Saturday, November 29, 2008

So What Is Raised Bed Gardening?

I became an avid fan of raised bed gardening when I moved to the Ozarks in 2000. I grew up in the fertile soil of southern Illinois. Needless to say, the rocky, clay based soil of the Ozarks was quite a disappointment. One need only spend a couple of hours in the yard with a pick, trying to break up rocks, to realize the advantage of growing vegetables in a raised bed.At the most basic level, raised bed gardening involves growing plants above ground. Through the use of special techniques, growing beds, soils, and fertilizers, the raised bed gardener creates the ideal growing environment without ever digging into the actual ground. Raised beds can be built directly on top of the ground, or in some sort of frame placed on legs, sawhorses, etc. A box can even be built into decks, porches, etc. The main idea here is NO DIGGING!Raised beds come in many different shapes and sizes. In my own particular garden, I have raised beds that are 4' x 4", 2' x 8', and 4' x 8'. I am sure there are many other varieties as well. The size of the raised bed is typically dictated by the ability of the gardener to effectively reach across the space. I can comfortably reach across a 4' bed without hurting my back.Raised bed gardening is also a departure from traditional gardening in its use of compact space. Traditional gardens are planted in rows, and can require a lot of space. Raised bed gardens attempt to make better use of space by planting in squares and rectangles.This makes raised bed gardening ideal for small yards. I have even seen great gardens raised on the back porch of apartments. A 4' x 4' bed only takes up 16 sq. ft.Special soils are used in raised bed gardening, in order to maximize the amount of vegetables that can be grown in the small space. Typical ingredients may include potting soil, top soil, compost, leaves, fertilizers, vermiculite, cotton seed hulls, and many other things. The special soil is designed to be very rich in the nutrients needed to grow so many plants in such a small space. In addition, it is designed to be very loose, so plants can root themselves deeply. In small raised beds, the grower typically does not step or stand on the soil. Hence, the soil tends to be less compacted, and easier on root growth.Raised bed gardening also makes it possible for the average gardener to extend the normal growing season. It is very easy to build a simple greenhouse or "cold frame' over the top of the bed. The greenhouse holds in moisture and heat. Special underlining can help to keep the soil warmer. I am writing this article two days before Thanksgiving, and I still have a productive garden in my 4' x 8' greenhouse. Here in the Ozarks, we are consistently dropping below freezing every night!Slainte,Ray ProvinceThe Celtic Ozark Garden

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Earth Friendly Cold Frames

For two years in a row, the Ozarks has experienced a late in the season spring frost. The frost was far enough along to cause damage to crops that had been placed out in early spring, as well as some things like fruit tree blossoms. The typical advise you get on the evening news goes something like this: “better cover those plants tonight!”

What if there was an alternative? Indeed, that is the question. Earth friendly cold frames can be one such alternative. There are essentially two items needed to build a good earth friendly cold frame: an old window frame (glass intact) and some straw bales. It does not get much easier than this.

A straw based cold frame has some very distinct advantages over other options: 1) the straw is stacked end to end, and does not have to be “constructed,” 2) straw is one of nature’s best insulators, 3) it is “earth friendly’ in that is will eventually decompose, and can be added back to the soil, or into a composting bin. This also gives you the advantage of not having to store a lot of items in the off season.

Now is the time to plan for spring. A 4’ x 8’ plot will need 6 bales, plus windows to cover. Old windows can often be found in flea markets, garage sales, thrown in trash, etc. Start looking now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Growing Cabbage From Seed

It's hard to have a "Celtic" garden and not grow cabbage! It is a flavor-rich food. We use it in a corned beef and cabbage meal. We add it to stew. We even cover it in aluminum foil, add some butter and Greek seasoning,and grill it! Now you got yourself somethin'! (That's hillbilly for this tastes good!)There are many varieties of cabbage that can be grown from seed. I grow heirloom seeds to help preserve the variety of plants we have available to eat! Imagine how poor a world we would have if we only had one kind of commercial cabbage to eat! My favorite site for heirloom seeds is! Take a look sometime.I have a small plastic container, 9"x13"x4" that I keep full of a good, quality potting soil medium. The trick here is to use sterile potting soil, so nothing inadvertently kills your seeds. I start cabbage 8-10 weeks before I am ready to plant. Typically, cabbage is a spring/fall crop. They are not real found of Ozark summer heat. I shoot to start my outside spring crop around St. Patrick's Day for my growing area. I also have a greenhouse that protects my young plants against any late year frost. (Can go into April in the Ozarks!) The blog connection below can lead you to an article on my greenhouse, if you want more on how to build a small one.Here is the rest:1. plant 1/2 inch deep.2. water throughly. It's the water that will start things.3. After sprouting, just keep water moist and add some light to the plants. I have a grow light. (Old hippy!)4. Feed the seeds 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer every other week til you plant.I still have cabbage in my winter greenhouse. After writing about it, I think I'll have some for supper!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Persimmon Weather

One of my favorite fall treats comes from the wild, but can easily be added to the Ozark garden. The Persimmon tree can be a wonderful addition to the landscape.
The tree produces a beautiful blossom in the Spring of the year. Typcially, the trees don't get much above 30' in height, so it's not like adding an oak to property. The tree produces a yummy fruit that does not come into play until this time of year. It takes a good, hard freeze to cause the fruit to darken and sweeten, but it is worth the wait. I have posted a recipe for persimmon jam on our Hillbilly Cookin' blog.
If you are a wildlife fan, then you will especially love this tree! It is one of the single best attractions for deer I have ever seen. This time of year, and into the rutt, deer will jump through hoops of fire for this treat! You will have a yard full of deer by planting just one of these on your property, but you will have to pay attention! The deer will get these quickly.
Ray Province
The Celtic Ozark Garden

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Indoor Plant Grow Lights

An Introduction To Indoor Plant Grow Lights
Written by Ann Knapp;

There are basically two types of grow lights used in horticulture. These are:
High Intensity Discharge Lights (HID) - These come in two types, the Metal Halide Grow Light (MH) and the High Pressure Sodium Grow Light (HPS)
Metal Halide - bulbs are designed for plants during their growing cycle. That is, for non-fruiting or non-blooming plants. Metal halide lighting is therefore the best HID choice for the plant's growing phase.
High Pressure Sodium Lights (HPS) - The HPS grow light is used primarily for plants that are in their blooming or fruiting phase. Modern high pressure sodium lighting can, however, be bought, which is enhanced for blue spectrum (for vegetative growth) and for red spectrum (for flowering growth). This means that they can be used throughout the entire growing process for most types of plant.
Fluorescent Grow Lights emit less light than high intensity discharge lights and although they can be used throughout the plant cycle their lack of brightness will produce small yields. The light produced tends to be softer and less damaging to tender young plants. For this reason, the fluorescent grow light is popular for seedlings and cuttings, an excellent way to establish young plants.
All of the above types of lights use some kind of a ballast system. The one most people are familiar with is the fluorescent light. This has, a small, built in, ballast. It allows the fluorescent tube to build up enough energy to strike, and excite the molecules within the tube, causing light to be given off.
Metal Halide and HPS grow lights are usually run from remote ballasts. These are external boxes containing the electronics to pre-heat and run the lamp. The ballast is connected to the lamp holder and to the mains power supply. Each ballast used is rated for the lamp wattage and so it is necessary to have different ballasts available for each of the different values of lamp to be used. HID bulbs should be replaced after 12 to 18 months of use. Although HID lamps will continue to light beyond 18 months of use, they will have lost up to 30 percent or more of their lumen output while consuming the same amount of electricity.
Think of a plant as a well-run factory that takes delivery of raw materials and manufactures the most wondrous products. Just as a factory requires a reliable energy source to turn the wheels of its machinery, plants need an energy source in order to grow.
Usually, natural sunlight is used for this important job. However, during the shorter and darker days of winter, many growers use artificial lights to increase the intensity of light or to expand the daylight length. While the sun radiates the full spectrum suitable for plant life, different types of artificial lighting are selected for specific plant varieties and optimum plant growth characteristics. Different groups of plants respond in physically different ways to various wavelengths of radiation. Light plays an extremely important role in the production of plant material. The lack of light is the main inhibiting factor in plant growth. If you reduce the light by 10 percent, you also reduce crop performance by 10 percent.
Light transmission should be your major consideration when purchasing a growing structure for a protected crop. Glass is still the preferred material for covering greenhouses because, unlike plastic films and sheeting, its light transmission ability is indefinitely maintained.
No gardener can achieve good results without adequate light. If you intend to grow indoors, avail yourself of some of the reading material that has been published on this subject. If you are having trouble growing good plants, then light is the first factor to question.
A large part of the success in growing hydroponically is planning where to place the plants. Grow plants that have similar growing requirements in the same system. Placing your system 1-2 feet away from a sunny window will give the best results for most herbs and vegetables. Even your regular house lights help the plants to grow. Make sure that all of the lights are out in your growing area during the night. Plants need to rest a minimum of 4 hours every night. If your plants start to get too tall, move the system to a spot that has more sun. Once you find a good growing area, stick to it. Plants get used to their home location. It may take some time to get used to a new place.

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