Archive for the ‘How To’ category

Stevia – Zero Calorie Sweetener that you can Grow

March 14th, 2009

Stevia (stevia rebaudiana) is a new world herb that you might have only recently heard of.  Stevia leaves – while having zero calories – are claimed to be 30 times sweeter than sugar, and in fact one of the common names is “candy leaf” – the extract is supposedly 300 times sweeter than sugar!  Stevia is also reputed to have several health benefits including the  prevention of tooth decay and diabetes.  I don’t know about that, but I would guess that using less sugar probably would have those effects.

Is the idea of growing your own natural organic zero calorie sweetener intriguing to you? » Read more: Stevia – Zero Calorie Sweetener that you can Grow

Simple Plastic Tunnel Cold Frame or Row Cover

March 3rd, 2009
This plastic tunnel is being used inside of the greenhouse to protect tender plants against a late hard freeze - very effectively I might add.

This plastic tunnel is being used inside of the greenhouse to protect tender plants against a late hard freeze - very effectively I might add.

A simple plastic tunnel like this can serve as a cold frame to grow salad greens  all winter long, to grow out tomatoes and other tender plants, to extend the season for an early Spring start or a late Fall harvest, or even as a screen house to keep birds off of your strawberries or vine borer moths off of your squashes.  You can also use one of these to dry out water logged beds and warm up the soil so that you can begin planting  in early Spring. These devices are so useful, cheap, easy, and quick to build that everyone should have at least one – it’s almost as good as having your own polytunnel greenhouse. » Read more: Simple Plastic Tunnel Cold Frame or Row Cover

Prevent Garden Pests by Rotating Crops

February 23rd, 2009

raised-beds2

Before farmers had the option of battling pests and diseases by applying petroleum based poisons to crops or tampering with genetic designs they worked out sustainable systems to manage  insects and pathogens by rotating crops. » Read more: Prevent Garden Pests by Rotating Crops

Home Made Bottom Heat for Seed Starting (or pet bed)

February 17th, 2009
These tomatoe plants were grown under shop lights in only 4 weeks from planting the seeds!

I always had problems starting seeds in our plant room, but these tomato plants were grown under shop lights in only 4 weeks from planting the seeds!

These seedlings were planted only one week ago.  I used to wait weeks for germination that was spotty at best in my cool plant grow room.

These seedlings were planted only one week ago. I used to wait weeks for germination that was spotty at best in my cool plant grow room.

The answer was simple…
Recycling rope lights turn out to be a great way to make bottom heat for seed starting under lights.

Recycled rope lights turn out to be a great way to make bottom heat for seed starting under lights.

I built our “plant room” about 2 years ago – just a small well insulated room with a lot of windows and shop lights – and since then I’ve tried starting my own seeds with varying degrees of success.  The problem that I’ve had is that over night temperatures in the room routinely fall into the 50s which is fine for maintaining tender plants over the Winter, but makes seed germination spotty at best.  I knew that what I needed was bottom heat.

The thing is that retail bottom heat is expensive – I saw one “kit” at a local garden center that was big enough for 2 flats and was $79 – wow!  You can buy a lot of tomato plants for eighty bucks!  A low cost alternative had to be possible for a dedicated scrounger like myself.

Whatever I decided upon had to be:

  1. Safe – neither an electrical shock nor a fire hazard!
  2. Cheap
  3. Simple
  4. Big  enough to start all of our early Spring seeds.

Before proceeding – You the reader must agree that you will not hold the author or anyone associated with doorgarden.com responsible for your use of this information.  What you see being done in this article may not be safe (and probably isn’t), and could cause injury, death, destruction, mayhem, fire, dammage to your home, and prolong the economic downturn by preventing you from spending money and thereby stimulating the economy.  It might not even work.  In any event thou shalt not hold me responsible.  If you don’t agree with any of that then turn back now – don’t even look at the pictures. » Read more: Home Made Bottom Heat for Seed Starting (or pet bed)

Plant Spacing for Intensive Gardening Methods

January 26th, 2009
That sweet corn is way too close together - the yield was very small, and much of it fell over after a big rain because of the shallow restricted roots.
That sweet corn inter-planted with pole beans (an experiment) is way too close together – the yield was very small, and much of it fell over after a big rain because of the shallow restricted roots.

Recommended Spacing for Intensive Planting  Methods

Plant Inches Plant Inches
Asparagus 15 – 18 Lettuce, head 10 – 12
Beans, lima 4 – 6 Lettuce, leaf 4 – 6
Beans, pole 6 – 12 Melons 18 – 24
Beans, bush 4 – 6 Mustard 6 – 9
Beets 2 – 4 Okra 12 – 18
Broccoli 12 – 18 Onion 2 – 4
Brussels sprouts 15 – 18 Peas 2 – 4
Cabbage 15 – 18 Peppers 12 – 15
Cabbage, Chinese 10 – 12 Potatoes 10 – 12
Carrots 2 – 3 Pumpkins 24 – 36
Cauliflower 15 – 18 Radishes 2 – 3
Cucumber 12 – 18 Rutabaga 4 – 6
Chard, Swiss 6 – 9 Southern pea 3 – 4
Collards 12 – 15 Spinach 4 – 6
Endive 15 – 18 Squash, summer 18 – 24
Eggplant 18 – 24 Squash, winter 24 – 36
Kale 15 – 18 Sweet corn 15 – 18
Kohlrabi 6 – 9 Tomatoes 18 – 24
Leeks 3 – 6 Turnip 4 – 6

Arizona State University Master Gardener Manual: Intensive Gardening Methods. » Read more: Plant Spacing for Intensive Gardening Methods

Easy Potting Soil Sterilization

January 20th, 2009

I usually don’t worry about sterilizing compost or home made potting soil. However, this year I’m starting most of my plants under lights in a rather cool grow room – a fairly substantial investment of effort and time – and I just don’t want to take any chances.

If I had planned ahead I would have done solar pasturization by putting saran wrap on the top of a picnic cooler full of compost.  Since I didn’t plan ahead I did this instead:

Grilled dirt anyone?  The oven bag makes it look kinda like a dirt haggis.

Grilled dirt anyone? The oven bag makes it look kinda like a dirt haggis.

An oven bag full of  my best screened compost cooked well done on the gas grill.  I added about a quart of water so that it would all steam evenly, and punched a small hole in the top to keep it from building pressure – took about 2 1/2 hours to reach 170 degrees Fahrenheit.  The probe thermometer lets you be more efficient by not opening the lid.  Needless to say plan on just letting it sit there for several hours to cool.

If you only cook the compost you should be able to make 2-3 times this volume of sterile homemade organic potting soil by the time you add the other ingredients.

The oven bag looks no worse for wear and tear, and I don’t see why you couldn’t reuse it again – for dirt of course.  Next time though maybe I’ll do better and use sunshine instead of fossil fuel, but in the middle of January this worked pretty well without cooking dirt in the kitchen.

Grow All Winter In a Cold Frame Made From Recycled Materials

January 8th, 2009

A simple cold frame is an easy, economical way to get more out of  your garden.

Fresh salad in the cold frame in January

Salad ready to eat in January

You might know that I built a small greenhouse this fall.  Unfortunately by the time I finished it in early November it was pretty late to get started – I have a few things going in there now, but I’ve not really been able to use it to full advantage.  Being able to enjoy the sunshine while I’ve worked in there out of the cold has been nice.  But the truth is that so far this cold frame has been at least as productive as the greenhouse.

While I built my greenhouse on the cheap ($50 out of pocket) building this cold frame actually cost nothing – 100 percent recycled materials» Read more: Grow All Winter In a Cold Frame Made From Recycled Materials

Free Seeds for Life

January 2nd, 2009
Many seeds such as this basil can be easily saved from year to year.

Many seeds such as this basil can be easily saved from year to year.

Winter is a great time to sit down with a nice warm beverage and a seed catalog to plan your garden for next Spring.  Unfortunately sticker shock usually strikes when you start tallying up everything that you would like to grow.  But it doesn’t have to be like that. » Read more: Free Seeds for Life

Potting Soil From Compost

December 31st, 2008

Every year lately I make a big batch or two of potting soil – it saves quite a lot of money and it’s more convenient than working with a bunch of awkward leaky plastic bags.  Plus I know what goes into it.

This is the rig that I use to screen compost – it works very well and is built out of scrap lumber and a piece of 1/2″ by 1″ galvanized wire mesh left over from building some rabbit cages.

The last time I painted the garage roof I gave my retired commercial wheel barrow a nice thick coating with the last bit of roof paint to keep from having leftovers.  It’s ugly, but it keeps it from rusting.

A simple efficient compost screener

A simple efficient compost screener

Just work your compost around with a hoe and pull the big pieces off the back.  Toss them back  on to the compost pile when you finish. » Read more: Potting Soil From Compost

Building Greenhouse Doors

November 10th, 2008

<< Building the $50 Greenhouse

Welcome back Stumbleupon Gardeners!

If this looks like too much work – I did a much simpler door on the other end.

This weekend I finally got time to start on the doors for my 50 dollar greenhouse.  The design that I came up with is light, strong, simple, and can be built easily and quickly using only a circular saw and a hand drill.  I must admit that I did use a table saw to rip out the stock, and put it through a planer to accurately dimension it, but this was only a convenience, and isn’t at all necessary for a good result.  This polytunnel door design can be built on a set of sawhorses out in the driveway, but it will be a lot easier if you get someone to help you hold things while you saw, drill and fasten parts together. » Read more: Building Greenhouse Doors