Category: garden

Organic Lawn Fertilizer

Although I’m not opposed to the judicious use of chemical fertilizer, I am a much bigger proponent of organic fertilizers.  When you put organic fertilizer on your lawn you are feeding your soil not just your grass.  And soil health is crucial to any type of gardening.

Organic fertilizers use natural ingredients like compost, bone meal, feather meal, molasses, corn gluten meal, and  potash among other ingredients to create a mixture that contains a blend of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K).  Just as important as the NPK blend are the extra micronutrients and beneficial bacteria organic fertilizers impart to your soil.  Unlike chemical fertilizers that deliver the NPK on inert ingredients, organic fertilizers use beneficial material like compost for the foundation of their products.  Plus the organic materials have staying power, providing long-term benefits for your plants.  It is a win-win situation for your lawn.

Benefits of organic lawn fertilizer:

  1. Beneficial bacteria and micronutrients are added to your soil.
  2. Increased bioavailability of nutrients to your plants.
  3. Organic matter stays in the soil for a longer time than chemical ingredients.
  4. Very difficult to ‘burn’ plants when using organic fertilizer.
  5. Environmentally friendly by decreasing nitrogen and phosphorous ‘run off’.

ladybug fert

One of our most popular organic fertilizers is the Ladybug Brand 8-2-4.  It’s a great all purpose fertilizer to have on hand because it can be used on the lawn as well as in the flower bed or vegetable garden.  Gaddy’s carries it in 6# or 25# bags.

As some of you might have noticed, we’re in the middle of rearranging the store at Gaddy’s.  To make shopping the organic gardening products easier, I’ve put them all in one spot.  Come by and check out our new line of Jobe’s organic products.  Jobe’s has a fabulous line of organic soils as well as organic fertilizer spikes.

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The Brown Bag is Back

If the unseasonably warm weather has you thinking about fertilizing your yard, our spring shipment of Gaddy’s Brown Bag Fertilizer is here.  If you’re new to Pflugerville you may not have heard about our Brown Bag Fertilizer, so let me tell you a little bit about it.  Over 25 years ago, my in-laws, Frank and Lynn, were searching for a fertilizer that would work well for the alkaline clay soil in our area.  They wanted a slow-release nitrogen formula with added sulfur, iron and micronutrients.  Unfortunately the only products they found that fit the bill also had a steep price tag.  Not ones to be deterred, Frank and Lynn decided to have their own fertilizer made.  And because all the money goes into the product and not the packaging, the fertilizer comes in a plain brown bag with an analysis tag.  We, and our customers, refer to it as our Brown Bag Special.

The Brown Bag is a 2o-5-10 blend of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.  It immediately releases a 15-5-10 ratio which is recommended for lawns, then the extra 5% nitrogen is slowly released, helping your grass stay green longer.  The micronutrient package contains sulphur, iron, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc.  One bag covers 6,000-8,000 sq feet.  An average size yard is 4,500-5,000 square feet, so you may even have a bit left over for the next application.

 

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Get a free spreader rental with any purchase of fertilizer at Gaddy’s

 

If you are using a chemical fertilizer it is important to use it properly to maximize the benefit to your yard.   First thing, don’t fertilize too early.  A lawn doesn’t need to be fertilized until it is actively growing in the spring.  A good rule of thumb is to fertilizer after you have had to mow your grass at least one time.  Your grass can’t really use the fertilizer until it is awake and actively growing.  How would you like to eat a huge Thanksgiving meal at 5:30am?  Let your lawn wake up and get moving before you feed it.

Fertilize again in the summer only if your yard is green, growing, watered, and healthy.  Adding fertilizer to a lawn that is struggling due to summer heat or stress can add to the problem instead of help.  Also during summertime avoid fertilizing in the heat of the day to minimize the chance of burning your yard.  And always water the fertilizer in well after application.  If any fertilizer gets on your sidewalk or driveway, wash or sweep it up to prevent staining.

Many gardeners apply fertilizer in the fall to winterize the yard.  Time this feeding to your grass’ needs.  Wait for the weather to cool down and for your yard to recover a bit from summer heat stress.  As with the first feeding of the year, fertilize in the fall when your grass is actively growing.  Use the fall growing season to get your yard fed and healthy before it goes dormant over the winter.

There are also plenty of organic methods available at Gaddy’s to keep your yard fed and healthy.  Organics tend to be a bit more pricy, but they help keep your soil healthy as well as provide many longer lasting benefits to your yard’s ecosystem.  One of the best things you can do for your yard is to spread some organic matter, like compost, over the grass in early spring.  More on organic fertilizers in another post.

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.

 

 

 

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

 

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.

feb-planting-guide

Time to Start Peppers & Tomatoes

soil and everything.jpgMid March is the magic time of year for vegetable gardeners in the Pflugerville area.  By mid March we’re almost guaranteed to have seen our last frost of the season.  This means plants can go into the ground with minimal risk of loss to cold weather.

Why am I thinking about March 15 on January 14?  Because it’s going to take about 8 weeks to grow our pepper and tomato transplants from seed.  If we get the seeds started today, the plants should be big enough to go outside as soon as March 15 comes around.  I’ll show you how we do it at the feeds store and how you can do it at home.

Start with a loose potting soil with lots of peat.  We use a seed starting mix.  Fluff up the soil and break up the clumps to get the soil ready to fill the planting tray.

You can plant into many different types of containers.  We are planting in a tray with 128 little cells but you can plant into clean six-pack trays, peat pots, newspaper pots, or small paper cups.  (Since we are starting with such small cells, we will transplant these into larger pots before they go outside.)

Fill your cells to the top with loose soil, then tamp the soil down so that you have about 1/4 inch ‘head space’.  We put a big pile of soil on top of our empty tray of cells then scrape it off to fill up all the trays.  It’s a bit like scooping up a big cup of flour when you’re baking then leveling it off with a knife.  Just as with baking, don’t compact the dirt when you fill it to the top.  Then we place an empty tray of cells on top of the filled one and press just a bit to compact the soil.

Place one seed in each cell.  There are some little gizmos you can buy to shake out the seeds one at a time, but after doing a lot of seeding we have found it’s easier for us just to use our hands or shake the seeds out of the package one at a time.

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Cover the top of the seeded seed tray with some more of the soil (not quite up to the top of the cell) and water it in.  I use a big spray bottle to water the plants so I don’t wash the soil and seeds out of the tray.

Peppers and tomatoes seeds need quite a bit of warmth to germinate.  They would really like to have a soil temperature of 80-90 degrees.  We put our trays under a grow lamp inside where it’s warm but probably not quite to an optimal temp.  Next year we hope to have a heated greenhouse to use, so if you have one of those that’s where the seedlings would be happiest.  If you don’t have a grow light, or a greenhouse, you can put your trays in a sunny window in a warm room.  At lower temperatures just expect germination to be slower and may not be 100 percent.

Keep the soil moist but not wet.  Feed with a gentle liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks when the plants get their first true leaves.  Wait patiently for spring.

The reason why gardeners in Central Texas are so crazy mad to get a jump start on their peppers and tomatoes is because we want to get our plants outside early enough to get as many fruit set before the weather turns so hot the plants stop setting fruit.  Once the daily highs reach 90 degrees and above peppers and tomatoes and eggplants stop setting fruit.  They will ripen the fruit they have set and the plant can stay alive and healthy, but they will stop making fruit.

 

 

Onion Sets & Planting Guide

Our onion sets will arrive from Dixondale Farms in Carrizo Springs, Texas next week.  We have White Bermuda, Southern Belle Red, and 1015Y Texas Super Sweet onion sets on their way.  Onions are super easy to plant and you can fit them into even the smallest garden.  Here’s how to do it.onion-set

The onion set may look a little dry.  That’s OK.  The onion start is just dormant.  Please don’t water it, just keep it in a cool, dry place until your soil is ready for planting.

Since the onion needs to ‘push through’ the soil as it grows to form a large bulb, make sure your soil is nice and loose.  Onions like plenty of feed and prefer a slightly acidic soil, so make sure you have plenty of organic matter or extra peat moss to balance out our alkaline clay soil in the Pflugerville area.  If you use commercial fertilizer you may want to spread some 13-13-13 and ammonium sulfate (to decrease the soil pH) into your soil before planting.

Onions grow best with full sun and lots of drainage.  A raised bed or row works best.  Take the onion set apart and plant each onion about 3/4 inch deep, at least 4 inches apart down the center of the trench you made.  (Note:  3/4 inch is not very deep.  Make sure you don’t plant any deeper.)  If you don’t have enough space for all the onions in your set, plant the others real close together in a sunny spot of your garden and harvest the tops as soon as they green up and use them like green onions.

Hand weed around the onions frequently during the growing season.  You don’t want weeds competing with the onions for nutrients or growing space.  And you don’t want to damage your onion bulbs trying to weed around them with a hoe.

Onions have a shallow root system.  You may only need to water them weekly during the early spring, but later when it heats up or when it is windy, they may need to water more frequently.

Feed the onions at least once again when the tops have 5 or six leaves.  You can feed more often but once the onion’s nearly done growing and has started ‘bulbing’ (it kind of looks like it’s half way out of the ground) it is best not to fertilize anymore.

When the onion top falls over and looks half way dead, the onion is ready to harvest.  Usually this happens sometime in the summer if you planted in the spring.  Pick the onions early in the day and leave them outside in the shade to dry for a couple of days before bringing inside.