Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sometimes, you gotta weed out the bad

When the inevitable time comes, the bad plants have got to go, because they've become larger than the intended vegetation and are sucking the life out of the nearby good plants.

Here are some ways to reduce weeding and ease the weeding experience.

1. Mulch to prevent weeding. You can use a number of items. I am heading out to the garden this morning to rake water weeds from the pond for mulch. Other materials you can use, to avoid buying expensive bags of mulch include wet newspapers, straw, grass clippings, leaves, aged manure and aged compost. Manure should not be fresh. Organic Gardening magazine on mulch
2. Cover it up. Place cover down where you aren't growing anything, like in walkways and borders around the garden. We laid strips of old carpet one year. Black plastic with mulch on top, is good for the walkways. Rototilling between the rows is efficient for keeping the weeds under control, but it needs to be done every three weeks. If you use want to use weed block or landscaping cloth, don't bother buying the cheap woven kind, the roots of the weeds get stuck, creating more work. There's a bonded type, if you want to spend the money.
3. Hoe hum. Hoe the little weeds, that are less than once inch and pull the larger weeds. Hoe 3 to 4 inches deep. I really don't like to hoe, so I usually wait until the weeds are big enough to pull.
4. Weeding is Zen. Weed when the soil is moist or water beforehand and wait a few hours. Remember to water after you weed. I take a tool and loosen the soil before pulling weeds. A tool like the hula hoe which looks like a hoop on a stick or the mini rake or a pronged tool can help loosen the soil. You can use a hand trowel to dig up the big weeds. I do my best thinking while weeding.
5. Garden yoga. My friend Mickey told me her trick to weeding includes the three yoga poses of weeding, (no kidding). Bend over and pull. If you do that too many times, you'll feel it for a week. Squat down on your haunches. I can only do this for a few minutes. Kneeling. This works great until you need to move.
You can add various yoga poses, like crossing your legs while stretching over to pull weeds, maybe meditate a bit too while you're down there. You can do a leg stretch in between weed pulling as well. The main thing is to change positions to prevent continuous repetitive motions.

Back exercise. Here's a quick back exercise that is like the reverse of bending over. Lean back against a flat wall, press the small of the back against it with feet flat on the ground and hold for a minute or two. Repeat a few times everyday. Here's some tips to prevent pain from gardening: gardening.about.com/od/springinthegarden/a/Exercises.htm

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Trim the greens and herbs for plant health, and tasty treats

Trimming herbs and greens is helpful to the plants and encourages renewed growth. Also, the young leaves make great salads.

Greens
For spinach, just pinch leaves at the base of the leaf. Leaves should be at least four inches long. Like spinach, the best way to pick parsley, and many herbs and leafy vegetables, is to snip the whole leaf and stem at the stock.
For Swiss chard, you can twist the leaf's stem and pinch off near the ground.
Basil's a little different. You should cut the stock or branch, just above leaves, yet below the leaves you want to harvest.

Herbs
For Rosemary and sage, cut five inch branches and hang to air dry or chop and freeze herbs in ice cube trays or clumps in a freezer bag.

When to pick
Picking in the morning is the best time of day, especially for greens and herbs.
Pick leaves often to prevent the plants from bolting, or going to seed. Because once they go to seed, many of the plants lose their flavor or stop producing leaves.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

It's strawberry picking time in Michigan

Strawberries from Middleton Berry Farm, picked June 11, 2016.
The strawberries are ripe for picking at Middleton Berry Farm of Ortonville. The official start date for the U-Pick farm is Wednesday, June 15, with planned hours of 7:30-10:30 a.m. or until picked out, as conditions permit. Hours vary due to quantities and weather, so check before driving out. Call (248) 831-1004 or find them on Facebook, Middleton Berry Farm.
Strawberries are $1.80 per pound. It is recommended to bring your own container and have it weighed before picking, although they have boxes to purchase. 
Also, be sure to bring cash or check, because they cannot accept credit cards.

When I was out there this morning, Stacy Janiga said, "It's pretty easy picking today, there's lots of big red juicy berries." And she was right.
"When the berries are ripe, they will nearly fall off when you pick them," she said. 
She and her sister Carrie Janiga, the owners, recommend washing the berries with the stem on, this prevents water from getting inside the berries, which loses the flavor.
The sisters purchased the farm in 2014 from longtime residents Bill and Barb Middleton. The Janigas hired staff who previously worked for the Middletons.
Stacy said they are trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
"Our strawberries are grown using IPM (Integrated Pest Management). This means we use minimal chemicals and use organic solutions when possible, including hand weeding of all fields."

Middleton Berry Farm
Address: 4790 Oakwood Rd, Ortonville, MI 48462
Phone: (248) 831-1004
Directions: Go five miles east of Ortonville Road between M-15 and M-24. From I-75 take Exit 84 (Baldwin Road). Go north on Baldwin Road 10 miles to Oakwood Road, turn left. Farm is one mile on the left.
Website: www.middletonberryfarm.com

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Plants that attract bees and butterflies

With the Colony Collapse Disorder affecting the presence of bees, it's a good idea to plant flowers that attract pollinators, to improve the success of crops and increase the local bee and butterfly population.
Common flowers that are attractive to pollinators are poppy, lupine, viola, wallflower, black-eyed Susan, Butterfly flower, Calendula, Dahlia, Amaranth, Marigold, Salvia, Sunflower, Zinnia, Portulaca, Lavender, Foxglove, Cosmos, Coneflower and Echinacea.
Anybody who has run barefoot in a yard knows that clover attracts bees. It is a great ground cover plant too.
Garden plants that are highly attractive to bees and butterflies include parsley, cilantro, thyme, dill, basil, chives, peas, squash and pumpkin. Here's a link about planting to attract beneficial insects: www.reneesgarden.com/hm-gardnr/resource/bee-list.htm