Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Soil testing through MSU Extension

The annual Don't Guess…Soil Test! program, co-sponsored by Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Water Stewardship Program, Southeastern Oakland County Water Authority and local retailers is Saturday, April 2  through Sunday, May 1.

Through this special program, gardeners can obtain a soil nutrient and organic matter analysis through the Michigan State University Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab for the special price of $19 per sample.  The price includes delivery of the soil sample to the MSU laboratory as well as a customized fertilizer recommendation.
With the test, gardeners can identify nutrients already in the soil and identify appropriate fertilizer options.  Over-application of fertilizers can pollute local lakes and rivers, reduce plant quality, and waste money. Visit www.oakgov.com/msu for instructions on how to take a sample.

Pick up a soil testing kit at the following retailers:
  • MSU Extension office, 2nd floor of the North Office Building - 26East- Pontiac
  • Auburn Oaks- Rochester Hills
  • Bordine Nursery- Rochester Hills & Clarkston
  • English Gardens- West Bloomfield & Royal Oak
  • Glenda’s Garden Center- Novi,
  • Goldner Walsh- Pontiac
  •  Hamilton’s of Ortonville
  •  Wojo’s Greenhouse- Ortonville and Lake Orion
  •  Mulligan’s Landscape and Garden Center-White Lake
  •  Oxford Farm and Garden-Oxford
  •  Shades of Green- Rochester Hills
For additional soil testing information or to find out about plant and pest diagnostic services available, contact the MSU Extension Oakland County Plant & Pest Hotline, 248-858-0902. Or, visit www.oakgov.com/msu.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

6 steps to start growing indoors

With freezing drizzle and the other six forms of precipitation pounding us, it's a little hard to think about gardening. But this soon shall pass, so I am starting some plants indoors this weekend. 
Here's 6 steps to growing indoors:
1. For containers, use plastic cell containers with covers or egg cartons with holes poked in the bottom and saran wrap on top. You can also use wood pulp pots or peat pellets. Whatever you use, make sure it has drainage.
2. Fill with potting soil, preferably a mix with sphagnum peat moss, but any potting soil is good. Moisten the soil. 
3.Plant a few seeds, not many, about 1/8 inch deep and pat the soil lightly. Then cover with plastic and place in a very warm place, out of direct sunlight.
4. Keep watered. Once the seeds sprout, move the pots to a bright spot, a south-facing window is best. Water often, but not too much or too fast. The plants are fragile. If they get too big for their containers, move them to bigger pots. 
5. When it gets close to planting time, it's time to harden them by placing them outside during the day, to get used to it, but not in direct sunlight at first. Bring them in every night.
6. When its warm enough at night, transplant to the garden. Dig a hole slightly deeper than the pot and put the plant in, supporting it with your fingers. Firm the soil gently around the stem. Water carefully.

For tomatoes, it takes 6-8 weeks before they'll be ready to transplant outside. We always wait until Memorial Day to put tomatoes and peppers out, because the plants do much better when it's warmer at night, and I don't like covering plants in the garden every time there's a frost warning.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Working the soil

It sure is cold to be working in the garden. But the ground is no longer frozen tundra, so Ken was out there with his trusty rototiller and just completed the entire garden. I wisely hid out in the house until he was finished and that's me in the photo, taking credit for his hard work.
We have a front tine tiller, which is hard to keep going in a straight line. I recommend getting a rear tine tiller if you can afford it. The latter costs several hundred dollars more.
Ken rototilled the asparagus patch too. He said he kept watch out for roots and didn't see anything coming up yet. Then he spread fertilizer over it. We definitely need to invest in some compost and good old horse manure black dirt for the entire garden.
I didn't plant my basil and lettuce last week, so I did it today. It is so nice to have open dirt to look at for a change.
 I am going to seedsaversexchange.org for Swiss chard and other seeds. Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization of gardeners dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Michigan Gardener magazine celebrates 15 years

Michigan Gardener magazine is celebrating its 15th year. The first issue of 2011 will be in stores in late March. Visit michigangardener.com.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Organic gardening can be shared

There are a number of organic farms in the area. Some of them sell shares to allow gardeners to come in and help with the work, plus reap the harvest.

Pdc Llamas & Produce, Davisburg, www.pdcllamas.com/garden.html,  248-634-2674 
Rocky Garden, Davisburg,  rockygardens.com, 248-634-2291
Fresh Source Farm, Ortonville, www.freshsourcefarm.com, 248/793-3075
Sunshine Meadows Farm, Ortonville, sunshinemeadowsfarm.com, 248-464-1825.
Davis’s Family Farms, Highland, www.freshmichigan.com/?page_id=120
Wannafarm, Holly, 248 634 7219
Upland Hills, Oxford, www.uplandhillsfarm.com, 248-628-1611
Royal Oak Community Farm, Royal Oak,  http://www.royaloakcommunityfarm.com/ 
One Acre Farm, West Bloomfield, http://www.localharvest.org/one-acre-farm-csa-M34115, 248-760-8531
Michigan Backyard Farms, White Lake,  http://www.gardens.com/go/view/21159/  248-444-6215

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What to plant and when?

I have been looking at my Gurneys catalog. A coworker borrowed my Heirloom seed catalog a month ago, I need to get it back.

Draw a plan
I am drawing a garden plan today. Ken and I will plant Swiss chard, peas, parsley and green onions before the end of March. Other greens like spinach and kale can be planted as soon as the ground is workable too.
Here's an interesting site on planning a garden.  http://www.humeseeds.com/vegplan.htm

Herbs indoors
I am starting herbs indoors in a round container today for fun. My favorites are parsley, basil, Rosemary and sage. I won't plant the smelly herbs indoors, (dill and cilantro). I am also planting lettuce in a pot. I haven't ever done this but these plants will do alright in a pot. When it's warm, I can put the pots outside by the door and be able to snip off leaves when preparing dinner, like a coworker does.
I have burned many dinners by darting out to the garden to pick something and then getting involved in weeding or harvesting.

Sprouts are quick
I have been growing sprouts in my kitchen. They grow so fast and easy and its such a green thumb ego boost.
All you need is a jar, a strainer and sprouting seeds. For bean sprouts, you rinse the seeds in a jar of lukewarm water twice a day for several days, straining after rinsing. I have a plastic sprouter that has a strainer in it. I purchased it from sproutamo.com. You can order sprouting seeds online at  Mountain Rose Herbs or purchase at Whole Foods.Markets.
Here's video on growing sprouts.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoaIpZZfcFc

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring is in the air, regardless of white stuff

Spring is in the air. Never mind that we just got dumped with 2 to 7 inches of snow. I will be planning my garden this weekend. With paper and pen, I will list the veggies we want and then plot out both the big garden and the raised bed. I always put the herbs, lettuce and green onions in the raised bed.
We will plant greens like Swiss chard, spinach and parsley soon. Later in the month, we will plant peas and start tomatoes and peppers indoors.
My husband, Ken is the real gardener of our household. I start helping him and then say, "You're doing great honey, I better go blog about this." That worked last year a few times, but this year, he's wise to my work avoidance scheme and will probably figure out how to keep me working.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Home & Garden show opens Friday

The Michigan Home & Garden Show will be open next weekend, from March 11 through March 13, at the Pontiac Silverdome featuring something for everyone looking for inspiration for their home and garden improvement projects.
“We are looking forward to an exciting show where attendees will discover the latest ideas and trends in home improvement, landscaping and gardening,” said Mike Wilbraham, show producer of ShowSpan, Inc. of Grand Rapids.
Chefs Angus Campbell and Robert Garlough from the Secchia Institute for Culinary Arts at Grand Rapids Community College will cook up “Sweet Party Treats” and Chef Debra from Debra’s Delectable Delights will prepare a “Spring Vegetarian Meal” on the Food Stage.America’s Master Handyman and WJR radio host Glenn Haege, Leslie Hart-Davidson of Hart-Davidson Designs, SEMCOG, Porter & Heckman and The Inside Outside Guys will cover interior design, home improvement, clean water and home energy on the Home Stage.
The Detroit newspaper columnist and author Nancy Szerlag will talk about vegetable gardening, the Union of Concerned Scientists will focus on environmentally sensitive garden practices and Dan Riddle of Lodi Farms will concentrate on trees during their seminars on the Garden Stage.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Master Composter Program offered in Birmingham

The SE Oakland County Water Authority (SOCWA) Master Composter Program offers training for environmental gardeners who are willing to learn and then share their time and talents with the community. Six classes are in the program, plus field trips and demonstrations. Classes cover subjects such as making compost, using compost for vegetables and flowers, soil health, soil nutrient testing, healthy lawn care, tree mulching, and education outreach.
The first class is Composting Basics: “Go Decomposers!” is 6:45 p.m., Thursday, March 17 at the Birmingham Unitarian Church, 38651 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills. Enrollees must fulfill the following class requirements: attend six classes; build a working compost pile; complete written assignments and take home exam and volunteer 12 hours of time between March and October 2011.
Class size limited to 25. Registration is due by March 7. To register, send a $30 check to SOCWA Master Composter Program, 3910 W. Webster Road, Royal Oak, MI 48073. Include name, mailing address, telephone and e-mail address. For information, call Karen Bever at SOCWA  office at 248-288-5150 or e-mail Lillian Dean at LFDean@aol.com or visit www.socwa.org.