Archive for the ‘Garden Tips’ Category

Hummingbird Migration


It’s time to put those hummingbird feeders out.  The Ruby Throats have arrived in Rhode Island and Connecticut  this week and will continue north as long as the weather is mild.

Can’t wait to see them again!  Ellen

Garden Prep

At our meeting last month, I mentioned that I would try to use pictures to illustrate different gardening techniques,  so here goes.  Let me know it you find it helpful.

This week I laid black plastic around my Heritage Plot bed to keep the field grass from invading.  I used this method several years ago and it worked really well. One of the mysteries of gardening for me it why I don’t keep doing things that work, like staking tomatoes?  Why do I suddenly “forget”  that I had a good idea?  It’s not as though I have so many I can’t keep track of them.  But, to continue, If you have a bed like this that is not raised, it is so helpful to prepare the edges before things get started growing.  I bought this plastic at WalMart in their garden department.  It is not the most expensive stuff.  I also bought 3 bags of garden staples.  Make sure you get enough of those.  I only needed one roll to edge my Heritage bed and I had a little extra.  After I laid the plastic I covered it with wood chips.  It took 4 wheelbarrows full to do it.  It is not a deep layer but it does cover the plastic to keep any light out and to hold down the edges.  I will probably add more chips and /or hay as the season progresses.  This plastic will have to come off at the end of the season and all the staples will need to be retrieved.  You could also use wet cardboard and newspaper to do this if you are really opposed to using plastic.  I used plastic because it is faster and I really wanted to get it done now while the grass is still flattened out from the snow.  So there you have it.  Please feel free to use my good idea and be sure to remind me of it if I forget next season!  Ellenphoto-53photo-54

The Joy of Spring Garden Maintenance

April at the Community Garden

I broke my first ” garden sweat” of the season this morning. I went up to Wagon Hill to put the plastic covering over my hoops to start heating up the soil. I am hoping to get a little head start on some lettuce, spinach, kale etc. But, I discovered that the sod was very soft and easy to pull up or dig out around the edges of the bed. So, before I knew it I was flat out digging and hauling wood chips to pile around the edges. I realized that I was actually enjoying it. It’s too early to really do any fun stuff yet but I am so anxious to be outdoors doing SOMETHING that I didn’t mind and it is still so cool that working up a sweat isn’t uncomfortable. It felt good to be exercising those gardening muscles. I recommend taking advantage of spring enthusiasm!

What’s up Doc? Can you grow carrots (and other root vegetables) in a raised bed?

 What’s up Doc?  A  question was asked  about growing carrots in the raised beds.  The short answer is “yes, you can grow carrots.” But a longer answer may help you better understand the garden.
The raised beds are just frames placed onto the ground. So there is no “bottom” on the beds that would impede the growth of carrot roots. The bed is placed on the ground and several layers of wet newspaper and cardboard are laid down to cover the bottom, then the beds are filled with soil. Over time the newspaper decomposes, along with the sod and worms come up to the surface and work the soil. The soil you put into the beds is contiguous with the ground. It is important to keep your beds full of soil to an inch below the top to prevent the grass from growing up again. There are varieties of carrots that are shorter. If you have a newer bed you might try those.   So grow those carrots!  And let me know how they do.  Ellen

Time to Reflect…

A note from Ellen about the end-of-season gardening recap:

What will you do differently next year? Please let us know by commenting on this post!

This is a good time to make some notes about what worked, what didn’t and what you might want to do next year.  Believe me, it is a great idea to jot these things down now because you will forget by next season, take it from me.

 A case in point:  Last year I purchased enough tomato supports to stake all my tomato plants.  I stored them neatly in my garage to use this year.  But, for some reason, this year I “forgot” how important it is to stake my tomatoes and had to re-learn that un-staked tomatoes are a mess and very hard to harvest.  So number one on my list of things to do differently is:
  • Stake my Tomatoes!
Other things I want to remember:
  • When buying seeds and plants, pay attention to disease resistance.    Choose varieties that have some resistance to mildew and blight.
  • Add some kind of organic fertilizer to boost the nitrogen in my raised beds.  Since I mulch with leaves and hay I had too much “carbon” and not enough nitrogen and things did not grow as well.
  • Be more vigilant about insects.  Try to catch them before they become marauding hoards.
  • Keep a record of what seed (plant) varieties I plant and how well they perform.  It’s fun to try new things, but if there is something I particularly want I need to have a reliable variety.
  • Plant something new each season.
  • Did I mention staking my tomatoes?     Oh yeah, I want to remember to stake my tomatoes…..

Disease Resistant Plant List Available on our Resources Page

Got pests? You might be inspired by this link:
This is a list of disease resistant vegetable varieties that I thought would be very helpful to our gardeners planning for next season given the issues we’ve had. I will continue to research this and provide other links on our Resources page of the website. I have heard some gardeners say they are discouraged so maybe this information will give them some hope.

Ellen’s Gory Tip for Getting Rid of Tomato Hornworms

Both of these specimens (tomato hornworm and the moth it becomes) were collected from the tomatoes on my straw bale garden. Notice how the hornworm is happily chomping on the tomato leaves? These creatures are making their presence known in the garden now.

You will know you have them on your tomatoes if you see denuded stems and lots of droppings that look like peppercorns. These guys can be three inches long and they have gripping “feet” that cling when you try to pull them off. I have found it easier to take a pair of scissors and cut them in half. Gory but effective and fast.

The hornworm can destroy your tomato plants and will eat the tomatoes as well.

Kay’s Garden Tip: Striped Cucumber Beetle

Have you seen this beetle?

We’ve sighted striped cucumber beetles (they are yellow with black stripes) on squash plants in the heritage plots and a few in various raised beds. Here is a recipe for an organic spray you can make at home to deal with the beetles.

You will need:

A spray bottle

1 gallon jug

1 TBS of Dr. Bronner’s liquid concentrate soap OR other all-natural liquid soap without phosphates

1TBS olive oil

1 TBS baking soda

Warm water

Put a small amount of warm water in the bottom of the jug. Add soap, olive oil and baking soda. Swirl ingredients to blend them. Fill the rest of the jug with warm water and then put the cap on. Shake thoroughly. Dispense into spray bottle.

When applying to plants, make sure to get the undersides of leaves, tight crevices and tender new growth. Keep shaking mixture to keep ingredients well incorporated (oil will try to separate). Apply once a week for prevention and more often for an active problem. Re-apply after rain.

Kay’s Tip for Gardening in Hot Weather

Gardeners are reminded that in this hot weather, raised beds dry out quickly. Water with a stream of water at the base of your plants, not by showering the whole plant, which contributes to powdery mildew. Please remember to turn the water off at the faucet and store the hose on the holder.

Lasagna Gardening: More Time, Less Toil

Lasagna Gardening is a low maintenance method of growing flowers and veggies is very effective at amending soil and conserving resources. For centuries, gardeners have practiced this method as a way to work with the Earth’s natural processes.

Here’s how start a lasagna bed:

John Hart, member of the Garden Steering Committee, with Lauren, one of his former students.

  1. Don’t till the soil!
  2. Add a layer of compost
  3. Sprinkle on some thin sticks
  4. Spread a thick layer of wet newspaper
  5. Cover with hay or local wood chips

We are allowing the soil to repair and fortify itself without disturbing it. When it is time to plant, simply cut holes just big enough for seedlings or a trough for veggies such as carrots.

This method holds in moisture (yes…you must still water the garden occasionally), regulates the temperature of the soil, and virtually eliminates the need to weed. This frees us up to do or not do all kinds of things like meditate, read a good book, make new friends at the garden, walk the dog, eat more vegetables…