Monthly Archives: June 2017

How to Grow Vegetables in Hanging Baskets

Green beans & a tomato plant

Do you have limited space, but still want to growing vegetables? This article will share with you simple steps to growing vegetables in hanging baskets.

  • First, decide what you like growing and want to eat. If you hate spinach, you won’t enjoy growing it.
  • Once you know what you’d like to grow, take some time to study what does well in your area in the current season. Your local agricultural extension can often provide you with guidance.
  • Consider the size of what you are growing and how you will grow it. For example, due to the height of corn, it wouldn’t make a great choice for a hanging basket. However, things like tomatoes if grown upside down may work well. Cucumbers are also an excellent choice, as the vines can provide interest to your basket. Pick them when small to avoid weighing down your vines.
Flowers, tomato, cucumber & oregano
  • Think about the position of the sun. Most vegetables benefit from a lot of light. Shady locations aren’t a great choice. Choose a place that receives light for the majority of the day.
  • Choose the potting soil that matches your needs. If you live in an area that is really hot and sunny, materials like coco peat that can help hold moisture. If you get a lot of rain, choose a mixture that contains sand for drainage.  (There is also difference between potting soil and garden soil mixes. Thus, be sure to ask questions about what you are purchasing. Garden soil may be higher in clay, which is heavier and doesn’t give roots as much freedom to move. Quality may not be the same from vendor to vendor, either.)
  • Fill your hanging planter with soil and scoop out appropriate size holes to make room for your plants.
  • Transplanting plants from the original container to the hanging basket is the fun part. Simply place your hand around the base of the plant to hold it in place and turn the container upside down. If the plant doesn’t fall out, squeeze the container lightly (if you can) or tap it. Once the plant slips out, turn it right side up, place it in your pre-scooped hole, cover it with soil and water.
  • Hang your basket, check it every day to see if it needs water, fertilize as recommended on your fertilizer package and watch your vegetables grow. (If you see bugs or your plant doesn’t grow as expected, write us on Facebook and we can help.)

How to Make Herb Flavor Cubes

I remember seeing some herb cube ideas on the Internet a summer or two ago and developed a simple way to do it myself. If you’re in a hurry and want to save your summer’s herb bounty, the directions and pictures below should help. While I used basil in the photos, you can try any cooking herb that makes you happy. Experiment with it and enjoy! Cheryl

Step 1: Pic your basil, rinse and drain.

 

Step 2: Pluck the leaves, place them in a food processor. Add just enough oil to provide lubrication. Pulverize the basil according to your food processor’s directions.

 

Step 3: Pour the basil/oil mixture into ice cube trays and place the uncovered trays in the freezer.. (The trays in the picture are the miniature type that you might find in a camper’s refrigerator/freezer. )

 

Step 4:  Once the mixture has frozen completely, remove the trays from the freezer. Loosen the cubes by gently twisting the trays. (If the cubes are stuck, running warm water across the bottom of the tray for a few seconds may help.) Place your cubes in a freezer bag, label and refreeze. You now have flavored herb cubes to use in the recipes of your choosing.

Why Is My Plant Dying?

Do you have a plant that is dying in your garden? Figuring out plant problems can really be frustrating and you may feel like you’ve failed. Don’t worry. Even seasoned gardeners lose plants. This blog will give you a light introduction into diagnosing your growing issues.

In order to understand why your plant may be struggling, you need to assess its quality of life. Start by running a web search without quotation marks for “requirements for growing [insert plant name].” This should lead you to knowledge on the basic needs of your plant.

Unhealthy squash plant with bugs

After reading a bit about your plant,  take a look at the plant and its surroundings. Put your fingers in the soil and observe the leaves and stem.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the soil too wet or too dry?
  • Are the leaves wilting, falling off or changing colors?
  • Am I giving the plant too much or too little sun?
  • Is the temperature too hot or too cold for this plant?
  • Are there bugs crawling on the plant? If so, does it look like they’ve chewed holes in the leaves or fruit?
  • Has anyone sprayed anything recently near the plant that could have damaged it?

Once you run a quick diagnosis with the questions above, you may be able to understand a bit more about why your plant is suffering and can run a web search on possible remedies. If you find yourself stuck and in need of assistance, post a question on our Facebook page and we can walk you through suggestions on solving your issues. You can also contact your local agricultural extension office. Diagnosing plant problems can be really hard, as there are a lot of variables. Extension offices most likely will have the ability to test soil (for a fee) and experts that may be able to make a diagnosis from a photo or sample of your plant.

 

How to Grow Vegetables in a Raised Garden Bed

Do you love to garden, but have poor soil or have difficulty bending your knees?  Consider growing vegetables in a raised garden bed.

A raised garden bed gives you the ability to plant in fresh soil in an area that is off the ground. This may reduce the amount of bending needed, while allowing you to have better control over the quality of your growing medium.

How do you grow vegetables in a raised bed?

  • Begin by choosing your container and location. You want a raised bed that is large enough to plant the vegetables you desire, while holding enough moisture to keep your plants thriving. Where you plant is also important. While under a shade tree may be fantastic for shade-loving flowers, vegetables need to be in the part of your yard that gets a significant amount of sun throughout the day.
  • Secondly, choose and fill your raised bed with a potting mix recommended by your garden center and fill your bed.
  • Next, add your plants and water well. (If it is really hot in your area, you may need to give them extra water the first couple of days to help them transition into their new home.)
  • Finally, be a good friend to your raised bed and check it every day. Stick your fingers into the soil to check to see if it needs water. If it feels dry, add water to the base of your plants. (Splashing can spread disease. Watering in the morning before the heat of the day is a great habit to choose.) Fertilize as recommended by your plant food manufacturer.
  • Harvest your vegetables when they are ready and enjoy!

Garden Pests: Squash Bugs

Living with insects is part of gardening. There are good bugs and there are pests. Knowing how to control the bad insects naturally can help save your garden. One of the more destructive and frustrating enemies is the squash bug. Let’s talk a bit about what to do with them.

Squash bugs can suck the life out of your squash, if you are not vigilant. They love hiding and can be quite frustrating to control. If you are an organic or sustainable gardener, harsh chemicals are not your favored choice. Thus, as disgusting as it may appear, the best control measures are searching and destruction.

Searching for squash bugs means that you need to get close to your plants and move the leaves around. You will find the insects crawling anywhere on your plant. When you see them, simply pick them up with your hands and drop them into a bowl of soap water.  If they don’t drown, you can remove them one by one and crush them with a stone.

The second thing you need to do in your search is look for eggs. Typically, the eggs will be lined up like soldiers in a pattern on the underside or top of leaves. Scrape the eggs into your soap water. You can also remove the leaf and crush the eggs with a stone.

While this procedure may seem distasteful and brutal, it will help decrease the destruction in your garden. If you do not control squash bugs, they will keep multiplying and kill your plants.

Growing your vegetables in a raised container like the Smart Farm can reduce the bending needed when inspecting your vegetables. If standing is challenging, you can even pull a chair up to your Smart Farm to make gardening more comfortable.

Please visit the Mr. Stacky page on Facebook for gardening pictures and help in answering your growing questions.