Woodhaven Place

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Tag: Gardening (page 1 of 2)

Product Spot Light: Sunbelt Ground Cover Weed Barrier

We use organic growing practices here at Woodhaven Place. Because of that we do not have an easy way to get ride of weeds in the garden. For years we spent time pulling, hoeing and even burning pesky interlopers. Then we discovered Curtis Stone and the wonders of Sunbelt Ground Cover Weed Barrier.

Sunbelt Ground Cover Weed Barrier

  • UV stabilized and permeable to air and water and a low cost, ecology safe alternative to herbicide use
  • Allows air and water to penetrate for worry-free irrigation
  • Guaranteed to last five years in direct sunlight; for greenhouse and outdoor use

 

 

We now use Weed Barrier all over the garden and it has cut down our work load by more then half. The best price we have found is on Amazon and is around $61 for the 3′ x 300′ roll BUT I looked this morning and the price is down to $41.31 with free shipping!!! That is the best price I have ever seen and I do not know how long it will last.  If you are having weed issues I highly recommend trying this out. This product could be used for a large market garden or a small back yard garden.

This is a link to a You Tube video Curtis did on how to use this product and what kind of impact it has had on his farm .

 

 

 

Growing Peas: Varieties, Method and Trouble Shooting

What do you do in mid-March if you live in southwestern Ohio?  I plant peas!!!  Yes, I plant them, from seed, in the ground.  The fact is, peas will germinate in soil as cold as 40 degrees. Early peas taste great, get you out working in the garden when most folks are still dreaming of planting vegetables, and they do a fantastic job of prepping beds for future crops. Like all legumes, peas can take nitrogen directly from the air with the help of nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria.

Types of Peas

Vine length varies from one variety to another, and long-vined peas need a taller trellis than compact varieties. Both compact and long-vined peas are available in four types, which vary in pod and seed characteristics. Although I only grow one type of pea, I will explain why later, I am giving you information on all four varieties. Continue reading

Top Ten Farmer Gifts For The Female FarmHER

“Women make do.” That’s what we do and the garden is no exception. When something does not work, we make it work because at the end of the day, things need to get done. As ladies have twisted, pulled, pushed, and toiled in the soil over the centuries, we have done so largely with the aid of tools designed for men.

Over the last few years, we have been given some fantastic farm related gifts and have tried out dozens of products. There are more and more companies making things specifically for hard working women (including work clothing!).  Continue reading

IBC Totes and what you can do with them?

When we started down the homesteading / farming road there was one acronym that continuously popped up.  It felt like every post I looked at mentioned something called an IBC Tote.  The things people were creating with these containers were awesome, but what on earth is an IBC?  After some research, I came to find out that IBC stands for Intermediate Bulk Container and they are a standardized shipping container for liquids.

BCs are used to transport everything from oil and soap to syrup and molasses.  They come in two standard sizes 275 gallons and 330 gallons.  The footprint of the totes are the same as a standard full-size pallet.  The plastic container is surrounded by a metal frame that creates a very sturdy container.  This allows forklifts to be used to move them and allows them to be stacked several high during transportation.

Depending on what you intend to use the tote for depends on the type you will need to find.  Most things on a homestead or farm require a food grade tote.  Totes that held oil or some sort of solvent are often the easiest to find but are not recommended for use if you plan to store something in them your or an animal is going to ingest.

If your tote contained a food product there is a very easy way to clean them out.  Put half a bottle of Dawn dish soap in the bottom and fill the tote up with water.  After is is 100% full drain the water.  Next, put 2 pounds of baking soda in the bottom and fill it up and drain it again.  The soap will cut and remove the sugar or whatever was in the tote and the baking soda will neutralize the soap.  We used this process when we cleaned a tote to hold maple sap and it worked great.

We first came across the IBC tote when researching aquaponics.  We plan to set up a good size backyard aquaponics setup in our greenhouse once it is complete.  IBC totes appear to be the standard method of construction for the backyard aquaponics.  The general construction method requires cutting the IBC’s into two pieces.  The shallower top portion becomes the grow bed and the larger bottom portion is the fish tank.

Another popular use for IBC totes is rainwater collection.  A 55-gallon drum is great, but the can fill in just a few seconds with a good spring rain.  With the ability to stack totes up to 3 tall, when full this arrangement allows someone to store over 800 gallons of water in a 40″ X 48″ footprint.  There are many how-to articles out there, but this is one of the best I have found and it includes a parts list of everything needed.

 

The other uses for IBC totes are limitless.  There are instructions online to turn IBC totes into livestock waters, waste oil containers, compost bins, chicken coops, mushroom grow beds, dear blinds, hot tubs, I had a guy buy one from us that he turned it into an oil change catch tray for his tractors.

We have a plan to turn one of the more beat up totes into a permanent dust bath for our chickens.  Two more will be centrally located by the well in the garden as a water tower. Then there is a third that lives in the woods by the maple evaporator used to store maple sap.  Once we get the aquaponics system up and running I am sure we will find even more fun projects for these forklift size building blocks.

Frost Dates – Why are they important?

It is important to plant your garden seeds and transplants at the right time and the key is knowing when your area will see its last spring frost. Some garden plants taste even better after a little frost. Cool season crops such as cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and kale can tolerate planting zonesa light frost and will grow best when sown a couple weeks before the last spring frost. Peas and spinach, are so cold-hardy they can be planted “as soon as the ground can be worked,” which means that if the dirt is not frozen and you can get them in the ground go for it! For us, that date is around St. Paddy’s Day.

Warm season crops (i.e., squash, cucumber, and basil) will be killed by frost if your seeds come up too soon. Transplants (already started plants) such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants will be lost in that last annoying frost if set out too early. Heed the warning on seed packets that say, “Plant after all danger of frost has passed.”

Finding the average last spring frost date for your specific area may take some research.There are many U.S. maps that show last frost dates however it is hard to find your exact location dates. The best source is the National Climatic Data Center web site. Frost-date-chartChoose your state and  nearest city.  The site will show your average last spring (and first fall) frost dates, based on weather data collected by the National Climatic Data Center from 1971 through 2000 from that location. You can choose to plant between a 50/50 probability of frost after the given date, or play it safe and choose the 10%date, which means there is only a 10% chance of a frost after that date.Another great tool to find your average frost dates is the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Vegetable Garden Planner web site. The Planner will send you customized planting reminders for which crops need planting based on your frost dates and location.

Our west central Ohio50/50 probability frost free date is April 16th, however, I never trust that date. I am not going to chance losing my transplants by putting them out to early. Most warm weather seeds will not germinate in cold soil so waiting a week or two will not only help with germination but lesson your chance of having to scramble for grandmas old frost-cover-msheets to throw over your baby plants. We plant our transplants on Mother’s Day; if we are having a very warm year and the soil is warm I will direct sow seeds a week before planting transplants.

Very early spring (as soon as the ground can be worked)

  • onions
  • peas
  • spinach

Early springVegi_Planting_001.60152855_std

  • lettuce
  • beets
  • carrots
  • radishes
  • dill
  • cilantro
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • celery
  • kale
  • potatoes

After last frost date

  • beans
  • corn
  • melons
  • cucumbers
  • squash
  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • pumpkins
  • eggplant
  • basil

Light freeze (frost) – 29°F to 32°F—tender plants killed, with little destructive effect on other vegetation.

Moderate freeze (frost)– 25°F to 28°F—widely destructive effect on most vegetation, with heavy damage to fruit blossoms and tender and semi-hardy plants.

Severe freeze (frost)– 24°F and colder—damage to most plants.

Phenology or Old Farmer Wisdom

I love old time farm sayings like “plant potatoes when the first dandelions bloom” or “cut in June will come back too soon, cut in July will surely die.” Long before we had the internet and hundreds of gardening books to read, these sayings were handed down from parent to 34e3d30f726dfe2cab922fc448731c51child and guided the yearly planting and harvesting. It turns out these sayings are accurate much of the time and the official name for them is Phenology. Many universities have devoted years to studying the validity of these sayings.

Events in the ‘natural calendar’ can be used to guide planting times in the vegetable garden or on the farm. The study and observation of seasonal events and their correlation to plant, insect, and animal life is called “phenology,” from the Greek for the “science of appearances.” Trees, shrubs, and flowers are sensitive to temperature and day length and develop on a regular schedule based on local conditions. It only makes sense to use these natural indicators to know when the weather is right for planting. Observations made over many years have led to some fairly reliable conclusions. According to the National Phenology Network“Phenology is nature’s calendar—when cherry trees bloom, when a robin builds its nest and when leaves turn color in the fall.”

The life cycle of the comLilacmon lilac is an often used guide in Phenology studies and garden planning and planting. The leafing out and progression of lilac blooms (from bud to flower fade) can aid the vegetable gardener from year to year. For example, after years of observing the lilac, naturalists have concluded that it is safe to plant tender bean, cucumber, and squash seeds when the lilac is in full bloom.

Here are some of the most common sayings

Vegetable Garden Crop Planting Phenology
Beans: Plant beans when lilac is in full bloom, also cucumber seeds and squash seeds.
Beets: Blooming crocus are your cue to plant radishes, parsnips, and spinach.
Broccoli: Plant broccoli when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom.
Brussels sprouts: Plant Brussels sprouts when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom.
Cabbage: Plant cabbage and cabbage family crops (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards) when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom, also beets, carrots, lettuce, and spinach.
Cabbage for spring: Plant spring cabbage in fall when mock orange is in full bloom
Collards: Plant collards when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom.
Corn: Plant corn when apple blossoms begin to fall and when oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear.
Cucumber: Plant cucumber seeds when lilac is in full bloom and when the blooms just start to fade, also bean seeds and squash seeds.
Eggplant: Transplant eggplant when irises bloom and daylilies start to bloom, also melons and peppers.
Hardy, cool-season spring crops: plant hardy crops when plum and peach trees are in full bloom.
Peas: Plant peas when daffodils and forsythia are in full bloom.
Potatoes: Plant potatoes when the first dandelions bloom.
Squash: Plant squash seeds when lilac is in full bloom and just as the blooms fade, also bean seeds and cucumber seeds.
Tomatoes: Plant tomatoes when day lilies start to bloom or lily-of-the-valley plants are in full bloom or flowering dogwood are in bloom.
Perennials: can be planted when the maple trees begin to leaf out

Vegetable Garden Pests Phenology
Apple maggot moths are at their peak when Canada thistle blooms; protect apple fruits.
Mexican bean beetle larvae appear when foxglove flowers open.
Cabbage root maggots are active when wild rocket blooms.
Japanese beetles arrive when morning glory vines begin to climb.
Squash vine borers are at their peak when chicory blooms; protect pumpkin plants.
Tent caterpillars are hatching when crabapple trees are in bud; begin caterpillar controls.

While not totally foolproof, following nature’s clock helps us tune in to the rhythm of life around us. Accumulating notes on insect indicator plants in new-pages-of-worlds-most-mysterious-book-are-seen-for-the-first-time-27281-1-590x812your own garden over several seasons paves the way toward being a much more effective manager of pests that plague your garden year after year. This can help eliminate time wasted looking for pests that have yet to become active, and remind you to check plants closely when they are scheduled to be a certain insect’s next main course. As we wait on spring, we are wise to keep our eyes open and pencils handy to better understand the Phenology of our one-of-a-kind gardens. Consider the Chinese proverb, “Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men.”

What are some signals where you live? I know that I am going to plant a lilac bush this spring so I can start being more cooperative with my natural world!

Resources
Growveg
Farmers Almanac
Harvesttotable
usanpn
Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Flame On – Red Dragon Flame Weeder Review

Weeding the garden is not something I would say we enjoy doing.  We spread wood chips in the garden for a number of reasons, but one of the most important is weed control.  The wood chips make it easier to pull the weeds up, but it is backbreaking and dirty work.

This year we wanted to try something different.  The way we have been weeding the garden requires pulling up the weed and as much of the root as possible.  This is slow and causes two problems in the garden.  The first problem is the piles of weeds that end up laying in the rows and the second are the holes where the weeds use to be.  This fall we decided to skip weeding by hand and try using a flame weeder.

We ordered a Red Dragon Flame Weeder from Amazon.  The flame weeder is not Flame Weeder Partsmuch more than a valve with a pipe.  The weeder comes completely disassembled and required about fifteen minutes to put together.  The parts are sturdy and the fittings are all brass.  The kit came with everything needed to assemble the weeder including a small pouch of liquid pipe sealant for sealing all the connections.  All you need is a wrench or two to put it all together.

Flame Weeder 2The weeder went together really easily.  It comes with a good length hose and connects to any standard propane tank.  The theory behind a flame weeder is not to burn the weeds to the ground, but to cook them just enough that the leaves can no longer perform photosynthesis.  I will admit going all scorched earth on the weeds growing in the cracks of the driveway was overly satisfying.  Heating concrete can be dangerous so do it at your own risk.  The theory with a flame weeder is once you cook the leaves the plant cannot feed itself and will wither and die.   Multiple applications could be needed to kill the tougher weeds.

The final hurdle is lugging around the propane tank.  Flame WeederThey make a backpack so you can wear it, but we did not really feel comfortable with that.  Our solution was simple and free.  We simply sat the tank on our two-wheeled dolly and strapped it down with a bungee cord.  This works fine for the time being.  The hose is long enough that you can weed a good sized area before having to move the tank.  I don’t know why but I just feel better with the tank a few feet away instead of strapped to my back.

Our final opinion of the Red Dragon Flame Weeder is very positive.  It is easy to light, it even comes with a lighter, and easy to use.  We have used this weeder a few times over the past few weeks and it works great.  I can see flame weeding becoming less of a chore and more of a break from other tasks.  Not to mention I see this being a great way to get a younger generation to help in the garden, once the kids are old enough .   I see a time where the boys argue about who gets to use the flamethrower!

Please remember to read all instructions and warnings provided by the manufacturer and follow them accordingly.

Flame Weeder In Use

Evil prickly weed around the garden well. Now they are all dead and returning their nutrients to the soil.

Wells Lamont Premium Leather Gloves Review

After the failure that was the “rugged” wear gloves from a few weeks ago, we found another type of glove to review.  These look more like what we are used to and like.

We are fans of leather gloves because they wear well and last a long time.  During our last trip to Costco we found a three pack of Wells Lamont leather work gloves.  Normally a good pair of leather work gloves costs more than $15.  Finding a three pack for less than $30 was very exciting.  Doing the math that is less than $10 per pair of gloves not to mention we now have enough pairs to put one in the car, one in the barn, and one in the garage.  No more running around the property looking for my “good” gloves.

To be fair, we did perform the same tasks as we did with the rugged wear gloves.  The big difference we put in three times as many posts and moved a lot more fence.  It is not fair to even compare these two pairs of gloves.  The Wells Lamont gloves are hands down a better product.  The single pair that was pulled out of the package has been in constant use for the past two weeks and they are just not showing any wear.

At less than $10 per pair, these are definitely the way to go if you need affordable gloves for the homestead.   Wells Lamont offers these gloves in multiple sizes from medium to extra large.  They even have a useful outlined hand diagram on the back of the package to help determine what size will fit you best. I will be buying gloves from Wells Lamont from now on.  Another bonus you can order these gloves through Amazon, so there is not even a need to go to the store to get them.

Fall Garden Prep

The weather is quickly turning cold and wet now that fall has officially arrived and we lost our garden to a hard frost 2 weeks ago. Now we are in full gear putting the garden to bed for the winter. To help the spring planting run as smooth as possible, there are some things that we try to do every year before the snow starts. It takes us a few weekends of work to accomplish everything however we are happy to have put the work in once spring arrives.

First we do some general clean up; putting away tarps, looking for any lost tools, folding up row covers, and pulling up stakes. We do not remove the dead plants unless they are diseased. Bean roots are fantastic nitrogen fixers; tomato plants get 20151017_125259pushed over and then are left to breakdown over the winter; and our ducks help clean up the garden by enjoying a smorgasbord with most of the other plants. We do flame weed any patches that are particularly bad to help kill them off for next year.

Second we sheet mulch the entire garden. This is a huge task and takes quite a bit of time however saves us from many weed issues in the spring. This coming spring we are changing the sizes of our growing beds. We are going from a 4 foot bed width with 4 foot walk ways to 2 ½ foot beds with 2 foot walk ways. This will allow us to have more growing space in the same garden and 2 ½ feet is a standard industry

The clean up crew

The clean up crew

size for row covers and equipment. Because of this change, we are laying down a very thick layer of much over the entire garden to kill any weeds that have popped up in the rows and to give us a healthy blank slate to work with next year.

Small-bed backyard gardeners can do the same thing. Lay a good layer of mulch, compost, or leaves over the entire area or just the beds if you do not have a lot of material to work with. It can be quite thick because organic matter breaks down quickly and anything left over in the spring can just be raked to the side.

We are friends with a local tree trimming company and they dump truck loads of 20151101_131038wood chips for us to use. If you do not have that much room, try calling a local tree company and see if they would be willing to drop off a half load next time they are near your house. If you see a tree trimming truck in your neighborhood working, stop by and ask if you can have the chips, most companies are happy to help out.

The third fall garden task we do every year is plant garlic. Planting garlic in the fall is garlic-hardneck-drawingfantastic because it over-winters beautifully and takes one thing off of the spring to-do list. We are going to do an entire post on our garlic planting process in a week or two so stay tuned. You need to put garlic in before the ground freezes hard however after the temperature is consistently cold at night, otherwise the plants can sprout early. Fall garden prep can easily be put off after a long harvest season however the effort will make life so much better in the spring.

For the Love of Carrots!

Every year I look through seed catalogs trying to find the best fruit and vegetable varieties for our climate and needs. One of my favorite vegetables to choose are carrots. There are so many fun varieties and home grown carrots taste absolutely fantastic!  There are five basic types of Carrots.

  • Chantenay develop stocky roots that become sweeter as the soil cools in the fall.
  • Danvers make great juice and the sturdy roots store well.
  • Imperator are long and need deep, sandy soil to thrive.
  • Iniature have small, shallow roots that are often quite sweet and are good for heavy clay soil.
  • Nantes are fast and easy to grow, and adapt to a range of climates and soils.

This spring I am going to plant three different varieties from Baker Creek.

carrot-cosmic-purpleCosmic Purple – 80 days germination. These Carrots have bright purple skin and flesh that comes in shades of yellow and orange. This is a spicy and sweet-tasting root. These carrots are not only pretty, but purple carrots also are higher in antioxidants than orange carrots and they contain anti-inflammatory properties.

carrot-danvers-126Danver Half Long – 70 days germination. The original Danvers Half Long dates back to the 1870s. This is the old standard American carrot that is adaptable, dependable, and productive. Thick 7” roots have good flavor. I grow this carrot for its smaller size and ability to grow in harder soil.

11117St. Valery – 70 days germination. The Vilmorins of France mentioned this variety in 1885 and said it had been grown a “long time.”A large carrot with bright red-orange roots that are sweet and tender. St. Valery is smooth, 10”-12” long, and 2”-3” in diameter. This is a rare variety and will be a new Heirloom for us this year. It is a traditional carrot that receives great reviews.

We live in Zone 6a where carrots can be grown in the spring and fall. Using a greenhouse or hoop house will mean a third crop can be harvested though the winter.  To plant, begin sowing seeds directly in the garden three weeks before the last expected frost; plant again every 2 to 3 weeks after that. Most cultivars take 70 to 80 days to mature, so sow the last planting 2 to 3 months before the first expected fall frost. Sow seeds about a quarter inch deep and 2 inches apart, in rows spaced at least 10 inches apart; carrots do well in double or triple rows. Thin seedlings to 4 to 6 inches apart, depending on the variety’s mature size. Carrot seeds are very small so they can take some time to plant. They also take longer to germinate than other vegetables so do not worry if they take awhile to come up.

For Zone 6a, the frost free date is April 14th so you should plant carrot seeds around March 24th.The reality is that in our area, there is usually a frost right before Mother’s Day. I do not put out any of my starts until after Mother’s Day for that reason. However, because carrots are stared from seed and are quite cold hearty, I feel comfortable planting these in late March is ok.

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