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Lessons Learned From a Backyard Garden

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posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 07:28 AM
I haven't bothered gardening for a a few years now - so this talk made me feel nostalgic. I'll pass on what I remember...

Some posters have complained about heavy clay soils -

gypsum breaks down clay soils - it's this powder you buy in sacks from nurseries, you sprinkle it over the soil (like lime). It's not instant but it helps over time - also for clay soils you have to dig in lots of manure, compost etc. I'm assuming gypsum is sold in different countries.

Or if the clay is that bad - build a no-dig garden on top of the soil. You put down a layer of sticks, bits of branch - prunings - any coarse rough stuff, then a layer of newspaper, then pads of lucerne hay - the pads come off the bale when you pull it apart . Sprinkle some blood & bone over the hay then put down straw in a thick layer. You then get some compost and make little planting "holes" where you want to plant and fill those with compost and then plant your seedlings or plants in the compost. Helps to have some kind of edging to keep the hay/straw together at the edges. It's been years since I made a no dig garden but I've built it on sandy soil that didn't hold water well and had poor nutrients and also on clay soil that was hard to dig and had good results with both areas. As the plants grow you have to top up the compost and straw as needed. But you only need to remake the bed anew once a season. Weeds are not such a big problem either due to all the mulch.

If you get horse manure from local stables, you can't put it on the soil fresh - it will burn your plants. All manure has to be aged - especially chicken - before adding it to your soil.

I've never had luck growing tomatoes - they always succomb to a viral disease or else I get fruit fly in them. the cherry tomatoes seemed to do the best. Fruit fly seem to prefer the bigger ones and the cherry tomatoes seemed more disease resistant to viruses.
Broccoli - after you pick the first head, leave the plant and it sends up side shoots and you can keep picking it for ages. Silverbeet - much easier to grow then spinach - spinach bolts in the heat but silverbeet is tough and very productive. The varieties with coloured stalks are pretty too.

Marigolds release a substance into the soil which repels nematodes - these pests can be in sandy soils and will attack the roots of your plants.

snails - beer traps help - put some flat beer in shallow dishes to attract snails & slugs - but the best way is to go out at early evening just when it's getting dark with a torch and pick them off the plants.

milk is a weak fungicide for powdery mildew. If you see the mildew on the leaves of your zucchini or cucumbers pick off the bad leaves and throw them out - don't put them in the compost - and spray the plant with milk and keep on spraying every few days. it seems to stop it from spreading. If powdery mildew is a problem, don't water in the evenings. Soapy water spray for aphids - until the ladybug population expands enough to deal with the aphids.
White oil spray for scale. My father used to put horehound sprigs in the fruit trees to prevent leaf curl. I don't know whether it worked or not - has anyone heard of that one?

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 09:15 PM

Originally posted by eradown
Consider those kits from Wheatgrass they also have mushroom growing kits. I have used both; they are easy.

Oh, thank you for the link! I've been looking all over for a sprouter and they have a very nice selection there. I ended up buying a "Handy pantry Sprout Garden," clover and wheat seeds. Those are some very reasonable prices. I am still considering the mushroom kits, but I heard that mushrooms don't have nutritional value.

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 09:31 PM
reply to post by AmethystSD

Suprisingly three cups of mushrooms do have enough protien for my body type and mushrooms have many medicinal qualities. The mushrooms I grew from the kits absorbed the flavors of sauces much better than the store bought mushrooms. They were succulent , but they can only grow in temperatures 80 degrees and under with summer coming this may be a factor to consider.

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 09:46 PM
What a great thread with plenty of terrific ideas. I just started my first veggie garden this year, and so far have about 25 potato plants up to a couple of feet tall and beginning to bloom. I’ve got about half in the ground with plastic sheeting for mulch, and half in large containers, just to see the difference. I’ve also got corn that is just now sprouting, and I plan to use the Three Sisters method of corn, beans and squash mentioned earlier that the natives have used for thousands of years. (must be the Choctaw in me) I’ve also got melon and tomato seeds in the sprouter that I haven’t decided where I’m going to put yet.

Since survival is the theme, and gardening for subsistence is the whole idea behind what I’m doing, I thought I’d share a method of plant breeding I ran across in my research for my garden. The plant scientist’s name is Raoul Robinson, and most of his work is available on line for free. Here’s a link with most of it.

His methods are not terribly complicated, but are labor intensive, so he recommends forming plant breeding clubs made up of like minded people. I’ve been searching for such a club on line with no luck so far. It would really be great to develop locally adapted cultivars of staple crops like potato’s , beans, corn, etc. that would be good producers with a minimum of maintenance and no chemicals needed.

Good luck with the gardens everyone!

posted on Apr, 21 2008 @ 07:40 AM
Sorry it took me so long to get back to this thread, I'm not typically on ATS on the weekends because I'm either in the yard, or spending time with the family. However, I'd noticed a lot of questions on composting, among ATSers and friends, and so I figured I'd post this thread on composting in case anyone wanted to know more about it.

Okay... now to start working on the responses to this specific thread. Whew!

[edit on 4/21/2008 by thelibra]

posted on Apr, 21 2008 @ 08:11 AM
reply to post by thelibra

Welcome back the libra,
Hope your weekend went well. This thread was a phenomenal idea. I truly want to thank you. The ideas projected here have been of tremendous value to me. I am a novice gardener, but I plan to do better. Thank you so much.

posted on Apr, 21 2008 @ 10:57 AM
Since there's so many people participating in the thread, and so many pages of replies, I'll reply based on the subject, rather than the person, to make it easier:

RE: Potatos - The straw-potato and tire-potato ideas sound intriguing! I have neither straw nor tires, unfortunately, but we might very well end up with either at some point in the near future.

RE: Earwigs and certain other pests - One trick the Ferry Morris guide suggested is to get some wide PVC pipe and cut it in half, lengthwise. Then partially bury it in the trenches between your rows of crops, so that the dirt forms a little cliff leading up to the edge of the PVC Pipe, forming a plastic valley. Alternately, you could use shallow catfood tins, bit of old garden hose, etc. Bait the trap with tuna fish oil, or vegetable oil with a tad of bacon grease. In the morning pull up the "traps" and empty them into a coffee can or bucket of soapy water. Repeat day after day until you don't catch them any more.

RE: Harsh Sunlight - If you get an incredible amount of harsh sunlight on an apartment patio garden, you might ask the maintenance office if you can have some old screening from any windows they replace the screen on. Use the screen, a stapler, and some scrap wood to make a mesh-box big enough to cover plants that could use a little less sun. The mesh should block enough sunlight to help keep the plant alive, while allowing enough sunlight for it to get in. If it's a flowering plant, try to leave two walls of the box open so that bees can still get to it to pollenate it.

If you've got a house and a large quantity of plants to cover in an extremely hot area, you might just bite the bullet and set up a greenhouse. You can construct a fairly sturdy, good greenhouse for around $100+ depending on how resourceful you are. The greenhouse walls will reflect some of the sunlight, can be supplimented with screening, tinting, or whatever, and will also protect the plants from harsh winds, and keep a good deal of moisture from disappearing. Instead, it'll just get really muggy inside. If you're particularly clever, you could probably rig up something to catch the condensation from the walls at night, channel it to a bucket or something, and reuse that water the next day.

RE: Efficient Watering for "Thirsty" Plants - Since some plants require more water than others, like tomatoes, if you want to keep them well-watered without drowning your plants that want less-water, then save your plastic jugs and bottles. Ditch the cap, wash the bottle/jug out, rinsing all the soap off, then cut the bottom out. Shove the neck of the bottle/jug into the ground near the plant, so it's partially buried. Repeat for each plant that needs extra water, so that each has its own jug. Then walk around with the hose and fill each bottle. Presto! You've got a slow, steady distribution of water into the soil. This is extremely efficient and has minimal waste.

If you want to further reduce water-wastage, save the bottoms of all the jugs and bottles, and poke a couple of holes in them. Then use them as "caps". Once you're done filling all the bottles and jugs with water, cap them. The air-holes will allow the water to still drain downward, but the cap will prevent most of the evaporation that you'd otherwise see from an open-topped container.

RE: Mobs Taking your Garden - This is a particularly interesting question. What happens if an armed mob decides to claim your garden as their own? The answer depends on your resources and your disposition. Most bandits/thugs aren't going to try and take your garden. If they were the sort to work a garden, they'd simply start one of their own, or enslave others to work it for them. What they -will- do is take the food your garden has produced.

If it's an armed mob of people that pulls up to your home, and you don't have an armed and organized resistance ready to fight them off, you'll probably have to simply give them a good portion of your crop. The understanding being that they won't kill you in return for your feeding them. If you are particularly diplomatic, you might be able to make an arrangement so that you pay -this- gang in food to protect you from the others. If you think this sounds like a ridiculous option of surrender, keep in mind that in present-day you are already performing this action by paying local city taxes, a portion of which go to your police force, state taxes for the state guard, and federal taxes for a standing army. In a Situation-X, if you had your own armed gang to protect your homestead, then you would be feeding them with your crop anyway. So the idea of paying an armed gang with your food crops to protect you from the other gangs really isn't that ridiculous. Just be sure that this arrangement is fully understood, so that the armed gang doesn't decide to have a bit of fun and trash your garden. If they know a portion of their food is coming from it, then they're less likely to pillage it.

If, however, you have your own armed militia to protect your area, then you're already feeding them, and the outcome is pretty much the same. Either way, it's the food that people usually want. Not the garden.

RE: More and more people Gardening/Composting - This is both surprising and logical at the same time. It's logical because climate change is a certainty, but the end-results are not. As always, it's starts with the conscientious people who are thinking ahead, way in advance, realizing that they may end up suddenly having to provide their own food source, and providing it via a garden takes months. It's one of those things you have to really have done in advance, because by the time you actually need it, it's too late. Well, the best people to learn from, are from those who've already been gardening for personal enjoyment for years.

From there, student and teacher talk. The student, because they're excited and want to share what they've learned with others, and the teacher because they're delighted someone else has taken interest. This gets others involved, and from there you get a gamut of people, from those who are doing it for emergency survival preparation, to those who are just doing it for fun and tastyfood. After enough people do it, it becomes a trend that people join in on for the sake of being a part of what's popular, and the end result is that more and more people are getting into it. Which, IMHO, is a very, very good thing. I would much rather my community be self-sufficient food-wise, because the last thing I want is a hungry, armed mob of people coming to raid my house.

RE: Lack of time for maintenance - I feel your pain. I work 45 hours a week, then I pick up the boy from daycare, make dinner, and go to night-school. On the very few hours of the weekend that the wife hasn't filled up with social obligations, errands, and chores, I might get a couple of uninterrupted hours to do yardwork. Of course, I still have to mow, edge, and weedeat, and keep the trees and bushes groomed, and the flower beds weeded. However, a lot of this work compliments the garden work and vice versa. The yard waste that I used to bag up and put on the side of the curb can now be used to feed my compost heap. The compost, in turn, saves me money and trips to the store. The garden is an area I no longer have to mow, so that saves me a little time, and the veg, in turn, will also eventually save me money and a trip to the store. It might even generate enough extra to sell to the farmer's market. So, yeah, it's definitely extra work that's hard to squeeze in, but it also subsidizes other work you'd otherwise have to do if you didn't. Plus, like any vigorous excercise (and make no mistake, hoeing a garden is vigorous excercise), it gets easier with time and repetition. Your body begins to adapt with muscle and extra energy, and what was a grueling process that took hours a month ago might only take thirty minutes for as much work this time around.

RE: Indoor Gardens - I don't have much to contribute on this topic, as my particular area has a real problem with gnats if you have indoor plants, and I hate gnats.

RE: Pruning Tomatoes - I'm not familiar with the terms "determinate types" and "indeterminate types". How do I know which I'm growing?

RE: Marigolds - Marigolds are really cool. They deter all sorts of pests and rodents (like rabbits). But it's the flowers that do so, not the leaves. If they catch too much water, they won't flower as much. The less water they get, the more they flower. Anyone know how to resolve this rather puzzling conundrum? The only thing I can think of is to use the "buried bottle" watering method for the crops, and then only water the marigolds when I water my compost.

RE: Clay Soil and Gypsum - Great advice on the Gypsum, thank you! I normally use expanded shale for things like rose bushes that don't care about rocks in the soil, but I was at a loss as to what to use for things like carrots, which don't like rocks in the soil. Sounds like my best bet is to sew the gypsum in after the last harvest, and let it work it's way into the soil throughout the winter, and that way I've got much looser clay when spring comes around.

RE: Milk as a Fungicide - Fantastic! I could really use this for my rose-bushes, and no doubt later for my veg. Does it need to be rinsed off or anything afterward? Do I need to use whole milk, etc?

I'm so delighted to see how many people are interested in a sustainable food supply. Thank you all for your ideas and comments. I really look forward to trying things out from this thread.

posted on Apr, 21 2008 @ 12:06 PM
reply to post by thelibra

If you have a problem with gnats keep the indoor garden under glass and plastic. To protect my wheat grass from gnats I covered the boxes with cheap plastic sheets. The sheets can be found in hobby stores and hardware stores. On a cold day in the winter all you need do to kill gants is leave the windows open for about thirty minutes.

posted on Apr, 21 2008 @ 01:08 PM

Originally posted by eradown
reply to post by thelibra

If you have a problem with gnats keep the indoor garden under glass and plastic. To protect my wheat grass from gnats I covered the boxes with cheap plastic sheets. The sheets can be found in hobby stores and hardware stores. On a cold day in the winter all you need do to kill gants is leave the windows open for about thirty minutes.

Good to know, regretfully in my part of Texas, we only see a cold day maybe one month out of the year. This last winter, we actually had temps in the 50's and 60's most of the time.

However, nice to know about the glass trick, but then how does it get the CO2 it needs? And if it produces any ethylene gas, I'd think it'd cause itself to spoil rather quickly.

posted on Apr, 21 2008 @ 01:31 PM
reply to post by thelibra

Everyonce in a while ,I removed the sheet inorder to water the grass. Then I would put the sheet back over the grass. The grass then formed a mist which made the plastic wet. The grass formed its ecosystem.

posted on Apr, 21 2008 @ 09:11 PM
Does anyone know a natural way to keep deer away from your crops? I know putting up a fence will help a little, but is there a plant they don't like and won't go around or will deter them from eating or entering your garden? I think deer are a big problem for a lot of people (or a benifit if you get to them before they eat your crops).


posted on Apr, 22 2008 @ 06:26 AM

Originally posted by jimmyjackblack
Does anyone know a natural way to keep deer away from your crops?

From what I've been told, and this is in all seriousness, go around the perimeter of your crops, and urinate. Apparently deer are afraid of the scent of human urine. You would probably have to do this fairly regularly as rain and time will wash away this scent. I don't know if this is true or not, and I dare not google it at work. But that's what animal activists will do near deer blinds sometimes to keep them from wandering within the hunter's sites.

posted on Apr, 22 2008 @ 09:07 PM
reply to post by thelibra

I've heard that too.

ETA: This is a great thread! I'm so glad you started it.

[edit on 22-4-2008 by AmethystSD]

posted on Apr, 23 2008 @ 04:55 AM
Re: Milk spray - you don't wash it off the plants, just spray equal amounts of milk & water and leave it to dry on the plant. Probably full cream milk is better then skim - but whatever you have. I don't know how it would go on roses - I have only used it on vegetables - it's not a strong spray - it's more a preventative measure to stop it spreading when you start to notice it. good hygiene is important - getting rid of affected leaves and not putting those leaves in the compost - otherwise you just spread the fungus. sooner or later the mildew takes over a plant so it's time to pull up the plant - but I see the milk spray as a delay, so you can get more harvest from the plant before you have to pull it up.

I have a book with more homemade sprays, I'll dig it out and post some more recipes if anyone would be interested.

Also regarding gypsum - you can apply it more than once during a growing season - it's not like applying lime. I've used it when preparing beds and digging them over, and when planting perennials or trees etc. You just sprinkle some on and water it in.

posted on Apr, 23 2008 @ 06:08 AM
I have a tomato plant that I am growing indoors. Does anyone know why some of the leaves are turning a pale lime yellow?

posted on Apr, 23 2008 @ 10:23 PM

Originally posted by sizzle
I have a tomato plant that I am growing indoors. Does anyone know why some of the leaves are turning a pale lime yellow?

'Maters like a lot of sun. Are you using grow lights?

posted on Apr, 24 2008 @ 12:15 AM
reply to post by resistor

I have had this particular plant
Oh geez, I just had a brain cramp.
What is the lighting in the tubes called?

posted on Apr, 24 2008 @ 02:13 AM
Fluorescent lamps, I believe.

posted on Apr, 24 2008 @ 05:19 AM
Great post!

I had to wait to start my garden as winter stayed later than usual in Toronto.

I've started growing a tiny patch in a garden I share with the landlady... It's probably about 1X4, like another poster's garden, so I'm using a condensed gardening method as well.

I've got regal spinach, munchkin broccoli, scarlet nantes carrots and bush beans.

The spinach is popping up more every day now, the broccoli have sprouted and the bush beans are on their way. The carrots don't seem to be doing anything though, not sure why. Perhaps they are and I'm just mistaking them for mini weedlings. I haven't pulled any weeds up yet, waiting for things to be identifiable.

I wish I had some tips to give but I'm just starting out and most of what I know is here already.

posted on Apr, 24 2008 @ 05:26 AM
reply to post by poisonmekare

An early morning check on the plants reveal new greens in the carrot section! They just might be my carrots!

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