Category Archives: Gardens and Greens

No Dig Vegetable Garden

If you’re one of those people who think that growing your own vegetables is too much like hard work, think again.

All that digging, ploughing and weeding our forefathers went through belongs to a system of gardening and farming that need not be followed so strictly these days.

There are a number of no dig vegetable garden options that may suit you and which will provide you with all the organic home grown goodness and none of the hard work.

The typical no dig vegetable garden does actually require a little manual labour, but only at the beginning of the project. After that, it’s easy.

This system relies on you creating a bed of mulch, manures and compost etc, that will breakdown over time and turn into a nutrient rich soil far more beneficial than the sods you may have turned the old fashioned way.

To make a no dig vegetable garden, choose a spot that gets at least six hours of sun per day. It doesn’t even have to be on dirt. It can be on concrete, on rock, on gravel, as well as on grass or earth.

If you’d like an edge to keep things neat, by all means go ahead and build one – about one foot high will be enough – or just let the bed trail down at the edges.

No dig vegetable garden - newspaperCollect a lot of newspaper, wet it thoroughly, and lay it down over the ground at least six sheets thick. This will kill any grass or weeds underneath and prevent them growing through your new garden.

On top of the newspaper throw any organic matter you have lying around – sticks, branches, autumn leaves, grass clippings. They’ll all break down eventually. Spread a thick layer of lucerne on top of this, and then a substantial layer of manure and compost.

At the very top goes a layer of mulch – straw, hay, sugar cane trash etc – and you’re ready to plant. Give the whole bed a very good soaking and plant seedlings (not seeds) into the compost layer below the mulch.

For the first few weeks, your seedlings may need slightly more water and liquid fertilizer than usual, but at least you’ll never need to weed!

After your first season with the no dig vegetable garden bed, simply top it up with more compost, more manure and more mulch on top. Whatever you do, don’t dig! Digging or ploughing will do far more harm than good, and besides, it’s just the type of hard work you’re trying to avoid.

An even easier no dig vegetable garden method is for the completely lazy gardener. For this you’ll need a sheet of weed-mat (the good stuff that doesn’t smother the soil) the same size as the size you’d like your vegetable garden to be.

Three weeks before planting time, lay the weed mat over the area you’ve chosen. Put some rocks on the edges to stop it blowing away. Don’t bother to remove the grass first – after three weeks the weed mat will have killed it for you.

Cut some small holes in the mat and plant your seedlings in the holes. The vegetables will grow well due to the added nutrients from the decomposing grass and the weed mat means you’ll never have to weed. At the end of the season, roll up your weed mat and save it for next year.

Another no dig vegetable garden method is the radish garden. Radishes will grow at much lower temperatures than other veggies, so start this three to four weeks before it’s time to plant everything else.

You’ll need an extremely large amount of radish seeds, so best to save the seeds yourself otherwise it can be a little expensive. Very lightly chip the soil where you want your vegetable garden to be and spread radish seed very thickly over the entire area.

Water well and ignore until three weeks later when the radishes are starting to get big. Then pull out the entire lot and plant into the now loosened soil. Use the excess radishes as mulch, chicken food, or add them to your compost heap.

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2017 Spring Garden, A new season and new challenges

Garden - a new season

2017. A new season. Actually, this time of year is when winter chores overlap with spring jobs. We had a fire in the wood stove yesterday afternoon just to take the chill off. Last Sunday we cut some more firewood to stack for next winter and I will do more if we have the chance. It warmed up quick in March and then April was warm and dry so I got some stuff planted and a lot of it is up. But, I made a mistake that may have been avoidable if I had been willing to wait. I planted right before it rained. The ground was working well and it was warming up so I planted some potatoes, onion sets, lettuce, radishes, spinach, and leeks. We then had a big rain and the ground got so hard the seedlings had a hard time getting up through the crust that formed on the surface of the soil. The lettuce and radishes made it up because they came up while the ground was still wet. The spinach did poorly and there are just scattered seedlings that made it up. The onions were slow but they made it. I had to go out and chip the crust over where each potato plant was trying to come through so I could have a good stand of potatoes.

I had some collard plants that wintered over but they are pretty much just going to seed. I think I will try to prevent them from going to seed this year because they can become a problem weed it you don’t watch them. So, after some rain and more warm weather in April I put out some cabbage and broccoli plants. Last year we made sauerkraut from a few cabbages and it was so good we are going to make more this year. I have out 20 cabbage plants and 6 broccoli plants. I planted some more radishes, lettuce, and spinach. We have had a couple of rains on this stuff since I planted it. It is too muddy to go out and look to see if the spinach has come up yet. The cabbage looks good and I have the whole thing surrounded with chicken wire to keep the rabbits out. I also had a guy come with his small tractor and till up an area that I used to garden in years past to give me some more space. If we get rid of our last remaining horse I can expand even more. So, we will see.

So we are off and running with this new season. It seems like it all came up rather quickly. I was winter then all of a sudden it warmed up and things started growing and greening up. The trees are leafed out. The yard has even been mowed once. Asparagus has come up. We don’t have much asparagus left growing. We had a nice patch of it and most of it died off and I don’t know why. We had another big rain Saturday afternoon and everything is wet today and will be wet for a while. It is cool and cloudy so it will not be drying up real quick. But, I have plenty of other things to do, like work on my project on the new porch, but that is for another post.

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7 Tips for Controlling Weeds

Tips for Controlling Weeds

Any gardener knows that maintaining a beautiful, healthy garden or lawn takes time and effort. Ensuring a proper watering schedule, removing dead or dying plants and leaves, using the right amount of fertilizer and much more are all things that need to be considered in maintaining one’s garden. However, probably the most frustrating and sometimes time consuming is effectively controlling and removing weeds. And though one or two weeds may initially seem like no problem, when allowed to accumulate over time, weeds can completely take over your garden and prevent essential nutrients from reaching the plants that need them, potentially ruining months of hard work you may have put into creating a garden you can be proud of. But taking care of pesky weeds doesn’t have to be too difficult if you’re armed with the proper way to control them. Therefore, the following are six essential tips for properly controlling weeds.

Use Mulch

Weeds, like any other plant, need nutrients and sunlight to survive. However, if you can smother out a weed for a period of time, it will have no way to getting sunlight and will naturally die out. Mulch is the most effective way to smother out a patch of weeds; and a myriad of different materials can be used as mulch, including but not limited to: wood chips, straw, or pieces of bark. Cardboard or other thick materials can also be used to cover weeds and then have a nice layer of mulch on top for better effectiveness. Organic mulch can also be purchased and used, which is often more effective as it can help sustain cricket populations that can help eat and destroy weed populations.

One thing to remember about mulch is that you should frequently replace existing mulch with a new batch, as older mulch has a greater likelihood to have weed seeds dropped on them by birds or other animals, leading to a re-emergence of weed population.

Don’t Disturb the Soil

Inevitably, your garden will most likely have weed seeds laced into the soil that just haven’t erupted yet. These “latent” weed seeds aren’t a problem until the soil is disturbed and proper sunlight is able to reach the seeds. However, if you restrain from digging up patches of soil in your garden frequently, you’re less likely to trigger weeds from growing; digging only few areas of your garden and only when you absolutely need to can help prevent many dormant weeds from growing.

This also applies to when you’re in the process of removing already present weeds. Rather than using a rake or digging up weeds, cutting the roots with a thin blade can minimize the amount of soil being moved around.

Know When to Pull Out Weeds

Many weeds have branching root structures, helping them to cling onto soil extremely tightly and making your job that much harder in terms of removing them. Weeds that are rooted into dry soil are almost impossible to pull out by hand and instead would require a heavier duty tool. However, after an extended period of rain, weeds can be easily pulled out by hand with a sharp tug.

Weeds that are pulled out can be properly reused as composting, but there are most likely seeds laced throughout the pulled weeds so directly using the batch as compost can be problematic. However, most gardeners will throw the weeds into pot and heat them up to kill all the seeds, allowing the remaining “dead” leaves to be used as compost.

Plants Should be Close Together

Weeds will normally sprout up in nooks and crannies in between already present plants. However, if you plant your plants close together to prevent these gaps from being present, weeds will have very few places to take root.

A thing to note is that some plants will naturally require more space than others, but usual garden plants and flowers can be successfully planted close together with no problems. If you’re unsure whether your plant needs more space, read up on their planting guidelines.

Water the Plants that Matter

Like any other plant, weeds need water, and if you deprive them of this essential thing, they will inevitably die out rather quickly. This also means that you should maintain your soil and prevent it from becoming overly moist, especially after period of heavy rain. Including a proper irrigation or drainage system can divert excess water away from your garden or can be collected in a separate container to be used on plants that you want to sustain.

Cut off Heads of Weeds

If you need a bit more time before you go full force into removing all the weeds, cutting of the heads of certain weeds will help prevent re-seeding and spread of already existing weed populations. Also, in most instances, this can also force the weeds to use up all their nutrients and energy and can eventually lead them to wilt and die.

Tackling a Specific Weed

One of the most common weeds to be found in one’s garden or backyard is the Creeping Charlie, and what makes it so difficult to get rid of is the fact that every node if left in the soil can grow into another Creeping Charlie. Needless to say, careful and meticulous removal of the weed is required to ensure your yard doesn’t have a re-emergence.

Another distinctive feature of creeping charlies is that though it can practically grow in any amount of sunlight, they prefer to take root in areas of shade. If dealing with creeping charlies, it is best to get rid of sources of shade, possibly cutting down trees in your yard or removing overhead awnings, providing less shade for Creeping Charlies to take advantage of.

Final Thoughts

No one likes to see weeds in their backyard, and removing them can be quite frustrating if you’re unsure of what to do. However, by having the proper tools and strategies, you’ll soon find yourself saying goodbye to these nuisances in no time. Also, before tackling weeds like the Creeping Charlie, research how certain weeds grow and the environments they prefer. Knowing what to look out for can make the process much easier.

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How to Grow Acorn Squash

Acorn Squash

Acorn Squash Introduction

Acorn squash, aka Table Queen, is a variety of the Winter Squash and is a very welcomed addition to many gardeners’ meal selection. The squash produces dark green fruits that are shaped like an acorn, hence the name.

The variety of winter squash does not mean it is grown in the winter. Its ability to survive throughout the winter before the invention of refrigeration has led to it being called winter squash.

Acorn squash have a very thick skin unlike its cousin the summer squash whose very thin skin would not allow it to last through the winter.

So what makes squash such a popular dish? Well, squash is a healthy, low-calorie, no-fat food that is high in beta-carotene. In addition to that, it is also high in fiber and a good source of vitamin A and C, and minerals such as phosphorus and potassium.

Most people prefer acorn squashed cooked, but it is gaining popularity as a raw vegetable.

Acorn Squash Facts

  • Days to germination: 7 to 12 days
  • Days to harvest: 80 to 100 days
  • Light requirements: Full sun
  • Water requirements: Regular watering
  • Soil: Loose, fertile and well-draining soil
  • Container: Only in very large pots, but definitely suitable

Starting from Seed

Indoor planting

The nice thing about growing acorn squash from seed is you do not have to wait for the outside growing season. You can start planting your seeds indoors during the off months and transplant them outside when the soil is warm enough and there is no chance of frost..

If the plan is to start growing the acorn squash inside, you will need to start approximately. 3 to 4 weeks before you think the last frost will occur. If you start sooner than the 4 weeks, the squash seedling will probably outgrow the small seed trays.

Acorn squash seedlings are fidgety little buggers and they do not like to have their roots disturbed once they start growing, which basically means they are not over fond of being transplanted. If To avoid having to trasnplant, you may want to consider using a larger pot that is at least 3 inches across. You only need to place the seeds about an inch into the soil and it is important to keep the pots in a warm place until the seeds sprout.

Sowing 3 seeds per pot is a good idea and then thin the healthiest one to transplant, if transplanting is the plan.

Outdoor Planting

Acorn Squash - Outdoor PlantingIf the plan is to bypass the indoors and just plant outside, there are few things you will need to take into consideration.

Acorn squash grows best when the temperature of the soil remains over 65 degrees F. (18 degrees C).

Also, for best results, make sure the soil has been tilled to about 8 inches. This gives the roots the room they need to grow properly.

It is possible to get 2 crops per year of your squash, but to do so you must plant at least 12 weeks before you think the first frost will arrive in the fall.

But also remember you should wait in the spring for 2 weeks after the frost has left the ground and the soil temperature is up.

Containers

Acorn Squash are one of the smaller varieties of squash allowing to plant in a container that is not too large. Your best bet would be choosing a container around 5 gallons in size (pot sizes guide).

These containers can be bought at any garden store.

Transplanting

So you did decide to start the planting indoors and it is now time to get the squash outside. Make sure you wait at least 2 weeks after the last frost and the soil has warmed up to at least 65 degrees F.

Acorn Squash is not the littlest of plants, so you will need to leave a fair bit of space between each one when planting. A good recommendation would be a 3 foot diameter around each plant. So if you have a small garden, you will not be able to plant very many.

Garden Growing

Acorn Squash does not have to start indoors, especially in areas where the soil never sees frost or falls below 65 degrees F. But for those areas that do not meet the criteria above, it might not be a bad idea to start indoors to maximize your growing season. Check above under indoor planting for details.

As mentioned above, try and keep a 3 foot diameter around each squash plant. These types of squash are vine growers, with large leaves that will shade the soil below them. They will also need a fair bit of sun and most soil, so look for a place in your garden that has these qualities.

The seeds should be sowed about an inch below the surface and make sure to give them a very good watering once planted. The soil should only be moist not soaked, do not want to drown the little guys.

To get started, take your hoe and build up a mound that is smoothed flat on the top and approximately 8 and 15” across. To make sure that your seeds have a healthy home to grow, make sure your soil is either filled with compose or you have add fertilizer for your garden such as Miracle Grows.

If you are monitoring your pH leve it should be between 5.5 and 6.8. Be careful on how much fertilizer you use, you do not want to burn your plants.

Acorn Squash love to eat as they grow so make sure you keep the soil rich with compost or a good all purpose fertilizer.

There will be a period of time after planting that you will need to keep the mound well weeded and the soil moist until the large leaves of the squash plant are able to grow and shade the ground.  Once that happens, maintenance becomes fairly easy.

As your squash is growing wit will be important to protect them from the moist soil. One suggestion is to take a coffee can lid, or any lid for that matter, and place them under the growing squash.

If you planted multiple seeds in each mound and the seeds have started to grow, thin out the weaker growths and leave yourself 2 or 3 of the strongest.

Acorn Squash Bugs and Diseases

Like any plant or vegetables, the acorn squash can be susceptible to disease or rot. The best thing you can do is be proactive. Mildew can form on the leaves if the water is allowed to pool there, so try and not use a lawn sprinkler to water your squash.

To avoid the rot place something between the soil and the fruit, like a coffee lid (mentioned above).

Rotating your crops is a big help in keeping the insects and molds to a minimum. It is a good idea to not plant your acorn squash in the same place for about 3 years.

Squash Vine Borer

Probably not the greatest danger to your squash but a significant one is the Squash Vine Borer or for those who like the scientific term, the “Melittia satyriniformis”.

This nasty little bugger tunnels through the stem not allowing the required nutrients to be transferred throughout the plant. This weakens the plant allowing for secondary infections to occur that may kill the plant.

It does not take large numbers of these insects to do the job and you will probably not notice they are even there until it is too late when the plant starts to wilt.

Squash Bug

The Squash Bug damage generally occurs at the foliage parts of the plant and feed on the fruits and stems of the plant especially the vine crops.

They have ‘piercing-sucking’ instrument which allows them suck the nutrients effectively.

As a result the plants suffer severe damage and the symptoms show up in wilting and dried or black leaves.

Both young and adult phases are harmful for the harvest.

They suck all necessary nutrients from the plant and upset the flow of water and other elements which in turn results in wilting.

However wilting is the last stage of damage caused by the Squash Bug.

Initially yellowish specks appear on the foliage which gradually turns brown over time. Small plants are often unable to stand the pressure of damage and get killed easily.

Striped Cucumber Beetle

Striped cucumber beetles often fly from their hibernating sites early in the season, even before plants emerge. As soon as the cucumber, squash, pumpkin, melons and related seedlings push up through the soil, beetles can eat off the stems and cotyledons, frequently killing them. Adults later feed on the leaves, vines and fruits of plants that survive. Sometimes, deep pits are gnawed into the rind, making the produce unfit for consumption or market.

Damage is also caused by the larvae feeding on the roots of host plants, which weakens the plant and makes it susceptible to other problems. Adults also feed on beans, peas, corn and blossoms of other plants.

Most important, these beetles are vectors of a serious cucurbit disease known as bacterial wilt. Plants infected with the disease wilt quickly with leaves drying out prior to plant death. The causative bacteria, Erwinia tracheiphilia (E.F. Smith), overwinters in the bodies of hibernating beetles. These beetles introduce the bacteria into the plants through the fecal contamination of feeding wounds. This is the only natural method of infection known. Beetles also spread squash mosaic virus.

Harvesting Acorn Squash

If you take your fingernail and try to puncture the skin and you can’t, then you know your squash is ready. But don’t be too concerned about catching it at the right time, as squash can sit on the vine ripe for several weeks.

Even an early frost that may kill the vine should not harm a ripened squash. Either cut or snap the squash from the vine but try and leave a little bit of the stem on the squash to help hold some moisture.

It doesn’t really matter if you damage the vine, because it will die at the first frost anyways.

Storing Acorn Squash

If you store the squash in cool, but not too dry, place the acorn squash’s lifespan will be several months. Make sure the area is not too dry or too warm as both conditions will dry the squash out.

Even though squash likes cool places, it does not like to be less than 50 degrees F (or 10 Degrees C). So for Squash that has not been cooked or cut, you should try and refrigerate.

Once you have cooked the squash, you can freeze it or leave it in the fridge up to approximately 4 days.

The average of your acorn squash will normally be between 1 and 3 pounds and each vine will produce up to 5. Acorn squash is not really edible until it has fully matured, so try not and pick them when they are smaller and not mature.

You will only get one crop of acorn squash a year so there will be no picking throughout the planting season. Remember all squash will be picked all at once.

It will be very important you decide how much you want and plant only what you need, you do not want to be wasting good food.

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2016 Summer Shares Now Available!

Corn

Season #7!!!

Becoming a CSA member at Annie’s means that you are purchasing a vegetable share for a period of 22 weeks. This year shares will begin May 18 and will end October 16. Shares can either be weekly deliveries or every other week. If you are looking for more than vegetables, Annie’s also has shares that will provide you with fruit, raspberries, strawberries, apples, and honey. You can also try our Staples Shares which features Hansen’s milk, butter, S&C Organic eggs, and fresh bread from Dough and Joe Bakery.

Taking a few weeks off to go on vacation during the summer? That’s okay. Just give us a call and tell us the time you will be gone and no deliveries will be made during that time. You can resume when you return and we will double your share or extend your share into November. Annie’s will also take the time to make your share fit your dietary needs. We don’t want you to receive produce you are unable to consume. Therefore, if you have allergies to certain types of foods, let us know and we will not include them. Or possibly you just are not able to consume some types of produce, or you really cannot stomach a certain type of produce. Please let us know and we will be happy to accommodate you in creating a produce share that fits your needs.

Buying locally not only keeps monies within your community but it allows you the opportunity to know who is growing your food and how they are growing it. All of our produce is naturally raised with organic practices. Annie’s was USDA GAP (Good Agriculture Practices) certified in 2010.

We look forward to having you join our CSA and if you are ever in the area, be sure to stop in. We will be glad to give you a tour!

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Welcome to Annie’s Gardens and Greens!

Thanks for stopping by and checking out our website

In November of 2013, I closed the doors to Annie’s GreenGrocery in Calmar, and December 29, 2014 I sold the building to Jason Sparrow.

Last year was my first year of growing produce only for the CSA. I had intentions of keeping the roadside stand going, but due to all of the rain we had, my produce did not grow very well at first. The year may have started off on a soggy note, but as the summer went on things began to pick up and I had plenty of items to fill my CSA bags.

Annie’s grows heirloom vegetables. Heirlooms are the original seed, meaning that if you save the seed you will end up with the same plant that you started out with. Hybrids are plants that take two different plants and their qualities and make it into a “better” plant. However, you cannot save hybrid seed as it will go back to one of the original plants.

I have always been very conscience about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and do not use any kind of GMO seeds. Several years ago, I made the decision to raise all of our seeds in organic soil and compost. We do not fertilize with chemicals but use only compost. This makes for a very healthy plant.

It is my hope that 2016 will be a better growing season and that I can reopen the roadside stand.

Be sure to stop in and chat a while and remember to ENJOY!!

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