just a garden tip or two

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I spent most of my gardening life in the Cascade Mtns of Western Washington State. Never had to worry about diseases or bugs in the garden. DID have to worry about the weather. Couldn't grow tomatoes, egg plant, okra or any kind of melons. Just not enuff heat to grow and ripen. Then I moved to Florida! Well, here I can grow tomatoes, egg plant, okra and melons....provided that I can keep the plants alive long enuff to harvest the fruit. Viruses, mildews and bugs off all kinds abound. And soil is a real laugh. Our soil is beach sand, in other words its ground up quartz. I have been here 5 years and boy have I had a real learning experience! Fortunately I have 9 donkeys who eat a lot of hay and make me some nice fertilizer/mulch. I also cover my garden (3000 sq ft) with deep hay each fall and rototill it over and over in the winter until its broken down into a mulch. After 5 years of tilling in everything, including road kill, its starting to look and smell like soil. However, the ultimate test will be the day I find a red earth worm. Hasn't happened yet! In the meantime, I do battle with the bugs and disease. But as the soil becomes richer the plants are better able to fend off the diseases and bug damage. A couple of things that I do to help Mother Nature along: 1. I take the best soil area in the garden and make that my temporary seed bed. In that area I plant all the plants that I will later transplant. This includes all the cabbage, califlower, brocalli, sprouts, egg plant and tomatoes. Its warm enuff here that I need not start seeds in the house.

2. When I transplant out the seedlings, I use those plastic red or blue glasses/cups that are 20/$1 in the paper products section of the local grocery. Cut the bottom out of the cups and screw them down over the seedling. This keeps out many bugs, root maggots and most of all cut worms. I have had cut worms mow down a whole row of veggies over night. It also keeps out the squash stem borers that get into squash and melons. I take advantage of the cups in that when the plants are small I water and feed in the cup. That way I know the roots are getting the maximum of what I feed them. There are few veggies that will out grow the cups stem wise so I just leave them in place and pick them up when the garden is finished. Some you can reuse but most go into the trash.

3. If you are among the fortunate and have chickens like I do, then you need to take full advantage of them and make them work for you. I have a large garden area and my hen house is situated in such a manner that the chickens can have access to all of it by my opening or closing a gate. The entire garden area is also the chicken yard.About 6000 sq ft. They get half and I get half. When I am finished with the garden, I turn the chickens into it and then I take over what was their chicken yard and begin tilling in the hay once more. In the meantime, the chickens (with the help a a fat little Pot Belly pig named Jake) clean up every bit of foliage left in the garden. They also make short shift of any weeds or grass that my hoe missed and clean up any weed seeds. Then when the next growing season comes along and I return to that area, there are few or no weeds. I just move the chickens in and out according to my needs. They get all that good stuff to eat and I get a nice clean bug free garden. Our chickens have learned to follow me when I till up the garden. They just follow the tractor back and forth getting any and all bugs and grubs that come to the surface.

Having the donkeys and the chickens and Jake handy to the garden makes it easy for me to toss them the excess produce and also to collect the manure and compost it. Nothing is wasted.

Know this is lengthly, but maybe it will help some of you who are just getting started in this self sufficiency business. Old Taz.... who has had dirt (and a few other things) under her fingernails for a looooooong time.

-- Taz (Tassie123@aol.com), March 08, 2000


I've used a number of methods in the past but I think I'll give your cup idea a try this year. Might make it easier to protect the seedlings from the dog when she runs through the garden too.

Local feed & seed is out of chicks but said they'll have sexed Barred Rocks in in a week or so and I'm going to pick up a half-dozen or so. Looking forward to having hens again.

Corn ought to be up in another day or so.


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-- A.T. Hagan (athagan@netscape.net), March 09, 2000.

Taz, Also live in Florida (panhandle). Thanks for the great gardening advise--Print, print, print LOL DuffyO

-- DuffyO (duffyo@mailcity.com), March 09, 2000.

Taz, you posted the chickens-in-the-garden tip last year and we followed it. We put the chickens in our garden for the winter. The garden was completely bare and ready to till this spring. Thanks!

-- helen (sstaten@fullnet.net), March 09, 2000.

Great info, Taz. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience.

Keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.2all), March 10, 2000.

Trade you some of your sand for some of our rocks. They explode upward through the soil every winter. We remove hundreds of them every year from the garden (with many hundreds of small ones still there).

'Course the vegetables don't much care and just grow around them.

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), March 11, 2000.

When I was a little girl in Southern California, MANY yers ago, a neighbor who always has the most wonderful garden, REALLY believed that rocks grew and that rocks begat rocks! So maybe thats your problem. No....I think I will keep my sand, but thanks anyway. LOL


-- Taz (Tassie123@aol.com), March 11, 2000.

When my parents bought their 5 acres in the 40's they got what was the county fair race track at the turn of the century. Forty years of hey and corn hadn't changed the soil much, it was pure clay. They had a half dozen dairy goats, chickens and rabbits and farmed organically so everything went into the garden after it was somposted. The city would give us truckleads of leaves every fall which were shredded and used for mulch in Spring. by plowing and tilling all this back into the soil, they had a great garden after about 20 years. My dad's passed on but my mother still plants about a half acre.

-- John (littmannj@aol.com), March 12, 2000.

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