Category: garden

Stop Spring Weeds, Use a Pre-emergent Herbicide Now

February is the ‘sweet spot’ of the year when it comes to applying pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn.  A little effort now can greatly reduce the weed pressure in your yard later in the season.  Pre-emergents work by drying up weed seeds so they never get a chance to sprout.  The trick is, you have to apply the pre-emergent before the seeds begin to germinate.  And that means, you have to do a little yard work before it is warm enough outside for you to really feel like doing yard work.

We have several pre-emergent options at Gaddy’s.  If you want an organic pre-emergent, we sell corn gluten meal.  Besides being a desiccant, corn gluten is a natural source of nitrogen, the element that helps ‘green-up’ your grass once it starts growing.  Our Fertilome-Hi Yield Grass and Weed Preventer is an economical chemical pre-emergent.  One $15.99 bag will cover 3,500 to 5,000 sq ft.  If you want a product with a pre-emergent and a post-emergent, we sell Weed Beater Complete.

Use a broadcast spreader to apply pre-emergent granules.  Read the directions carefully.  Most pre-emergents need a little bit of moisture to become active.  For example the Hi Yield product recommends about 1/2 inch or rainfall or irrigation.  But too much rainfall immediately after application can lessen the effectiveness of the pre-emergent by washing it away.

When using pre-emergent, think about places in your yard where you want seeds to germinate and avoid those areas.  Don’t apply pre-emergent in a vegetable bed where you want to start seeds next month or in an area of your yard that you want to reseed.  Some pre-emergent can be effective for up to 3 months.  The pre-emergent will not differentiate between the seeds you want to grow and those you want to kill.

Seed Potatoes are In Stock

Now that we’ve warmed up from last week’s ice-pocalypse, I’m ready to get out in the garden.  First on my list will be getting my potatoes ready to plant.  If you’ve never planted spuds before, now’s the year.  They’re easy to plant and so much fun to harvest.  Here’s a link to last year’s article on how to get potatoes ready for planting.  https://gaddys.com/2017/01/13/seed-potatoes/

And here’s a picture of our potatoes sitting next to our new purple check-out station.

potato counter

Gaddy’s Partners with Johnson’s Backyard Garden

Looking for a way to keep your resolutions?  Try signing up for a CSA from Johnson’s Backyard Garden.  You can pickup your share every Wednesday straight from Gaddy’s! 

Johnson’s Backyard Garden (JBG) is an organic farm that has grown from a family project in an AJohnson's Backyard Gardenustin backyard to a bona fide farm large enough to provide fresh produce to Texans from Dallas to Houston to San Antonio and areas in between–including Pflugerville!  Mark and I first became enamored of Johnson’s Backyard Garden when we visited their booth at the Texas Farmer’s Market last spring.  The JBG booth was so packed with people and produce, we had to wait in line to get inside.  It was worth it!  Although we had a garden, JBG had grown lots of interesting veggies that we hadn’t even thought of growing ourselves.

If you’ve ever thought of signing up for a CSA, now is the time to do it.  Joining in January helps the CSA plan for and pay for spring.  Plus you get to enjoy some great produce.  And if that’s not enough, JBG is extending a great offer to first-time or renewing members.  Add “getcookin1” at checkout and receive one CSA share free with your subscription.  To sign up click here.

Mark and I are still planting our market garden in the back lot of the store, but this year we are being realistic about the amount of time we have to work in the garden.  2018 is going to be a year of changes for us.  We are in the process of adding to our sales floor and incorporating new shelving into the store that we purchased from Zinger Hardware (so sad to see them go).  This leaves us even less time for gardening than we had last year, so I’m doubly excited to partner with JBG because I want to keep fresh, organic produce a part of our store’s mission.  And, if you’d like to volunteer out in the garden please email me at kimgaddy@gaddys.com.  I’ll be more than happy for any extra hands.

U-Pick Saturday, May 20, 2017

I’m trying something new in the hopes of boosting our vegetable and flower sales at Gaddy’s.  I’m opening parts of the garden up for a U-Pick Day at the feed store.  If you’d like to pick some green beans, corn, carrots, onions or beautiful sunflowers, drop by the store tomorrow and I’ll guide you through the picking process.  Not all parts of the garden are open for U-Pick but we have a bunch of fun things to pick.  Prices for U-Pick are 10% off regular price.  Supervised children are welcome.

Look at all the beautiful sunflowers I planted that are just looking for a table top to decorate.  Come pick a bouquet tomorrow.  These sunflowers are a cut flower variety called Pro-Cut.  They are pollen-free (no yellow dust on the table) and have a very long vase-life.

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I’ll still be doing a ‘big pick’ of the garden in the morning to stock the store’s vegetables. In the store we will have tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, eggplant and more available.  All produce is grown right here on our lot using organic growing practices.

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Update – Saturday.  Too rainy for U-Pick.  As soon as the garden dries out, we will open it for U-Pick, 5 days a week.  Stay tuned for the U-Pick schedule.

Mighty Little Zinnias

What’s not to like about zinnias?  Zinnias tolerate Texas heat and summer sun.  They provide bright pops of color out in the garden and can even be brought indoors as cut flowers.  Plus, zinnias grow easily from seed, making them a very economical addition to your landscape.

I grew this long row of zinnias from a couple of seed packets.  My total cost for seed was only  $3.78.  (Zinnias are sometimes sold as bedding plants in 6 packs, however I fin zinnias do best in the landscape when direct seeded in the soil.)

Zinnia seeds are thin little slivers of a seed and should be planted just under the soil, less than 1/4″ deep.  I sew the seeds about 4 inches apart and thin to 8 inches apart, although you could allow up to 12″ between plants.  Zinnias often germinate quickly and I look for little plants in 3-4 days or so.  Keep the soil nice and moist until the seeds germinate.

Once the zinnia plants are about 4-6″ tall and have at least two tiers of leaves, I pinch off the center group of leaves.  This will encourage the zinnia plant to branch out and produce more flower-bearing stems.

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Pinch or clip back the center leaves to promote side shoot growth.

Keep young plants watered and fed.  I water ever other day and occasionally spray with fish emulsion and liquid seaweed.   It will take about 60-70 days for a seedling to produce the first flower.  When your plants start to form blooms you may wish to fertilize with a root and bloom type fertilizer.

Zinnias will bloom throughout the summer.  Remove spent flowers from the plant to promote continued blooming.  Zinnias also make great cut flowers for indoor arrangements.  To get the longest vase life from your zinnias, cut zinnias right before the blooms fully open.  Also place a few drops of bleach in your flower water to help keep the water clean.

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Since Zinnias will die off when the weather gets cold, zinnias seeded after July may not have enough time to fully flower before the cold weather sets in.

Garden Update

I’ve been spending more time out in the garden lately than in front of my computer.  Mark and I have been saying that this is our market garden ‘learning year,’ and we are busy learning just how labor intensive managing an acre of garden can be.  Here is a little photo update on what’s going on in the garden.

The onions were one of the first crops we planted, starting in mid January.  They looked so puny when we first planted them.  Now they are nearing harvest.

The tomatoes we started from seed are loaded with beautiful fruit.  The abnormally warm spring helped get our crop off a good start.

We have plenty of peppers almost ready and even a tomatillo or two.

Melons, beans and corn are a bit farther behind, but look great so far.

It’s always fun to try something new out in the garden.  This year I’m trying to grow some cut flowers to sell alongside our vegetables.  I’m experimenting with heat-loving annuals this year and if all goes well, I’ll branch out into more challenging flowers in the fall.  Here’s a couple pics of my sunflowers.  Even the foliage is lovely.  I can’t wait to see the blooms.

Please stop by the store and see what’s going on in the garden yourself.  You’re always welcome to take a stroll down the road that divides the garden, just watch your step and let us know up at the store that you’re headed back there.  One last before and after.

 

Fighting Weeds with the Hula Hoe

It’s challenging to keep any size garden weeded.  Mark and I are barely managing to stay one step ahead of the weeds in our market garden.  For plants that are not grown in groundcover, the hula hoe has been a godsend.  The hula hoe goes by several names.  It’s also called a stirrup hoe because it’s blade is  in the shape of a stirrup or a scuffle hoe because it scuffles back and forth in the soil.

Mark does a little demonstration (below) of how we use the hula hoe in our garden.  It’s good for clearing up walkways or even in between plants.  The hoe sweeps the weed’s feet right out from under them, slicing the roots below the soil line.  The hoe’s blade cuts on both the pull and the push strokes.  (Note:  you can tell that Mark prefers the ‘pull’ stroke in the video.)

The hoe works best with a nice sharp blade.  Use a file to sharpen the blade once it feels dull.

We carry this hoe at Gaddy’s.  It retails for $19.99.

It is best to use the hula hoe on young tender weeds.  I prefer to weed early in the morning on a hot day so the sun can bake any exposed root system.  Clear the weed debris from you garden and put it in the compost pile.

 

Underage Sex in the Garden is Discouraged

My young cucumber plants are too precocious for their own good.  Not yet 10″ high they are already blooming and trying to produce baby cucumbers.  Not so fast, little cucumbers.

cucumber with bloom

These plants are way too small to support fruit AND sustain healthy growth at the rate needed for long-term fruit production.  Although it is very hard to do, a ‘tough-love’ approach is the best in this situation.  A bit of pruning is in order.

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I always pinch off the first blooms of the season (for cucumbers, squash or melons) even if my plants are looking especially vigorous.  This way the plants can put all of their energy into establishing a good root system instead of tending to raising little ones of their own.  With proper care these plants will soon reach a mature size and will produce prodigious amounts of fruit.

Growing in Groundcover

It seems like the weeds are growing faster in the garden than the vegetables.  And although I don’t mind spending a little time weeding, I’d much rather tend to other gardening tasks.  Planting through groundcover or landscape fabric is one technique Mark and I use to keep weeds out of the garden.

When we starteold groundcover.jpgd our market garden, there were several feet of old landscape fabric on the ground, left in place from our old tree growing operation.  Even through the fabric had been in place for almost 10 years, it was in fairly good shape, so Mark cut some holes in it and planted tomatoes (see photo left).   It worked so well, we decided to add more groundcover to our garden.

The groundcover we chose is the same as what we sell at the store.  It is made by DeWitt and is a woven polypropylene that allows moisture  and air through but prevents weed growth by blocking the available light.  The groundcover is UV stabilized to help it withstand exposure to the Texas sun and it is striped every 12″ which makes it easy to plan plant spacing.  Our groundcover is available in different widths and is sold by the foot.  For example our 3ft wide groundcover is $0.69/ft.

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Groundcover is easy to install.  After your soil is prepared (soil amendments added, large rocks removed, area relatively leveled). Place the groundcover over the area you wish to cover.  There is a fuzzy side and a slick side.  The stripes are most visible on the slick side.  Place the fuzzy side towards the ground.   Secure the groundcover in place with landscape pins.  These pins look like giant hairpins and they go through the landscape fabric and into the ground.  We place our pins every 4-5 feet around the perimeter of the groundcover.

Next, cut or burn holes in the groundcover.  The size and spacing will be determined by what plants you wish to grow.  We usually plant transplants into the groundcover but we have also seeded through the holes.  It’s hard to tell in the pic below, but the holes are much larger in the pic on the right (about 8″ for tomatoes) than in the pic on the left (about 3″ for sunflowers planted from seed).

We grew spinach, broccoli and lettuce using groundcover this past winter and had no weed problem whatsoever.  The groundcover also kept the leafy plants so clean I had very little soil to wash off after picking.

To minimize garden pests and maximize soil health, Mark and I will rotate crop placement in our garden.  Lucky for us, groundcover can easily be moved.  When we are ready to plant next year’s cucumbers we will prepare the soil in a different part of the garden, pull the pins on the old groundcover then install it over the new site.

There are some limitations to using groundcover.  It takes a long time to plant seeds in groundcover.  We don’t use groundcover at all when planting beans, corn, or any crop we want to quickly and easily seed using our Earthway Seeder.  We also don’t use groundcover for any root crops like turnips, beets or carrots.  Another worry for us regarding our groundcover is the reflected heat from the sun.  Once the weather gets hot and stays hot we will probably also want to put mulch around our plants to keep them from frying in the Texas sun.

 

Cucumber Beetles: The Enemy Has Arrived

This is what I get for procrastinating and not putting on my row cover in a timely manner–the cucumber beetles have invaded, both spotted and striped.  As their name implies, cucumber beetles like to eat cucumbers, but they also enjoy feeding on squash, melons and pumpkins (any cucurbit will suffice).  In no time at all they’ll munch through lovely green leaves then leave some eggs, which will hatch into larvae.  The larvae will then start eating your plant’s stems and roots below ground.  If that wasn’t enough damage, the adult cucumber beetles also fly from plant to plant spreading disease like Mosaic and Bacterial Wilt.

I imagine that I’m not the only gardener with a cucumber beetle infestation.  If you see either of the above culprits in your garden, here’s what you can do.

  1.  Spray.  If you are using only organic products in your garden, you can spray with Spinosad or  Pyrethrum.  Spinosad is a bacterial found in crushed sugarcane that is harmful to many insects.  Pyrethrum in an organic insecticide made from chrysanthemums.  If you are not opposed to using chemical insecticides, spray with one safe for vegetable plants like permethrin.  NOTE:  No matter what spray you use (organic or chemical), spray in the late evening or very early morning so you have little chance of harming honeybees when you spray.
  2. Hire a known killer.  Green lacewings, ladybugs, and spined soldier bugs all like to feed on the eggs of the cucumber beetle.  Buying beneficial insects will not provide immediate control of an infestation but the addition of beneficial insects to your ecosystem will provide long term help to manage natural infestations.  NOTE:  If you choose to spray, even organic pesticides will harm beneficial insects.
  3. Deter the bad guys.  Sprinkle kaolin clay on your plants to provide a filmy layer that creates an unattractive environment for egg laying as far as cucumber beetles are concerned.
  4. Prevent the problem.  Protect your plants by covering them with a lightweight floating row cover as soon as the plants are in the ground.  Once your plants are blooming, you will need to remove the row cover so insects can get to the blooms and aid in pollination.

Spinosad-16oz-40691-Glamour-MWhat did I do about my problem?  Since I am using only organic products in our garden, I sprayed last night with spinosad.  If I had noticed only a few cucumber beetles, I might have taken a ‘watch and wait’ approach and given my ladybugs a chance to work, but I had beetles on about 75% of my cucumber plants and about 50% of my squash so I chose to spray.  If I don’t see results in the next couple of days I may spray with neem-pyrethrin spary.  I have also planted the next two rows of cucumber and squash plants and I will definitely get my row cover on them before the seeds even sprout!