All Good (?) Things Come To An End!

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It’s Tuesday, October 30, 2012 and I am enjoying fresh vegetables from my organic garden.  Just yesterday I cooked collard greens, boiled potatoes, cornbread with a side of slice tomatoes for my mom.  The greens and the tomatoes were from my garden.  After that super hot and drought-like summer, I am totally amazed that there is anything out there, let alone it being edible.  In addition to the greens and tomatoes, I’ve got yellow squash, peppers, and tomatillos “on the bush” too, so to speak.  This is in spite of the pronounced chill in the air that we’ve had since the middle of September, with a few exceptions.

I know I said I wasn’t going to keep track of what I harvested but I decided to do it anyway.  I am a fool in love when it comes to gardening and it didn’t make sense to abandon the process for one year just because this summer didn’t turn out as well as the year before.  But all things considered, it wasn’t a bad year…it was a good year and if things had been slightly different I would have had a great yield.  At the end of the day my yield was off nearly 45% from the previous year

Vegetable                                                 2011                2012                Diff +/-

 

Cabbage/Greens/Lettuces/               31.5 lbs.        21.3 lbs.          -10.2 

Broccoli

 

Beans (all varieties)                            16.3 lbs.         2 .4 lbs.          -13.9

 

Peppers (all varieties)                        19.75 lbs.      12.53 lbs.      -7.22

 

Tomatoes (all varieties)                      121.47 lbs.   66.54 lbs.     -54.93

 

Tomatillos                                                9.01 lbs          4.84 lbs.         -4.17

 

Zucchini/Squash/Cucumber               22.5 lbs        22.63 lbs.     +0.13

 

Onions/Shallots                                      9.0 lbs.        .25 lbs.             -7.75

 

Herbs                                                        1.0 lbs           0.625              -0.375

 

Totals                                                      230.53 lbs       132.16 lbs.      -98.37

 

Surprised?  Yeah, so am I!  I am surprised that it did so well. There are some very unique things going on which I should explain so that the numbers make more sense to you.  For example…

  1. I didn’t plant as many tomatillo (2 vs. 4), pepper (24 vs. 51) or tomato plants (34 vs. 34, of which only 14 were not cherry/small tomatoes vs. 5 in 2011) as I did in 2011.
  2. I didn’t plant onions.
  3. My zucchini yield was off this year but the yellow squash made up the difference.  Cucumber yield was about the same or slightly more.
  4. Cabbage production was down significantly (small heads) whereas the greens and broccoli were up.  I did not plant any head lettuces just the leafy varieties.
  5. The bean output was just pitiful.  More plantings than in 2011 and far less yield, the worst ever in 6 years.
  6. 2011, I literally went crazy…planting and cramming as much into the garden as I could.  And when I ran out of room I bought pots and bins.  The goal was to not have to work as hard in my garden this year as I did in the previous year.  I think that there is a happy medium and I am confident I will find it in 2013.
  7. I hand-watered the garden. I didn’t want to water the weeds (which, thankfully I didn’t have many)!   I hand-watered in 2011 too, but it got to a point that I had to use the hose.  2012, though I had fewer plants they needed just as much attention.  Look at the number of plants (see point #1) I had in both years.  Hand watering takes time!  I felt like I was working myself like my mother likes to work my “government mule” ass.  I overworked myself in 2011 and wasn’t going to make the same mistake in 2012…and yet I watered AND WATERED!  I was averaging between 90 – 100 minutes every 2 or 3 days through the middle of August.  Hot days took longer.  The plants looked like they were doing great even with the heatwave, but with the notable exception of the tomatillo plants, which unexpectedly grew to nearly seven feet tall, they were all rather spindly and ultimately kind of weak looking.  But like I said, the numbers were there but the size and weight wasn’t.

In spite of the overall low production, I did have a spell there, for a while, where my dining room table was loaded with vegetables of all kinds. There was more room out of the refrigerator than in so anything that didn’t have to be refrigerated right away stayed out.  My plan was to can and freeze as usual, but there was an insufficient amount of the tomatoes I wanted to can and not enough beans to do a proper freezing project with.  When I did manage to freeze something it actually seemed like it was a lot but in reality I spent only three days in the kitchen, which I intentionally spread out over the days.

I did eat more of the veggies this time.  Since preserving them wasn’t going to work, I took the time to enjoy my garden in the moment…most of the time the veggies were picked that very day.  I had something substantial from the garden every two to three days.  I highly recommend the GRP (Garden Resource Program) Salad Mix of lettuces and their All Greens Mix (great for stir-frys).  I got compliments from everybody that I shared produce with and in spite of my low yield I still shared a lot.  Rotating at the top of the popularity list were the Purple Cherokee Tomatoes, Collard Greens, and the Cubanelle, Sweet Banana and Yellow Hot Peppers.  I had never tried to grow the Cherokee tomato variety nor had I ever had a Cubanelle pepper.  The peppers grew to a very nice size and the tomatoes had a very unique and sweet taste.  Anybody living in Detroit that owns or plans to start a garden should check out the Garden Resource Program at www.detroitagriculture.net.  It’s a great program and resource.

Another pleasant surprise was the shallots!  I didn’t think that I grew that many (20 oz.) but I have been using them about once a week since they were harvested at the end of July.  This was also the first year that my green bell peppers grew to size.  I only had 6 (out of 8) plants that actually grew some and they were beautiful.  I ate these while I froze the Cubanelle and the Sweet Banana peppers.  I was afraid to attempt to let them mature to red because I thought I was pushing my luck with the squirrels.  But, ultimately, I had nothing to worry about.

I had fewer problems with the squirrels due to the inflatable snakes I had in the garden.  In fact, I didn’t lose one pepper to the squirrels and at the worst I probably lost only about 4…maybe 5 tomatoes before the “I didn’t care” mentality took hold (October 20th).  Even now, the squirrels avoid going into the garden…hahahaha!  The garden was also fenced all around, so I didn’t have problems with rabbits either.  The sad thing was that my birds didn’t stop by and visit.  I always thought that the birds came from miles and miles away and I really enjoyed the different colors they brought to my window throughout the day.  But the snakes kept them away too.  Oh well, I guess it was the appropriate trade off, because there is a particular type of black bird that would come into my garden en masse and they would be as destructive as the squirrels.  They loved to attack any green shoot coming out of the ground and fight amongst the squashes.  But this, the year of the snakes, meant no birds…ces’t la vie!

So all in all, I enjoyed this year’s garden very much and I am sorry to see it end.  As I conclude this blog on Monday, Nov. 5th, I am proud to say that I got the most out of it I could.  Imagine picking hot and sweet peppers and tomatillos as late as Nov. 4th.  I had tomatoes out there were still ripening too!  They were small but not much smaller than the heat stricken tomatoes I had in the summer.  And I will concede that they didn’t taste as good either, but still…man…it’s “freakin” November and I was pulling healthy productive plants out of the ground.  What a summer (climate change and all) and what a fall…all good things (?) do come to an end!

P.S. I can’t wait until next year!  I have already planted nearly 60 cloves of garlic of four different varieties (Music, Japanese, Kilarney Red and Chesnok Red) in two 20 ft. long rows.

Thanks to John Adams, Jenni Littsey, and the Garden Resource Program for helping to make this year’s garden fun!

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What Was It Really Like This Summer?

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If you read my blog, “Green Thumb?  Maybe…Maybe Not!” you know that I described on a personal level, as well as a regional and national level, how hot it was this summer and how the heat affected my garden and anybody else that took the time to put seeds in the soil.  Well how hot was it really?  Here’s a breakdown from the month of May thru August (courtesy of the National Weather Service)…

May

Despite a near normal month of April, we experienced the third warmest month of May in the history of weather record keeping.  The average spring temperature (March, April, May) was 55.2, which was a full two degrees warmer than the previous record of 53.1.  May was characterized by persistent warm temperatures along with episodes of record or near record temperatures.  Only three days in the entire month (the 10th, 17th and the 31st) featured below normal temperatures, as the remaining 28 days saw daily average temperatures rise to at least 10 degrees above normal on 10 occasions, including 2 days of 90 degrees.  Those two 90 degree days happened a month early than the average date (June 19th) for Detroit’s first 90 degree temperatures.  The highest temperature for the month was registered on May 28th at 95 degrees.  The average temperature for the entire month was 65.3 degrees.  The normal average was 59.7, so May 2012 was 5.6 degrees higher than the norm, tying it with May 1896 for the third warmest May in history.

# Days 70+ Degrees          # Days 80+ Degrees          # Days 90+ Degrees

13                                            8                                              2

Rain/Precipitation: 1.72 inches

June

June started with unseasonably low temperatures.  May 31st the temperature was a lowly 65 degrees and June 1st followed at only 62 degrees.  After recording 13 straight months of above normal temperatures, it did seem like a change might be in the air to start the season.  I took advantage of the cooler weather to aggressively put seeds and plants in the ground.  After June 1st we had only one other day (June 5th) that was below 70 degrees (6/5 was 69 degrees) as the hovered in the 80’s and 90’s most of the month.  In fact, there were only 6 days in the 70’s (6/2: 75; 6/4: 72; 6/6: 79; 6/11: 77; 6/13: 74; 6/25: 76).  This was the first real sign of the drought-like conditions that was to affect the entire Midwest and other parts of the country.

The first 90-degree temperature of June and the third of the year occurred on June 9th and by the time the month ended; we hit 90 degrees 8 more times.  This meant that in two months (May and June) we had already hit 90+ degrees eleven times which is amazing since Detroit only averages eleven 90+ degree days a year.  With June being as warm as it was it resulted in an average temperature of 50.3 degrees for the first six months (Jan.1 thru June 30) of the year also…another record.  The previous record for the first six months of the year was 1998, the “Super Nino” year, with 49.1.  As I have pointed out in previous posts, the warm weather had to have an affect on the crops.  Consecutive hot days and warm nights probably impacted on the growth cycle of the plants.    The average low was only 60.6 with 13 days above the 60-degree mark.  The hottest day of the month was June 28th when it hit 99 degrees.

# Days 70+ Degrees         # Days 80+ Degrees           # Days 90+ Degrees

6                                              13                                            9

Rain/Precipitation: 1.31 inches

July

If anybody thought that June was hot (and it was), July was hotter and I do mean HOTTER!  July, the warmest month on record nationally, was the second warmest month ever recorded in Detroit.  The average temperature of 79.0 fell just –0.3 degrees short of the all-time hottest month, which occurred exactly one year ago (July 2011).  The heat also prolonged the streak of warmer-than-normal months for Detroit to 15, dating back to May 2011.  In similar fashion to last summer, extreme heat quickly built across the southern plains and Midwest early in the warm season.  However, very dry conditions allowed the heat to expand northward much more aggressively than in the year prior.  The result was prolonged near-record or record heat across all of southeast Michigan that lasted not only through June, but July as well.  By the end of the month, record heat and dry air had resulted widespread severe drought conditions across southeast Michigan.  Because thunderstorms are relatively inefficient at alleviating drought conditions, the multiple episodes of extreme weather that occurred did little to ease drought concerns.  But the storms did do some damage…

Taken July 5, 2012 by Jenni Littsey

These pictures were taken on July 5th after a major thunderstorm hit my mother’s neighborhood.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt!

The extreme heat resulted in the high temperature reaching 90 degrees or higher on 13 days in July, raising the total for 2012 to 24 days for the year at that point.  More than doubling the annual average of 11.  At that pace it was possible to beat the all-time record of 39 90+ days, which was set in 1988.  Additionally, the 100 degree threshold was crossed 3 times (July 4th, 7th and 17th), marking only the 3rd time in Detroit’s historical record that 100 degrees has been reached more than 3 times in a calendar year.  The hottest days were July 4th and the 17th when the temperature hit 102 degrees.  The record warm start to the year was also prolonged through July.  The average temperature of 54.5 degrees exceeded the previous record of 52.9 (Jan. thru July 1921) by 1.6 degrees.  Overall the average temperature for the month was 89.6 degrees or +6.2 degrees above the 83.4 degree monthly normal, and the second warmest month on record.

# Days 70+ Degrees                # Days 80+ Degrees       # Days 90+ Degrees

1 (July 19th)                              17                                            13*

*Includes 3 100+ degree days

Rain/Precipitation: 3.67 inches

The extremely dry weather conditions left me wondering how the neighborhood wildlife survived during these times.  It had to be pretty hard for the birds, as they need plenty of water.  That probably explains why I didn’t see as many as usual except for the days after a big rain.  I watered the plants in my garden by hand so as to not waste any and as a result there was absolutely no standing water anywhere.  The squirrels, however, probably got through it all by eating more vegetation (leaves, etc.).  One would think that my garden, which was full of succulent plants and all, would be an ideal target, but I strategically placed inflatable snakes in the garden and that has kept them at bay, even now.  The weather probably affected the amount of babies the squirrels had (giving birth in July) so there weren’t as many needy mouths to fill.  Still, when I look up at the trees, they don’t have as many leaves on them as usual.  C`est la vie!

August

What can I say about the month of August?  One thing we do know is that it was still hot…very, very hot!  August continued the record-setting trend of higher than normal temperatures (average temperature 83.4, which was +2 degrees over the norm, 81.4) for 16 consecutive months.  The higher than average temperatures in August also extended the record high temperature average from January thru August.  I am totally convinced now that there is such a thing as global warming (as if there was any doubt).

August started out with 8 straight days of 80+ degree weather, picking up where July left off (12 consecutive days of 80+ degree weather).  The average temperature for those 8 days was a whopping 89.2 degrees.  There were 6 more days that were 90+ degrees increasing the total for the year to 30 days.  The hottest day was Aug. 31st when the temperature hit 95 degrees and the coolest day of the month was Aug. 11th when the thermometer registered only 71 degrees.  For the first time since June (69 degrees on June 5th) we had temperatures below 74 degrees.  So that means we had 64 days in row where the temperature got no lower than 74 degrees, during which time the average temperature was 88.3 degrees.  Now that’s HOT!  The 4-month average (May – August) was 83.3 degrees, 5 whole degrees difference.  It’s no surprise that no matter whom I spoke to, people’s gardens suffered quite a bit.  With the scant amount of rain we got through that stretch (4.9 inches =  .07 per day or just slightly more than ½ inch per week), the problems I had with watering (just enough or too much) now appear to be understandable (Green Thumb?  Maybe…Maybe Not!).  But, what I still don’t get is how well the community garden at Nolan Elementary-Middle School did.  Planted where it got full sun for the entire day and subject to the non-focused watering technique of young girls and boys (some times they missed entire rows of plants) AND to also have to deal with a limited supply of water, the garden did more than just survive…it THRIVED!  Plus, it had to go through hurricane like damage from vandals.  Am I jealous?  You bet I am…lol!  You can’t beat results and Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners ultimately had a fantastic year. Look for their upcoming success story on their blog, “Planting The Seeds.”

# Days 70+ Degrees         # Days 80+ Degrees            # Days 90+ Degrees

9                                              16                                            6

Rain/Precipitation: 2.25 inches

Is This The End?

Is this the end?  Well, we will just have to wait and see.  So far this the temps have stayed pretty consistent with the rest of the summer: Sept. 1 = 84; Sept. 2 = 81; Sept. 3 = 89; Sept. 4 = 81; Sept. 5 = 89; Sept. 6 = 86; Sept. 7 = 79.

Last year (2011) the month started out strong too: Sept. 1 = 92; Sept. 2 = 98; Sept. 3 = 95; Sept. 4 = 78; Sept. 5 = 64; Sept. 6 = 67; Sept. 7 = 63

But once the temperature dropped on Sept. 5th it mainly stayed that way for the rest of the month and for the remainder of the year.  The warmest day was Sept. 12 when it hit 84.  The coldest day was the last day of the month, Sept. 30 when it dropped to 55 degrees.  There were 16 days when it was 70 degrees or below.  The average temperature for the entire month was 72.5, which actually isn’t all that bad.  But, that would be considered to be a “spring-like month” compared to the temperatures we have experienced this year.

Do we have anymore 90+ degree weather on the horizon and will we break the aforementioned record of 39 days, set in 1988?  Only time will tell.  One thing is for sure, this was one helluva summer…definitely one for the books!

Green Thumb? Maybe…Maybe Not!

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This year has proven to be a real challenge for gardeners and farmers around the world.  Though there are a lot of people (mainly politicians) that want to discredit all notions of global warming there are a lot of signs or indications, whether it be heavy snowfalls, severe rainstorms or the consistent high heat  and drought-like conditions, that point in that direction.  You’d have to live on another planet not to be aware of the impact the climate has had on cost of living now and perhaps into the future.  Fruits and vegetables are going to cost more this year.  Our feed crops for animal consumption have been hit pretty hard too.  Creating a domino effect that virtually ensures that the meat we eat, beef, poultry and pork, will cost more.

If you have been watching our local and national newscast, you have seen how the high temperatures of this summer have affected the crop production in many of our key states.  The corn in Indiana is about half the size it should be.  Wheat production in many of the plain states is way off.  High heat and the lack of rain has been a recipe for disaster.  And what is truly amazing is that despite or inspite of the extreme weather conditions, weeds…and I do mean WEEDS,  continue to grow and do very well.  The lack of rain or watering has not stop the weeds from “uglying” up our lawns, gardens or indoubtedly our farms.   Maybe weeds will be the crop of the future.

Many of my friends have asked how I and my garden are dealing with the summer of 2012, so I have quite a few pictures I would like to share with you all that show how I am handling things.  I must admit my green thumb feels like it’s only a green pinky.  I do not believe I will have the same production from my 2012 garden that I got from the 2011 effort.  Tomatoes are smaller, bean production is off and some things like carrots never sprouted.  Afraid that my zucchini and squashes were parched, I probably over watered them.  Even plants, like peppers, that typically enjoy hot weather conditions are undersized.  My expectations are so low as of now, I am seriously considering putting away my scale (courtesy of the Garden Resource Program) for the summer.  Gardening is a lot of fun, but it is a lot of work too.  I have worked harder to have fun  this year than any previous year.  And even with all of my whining and complaining I still believe it will be worth it.

Stage One – June

I am off to a good start…

Check out that soil!

New fencing to keep out the rabbits and the squirrels…hahaha!

So much promise…so much to look forward to!

Stage Two – The Beginning of July

The first week of July…Nice!

After this, virtually no rain for the rest of the month!

Stage Three-The End of July

Cucumbers…looking good!

Yellow Wax Beans

Now, I know you are all looking at this and saying what in the H*** is he talking about?  Well, there are times when even I look at it and ask myself the same thing.  But don’t let the green grass fool you.  It is brutal out there…absolutely brutal.  Some plants are doing very well and some are well below normal expectations.  I have re-planted beans three times.  My pole beans are a total disaster.  The yield from my zucchini and squash, as previously mentioned, is so low it is almost disgraceful.  I do have to accept the fact that somethings, especially the weather, are totally out of my control.  Oh, but I will more than make do though.  Again, as previously noted, my lettuces and greens are doing exceptionally well.  It still looks like I will get a lot from my Yellow Wax Beans.  All varieties of my tomatoes will ultimately do well…they just won’t be as large or as plentiful as they have been in the past.  My peppers, all types, will have a banner year.  So I will survive, but the price for surviving has gone up…way up.  Because to get what I have, I have had to work twice as hard this year to get even close to the output of previous years.  That’s right…twice as hard!

Is it worth it?  Easy answer…”Yes it is!”  Since I preserve a lot of what I grow, I will appreciate my efforts whenever I go to my freezer and pull something out that I grew this summer.  Plus, the most significant benefit will be the money saved.  A quick visit to my local supermarket has already proven that too.  Prices are already starting to rise while the quality, unfortunately, is going down.  Growing my own is still the best way…the most cost efficient way to eat fresh, quality food on a daily basis.  Without a doubt it has been a struggle this year…a real test of my green thumb (and the rest of my fingers).   But guess what?  I can’t wait until next year.

Related articles on this site…

  1. Compost Tea…A Most Beneficial Brew!
  2. I Thought That All Dandelions Were Good For Was Making Wine!
  3. 10 Things That Successful Gardeners Know or Do!

Are you having problems with your garden this year?  Drop me a line…misery loves company!  Also, the people at the Greening of Detroit are a good resource for dealing with problems you might have with your garden.  Contact Lindsay Pielack (313) 285-2300 or go to www.detroitagriculture.net.

Creating Splendour In The Grass

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I have been writing about gardening for awhile now (starting with last year’s inaugural blog “A Half Acre of Paradise”), so I thought it would be nice to let you all in on what I am growing this year.  By Memorial Day 2010, I was enjoying radishes from my garden as well as several herbs (cilantro, chives, tarragon and thyme).  In just a matter of days I would also be enjoying Romaine Lettuce.  Last year, our spring got just enough rain and sunshine to afford me with the opportunity to have pretty much everything in by the middle of May.  This year has been quite a different story.

Romaine Lettuce

The program has undergone name changes, personnel and management turnovers as well as funding and support challenges.  The fact that it is still in operation today and growing bigger and providing better services is a testimonial to the network of supporters and volunteers that truly believe that the path to a better Detroit is lined with gardens on both sides of the street.  So with my early start and armed with a supply of cold weather crops (courtesy of the Garden Resource Program) I was more than ready to start the 2011 garden.  Then the rains came!  I could do the official check of the number of rainy days and cold “non-spring-like” weather but it is easy to say that April leading into May was the second wettest spring in the Detroit area since they started to keep records of those types of things. 

"Arcadia" Broccoli

"Shuko (F1)" Pac Choi

I don’t think that during April and through the middle of May we had 4 consecutive days of good, warm and dry weather.  And like any gardener/urban farmer your only option is to deal with it…do what you can when you can with what you can.   So, accordingly, I waited until April 24 to put in Sugar Sprint Snap and Cascadia Snap Peas.  Due to ongoing bad weather, I was unable to put anything else in the ground until May 7th and 8th, when I put in the following:

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
  • “Arcadia” Broccoli
  • “Champion” Collard Greens
  • “Red Express” Cabbage
  • “Shuko (F1)” Pac Choi
  • “Toscano” Kale
  • Yellow Onions (50 sets)
  • Yellow Sweet Onions (50 sets)
  • Red Onions (50 sets)

    "Champion" Collard Greens

After nearly two weeks of constant rain, the following was planted on Memorial Day, May 30 thru June 1…

    • Giant Delicious Tomatoes (from seed)
    • Italian Beefsteak Tomatoes (from seed)
    • Big Beef Tomatoes
    • Black Cherry Tomatoes
    • Moskvich (Heirloom) Tomatoes
    • Green Zebra (Heirloom) Tomatoes
    • Red Bell Peppers
    • Green Bell Peppers
    • Yankee Bell Peppers
    • Yellow Bell Peppers
    • Marconi Red Sweet Peppers
    • Jalapeno Peppers
    • Long Narrow Red Cayenne Peppers
    • “Toma Verde” Tomatillos
    • Sweet Basil
    • Gigante d’Italia Parsley
    • Marketmore Slicing Cucumbers (from seed)
    • Zucchini (from seed)
    • Yellow Summer Squash (from seed)
    • “Kentucky Wonder” Pole Beans (from seed)
    • “Contender” Bush Bean (from seed)
    • “Provider” Bush Bean (from seed)
    • “Cherokee” Yellow Wax Bush Bean (from seed)

On Monday, June 6, I replanted some Cosmos and Zinnias (seeds) and planted Marigolds (seeds) throughout the garden.  I also planted “Round” Zucchini’s (first time) and in the front of my house I planted Nasturtiums, Marigolds and Zinnias.  Earlier in the spring I planted Nasturtiums and wildflowers but only a few of the Nasturtiums came up and none of the wildflowers germinated.

"Red Express" Cabbage

Since I have had problems with the yield from my carrot and radish plantings in the past, the plan for this year calls for me to plant the two crops in small containers that will serve as raised beds.  Additionally, most of my hot peppers and a few tomato plants will be put into pots:

  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Sweet Banana Peppers
  • Long Narrow Red Cayenne Peppers
  • Roma Tomatoes

 

Middle of Garden: Peppers, Tomatoes and Tomatillos

I may try raised bed/container planting for spinach and a few varieties of lettuce also.  These vegetables have short growing periods and I have read and been told that I will be very impressed with the yield growing the plants in this medium.

Full Garden

I will be providing status updates throughout the growing season.  You are welcome to check back to see how the garden progresses.  I would enjoy hearing how you are doing with your own garden projects as well.

Managing Pests and Diseases the Organic Way

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Once you have started your garden outdoors one of your major concerns will be how to deal with pests and diseases safely and organically.  Yes, you can always buy a spray or something that will work to prohibit most insect problems or infestations but in doing so you may be adding chemicals to the food that you eat.  There are some organic solutions sold commercially, you may have to look a little harder to find them and you may have to apply them a little more frequently to address your problem.

Through my membership in the Garden Resource Program, I have received some very intelligent information as for how you can deal with with pests and  diseases that might attack your garden.  So of the most common pests and diseases are aphids, imported cabbage worms and loopers, flea and cucumber beetles and you will find them discussed in the attached pdfs.  As well as preventive measures like crop rotation, crop diversity, planting techniques, tools and other methods.   Of course your first line of defense is a clean, weed free garden.  By keeping it clean you don’t give the pests a haven to breed and attack tender plants as the begin to grow. 

Thanks to the Greening of Detroit and to the author of this information, Jeremy Moghtader – MSU Student Organic Farm 2008

MANAGING PESTS AND DISEASES THE ORGANIC WAY 1

MANAGING PESTS AND DISEASES THE ORGANIC WAY 2

Got a question about gardening?  Feel free to ask it here or send me an email for a personal response at littsey.arthur@sbcglobal.net.

Semen…Semilla…Une Graine…In other words, SEEDS!

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Yo siembro la granja!  I seed the farm!  It is April and if you live anywhere north of the Equator you are probably starting to start your seeds in little trays, cups, little pots or containers…whatever’s handy.  As Martha Stewart would say…“It’s a good thing!”

Thanks to my membership in the Garden Resource Program, I have collected and will soon start enough seeds that will grow so much food I could feed the proverbial army.  By following the guidelines provided by the program, I am starting about three weeks earlier than last year and the goal is to extend my growing season by six weeks.  This year I can reasonably expected to begin eating produce from my garden in May…not June or in the case of some vegetables, July.  Talk about progress!

This year I have already started:

Giant Delicious Tomato (new)                         

California Wonder Bell Pepper

Jalapeno Pepper

Long Slim Cayenne Pepper

Chinese Decorative Pepper

Italian Beefsteak Tomato

Giant Yellow Bell Pepper (new)

Sweet Banana Pepper

Ancho/Poblano Pepper

I will be looking to set up the following over the next few days:

Collard/Mustard Greens

Lettuces

Spinach

Cabbage

Broccoli

Squash

Zucchini

Herbs

So how do you know what plants to start indoors or what you can put directly in the ground?  Well, according to the information provided through the resource program the determining factors are soil temperature and how long it will take for a seed to germinate.  Simply put, some seeds/plants do well in cool weather and some do well after the soil has warmed to a consistent temperature that promotes growth.  Planting warm weather crops early can cause them to rot in the ground or suffer from frost.  Planting cool weather crops when it is too hot may cause them to shrivel up and die, go to seed before they can be harvested or compromise the quality.  Last year I experienced problems from both ends of the spectrum.  So by starting the plants indoors I can put my plants out at the optimum times, which will virtually guarantee a successful and productive garden.

What are some of the basic “cool weather” crops?

Greens/Cabbage/Lettuces/Spinach/Chard

Beets/Turnips

Peas

Onions/Leaks

Potato

Strawberry

These seeds can survive light frosts.  Plant in late March/early April.  Some varieties might do well slightly earlier, so this is a “safe” recommendation.

Spring?

Cucumbers

Herbs (Dill, Cilantro)

Fennel

Broccoli Raab

Carrots/Parsnips/Radishes

Okra

Summer Squash/Zucchini

Flowers

These seeds might not germinate well or rot in the ground if they are planted before a frost.  The average last frost date in Detroit is May 10th, but can vary greatly from year to year.  Pay attention to weather reports!

Hot weather?

Tomato

Peppers (Hot or Sweet)

Beans

Melons

Eggplant

Sweet Potato

Winter Squash

Herbs

These seeds can be sown repeatedly throughout the summer for a continuous harvest.  Pay attention to the days to maturity and plan to the days to maturity and plan for enough time for them to grow before the first frost.  The average first frost date is October 9th in Detroit, but can vary greatly from year to year.

Fall?

Carrots

Peas

Greens/Cabbages/Lettuces/Spinach/Kale

Broccoli

Scallions

These are some of the plants that one can “sow” in either early spring or late summer/fall.  Mainly these are the “cool weather” crops, which don’t do well in the summer heat.  Plan for two separate plantings and harvests.  Some of these crops taste better after the first light frost of the fall.

Much thanks to the people at the Garden Resource Program.  Even though I have been gardening for years, I am finding that they are a great resource.  Much of the information presented here has come from them.  I highly recommend them for anybody that is planning or maintaining an existing garden.  From what I understand you don’t have to live in the city of Detroit to gain access to their information.  A small donation of $5.00 is all it takes.  Think about it…“It’s a good thing!”

For more information about The Garden Resource Program please go to:

www.detroitagriculture.org.

For additional information about soil temperatures and related gardening topics go to:

http://migarden.msu.edu

www.gardeningclub.com

www.urbanfarmonline.com

www.organicgardening.com

www.marthastewart.com/gardening