Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Several farmers markets to open in May

April showers bring May flowers and farmers markets. Several markets in the county are opening up and/or extending hours, offering fresh flowers, transplants and other items. Here’s a list of markets that are opening in May:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Plant and seed swap to be hosted in Farmington Hills

The Farmington Hills annual plant and seed swap plus perennial plant sale is 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 11 at Heritage Park Visitor’s Center parking lot, off Farmington Road between 10 and 11 Mile Roads. Every year, gardeners gather to swap plants from their gardens with others. Attendees are advised to bring gloves, wagons and plants and seeds to exchange. The Beautification Commission, garden club members and master gardeners will be on hand to answer questions and provide refreshments. For more information, call Charmaine Kettler-Schmult at 248-871-2543.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Let the worm turn... the soil

Worms are very useful in gardens and compost. In our yard, we find worms under logs and rocks and junk and move them to the garden or our compost barrel. It should be a good year for worms due to the massive amount of rain we've had.

1. To start a worm farm, get a wooden container that has holes. Small holes can be drilled into the container, not big enough for escapees. Plastic containers aren't a good choice because they keep the farm too wet. You also need a lid to keep the rain out.

2. Add bedding material like dead plants, leaves and/or newspaper clippings and some soil.

3. Add green material like household fruit and vegetable scraps and egg shells.

4. Just add worms. You can dig them up in your yard. (A great place to find worms is under dead wood in moist areas. You can also buy them at various places. I saw Gurney's is selling them in their garden catalog.

5. Periodically, add more bedding material and scraps.

The article below tells all about worm composting.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Michigan Backyard Farms brings fresh to 'your backyard'

Jerry Holcomb
Jerry Holcomb, owner of Michigan Backyard Farms & CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) has opening for more shareholders for the 2013 season. 
He started the program to serve a growing demand for fresh and local produce. Community Supported Agriculture is where farmers sell shares of their projected garden harvest.
Holcomb also offers the option to tend shareholders’ own backyard gardens.

He just planted kale, spinach, three kinds of lettuce, arugula and radish.
Over the last 20 years, CSA’s have become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Typically the share consists of a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the growing season. Some farmers offer the share owners the opportunity to work on the farm and pick their own produce.
  Local CSA's charge between $320 to $600 per share for about a 15-week growing season with an average of about 200 pounds of fresh produce per year, according to Holcomb.
“My pricing will be competitive for the same produce. Additionally, the customer will either have an existing garden section that may need updated or a section of the yard will need to be converted to a mini-farm. This cost will be evaluated in person on a backyard by backyard basis,” said Holcomb. For information, email Holcomb at yukonjr7@yahoo.com or visit on Facebook at Michigan-Backyard-Farms-CSA

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Weather predicted to improve

The weather went from bad to worse. The low last night was 30 degrees and I'm wondering if my Pansies will survive. I didn't cover them and can't believe it was so cold yesterday. I checked the 10 day forecast and it showed last night as the coldest. Temperatures should be in the high 30's to mid 40's at night and 50's to 60's during the day. It's been a crazy cold Spring, but the future looks warmer.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Seed varieties can be overwhelming

There are so many different types of seeds available to us now. It is a bit overwhelming. Not only are there different varieties of the same plant, there are different ways the seeds are produced. There are cultivar (cultivated variety which can be a hybrid or open-pollinated); genetically engineered; genetically modified; open-pollinated; hybrid; heirloom and of course organic. For more information on this, visit  www.ezfromseed.org/.
It is time, actually past time, to plant peas, potatoes, lettuce, onions, radishes and parsley and of course the greens: spinach, Swiss chard, kale. I'm getting late season seeds from http://reneesgarden.com/ again this year.
It has been so wet, we're losing another weekend of potential planting. For those who have time during the week, it looks like Tuesday or Wednesday will be the first good gardening opportunity. For those who have already planted, good for you. Hopefully you didn't plant too close to this massive non-stop marsh-creating rain streak.
The plants aforementioned can actually be planted outside as soon as the ground is workable, usually in  mid-March. (This year, it was the first week of April for us and then the rain set in.) We never plant before the end of March. One thing I've seen that is if it's cold, the plants will grow slow, defeating the early planting time. We could plant broccoli, cabbage, celery, kahlrabi, Brussels spouts and cauliflower plants outside at this time.
We will wait until mid-May to plant beans and squash seeds. Then, late May to plant the eggplant, peppers and tomato plants.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tree and shrub sale by ReLeaf extended

The annual ReLeaf Michigan tree and shrub sale fundraiser deadline has been extended again. The new deadline is April 22.
The trees available are 4 to 6” in diameter (they are not seedlings) and include native, “specialty” trees among others that are specifically chosen for Michigan’s specific planting zones. The shrubs are 1 to 2 feet in height and the evergreens (2 feet tall) are containerized. Pick-up locations include Haddon Nursery, Fenton; Springfield Oaks Park, Davisburg; Friendship Park-Porritt Barn, Lake Orion and Goldner-Walsh Nursery, Inc. Pontiac. The pick up date is April 27. Visit www.releafmichigan.org or call 1-800-642-7353 or email info@releafmichigan.org. Check, money orders, or credit cards accepted. ReLeaf Michigan is a nonprofit tree planting organization.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Garden impatiens infected with downy mildew

Photo credit: Erik Runkle, Michigan State University
New Guinea Impatiens are resistant to downy mildew.
Garden impatiens, the popular and versatile annual flower, was infected with downy mildew, last year.
Greenhouse operators are offering alternatives to gardeners and landscapers this year. The New Guinea Impatiens and the Japanese hybrid SunPatiens are resistant varieties. The Impatiens Downy Mildew is a fungus-like pathogen that only affects garden impatiens (walleriana) plants.
The fungus causes leaf yellowing, followed by the leaf curling and falling off. It is characterized  by a white fuzzy coating on the underside of leaves. It is not the same downy mildew that affects vegetables or other ornamental plants, according to the Michigan State University Department of Horticulture.
The downy mildew can overwinter in the soil, so landscapers and gardeners are advised not to replant in the same area, or to pick other varieties, such as the New Guinea Impatiens, which have larger flowers and leaves than garden impatiens but don’t grow as quickly. As an alternative, the MSU Horticulture department advises planting other flower species such as Begonias, Caladiums, Lobelia and Salvia.
For more information, visit flor.hrt.msu.edu/IDM/index.htm.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Container gardening for vegetables

When I think of container gardening, I see geraniums in my mind, and that is all. But you can grow a wide variety of herbs and vegetables in containers. I started growing basil in a flower pot on my porch every summer, at the recommendation of a co-worker. Having herbs ready-to-pick near the kitchen has been handy. Before that, I used to go to the garden while cooking dinner, and come back to, what my husband referred to as "Farmer Brown" dinner. I would get side-tracked with weeding or picking other stuff.
With all the rain we've been getting, planting in containers is about all we can do this weekend. 
Courtesy of www.bonnieplants.com
 Herbs and greens grow well in containers according to Bonnie Plants of Union Springs, Alabama. All greens - including collards, lettuce, mustard, Swiss chard grow well in pots. You can mix them with flowers for an ornamental touch. Pick only the outer leaves to keep the harvest going.
Other vegetables that can be grown in pots include eggplant, peppers and tomato varieties-cherry, patio, Bush Early Girl, Bush Goliath and Better Bush.
Squash and zucchini can be grown in half barrels.
If you are limited on time and/or patience, buy tomato, eggplant and pepper transplants from a greenhouse. Greens, herbs and squash are easy and quick enough to grow from seed.

Tips on container gardening from www.bonnieplants.com

1. Use a premium quality potting mix. Don't skimp here. A quality mix holds moisture but drains well; giving plant roots the perfect balance of air, moisture, and stability to grow a great harvest. Read bag labels to look for quality ingredients like: aged (composted) bark, perlite, lime or dolomite, and sometimes moisture-holding crystals. Quality potting mix stays fluffy all season long. It does not contain actual dirt that would compact with frequent watering.
2. Pick the right pot. It should be affordable to buy and fill, but large enough to accommodate your plants as they mature. Almost anything can serve as a container– flower pots, pails, buckets, wire baskets, washtubs, window planters, even large food cans. Larger veggies, like tomatoes and eggplants, will need a larger container, at least 5 gallons for each plant. When in doubt, bigger is always better, the plants will look better and last longer because the roots will have more room to grow. Be sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom. And consider color: Dark colored containers will absorb heat that could possible damage the plant roots. If you must use dark colored pots, try painting them a lighter color.
3. Feed your plants. Even if your potting mix came with fertilizer already mixed in, you may need to feed your plants. Some potting mixes include just enough fertilizer to give plants a charge when they’re starting. Mixes designed to feed for several months run out sooner in hot weather with frequent watering. Add timed-release granules or try a soluble fertilizer such as the “little green jug” of Bonnie Plant Food for quick results. It’s organic in nature, environmentally friendly, an excellent food source for beneficial organisms in the soil and helps support healthy soil and overall plant growth. One jug of concentrate makes 64 gallons of product.
4. Put pots in a sunny spot. At least 6-8 hours is best. The sun drives energy for production and for making sugars, acids, and other compounds responsible for the fullest flavor. Make sure pots on a deck or porch get enough sunlight and move them to a sunny spot if shade encroaches. Without sun, the fruits will not ripen and the plants will be stressed.
5. Water regularly. Vegetables are at least 90% water. To produce well, they may need daily watering in hot weather since you can't always rely on rain. Water plants at soil level and be sure to water before the sun goes down, leaves will need to dry before nightfall.

Be on the look-out for key words like: bush, compact, patio, baby, dwarf and space saver in their name, they’ll be a good bet. Just because a plant is bred to be small doesn't mean the fruits will be small or the yield will be less.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tree and shrubs for sale by ReLeaf Michigan

The annual ReLeaf Michigan tree and shrub sale fundraiser deadline has been extended again. The new deadline is April 22.
For more information, visit releafmichigan.blogspot.com
Choose from a variety of trees and shrubs that are suitable for Michigan. The pick up date is April 27. Visit www.releafmichigan.org or call 1-800-642-7353 or email info@releafmichigan.org. Check, money orders, or credit cards accepted. For an order form, visit https://www.e-bnlcafe.com/globalreleaf/step1.aspx
 ReLeaf Michigan is a nonprofit tree planting organization.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lasagna gardening anyone?

Lasagna (or sheet) gardening is an easy way to start a garden in a new spot or to enrich an existing garden.
Not to be confused with the Italian entree, the lasagna method eliminates the need to work the soil with shovel or rototiller. The reason for the name is because it consists of layers of newspapers and compost.

Starting a lasagna garden

1. If you are starting a new garden, pick a spot that will get sunlight most of the day and that will drain well. You don't want your garden in the low spot or the high spot in the yard. Outline the area where you want the garden and mow the grass short.

2. Cover with a thick layer of newspapers, 5 pages thick. Then saturate with water.

3. Next layer with 2 inches of peat moss or other brown organic material such as: leaves, pine needles, straw, rotting hay, composted horse manure or other compost, humus, sawdust, grass clippings, barn litter, coffee grounds, seaweed, paper, cardboard and wood ashes. (whatever you have available).

4. Next layer with 1 inch of green material such as grass clippings, vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, unwanted plants or weeds-that haven't gone to seed. (Fresh grass clippings are high in nitrogen, so don't use very much). It is ideal to use twice as much brown material as green.

5. Continue layering 2 parts brown and 1 part green, as deep as the roots of the plants prior to planting, (usually 8 to 10 inches).

 6.  Plant the plants, covering around the roots with organic matter. Or... let the raised beds sit and decompose before planting. Either way, give the bed a good saturated watering right away. After planting, continue mulching around the plants as they grow.

If it is an existing garden, stomp the weeds down or use a weed eater. Then follow steps 2-6 above.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Get the soil ready

Now is the time to get the soil ready for the garden. You could actually plant peas and greens now. But it's been a cold early Spring, so it's probably a good idea to wait until next weekend to plant.

After clearing the garden or a space for a new garden, work some aged manure or compost into the soil before planting.  If you want to be scientific, you can get your soil tested at the Oakland County Extension office. oakgov.com/msu/Pages/program_service/garden/soil_testing.aspx

There are a number of places that sell manure, such as horse farms, be sure it is aged. Cook's Farm Dairy in Ortonville sells cow manure.

I heard that Uncle Luke's sells it too, at 6691 Livernois Road in Troy, unclelukes.com/
Commercially packed manure is pre-composted.

South Oakland County Recycling Partners sells screened compost at a very reasonable price. socrra.org/

To make your own compost, see the page on this blog about organic farmers' solutions. 3 challenges of organic gardening 
Here's a quick instruction on how to compost from National Geographic:

People with compromised immune systems should ask their doctor before eating food from gardens where manure has been used.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Novi Home & Garden Show springs up this weekend

Anything and everything for home and garden can be found under one roof at the Novi Home & Garden Show, April 5-7. Huntington Bank is sponsoring Fountains & Flowers, featuring more than 25,000 square feet of landscaped gardens with fountains, flowers, ponds and waterfalls.
The event features a variety of entertaining seminars and shows about gardening and home improvement. The “Green Thumb Theatre” area will provide a variety of fun and informative seminars on gardening and landscaping. The Home & Garden Marketplace will display many vendors including crafters, local businesses and food merchants.
There will be live broadcasts by “America’s Master Handyman” Glenn Haege of WJR-AM (760) throughout the show, and the Inside Outside Guys of WMUZ-FM (103.5) on Saturday. Attendees will be able to buy perennials at the show. Featured presenter Don Engebretson, The Renegade Gardener, will bring three hands-on seminars to the show.
An indoor fine arts fair, hosted by The Image and Arts Council of Troy, will display painting, pottery, artwork and more available for purchase. Artists will demonstrate their craft and sell their creations.
Attendees may enter to win “Find the Gnome” prizes. Discount $1-off coupons are available at www.novihomeshow.com/, Oakland County Tim Horton’s, Indoor/Outdoor magazine and area newspapers.
Visit your local Metro-Detroit Home Depot store for $2 off advance tickets. The Novi Home & Garden Show will be held at the Suburban Collection Showplace 2 to 9 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 5-7.
Admission for ages 13 and older is $8; seniors, ages 55 and older get in for $7 and children ages 12 and younger are admitted free. Each family that purchases an admission ticket will receive a one-year subscription to Better Homes & Gardens magazine.
The show is sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Southeastern Michigan.