What a beautiful day for a gardening class! Thank you so much to Royce and Stephanie for sharing their knowledge with us!
Below Royce shows the book that they gleaned a lot of information from. The new 2nd edition just came out last month. Here’s the link:
The first step is to lay 6-8 sheets of newspaper on top of the ground in the area you wish to use for your garden. Cardboard also works well. Don’t bother with the black fabric. It doesn’t work as well and is more expensive.
The recommend size is a 4 foot by 8 foot box. It should be a minimum of four inches high, but if you can afford it, 6-8 inches is better.
The next step is to mix 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost into the 4’x8′ box. Peat moss is $10-11 for 3 cubic feet, 2 bags of compost for about $8 and about $38 for a 4 cubit foot bag of vermiculite. The vermiculite will last several seasons. The peat moss and compost should be added fresh each season.
Stephanie recommends the garden claw as an indispensable tool.
Stephanie demonstrates how to create a composting box. Drill holes in the bottom of one box.
Then put the box with the holes inside the other.
Add 2/3 leaves (provides carbon) and 1/3 cut grass or veggie scraps (provides nitrogen). Add worms and keep moist. The liquid that forms underneath can be used as fertilizer.
Vinegar is a natural weed killer (but you need 20%, not the normal 5% for household use). The cost is about $10 per gallon. It can be placed in a sprayer to treat the ground around the garden box so that the grass doesn’t grow underneath it.
Plastic corner pieces last for years and make building the box much easier. Cost: about $15 for the set of four.
Available from Gardener’s Supply: www.gardeners.com
Use bamboo or string to mark off one foot squares in your garden box.
A mini greenhouse can be used indoors to start seeds about six weeks before planting outside. Keep lid on because they need high humidity to germinate. Keep inside or put a heating pad on low underneath it. After three days, place in the sunniest spot in the house. Spindly plants need more light. Another tip is to place a fan on low blowing on the plants which will help them become sturdier. Water starts every day.
Hardening off is very important. A week before planting outside, place mini greenhouse outside, uncovered, for one hour in the middle of the day and bring it back in. The next day do it for two hours, and bring back in. Increase time by an hour each day. After a week, they can be planted outside. Little starts that don’t go through this process often die when transplanted outside.
Once the starts are planted outdoors, water every two to three days. Drip irrigation is better. (Will be discussed more below.)
Royce demonstrates how you can buy three tomato plants in one pot.
Determinate tomato plants only grow to a certain size. Indeterminate plants continue to grow higher and higher. They will need to be staked or have a wire tomato cage placed over them. (If using the cage, do it within the first week or two or it will become difficult to get over the leaves.) Shoots, or suckers, (which grow from the main stalk at the joint of branches) can be used to clone new plants. (See below.) They need to be removed so that the plant’s energy can go toward producing tomatoes and not new growth. Videos on youtube show how to do this.
Separate the plants carefully, disturbing the root systems as little as possible. However, if the roots are tightly wound in the pot, they need to be loosened in order to grow well.
When breaking apart the plants, keep as much soil with the roots as possible. Dig the hole deeper than you think you need. Fish emulsion is a great fertilizer. Make a moat around the plant to keep water where you want it. Roots stick out about as far as the leaves do.
Cut worms like to eat tomato plants. One way to protect them is to cut 2-3″ pieces of paper towel or toilet paper rolls. Carefully place over the plant, reaching about an inch below the ground and about an inch above the ground. Since the worms stay on the surface, this should protect the young plants.
Liquid Seaweed is a good organic fertilizer. It also helps prevent blossom end rot.
A simple watering system can be built with parts from Lowes or Home Depot.
Putting the hose on a timer ensures you won’t forget to water, and the plants will receive the amount of water they need.
This is the tubing for the irrigation system. Also recommended is a water pressure restrictor which will take the 60 pound per square inch pressure from the faucet down to the required 20 pound pressure. Mulch can be placed over the tubing. Drip irrigation also avoids spreading viruses from the soil to the plants.
Just wetting the topsoil isn’t enough. The plant needs to be thoroughly soaked so that the roots grow. With the right mix mentioned above (vermiculite, etc.), it is hard to over water.
Rootone is a great way to help start new plants. Cut the sucker off the plant, dip the end in water and then in Rootone powder, then plant it.
Tips for other plants:
Corn needs to have a minimum of 4 rows by 4 rows in order to pollinate. Corn also needs warm soil. Beans are a good cover crop to put nitrogen in the soil.
Lettuce is a heavy feeder to keep fertilizing it.
Radishes are super easy and fast to grow, so would be great to start with.
Planting marigolds around the border of the garden helps keep pests away.
Tomato and basil are good to plant near each other. Choose virus resistant tomato seeds.
Spinach, Swiss chard and radishes handle cold well.
Aphids are easy to control. Add a few drops of dish soap to a quart of water, then spray on tomato plants.
Keep track of what you plant in each square foot and move the crops each year as far from the original spot as possible. This keeps the soil healthy.
Another recommended book is Rodale’s Garden Answers (available used on amazon).