How To Grow A Vegetable Garden

Different from growing berries, vines, or crops a vegetable garden requires only a bit of shift.  Any gardening experience that you bring to your new vegetable garden will help your experiment.  Keep in mind that not all garden crops will thrive, and annual veggies require some weekly and possibly daily maintenance during the approximately three month summer growing season.

First thought for growing specifically vegetables is the proximity to your living quarters.  If you are growing at a community garden plot, then you have to bring all supplies along for your work.  If the garden is within sight of your back door, start composting now!  There are a variety of composting methods to choose from, and if done well, can be a great stinky corner of your garden.

Water is hard to drag across a parking lot, so be preemptive about your vegetable gardens location.  With location chosen, dig in.  If the garden bed is new you will need to prep the soil by tilling, fertilizing, and maybe filling in with superior growing medium (soil).  Depending on what types of vegetables you are trying to garden, it might be simpler to use pots.  If two tomato plants is the extent of your wishes, or if you want to start small, then I would encourage container gardening.  If you have your mind set on a in-the-ground garden bed, then you need to decide how deep to dig it.  Carrots need carefully prepared soil, as they are roots and can mis-form around rocks.  Depth is important for root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, beets, and horseradish.

Other garden vegetables grow almost like weeds.  One needs to be careful about the mint family.  Spearmint, peppermint, and catnip will take over an area within one growing season.  They spread so rapidly you won’t have enough lemonade all summer to smoosh mint leaves in.

If your garden is designed to large, you will have to walk through it to tend it.  This is a mess, so if your rows can be planted so that you can reach every plant from outside the vegetable garden it is best.  Rows can be long or multiple depending on vegetable.  I have found that carrots are prone to a type of root rot that only affects some parts of the garden.  Either the rot is localized or the conditions where those plants are is different (like too wet or sandy).

A vegetable garden is an experiment with often bountiful results.  Some crops will fail, and without a good first attempt it is hard to motivate to ever do it again, so learn as much as you can here online and then just go out and plan to spend some time each evening keeping your vegetable garden weed free and with plenty (although not too much) water. You are a vegetable gardener.

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How To Build A Garden Shed

I was recently struck with the notion that there could be more car space in the garage if I moved gardening tools to a shed.  I was struck with the parallel notion that I could build my own darn shed when I saw the price tag they had on them at the store.  I figure that I can do it for a hundred dollars if I salvage materials.  These notions came to me as the result of a conversation with the neighbor who is tearing down an old style garage.

A little bit of talking with my brother assures me that my garden shed does not need a poured foundation or a basement.  His suggestion is to build a cinder block foundation upon which to build the floor.  I have a readily available source of 2X6 lumber and once the ground thaws, my goals are as follow:  set the cinder blocks, build the sill for the floor joists to sit upon, install 2X6 joists, lay in the floor, build walls, install door, build roof, install roof metal.  These are the steps that I am laying out here on paper so that I can spring into action come spring.

The first step mentioned is in lieu of pouring frost footings 36 inches deep.  Anywhere where the ground freezes in the winter is prone to ground heave, which is when the frost comes and goes during the winter and can shove a building around unless its bases are well under the frost area.  I will bury a few stacked cinder blocks to achieve the same effect.

Most of the materials I can begin harvesting now, as the garage is being torn down and I would like the lumber and roof metal before anyone else gets it.  My priorities are the walk in door, every stick of 2X4 lumber I can get, enough 2X6 for the sill and plate, and the 4X8 sheets of wood siding that make up the exterior walls of the shed.  With all of that material I should have my shed.  One or two bags of screws and some sweat and I’ll have a place for the car in the garage next winter.

My biggest concern is installing the roof metal, as I am not a tall woman and being of retirement age I am not crazy about the height.  I have always had success bartering services and hope to find someone to help for just a few days during the ‘tall’ part of the shed building.  I can’t wait for this snow to melt.

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How To Plant a Vegetable Garden

Vegetable gardening is a medium-maintenance, three month, very enjoyable endeavor.  Most of the work happens in just a few minutes daily during the summer months.  My style has changed since retirement.

I use to let all of the garden work pile up until the weekend and then spend several hours in the sun.  Recently I have been spending between one half hour to one hour in the garden every evening before dark and am ahead of the weeds!

I do not use herbicides or pesticides near my garden, and this is the only way to be.  Some gardeners compromise their crops to chemicals to save just a few hours work.

Most of the summers work in a vegetable garden is mindless tending.  The real thoughts need to happen in the months before you plant.  Preparing to plant your vegetable garden can be a thoughtless chore, but you will find yourself with a thoughtless garden.  If you write it down, or sketch the garden as you wish it, there is no reason that you should not have a plentiful harvest.  Of course plants may fail and leave you a gap in your ‘garden map’ but there are later in the year crops that can be planted in that space.

In order to successfully plant a vegetable garden you need to have the soil worked up properly.  For me, this means taking buckets to the local farm and pick up several pounds of dry manure during the winter.  This fertilizer I like to spread out on snow if there is any present.  The spring snow melt helps that fertilizer seep down into the soil.  Come thaw and drying I till the soil with the roto-tiller.  I like for the soil to be able to drain out of my hand like rice would but some years that is nearly impossible.  As fine soil as possible for the year is your goal.

With spring upon us we must wait until the conditions are good for seeds to sprout before we plant.  Each part of the world warms up at a different pace so consult a ‘heartiness map’ for the ‘approximate last annual frost free date’.  This information will tell you when the threat of frost is past.  Then, consult the directions on the back of your seed packet for how many days to wait until planting.

When the date comes, draw a line in the fine powdery soil as deep as the planting directions recommend and pour the seeds in at the recommended density.  Fill in your line and wait!  The thinking part of planting a vegetable garden is done.  Now, wait for the competing weeds and critters to come and give you a run for your money.

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How To Get Approved For Chickens In Your Backyard

If you have never had truly farm fresh eggs from chickens that are allowed to run around and eat like a chicken should then you are really missing out.  If you break open a farm fresh egg next to a typical store bought egg you would notice a couple of things.

First the yolk will usually be darker and rich looking, the yolk will stand tall and be a bit thicker, and yes they have a better flavor.

What if you could have chickens in your backyard?

Around the country, chickens are gaining popularity as productive pets, and many cities (like Detroit, Iowa City, and Calgary) don’t allow them. More commonly, they allow chickens only on large properties, making the birds effectively illegal for most residents. Here’s what you can do if yours doesn’t give a flying cluck about poultry.

More here:  http://www.grist.org/article/food-2011-01-05-how-to-get-your-city-to-allow-backyard-chickens

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Advantages Of Raised Bed Gardening

One of my favorite books is Mel Bartholomew’s “Square Foot Gardening”.  Using raised beds has a number of advantages and one my favorites is the ability to get plants in the ground earlier in spring (always with an eye on frost danger mind you).

Learn more about raised beds here: http://www.the-organic-gardener.com/raised-beds.html

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5 Things That Contribute To Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

There has been a lot of news recently pointing the finger at agricultural chemicals basically poisoning bee colonies.  While there is not absolute proof of what is causing the bee population decline, this troubling trend has forced scientists to uncover good information on other possible factors that contribute to colony collapse disorder.

Here is the summary list:

1) Poor nutrition

2) Nosema (a pest)

3) Varroa mites

4) Systemic pesticides

5) Fungicides

Details on each is discussed here:  http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/blogs/bees/colony-collapse-disorder-causes-0118

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Grass Fed Sliced Sirloin Steak W Brown Rice and Peas

Yes!  Grass fed beef is good for your… and it is even better with this recipe.

Stir Fried Brown Rice With Sliced Sirloin (Grass Fed) Steak and Peas

1/2 cup sweet brown rice
3 tablespoons coconut oil
8 ounces thinly sliced sirloin steak
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
4 cups swiss chard, thinly sliced
1 cup thawed frozen peas
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons fermented soy sauce (or gluten free soy sauce)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Lime wedges, for serving

Get the full recipe and instructions here:  http://deliciouslyorganic.net/stir-fried-brown-rice-with-sliced-sirloin-steak-and-peas

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How To Start A Garden

If you want to make a garden out of scratch, there are just a few things to keep in mind.

First: you can do it!  Plants often grow in spite of humans and so there is no way that this is a bad idea.  Depending on what you want to grow, there may be specific requirements like pH, light/shade, fertilizer, or space.

A vegetable garden can vary in size from a pot to a farmers field.  I find that a square the size of a piano will produce enough weeds to keep most people pulling without giving up.  Any size, it is important to assess the existing soil where the garden will be made.  If you are planning to grow in what use to be grass, there is probably already decent soil underneath.  The sod will need to be removed so that you can see the quality of the soil.

Any earth to be used for growing needs to be of high quality.  If you are lucky enough to have good black dirt there is little to do but spade it or roto-till it as prep for planting.  More than likely, there will need to be black dirt added to your location.  If the soil is rocky, sandy, or otherwise not black, you can buy soil at your garden center for a reasonable price.

Location is something to think long and hard about.  Proximity to water and a place where you can see the garden to enjoy are important but there are a few bad locations.  Walnut trees contain a toxin (the tannins that were used by Native Americans to tan hides) will keep plants from growing.  Anywhere under the drip zone (under the canopy) of a walnut tree is an impossible place for a garden.  The shade of any other tree can be a benefit or harmful if it blocks too much of the suns light.  Depending on what plants you plan to grow, some natural shade can be beneficial.

Adding manure or other fertilizer may be required if the soil is less than good black dirt.  Warning: adding “hot” or fresh manure can damage your garden.  If you are getting manure for fertilizer straight from the farm, try and get some that is a year old.  Too hot of fertilizer can ‘burn’ the plants.

Soil should be made as less clumpy as possible.  Seed to soil contact is necessary for sprouting and clumps minimizes this contact.  A spade can be used to crush or cut up clumpy soil.  There are also motorized roto-tiller machines that do this with ease.

With luck, your well thought out garden can produce for many years.

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Toxic PCBs Detected in 99 to 100 Percent Of Pregnant Women

Startling test results reveal toxic chemicals from our industrial society are in pregnant women and likely affecting the health of the fetus.  There are thousands upon thousands of chemicals with potentially tragic long term consequences that currently have no government restrictions or regulations.  This report helps establish that more needs to be done to protect the public from harmful chemicals being released into our water and air.

Conclusions: Pregnant women in the U.S. are exposed to multiple chemicals. Further efforts are warranted to understand sources of exposure and implications for policy-making.

More here:  http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/info:doi/10.1289/ehp.1002727

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How To Build Raised Garden Beds

Raised bed gardening is a great way to raise vegetables.  I have a few tips that might make building your raised bed(s) a success.

Location is of utmost importance.  A plant bed for summer crops wants eight hours of direct sunlight for maximum health.  The place where you build should be level and near enough to the water hose.  Some beds are temporary, such as those made of straw bales, and others are very permanent like a cinder block or brick type.  My beds have always been made of 2×6 lumber.

With the location of your bed picked the first step in construction is to prepare the soil under the bed.  I suppose that you could build a raised bed upon gravel or even concrete but I have always had lawn to build over.   Since you will be adding soil to give the bed is height and growing medium, the sub soil is not  of great importance. It should, however,be prepared somewhat so that it can aid in water drainage and potentially a root bed for the longer rooted plants. By simply raking or digging up and turning over the existing soil, there will be a pace for water to drain out .

The bed size should be so that you can access the inner portion of the bed from the outside.  If you plan to be able to walk all around it, then four feet wide is good.  If it is against building or fence,then three feet wide is plenty. Stepping  in your bed is not advised during the growing season due to the compacting force that you will apply.

Screws, drill and drill bit are the hardware that you will need to make  a bed like mine.

The lumber comes together in the corner of the bed and the boards can butt against each other.  When the 2x6s are up on their narrow 2’ side they create six inches of raise which is perfect for most garden plants.  Two screws per corner should hold your soil.

Last step is to fill the bed with soil up to the boards and plant!  Erosion may be a concern if the bed is not level, so planning ahead for this is wise.  Using a level, or you eye, make sure that the boards are level with the world and that the soil inside is level with the boards.
At the end of your first season growing in the new bed, it is important to check the corners to see if they have pulled apart at all.  Some repair might be needed, but since you built this thing, you can be creative with the future use of it.

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