A-Z Gardening in Zone 3-4

For the organic gardner struggling in the short season climate


Leave a comment

Cucumbers

cucumber netting

netting for cucumbers to climb up on

cucumbers growing on netting

cucumbers growing on netting

cucumbers on vines

cucumbers on vines

We grow cucumbers in our greenhouse because the season is so short here. In May, after we hang  netting that has large spaces in it from the roof of the greenhouse, we plant our seeds in the soil of the greenhouse floor.  Then we put black plastic between the rows to keep the weeds down and to heat up the soil. Yes, we have weeds, they blow in the open windows and doors and we bring them in on our feef and clothes.  After that, we sprinkle Concern, ( diatomaceous earth, organic crawling insect killer), over the seeds before they come up.

You should be able to order Concern, at gardening stores or gardening catalogs. See the post (: https://51chevy.wordpress.com/2008/01/22/catalogs-that-…nhouse-growing/ ) If you still can’t find it click this site http://www.victorpest.com/search?page=1&search=concern.  Concern kills crawling insects like slugs and pill bugs that eat plant shoots and young plants.  It can be used in the garden, on house plants, or in the greenhouse.

I recently learned that Concern, cannot be shipped to all states, however, another product called Safer, diatomaecous earth can. Go to http://www.saferbrand.com/store/insect-control/51702  to order on line.

There are two different kins of  diatomaceous earth, one is used to filter swimming pools.  This type should not be used as it is dangerous to breath it in because it can cause lung damage.  The variety used for gardens is a much finer powder and does not pose a health hazard.

As the cucumbers grow up the netting you must weave the vines in and out of the netting spaces.  This is necessary in order for the vine to support the weight of the cucumbers as they grow.


1 Comment

Impatiences

Impatiences need to be started in early March, right after the tomatoes and peppers. A sunny front or back porch or germination stand is a good place to start seeds that need an really early start.

This germination stand has two 25 watt bulbs for heat under the shelves and two florescent bulbs on the top of the shelf for light. Linda’s husband Tim built it for her when she started gardening. When we started gardening together, it was moved to my house because It is my job to start our seeds.

After the tomatoes and peppers are off the germination stand the Impatiences go on. It can take up to 3 weeks for impatiences to come up. They don’t like heat under them and need light to germinate. The seeds should be only very slightly covered with sifted potting soil or seed starting potting mix. Seed starting potting mix is a very light potting soil and is available from Miracle-grow. I keep them under fluorescent lights. The lights are turned off at night to simulate a normal day. I have had really good results using this method. The plants are then put on the front porch until the end of May. After the last frost the flats are put out on the old stone sink, where they will be planted, to grow and harden off for a few weeks.

I plant the same variety every year, Busy Lizzie, blue pearl. It’s a great cool color for the stone sink planter on the north side of the greenhouse which is also a south west direction by the back porch. When you come out of the house on a hot summer day the first thing you see are the lilac blue Impatience or the pink and white bleeding heart that grows beside the planter.


1 Comment

Squash, Anyone?

There are two kinds of squash, summer and winter. Of the summer squashes there are basically three types, yellow, patty pan and zucchini or green. There are many many kinds of winter squash. We grow carnival, butternut, sweet meat, red kuri, gourds, field and pie pumpkin. In zone 3-4 they need to be started in pots in early May. We plant 5 seeds to a pot and plant the contents of the pot as a hill in the garden. We start ours in the greenhouse, we put the pots in between the rows of cucumbers that we planted directly into the greenhouse soil in early May.

Then we plant them in the garden in black plastic in early June. The black plastic keeps the soil warm and moist, as the squash needs to mature fast in a short season climate. You cannot grow squash in the greenhouse because the leaves become moldy. Cucumbers become moldy after a while also, however, they produce fruit fast and so you will still get a good crop. Mold on the cucumbers has never been a problem.

You cannot grow watermelon, or cantaloupe in zone 3-4, even in the greenhouse, unless you live in a river valley or near a large lake, believe me we gave it a good try. Growing cantaloupe and watermelon in the greenhouse results in the leaves getting moldy .

Summer squashes are at their best when cooked small, about 4 inches long, the blossoms can also be fried with batter. Some people prefer to eat squash when it is very large. As long as you can put your fingernail through the skin you don’t have to peel them. Large squash have very hard skins. Squash does not freeze well except when included in a dish like Italian zucchini. To make it I like to use very large zucchini with soft skins along with onions and tomatoes from my garden. You can make large quantities to freeze and it’s a very nice side dish in the winter. I have a friend that likes to keep large zucchini with hard skins in her cellar during the winter and puts the pulp in soup.

Squash attracts squash bugs which can be easily controlled by spraying with “Pyola” a natural insecticide you can get from Gardens Alive. We also grow a very large variety of marigold, called “Gold Coin.” It grows to 36 inches and is tall enough to reach over the squash leaves. You can get it from Jung Seed Co. Marigold is a good plant to use as an insect deterrent although, bees don’t seem to be bothered by it. The pictures above shows the marigold inter-planted with the squash plants.


Leave a comment

Of Cabbages and Kings

Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, pac choi, are all members of the cole crops, the cabbage family. These seeds can be started indoors in early to mid April. Plant them in six packs, two seeds to a cell in opposite corners. They will germinate faster if placed on a heat source. After they pop, immediately put them outdoors to grow, only bring them in if temperatures at night go into the 20’s. These plants are very frost hardy and will grow stronger stems if grown this way. You will have more robust and compact plants. If grown indoors and kept too hot, they will become very leggy and have weak stems.

Transplant into the garden as soon as they are big enough to handle. Make a row with a hoe, then lay the plants in the row, roots in the ditch with their heads laying out of the ditch. With the hoe cover the roots with soil, making sure the heads are not covered. Water well and watch them grow. This method makes for fast planting of many plants and is easy on the back and knees. Also works well with planting onions plants and potatoes.


2 Comments

The Greenhouse

Tomato and pepper seedlings on shelf in greenhouse.

Potting bench in greenhouse.

West view of greenhouse.

South west view of greenhouse.

South east view of greenhouse.

West view of greenhouse.

South facing view of greenhouse.

These are pictures of the greenhouse in spring. Our greenhouse is really a garden under glass as we plant tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers into the ground rather than on benches like traditional greenhouses. MY late husband John built a smaller version of the existing greenhouse about 35 years ago when we realized that the season was too short for tomatoes to ripen. It wasn’t long before the greenhouse grew to it’s present size. Last summer we had to put on a new roof and rebuild the supporting structure, so now the greenhouse should last another 35 years.

We plant the tomatoes and peppers in tomato cages. The cages keep the fruit off the ground and make it easier to harvest. It’s a lot of work to set up the cages and drip line but it’s well worth it.

All our tender seedlings go into the greenhouse until they can be planted outside in the garden or in the greenhouse. Depending on the season, we can keep the tomatoes and peppers going until Thanksgiving. The cucumbers usually don’t keep growing that long. They tend to get mildewed and then we have to pull them out.

We grow the cucumbers on strips old blasting nets John brought home from work, he worked in construction. John and I were into conservation long before Al Gore was in diapers. Nothing goes to waist around here and everything is recycled over and over again. It either gets fed to an animal, put in the compost bin, or a good use is found for it. The greenhouse itself was built out of old storm windows John found at the dump or on the curb. (See a more recent post, “Planting In The Greenhouse, on page 1.


Leave a comment

April Fool

It seems as though Mother Nature was playing an April Fool joke on us. April 1st was 60 degrees F, with a warm southern breeze that made it seem even warmer, even without the sun. This morning April 2nd it was 19 F and snowing, with an arctic wind that made it seem a lot colder, even in the sun. March was so cold that I was unable to take the tomato and pepper seedlings off of the germination stand for more that a few days. One morning the front porch was 45 F. That’s when I decided to put the seedlings back on the germination stand. And so, I could not start the herbs and impatience. Easter Sunday morning it was 10 F and the Sunday after that 2 F. We had many nights in the teens and very little sun during the day to warm the porch up.

Last week the 6:30 geese arrived. I call them that because for many years now at this time of year they come flying in at about 6:30 every morning honking loudly while circling the pond before landing in the water. They stay until fall. Usually it’s a pair sometimes it’s 2 pair and one time it was 3 geese, I guess one partner didn’t make the trip. This year I happened to be gazing out of my upstairs window when I heard them coming, I watched with glee as they landed on the ice covered pond, usually by now the ice is gone, an saw them skid along the ice as if they were wearing ice skates. They walked around a bit in the slush and then took left. I’ve seen them fly over a few times since then, I guess their waiting for the pond to thaw.

The weather in zone 3-4 really can be trying. You have to just bid your time and plan for the weather to go against you anytime. Knowing how many seeds to start and having a place to put them until they can be put out into the greenhouse or outside is very important and more than a little tricky.