Notes From my Gardening Class

I taught a mini class on gardening tonight- these are my notes from the class!  We talked about season-extending gardening, container gardening, and shade gardening.  If you’re here from Relief Society, welcome!

Send me any questions you have!

Online Resources:

Fall Gardening Planner:  Gives week by week guidelines of what you can stick in the ground, including “this is your last chance” warnings!  http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/fall-planner.pdf

First and Last Frost dates, with percentage chances.  For our area, use Seattle, and the 50% column.  Unless you’re a rebel.  Know your neighborhood- are you prone to frosts when Seattle is still warm?  Are you frost-free when Seattle is snowing?  Watch out for microclimates, your yard’s particular date could vary.  Use this date as a guideline, not a rule!  I use the 12/9 date as my “first frost” date.  http://cdo.ncdc.noaa.gov/climatenormals/clim20supp1/states/WA.pdf

Another quick list of fall crops, and when to plant (in two-week chunks.)  For Seattle, this would take you September through October.  No veggie planting in November, save that for your flower bulbs!  Use this for veggies not listed in the Fall Gardening Planner http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/fall-gardening-best-fall-garden.aspx?PageId=4#ArticleContent

Books to Read:

These first three, I used as examples in class, for year-round gardening, shade gardening, and container gardening (in order.)

Four-Season Harvest, by Eliot Coleman.  Anything by this man is almost required reading- king of organic, season-extending, gardening.  Includes details on building hoop houses and green houses, composting, sowing, transplanting, winter gardening, cold-frame gardening, green house and high tunnel gardening, root crops, root cellars, indoor gardening, plant protection from pests, and some great charts on when you can plant what.  Includes guides for a good number of plants- how to grow, how to harvest.

Gaia’s Garden- A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, by Toby Hemenway.  Since permaculture focuses on building food forests, with tree, shrub, and ground cover layers, this is a great resource for edible plants that can grow in the shade!  Also shares way to create an ecosystem in your yard, complete with natural predators of common garden pests.

Edible Landscaping, by Rosalind Creasy.  Great information on dwarf plants with good yields, and how big of a pot they need.

The Urban Farm Handbook, by Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols.  “City Slicker resources for growing, raising, sourcing, trading, and preparing what you eat.”  They are not kidding- gardening, swaps, local grains (and how to grind and cook with them), seasonal recipes…this is THE handbook on food. I’ve visited her urban garden, in Seattle- the woman is MAD good, and driven.  Joshua McNichols serves as a nice, laid-back, foil to her all-or-nothing approach, they make a good writing team.  The book is a handbook for urban gardening, including chickens, ducks, rabbits, and goats.  Also includes some really great plant lists in the appendix for Pacific Northwest gardens- uses of the plants and light requirements too.

Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard, by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm.  Includes sections of lots of vegetables, including favorite varieties, hardiness, seed germination information, mature plant sizes, how to plant, when to plant, yields, fertilizing, general care, pests, diseases, whether or not you can grow it in a container, when and how to harvest, and storage and preservation.

You will notice that there is variation in planting guidelines and lists.  Just stick it in the ground, and do what you can!

Class Notes

FALL GARDENING (Year-Round Gardening)

Why plant a Fall garden?

1)       Fewer bugs and slugs in the fall- it’s hot and dry.  They prefer cool and damp.

2)      You’ll be home more in the Fall to take care of harvesting.

3)      You’re not planting in the cold rain!

4)      Warm weather helps things grow quicker

5)      Seeds sprout faster

6)      Dry weather is safer for plants- less prone to mildew, etc.  Rain, hail, and late freezes are all dangers in the Spring.

Drawbacks of a Fall garden

1)       You need to be responsible for all the water it gets.  (Mediterranean Climate- drought July through September.)  That can be hard when you’re traveling!

  1. An irrigation system isn’t that expensive, and can be hooked up to a hose timer.

2)      Harder to remember to plant!

3)      If soil is too warm, you will need to cool it- use mulch, or create shade.

For timing, If you want to be technical, look at the “days to maturity” on the back of your packet, add three weeks to compensate for shorter days in the fall, and go ahead!  Remember that while crops can stay in the ground all winter, the growth happens while it’s warm.

Resource: Four-Season Harvest, by Eliot Coleman on season-extending methods, and planting schedules.  You CAN harvest almost year-round, which means IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO PLANT.  Ever.  You just need to know how to alter the climate, and understand which seasons are best for which vegetables.  You can’t start tomato seeds in July and expect to get a harvest, but you can start beans or zucchini.

Protections:

  1. Floating row cover- lightweight material, it lets air, light, and water through.  It’s light enough that it can rest directly on the plants, or drape over hoops of pvc or wire fencing.  Use binder clips to hold it to the wire fencing, and tack down the ends with landscaping pins or staples.  These keep birds, bugs, and bunnies away from plants.  You can’t use them when plants are in bloom, unless you want to pollinate everything by hand!  Helps protect from early frosts.  You can tack it to the ground a few weeks before planting to warm up the ground.  (I purchased mine at the Grange.)
  2. Water teepees- help protect from rain, wind, hail, and cold.  They absorb heat during the day and keep the plants warm at night.  Can be purchased at Lowes or Home Depot
  3. Greenhouse- expensive, and takes up room, but it’s nice to have a warm and dry place to work with seeds and plants in February, if you’re serious about this!
  4. Cold frames- you can make individual green houses for your garden beds out of old windows.  Look online for instructions.

Container Gardening

  1. Choose a container that will be deep enough, and has good drainage.   Larger is always safer, but you CAN use smaller.
    1. 6” pots for shallow roots with minimal foliage: basil, chives, endive, lettuce, mint, sorrel, spinach, thyme
    2. 12” pots for woody herbs, small bushes, cabbage family: broccoli, cabbage, capers, cauliflower, chamomile, chard, cucumber, eggplant, ginger, kale, leek, marjoram, mustard, nasturtium, natal plum, okra, oregano, pepper, rhubarb, rosemary, sage, new Zealand spinach, strawberry, water chestnut, watercress
    3. 24” pots: almond, apple, apricot, artichoke, avocado, bamboo, banana, bean, blueberry, cherry, citrus, currant, fig, gooseberry, grape, hops, lingonberry, lotus, melon, nectarine, pea, peach, peanut, pear, pineapple guava, plum, bush plum, quince, rose, squash, sweet bay, sweet potato, tea, tomato,
    4. Choose dwarf plants if you want squash, cucumbers, etc.  There are dwarfish varieties of almost everything, including apple trees!
      1. Edible Landscaping, by Rosalind Creasy is an incredible resource for container and small space gardening.  Includes her favorite varieties.
      2. Remember that potted soil will get HOT.  You will need to water at least once a day, and some plants would suffer.  Larger pots stay cooler, and hold more water and nutrients.  I measured my soil temperatures one morning in late spring
        1. Pot in the shade: 67

        Pot in the sun: 80

        1. Ground: 73
        2. Raised bed in the sun: 80
        3. Raised bed in the shade: 74
        4.  You are responsible for fertilizing and watering- the plants can’t get anything on their own!  Follow package instructions on the type of fertilizer you choose.
          1. If you re-use potted soil year after year, replace part with compost before planting.

I will have charts and notes available on my blog tonight- doityourselfmama.wordpress.com.  In general, just plant!  Long season things, like tomatoes, corn, and big squash, are picky.

Seed starting In Containers:

  1. Use this in late winter when the ground is too cold, to plant in Spring, and in early summer when the ground is too warm to plant Fall crops.
    1. Spring: Tomatoes, basil, flowers, squash, cabbages like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts
    2. Summer: Cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts)
    3.  Dirt needs to be as wet as a wrung-out sponge, and it needs to be fresh potting soil or seed starting mix from a bag, OR you can sterilize dirt in your oven (but it stinks!!)  Bugs, eggs, seeds are all going to get in your way- you need to start with totally clean dirt.
      1. Seeds need heat and water to germinate, but then they need light to grow.  At least 8 hours of full light per day, or they will get spindly and weak.
      2. You can measure the light where you’re growing using a manual or DSLR camera. Instructions here https://doityourselfmama.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/measuring-light-for-growing-how-much-light-does-my-garden-need/
      3.  Starting Seeds Indoors:
        1. Start large seeds, individually, in cups of potting soil.  It can be yogurt cups, little pots from the gardening center, egg cartons, etc.  How much dirt depends on how long your plant will stay in that container?  Just a month or so, egg carton or yogurt container is fine.  Longer, use something bigger- I use 20 oz. “solo” cups for my tomatoes, they stay in about 3 months.
        2. Start small seeds in seed trays-fill a shallow, wide container full of dirt.  Tap on a hard surface to pack it down a bit, sprinkle seeds over the top, and sprinkle more dirt over that to required depth (see seed packet for instructions.)  Once the seeds germinate, grow a bit, and have their first set of “true” leaves, you can use a spoon and something skinny like a chopstick or pen to prick them out and gently smash them into a hole in a cup of dirt or the ground.  Use the leaves to move them- they can grow new leaves, but they can’t grow a new stem.
        3.  Starting Seeds In the Ground
          1. Make a hole in damp soil, push the seed in to the required depth, and cover it with dirt.  Water really well afterwards to get rid of any air pockets in the soil.
          2. Seed tape:

i.      Materials: one ply of toilet paper, seeds, spray bottle.  Space seeds the required distance down the middle of the paper, fold the edges in thirds over the seeds, mist with water, and plant in a furrow at the required depth.

  1. You can plant radish seeds in between other seeds.  They sprout fast and will mark your row, and only stay in for a month so you’ll pull them out before the other crops need the space.
  1. Transplants are easier because there are no holes in your rows, the birds can’t eat the seeds, and you won’t accidentally hoe them out of the garden!
  2. Transplants are harder: more hands on time, need space for them to grow.
July August Early September Late September Early October Late October Early December
Direct Sow Snap beans, cucumbers, summer squash, cilantro, lettuce, radishes Beets, carrots, collards, leeks, scallions, lettuce, radishes, fast peas, fast potatoes Arugula, choi, lettuce, turnips, spinach, mustard, lettuce, radishes Mache, spinach, lettuce (protect!) Garlic, shallots
In Cups Cabbage family, celery, fennel, kohlrabi Set out cabbage family, celery, fennel, and kohlrabi

Shade Gardening

  1. Rule of thumb: “If you grow it for the fruit or the root, you need full sun.  If you grow it for the leaves, partial shade is all you need.”
    1. Full sun is no shade for 8 hours a day.  Think of a meadow.
    2. Partial shade is full sun for 4 hours a day, or dappled sun for 8 hours.  Think of the edge of a forest.
    3.  Morning sun and afternoon shade is better than morning shade and afternoon sun.
    4. Deal with shade:
      1. Choose reflective mulches, like plastic or white rocks.
      2. Remove low-hanging limbs.
      3. Use raised boxes to lift plants away from tree roots that will hog all the water.
      4. Choose early maturing varieties.  “Days to maturity” expects 12 hours of sun.  Three hours of sun could turn a 50-day tomato into a 100 –day tomato.  (http://anewscafe.com/2011/07/07/dig-this-gardening-in-the-shade-challenges-and-opportunities/)
      5.  Think outside of the box-
        1. Full shade: pawpaw trees, bunchberry, ginseng, mitsuba, peppermint, pink purslane, spearmint, sweet cicely, tarragon, watercress.

i.      You CAN grow food, just not tomatoes or beet roots.  Plants grow in the middle of a forest!

  1.  Partial Shade:
  2. Resource: Gaia’s Garden- A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, by Toby Hemenway.
    1. Permaculture tries to replicate forests- tree, shrubs, and undergrowth.  You can forage all year, and it’s almost non-maintenance.
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One Response

  1. Wow! This is amazing. Wish I’d been in the class but I sorta feel like I have now. Thanks!

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