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Gardening Guidance by GardenInMinutes


Garden Solarization – The 'Hot Trend' in Caring for Your Soil

Fungi, bacteria, and nematodes! The gardening community's "lions, tigers, and bears", these pests can take up residence in your garden soil and cause harm to your plants. Unlike above-ground threats which directly affect your plants, soilborne risks to your garden jeopardize the soil itself, rendering it useless to grow in unless remedied. Fortunately, all you need is a plastic sheet/tarp, the sun, and 4 to 8 weeks to solarize your soil.

IMG_3294

(Parasitic nematode affected carrot - Img src: GardenInMinutes) 

Solarizing Your Soil

Healthy soil equals a healthy garden, and healthy soil has to be maintained. Solarizing your soil is a non-chemical and effective method for killing soilborne threats by process of capturing radiant heat from the sun to increase your soil's temperature. The increased temperature makes your soil uninhabitable for the soilborne issues, leaving you with healthy soil once complete. It's a simple process comprised of 5 steps:

  1. Soil Preparation

To trap heat and keep the tarp from sailing – getting buffeted by the wind which cools the soil – the garden needs to have all existing plants removed and soil raked flat. It doesn't need to be perfect, just clear of any chunks of soil or divots that can create air pockets.

  1. Soil Irrigation

Wet soil will heat and retain heat better and than dry soil. By wetting the soil up to 12 inches deep, you are ensuring maximum heat can be reached at deeper levels which will kill or drive away more parasites, fungi, bacteria or pests.

grid irrigation system

(Garden Grid watering system - Img src: GardenInMinutes

  1. Tarp Choice

Transparent/translucent plastic sheeting offers the highest amount of heat production (ideal especially for colder climates), but black plastic sheeting can also be used as it helps control any weed growth as well. Transparent/translucent tarps allow more of the sun's rays through allowing radiant heat to build faster, but in areas where it doesn't get hot enough outside – or sunlight isn't as direct – weeds can grow under it. They won't grow under black tarps though because the black tarps don't allow enough sunlight through for weeds to take advantage. The thickness of the plastic is also important. The most effective will be tarps between 1 mm and 2 mm.

IMG_0184 

  1. Tarp Placement

Place the tarp over your soil and make sure it's tight against the soil. This is easiest when covering the soil in a raised garden bed. Since the garden bed is already contained and raised, it's easy to tuck the tarp in between the soil and the garden bed's boards to secure it. If you’re not using a raised bed, find a way to anchor the tarp edges down to  ensures it is secure and won't come loose. Once you've tucked it in nice and tight, all soil solarization takes is patience.

  1. Tarp Removal

After 4-8 weeks (6-8 for colder climates or more problematic soil) of your garden 'solarizing', remove the tarp. Your soil should be rid of the "lions, tigers and bears" and ready for planting!

So the steps are simple, but when you solarize is probably the most important. If you haven't guessed, solarization works best during the hottest time of the year – summertime. From May to August, solarization can heat your soil up to 130 degrees a couple inches deep. In warmer regions, gardeners can solarize their soil up to 18 inches deep, killing a wide variety of threats by leaving no space to hide from the heat. The process can take time, so it's essential to plan. If you want to grow a summer garden, then you may want to consider having a second garden area in the interim. While one solarizes, the other can be filled with all of your favorite vegetables. Then the solarized one will be ready to grow along side it for fall and winter gardening.

Only Have a Few Feet For a Garden? No Problem!

Our initial vision for a garden can often be bigger than our reality. We think of that neatly organized garden with a paved pathway between garden beds, a bird bath, and saturated colors sprawled out over a quarter of our backyard that friends and family come to admire. Unfortunately, that kind of garden is not realistic for many of us who live urban lifestyles and have daily time-commitments. We may have a patch of grass or simply a porch to work with at best, which can squash enthusiasm for starting a garden.

Fortunately, there are ways to grow extraordinary gardens in small spaces that satiate your horticultural desires, look beautiful, and the contents grown can be used to create tasty drinks and recipes! If you have as much as 8 square feet or as little as 4 square feet, then you have enough room for a raised-bed garden. The following are a few options to consider based on garden size and what you can plant:

2X4 Bed: Salsa Garden

Salsa is a delicious, yet simple classic that is perfect for any occasion. The fresher, the more delicious, and nothing is fresher than ingredients from your small home garden. If you have 2 feet of width and 4 feet of length to spare in your yard or on your porch, consider growing a salsa garden.

Tomato

(1 Plant)

Tomato

(1 Plant)

Sweet Pepper

(1 Plant)

Basil

(2 Plants)

Cilantro

(9 Plants)

Scallions

(16 Plants)

Parsley

(4 Plants)

Hot Pepper

(1 Plant)

This is one example of multiple plant layouts for growing your own salsa ingredients (each square represents ~1 square foot), but there are many variations. As you become a more proficient salsa gardener, you can substitute other ingredients like oregano or white onions depending on your taste.

1X4 Bed: Stir Fry Garden

Stir Fry on Stir Fry-Day? Treat your friends to stir fry by featuring your very own home-grown ingredients. Even if you have just a narrow area large enough for a 1x4 Garden Bed, then you have enough space! Within 4 square feet, you can fit 4 stir fry ingredients perfect for a fun night.

Baby Bok Choy

(9 Plants)

     Broccoli    

   (1 Plant)  

Carrots

 (9-16 Plants) 

Scallions

  (16 Plants)  

When you are gardening in tight spaces, it’s important to garden efficiently. With 4 square feet, you can grow a delicious meal. Now the only challenge is learning how to use a wok!

2X2 Bed: Salad Garden

If you only have a little square in the corner of your porch, don’t let that hinder your gardening dreams. Raised beds come as small as a 2X2 square, perfect for gardening in a minimal space. It provides 4 square feet for gardening like the 1X4, but more consolidated if you don’t have 4 ft in length. That means the stir fry ingredients fit in this layout as well, but there are other planting layouts options to consider – like the salad garden. Light and refreshing, salad gardens are great for light meals when you want refreshing.

Head Lettuce

(2 Plants)

Tomato

(1 Plant)

Radish

(16 Plants)

Carrots

(9-16 Plants)

Square foot gardening is ideal for those who are working with specific space limitations. After measuring the area, gardeners can find a raised square foot bed that matches their needs. Additionally, raised beds are great if concrete is the only option for growing on. Quality beds provide at least 8 inches of depth which is the recommended minimum for healthy vegetables. Some, like large carrot varietals, need more depth which can be attained by stacking raised beds. Floor space may be limited, but your garden can still be deep!

A lack of space doesn’t have to curb your gardening. It just means you have to garden smarter - now get out there and grow!

How to Garden by the Moon

Author: Wiley Geren, GardenInMinutes.com

No, no, no – you won’t have to literally garden in the moonlight. That would be inconvenient. Using the lunar cycle to pinpoint seed planting dates for healthier plants and more bountiful harvest is an age-old practice still used to this day though. It might not be the most popular trend right now, but it is based in science and suggested by the long-standing Farmer’s Almanac. If the moon can affect our world’s tides and light up the darkest nights, then it can affect how your garden performs.

To be clear, this is not a substitute for Hardiness Zones and seasonal gardening; it is an additional technique that improves the vigor of your garden. When done properly gardening of any kind, from square foot gardening to window sill planters, with the lunar calendar will further benefit:

  • Soil Moisture
  • Root Invigoration
  • Seed Swell
  • Leaf Stimulation

Get to Know the Moon Cycle

For gardening, the moon cycle is broken into four phases. Before you use this approach, it’s important to understand the science behind the moon’s gravitational pull and your garden’s reaction:

  • New Moon: During this phase, the moon’s gravity pulls water upward, and newly planted seeds swell and burst into growth. This is one of the best opportunities for planting crops that bear fruit above ground with external seeds (Spinach, Broccoli, Lettuce, etc.)
    GIM New Moon
  • 2nd Quarter Moon: During this phase, the gravitational pull lessens slightly and the moonlight increases. Moonlight has proven to aid healthy leaf growth, and the gravitational pull is still strong enough for planting seeds. Crops with above-ground fruit and internal seeds (melons, peppers, tomatoes, etc.) prefer this quarter, and do best if planted a few days prior to the full moon.
    GIM 2nd Quarter Moon
  • Full Moon: The full moon phase sees the peak of the 2nd quarter moon’s light and the start of its decrease (waning). Its gravitational pull remains high so soil moisture isn’t an issue, but the moonlight starts to fade. The full moon is a peak point for moonlight, which begins the decrease in its reflection of the sun. This isn’t an issue, however, because roots will benefit. That means root crops (beets, carrots, etc.) prefer to be planted at this time.
    GIM Full Moon
  • 4th Quarter Moon: This phase is the “resting period”. Decreased gravitational pull and lack of moonlight means that it doesn’t assist your garden. That’s why the 4th quarter moon is a time when harvesting, fertilizing, and pruning occurs.
  •  GIM 4th Quarter Moon

What to Plant When and Where

Lunar calendar gardening dates do change depending on where you live. Following the pattern of Hardiness Zones, there are 4 North America regions. Region 4 begins deeper into Northern Canada where gardening is fairly restricted due to temperatures, so let’s cover regions 1-3. What these regions account for is seasonal temperatures. The phase in which you plant has to be coupled with your standard seasonal gardening practices. The following are popular vegetables and when you should plant them according to region and lunar phase:

Region 3 (Upper US and Canada)

  • Beets – May 1-14
  • Broccoli – May 15-29
  • Carrots – June 29-July 11
  • Collards – May 15-29
  • Cucumbers – May 15-29, June 13-20
  • Peppers – May 15-20, June 13-28
  • Tomatoes – May 15-29

Region 2 (Central and Pacific US)

  • Beets – August 27-31
  • Broccoli – March 17-31
  • Carrots – March 7-16
  • Collards – March 17-31
  • Cucumbers – April 15-29
  • Peppers – April 15-29
  • Tomatoes – April 15-29

Region 1 (Southern US)

  • Beets – February 7-14
  • Broccoli – February 15-March 1
  • Carrots – August 1-10, August 27-September 7
  • Collards – September 9-24
  • Cucumbers – March 17-31
  • Peppers – March 17-20
  • Tomatoes – March 17-20

Gardening with a lunar calendar is an additional technique that isn’t difficult to integrate into your current gardening schedule. It helps plant leaves grow, strengthens their roots and gives you specific dates for planting. Sure, every garden requires sun and water, but a little moonlight doesn’t hurt either.

Sources:

https://www.almanac.com/content/gardening-moon-calendar
https://www.gardeningbythemoon.com/moon-phase-gardening/
https://themicrogardener.com/benefits-of-moon-gardening/

North America Image: Almanac.com
Moon Images: https://www.gardeningbythemoon.com/moon-phase-gardening/

Popular Summer Heirloom Vegetables

Any gardener who has seen a few seasons of gardening can tell you that plant selection makes or breaks a successful season. Unless you have a greenhouse in which you can regulate the environment, you need to garden seasonally. This means growing plants appropriate to climate characteristics. Very generally, they are classified as cool-climate and warm-climate crops depending on the temperature in which they thrive. Within those classifications, plant types can be further differentiated by being a heirloom, hybrid, or GMO. For the purposes of our garden planning, we’ll discuss heirlooms.

Heirlooms are often cited as being more flavorful, nutritious, and locally adapted. They’re the result of natural open pollination of plants and the intentional selection, saving and growing of seeds from uniquely desirable plants over generations of growth. These traits coupled with warm-climate preferences make the following heirlooms perfect for a summer garden. Warm-climate crops do well in 50-90 degree weather and some can handle drought to a certain point, however a garden watering system, such as The Garden Grid™ mitigates this risk. It’s important to note: extremes and gardens don’t go well together. Just because a plant is drought and heat resistant doesn’t mean it will grow in 100 degree weather with no moisture or shade. Gardeners still have to protect them from the extremes – both freezing and scorching.

Even though spring has sprung, gardeners should already be considering their summertime raised gardens. Warm-climate heirlooms are a go-to for many gardeners, but new gardeners might not know which varietals are prime for their summer garden. If you are unsure, then read about the following heirloom vegetables that will thrive and produce even in hotter environments.

Beans

The magical fruit, beans are resilient and a great vegetable for a hot summer. Heirloom varietals such as the Purple Hull Pea (southern peas) and the Alabama Blackened Butter Bean (lima bean) will stand up to harsh conditions. The Purple Hull varietal will be ready for a harvest after 75 days, and are white with a small purple eye. The Alabama Blackened Butter Bean is a lima bean known for its resilience, and will produce through hot summers until the first frost kills it off. The beans may not look appetizing when cooked, but they are delicious and will grow through the dry season.

Lima-Bean-Alabama-Black-Butterbean-RareSeeds_1

Image via RareSeeds.com 

Okra

For gardeners interested in taller plants, look to Cow Horn and Early Dwarf Green okra varietals. Capable of growing 3 to 5 feet tall, these heirlooms are quick sprouting and resilient to the harsh summer temperatures. Okra is a versatile product in the kitchen, and will be ready for harvest 45-65 days after planting. The only thing gardeners need to remember when planting is their preference for warm soil - so plant 4 weeks or so after the last frost..

Okra-Fife-Creek-Cowhorn-rareseeds_1

Image via RareSeeds.com

Eggplant

These beautiful, versatile vegetables love the heat, and there are a few heirloom varietals to consider. The Listada de Gandia, the Black Beauty, and the Ping Tung Long varietals produce well in intense heat. The Listada de Gandia is a flavorful French-Italian varietal, and the Ping Tung Long is an asian eggplant known to be more narrow than others. The Black Beauty is one of the most well known heirlooms in the southern regions of America.

Listada De Gandia Eggplant - RareSeeds_1

Image via RareSeeds.com

Tomatoes

The tomato is a favorite for most gardeners. Varieties might differ in size and color, but any of them can look great in a garden; and there are quite a few heirloom varietals to choose from. Amateur gardeners may find this especially frustrating when deciding what tomato varietals to grow for what season. Warm-climate heirlooms such as the very popular Cherokee Purple and Prudens Purple can withstand the heat and high humidity, but no tomato enjoys drought. Tomatoes need humidity, but consistent watering can easily remedy the situation. These tomatoes are ready for harvest in about 65-80 days.

Cherokee Purple Tomatoes - Rareseeds

Image via RareSeeds.com 

Overall, there are thousands of heirloom varieties to choose from often many that developed ideally for your geographies mico-climate. To pick the best heirloom for your garden, understand the expected climate you’ll be growing in and select an heirloom that adapts well and produces characteristics that you’ll enjoy!

Raised Garden Beds: The Good, The Great, and The Awesome Benefits of Them

raised garden bed

Row gardening is what we think of when we imagine large farms; acres of land with endless rows of soil mounds. It’s an optimum strategy for large spaces and machines used to cultivate, plant, and harvest, but it’s not great for the average backyard. Backyard gardens come in many shapes and sizes — in-ground, small rows, hanging, wall, and raised. Each has advantages and disadvantages:

• In-ground gardens can be any size, but require a lot of work vis-à-vis clearing a space, loosening soil, and designing a layout.
• Rows look clean and neat, but row gardening uses your limited yard space inefficiently by necessitating walking rows. (more on this)
• Hanging and wall gardens have aesthetic appeal and save space, but are hindered by soil depth and load-bearing ability.
• Raised bed gardens however, solve each of these ‘woes’. They can meet your preference in size and height, are designed to maximize plant spacing efficiency, and have aesthetic appeal.

Some raised garden bed kits can be assembled in minutes without tools. For design appeal, varied plant root depth needs, and back relief — tiered garden beds offer an aesthetic and practical approach. Some raised garden kits also have a watering system. The point is, raised gardens appeal to the best of any home gardening interest for amateurs and experts alike.

Raised Garden Beds Are Aesthetic and Organizational

Raised garden beds are beautiful to look at. They separate your fruit and vegetable plants from everything else, creating clean lines of wood and clusters of plants pleasing to the eye. Because they are versatile, multiple beds can be set up in an area to create patterns and further diversify the sharp lines, cleanliness, and aesthetic element. One of the most important aspects, however, involves their organizational benefits.

Square foot gardening plant spacing, the process of planting by area as opposed to rows, goes hand-in-hand with a raised garden bed. Outfitting your raised garden with a grid, divided out into roughly square foot sized squares, gives a raised bed gardener the guide for spacing plants efficiently. Within each square foot, gardeners plant according to the plant’s spacing needs which are highlighted in square foot planting guide.

Raised Garden Beds Are Space Efficient

Raised garden beds lend themselves to easy organization, and space maximization. As previously mentioned, row gardening can be efficient for large scale areas, but not on a small scale. Square foot gardening in a raised garden bed can support more vegetables because of the spacing style — they’re all designed with a dimension of 4ft or less so the middle of the garden is always reachable. Using garden grids in raised beds allows gardeners to plant vegetables with different spacing requirements, successfully growing an abundant and diverse garden. Not to mention the benefits of being raised. Raised beds promote root growth through soil especially since they are filled with non-compacted soil and soil mixes.

Raised Garden Beds Provide Good Drainage and Loose Soil

When gardening in-ground, pressure from the surrounding earth, rain, and time will harden the soil. With compacted soil, it’s a carefully struck balance between too much and too little drainage. Raised garden beds are filled with ‘new’, nutrient rich, aerated soil. The fresh soil and open bottom of a raised bed provides quality moisture retention with an easy outlet for excess water.

Loose soil is important for root vitality. It can’t be too compact, lest the roots can’t continue their journey and become stubs. Gardeners that use in-ground gardens have to dig up the soil to ensure it stays loose. With raised garden beds, soil is poured in and will naturally retain a loose stature.

In Short:

Raised bed gardening, when compared to other options is ideal for the backyard or urban gardener. With the variations in height, size, proclivity for high yield in condensed space, and aesthetic value raised bed gardening should be on your mind for gardening success!

Looking Back at 2017 Garden Trends

Like anything else, horticulture sees its fair share of yearly trends. Some stick around, some are fun, and some are a little odd. It’s fun to look at trends over the years and how they differ. Whether it’s an aesthetic craze or popular growing technique, gardeners express their creativity through growing trends. These trends usually originate from newly revealed information, a meaningful cause, or from someone’s example. People gravitate towards originality and creativity, and gardens are perfect for showcasing these qualities.

Unique heirloom veggies, tiered garden beds, and organic pesticides are a few examples of trends that have survived their predecessors due to their benefits and results. As we look back on the popular trends of 2017, we have to wonder which ones will go the distance. You may be tempted to try every fresh gardening idea, and you can! They’re interesting and let you expand your gardening creativity. As long as you keep your garden irrigation on point, ensure the climate is right, and give your plants helpful nutrients to feed them, you should be able to experience any garden trend.

The following are a few practices that we’ve seen grow in popularity during 2017. If one sounds particularly fun or innovative that you haven’t tried yet, make 2018 the year you try it!

Heirloom Gardens

Gardens comprised of heirloom vegetables have grown in popularity; this is evident by scrolling through Instagram alone! Heirlooms are beautiful, nutrient-rich, flavorful plants that aren’t hybridized with other varietals. They have a common ancestor and developed through open pollination in specific climates which lead to their unique style. While their yield isn’t as frequent as hybrids, heirlooms are being rediscovered and loved for their rich flavor and local suiting. Heirloom seeds have interesting stories about their parentage and produce less-uniformly, so harvests are spread out. Because they take after their parent, gardeners plant heirlooms accustomed to their region which will yield the strongest results. Of the recent trends, this one has a strong chance of sticking around.

Heirloom Tomato Green

Living Wall

This trend is both aesthetic and growth beneficial. Wall gardens utilize non-traditional space, add unique color and texture, and look beautiful. Acting as living art that can spruce up any environment, wall gardens are a great way to grow things such as herbs and flowers. They utilize minimal space, soil, and water to create a unique take on traditional, horizontal gardens. This trend is, in a way, a part of the urban gardening trend that will be discussed later. Basically, living walls bring gardening to more urban areas that aren’t privy to the ground space typically needed for a garden.

Tiered Gardens

Aesthetic and easier on the back, tiered garden look beautiful because the tiers add an extra dimension. Like building a step garden, these are perfect for showcasing flowers and vined plants or growing tall and short plant on different tiers, simultaneously. The different planting heights can bring short plants such as lettuce up closer to you and keep tall plants such tomatoes or sunflowers at a reasonable height. They give practicality for ease of plant management and aesthetic appeal to a section of your yard.

Tiered Garden Kit

Growing with a Purpose

Pizza gardens, salsa gardens, cocktail gardens, and salad gardens — these are a few examples of gardening with a purpose. This trend is about creating a garden comprised of vegetables used together in one recipe. Most gardens are beautiful, but the vegetables don’t always work together in a meal. Growing with a purpose means the garden, when ready for harvest, can be used in one recipe. The result is a completely homegrown meal, snack, or drink that emphasizes the beauty and tastes of your work. Additionally, it provides an extra incentive to grow. For gardeners who need a goal other than nurturing life, they can create a garden that will be turned into a delicious meal for family and friends.

GardenInMinutes Salsa Garden Guide

Urban Gardening

As mentioned earlier with living walls, urban gardening is a trend quickly growing in popularity. Once common in the early and mid-1900’s, urban gardening is seeing a renaissance. Whether it’s a hanging planter on the windowsill, a small garden bed on a porch, a rooftop raised garden, or converted lot, urban living can support the beauty of a garden with a little creativity. It helps localize some of the urban area’s produce, reduces the transportation needs for food, and introduces plants and vegetables that may not be common to the area.

Enjoy The Trends and Start Your Own!

These are some of the trends that we’ve seen which we think will stick around and continue to grow (pun intended). Many gardening trends are regional due to climate and growing conditions. However, trends can start from anywhere, and if you have an idea, you should share it with fellow gardeners. Who knows, it may become a national trend!

Fast-Growing Spring Vegetables for Eager Gardeners

radishes

Photo by Getty Images/ehaurylik

Once springtime hits, gardening season is on. Professional gardeners will have done their annual research to predict when the last frost may occur so they can be prepared for planting. Some gardeners will fill their garden kits with fresh soil and plant for the long-haul, choosing vegetables that take a while to mature. Other gardeners, like yourself, may be more eager for your garden bed to reach that first harvest as soon as possible. If so, there are some vegetables known for having rapid growth.

Kale, turnips, spinach, sugar snap peas, and radishes are great examples of fast-growing spring vegetables. As you can see, leafy greens and root vegetables tend to grow quickest. They are perfect for salads, stir-fries, and have a rustic taste that always astounds. There is no difference between fast-growing and slow-growing vegetables — simply the vegetables themselves. If you are looking for a quick harvest, get to know the following vegetables and their growth times.

Kale

Time to harvest: 50 to 70 days.

Kale is known for its cold tolerance and could potentially be planted before the last frost. They need plenty of water and will produce frequently if you harvest from the outside leaves.

Turnips

Time to harvest: 30 to 60 days.

Extremely rustic and beautifully colored, the turnip is a root vegetable. But don’t let that keep you from trying the leaves as well! Turnips are one of the few vegetables that provide an edible leaf and root. Similar to kale, turnips have the potential to be grown year-round, which makes them perfectly suitable for early spring planting and harvest.

Spinach

Time to harvest: 35 to 40 days.

Another leafy green, spinach is considered the “beginner-gardener’s choice”. One of the most versatile leaves, spinach can be used in salads, as a topping, sautéed, roasted, or blended. Known for having a sweeter taste than kale, people gravitate towards spinach for its nutrient richness and sweeter disposition.

Sugar Snap Peas

Time to harvest: 55 to 70 days.

Most flavor profiles change depending on the harvest time, but they can be subtle and go unnoticed. Sugar snap peas’ flavor ranges wider, with earlier harvests producing a sweeter pod. One of the fast-growing spring vegetables that differ, it’s a seedpod instead of leafy green or root vegetable. These delicious harvests are perfect cold or cooked, so the most eager gardeners can eat them right off the vine.

Radishes

Time to harvest: 30 to 70 days.

With heirloom varieties coming in many shapes and colors — from round to carrot-like, in white, purple, green, and black — radishes are similar to turnips in that they too have an edible lead and root. Typically a more cold-hardy plant, radishes can be planted 2 to 3 weeks prior to your last expected frost date.







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