The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith: My daughter’s garden is going to amount to a hill of beans. Her first family garden last year was so much fun that they planted another. Michelle dug a hole for a tomato and as she picked up the plant, two year old Charlie dumped a half package of green beans in the hole and then proceeded to cover the seeds with his yellow plastic rake, “Back and forth, Gramma, back and forth”. No problem, we’ll just use a trellis and enjoy Charlie and his beanstalk. Catie was a big help, too. She labeled a stake for both ends of the rows so we’ll be sure to know what we planted. FYI, the rows are all of ten feet long. Watering the seeds daily until they germinate hasn’t been a problem as long as no one minds that Charlie can turn on the spigot and water himself, Catie, and the neighbor’s dog. We’re waiting to mulch the plants until they sprout in an effort to keep Charlie off the rows. With limited garden space, they’re experimenting with a hanging container cherry tomato plant. The container will probably require watering daily, allowing the water to run through the container.
Charlie helped us plant Hosta in their back yard this week. The family is renovating the yard so some landscaping is in order. Their home is nestled on a hill surrounded by mature trees. We planted several Hostas between a retaining wall and a tree where they will enjoy speckled sunlight. Hosta prefers a rich organic soil, but they will grow in about anything. We have access to aged horse manure to augment the soil and topped that, of course, with hardwood mulch.
Michelle plans to alternate Day Lilies and Iris in a sunny spot in front of the house. Both are perennials preferring full sun and fertile, well drained soil, but once established will tolerate drought. The latter makes them a good choice for a busy working Mom with two equally busy youngsters.
Annuals will supplement other spaces. Petunias, Snapdragons and Salvia are sun lovers. Impatiens are shade/part shade lovers. All are easy keepers.
Eventually there will be shrubs and other flowering perennials. Michelle and her family are having such a good time experimenting with what works and what doesn’t with both their vegetable and flower gardens. And that’s what gardening should be about: family and fun!
The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:
Busy morning today. A friend came out to “scoop poop”. Actually, he used the skid loader. He took a pickup load of horse manure. He’s spreading that Black Gold on his garden in preparation for next spring’s vegetable garden!
How do you know if your soil needs enhancement? For a small fee, you can always obtain a soil testing kit from the Linn County Extension office. And, check for earthworms. In any hole of one cubic foot, you should see at least five earthworms. Earthworms aerate the soil and add considerable fertility to the earth with their castings (waste). If you don’t have worms now, add organic material as a remedy.
Considered composting. Composting is basically decomposed material. It is the controlled biological and chemical decomposition of organic material. Composted material resembles black fluffy soil. Added to soil, compost improves drainage, increases aeration, and aids water retention and nutrients all of which create better root development resulting in healthier plants.
By amending the soil, composting reduces the need to use chemical fertilizers. Homemade compost is economical to make. Compost provides a slow release of nutrients over an extended period. Compost can be mixed into the top 6-8 inches of garden soil or spread in a one inch layer around perennials.
Instead of raking all of the leaves from your yard into the street, deposit them in a pile—or bin—in an obscure area of your yard. Mix in non-diseased stems and cuttings from your flower and vegetable garden. Add shredded or torn newspaper (do not use the colored sheets, however). Coffee grounds, potato peelings and egg shells can be used as well as leftover fruits and vegetables. Grass clippings and yard trimmings will decompose. Do not use cat litter. Lard, grease, oil, meat or fish bones may attract unwanted scavengers. Add water and stir. How much compost do you need? Incorporating two inches of compost into a 200 sq. ft. garden will require 33.33 cu. ft., or 1.2 cu. yds. or 41.66 bushels or 83.33 five gallon buckets.
For an explanation of creating a compost bin, call the Linn County Master Gardeners at the Horticulture Hotline at 319-447-0647.
The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:
Sitting here by an open window listening to the acorns hitting the deck makes me smile. 1968 was the first fall we lived here in the country and my goal was to be the ultimate country person. I diligently gathered buckets and buckets of walnuts and laid them out on a raised screen on the porch to dry with the intent of enjoying our own homegrown crop. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a pair of squirrels dashing on and off my porch: I certainly made their day! I don’t dry my own walnuts anymore. Nor do I make my own apple butter. It was unbelievably delicious with literally bags of sugar added to the vat of apples and spices. I don’t do much vegetable gardening anymore either, although there’s almost nothing better than your own fresh tomatoes and sweet corn. My favorite daughter’s fledgling first garden was widely successful. Maybe they’ll share with me next year as they’ve already planned for a bigger and better model. The kids learned about eating peas from the pod and running to the garden to fetch a ripe tomato or ears of sweet corn for dinner. When we clear the garden this fall we’ll amend the soil with composted horse manure. Using the compost should eliminate the need to use any chemical fertilizer.
The beautiful weather today provides me the opportunity to cut down my peonies to prepare for Old Man Winter. I’ll add a little mulch now and in a few weeks some of that composted horse manure to the entire bed as I lay it to rest.
Composting is an inexpensive and an efficient use of biodegradable material. Composting is so easy and can be inclusive of almost anything from horse manure to leaves, vines and grass clippings. Why send your ”yardy” material to the landfill? Let it decompose in a secluded area of the back yard and recycle it back into your flower and vegetable beds. Linn County Master Gardeners will be happy to provide you with a plethora of information on composting. Call the Horticulture Line at the Linn County Extension Office in Marion at 319-447-0647.