Updated Pages - DIY Projects for the Garden, Worm Test!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Eat Dirt

Here's an interesting article I found, and it definatly holds some truth to it.

By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor

When my kids were toddlers, one of my old-time Brooklyn neighbors said that we all need to eat a pound of dirt during our lives, which sounded somehow right to me. After all, I was an avid grubber in my childhood backyard and gave my older sisters no end of disgusted delight when I would eat dirt-crumbed slugs. (I can only think I was channeling my French ancestors.) I’m sure I got my full pound of dirt in before the age of 3.
In the circle of moms I know, there are two types. There are the ones with the quick-draw, holstered hand-sanitizer and a zero-second rule for fallen snacks; and then there are the ones who with the two-second rule, or sometimes the three- or four-second rule, or heck, if no one’s looking, who cares how long the snack was on the floor–go ahead and eat it. It somehow feels wrong to let a kid pick something up off the ground and eat it, but why is it that so many kids instinctively put things in their mouths? Not just dropped crackers, but dirty twigs, germy toys, and slugs too! What could be the evolutionary advantage behind this instinct?
Well, in an article in The New York Times this week, reporter Jane E. Brody writes about the “hygiene hypothesis,” in which researchers are concluding that “the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body along with ‘dirt’ spur the development of a healthy immune system.”

Mary Ruebush, a microbiology and immunology instructor, and author of the book, “Why Dirt Is Good” (Kaplan), says that when kids put things in their mouths, “Not only does it allow for “practice” of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.” She deplores the current fetish for the hundreds of antibacterial products that convey a false sense of security and may actually foster the development of antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing bacteria. Plain soap and water are all that are needed to become clean. “I certainly recommend washing your hands after using the bathroom, before eating, after changing a diaper, before and after handling food, and whenever they’re visibly soiled,” she wrote. When no running water is available and cleaning hands is essential, she suggests an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

It seems to me there has been such a wide swing of the spectrum–from the disease-thriving filth and squalor of centuries past to the obsession with cleanliness and hardcore hygiene that we see in industrialized countries today. Given the plagues and epidemics of our past it makes sense that we strive for sterile environments, but it looks possible that we’re swinging too far.  Part of me wonders how much of that is due to marketing. In 2008, Americans spent over $5 billion on household cleaning products–imagine how much of that money went right back into advertising departments to dream and scheme new ways to subtly scare people into really needing those germ-slaughtering scrubbing bubbles and disinfecting sprays and wipes. Not to mention anti-bacterial soaps and other triclosan products.

As far as I can tell, the solution seems to be, as is so often the case, moderation and common sense. Wash your hands with plain soap and hot water, don’t let your kids eat things that seem blatantly dangerous (slugs: OK–but stay away from anything that has had contact with pesticides or chemicals), and start working on that pound of dirt.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cold......so cold.

I cannot believe how damn cold it is outside today. We had about 8 degrees, seemed colder with the wind whipping over the field in front of our house. (sigh) Spring is defiently not coming fast enough...hurry hurry!

I decided to take a very (brisk walk) around my yard, just for sh*** & giggles. Everything is still quietly sleeping, covered in snow. Hard to believe that anything can survive such a deep freeze for months here in Wisconsin. But yet it does. Quite a miracle of nature I think. Mother earth has it in the bag  so to speak.... Still patience is not my virtue when it comes to the seasons.

Only one more month before i start my seeds....(jumping up and down) I can't wait! his year I have to plant just about everything. Last season I didn't plants beans or carrots, because I had so much canned from the previous season, I didn't need anymore. But this season, I need to refresh the pantry, so my garden will be jam packed once again. Here's what I'm growing

Beans, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, radishes, onions, corn, peas, tomatoes, peppers, rosemary, oregano, basil, bay laurel, fennel, also this year I will be growing tobacco....yes, I said it, tobacco...(eye roll) my husbands grand idea, so we'll see how that goes...!

Anyways, some of the stuff I'll be growing, I will be putting in the garden, and other stuff, in containers, to open up the main garden for more potatoes, broccoli, etc. The stuff we eat ALOT of during the winter months.

So....that's my little rant for the day......supposedly there is warmer air moving our way, and then spring fever will hit me hard again!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Growing your own - Seeds that need special attention

So we have touched upon some of the basics of soil, and what types of seeds there are to choose from. Now, once you have decided on what you wish to plant, whether it be heirloom or hybrid vegetables or flowers, the next step is to plant them...correct? Well, wait one minute. Did you know, that some seeds require special attention before they go into the soil? Yep, some do. I learned the hard way, and wasted nearly 5 packs of seeds this way one year when I first started growing. I was young, and thought I knew everything and didn't ask anyone for advice. LOL I should have, would have saved me a hell of a lot of trouble and grief.

I didn't know what the hell I was doing wrong, and chocked it up to bad seeds. But, after much research and advice (when I finally asked) That some of my seeds needed a brief spell in the fridge before i planted them in the soil.....go figure....makes sense.

The seeds I was planting, were perennials, which meant that for my zone anyways, that they needed to be tricked into coming out of their winter sleep. This mimics mother natures cold spell and thaw in the spring. The seed falls to the ground in fall, freezes, then warm weather thaws and warms them, coaxing them to sprout. Well, DUH! Why didn't I think of this......lesson learned.

Not only that, but some seeds need light to germinate, and some complete darkness, some need to be "nicked", meaning there seed coats are to tuff, and need to be nicked a bit in order for the sprout to push thru, (or a good soaking in water to soften the seed coat overnight in warm water) The list goes on and on. So I will give you some info, to better help you with this. Granted I am just giving a handful of samples here, but to give you a general idea.

Most are flowers, but some herbs & a few veggies are in here to.

Seeds that need light to germinate

(meaning either a very thin, thin, layer of soil covering them, or just sprinkled on top of the soil and gently pressed in, usually these are very fine, powdery looking seeds, such as snapdragons and the like.)

ageratum, balloon flower, basket of gold, beefsteak tomatoes, begonia, bell flower, blanket flower, coleus, columbine, coreopsis, creeping zinnia, dill, flowering tobacco, fuchsia, gerbera, impatiens, lettuce, mexican sunflower, ornamental cabbage, ornamental pepper, petunia, poppy, shasta daisy, snap dragons, sweet alyssum, and yarrow.

Seeds that need darkness to germinate

(meaning that these seeds need to be completely covered by soil)

bachelor's button, borage, calendula, coriander, delphinium, fennel, forget me nots, larkspur, nasturium, pansy, phlox, sweet pea, verbena, vinca, and viola.

Seeds that require soaking or nicking

(meaning that the seed coats need to be softened or nicked with a file, prior to planting)

asparagus, canna, hibiscus, lupine, morning glory, okra, parsley, parsnip, and sweet pea.

Seeds that need chilling before sowing

(meaning they need a brief spell in the fridge, usually about 2 - 3 weeks, before sown into the soil)

Angelica, bleeding heart, delphinium, columbine, day lily, tiger lily, gas plant, globe flower, lavender, lobelia, ornamental cabbage, pansy, phlox, primrose, trillium, and viola.

Seeds that need cool temperatures to germinate

(meaning: not the same as above........these seeds when planted IN the soil, like the soil temperatures to be cool, in order to germinate)

baby blue eyes, beard tongue, california poppy, candy tuft, chamomile, coral bells, gas plant, phlox, poppy, rosemary, sweet pea, thyme, wall flower, garden peas, broccoli, cauliflower.

You'll notice that some seeds are repeated in each category, some seeds such as asparagus, need to be chilled for a brief spell in the fridge, then soaked, because their seed coat is tuff. Also delphinium is this way also.
It takes some practice, but once you know what to do with what seeds, you'll be a pro in no time!!!!!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Growing your own - Which Seed?

I love starting my own veggies and flowers from seed. Either I have purchased them, saved them from my own plants, or they were traded or given to me. I have some seeds that I have been saving from season to season for about 10 yrs. They were taken from my very first garden, and every year I would take the biggest and best plants, and save the seeds from them to use the next season.

Now I am sure you have gotten a slew of the “spring” garden catalogs in the mail….I’m sooooo guilty of this. I get tons, all of which I have subscribed to. LOL But in all honestly I always only order from a handful of them. Once I find a seed I like, I usually stick with it.

Now, there are a couple different types of seeds. Those of Hybrids, and those of heirloom. Usually…..(usually) hybrids, when you save seeds from them, your not going to get the same plant. Why, because they are crossed with a number of different plants to get the one your currently growing. They pick plants based on disease resistance, fruit yields, and the like. So if your going to save seeds from these, don’t bother, you’ll probably get an inferior plant.

Heirlooms- and I am saying (usually here) can and will be true. Meaning, that if you save the seeds from an heirloom, more often than not, you’ll get the same plant, as the one your currently growing. There are some heirloom hybrids however.

I have grown both. However, with heirlooms, it takes some trial and error to find the ones you want. I grew some broccoli and cauliflower of heirloom variety and didn’t care for them. Probably because I was used to those hybrid seeds all those years. But that’s not to say If I tried a different variety, that I wouldn’t like them.

So heirloom vs. hybrid,……your choice, its all personal preference.

When I start seeds, I have a rack with fluorescent lights, that my dear hubby made me. It fits 4 flats, 2 on top, 2 on bottom. Works great. But I have and still do, grow seeds on my windowsills (for lack of room).

I can fit a lot of seeds  of different variety into one flat. But I usually mark them, so I know which is which. As I am absent minded most days.  Here are a few links, that I have ordered from in the past and continue to do so. I have had good experiences with them, and they have reasonable prices.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Growing your own - It starts with the dirt!!!!


I cannot stress enough, when growing anything, whether it’s in the ground itself, or in containers, the dirt is where it’s at!
There is no other way, other than having a good base to start in, in order to have great success in growing anything!

When people come to my garden, I always get the same comment…”well, how come mine don’t look like that?, and I even started mine earlier than yours?”  My reply “Do you religiously amend your soil either in the fall or spring, every planting season?” Their reply.”no”. I then chuckle, well that’s why yours look the way they do, and also, you now know, why your yields are so low each year as well.

No amount of “miracle Gro garden fertilizer” will make your plants grow into robust, bushy, healthy plants that they show on TV. Well maybe it will a little bit, but think of it this way…..think if you had to live on just the bare minimum, having only the barest essentials, enough to keep you alive. You wouldn’t thrive, you wouldn’t be really exceptionally fit. That’s the way our plants feel also! Plopping them into crappy soil, and pumping them full of fertilizer, expecting them to do their best, is well, silly.

I amend my raised beds, every single planting season. Usually with a bucket or 2 of good plain ole’ composted horse poo. The stuff works wonders and gives my plants what they need every year, for optimum growth.  I also rotate my crops from one bed to another, which helps for preventing disease, and keeps the crop from depleting to much of the nitrogen in the soil. Corn is a good one for this. However any kind of legumes, I.e. such as peas and beans will actually fix nitrogen into the soil on their own.

Either way, I still add some more compost to the beds to keep ahead of things. I also do not add any chemical fertilizers to my gardens, EVER! I don’t need to. Compost is the ONLY and the BEST way to get those veggies and flowers to grow. I never spray pesticides and the like, I would rather pick a few pesky bugs off the plants than to spray, besides, this is another reason why you should rotate your crops, always planting them in a different location each season. Helps prevent disease as well.

Weed prevention is another bane of gardeners. A good heaping helping of mulch does the trick. Plants don’t have to compete with the weeds for nutrients in the soil this way.

So in short…..good soil is the building blocks for good crops. There are many natural amendments you can add to your soil to give it that light fluffy texture chocked full of nutrients.

Here is a list of organic ingredients that can be added in the fall after the harvest is done, and you are putting everything to bed.  This way, it sits in the soil and “ages“ or “rots” even more until spring arrives when you till it in even further before planting time again.(With the exception of the compost which can be added at any time. Compost can be even added as a side dressing for your plants, and acts as a mulch.)

Organic soil amendments

Moisture retention - Good
Nutrient retention - excellent
PH - usually acidic
And it’s easy to make at home

Cow manure (dry, not fresh)
Moisture retention - Good
Nutrient retention - good
PH - usually alkaline
Best used dry

Leaf mold
Moisture retention - excellent
Nutrient retention - excellent
PH - slightly acidic
Oak leaves are best, shred or chop before use

Horse manure
Moisture retention -good
Nutrient retention - good
PH - usually alkaline
Best used dry

Sphagnum peat moss
Moisture retention - excellent
Nutrient retention - excellent
PH -  acidic
Moisten before in cooperating into soil

Steer manure
Moisture retention - good
Nutrient retention - good
PH - usually alkaline
May contain weed seeds and salt

Tree bark
Moisture retention - good
Nutrient retention - good
PH - slightly acidic
Use only shred or ground bark for soil amending

Wood ashes
Moisture retention - good
Nutrient retention - good
PH - highly alkaline
Use only in sandy soils

Chicken manure
Moisture retention - good
Nutrient retention - good
PH - alkaline
Use only very dry and old chicken manure (aged), as it will burn plants if put onto them “green”

Soil for containers is another story,  I usually mix my own, since plants in containers need that extra “fluffy” soil for good drainage. I take the container than the plants will be in, add a little less than half  full of regular garden soil, then add 1 part of compost, and then add  horticultural perlite and vermiculite for added drainage and moisture retention, I add enough of both until I have a light and fluffy mixture. Experiment, with mixing your own potting soil, and you’ll get it just right.

During the spring this year, I will be adding some how to videos on soil building, and seed planting, etc.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Growing your own

 Yes, Growing your own vegetables is far better, than buying the stuff from the local commercial grocery store. A couple reasons I will discuss. A commercial grocery store, get their food in fast and cheap. There is not much thought on whether or not it has been sprayed or pumped full of chemicals of just about every kind you can think of, and ones you can't.

When grocery stores get their shipments in of fresh fruits and veggies in, they aren't really as fresh as you may think. Or if they are, they haven't been pick at "the peak of freshness" or ripeness for that matter, more often than not, the food is picked very green. What do I mean? LOL for example, tomatoes are picked still green and very hard. they are loaded onto the trucks for shipment, and a shot of ethylene is added to the truck as it is closed up and ready to go, once to it's destination, the tomatoes have ripen (albeit, artificially), hence that "unnatural, creamy orange" color you find with so many tomatoes at the grocery store.

Anyone who has grown tomatoes knows what they are suppose to look like, and taste like, and the ones from the store, are nothing like this. Homegrown anything, is far superior to anything bought at the store. Hands down.
Same goes for anything else, from lettuce to cukes, onions, and asparagus. My philosophy is, if you cant grow it, at least go to the farmers markets in your area and by from them. I am sure you can find farmers that grow their veggies without the use of pesticides and artificial means. The food tastes better, and lasts waaayyyy longer. 

Another reason is the pride. Yes, pride in your work as a gardener. A tiller of the soil, working with your hands, caring for things and reaping what you have sown.

So, say you have no area for gardening, and cant grow veggies in ground, so what! If you have a small porch and windowsill, a patio, or maybe just a small patch of grass, utilize what you have! Almost any vegetable and fruits can be grown in containers. I have used buckets, old shoes (believe it or not) that I planted bunching onions in, and something as simple as buying a bag of potting soil, laying the bag down, poking holes in the bottom for drainage, then making slits in the top and planted my seeds right in the bag. Whatever works I say! If it can get you some garden greens from dirt to table.....so be it!

Later, in another post I will be covering many ways to utilize space for growing herbs and veggies, even if you don't have the space to do so.

I hope you stick around for more lengthy discussion on the topics I have planned for this blog. More new an exciting things to come!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Welcome to Garden Witchery

This is a place for me to share all of my thoughts on being self sufficient. That is, doing things yourself and not being dependant on anyone else to get things done! LOL That includes growing your own food, to DIY projects to better improve the quality of life for you, and your family.

Relying on Mother nature to sustain a way of life, is NOT as hard as it seems. People do it all the time. To be in harmony as much as it is possible, with mother earth, is the greatest feeling in the world. She gives us what we need to survive, it is up to us as humans, to open our eyes and hearts to accept her many gifts. Always giving back to her,as She has provided us with so much.