Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hope of spring!

Hope - if not necessarily spring - has arrived in Northeast Ohio!

Lots of updates to come!  It was a busy weekend.

Friday, March 22, 2013


I have nothing to say about gardening today.  When I left my home this morning it was 26 degrees and we had several inches of new snow overnight.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Case file: Zucchini

I think I've cracked the case of the Huge Zucchini Plant with No Zucchini!
After many hours wasted looking online, watching videos about hand-pollinating zucchini, trying to hand-pollinate zucchini, and then having no other option but to blame and bemoan the state of the dwindling bee population... it turns out the culprit all along was my soil!

The soil I had so industriously and regularly supplemented with 10-10-10 fertilizer may actually have had perilously high nitrogen levels, which prevent the formation of fruit!  (learned in my gardening class, supported by multiple Google searches)  Huge leaves, but no fruit.  Two summers in a row.  Two summers of the same fertilizer, industriously and regularly applied.  Two different zucchini transplants, two others planted from two separate packets of seeds...  and when they weren't growing, I added more fertilizer.  The common denominator?  The soil. 

Step one is not adding any more of that 10-10-10 fertilizer!  Then checking the results of the soil test to see what other things I may need to do.  My hypothesis at this time is that the pH of my soil is high, which would indicate high nitrogen levels (I think). 

Monday, March 18, 2013


That title is a G-rated version of what escaped my lips when I looked outside Saturday:

On March 16, I was planning to plant my peas in time with the gardening tradition of putting the seeds in the ground by St. Patrick's Day.

Now, I don't mind cold, but it seems ridiculous to actually shovel through a few inches of snow to plant something. 

Fortunately, I had another idea... (that, just so you know, has totally nothing to do with gardening)

Friday, March 15, 2013

More on compost.

I realize there are only so many times a person can mention "compost" either in conversation or on a blog, before losing the interest of the listener/reader.  I know I am either over or dangerously approaching my limit.  So I'll step off the soapbox in the very near future, I promise.  But not before imparting a few more kernels of wisdom.

1.  I received some great advice from a friend regarding my makeshift compost heap.  Soon we will be adding a plastic sheet between the compost and the wall of the garage, to prevent any staining or seepage from the pile of rotting stuff currently leaning against it (thanks, Alice). 

2.  But, we won't have to worry about it for long, because that location is temporary!  I learned of a program in my county where if you attend a workshop about composting, you then have the option to buy a pretty huge compost bin for only $50.  So, yay Northeast Ohio for encouraging this practice, and yay for me who will soon get a deal!  (although I think we'll have to keep up the orange bucket system, since I don't really want the big compost container right by the house)  I am currently leaning towards the "Dirt Machine," what do you think?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Soil testing, 1...2...3...

This year is the first time we will be getting our soil tested.  This is important for any successful garden, and to be honest I just never knew how easy and cheap it is.  Particularly because we had a... challenging season last year, I'd like to know if there are any changes we can make.  The steps to doing this are pretty simple:

1.  Visit the Penn State Soil Lab website (yes, there are others out there; this just happens to be the one I am using)
2.  Download the relevant forms
3.  Follow instructions for taking soil samples.  Basically, for each garden plot you'd like to have analyzed, you take twelve small scoops of soil (see the link for more details).
4.  Combine the samples (see my bucket, pictured above).
5.  Spread out on a sheet of cardboard to dry for a day or two.
6.  Follow directions to mail in sample.  Results take a few weeks to receive.

The results will tell you the pH of your soil; depending on the result, there are different amendments you can make to get your soil to the ideal pH.   More on that when my results arrive!

Monday, March 11, 2013

to plant, or not to plant

It is fun to plant things.  There is a great feeling of anticipation in watching a tiny little seed or seedling makes its way towards being a fruit or vegetable.  There is also a feeling or pride and accomplishment in eating that fruit or vegetable, knowing it came out of your yard rather than a grocery store.

But... it is pretty easy to get carried away, growing things just because you can.  One benefit of this blog for me is that I can look back and remember the things that maybe weren't worth growing, that I shouldn't bother with again.  There are many reasons why I'd decide not to grow something, and here are a few examples...

Friday, March 8, 2013


Looking at this makes me realize we must be getting a good mix of vitamins from this very multi-colored food assortment!

Last year I started to have some concerns about our soil.  I wish I could say that this was based on something scientific, or the result of an actual soil analysis... but really, it was because our soil is not black.  It is mostly brown.  Every spring we rake the heck out of it, add the 10-10-10 fertilizer that some book told me to add, in an amount roughly equal to "part of a coffee cup," and for a little while it looks like soil.  But shortly thereafter, it just looks like...dirt.  I don't know what a botany textbook would tell me, but I think there is a difference between soil - the healthy, black stuff that makes plants grow, and dirt, which is what gets stuck to your shoes. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Back at it!

There is something about February, especially late February, that is just...awful.  The shortest month sure does seem to go on forever, doesn't it?  And while March in Northeast Ohio is no picnic, there's a lot to be said for turning the calendar page to the month where spring does officially start.  With that comes the hope that, okay, maybe I will not be wearing a down parka every day this month.  Maybe this month I won't regularly get caught in blizzards while on the way to work (although it is actually quite possible this will still happen).  Maybe my car will look its actual color, rather than chalky salty gray.  And maybe, just maybe... I will plant something!

To kick off the return to blogging, and the return to gardening, I'd like to share my to-do list for this month:

1. Attend gardening class. This, my friends, is awesome.  A series of 5 workshops entitled "Home Grown Food," hosted by one of the local public libraries.  Week 1 was 90 minutes on just soil, and I was captivated.  You don't know what you don't know until someone tells you that you don't know it.  This is doing to be a valuable endeavor, and I look forward to sharing.  If you are local and interested, it looks like there are still some openings.

2. Compost.  Compost.  Compost.  I'm working on my own (more on that in a future post) but this year we probably need to buy some.  Can you believe we've never added this to our garden?  Anyway, I am hoping to buy and spread that this month (a girl goes to one class about soil and now wants to buy a truckload of rotten stuff... go figure).

3.  Peas!  My new favorite vegetable to grow.  And along with the purchase and planting of pea seeds, I need to get some better stakes, now that I know how these things grow!

4.  Greens!  My new second favorite vegetable to grow.  Kale, spinach, lettuce, swiss chard... they can all be started early, and I am excited to do so.

5.  Investigate some organic (aka "safe") pest control options.  Especially if I want to grow leafy things (and I do), I need to better protect them.  The hot pepper spray did not cut it last year.  I look forward to learning about this in my class, and also seeing what the garden stores offer.