Category Archives: 30 Days to a Better Garden

A Wrap Up of 30 Days to a Better Garden

Can you believe June is pretty much over already? This was a fast month, which is unfortunate because it’s one of my favorites. Summer is still new and therefore not too hot, ice cream tastes better, we get foggy mornings and warm afternoons, the farmers market is starting to really come alive as is our garden. How is your garden? How does it look? Did this 30 Days challenge help you get motivated to make your garden better? It helped us for sure, well except for the end there. Sorry about that. Let’s blame it on this heat wave, shall we? We were moving at the pace of slugs.

I thought I’d use this last day to wrap things up and write out a list of everything we talked about. From my blog stats it looks like most everyone found the Homemade Insect Repellants to be their favorite, what was yours?

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Research Something You Are Growing (Day 24 of 30 DTABG)

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Every year we try growing at least one new thing and usually we just stick it in the ground and hope for the best without doing a bit of research. That means that half of the time we are disappointed and the other half of the time we fall upon dumb luck and are rewarded with a great harvest. While this is our second year growing fenugreek, we had a pretty lack luster ‘crop’ last year and this year it isn’t going so fantastic. Or is it? Is it only supposed to grow about 6 inches tall and produce only two seed pods? Can you eat those tiny little leaves or do you only harvest the seeds? Does it require shade or sun? Do they like water or to be on the drier side.

See, how can we ever be successful with growing it when we don’t know a darned thing about it. So I’m going to go research fenugreek (and horseradish for that matter) so I know how we should nurture them. What do you want to research?

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Sort Your Seeds (Day 23 of 30 DTABG)

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We have a lot of seeds and sometimes it’s good to go through them all. We did this of course at the beginning of the growing season when we were first getting started, but it is a nice habit to keep going through them. Just yesterday we realized that it’s time to start the radiccio seeds (seed packet says late June) and we wouldn’t have remembered that if we hadn’t gone through everything. Luckily we have a few open spots in the garden now that the garlic, onions and shallots are out.

This is also a good time to ditch the seeds of plants that didn’t work out. Like those St. Valery carrots I just wrote about? They got filed in the round can this time. Its a shame to throw away good seeds, but we are finding more and more that it’s best to just get rid of things we don’t like rather than keep trying them year after year and end up disappointed.
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Give it a try, go through your seeds and see if you forgot to plant anything. See if your autumn garden crops need planting now. Tell me what you find.

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How to Water Correctly (Day 22 of 30 Days to a Better Garden)

Day Lily on Solstice
Happy Belated Solstice (and Fathers Day too)! It’s hard to believe that the days will only get shorter from here on out and yet, in Sonoma, the weather will only get hotter. Being that today is supposed to be a hot one, I thought it might be a good day to talk about watering your vegetable garden.
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The Basics of Watering
Most all vegetables like to be watered right at the ground because if their leaves get wet they will suffer from wilt or mildew. So while it’s tempting to let the overhead sprinkler water your veggies, it’s best to either water by hand or install a drip system. We water by hand just because we haven’t taken the time to install drip, although our good friends at Bellamadris have really inspired us to get it going. The best time to water is in the evening after the heat of the sun has dropped down a bit and after any winds have died down. This gives the water a good 12 or so hours to percolate in the soil and reach the roots. How long you should water is really dependent on your soil. You’ll have to experiment.

Checking on your Watering
So here our task for the day, after you do your watering, either by hand or with your drip system, go take a trowel and dig down and see how deep your water is getting. I’m the queen of thinking I’ve watered enough only to find that the water only penetrated 1/4 of an inch. I can’t tell you how many perennial flowers I’ve lost due to my bad watering. So I’ve learned that I really need to dig down and see how far I’ve actually watered. To really test your watering, on your next early morning walk, stick your finger in the soil and make sure that the soil is still wet at least 2 inches down. If not, water longer.
Zucchini on Solstice
We’ve found that creating dirt ‘walls’ around our plants helps to keep the water in around the plants root area without running out all over the place. Don’t forget to mulch well so that you won’t loose that water to evaporation too. If you are in a water restricted area, check out my post on having a Drought Tolerant Vegetable Garden.

Tell me, how do you water? Drip or hand watering? How often do you water? Have you learned any watering tricks along the way?

Oh and I have been curious…for my Southern Hemisphere friends, was yesterday the shortest day of the year for you?

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Make Notes (Day 20 of 30 Days to a Better Garden)

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I’d thought today would be a good day to check in with our garden notes again. What do you have to note about how your garden is growing? I’d love to hear.

Here’s our report:

We harvested the rest of the onions and all of the shallots and the garlic this week. We’ve never grown shallots before, so we are curious to see if we picked them at the right time. They are on the smallish side, but very plentiful. I hope they keep for a while, have you grown them before? We also have enough onions to feed an army. I don’t know what we were thinking when we planted them, but there’s a pretty good bet that if you come to visit, we’ll do our best to send you home with a few.
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We also harvested the majority of the amaranth that was growing around the melons. We noticed that the melons weren’t growing much at all. Either it’s the cooler weather we are having or they weren’t getting enough sun because the amaranth was crowding it out. Since we can’t control the weather, we decided to do what we could by pulling the amaranth.
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Our two portofino zucchinis are kickin it into high gear and no matter how much we eat, there are still more squash sitting on the counter. Zucchini bread anyone?

The St. Valery carrots that we planted in February are ready to be picked but they are not good. Not good at all. They are slightly bitter and don’t have any sweetness to them at all. Grow fast you Purple Haze, we miss you!

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Side Dress with Compost (Day 19 to 30 DTABG)

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Now that our little seedlings have grown into full blow adolescence, it’s a good time to add a little boost of nutrients to keep them growing and on their way to full production. The best way to do this is not with fertilizer, but with compost. Fertilizer may provide a quick boost but over the years ends up depleting the soil of it’s nutrients. However compost adds to the soils fertility, by giving it natural nutrients thus eliminating the need for fertilizer. Got it? Pretty cool, that compost stuff. Remember Compost is Proof that there is Life After Death.

Anyway, pull away your mulch a bit and add a few healthy handfuls of compost around the base (but keep it about an inch away from the stem of the plant – you don’t want to burn the stem). If you mix a little manure or grass clippings into the mix all the better. Grass clippings provide an excellent source of nitrogen into the soil. Our peppers that we mulched with grass clippings are growing like bananas. After you’ve ‘side dressed’ your plants, pat the mulch back in place and give your plants a good watering.

Have you given your plants a mid season boost before? Have you seen a difference? What did you use?

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Tend to the Compost (Day 18 of 30 DTABG)

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Today’s garden tip is a reminder to tend to your compost pile. If you don’t already have a compost pile, there’s not time like the present. There are all sorts of fancy compost bins that you can buy or construct, but we’re pretty basic around here, we just have piles on the ground in the back of the yard. So if you don’t already have a compost system in place, go take your days worth of vegetable and fruit scraps and walk it back to a forgotten part of your yard and just put it in a pile. Then read more about composting here.

If you do have a compost pile, go turn it today. Yes, I know, it’s can be a big job, but it’s worth it. You need to stir things up and add oxygen to the mix to help everything break down. Take your kids out with you (if you have them) to discover all the fantastic bugs that creep and crawl around. It’s a great time for a little lesson in decomposition. After you turn it, water it down until it’s damp, but not soggy.

Tomorrow we’ll be using finished compost, so go ahead and make sure it’s in good shape! Then go take a long hot bath, you deserve it!

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