius is the sign of the Water Bearer and rules the legs, calves and ankles. In modern times Aquarius was traditionally ascribed to the planet Saturn.  Aquarius is the fixed air sign. It is ruled to be dry, barren, airy and masculine. During the 3rd and 4th quarter of the moon Aquarius is good for harvesting fruits and root crops.It can be a good sign to harvest medicinal herbs.

 

PISCES

Pisces The Fishes

Pisces The Fishes

Pisces is the twelfth sign of the western zodiac. Pisces is the sign of the Fishes and rules the feet and toes. In modern times Pisces is associated with the planet Neptune, but was traditionally assigned to the planet Jupiter. Pisces is the mutable water sign and is moist, feminine and very fruitful. Like Cancer and Scorpio, Pisces is one of the best signs to plant in. During the 1st and 2nd quarters of the moon, all fruit and deciduous trees can be planted when the moon is in Pisces. Pisces is particularly good for all root growth; and for flowers and for seeding new lawns.

HERE’S A CHART

Remember:

    • God is in control. He is the Author of creation. The laws of the natural world are His alone.
    • Plants that grow above the ground are planted in the increasing light of the moon (waxing)
    • Plants that grow beneath the ground are planted in the decreasing light of the moon (waning)
    • Plants that carry their seeds on the outer part of the plant are planted in the 1st quarter
    • Plants that carry their seed inside the fruit or vegetable are planted in the 2nd quarter
    • Try not to plant during a new moon or during a full moon
    • Nothing takes the place of common sense. Don’t try to plant tomatoes when it’s snowing. Use your head.
    • Plants will grow in every sign of the zodiac and during every phase of the moon. Some planting times are more favorable than other times.The entire point of planting by “the signs” or moon sign gardening is to work with nature and not against it.

 

Guide For Planting By The Signs

Moon Sign Planting Guide

Mummy Apples

Yesterday I worked in my apple orchard removing mummified apples.
Mummy apples are apples that turn brown, shrivel and do not drop from the tree.

A Mummy Apple

A Mummy Apple

Mummy apples contribute to certain disease and fungus cycles in apple trees. Fire Blight and Bitter Rot are the two main diseases that my apple orchard is prone to.

Bitter Rot Apple

An Apple Infected With Bitter Rot

Good sanitation plays an important part of my orchard management program. Lots of orchard headaches can be avoided with careful and timely attention.

Last year I had some trouble with Bitter Rot and Fire Blight on my apple trees and our wet summer weather contributed to the problem.  But I also think the situation was made worse because I didn’t remove the old brown apples in the early part of last spring.




To stop to spread of disease it’s imperative to remove mummified fruit before the spring. When shriveled apples are removed from the trees they should be burned; and burned well away from other apple and fruit trees. That’s because smoke from burning Fire Blight limbs or dried up apples can re-infect the orchard. No sense going through the trouble of picking mummy apples off of trees just to have the trees become re-infected again.

Collecting Mummy Apples

Mummy Apples

Garden Bedding Plant Success

The other day I planted a six-pack of Romaine lettuce in my garden. I thought you might like to see how I do it.




First dig a hole and stir up the soil so that it’s crumby. The hole should be much bigger than the root system.

Plant In Hole

Plant Set Into A Large Hole

Make sure the hole is deep enough so that the plant will be set a little deeper than it was growing.
Carefully remove the plant and place it into the center of the hole. Next pour water into the hole so that it fills the hole.

Bedding Plant

Fill Hole With Water

While holding the plant upright fill in the hole with dirt. The soil should be mounded up gently but firmly around the plant so that no mud or water is visible.
I usually use a 3 prong hand cultivator to scratch the soil and back fill the hole. But a garden rake or hoe works just as well.

Romain Lettuce

Transplanted Romain Lettuce

Bedding plants transplanted by this method suffer less transplant shock and there is little chance of an air pocket to form. The water provides moisture for a few days and aids in pulling the roots down into the hole.
Happy gardening!

The Care & Feeding Of Asparagus

Asparagus care and feeding is pretty simple. Every year in mid spring the green spears of asparagus emerge from the soil ready to be picked off by hand or cut. Once an asparagus bed is established it will continue to grow for years and years in the same spot with minimal attention.

Asparagus

Tall Asparagus. The White Fence Post Is 48″ Tall

In my garden asparagus grow tall and healthy. I think it’s because I never weed the rows of asparagus and because the asparagus are top dressed every year with up to 8” of hardwood ashes .

Feeding Asparagus Wood Ashes

Red Arrow Points To Wood Ashes That Have Been Dumped On A Bed Of Asparagus

Hardwood ashes are a rich source of potassium and asparagus are heavy feeders of potassium.




I almost never feed the asparagus plants anything but ashes. But every 3 or 4 years or so, I’ll dump a load of well-rotted manure on top of the snow-covered beds. As the snow melts in the spring, the goodness of the manure is pulled down into the soil.
I don’t weed my asparagus beds after the first year they are put in.
Life is too short for that kind of nonsense. The beds will certainly grow weedy.

Young Asparagus In May

Young Asparagus In May

But in the fall I burn off the asparagus fronds and the weeds after a hard killing frost. It’s an easy way to maintain the beds and the asparagus seem to thrive on being burned off in the fall.
In the spring I rake out the heaps of wood ash across the beds and sprinkle a small amount of loose agricultural or livestock salt. Salting the beds helps to keep the weeds down before the first asparagus spears appear and gives a month or two of perfect weed control.

 

Borage – A Popular And Beautiful Potherb

Borage is an annual herb with coarse hairy leaves and stems. It grows between 2 to 3 feet tall and often spreads as wide.
Borage (Borago officinalis) is also known as “starflower” and is sometimes called “bee bread”. That’s because of the sky-blue star shaped flowers and because borage is a bee magnet.

Borage In Early Summer

Borage Growing In A Small Kitchen Herb Garden In Early Summer

The honey made from borage flowers has a reputation for being very fine and tasty. Many people plant borage in the vegetable garden for pollination purposes.




I grow borage in my herb garden mainly for the beautiful flowers. I like the color blue and if you ask me you can’t get enough good blues in either the flower or herb garden.

Borage Flower

A Star Shaped Borage Flower

Borage is considered to be a “potherb”.
If you don’t already know, a potherb is a plant whose leaves, stems or flowers are cooked and eaten, or used fresh to season food. Fresh mint is considered to be a potherb. Kale, spinach, beet greens and many other leafy plants are examples of potherbs that are usually cooked.

Borage

Borage Plant

At one time fresh borage flowers were preserved by being candied and during the middle ages wine was infused with borage to banish gloominess and melancholy.

Back in the 1960s it was popular to freeze the star-shaped blue flowers into ice cubes to make pretty summertime drinks. Borage flowers have a slight cucumber like taste and are used in small amounts in summer salads to impart a little zest, zing and beautiful color.
In the last few years or so, there has been interest in borage seed oil.  Borage seed oil contains gamma-linolenic (GLA) and appears to have mild anti-inflammatory effect. Borage seed oil is soothing to eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and other skin disorders and is a source of prostaglandins used to treat menstrual disorders.

Borage is easy to grow in the garden. It prefers to be directly sown and thrives in a dry and sunny location. Borage readily self-sows and comes up every year from the seeds that were dropped from the previous year. Flowers are picked as they open and leaves are harvested fresh.

How To Propagate Plants By Stem Cuttings

One of the fastest and easiest ways to reproduce certain types of plants is by a method known as “stem cuttings”, “truncheon(s)” “striking” or “cloning”.

It is an asexual method of plant propagation that usually requires only a small leafy section of stem from one parent plant. When the stem section from a parent plant is properly prepared and subject to the right conditions, it will grow roots and becomes an independent plant and clone of the parent.

Plant propagation by stem cuttings is a foundation homestead skill that is fun, economical and very easy to learn. Once you acquire the art and skill to clone a plant from a stem cutting, a large part of the plant world becomes your playground. You might even find yourself carrying a pocket knife and a plastic bag everywhere you go.
What’s more, if you have a “green thumb” and are so inclined, the propagation of plants by stem cuttings can become the underpinning for a very lucrative home based business.

However a few words of caution. Some plants are patented protected so take care not to break patent laws by offering a patented plant for sale. If the patented plant is propagated for your own use and not for commercial gains there is usually not a patent protection problem or issue.

What follows below is a brief list of some of the herbs, flowers and shrubs that I have propagated by stem cutting.

Roses  (my favorite) Rosemary Rose of Sharon
English Ivy Mint African Violets
Chrysanthemums Lavender Poinsettia
Blueberry Scented Geraniums Gardenia
Elderberry Thyme Forsythia
Holly Yew Lemon Verbena
Wisteria Lilac Jasmine
Bay Laurel (not 100% successful) Mock Orange Rhododendron

The above list is by no means a complete list of what can be propagated by stem cutting. Hundreds of different varieties of plants, herbs, shrubs and trees can be propagated by the home gardener. I would encourage you to visit other gardening websites or forums to see the various types of plants that other people have reproduced in their gardens.

Here’s What You’ll Need To Get Started
When it comes to reproducing new plants from stem cuttings not too much is needed in the way of special equipment. Most of what is required can be found around the homestead or in a garden shed.
The method I use employs:

  • A Parent Plant
  • The Months of May, June, July, August & September
  • A Clean Pot
  • Sterile Potting Soil
  • A Wide-Mouth Canning Jar
  • A Small Knife
  • Garden Pruners
  • A Watering Can
  • A Semi-Shady Location
  • Honey
  • Patience

Choosing the Parent Plant
Basically there are 4 distinct types of cuttings or truncheons because there are many types of plants. The four different types are: herbaceous cuttings, soft wood cuttings, semi-hardwood cuttings and hardwood cuttings.
The type of cutting and the timing for the propagation depend upon the plant. That’s because not all plants have the same growing habits or needs.
A simple comparison for example: A spider plant (indoor herbaceous plant) will start to grow roots much faster than boxwood (semi-hardwood outdoor shrub). The spider plant doesn’t favor a certain season to be reproduced by cloning but the boxwood most certainly does. An understanding of the growth habits of the plant you want to reproduce helps to insure greater propagation success.
I have found that the very easiest plants to reproduce are usually herbaceous plants and soft wood shrubs. Many houseplants and some outdoor plants are quickly propagated by simply cutting a leaf or a branch and inserting it into a vase or jar of water on a bright or sunny window sill. African violets, pussy willow, mint, begonia, coleus, roses, philodendron, sweet basil and many more, can all be started this way. The down side of rooting a stem cutting in water is that the roots are often very brittle and will break or degrade when planted in soil.
A much better way to start stem cuttings is by properly preparing the stem cutting and planting it into sterile soil.




Here’ One Way To Root Stem Cuttings

I cloned a few “Yellow Submarine” rose bushes last summer by way of stem cuttings.The basic principle is the same for all soft wood cuttings – not just roses. I wanted roses but blueberry bushes, pussy willow, trumpet vines, boxwood, juniper, jasmine and hundreds of other plants can be started the way you’ll see below.

Very thorny modern landscape roses like “Yellow Submarine” or “Knockout”; or old-fashion roses or heritage roses like “Comte de Chambord “, “Zephirine Drouhin” or “Dorothy Perkins” will have a high success rate (I get about 70% -80%) when propagating by stem cuttings.
But not all roses or other plants will have the same success rate so it’s important to be prepared for failure and some losses. But also be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.  More than once I’ve had a 100% success rate. A lot depends upon the plant and weather conditions and a gardener’s attentiveness.

To begin the “Yellow Submarine” rose-bush propagation I collected and prepared ahead of time six clean plastic pots filled with sterile soil and six 2-quart Mason jars.  Stem cuttings need lots of humidity and moisture in order to grow roots. The Mason jars are placed over the cuttings and act like little green houses. The Mason jars are removed after the stem cutting has begun to grow its own roots and is well started.
I collected the stem pieces for the roses in the morning hours during the middle of June.

Parent Bush

Parent Bush – A Yellow Submarine Rose

That’s because I wanted stem cuttings that were actively growing soft wood. Early summer is perfect for that type of growth and the early morning hours will most often find plant stems turgid and well hydrated.
Active growing soft wood is very firm and will have mature opened leaves and leaves that are still immature.
When I take stem cuttings I try to find sections from the bush or plant that have branching off shoots or a “v” type notch in the stem. The section on the stem where the off shoot branch or “v” notch is located contains specialized cells or growth nodes that will readily root the stem section once it is properly prepared.

Side Branch Stem Cutting

A Stem Cutting With a Side Branch Notch

With roses I cut about a 6”-12” section from the parent plant. The section must have healthy leaves and no flowers or flower buds. That because the plant’s energy should go towards root formation and not to flower production.

When collecting the stem cuttings I place and hold them in a bucket of water in the shade while I work. It’s important that the stems don’t dry out or become stressed in any way.

Bucket Of Stem Cuttings

Stem Cuttings Are Held In A Bucket Of Water So That They Don’t Dry Out

When I’m ready to begin the preparation of the stem cuttings I work in the shade with a knife and a small bowl of honey.

Cutting, Honey & Pruners

Honey For Stem Cutting For Roses

Each rose stem cutting is stripped of about two-thirds of its leaves and all thorns along the stem are removed. With the knife about a 2” section of green is gently scrape away until the white part of the stem is exposed. I also pierce the stem with the knife. Where the stem has been scraped and pierced is where the roots will form.

Scraped & Pierced

The Stem Of A Rose Plant Cutting Is Pierced & Scraped To Expose The Cells Needed To Grow Roots

After the stem has been scraped, I dip or coat the entire exposed and scraped section of the stem in honey. Many people will use rooting hormone powder instead of honey. The rooting powder crowd insists that it works better than honey but I’ve never noticed any difference. If anything, I think the honey works better because it has antiseptic properties, sticks to the stem better and gives the stem cutting cells a little extra sugar.

Dipped In Honey

Cutting Dipped In Honey To Help Grow Roots

Once the stem cutting has been scraped, pierced and dipped into honey it is inserted into very wet and sterile potting soil and gently tamped into place. The stem cutting is placed most of the way into the soil up with about a 1″- 4″ distance from the first remaining leaves.

Newly Planted

The Stem Cutting Is Planted Into A Pot

After the cutting has been planted, a Mason jar is placed firmly over the cutting leaving plenty of head room. The pot is then flooded with water and  moved to a semi-shaded location for about 8-12 weeks.

Newly Planted Stem Cutting

Day 1 – A Newly Planted Stem Cutting with A Mason Jar

I keep my stem cuttings on top of an old well with a hand pump for watering convenience. It is important that the soil around the cuttings stay moist but overly not wet. Don’t let them dry out too much or they may die.

Rose Cuttings

Rose Cuttings In The Semi-Shade

It takes on average about 3 to 9 weeks for rose cutting to begin to grow roots. I will usually start to check for roots about week 4 or 5.

Roots Are Growing

Small Roots Are Beginning To Grow On The Cutting

Once root growth has commenced I remove the Mason jar for a few hours during the day so that the baby plant can grow accustomed to normal air circulation. If at any time the newly developed plant starts to look stressed or wilted I will replaced the Mason jar for another week or so. Also if any flower buds begin to form I will remove them so the new plant conserves its energy and puts effort into growing leaves and roots.

Establised Cutting

Mason Jars Are Removed Once The Cuttings Become Established

With the “Yellow Submarine” rose stem cuttings I started last June, good sturdy roots were developed by the end of August.
By the end of October they had formed a respectable root mass and were transplanted from their pots into the garden next to their parents.

Root Ball

The Root System On A 12 Week Old Rose Bush

Out of the six stem cuttings that I made all but one grew roots. I lost three by continually digging them up by the roots to take pictures.
*** 2 years later ***
The cuttings all became beautiful and healthy landscape roses. They were dug up and given away when I decided to make my rose garden smaller.

Yellow Roses

Yellow Roses Grown From A Cutting

Kitchen Herb Garden

I keep a small kitchen herb garden right off my front porch. It’s a convenient location. While I’m cooking if I need fresh parsley, basil, sage, rosemary, mint or any other herb, it’s just a quick trip out the door.

Kitchen herb gardens that backup to a house or any other building, in general do best when facing south. That’s because a southern exposure usually insures full sun and keeps the herbs out of the shade or shadows.

Kitchen Herb Garden

Kitchen Herb Garden

Most kitchen herbs require very average to poor soil and lots of sunshine to be healthy and vigorous. About 8 to 12 hours of sun a day is best for most common garden herbs. The exceptions that I can think of are the various types of mints, lemon balm and sometimes sweet woodruff.

Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff

Those herbs will do quite well in a moist, semi-shaded location. Mints thrive in dappled sunlight and in rich, loamy soil. In my herb garden I keep a path made of flat stones to help keep my feet dry and clean while I gather herbs or work in the garden.
Now that fall is here it is easy to see the configuration of the herb garden. During the summer months the basic structure of the garden is hidden under all the plant growth.

Kitchen Herb Garden

Herb Garden In November




How & When To Pick Pears

In my corner of the world, this year has been a good year for pears. I have only two pear trees in my small orchard but they are among my personal favorites. The trees are fairly young trees and were planted within the last 7 years or so.
One tree is a red Anjou and the other is a Bartlett (sometimes known as a Williams’s pear). The red Anjou tree is still immature and has only begun to set fruit within the last 2 years. The Bartlett tree matured more quickly and has been producing fruit dependably for the last 3 or 4 years. Both trees were set back by heavy deer damage when they were 1 year whips and 2 year olds.  After we finally put a deer proof fence around the orchard they grew much better.

Bartlett Pears

Bartlett Pears On Tree

This year the Bartlett tree was so loaded with pears that the top leader limb of the tree snapped from the weight of fruit. I regret that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the pear trees and should have thinned some of the fruit off the Bartlett tree in June to help relieve the weight. No permanent damage was done to the tree, but next spring special care will be taken when pruning it.
Pears unlike apples are best picked while they are still slightly immature. The finest quality pears for fresh eating or for home canning are pears that are ripen off the tree.




A pear that is allowed to ripen on a tree often has a mealy texture and a soft or mushy core. That’s because pears tend to ripen from the inside out. Often when a pear looks soft, ripe and ready on the tree, the interior is usually on its way to rotten.
A pear is ready to be picked when it will snap away from the tree while being lifted up towards the sky.

Picking Pears

Picking a Pear That’s Ready For Harvest

To ripen fresh picked pears, place them in a cool dark location like a cellar.
If you don’t have a root cellar and only need to ripen a few pears, place the pears in a brown paper bag with a ripe apple or banana. The ripening apple or banana gives off ethylene gas which will stimulate the  ripening of the pears. Pears are ready for canning and for fresh eating when the flesh around the stem area gives slightly under firm pressure.

Do You Know Which Way Vines Grow?

It’s an interesting natural phenomenon that 92% of all vines and plants that twist and climb, do so in a counterclockwise direction.
People living in the northern hemisphere at one time believed that vines growing in the northern hemisphere twisted and grew in a counterclockwise direction; and that vines growing in the southern hemisphere twisted and grew in a clockwise direction.
But folks living in the southern hemisphere believed that their vines grew counterclockwise; and vines growing in the northern hemisphere grew and spiraled in a clockwise direction.

Vine Growing Counter Clockwise

Morning Glory Growing With a Counter Clockwise Twist

Turns out folks in both hemispheres were wrong. It was an incorrect notion based in part on a misinterpretation of the Coriolis effect.


Plant scientist Angela Moles disproved the idea  of vine hemispheric twining orientation and put the argument to rest after she spent 2 years traveling the world and visiting 75 different ecosystems. She observed 13,000 plant species in such diverse locations as the Congo, China, Patagonia, South Africa; the temperate forests of America, Panama, Sweden, Zambia and Norway.




Ms. Moles expected that vines would follow the direction of the sun and was surprised by her own observations,
“I thought we were going to see mostly clockwise plants in the northern hemisphere, and mostly anticlockwise plants in the southern hemisphere. This is what you would expect if the tips of the vines were tracking the apparent movement of the sun across the sky while they were on the sunny side of the tree trunk they are climbing.”
Ms. Moles noticed that while most vines at each study location were twisting and growing counterclockwise, she found some that curled to the right in a clockwise direction.
“Sometimes all the clockwise ones were of a particular species, but some species have both left-handed and right-handed individuals.”
Plant scientists now theorize that the reason plants disregard the Coriolis effect may be a function of a left-handed bias of all biological molecules in nature.
Pretty interesting stuff.

Morning Glory Vines

Morning Glory Vines Growing Up String

Cut Scapes For Bigger Garlic

Here’s a simple trick for bigger garlic bulbs. Cut the scape from the garlic plant before it begins to mature and produce bulblets.  A scape is the immature flower of a garlic plant.
All varieties of garlic will produce a scape, but only the hard neck Rocambole type will produce a scape that curls.

Cut Scape For Bigger Garlic

Garlic At The End Of June

The curl of the stem is the reason Rocambole garlic is sometimes called “Serpent Garlic“.
Yesterday I cut the tops off of my garlic so that it would produce a bigger bulb.

Garlic Scape

Garlic Scapes Collected After Cutting Them Off The Garlic Plants

By cutting the scapes, the plant’s energy will go to the bulb and not to the flowers and will enable it to produce the biggest possible bulb.

Foxgloves

Foxgloves are blooming along the hill in the pasture beneath my house.
They are escapees from my flower garden from a time long ago when I used to grow them. I’ve often thought about moving a few of them back into my flower garden, but I don’t do it because they could never look as beautiful confined to a flower bed as they look blooming wild.

Foxgloves

Foxgloves Blooming Wild

Foxgloves are a biennial plant but they self-sow so readily that they act like a perennial. They grow to between 3′ to 5′ tall and will flower the second year.
The leaves of the plant are the source of the heart medicine digitalis (Digoxin) which is used to treat heart failure, atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. Foxgloves came to the attention of modern western medicine in 1775. It seems that an English physician named William Withering had a patient with congestive heart failure.

Dr. Withering gave up all hope for his patient and sent him home to die. A short time later the good doctor discovered that a woman folk healer had completely healed his patient with a concoction of about 20 different herbs. Dr. Withering investigated the story and ascertained that foxgloves (digitalis) was the herb that had saved the man’s life.

Fox Gloves

The Bell Shaped Flowers Of Common Foxgloves

In small doses digitalis is a life saver. But in larger doses it can be deadly. Digitalis increases the contraction of the heart but can also increase blood pressure to dangerously high levels. Foxgloves sometimes acts as a diuretic and at one time was used to treat skin inflammations.

All parts of the plant are toxic. Hence digitalis is also known as Witches’ Gloves and Dead Men’s Bells.




How & When to Dry Herbs

I harvested chamomile flowers the other day for tea.The flowers were gently dried in an electric dehydrator for about 18 hours and then transferred to a wide mouth Mason jar with a lid for storage. Chamomile like most ordinary kitchen or medicinal herbs are easily dried for storage.

Dried Herbs

Dried Chamomile Flowers

WHEN TO HARVEST HERBS
If herbs are going to be dried for storage they need to be perfectly dry when you harvest them. Pick them on a sunny day if possible and after all the morning dew has dried. Only harvest the best quality herbs.
Remember – “Garbage in -Garbage out.”

Drying won’t improve the quality of an unhealthy plant or a herb that is past its prime.
All herbs dry best when they are picked during a waning moon and in the signs of Aries, Leo or Sagittarius. In fact the further you get from the full moon the better they will dry. Herbs that are harvested when the moon is waxing or full, or harvested when the moon is in the sign of Cancer, will have a tendency to go moldy and to spoil.
If herbs are to be used fresh or for medicinal uses they are most flavorful and potent when harvested while the moon is waxing or full.




Folk wisdom informs us that herbs to be used for healing purposes are best picked in the spring or early summer during the light of a full moon, or when the moon is in the sign of Scorpio. To dry the herbs wait for the full moon to pass and begin to wane. You can consult any good almanac for information about daily lunar cycles and the moon’s age and location.

Herbs In Garden

Watering Can & Chamomile

HOW TO DRY THEM
I like to use a cheap plastic electric dehydrator for most kitchen herbs. Parsley, lemon balm, bay leaves, rosemary, sage, tarragon, sweet basil and all kinds of mint dry to perfection in a food dehydrator.
The dehydrator is preheated for about an hour before I put the herbs in. Depending upon the relative humidity most herbs will dry within 2 to 24 hours.

Dry Chamomile

Electric Dehydrator Tray With Chamomile

Herbs are dry when the stems break easily and the leaves or flowers readily crumble. A barely warm electric or gas oven also works well to dry herbs and some people do use a microwave oven.

With small leaf herbs like marjoram, thyme and oregano, I like to dry them on a screen. I use an ordinary window screen laid across two saw horses. The screen is placed in a very warm, shady and sheltered dry location. I think screen drying works better than the food dehydrator for small leafed herbs. That’s because when plant material dries it shrinks, and small leafed herbs once they shrink will tend to fall through a plastic dehydrator tray. Hanging mesh drying racks are also a good way to dry small herbs. The hanging racks save on space and allow air to circulate around the herbs. Air circulation is important when drying herbs in humid weather.

For those of you who like the convenience of “pick ’em off while you cook”, many dried herbs do well just hung in bunches from the kitchen or pantry ceiling.
Long stemmed or large leafed herbs like dill, mints, sweet basil, fennel, anise, bee balm and lavender are very easily dried by being tied into bundles and then hung upside down in a warm location. I use new rubber bands to hold the bundles together. With herbs that have small seed heads like dill, anise or coriander I will place a small paper bag over the heads and tie the bag securely to the stems of the herb. That way when the seed heads begin to dry, the seeds that fall will fall into the bag and not on the floor to be wasted.

Glass Mason jars are perfect for storing herbs but plain paper bags work well too. Dried herbs are stronger tasting than fresh herbs so be sure to take that into consideration when you cook with them.




Aphids – What They Are & Ways To Control Them

I noticed the other day that my rose bushes have aphids.

WHAT’S AN APHID?
Aphids, sometimes called plant lice, are very small sap sucking insects. There are many different species of aphids and they come in different sizes.
Aphids may be green, red, brown, black and sometimes a fuzzy white or gray. All aphids no matter how small, have tiny pear-shaped bodies with long legs and antennae.

Aphids

Aphids On Roses

Aphids commonly begin to infest rose bushes this time of the year, especially when roses are side dressed with composted manure or are fertilized heavy. High levels of nitrogen encourage aphid reproduction and aphids tend to do the most damage when temperatures are between 65° – 80°F.
During the hot summer months apples trees can suffer from wooly apple aphids, green apple aphids and rosy apple aphids.




Ants and aphids are often partners in crime.
If you see ants in large numbers crawling up a tree or a bush, you can be pretty sure that aphids are present. In some situations ants will watch over and protect aphids from predators because ants like to feed on the sticky “honeydew” that aphids excrete.
Aphids and ants go together like peas and carrots.

Aphids will not kill a large plant, rose bush or fruit tree, but a heavy infestation can cause leaves to curl, deform flowers and weaken plants.
Aphids do spread plant viruses and young plant seedlings are very susceptible to aphid damage. Cabbage, beets, melons, squashes, pumpkins, potatoes and beans often suffer from aphid transmitted viruses.

A FEW WAYS TO CONTROL APHIDS
Aphids are very easy to control and it seems that every gardener has their own personal favorite aphid remedy.

For just a few plants and a light infestation, aphids can be removed by hand or sprayed off the plant/plants with a spray or stream of water from a garden hose. If you are going to control aphids with a spray of water it is best to do it early in the day so the plants can dry off in the sun and thereby reduce the possibility of fungal diseases.

For more serious infestations especially in fruit trees, aphids can be controlled by means of a chemical control like malathion, permethrin and acephate .

For gardeners who prefer a more natural approach to pest control, soapy water delivered by means of a pressure tank sprayer or a small squirt or spray bottle works well.
For fruit trees I use a ¼ cup of Dawn dish detergent or Murphy Oil Soap in a 3-gallon spray tank of water. I spray only the trunk of the trees and never the leaves or fruit.
But take care and don’t use a soapy water spray on over stressed plants or when temperatures are above 90 F.  because you’ll burn the leaves and do more harm than good.

No matter what type of spray you choose, be sure to spray the underside of the plant leaves where aphids tend to hide.
Aphids do have natural enemies and predators and sometimes biological controls can be effective in reducing aphid populations especially in small backyards.
Lady bugs, lace wings and syrphid flies are the best known predators of aphids. Lady bugs can be ordered by mail and when properly handled can afford some relief to a heavy aphid infestation.

Chamomile – Why You May Want To Grow It In Your Garden

Chamomile is just starting to bloom in my small herb garden. It’s a common bushy garden herb with small daisy type flowers and with a fragrance similar to apples. Considered both a kitchen and medicinal herb it is easy to grow plant. All it needs is full direct sun and average soil conditions.
Chamomile will readily volunteer new plants every year and can be treated like a perennial. There are a few different types of chamomile. The type that I have growing in my garden is ordinary German chamomile.

 Chamomile

German Chamomile

Chamomile is easily started in the garden by simply sprinkling the seed onto prepared ground and gently raking it into the soil. It’s okay if the seed isn’t completely covered or is just covered ever so lightly.
Stamp the seed firmly so that it makes good soil contact and water well.

And before too long, you’ll have more chamomile then you’ll know what to do with. But be careful – after a few years it can take over your garden or lawn and become invasive if you don’t weed out some of the plants regularly.

 USES FOR CHAMOMILE
It’s the yellow and white daisy like flowers that are primarily dried and infused in water to make a tea. The tea is most often sweeten with honey or sometimes lemon and cane sugar.

Chamomile

Old Watering Can & Chamomile

Chamomile has been used for centuries to calm fretful and colicky babies and is a well-known and very safe sleep aid for adults.
It is often useful for soothing heartburn, nausea and the miserable after effects of vomiting.
Some people will use it as a soothing wash for hemorrhoids and it is sometimes used to treat minor skin irritations. It is also used as a mouthwash or hair rinse for blondes.

HOW TO HARVEST AND DRY CHAMOMILE
To collect the flowers for drying, pick a hot, sunny dry day. Make sure the morning dew is off the plants.
You can pick the flowers individually or you can use a rat-tail comb with a double row of teeth and “comb” the flower heads off the plant.
Once collected the flowers can be dried on a screen, in a basket, in a paper bag; or in a lined food dehydrator. A slightly warm oven or any other drying method that you prefer is also a good way to dry it. But do take care because chamomile will dry very quickly and it is easy to over dry it.
When the flowers are completely dried store them in a tightly covered container and in dark dry location.




Soak Hard Seeds For Easier Germination

Sometimes hard seeds need a little help. Did you know that if you soak hard coated flower seeds like Morning Glories, Sweet Peas, Four O’clock or Moon Flowers in water for 24 hours before you plant them that they will germinate easier? It’s true. In nature hard seeds are usually dropped in the autumn. The hard coating is naturally worn away by moisture and the freeze/thaw cycle during the winter and early spring months.

Moring Glories Have Hard Seeds

A Morning Glory Vine

Adding a little milk, lemon juice or vinegar to the water helps to break down the hard seed coating and allows for an easier seed germination.

Soaking Hard Seeds

Soaking Morning Glory Seeds For 24 Hours Before Planting

Another trick is to nick the bottom of the hard seed with a nail file or sharp knife before it is soaked.
With Morning Glories I will usually nick about half of the seeds in a standard package before soaking them in water.
With Sweet Peas, Four O’clock s and Moon Flowers I soak them in water but seldom bother to nick them.

Filing A Hard Seed

Using A Nail File To Cut Through A Hard Seed Shell

How To Feed & Fertilize Fruit Trees

It’s important to feed fruit trees every year and to feed them only once a year. Fruit trees should never be over fertilized and should be fed when they are at “silver tip” in early spring. Silver tip is when the buds on fruit trees are still completely tight and unopened. The buds have a slightly pump appearance and are a gray silver in color.

Fruit Tree At Silver Tip

Silver Tip On Apple Trees In Early Spring

I  use calcium nitrate 15-5-00 – sometimes called  Norgessalpete or Norwegian saltpeter * Ca(NO3)2* to feed the trees in my orchard.
Calcium nitrate can be hard to find in large quantities because saltpeter can be used along with diesel fuel to manufacture homemade bombs. But it is still readily available in small amounts. Expect to spend between $5 – $20 per tree when fertilizing.

The trees are fed by sprinkling the fertilizer from the base of the tree to the “drip line”. The drip line for a tree is directly underneath the farthest extending branches.
I feed my fruit trees at the following rates:

  • 8lbs. for large trees
  • 6 lbs. for medium trees
  • 1 lb. for small trees




Reasons To Use A Broadfork or Hand Tiller In Your Garden

A broadfork or a hand tiller is a low tech garden tool. It is sometimes called a “U-bar” because of the square shape.
The broadfork or hand tiller is used primarily to break open the earth to allow aeration and deeper soil penetration for better plant root development without an undue disturbance to the basic soil structure.
A broadfork will not destroy earthworms or their tunnels or the beneficial flora and fauna in the soil. A hand tiller does not collapse or invert the soil like a rototiller will.

Worm

A Garden Worm In A Worm Hole

A hand tiller can work and loosen the soil at more than twice the depth of standard 4 or 5 prong garden forks. It can loosen the soil much deeper than a rototiller can.




A broadfork is easier to use than a standard  garden fork and can cover a greater amount of garden space in less time. That’s because a garden fork requires the gardener to use their shoulders, arms and back.  Whereas a hand tiller uses a natural back and forth rocking motion and most of the work is accomplished by the weight of the gardener standing across the tines of the broadfork.

Broadfork or Hand Tiller

Using A Broadfork or Hand Tiller To Prepare Soil In Early Spring

The deeper the soil is loosened the better plant roots can develop. No other garden tool can loosen soil or hardpan to the depth that a broadfork can.

And unlike a rototiller, a broadfork requires no pushing, no fossil fuel, is great for raised bed gardens and is kind to families on a budget.
Broadforks are also used to mix nutrients into the soil in early spring or fall and are useful for digging root crops like potatoes.
For most family gardens the only real tools that are needed are a good garden rake, a shovel, a hoe and a broadfork.

Rosemary – The Herb Of Remembrance

I keep a small herb garden next to my kitchen door. It makes collecting fresh herbs while I’m cooking convenient. Years ago when I first moved to Pennsylvania I was dishearten to find that some herbs that I had always grown as perennials would not stand the harsh winters of western Pennsylvania. One perennial herb that I have to replant every year in my herb garden is common rosemary.

Rosemary

Common Rosemary

Rosemary is a wonderfully fragrant herb with small pointed evergreen leaves. It is native to the Mediterranean basin and in western culture it is often associated with the Virgin Mary because of its blue flowers. As a kitchen herb it is used to season lamb, pork, chicken and in stews. But be careful when you use it. A little rosemary goes a long way. It’s easy to overpower a recipe with it.

The essential oil of rosemary is used to make Hungary Water, incense and perfume.  Rosemary has a traditional use for restoring memory, curing headaches and at one time was burned in sick rooms with Juniper berries as a disinfectant. Rosemary is associated with love, steadfastness and faithfulness and was commonly woven into bridal wreaths. In some parts of Wales it is still the custom to give small sprigs of rosemary to funeral guests and mourners to throw into the new grave.




New plants are best started from cuttings and not from seed. Rosemary that is grown from seed is often inferior to that which is started from a slip. Rosemary is very happy to live as a potted plant and can be moved indoors to a very sunny window sill during the winter.
Rosemary requires a full sun location for best fragrance, ordinary to poor soil and not too much water.

Apple Trees – Selection, Planting & Basic Care

I own a small apple orchard of about 35 trees. I started my orchard over 27 years ago when I moved to my farm as a new bride. At the time my husband and I had just started to remake his old family homestead.The farm had been left idle for an entire generation and we had more repairs and bills than we had money for. At that time the local 4-H sold fruit trees as a club project for $7 apiece. Each year I could only afford to buy 5 or 6 at a time.

Apple Trees In Bloom

25 Year Old Apple Trees In Bloom

Back in those days I drove a school bus and I made $24 a day before taxes. So $35 was a lot of money for us. Every spring I scrimped on my groceries to pay for the apple trees and I often drove 50 miles on slick snow-covered back roads to pick them up.




As a new homesteader I believed then as I do now, that it is important to plant fruit trees first when settling in at a new place. I had taken a lesson from the early settlers of Pennsylvania who depended upon apples for fruit, cider and vinegar for food preservation. Fruit trees came before anything else.

Wooden Cider Press

A Wooden Cider Press

Apple trees can last a lifetime. And depending upon the variety, they’ll take from between 2 – 10 years to mature and produce fruit. Fruit trees are a keystone in the foundation that home food production and self-reliance is built upon.
If you would like to add apple trees to your homestead and are perhaps a bit hesitant, I hope this article will encourage and assure you that a few apple trees or a small home orchard is a worthwhile investment and is much less trouble than most people imagine it to be.

Apples In October

Picked Apples In October Ready To Be Made Into Cider

Location
When planning a home orchard picking the right location is critical to its success. Unlike a vegetable or flower garden, an orchard cannot be picked up and moved to another location once it is planted.
Apples and all fruit trees need at least 8 -10 hours of full sun every day. Fruit trees need plenty of space between them so the air can freely circulate. Never plant apple trees or any type of fruit tree in a low-lying wet area. You’ll also want to avoid areas where frost can run down a hillside or collect in pockets.

Types of Trees
It’s important that you pick the right size apple tree for your location. With modern apple trees there are basically three sizes: dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard. Dwarf apples trees are the smallest and standard apple trees are the largest. Most modern commercial apple orchards are planted in semi-dwarf trees. With modern apples it’s the type of root-stock  that determines the size.
Modern apples are actually grafts that are made in two parts – the scion section and the root. The two parts are made to grow together to form the tree.

Apple Scions & Root Stock

Apple Scions & Root-Stock

The scion is the top part of the tree. It’s the part that’s above the ground. It’s the part of the tree that branches and bears fruit. Scions are grafted onto different types of root-stock.

Root Stock

Root-Stock Before The Scion Has Been Grafted

The variety of apple is determined by the scion variety and not the root-stock. The root-stock is what determines how big the tree will be. The scion and the root-stock are two completely different things.

Apple Scion

A “Grimes Golden” Apple Scion Before It Is Grafted Onto Root-Stock

The scion/root-stock union  graft is a slight bump area about 1 ½” to 4” above the roots of a fruit tree. Many different types of apple varieties are available on dwarf, semi-dwarf or standard size trees.

Grafted Apple Whips

Newly Grafted Apple Trees Potted Up. They Will Be Ready To Plant In 1 Year

Since it’s the root-stock that determines size you can have Honey Crisp, Macintosh, Red Delicious, Empire or most any other type of apple on a dwarf, semi-dwarf or standard size tree.
The variety of apple is not determined by the size of the tree.

When you get your first apples will depend upon the variety of apple and the size of the tree. Just remember that the bigger the tree the longer the wait. A standard size apple tree can take up to seven years to produce apples. A semi-dwarf tree usually produces its first fruit within 2 or 3 years. And a dwarf apple tree can produce fruit the first year after it’s planted. Dwarf trees are very poplar for that reason. Dwarf trees are perfect for small areas where space is a problem. They can do well on decks and patios when planted in very large pots with good drainage.
And just so you know some people say it takes at least 20 leaves on a tree to produce one apple. So according to that theory you’ll need at least 100 leaves on your apple tree to get 5 apples.

Pick the Right Variety
There’s a big difference in apple varieties and different apples are used for different purposes.
There are cooking apples, eating apples and apples for storage. Certain types of apples make better cider and vinegar. It just depends on what you want. Different varieties do different things. All apples don’t ripen at the same time. Some are considered early apples and the ripen in July. Other apples are late varieties and aren’t ready until the end of October. Different apple varieties have different cultivation requirements, disease resistance and spurring habits. Apple spurs are the small knobs on an apple branch that produce fruit.
Not all apples trees produce fruit every year. Sometimes they will skip a year.

Silver Tip

Silver Tip On Apple Trees In Early Spring

When selecting an apple variety for your homestead keep in mind what types of fungus or diseases are prevalent in your area. A trip to a local apple orchard or grower can be helpful in determining this information. You could try calling your local state agricultural extension office for information. But that might be a big waste of time if it is staffed by the kind of idiots we have here in Pennsylvania.

Here’s an example of why local disease information is important:
Let’s say that apple scab is a problem in your area. Then you would do better to pick a scab resistant apple like “Liberty” or “Red Free”. If fire blight  is a problem in your location “Prima” would be a good choice and you might want to forget about “Rome” apples. If bitter rot is a problem in your area, it’s important to know that certain varieties like “Empire” and “Granny Smith” are harder hit.

Bitter Rot

Bitter Rot On An “Empire” Apple

It’s only by knowing your location and your own particular piece of ground can you understand and make an informed decision about what particular variety of apple will do best for you.

When buying fruit trees I strongly caution you to avoid potted trees from big box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Don’t waste your money.
Only buy fruit trees from a reputable nursery.

Stark Brothers is a good company to do business with. But there also are many other reputable family owned nurseries to choose from.
If you do decide to buy an already potted fruit tree from a local nursery just make sure that it is guaranteed. Most reputable companies will guarantee their trees for at least one year.
I think the best trees for the home orchard are one-year old whips or 2 year-old bare root-stock. A small tree with a good root system will always transplant better than a larger tree. Only plant fruit trees in the spring or in the autumn when the trees have no leaves on them. Planting any type of deciduous tree while it’s in leaf is a risky business.
When planting any type of tree make sure that you plant the tree in a large enough hole. You don’t want to crowd or jam the roots into a too small hole. Try not to break the roots.
There’s an old expression about planting trees:
“You’ll do better to plant a dime size tree in a dollar hole, than to plant a dollar tree in a dime hole.”

How & When To Plant An Apple Tree

Take my advice and consult an almanac before you breakout the garden rake or shovel. That’s because the best time to plant an apple tree is in the moon’s 3rd quarter. All trees and perennial plants will form a deeper and sturdier root system when plated in the decrease of the moon. If at all possible plant trees in the sign of the Bull (Taurus) and avoid the fruitful or watery signs like Cancer, Pisces or Scorpio. Trees planted in fruitful signs tend to make a strong top growth at the expense of the roots. When planting young trees the formation of a strong root system is critical to its future.

Autumn is my personal preferred planting time for trees but spring planting can be just as successful. The advantage to a fall planting is that young trees have an extra 2 or 3 months to develop strong roots before the warm season arrives again. Fruit trees benefit from a longer season of cool rainy weather after planting. And just so you know most mail order nurseries are set up for a spring rush but do offer fruit trees for sale in the latter part of the year. However the selection is not as good.
When you get your apple tree(s) it is very important that they do not dry out before planting.

Apple Tree In A Bucket Of Water

Apple Whip Held In Water To Prevent Drying Out While Planting

Keep them in a dark, cool location and very well wrapped until planting. Wait to plant until the soil is open and workable and try to pick a cool overcast day in the moon’s 3rd quarter as suggested. Don’t try to plant too early in the spring or when the ground is saturated and wet. This is especially true for heavy clay type soils.
To plant an apple tree correctly you’ll first need to dig a large enough hole. You want the hole to be at least 4” wider than the very widest part of the roots. If your tree is bare root it is a good idea to make a small saddle for the roots. A root saddle is a small hump of dirt in the middle of the hole for the center part of the root mass to rest upon. The way I do it, is I get inside the hole and form a little conical-shaped dirt mountain. I place the center of the roots on top of the dirt saddle and allow the roots to cascade down over the little dirt hump. If your tree is a potted tree, you will need to carefully remove it from its pot and if it is wrapped in burlap or potted in a fiber pot you’ll have to do nothing. Just set the pot in – burlap and all.
When you put your tree in the hole try to have the sturdiest part of the scion graft facing against the prevailing wind. When I first planted my orchard years ago I really didn’t know what I was doing. I planted some of my trees with the scion graft facing into the wind. So over time the trees began lean over because the wind was blowing against the weakest part of the graft.
Once the tree is placed in the hole and the scion union is facing the right direction, you’ll want to flood the hole with water. I always pour an entire 5-gallon bucket of water into the hole.

Apple Tree Being Planted

Apple Whip In A Flooded Hole During Planting

Pouring water into the planting hole serves two purposes. The first is that it helps to pull all of the roots down and helps to prevent air pockets that can sometimes occur when the soil is placed back into the hole. Secondly, the water will help prevent the tree from drying out in the event of an unseasonably warm spell and lessens the stress of transplanting.
Next fill the hole back in. It’s okay to place the grass or turf back into the hole. What I do is turn the turf upside down and stuff it back into the hole. I next slowly rake the dirt back into the hole. Allow some of the water to recede in the hole before gently but firmly tamping the dirt with your foot. You want to insure that there are no dead spaces or air pockets in the hole.

After Planting You’ll Need To Prune, Water & Spray
Here comes the hard part. After your tree is planted it needs to be pruned immediately keeping a 3 to 1 ratio.
That is, you want to keep the top leader or the branches one-third the length of the roots. A newly planted tree must have more roots than branches. You want to have 1/3 tree and 2/3 roots.
When planting a one-year old un-branched whip, cut the top of the tree off at 30”-36” above the ground. I know you won’t want to cut the tree. But just do it.

Apple Whip Pruned

An Apple Whip Pruned To 36 Inches

Remember any pruning done in late winter or early spring encourages branching. So by cutting the tree off above the ground in the spring or late winter you are encouraging the tree to begin to branch out and to form its scaffolding system that will grow to become a permanent part of the tree.

Any pruning done in the summer or early autumn discourages growth. This is good to know and important if water sprouts should become a problem. Water sprouts are the long branches that sometimes grow up from the base or trunk of a fruit tree.
After you have planted the apple tree you’ll need to keep it watered regularly during its first spring and summer. You will also need to spray if needed for summertime pests. I try to spray my trees once a week during the summer with soapy water. I most often use a 3-gallon spray tank mix with ¼ cup of dish detergent and spray only the trunk of the trees and never the leaves or apples.
The trunk of the tree is like bridge for bugs, so by protecting the tree trunk you are protecting the tree against bugs. Protect the trunk of an apple tree and you protect the entire tree.
Apple trees aren’t hard to grow. Just remember to choose full sun and the right type of tree for your location. Plant it properly, prune it and keep the bugs off it and you’ll have apples before you know it.

Choosing Vegetable Garden Location

There are as many opinions about vegetable gardens as there are gardeners. Often new gardeners are confused by all the different information and advice. But the fact of the matter is vegetable gardening just isn’t that complicated.
All that is needed to grow a good vegetable garden is a dose of old-fashion common sense, some planning ahead, a little knowledge of how plants grow and hard work.

Vegetable Garden

Early Summer Vegetable Garden

Even if you don’t have lots of space container gardening is one way to grow food in a limited area. Container gardening confined to a high-rise balcony or to a patio deck will benefit from the exact same recommendations as a raised bed garden, a square foot garden or a traditional in ground planting.

START WITH LOCATION
One of the key factors for a successful vegetable garden is the selection of a proper site location.
In general the only requirements for a good vegetable garden location are full sun, level ground, proper soil pH and access to water.

SUN
The first and most important requirement for any vegetable garden is strong full sunlight. By that I mean at least 6 to 12 hours of full sun every day – no shade.
Most vegetables require full uninterrupted sunlight in order to be productive and to stay healthy.
Inadequate sunlight will result in spindly leggy plants that are slow to flower, slow to fruit and subject to disease and garden pests.
When selecting a new garden site location it’s wise to invest some time observing how the sun moves throughout the day for any given location. If possible watch the potential location for a full year. That’s because the arc of the sun changes with the seasons for most locations and the angle of a summer sun is different from that of a winter sun.
Pay extra attention to nearby trees and buildings when selecting a new garden site. Sometimes a potential location will have a close tree, fence or a building nearby that may cause unseen summer shade or drainage problems.

Garden Is Shaded By Building

Building Is Shading The Garden In The Afternoon

Here’s an example of what I mean.
The eastern or northeastern exposure of the location may have the morning sun but by the afternoon the location is in shade and that’s not good. The same problem can occur with a full western exposure but in reverse. There’s no morning sun to help dry the dew off the plants. Only a full burning afternoon sun.
It’s worth mentioning that once a full sun location has been established, the way that a garden in oriented in relation to the sun is an important factor in maintaining full sun for all plants throughout the day.
A rectangular shape north to south orientation is I believe the most successful vegetable garden configuration.
The way that vegetable seeds or bedding plants are sown or arranged in the garden can make a difference in how much sun the individual plants receive though out the day. Whether you are using a raised bed system or a “just stick it in the ground” row planting, the actual planting of seeds or bedding plants needs to be thought out ahead of time. That’s because not all vegetable plants are the same height. Once the tall vegetables in a garden attain any height at all they will begin to cast a shadow on the low growing vegetables and shade them from the sun if not oriented properly.
Tall growing vegetables like corn or climbing beans should be planted at the top or north end of the garden. Low growing vegetables like beets, carrots or lettuce should be planted at the south end or bottom of the garden. A gardener can use this information to advantage for some vegetables. Certain vegetables like lettuce, peas, beets or spinach will tolerate some partial sun especially during the hottest part of the summer. And with a bit of shade, vegetables like radishes or beets will not have to be watered as often and will not have the tendency to wilt from heat.

LEVEL GROUND IF POSSIBLE
A level location is desirable when planning or planting a vegetable garden. If there’s too much slope to the ground, water and soil will wash down and drain away from the high part of the garden.
The water will tend to pool and settle at the low end of the garden. It’s a bad situation for the plants because the plants located at the high-end of the garden will not receive enough water and the soil will erode away from the roots.

Level Garden Location

A Level Garden In Late Winter

Plants located at the low-end of the garden will often be sitting in mud or standing water for an extended period of time. Not a good situation either.
If there is no other choice but to use a hillside or non-level ground, orient the rows so that they run horizontal across the hill and not up and down vertically no matter what sun orientation direction the garden faces.

PROPER SOIL pH
The next requirement for choosing a successful vegetable garden location is proper soil pH.
Proper soil pH is an important part of all gardening. Even though gardeners may not be able to choose the soil or dirt in their gardens and backyards, they can work with what they have.
Soil pH testing kits and meters are inexpensive and available at home garden centers.

Garden soil pH should be tested once the garden site location has been selected and the soil has been prepared and is dry.
A soil with a pH above 7 is considered to be an alkaline soil and a soil with a pH lower than 7 is considered to be an acid soil.
In general, soils in moist climates are acid soils and soils in dry climates tend to be alkaline.

pH Tester

A pH Tester

A soil that is too acidic can be amended by the addition of lime. A too alkaline soil can be corrected by the addition of sulfur. The soil in my garden tends to be acidic and I use wood ashes to amend it.

  • Common garden vegetables that prefer a slightly acid soil are corn, potatoes, tomatoes, radishes and sweet potatoes.
  • Common vegetables that prefer a slightly alkaline or “sweet” soil are beets, broccoli, beans, cabbage, lettuce, summer squash, pumpkins, asparagus and cucumbers.

WATER
The last consideration in locating a vegetable garden is a convenient source of water.
If you are feeling lucky you can sit back and just let Mother Nature water your vegetable garden when it rains. But more often than not you’ll be sorry if you take a chance with her. Most people will want to water their gardens on a regular basis. If you can manage, try to have a source of water or accesses to a garden hose close by. Carrying heavy buckets of water over a long distance during the summer can get old fast. Especially when the bugs are biting during a merciless heat wave.
By  keeping in mind the location and movement of the sun for any given garden site; the ease and access to water; level ground and soil pH when choosing a site for a vegetable garden, you’ll be well on your way to vegetable gardening success.

How To Plant Asparagus

Asparagus is a springtime perennial vegetable and is a favorite for many home gardeners. The stalks of asparagus grow upward from the roots or crowns in mid-spring, and by mid-summer asparagus will produce light, wispy ferns that stay on the plant until the fall.

A Basket Of Fresh Piked Asparagus

A Basket Of Fresh Picked Asparagus

After a few hard frosts the tops of asparagus will die back and during the winter months the asparagus lies dormant in the earth waiting for spring to start the growth cycle again.

When properly planted and cared for asparagus will dependably produce every year. A well-tended asparagus bed will last between 4 to 15 years and sometimes much longer. A lot depends upon the variety that is planted, and the cultivation practices and soil conditions. I’ve heard of asparagus beds that were over 100 years old.

In home gardens most asparagus are grown from “crowns” and not from seeds.

Asparagus Crown

Asparagus Crown

In botany, crowns are the section of a plant where the root of a seed plant joins to the stem section. A single asparagus crown will produce about ½ /lb. -1 lb. of spears after 3 or 4 seasons. For garden planning purposes, 12 -18 crowns per person for seasonal consumption is considered adequate for most families and a 100′ garden row will yield approximately 80 – 100 lbs. Plan to plant twice as much if you intend to freeze or can asparagus.

Planting asparagus from seed is very time-consuming due to the special care that the young plants require. When planting from seed, asparagus will not be ready for even a minimal harvest for at least 3  or 4 years.

The modern hybrid varieties of asparagus are best for most home gardens and small farms. Jersey Knight, Jersey King and Jersey Supreme are good dependable hybrids.

They produce all male plants and waste no energy producing seed.

Asparagus planted from crowns will begin to produce stalks the second year after planting and can be very lightly harvested. Some gardeners will wait until the third year before harvesting to insure that the plants have fully matured.



In the spring asparagus should be planted after the garden soil has warmed up to about 50°F. Asparagus will not grow until the ground has warmed up and planting in wet, cold conditions increases the chance of crown rot. Absolutely no good comes from planting anything in wet or soggy soil. So control your Spring Fever.

Ideally asparagus should be planted and located in its own bed. If that’s not possible, asparagus should be planted in the west or north side of the garden so that it will not shade other plants during the summer months.

For gardeners who like to plant by the moon, asparagus is best when planted during an increasing or waxing moon and when the moon is in the sign of Cancer.
If a Cancer day cannot be chosen, Scorpio is the next best day, and then Pisces.

Last spring I planted a bed of asparagus by a method I had never used before.The new method was much faster and easier than the “traditional way”.
With the traditional way of planting asparagus a deep ditch is dug, crowns are carefully placed on little humps of dirt called “saddles” and then the ditch is slowly filled in over the course of the summer. The traditional way of planting is very time-consuming and can be a real back breaker if you have hundreds of feet of asparagus to plant. My new way is so fast that it lends itself to small commercial production. I was pleased with the results from the new planting method and I wanted to share the method with you so you could try it this spring if you like.

Dig a long ditch about  6 – 8 inches deep.

In the bottom of the ditch sprinkle 1 lb. of 0-46-0 (triple superphosphate) or 2 lbs. of 0-20-0 (superphosphate) fertilizer for every 100 feet of row.

Triple Phosphate

A Bag of Triple Phosphate

By doing this phosphorus is made immediately available to the crowns. If you skip this step your asparagus will not produce as well and the stalks will be spindly and weak.


Now comes the unbelievable easy part – walk along the row and toss the crowns into the ditch on top of the fertilizer keeping the crowns about 9″ – 12” apart.  It doesn’t matter how the crowns land in the ditch or if they make direct contact with the fertilizer. The fertilizer will not burn the crowns.

Asparagus Crowns In Trench

What Could Be Easier? Just Toss The Asparagus Crowns In The Trench

Next lightly, but completely fill in the ditch – but do not pack the soil down hard. If you compact the dirt too much the emerging spears will have to struggle to get to the surface and to the sun. We want to make it easy for them.

Keep the ground moist and well-watered and new growth should be seen within 2 to 3 weeks.

Young Asparagus Plants

Young Asparagus Plants Appear A Few Weeks After Planting

If you are going to plant more than one row, maintain wide rows and space the rows 4′ from center. Keep the young plants very well weeded during the first summer.

In the fall don’t be in a hurry to cut back the top ferns, but instead allow the asparagus to naturally die back from frost. If too much foliage is removed from the top of the plant, the roots are prevented from storing as much energy and food as possible and this interferes with new stalk production in the following spring.

In the past I have always managed weeds by the application of salt, but that method is no longer recommended.

The salt will not hurt the asparagus (it is native to coastal areas and loves salt), but the salt can alter the soil and harm surrounding vegetable plants. The standard practice presently for weed control is in the early spring or late fall burn off the weeds with a small controlled fire before the spears begin to emerge.

Asparagus

Asparagus Ready To Be Picked

In the spring once the soil temperature reaches around 50° F asparagus spears will begin to appear. To harvest the spears snap them off at the base when they are about 6″ to 9″ tall. Don’t cut them below the ground-line or you might injure other buds that have yet to emerge.

What I do to keep my asparagus healthy is every other year or so, I top dress the bed with some type of animal manure – cow, chicken, sheep, rabbit, pig or whatever – while there is still snow on the ground. As the snow melts the nutrients from the manure are broken down and pulled down into the earth.
I also top dress the asparagus bed with wood ashes from my stoves every winter. Asparagus uses a lot of potassium and wood ashes are very rich in it.
Superphosphate fertilizer is applied only at planting time and never afterward.

And just in case you’re too shy to ask…
Asparagus causes a characteristic pungent odor in some people’s urine very shortly after they consume it. The odor can be noticed within 15-20 minutes of eating asparagus and is known as “asparagus urine”.
Asparagus urine studies were conducted awhile back and it seems that possibly everyone produces the chemical components that make for smelly asparagus urine, but not everyone can smell it. Science has come to no agreement on this issue.
What researchers can agree on however, is that the ability to smell the odor in asparagus urine and the ability to produce asparagus urine seem to have a genetic component. And if you don’t have the gene to smell asparagus urine consider yourself lucky. Enough said.

When To Plant A Garden

Sometimes new gardeners need help interpreting and deciphering the back of a seed pack or a garden catalog. It seems like the information or directions should be forthright and easy to understand but that’s not always the case.
There are a few terms and concepts that may be encountered in garden catalogs and on seed packets that can leave the novice gardener befuddled and in need of a more detailed explanation.
The statement below is most often found on the back of seed packets for early spring flowers or vegetables like peas or pansies that are typically direct sown into the garden.
The expression “as soon as the soil can be worked” can confuse an inexperienced gardener.
“As soon as the soil can be worked” is a statement about soil condition and not about any particular day on the calendar.
Soil can be worked and seeds planted when it’s no longer wet or sticky. When your garden can be worked will depend upon what type of soil you have. Your soil maybe different from that of your neighbor’s. So just because your neighbor’s garden is being planted does not mean that you should plant yours too.

Garden Soil Ready For Planting

Soil Is Ready For Planting

Sandy type soil will always be able to be planted sooner than clay type soils. Whatever you do don’t disturb the ground before it is ready.You’ll ruin the soil structure.
To test if your soil is ready for planting,  grab a fist full of soil into your hand. Squeeze it together into a semi-conical or oblong shape. If the soil is a little crumbly and will readily fall apart, then it’s ready to be planted with seeds or bedding plants.
Sometimes soil can be on the borderline between too wet and dry and it’s a flip of the coin whether or not to chance planting. The photo below shows soil that is almost too wet. So whether or not to plant that day would be determined by the weather.If the weather looked like it was going to be warm and dry for the next few days I would plant.

Soil Is Maybe Ready

If The Soil Clumps Together It Is Borderline Ready

But if the weather look like it was going to be cool and rainy absolutely not. Seeds planted under those conditions would probably rot in the ground and have to be replanted.
Now if the soil sticks together it’s too wet. More time is needed and it’s best to wait for it to dry out more.

Soil Is Still A Little Wet

The soil is too wet

With gardening as with most things in life, no harm ever comes from waiting and working with Nature.
If you jump the gun and disturb the soil too early you and ruin the soil structure and you’ll pay the Devil to get it fit again.

The Difference Between Hybrid & Non Hybrid Seed

New gardeners are sometimes confused by the terms hybrid, non- hybrid or heirloom when shopping for vegetable or flower seeds.
Here’s a quick primer.

Corn Seed Sprouting

Corn Seed Sprouting

HYBRID SEED

Hybrids are the result of breeding two distinct varieties of plant or animal. The offspring of such a mating produces a new variety of the same species that incorporates certain desirable characteristics of both parents.




There are many good reasons for using and breeding hybrid plants or animals.
Hybrids whether they be plant or animal, are usually more vigorous and healthier than their parents.

Hybrid Puppy

This Puppy Is A Crossbreed. He’s a Hybrid

Fruits and vegetables from hybrids will often out produce their parents, with more size and shape uniformity.
Many hybrids show more resistance to pests and disease and often will ripen sooner or set fruit earlier.
This increase in hardiness and productivity is known as “hybrid vigor”.

Hybrid Cucumbers

Hybrid Cucumbers

The first generation of a hybrid cross is referred to as the first filial generation or F1 for short. Hybrids don’t necessary have only 2 parents. Many hybrid animals and seeds are the resulting cross mating of 3 or 4 different individuals.
Seeds or offspring from hybrid vegetables or animals will not produce the same type of plants or offspring as the parent.
Hybrid seed saved from hybrid parents at best will come true to the parent less than 30% of the time. Often saved seed from hybrid plants will be sterile. The non-performance of saved hybrid seed, or F2 generation seed, is an important economic and environmental adaptation consideration for those who wish to save seed over from year to year. F2 seed normally will have lost the hybrid vigor from the true hybrid parents. If planted the following year the seed will begin to revert back and exhibit undesirable characteristics that may be part of the genetic makeup of one or both of the parents.
Hybrid seeds must be purchased every year and they are not cheap. Because hybrid plants by their nature cannot produce a dependable and predictable seed, they cannot over many generations adapt to specific environmental needs or situations.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED SEED
Another way that seed can be made hybrid is by genetic modification. Such seed is often referred to a GM seed.
GM seed is created by introducing the DNA from one species or organism to another. GM seed has attached proprietary rights, and has been known to contaminate open pollinated crops.
The Center for Environmental Risk Assessment maintains a database of GM plants that have regulatory approval for sale in the US (though not all are commercially available).
.The use of GM seed and the cross contamination of crops by GMO ‘s has become a worldwide hot button agricultural, economic, health and environmental issue. The use of GM seed is one of the reasons for mass suicide among small farmers in India.

Winter Wheat

Winter Wheat In The Spring

NON HYBRID – OPEN POLLINATED
Non- Hybrid seed is often known as “open pollinated” or OP. Open pollinated plants are crossbred varieties that have often been passed down by gardener to gardener for many generations. The seeds from these crossbred plants are very stable and they produce plants that grow true to the parent with few sports or mutations. Plants from open pollinated seed over many generations have the ability to adapt to a specific local environment or growing conditions.
Non- hybrid seed can be collected every year from open pollinated plants and stored for the next growing season. When collecting seed for future use it’s important that only seed from the most superior plants be saved for future use.

Seed Marigold

Seed Marigold

Unlike hybrid seed, seed saving from open pollinated plants is free and incurs no yearly cost. This is an important economic consideration for gardeners and to small traditional farmers. Keep in mind that if you are growing non-hybrid, open pollinated plants for their seed, they must be kept well away from other plants of different varieties so they don’t cross-pollinate.
It’s the wind rather than insects that most often carries pollen. Distance is the most effective tool and insurance against cross-pollination. A distance of 250’ to 300’ between different types or varieties of plants will insure seed that comes true to the parent. A distance of about 600’ – 700’ will give a complete isolation and is only used for scientific or plant breeding purposes.
HEIRLOOM OR HERITAGE
Heirloom or Heritage Seed is a type of non-hybrid seed.
There is no general agreement on the use of the terms – heirloom or heritage – when describing seeds or plants. Heirloom seeds are always open pollinated and non-hybrid. The term is generally used to describe seed or plant varieties that were grown prior to WWII. It was the time before what many consider the beginning of big industrial agriculture or “The Green Revolution”. Some growers feel that the term heirloom should only be applied to seeds or plants that have been passed down in one family to the following generation of family gardeners. Many people believe that heirloom seeds always produce a tastier, superior and more nutritious fruit or vegetable.
This is simply not true and has not been my experience.
Modern hybrid sweet corn is my favorite example. It’s my opinion that any variety of modern sweet corn is far superior to the common heirloom sweet corn varieties – such as Golden Bantam or Sunshine.
I plant a couple of different types of sweet corn in my vegetable garden. Bodacious and Silver Queen are two of my favorites.

Holding Fresh Picked Corn

Holding Fresh Picked Corn

What I do love and appreciate are the many different varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Amish Paste, Ox Heart, Abe Lincoln, Brandywine, and Old German Striped are some of my favorite heirloom tomatoes.

Slicing An Heirloom Tomato

Slicing An Heirloom Tomato

There is no question that open pollinated heritage and heirloom seeds help to insure worldwide plant diversity.
In fact plant diversity and food crop genetics are the cornerstone of worldwide food security. As of late this issue has become more important than ever.
Which brings me to –
Do you know about the Svalbard Seed Bank?
The reality of limited plant genetics is one of the reasons for the Svalbard Global Seed Bank and has become fodder for modern-day apocalyptic global famine scenarios and conspiracy theorists. The Svalbard Seed Bank is also known as the Dooms Day Vault.
The vault is located 810 miles from the North Pole on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and houses seeds from every continent.The concept of the seed bank was to provide insurance against the loss of plant genetics in the case of catastrophic regional or global crises.
The Svalbard Seed Bank cost over $9,000,000 U.S. dollars to build and was funded entirely by Norway. The government of Norway and the Global Crop Diversity Trust provides for the day-to-day operational costs. The Global Crop Diversity Trust is an independent international organization.
The seed vault has state of the art security systems but no permanent staff.

How To Plant & Grow Garlic

Fresh garlic is an indispensable addition to my cooking. I use a lot of it throughout the year – so I grow a lot of it.

Fresh Dug Garlic

Fresh Dug Garlic

“Seed garlic” is the term for a bulb of garlic in which the cloves have been separated. The individual cloves are the seed. When the cloves are joined together the garlic is called a bulb.

A Basket of Seed Garlic

A Basket of Seed Garlic Ready For Planting

Garlic is divided into two distinct types: hard neck and soft neck garlic.
in general there are three types of hard neck garlic – Rocambole, Purple Stripe and Porcelain. Hard neck  garlic does very well in northern climates. It favors a cold winter followed by a wet spring. Hard neck is  the type of garlic I plant.

The “soft neck” variety of garlic is what you’ll probably find in most grocery stores. Soft neck garlic ships well and prefers growing in a warm climate. The two main types of soft neck garlic are Artichoke and Silverskins.

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The most important tip for growing great garlic is to start with the correct variety for your area. Not all varieties of garlic grow everywhere with success. Always start with healthy seed garlic. Try and select plump, disease free cloves for planting. The garden site location is important. Rich well-tilled soil with good drainage is an advantage when growing garlic. Good, loamy soil always gives a bigger bulb that produces a thicker stem. A thick stem is an indication of the size and health of the cloves.
In my garden I wait to plant garlic until after a couple of hard frosts. October and November are the best planting times in my area.
And for those of you who like to garden by the moon and the signs, plant garlic in the first or second quarter of the moon under the sign of Scorpio or Sagittarius. Harvest garlic when the moon is in a dry sign – Aries, Leo or Sagittarius.

Here’s How To Plant Garlic
Choose a location with good drainage and full sun. Dig a long, shallow trench about 2” deep and mark the two ends. It’s important to mark the trench row so you’ll be able to find it in the spring. Garlic doesn’t always send up green sprouts in the fall. A lot depends upon the weather. Place a nice size clove root side down and pointed side up snugly into the trench so that it makes good soil contact.

Seed Garlic

A Clove Of Seed Garlic. Top is the Pointy End

Space the cloves about 4” apart.
Cover with soil and tamp down firmly.
Rows of garlic may be spaced very close. I have success with 12” spacing of rows.

Planting Garlic

Planting Rows Of Garlic in October

In the spring keep the garlic well weeded and apply mulch if you want.
The mulch will help to retain soil moisture and discourage weeds. I like straw for mulch because it is readily available to me. But you can use anything. Old newspapers and plastic grocery bags will work fine as long as you weigh down and anchor the sides with soil.

2 Rows Of Garlic In April

2 Rows Of Garlic In April

If the weather is dry during the spring or the summer, keep the garlic well watered but don’t allow it to become water-logged or it will rot.
When To Harvest
Garlic is ready for harvest when the tops of the plant start to turn brown, die back and topple over. The time that this occurs varies from year to year. For my location harvest time is usually at the middle to end of July, or in some years early August.
The best way to test for harvest is to pull up a garlic plant and check the sheaths that surround the bulb.
The sheath is the layered paper like covering that surrounding the cloves. Two or three layers of sheaths are ideal for garlic.

Layers Of Skin Of Garlic

3 layers of Skin That Sheath A Mature Garlic Bulb

Harvest garlic by pulling it up carefully by the tops if the ground is moist or use a garden fork. When fresh dug, the bulbs will have soil clinging to the roots.
I spray the soil off with a garden hose and then place the bulbs upon a wire rack to dry out in the sun for a couple of weeks if the weather isn’t too wet and the sun isn’t too hot.

Fresh Dug Garlic Drying

Fresh Dug Garlic Drying On Chicken Wire

If the weather is extreme (to hot or too wet) I dry the garlic bulbs on a covered porch.
Once the bulbs are good and dry, cut off the roots and either attempt to braid the garlic (hard neck garlic doesn’t braid well) or tie it with twine and hang it. I try to store my garlic at a temperature of between 50ºF – 70ºF.

Homegrown Hard Neck Garlic

Bunches Of Homegrown Hard Neck Garlic Hang In The Kitchen Every Fall

And when the fall comes around select the biggest and the most perfect bulbs for seed and start the process all over again.

 

How To Test Seeds For Germination Rate

Germination rate is the term used to describe the percentage of seed from a particular plant species that will emerge when given the right conditions. The germination rate is important information to know ahead of time and helps the home gardener or farmer determine how thickly or thinly any given seed needs to be sown.
Germination rate is a consideration whenever you are ordering seeds from a catalog or if you have leftover seeds from previous years and you want to use them.

Early Butler Seed

Early Butler Seed Corn & Ear

Seeds will not last indefinitely and some seeds are more time sensitive than others. Keeping all seed cool and dry will go a long way in help to preserve its viability.
Most vegetable seeds will last about 3 years and some can last as long as 6 years.
Corn, onions, leeks, chives, green peppers, parsley and sometimes parsnip seeds are seeds that don’t store well and should be tested every year before planting if they were held over from the prior year.




Beans, peas, beets, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, carrots, eggplant, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, basil, sage, rue, borage, anise, dill, oregano and most herbs have a seed life of between 3 – 4 years.
Spinach, lettuce, cucumbers and most melons have a seed life of about 5 and sometimes 6 years.
For most common garden vegetables or flowers, seed germination rate is easy to test at home. It’s always a good idea to test germination rate if the seed is much older than 2 years old or wasn’t stored under ideal conditions.

The way that I test seed for viability is by first counting out 20 seeds.
I then place the seeds on top of small plate that has been lined with a wet paper towel or inside a paper towel where a little bit of potting soil has been sprinkled.
The paper towel or lined plate is then placed inside a plastic bag and sealed. The sealed test seeds are left on top of the refrigerator or in a warm room for about a week or 10 days depending upon the type of seed.
Some seeds take longer than others to germinate and some seeds require total darkness for germination.
Once the seeds begin to germinate I count seeds to find the percentage. By using 20 seeds for testing I’m able to get the percentage in 5% increments.

Corn Seeds

A Test Plate For Early Butler Corn

The Early Butler corn seed pictured above tested out at 90% – maybe 95% . I wasn’t going to wait any longer for one kernel that looked like it was maybe beginning to sprout.

To evaluate germination rates the following percentages are helpful:

100% – Great! You can’t do any better than that.
90% – Excellent. You can count on the planting rate information supplied with the seed.
80% – Good. You shouldn’t have too many problems as long as environmental conditions are favorable.
70% to 60% – Poor. If you want to use the seed better sow it thick.
50% or Less – You might not want to waste your time. Throw it out and buy fresh seed unless it is very rare.

The Spacing Of Semi-Dwarf Apple Trees & Expert Advice

When I was younger I wasn’t as smart as I am today.
Back in those days I believed just about everything the “experts” at major universities and the local agricultural extension office told me. Too bad for me
When I planted my small commercial apple orchard over 25 years ago I didn’t have any practical experience growing apple trees. I was pretty much a babe in the woods.
I relied upon books, pamphlets and advice from the local agriculture extension office and pomologists. Back then the “expert” advice for spacing semi-dwarf apple trees was 12′ to 15′ feet apart.
The experts at Cornell University and Penn State took the place of the good advice my father-in-law tried to give me while I was planting my trees.




My father-in-law who never grew an apple tree but had been a lifelong gardener came upon me one day while I was planting a bunch of 1-year-old apple whips. My father-in-law advised me that the trees were being planted too close together. He suggested that they be placed farther apart so as not to crowd each other once they attained full size.

Tree Spacing Too Close

Apple Trees In Spring

I dismissed his suggestion due to my perception of his lack of education and practical experience. I told him that 15 foot spacing was what the extension office pamphlet recommended. He had no use for newfangled Penn State notions and tried to convince me to add more space. He told me that he may not have ever read a book on orchard management but he knew something about the way trees grow.
I was determined to do it my way and would not entertain his suggestion. He wisely shrugged his shoulders and walked away leaving me with my “expert advice” and a future problem.
Time has proved him right and the “experts” wrong.

Life experience has since taught me that the correct spacing for semi-dwarf apple trees is a minimum of 18 feet apart – with 22′ being ideal.
Because my apple trees were planted so close together they are very hard to manage properly and apple production has been on a steady decline for the last 5 years or so.
This year I will have the unpleasant task of cutting out 6 or 7 perfectly good apple trees to save my apple orchard.
I could have been spared the trouble and heartache of destroying trees if I had only taken my father-in-law’s advice.

Expert Advice Didn't Do My Orchard Any Good

Apple Trees In The Fall

Gene Logsdon wrote something years later on this subject that was too late to benefit me. I thought Gene’s advice may be of benefit to you so I’ll share it.

I am not a revolutionary; I utter only a plain truth.
My wife and I produce most of our food, and some for our children’s families, using knowledge we gained from our parents. Not a one of our forebears ever cracked an agronomic textbook or knew the Latin name of a single plant.
My father and mother and both grandfathers and grandmothers and my father-in – law and mother-in-law all held agricultural extension advisers in disdain. Tradition, supplemented by our own experience and that of other gardeners and farmers, has been the key to our food-growing success.
Thousands of books by gardeners and farmers pass this knowledge on to anyone who wants it. To this day, after forty years of avidly reading and searching the realms of “modern” agriculture for information, I have found little knowledge beyond oral tradition that helps us produce food any better. And a whole lot that encourages us to produce it worser.
The keys to agricultural success, apart from common sense, were articulated by Virgil, and he got them from the Greeks, who in turn got them from the Orient, where forty centuries ago China supported a population far denser than ours today, with gardens”. ~ Gene Logsdon –

*From THE CONTRARY FARMER’S INVITATION TO GARDENING – Chelsea Green Publishing, 1997

Forced Branches

Every season I try to have a little bit of nature indoors. During the snowy winter months my favorite bits of the outside world are flowering branches that lie dormant. Forsythia, apple, peach and pussy willow are in my garden and orchard so those are the branches I use for forcing.
The flower buds on spring blooming trees and shrubs are fully and perfectly formed by the middle to end of the fall. All that’s required for the branches to bloom and flower is warm temperatures and water.

Apple Blossoms

Apple Blossoms In The Spring

Usually it takes 6 to 8 weeks of cold weather to “prime” branches before the flower buds on most trees and shrubs will awaken from their winter dormancy. The branches have a built-in “inner clock”. It’s Nature’s way of protecting the flower buds from opening prematurely during a warm spell and then being destroyed by the returning cold weather. It’s one of God’s many ways of insuring that a tree or shrub will set fruit or go to seed.

Pussy Willow Branches

Pussy Willow Branches That Will Be Forced Open

I carry sharp heavy-duty pruners with me when I go scouting for branches. Frozen branches can be very hard to cut through. I look for flowering shrubs or trees with well-formed large buds and try to pick branches that will fit the vase I have in mind. I never cut too many branches from one tree or shrub.  A cutting little goes a long way.




After the branches come into the house the bottom of the stem has to receive special treatment. Any cut made on a branch will seal over. So it’s important to either scrape away some of the skin on the branch or to smash the end of the branch before it is placed into water. By opening up the bark, water will be able to travel up the branch and keep it fresh and alive.

The buds of certain types of branches need a little further treatment to ensure a nice bloom. Apple, peach, plum and pears should be soaked overnight in room temperature water before they are placed into a vase. I use the bathtub.
Once placed in a vase the branches should be kept in a cool location and away from direct sunlight. Spring comes slowly – it doesn’t come all in one day. We are trying to mimic Spring.
Once the flower buds begin to fatten or plump up they can be moved to filtered sunlight. In fact a modest amount of sunlight will be important to the flower buds at this stage. A little sunlight helps them to make a good color.

Forced Branchesussy Willow

Forced Pussy Willow Branches

Egg Shell Seeding Pots

Did you know that back in the days before commercial peat pots and plastic trays people used a half of an egg-shell to start seedlings?
That’s right. An egg-shell is a good container to sow a seed in.

Egg Shell Pot

Planting Geranium Seeds In Egg Shell Pots

Egg shells are small, lightweight, porous, earth friendly and readily available. In fact egg shells are free if you own chickens.




Here’s the way to use egg shells for seed pots.

  • Crack the egg high up on the small end. I use the dull edge of a knife blade to make the crack.
  • Empty the contents of the egg and rinse out the shell.
  • Poke 2 or 3 small holes in the bottom of the shell. I use a metal shish kabob skewer.
  • Fill the half shell with seed starter soil and sow a seed. Small seeds from plants that grow slow work best.Green peppers and sweet onion seeds are examples of seeds that are often started indoors but grow slow.
  • Bury the egg shells halfway in a container filled with sand. The Styrofoam top of an egg carton works well for a sand container.Cut the egg carton on the fold line to fit on a window sill.
  • Water the sand and then cover the container with plastic. Plastic wrap from a store-bought loaf of bread will work.
  • Set the container in a warm place until germination.Most seeds need warmth and not light to germinate.

After the seeds germinate remove the plastic and move the eggs shells to the light
Always water the sand instead of the egg-shell. Because egg shells are porous and holes were poked in the bottom of the egg-shell, water will wick up to the plant.

When it’s time to plant the seeding in the garden, gently crush the egg-shell or remove the seeding without disturbing the root system.
Dig a small hole, fill the hole with water, put the seeding in and fill the hole with soil.
Pretty simple.

Bird Bath With Flowers

Old Bird Bath Used As A Planter For Annuals In An Herb Garden

A Garden Planner For Home Food Preservation

With a bad economy at hand and garden planning just around the corner I thought a chart might be helpful to some folks looking for concrete direction.
The estimates given below are for the vegetable production and preservation needs for a family of 4 for approximately 300 days.
In practice the amount of food listed will probably last much longer and should extend into the following year’s growing season.
My figures are based upon my own experience, old cook books and some USDA and agricultural extension service recommendations from the 1950′s through the 1970′s.
You will notice that some figures don’t seem to correlate exactly. That’s my personal experience and intuition kicking in.




You may have to click on the table to make it large enough to read.

Garden Planner

A Garden Planner For Family Of 4

Quart and pint quantities are both listed for convenience. These quantities can be either frozen, home canned or dehydrated.
Please take into consideration that the needs of every family of 4 are not the same and that food needs are always changing.
Families with young children will not have the same requirements as families with growing teens.

In general terms a family of 4 will need approximately 600 – 725 quarts of vegetables for 300 – 365 days. This is based upon the assumption of 1/2 cup or 4 ounce serving size, with 4 servings per day. For home canning purposes and winter storage the rule of thumb is 80 quarts of fruits and vegetables per person. With 20 of those quarts being tomatoes. Again the amount will depend upon family habits and cooking preferences.
Amounts will also depend upon location. Families with a short growing season will need to store more than families with a long growing season.
It may seem like a lot of vegetables but it really isn’t. One large pot of homemade vegetable beef soup can use 4 – 5 quarts of vegetables alone. A large pot of chili can use 2 quarts of tomatoes.
White or Irish potatoes have also been included. This is based upon the premise that potatoes will be served 3 times a week. Some families will want more than that – some will want much less.
Cabbage has been included in the chart. The amounts listed are with freezing, sauerkraut and cold storage in mind. Tomatoes for tomato juice and tomato sauce have been included. I kept the tomatoes with the vegetables instead of fruits for simple convenience.
You will also note that some vegetables are not included in the chart. This is simply a reflection of personal and geographical food preference.

Example:
I only eat sweet potatoes occasionally and seldom eat turnips so I don’t grow them. If you like turnips or sweet potatoes or any other vegetable you will want to substitute one vegetable in the chart for another.
Take note that many vegetables like celery and onions will be cold stored, frozen or dehydrated for cooking at a later date. Vegetable quantities are based upon the assumption of cooking from scratch 3 times a day.
Also please note that vegetables that cannot be preserved – lettuce, radishes and such – have not been listed. Only vegetables that can be preserved have been charted.
There are many variables in gardening throughout the United States. The chart was written with my specific experience, growing location and skill set in mind.
Your vegetable garden may be more or less productive than mine, and you may be a more skilled or less skilled gardener than I am.
There is noted in the chart the per person foot row requirement of vegetables to be consumed throughout the active growing season.
The recommendations given are generous and will probably yield more food than can be eaten by the family in a reasonable amount of time. This is especially true for families with very small children.
Happy planning!