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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Inexpensive Gardening Organic Tips

cheap-organic-gardeningSaving the Earth and protecting children and pets from dangerous chemicals are the reasons most gardeners cite for giving up pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, but guess what? Making the switch to organic gardening methods will save you money too! Here are six examples of how going organic will put money back in your pocket. Think of them as money management tips!

# Plant Veggies, Spend Less on Doctor Bills

A recent article by a Texas research biochemist summarizes some bad news: many scientific studies show that the vitamin content of fresh fruits and vegetables is on the decline. That’s alarming, because fresh produce should be an important source of vitamins and minerals in our diets — without them, we’re more vulnerable to getting sick.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to protect your health and reduce what you spend on costly doctor visits, cold and flu medications, and vitamin pills: plant some vegetables. Fresh-picked home garden produce is brimming with nutrition, and recent studies confirm that organically grown produce can be even richer in nutrients than conventionally grown fruits and veggies.

# Fight Pests with Flowers Instead of Pesticides

More than 90 percent of the insects in your yard and garden are your friends, not your foes. Ladybugs, lacewings, and even many kinds of flies and tiny wasps are an important natural pest control force.

Their larvae (the immature stages of the insects) gobble up aphids and other pests, or parasitize the caterpillars that would like to turn the foliage of your flowers and veggies into a holey mess. One easy way to attract these good-guy insects to your yard organically is to plant a garden of perennials and herbs with tiny flowers, because the adult beneficial insects eat pollen, not bugs.

Yarrow, purple coneflowers, daisies, tansy, cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias are great plants to start with, and you’ll love how they look growing in sunny spots all around your yard. Buying a few packets of annual seeds and several potted perennials is much cheaper — and much more fun — than buying pesticides and a sprayer!

# Fire Your Lawn Care Service

How much do you pay for a lawn care company to treat your lawn? Chances are it’s way too much. So ditch the lawn service and hire a local teen to mow for you instead.

To encourage a healthy lawn the organic way, have your hired help set the mower high — at least 3 inches high. That way, your lawn grass naturally shades out weeds (no more herbicides needed).  Be sure your helper uses a mulching mower that returns grass clippings — which contain valuable nitrogen — to the lawn (no more bagged fertilizer needed).

Once a year, have your helper spread good-quality compost too, about 1/4 inch thick. The compost will melt into the lawn almost immediately, adding a wide range of nutrients as well as beneficial microbes that help prevent lawn diseases.

About Heirloom Beans

There really is something magical and enduring about beans; from their rich diversity and nutritional value, to the vigorous production in the garden, and viability outside of it.

Today’s article about growing and saving Heirloom Beans was written by Stephen Scott from Terroir Seeds, home of Underwood Gardens and Grandma’s Garden Catalog.

# A Little History on the Cultivation and Use of Legumes

Beans are one of the primal sources of food, having sustained us for thousands of years. It appears that there were several different varieties of beans that were domesticated around the world independently of each other.

Beans are hardy, grow well in most conditions, produce prolifically, have one of the longest lifespan and are easy to transport.

They are an excellent source of protein and fiber, and have nourished many families during everything from travel to hard times. Many vegetarians and vegans turn to beans for the protein that is needed in their diets.

# Getting Started with Beans in the Home Garden

There are many short season varieties that produce well. Succession planting will give longer and more production. It is best to plant every 2-3 weeks, either between existing plants, or additional rows. If planning to seed between older plants, leave room when doing the initial planting.

Pole or vining beans grow vertically and take up less space in a garden, while a bush bean will need more space lower down, usually a foot between plants. Pole beans are traditionally grown with sunflowers or corn for climbing on; with the added benefits of fixing nutrients such as nitrogen in the soil and specific fungi on the roots of the corn plant that give it more resistance to corn diseases.

Beans do well started as seedlings then transplanted once they are a foot or more tall, but can be direct sown as well. Beans like a warm soil, so don’t rush it.

# Preserving and Saving Heirloom Bean Seeds

As they are open pollinated, you can save the seeds for next year’s planting if you choose. It’s easy to save seed; just let the pods dry on the vine and shell the beans for storage until next year.

Keep them labeled with the date harvested and the name and store them in a cool, dry place. Heirlooms have been saved for several generations for their flavor, production and hardiness.

Beans are self-pollinating, and will have lost their pollen by the time the flowers open, but bees can cross pollinate if they force their way into the unopened flower. Cross pollination can occur between beans, but is somewhat random, as there are a lot of factors in pollination.

# Great Tips for Improving Bean Plant’s Growth and Production

An old method of reducing cross pollination is to plant bee attracting flowers close to beans, as the bees will go to the flowers first. Plant different bean varieties at least 20 feet apart if saving seeds.

Companion plantings of carrots and cauliflower will help the beans grow. Planting summer savory with green beans helps not only the growth of both, but the flavor of the beans. Savory is wonderful in cooking the dried beans as well.

Onions and garlic will slow the growth and production of beans, as will gladiolus. Marigolds help to repel Mexican bean beetles, as do potatoes. The beans in return repel the Colorado potato beetle! Plant the beans and potatoes in alternating rows for best effect.

Common Plant Diseases

The following are some of the most common diseases you’ll be faced with along with some information on the plants they attack and some remedies – both chemical and non-chemical:

Bacterial Wilt – A common disease of cucumbers, bacterial wilt also afflicts muskmelons, squash and pumpkins. Most troublesome east of the Rockies, it is prevalent during moist weather. Cucumber beetles feeding on foliage usually spread it. Symptoms include rapid wilting of plants and death of young seedlings.

Check for the disease by cutting a stem near the base and squeezing it; if present, bacteria will ooze out in a sticky mass. Try using floating covers to keep beetles off plants or spray with pyrethrin.

Gummosis and Cankers – These are both terms used to describe various bacterial or fungal diseases that cause oozing, sunken lesions on trunks or limbs of afflicted trees and shrubs. The problem is most commonly seen on fruit trees, and often gets its start when the disease organism enters through a wound or borer entry hole.

To prevent this problem, avoid over watering and take care not to injure plants. Protect young trees from sunscald by wrapping the trunks loosely in burlap. If the plant is generally healthy, it will usually seal off the cankers. If the canker appears on a small limb, prune it out well below the canker; disinfect tools between cuts.

Powdery Mildew – This fungal disease attacks a wide variety of plants, including all sorts of beans, clematis, dahlia, grape, rose, strawberry, tomato, and zinnia, and trees such as apple, maple, oak, peach, and sycamore. It is favored by moist air, shade, and poor air circulation, but needs dry leaves to become established.

The first symptoms are small gray or white circles on leaves, stems and flowers; then entire leaves or blooms become powdery white and distorted. Some plants remain vigorous despite the infection, but others decline or fail to set fruit. Some flowering plants can become so disfigured that they must be removed from the garden.

To prevent powdery mildew, plant resistant varieties and routinely spray plants with jets of water to wash off fungus spores. Increase sunlight to plants by avoiding overcrowding. In the fall, discard infected flowers, fruits, and plants.

Sulfur may help; on roses and other flowering plants, try a baking soda and summer oil spray. Some gardeners report success with the anti-transpirant sprays sold to protect tender plants from cold. Such sprays keep the surface temperature of treated leaves somewhat higher than that of the surrounding air; apparently, they also prevent mildew spores from attaching to foliage.

Maintaining a Happy, Healthy, Disease-Free Vegetable Garden

Hopefully the above information will help you to maintain a beautiful and healthy garden. When disease is handled quickly and properly, you can keep your garden at its best with just regular care. A garden can add joy and therapy to your life, and a healthy garden leads to a happy gardener.