What do the numbers on fertilizer bags mean?

The three numbers on a bag of fertilizer represent the percentage of three elements commonly found in fertilizer–nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K).  Nitrogen is used for leaf growth and helps plants stay green.  Because of this many lawn fertilizers have a higher percentage of nitrogen, like in a  15-5-10 fertilizer.  Phosphorous, represented by the second number, helps plants form new roots, fruits and flowers.  Many ‘super bloom’ type fertilizers have a high phosphorous number like a 9-58-8.

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Potassium, represented as the third number on a bag of fertilizer, promotes overall plant health.  Soluble potash is a source of potassium.

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A common garden fertilizer is a 13-13-13 blend.  There are equal amounts of N, P and K in this fertilizer blend.  So what’s the difference between a 13-13-13 and a 10-10-10?  They both have equal ratios of N,P and K in them but the amounts of N, P and K compared to the inert ingredients in the bag is different.  The N-P-K numbers also represent the percentage of each ingredient by weight.  A 13-13-13 bag has 13% N, 13% P, and 13% K.  In a bag of 13-13-13, 61% of the weight would be due to the carrier ingredients, often clay.  In a bag of 10-10-10, 70% of the weight would be due to carrier ingredients.

15-5-10

Organic fertilizers will also have a N-P-K number.  The numbers are usually lower than on a bag of chemical fertilizer, but the carrier products are often times beneficial materials for your yard such as compost.  Plus many products such as the Ladybug garden fertilizer shown below, have added organic micronutrients and beneficial mycorrhizal fungi.

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Garden Site Preparation

Do you have a sunny spot in your back yard that you’ve always thought would make a nice garden but didn’t know where to begin?  The first thing you’ll need to do is to get rid of as much of the grass or weeds as you can in your future garden.  Here is a simple and organic way to kill grass and weeds in a garden-sized area.  All you need is some black plastic or a tarp and some weights to keep it in place.

Simply lay the tarp or plastic over the area you want cleared, and weigh it down with bricks, or large rocks or garden stakes.  Then wait.  And wait.  Eventually the lack of sunlight will kill everything now growing under the plastic.  This is how Mark and I have been prepping soil that will eventually be planted for the store’s market garden.  In the picture above you can see a couple of areas where we used large pieces of black plastic weighed down with buckets of sand.  The smaller white and yellow patches are a couple of old advertising banners now used to block the sun.  We used this method successfully to clear the area that now is home to some young pea seedlings.

Once the weather gets hot another way to kill weeds or grass is to cover the area with clear plastic and basically let the sun ‘bake’ the weeds and weed seeds.  But if you did this in mid February, clear plastic would probably act as a nice greenhouse for your weeds.

Asparagus

Mark and I planted two long rows of asparagus in the market garden yesterday.  Asparagus is a wonderful vegetable for Pflugerville because it actually enjoys the slightly alkaline soil in our area.  However asparagus appreciates looser soil than our black clay so be sure to amend your soil with plenty of organic matter and maybe some sand when you prepare asparagus beds.

We planted our asparagus at the edge of our garden.  Asparagus goes well at a well-drained edge of your yard or garden because the bed will be there for a long long time.  It will probably take two or three years for the asparagus we planted yesterday to be producing at full capacity.

Asparagus is propagated by planting 1 or 2 year old roots, called crowns, into 4-12 inch deep trenches.  Gently separate the roots so the center of the crown will lie in the center of your trench like an octopus.  (See picture below.)  The trenches can be gradually filled as the plant grows, or filled in all at once if your soil is loose enough for the plants to break through easily.

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I recommend choosing a male variety of asparagus like the Jersy Knight that we planted.  Male varieties are hearty and good producers, plus they do not produce berries and seeds like the female plants.  (‘Washington’ varieties are generally female.)

Keep the new asparagus bed well watered and weeded throughout the spring, summer and autumn.  In the winter, after the first freeze, cut the ferns off at ground level and remove them from the bed.  Ferns left in the garden over winter provide good shelter for asparagus beetles which could wreak havoc on the plants in the spring.

It’s best not to harvest and asparagus for the first two years after planting.  The idea is that all the plants energy should go back into the plant’s root system, providing for a better harvest in subsequent years.  However, I have picked just a few spears on the second year  and didn’t have any long term problems based on my impatience.

Asparagus is usually the first think ready to pick in our home garden in the early spring.  When you are finally able to start harvesting your asparagus, snap the spears off with your hand at ground level.  The sprouts should be about 4 to 10 inches in height.  Don’t let the spears get too big or they will be tough and fibrous.  When the weather gets warmer and the spear heads start opening up, stop picking and wait for next year.  Asparagus is best when eaten fresh, but will save in the fridge for up to three weeks.

 

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Asparagus crowns remind me of something Prof. Sprout might be planting at Hogwarts.  BTW an old feed bag makes a great knee pad when planting.

 

 

 

Show Your Poultry Pride

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I, myself, am just a couple chickens shy of becoming a crazy chicken lady, so these boots are right up my alley.  They’re great for garden work or egg-gathering or simply running around town.  They’re available at Gaddy’s in sizes 6 to 10 (note:  they run a little small).  Can’t wait to try mine out.

Also, we just received our first shipment of Socksmith socks at Gaddy’s.  I’ve been a Socksmith fan for a couple of years now.  They’re the only crew sock I’ll wear when I’m working 12-hour shifts as a nurse because the tops don’t cut into my calves.  Even better, they come in the most adorable patterns.  I ordered every farm or garden theme sock Socksmith makes.  To make these socks even more irresistible, I’ve priced them at just $5.99 each (suggested retail is $8.00).  Really, I’m just hoping we sell through the socks quickly enough so I can order even MORE cute socks.

Fruit & Nut Trees Have Arrived!

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Rodney spent all morning setting up the fruit and pecan trees, as well as roses, blueberries and blackberries.  We have been working with the same grower, located outside of Tyler, Texas, for over 25 years.  We are always satisfied with the quality of their trees and I think you will be too.  Although the weather is a little crisp, it’s a great time to plant fruits or pecan trees.

Here’s a list of what we now have in stock.  Click on the link for an easy to read .pdf file. 2017-fruit-tree-list

 

Picking up Chicks

Mark and I picked up the first order of chicks today.  Here’s what happens when we get chicks.  First, we get a call from the post office early in the morning.  Then we leave home early to get to the post office before the store opens at 8 am.

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We knock on the door at the pick up window.  Usually the post office staff are ready for us.  We can hear the chicks from outside the pick up door.

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Aren’t they cute?

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We put the chicks in the preheated brooder at the feed store.  Food and water are waiting for them.  It’s important that the chicks get quick access to food and water after their long journey.

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Poultry Breeds Profile Chart

I’ll have the chick brooder cleaned and sanitized before I leave the store today.  We are expecting our first round of chicks on Thursday here at Gaddy’s.  We will have three different types of chicks arriving almost every week during the spring.  To see what’s expected click the  ‘chicken’ tab on the menu above.  I have also compiled a chart showing the characteristics of the breeds we have booked.  To download a copy click here:  poultry-breed-profile-chart

Planting Peas

Peas are a great cool-season crop to get into the ground as soon as you can work the soil in the early spring.  Even young plants can tolerate a little frost.  Because they need trellising, peas can be a bit of a bother to grow, but the pay off is well worth it.  Whether you’re eating them right out of the garden or adding them to salads or a stir-fry, nothing tastes better than fresh peas.

Another fabulous thing about peas is that peas are actually good for your soil.  Peas are a nitrogen fixing plant.  This means that peas have little nodes on their roots that area are able to take nitrogen out of the air (and not so much from your soil) to use for food.  To give the pea roots a little nitrogen-fixing boost, we coat our pea seeds with a powdery inoculant.  The inoculant contains bacteria that will help the roots of the pea plants convert nitrogen to food.  Since this is the first time we’ve planted peas in this bed, we especially want to introduce the inoculant’s bacteria to the soil.

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I sprayed the pea seeds with a little water then sprinkled the powdered inoculant over the seeds in the ratio recommended on the inoculant’s packaging.  The inoculant looks like I sprinkled black pepper on my peas.  I put these seeds into a plastic bag and took them right to the garden to plant.

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We are planting two rows of peas 10″ apart.  Peas are a larger seed and need to be planted about 3/4″ deep and 1-2″ apart.  Both of the rows I’m planting will share the same trellis.  If we wanted to plant more peas, we would make our next set of rows 2′ away.

We will keep the soil moist but not wet so our pea seeds can germinate and pop up out of the ground easily.  Once the plants are up out of the ground a good weekly watering may be sufficient depending on how much it rains during the growing season.

Monthly Planting Guides

Find the first of our monthly planting guides for Pflugerville vegetable gardeners under the Garden Tab on the menu bar above.  February is a big month for planting cool weather crops.  Many must be planted from transplants in order to harvest them before the weather warms and the plants bolt.  March will be the month for starting many warm weather crops.  Stay tuned for the March planting guide.

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