Thursday, December 2, 2010

Planning for Spring

There was a lot of good learning through our gardening and farming adventures this year. I figured it was a good idea to put them in writing so I wouldn't forget all those important lessons after one too many glasses of champagne New Year's Eve.

  • Buy row covers. Row covers will keep the white flies from turning the kale, brussel sprout and cabbage to goo. This will be disappointing to the ducks who think bug infested vegetables are a delicacy, but they will just have to get over it.
  • Don't worry about overfilling the raised beds. As the season goes on the dirt and compost cooks down and you will end up adding more dirt and/or compost anyway.
  • Tomato cages are useless if you properly feed the 'mater vines. Our tomatoes were so vigorous they outgrew the cages and ended up as a tangled mass which made harvest a total pain. Arched cattle panels would be a much better way to tame the vines and make harvesting easy.
  • Be prepared for late season diseases. Powdery mildew and wilt will eventually find your squash plants, so be prepared to treat with a homemade milk spray.
  • Tree roots are your garden's enemy. No matter how well established the tree and how deep the tap root, it will take the easy path to water. Trees will send out surface roots in a thick stringy mess that will suck all the water out of your veggies. Raised beds with a root barrier, whiskey barrels or even hay bale planting can combat that. I am going to try a few hay bales and beg for a few whiskey barrels for Mother's Day.
  • Squirrels are evil. And smart. They figured out the Have-A-Heart trap and I can no longer catch and relocate. Also a Daisy BB rifle will NOT kill a squirrel (particularly the fat, fluffy ones around here) unless you manage to catch one asleep and beat it to death with the rifle butt. Since they sleep 40' up in the air in the neighbor's trees, that isn't going to happen. If we ever expect to get pumpkins, we are going to have to use hardware cloth and build cages to keep the squirrels out.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment! I had great success with my sweet potato test. I found a plastic Little Tykes toy box for $5 at a garage sale, painted it black and filled it with dirt. I was able to grow sweet potatoes that are actually more suited for a much warmer climate. I also used a wooden box and filled it with feed bags filled with dirt for more sweet potatoes. Next year I will actually buy a variety designed for colder regions to hopefully get an even better yield.
  • Diatomaceous earth is not effective on all bugs, but it does work well on flea beetles. Sprinkle on the ground before planting things likes radishes to disrupt its reproductive cycle and save your plants. Reapply periodically to keep them at bay. DE is worthless for white flies. Just use row covers for those white fly favorites like kale and cabbage.
Gardening can be a pain, and it can also be very rewarding. The last year was a mixture of both, but it was a great experience and I really look forward to next year!

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