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Posts Tagged ‘cincinnati’

In just two weeks, we had hundreds of them snared. Leafhoppers, cucumber beetles, mealybugs – all hopelessly trapped in our garden, thanks to the genius invention that is the yellow sticky trap.

Lots of bugs stuck to the yellow traps. Kind of gross, but well worth it to save the garden!

Lots of bugs stuck to the yellow traps. Kind of gross, but well worth it to save the garden

I don’t know why we didn’t try these earlier; they truly are a godsend for us this summer. So what is this miracle, you ask? It’s basically a thin piece of cardboard covered in a sticky, glue-like substance.

The yellow color attracts insects that are also attracted to the yellow flowers of cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, etc. Although in theory, this could catch bees and other beneficial bugs, we haven’t had that happen yet.

A pack of 15 (ordered from Amazon) was relatively cheap and it’s a non-toxic way to control insects. It’s something that is well worth it, in our opinion, to stop the little destructors that eat and sometimes kill our plants.

Cucumber beetle trapped!

Cucumber beetle trapped!

I do wonder if some of our zucchini plants would have survived if we used these earlier. Many of them were just destroyed by those tiny bug jaws.

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We’ve tried for a couple of years to get great broccoli but it’s not working for us. Earlier this month we had a crazy hot spell — something you’d expect in July and not early May — with temperatures in the 80s and creeping toward 90 on some days.

Bolted broccoli. Again. Still tasty though!

Bolted broccoli. Again. Still tasty though!

It started really well — big leaves and small, compact broccoli heads. But once the temperatures spiked, it was all over. What broccoli was growing started to bolt. The stalks were separating and starting to produce flowers. Some of the other ones weren’t even growing (though now that the weather has cooled significantly, they seem to be bouncing back.)

Oh well. We plan try again in the fall, starting from seeds. Next year, I’m going to use our old garden beds as cold frames and get the broccoli, peas and lettuce started way early. Maybe even February. Maybe even when there is still snow on the ground. We’ll see how it goes.

The mysterious cluster of insect eggs. Or pollen. Who knows!

The mysterious cluster of insect eggs. Or pollen. Who knows!

Random side note:  This year when we cut the main heads, I discovered a cluster of what looked like yellow eggs on one of the broccoli stems. After a bit of searching, I came up empty as to what it was. Best guess was maybe ladybugs, but those looked like shinier eggs. It could just be a bunch of pollen trapped in a spider web, too. Has anyone else seen something like this?

 

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In the past couple years, I’ve heard a lot about square foot gardening. It keeps coming up in Google searches and the 500 Gardens program we’re part of recommends it to all of the new gardeners in Madisonville.

Our garden grid made out of old blinds.

Our garden grid made out of old blinds.

So what is square foot gardening? It’s a method that lets you grow more in a smaller space and is great for small gardens. We’ve half-tried this in the past and decided this year to go for it (almost) all the way.

The essence is breaking your garden bed into grids — one square foot at a time — and planting one to 16 plants per square foot. How do you decide? It’s all based on the plant spacing recommended on the seed packet or transplant tag: 3 inch spacing is 16 per square; 4 inch spacing is 9 per square, and so on. This has a good explanation of spacing as well as which plants typically work in which spacing plan.

This is what happened to our grid after a storm. It was easy to fix and put back together.

This is what happened to our grid after a storm. It was easy to fix.

It also helps to have a grid to better visualize where you’re planting everything and the Mel Bartholomew book says you need a grid to be “a true square foot garden.” Even though I think a grid drawn in the dirt would suffice, we decided to make a real grid this year.

Our gridlines are actually slats from old blinds that the cats have previously destroyed and they worked out really well. They are “secured” with a nail through the holes already in the slats.

An errant onion in a totally different bed. Squirrels probably dug it up

An errant onion in a  different bed. Squirrels probably dug it up

I will say the grids helped already.

When I was checking on our plants, I noticed a couple of onions weren’t poking through (we had nine per square). I was able to find a few where they were supposed to be but a couple of bulbs were missing. One I found in the next bed over, lying by the garlic. I suspect squirrels are responsible.

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I’m not always the best planner, and that was pretty evident when I filled our new raised beds with our planting mix. By the end of the “mixing day” I was exhausted and sore and just wanted to be finished filling the garden.

So I didn’t pay any attention to the garlic and chives already poking out of the ground. Once the beds were full, I just assumed the garlic would find it’s way up.

When that didn’t happen after a week or so, I knew we had to dig our way through the new dirt to find them.

It took a while and now the beds look a little more like a strange pit than a garden, but it seems the garlic is doing well. I found a picture I took of the new beds (sans soil) and learned more was still buried because there were actually two chive plants instead of one.

Now that everything is dug out (I hope!), we have 14 regular garlic plants and seven elephant garlic plants. Can’t wait until they’re ready!!

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We’re now in mid-April and all our early spring crops are looking good! I’m kind of amazed at how much we have planted so far.

There are peas (sugar snap and snow), spinach, radishes, carrots, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and onions all doing really well, along with the garlic planted in the fall and chives that come back every year. Most of those are repeats from previous years, except the onions.

We decided to grow onions on a whim this year, even though they’re cheap to buy at the grocery store. After successfully growing garlic last season and learning how much better the homegrown variety was, we suspect onions will be the same. I found a bag of onion sets (they look like tiny, slender onions) that had red, yellow and white onions so we’re trying each variety. There are also a few squares we’ll use for onion seeds to have another later harvest (and for green onions).

We have tons of broccoli this year because the cell packs I bought had nine plants each instead of six, and I decided to try two different varieties. Some are planted in the garden beds and others in containers; same idea with the Brussels sprouts, which we can move around to find the ideal conditions/area for them to grow.

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As I mentioned before, the spring weather has not been very “spring like.” It’s been colder than normal, and there have been nights of freezing temperatures and snow flurries. Not exactly ideal conditions for starting our spring crops, which I’ve always been told should be in the ground around the Ides of March.

Because of the wild weather swings, we tried to outsmart Mother Nature and pre-sprout our pea plants. I knew they wouldn’t germinate in the soil when it was that cold outside. And it worked wonderfully!

IMG_9307The basics are pretty easy: take the pea seeds (really just shriveled up peas) and place them in a damp paper towel. If you have two different kinds, I’d suggest labeling them. We just used permanent marker to write on the paper towels before soaking them.

Once the seeds are in place, place them in a covered container (we used a small pyrex bowl, but you could also use a plastic bag) and place them in a warm place. For us, that was the top of the refrigerator. Check on them after a couple of days and dampen the paper towels, if needed. Ours took about three or four days for all the peas to sprout. Once they’re sprouted, plant as soon as possible in the garden.

IMG_9595Ours are up and doing great, even though the day I planted them (March 23), it was spitting snow. But it seems winter has finally released its tenuous grasp on Cincinnati and the weather these past few days has been quite lovely!

Now our only challenge will be trying to figure out how to trellis the peas as they grow because I didn’t think that far ahead when I planted them in the garden.

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We’re back! I know it’s been months since the last post — 2014 was a big year. I got married and got a new job! Both really exciting things but with all the ensuing happy craziness, it left little to no time for blog posts (or much gardening, to be honest).

Last year our garden did OK — not great, but not too terrible. Part of it is because of the aforementioned life events, part of it because of the cooler summer weather, part of it because of the constant plague of garden pests and creatures we have, but it’s mostly because we weren’t keeping up with it. It also probably didn’t help when the garden was more or less ignored for more than a week while we were on our honeymoon.

This season we’re practically starting over — new raised bed boxes, new soil and new method. We’re trying more of the square foot gardening method to get as much out of our efforts as possible. We’ve also built new boxes and filled most of them with Mel’s Mix, the “perfect garden soil” formula from the books.

We know not everything is going to be perfect. For starters, we added Mel’s Mix on top of the soil and whatever else is there: leaves left over from the fall, a bunch of plants I forgot to pull out (do carrots overwinter?), and likely a handful of those little veggie and herb tags that have been unwittingly mixed in over the years.

Snow in early March delayed our garden plans.

Snow in early March delayed our garden plans.

Second, we’re getting a later start on spring planting. Again. This is out of our control — it doesn’t help (or motivate you) when in early March everything is still covered in snow and is then followed by days upon days of rain. This past weekend was our first nice one (sunshine! warmer temperatures!) in a long time.

Finally, we know our garden won’t be perfect because, let’s face it, life has an odd sense of humor. This weekend is a perfect example. After spending a few hours at several different stores gathering wood for the new beds and the ingredients for our soil mixture, we grabbed the wheelbarrow so we didn’t have to lug 40-pound bags of compost to the back yard.

And guess what? Our wheelbarrow, which we rarely use, had a flat tire. Luckily our neighbor, who is an avid and awesome gardener herself, let us borrow hers. Oh, and to top it off, the drill ran out of batteries when we had our last three screws to put in the last of four raised bed boxes.

This year we’ll post more (I promise!) as we go through our gardening adventure, sharing ideas and experiments from last season, as well as all the successes and failures we have (hoping it’s more of the former this time).

In the meantime, here’s our rough planting plan for this year. I’m sure we’ll move things around when they actually get planted. The garlic is in a different place in both beds because, as usual, I forget where I planted them until the shoots start poking through the ground. And also, I got a little overzealous when buying our broccoli — we have 18 plants now, and I’ll probably experiment some more with container growing.

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