Growing Microgreens

Growing Microgreens

Growing Microgreens

Microgreens are fun and easy to grow.

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How to Grow Microgreens

Growing microgreens is fun and easy. Missing your fresh greens? Looking for a fun project to do with the kids? While you are at it why not grow some mushrooms as well?

What are microgreens?

Pretty much anything can be grown as a microgreen. To be qualified as a microgreen a plant is harvested when the first true leaf unfolds. Do not confuse the cotyledon as the first leaf. This is part of the embryo in the seed of the plant. It gives plants the burst of energy needed to form the first true leaves. It is totally edible.

Seed Germination

Cotyledon vs First True leaves

Microgreen Seeds

There is no need to use special seeds for microgreens, but I prefer to use seeds that are non GMO, organic and have a high germination rate. You do need to watch out for several things using garden seeds. Some garden seeds have been treated with special chemicals. There are supposed to break down after planting so that they do not enter the plants.

But microgreens are eaten shortly after planting, so there may not be time for these agents to dissipate. Also, there are certain plants such as eggplant and tomatoes that cannot be used for microgreens. I feel much better using seeds that are labeled for the growing method I will be using, even though they will be more expensive.

Why grow microgreens?

There are several reasons to grow microgreens.

  1. They are up to 9 times more nutritious than mature greens.
  2. They go from seed to harvest in 1 – 3 weeks.
  3. You do not need any special equipment or large spaces to grow them.
  4. They rarely get pests due to the short amount of growing time.
  5. There is no need for fertilizer.
  6. Great addition for sandwiches, stir fry or salads.

What can be grown as a microgreen?

  1. Arugula
  2. Radish
  3. Mustard
  4. Kale
  5. Watercress
  6. Swiss Chard
  7. Basil
  8. Dill
  9. Cilantro
  10. Peas
  11. Spinach
  12. Lettuce
  13. Salad Greens
  14. Endive
  15. Beet Greens

And Many More.

What equipment do I need?

  1. A flat, shallow container approximately 2” deep. This could even be a recycled container, as long as it has been cleaned and disinfected. You should always have holes in the bottom of your container. You may choose to use a single use hydroponic mat rather than a container and soil.
  2. A cover for your container.
  3. Potting mix.
  4. You may want to use a propagation mat, although it is not required. If you do use one remove it once the seeds have germinated.
  5. You may need supplemental lighting if you are growing indoors and don’t have a sunny windowsill.
  6. A spray bottle for watering.

Growing Microgreens in soil

Microgreens can be grown indoors, in your garden or in your greenhouse.

  1. Dampen your soil.
  2. Fill your container with dampened soil
  3. Sprinkle the seeds over the soil. They should be packed pretty tight and about 1/8” to ¼” apart.
  4. Cover the seeds lightly with about 1/8” soil.
  5. Water gently, but thoroughly.
  6. Cover container with a lid.
  7. Water with a spray bottle once or twice a day.
  8. Remove the cover a couple of days after the seeds have germinated.
  9. Keep in sunlight or under artificial lighting for 12 – 16 hours per day. A sunny windowsill may work for this. If you are growing in your greenhouse you should have no need for additional lighting unless it is late fall, winter or early spring when natural lighting is low.
  10. Keep watering at least once a day.
  11. Harvest after the first true leaves have appeared by cutting the microgreens at soil level. THs is typically from 1 – 3 weeks depending on what you are growing. The plants will be between 1” to 3” tall.

Growing Microgreens Hydroponically

You will get a cleaner harvest growing hydroponically as there is no soil. Some plants such as basil grow low to the ground and are hard to harvest and keep clean.

Most hydroponic pads are single use. They will either lose their ability to absorb water, or they will just fall apart after a single use. The ones made from wood fiber make a great addition to your compost pile.

You will still need a tray to place the mats inside. Also, growing microgreens in this manner does require fertilizer or nutrients which are mixed with your water.

  1. Make sure your water is at a pH of 5.5 to 6.5.
  2. Soak your mat in your nutrient solution, let it drain and place in your flat tray with holes in the bottom.
  3. Sprinkle your seeds over the mat spaced according to the directions on the packet.
  4. Mist with fresh water.
  5. Cover your tray.
  6. Mist twice a day.
  7. After 5 days remove the cover and place in a sunny windowsill or under artificial lighting.
  8. Keep watering plants daily.
  9. At 1 -3 weeks when they are ready to harvest cut them off the mat with a pair of scissors.

Growing Microgreens for Profit

Growing microgreens can be quite profitable. With the minimal equipment and small amount of space required your overhead is low. Add to that the fact that microgreens sell for a premium price. Just be sure, as with any business venture, that you find your market, how much it will use and what it is willing to pay before you ever start growing. Do your homework!

If you are going to be selling your microgreens and doing live deliveries, you will have to use a hydroponic growing method to sell to restaurants. They are not permitted to have any soil in the kitchen. But if you are harvesting the microgreens before delivery you can grow them using any method you prefer.

In Conclusion

Growing microgreens is fast and simple. Add to that the great nutritional value and you have a winning combination. Try some today! Let us know about your microgreen growing experiences in the comments below.

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Gardening with Plastic Mulch

Gardening with Plastic Mulch

Plastic Garden Mulch

Gardening with colored plastic mulches

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We have been gardening with plastic mulch for close to 20 years now. And yes, that is a picture of my personal garden several years back.  I am so glad that we found it. Our garden is healthier, more productive and easier to manage. Plus, it cuts our water bill way down.

We have changed the way we use the plastic mulch through the years. At first, we just mounded up our beds and put the mulch over the dirt – no edging. We used ground staples and placed a brick on each staple. The previous homeowner had left a big pile of bricks that we used.

Now we have raised beds edged with concrete blocks. The first couple of years we only had one row of blocks (see picture of my garden below). We have since increased that to 2 rows with a concrete cap on top. It makes It easier to kneel and to just sit down and garden. We still use the ground staples. We place them at 18” spacing. Then we place rebar on the edges all the way along the raised bed.

gardening with plastic mulch

Plastic Garden Mulch

No matter which way we used we have never had any mulch blow off the beds. It stays nice and secure especially when the plants start growing and you put cages around them.

Benefits of Plastic Garden Mulch

I don’t have any scientific evidence, but our plants are pretty much disease and pest free. I can’t remember the last time we had an issue. We did have some tomato hornworms for a couple of years, but they have been gone now for years.

  • Water is conserved. Evaporation is slowed due to the plastic mulch. Therefore, you do not have to water as long or as frequently. Please note that water will not pass through the mulch so you will need a watering system underneath it. We use a Drip Tape System on a timer. Even in the hotter summer months we only water for 30 minutes every other day. You should determine your own watering schedule based on your plants and their needs.
  • Weeds are kept at bay. Now, I am not saying that there are zero weeds if you use this method. You are making holes where you are putting the ground staples through and where you are planting your seedlings or seeds. Also, it is just about impossible to get it tight to all the edging. So naturally weeds will peek through at these spots. When we just mounded our dirt, we did not have problems at the sides. It is still a whole lot less labor intensive than weeding an entire garden.
  • Yields will be higher, and plants will start producing earlier. Some of this can be attributed to the light that is reflected off certain colors of the mulch.
  • Warmer soil. The plastic mulch will warm the soil in the garden. This leads to faster plant growth.
  • Nutrients will remain in the soil and not leach out due to excess rains.

What color is best?

There are several different colors of mulch available for different plants and climates.

      • White on black mulch – This has always been our choice as we are in the South. The white on top helps keep the soil cooler than a black on black mulch. This can decrease the soil temperature as much as 12 degrees F.

    • Red mulch – This is excellent for tomatoes and strawberries. Red light is reflected back to the plants. This is useful in increasing photosynthesis capabilities. This color will increase the soil temperature 4 to 6 degrees F.

    • Blue mulch – This is good for cucumbers, squash and melons. This will increase the soil temperature slightly more than the black.
    • Black mulch – This can be used for warm season and cool season crops. At a level of 2” to 6” the soil temperature will be increased 3 degrees to 5 degrees F.

  • Metallic mulch – This is thought to help control pests. It has been shown to reduce aphids and whiteflies. It is believed that the metallic sheen confuses the insects.

Installing plastic garden mulch

When it is planting time, you should work your soil as you normally would.

  • We use a small tiller and then level out our soil with a rake.
  • Set up your watering system and check it for leaks.
  • Roll out your mulch and secure it with ground staples and any other weights you may choose to use.
  • Plant

We have found a method of rolling out the mulch that works best for us. We place the roll at one end of the bed and place the good side up. We have one person on each side of the bed. We then roll it out about 10 feet. We then place our ground staples at approximately 18”. Then we just repeat until we reach the end of the row. Once we have placed enough ground staples for our rebar to fit we will place it over the top of the mulch on the edges. We have found that just rolling it out like this, a little bit at a time, allows us to put our mulch down even on windy days. The wind always seems to kick up in the Spring just as we are getting ready to put our mulch down. It never fails.

Plastic garden mulch is only good for one year. You will remove it and dispose of it once the season is over. You will be rotating your crops and will need different spacing of the holes next season.

We have always used ground cover in our walkways. This gives us a nice (almost) maintenance free garden. The ground cover will last 5 or 6 years even being walked on daily.

Conclusion

Plastic garden mulch is one of the best innovations for gardeners. It helps us keep a healthy, clean, high producing garden. I am glad that I found it when I did. I would never go back to gardening without it. Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

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15 Things You Need To Know To Grow Lemons

15 Things You Need To Know To Grow Lemons

15 things you need to know to grow lemons

Growing Lemons

When life gives you lemons………. you know how to care for your lemon tree properly! Lemons have so many uses, from cleaning solutions to lemon meringue pies. They are generally heat loving plants, but you can grow them in containers and greenhouses as well. Read on to get your 15 tips for growing a healthy lemon tree with a high yield.

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1) Lifetime of a Lemon Tree

Since a lemon tree will not typically breed true from seeds, most lemon trees you find have been propagated by grafting. Lemon trees will take between 3 – 5 years to produce fruit, but they are long lived trees. A well cared for plant can live between 50 and 100 years. You will probably find that the production decreases in older trees though.

2) Varieties of Lemon Trees

These varieties can be grown outdoors in zones 9 – 11. Dwarf trees are the best choice for container gardening.

Meyer Lemons are excellent for container growing. They are a cross between a table lemon and an orange that originated in China. They will produce some fruit throughout the year, but most of the fruit is harvested in the winter. The fruit is sweeter with less acid than other lemons.

Ponderosa Lemons will fruit and bloom at the same time. Fruits can be left on the tree ripe for several months. They will fruit year-round and have large fruits that almost resemble a grapefruit in size.

Eureka Lemons have nearly no thorns. They bear fruit and flowers throughout the year. They are seedless and have a tangy citrus flavor. These are one of the most commonly found varieties.

Lisbon lemon trees are almost as big around as they are tall. If you grow them in containers you can prune them to a narrower shape. It is an heirloom variety with a thick, smooth skin.

3) How many lemon trees do I need?

You only need one, as they are self-pollinating. You do not need insects to pollinate the trees. Also, you will not need to hand pollinate the flowers.


4) Temperatures for Lemon Trees

Lemon trees, like all citrus trees, like it hot. The ideal temperature for setting fruit is between 70 F and 85 F. The lowest nighttime temperature should be between 50 – 55 F. Trees will become damaged when temperatures drop below 29 F.

5) Soil for Lemon Trees

The optimal pH range is 5.5 to 6.5. When planting in containers use a good soilless potting mixture. This will be mostly perlite, peat moss and vermiculite.

6) Lighting Needs

When planting outside place the tree in an area with 6 – 8 hours of full sunlight. Indoors you can try to place the tree by a sunny window or use supplemental lighting. LED lighting would be a good choice. You should run your lights for at least 8 -12 hours.

7) Fertilizer

There are fertilizers specifically for citrus.  Citrus requires a fertilizer high in nitrogen. You can use a liquid, granular or slow release fertilizer.

8) Pruning

Lemon trees typically do not require pruning. You do want to remove any diseased or dead branches. For bigger trees you can prune for better light penetration.

9) Watering Your Lemon Tree

You should water lemon trees in containers often. Keep them moist, but not wet. Lemon trees don’t like wet feet. Be sure to use soil that drains well. Stick your finger into the soil 2”. If it is dry, it is time to water.

For lemon trees growing outside you will not need to water as often. The lemon trees have a large feeder root system. If you scratch the surface of the soil under the plant, you will find a network of feeder roots. If you keep the lemon trees outside well mulched it will help to retain any moisture.


10) Troubleshooting

Although lemon trees are relatively trouble free, you may encounter these problems. If you encounter these problems and are not sure how to diagnose them properly you can take a leaf to your county extension agent and they will help.

  • Dropping Leaves – This may be caused by overwatering.
  • Leaves turning yellow – Lack of water, insects, pests, nutritional deficiencies.
  • Fruit drop – This may be caused by the fact that there is just more fruit than the tree can support. It could also be due to improper watering, improper fertilization, disease, insects or too vigorous pruning.

11) Growing in A Greenhouse

Keep the temperature above 50 degrees in the greenhouse. Once the temperature outside has reached 55 at night you can move the plant outside for the summer. Keep in mind that your tree will probably be in a 10-gallon container at least. Make sure to have a container that is on wheels to facilitate the move. Also, keep in mind that some greenhouses have narrower doors. Be sure that you will be able to move the plant in and out of the door that you have.

12) Growing in the Ground

Picking an area that has well drained soil is critical. Also, be sure to get a spot that gets at least 8 hours of full sun every day. Pick your variety based on your climate. Also, make sure that you will have room for the mature tree when planting. Do not overcrowd.

13) Growing in Containers

You should always use containers with drainage holes. But you need to be aware that containers will dry out faster than plants in the ground generally. Lemons like a lot of humidity. You can supply this by misting your trees daily or by placing pebbles in the saucer the pots drain into. You can also run a humidifier in the dry winter months when the heat is running in your house. The pot size will determine the plant size. Use a 10 – 15-gallon pot size. You should buy dwarf varieties to grow in a container.

14) Storage of Lemons

We have all seen the beautiful baskets of fresh lemons hanging in the kitchens on TV. This is a great way to store lemons if you are going to use them in less than a week. I don’t seem to go through them that fast. I just place my cleaned lemons in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.

Lemons can be juiced, and the juice can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container. The juice can also be stored in a freezer in ice cube trays. I then place the ice cube trays in a sealed bag. This gives you some portion control when it is time to thaw the juice.

The zest can be removed and place in a sealed jar or frozen.

15) Usage of Lemons

Well, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or you can use the zest and juice in many ways in the kitchen. Who doesn’t love a lemon meringue pie? They are great squeezed over many dishes to brighten the flavor. The list goes on and on.

Lemon juice can be used for cleaning many different items. It can be used from cleaning your glass shower door to being used to polish copper and brass.

Lemons can also be used to help eliminate odors.

Conclusion

Lemons are fun and easy to grow. These plants will last a lifetime once you get them growing properly indoors and out.


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Growing Tomatoes

Growing Tomatoes

Growing Tomatoes

Growing Tomatoes

Like many others, tomatoes are my very favorite thing to come out of the garden. There are so many different things you can do with them. Not to mention the yummy taste. My husband used to kid me that I could probably live on just tomatoes and crusty bread with butter. Yep, that sounds like a perfect meal to me! During harvest season I eat fresh tomatoes with just about every meal. Many people think they are difficult to grow, but that is not the case.

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Tomato Facts

Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family along with potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers and even tobacco. They were once considered to be poisonous. But, thankfully, that was soon dispelled.




Most varieties of tomatoes require nighttime temperatures of between 55 F and 75 F to set fruit. There are a few exceptions that set fruit at cooler temperatures for colder climates.  At temperatures above 95 the fruits will stop setting. Most varieties will take between 50 – 90 days to harvest. That is why tomatoes are typically started indoors or purchased as plants at a local nursery. I much prefer to start my own seeds as I can choose the varieties I like. The nurseries will have a limited selection with just a few popular varieties.

There are determinate and indeterminate varieties. Most of us have indeterminate tomatoes in our garden. They can grow from 6′ to 12′ high. They will have blossoms, immature fruit and mature fruit all on the plant at the same time. They will continue to produce until the first frost. Determinate varieties are usually 3′ to 4′ high and are great for container gardening. They will produce their entire crop usually within a 2 week period.

Heirloom tomatoes are seeds that are kept from year to year. Most of them are saved because of their desired characteristics. These may be passed down from family members, or saved commercially. Commercial heirloom seeds are seeds that have bred true for over 50 years. They are considered open pollinated, which basically means that they will breed true.  I find that my heirloom varieties do not seem to be as acidic as non-heirloom varieties.

Planting tomatoes

Tomatoes should be planted in the Spring when all danger of frost has passed. Some of us in the South are fortunate enough to have a second tomato planting in the fall. In my zone 8 we plant the second crop from the beginning of July through August 15th.

Plant in the full sun. Tomatoes need a full 6 hours of sunlight to produce. This is especially crucial in Northern climates. If you are in a Southern area with harsh summer sun your plants will grow and produce even if they have a light afternoon shade. Don’t ever plant your tomatoes where the morning sun will be blocked. Space your plants according to the directions on the seed packet or the stake in your purchased plant. I typically space my tomatoes at 3′ apart. This gives me room to pick even the ones on the back of the plants.

I know this next part will sound weird, but I have been planting my tomatoes this way for 20 plus years. Remove all of the bottom leaves off the plant. Bury the plant with the stem running sideways. I just dig a hole with my hands that has a gentle curve to it. I have seen people just lay the tomato in a shallow trench laying sideways with just the very top of the plant above the ground. This will give you a great root system as the roots will grow out all along the buried stem. Don’t worry about the top, it will straighten up in the sun in a day or two. With that huge root system you have a much healthier plant that is stronger and able to get more nutrients. This all equals a better harvest.

Tomatoes will grow tall, so be sure to plant them on the North side of a bed where they will not cast shade on the rest of the garden. Also, you will possibly have cages that will cast a shadow. Do not plant tomatoes near corn, dill or potatoes. They do not grow well together. You can plant them near peppers, basil or leaf lettuce.

Tomatoes can be grown in a greenhouse, in a hydroponic system, in pots, indoors, even upside down. And yes, I have used the upside down containers. And yes, they do work well. We used them for a couple of years and they produced just as many tomatoes as our plants in the garden.

Growing Tomatoes

Tomatoes need to be staked, be put in cages, or even grown up a trellis. They need support. Plus, you want to keep your fruits off the ground where they are more susceptible to pests, disease and damage.

You can or cannot remove the suckers. I personally don’t bother with this. But, reportedly the suckers do not bear fruit, so they are just a drain on the resources of the plants. You will find these where the branch comes off the stem. They will be a small shoot growing out just above the branch. These are removed simply by pinching them between your fingers.

Tomatoes need consistent watering. That is why I prefer to set them up on a drip irrigation system. They need 1 – 2 inches of rain per week. Water deeply to about 6″ to 8″ below the soil level. Do not water if the plants are still wet. Only water when needed. You can test this by sticking your finger in the soil next to the plant. Always water in the early morning.

Tomatoes may present with blossom end rot. This is a blackish, rotten looking spot on the bottom of the tomato. This may be caused by inconsistent watering. It will sometimes just go ahead and correct itself. You can still eat the tomatoes, just cut this undesirable part out.

Cat facing is another tomato abnormality. It will show up as an abnormally shaped fruit sometimes with scar like tissue showing. It is usually caused by temperature stress while pollination is occurring. Again, just cut out the ugly part and eat the rest.

Tomato hornworms are a problem sometimes encountered by us all. These are gross, but they are easy to get rid of. That is if you can find them. They are the same color as the leaves and have a tendency to blend in really well. If you have them you will  know it. You will see piles of bug pooh below your plants. You will also see big holes in your leaves. If you see these 2 signs go on a hornworm hunting expedition. Alert for the squeamish. You may want to skip this next sentence. The best way eradicate these pests is to simply squash them. Sorry, that is the best way.
Juicy Tasty Tomatoes

Harvesting Tomatoes

This is the fun part. Tomatoes can be picked when they are green for fried green tomatoes, chow chow and other recipes calling for green tomatoes. I still like to wait until they have just a little pink blush on their shoulders. They will just be starting to show the slightest hint of color. Otherwise you should wait until your tomatoes are ripe to pick them. Just grab hold and don’t squeeze too tight. Always store your tomatoes on a counter top out of direct sunlight. Don’t put them on a windowsill. Never, ever, ever put a tomato in the refrigerator. This will just ruin the flavor. If you have to pick tomatoes before they are ripe for some reason, you can put them right side up (like they come off the plant) in a brown paper bag on a counter top. They will ripen in the bag.



Preparing

Tomatoes can be sliced fresh and sprinkled with a little salt or sugar. Or hey, you can eat them plain if you want to! They are great to make sauces. They dehydrate well. They even freeze well. And, let’s not forget canning. You can make plain tomatoes or tomato and pepper mixtures. I do all of these preserving methods for my tomatoes.

Conclusion

Tomatoes are no more difficult than any other garden plant to grow. Give them the proper conditions they require and they will do great! I find that I always have plenty of tomatoes to eat, preserve and share. What are you waiting for? Plant a tomato or two today.



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Perfect Topsoil for Your Home Garden

How to Select the Perfect Topsoil for Your Home Garden

Choosing Topsoil for Your Home Garden

Topsoil for Your Home Garden

If you’re thinking about planting a garden this spring, it’s important you select the best top soil. Selecting the perfect topsoil for your home garden is the first step in ensuring that your garden will be all that you want it to be. Topsoil is crucial in having a plentiful garden. The nutrients in topsoil allow your plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables, and even grass to grow. With the right selection you’ll have topsoil that’s going to make your garden shine.

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The Darker the Better

Topsoil is typically considered the top 2-8 inches of soil. It’s the part of the soil that is the richest and most-life giving for plants. It’s made up of mostly various silts, decomposed plant matter, clay, and sand, and that’s why it’s so good for your plants. This is the part of the soil that will make your plants grow.

The best top soil is always the darkest. Choose a topsoil that is really rich in a dark brown or black color. Typically the darker the soil, the richer it is in organic matter which means it’ll contain life-giving food for your garden plants. Earthy dark soil is the first step in the process of creating a lovely home garden.

Choose Loose Topsoil

Not only should topsoil be dark in color, but it also needs to be a variety that is loose and easily permeable. The topsoil is where worms, bugs, and other critters like to burrow and dig and this allows plant roots to grow deeper and lets water seep in. Choose a topsoil that feels loose in consistency so your watering efforts will be effective.

Too much lumpiness and you’ll have an uneven garden bed and ineffective soil. The soil should be loose and easily tilled. Tilling your topsoil is important for a productive home garden. If it’s too hard or clumpy, tilling won’t be as easy and you won’t yield your desired results. When you’re gardening, the right nutrients need to be able to easily glide through the topsoil and hit the roots of the plants.

Don’t Settle for Cheap

There’s a lot of topsoil varieties that come at a cheaper cost because they are mixed with other debris that won’t help your garden. Avoid topsoil that have small rock particles, other plant roots, and substances. This will interfere with the healthy growth of your garden.

Invest into a topsoil that costs more but will make your garden grow and flourish. You can easily find topsoil at most home repair and garden stores. Ask a garden associate to help you decide which topsoil is best for your garden. Some topsoil bags will be labeled with different information to help you decide.

Know How Much You Will Need

Topsoil is an important resource for the health of your home garden. Make sure that you know how much topsoil you will need. You can do this by making sure you have taken the proper measurements of the size of your garden. If you’ve just planning on having a small garden or flower bed, you won’t need as much soil. If you’re looking to yield a plentiful harvest and expand your garden, having enough topsoil is extremely important. Know your dimensions and work from there.

Although topsoil is normally considered the top two inches of soil, again it can range all the way to 8 inches deep. Most gardeners will use more topsoil than just the standard two. Your garden can use topsoil that is 7-8 inches deep which means you will need to factor in the amount of topsoil to be purchased. If you’re just looking to grow your grass, then you can use up to 6 inches of topsoil.

Topsoil is sold in bags and in bulk. Usually with bulk orders you’ll have to make special arrangements. If you do buy topsoil in bulk, it is not priced like regular bags, but rather by the cubic yard. Also, varying topsoil is available based on factors like the area you live in, and a particular soil availability in that area. Sometimes the town or village office locations will occasionally leave bulk piles of topsoil for local gardeners for free. Look out for these opportunities in spring and summer.

Take Lawn Edging into Account

When it comes time to plant your garden and use topsoil, be sure to take account of any lawn edging around your garden bed. Lawn edging creates crisp and clean lines around your garden so it’ll be separated from the rest of the lawn area. It’s a great way to ensure that grass won’t reach in and mix with your topsoil. Because grass, weeds, and shrubs grow very quickly, make sure you have enough topsoil to continue proper upkeep of your home garden.

There’s a lot of different lawn-edging landscaping techniques. You could choose to surround your garden or flower bed with sidewalk pavers, steel or aluminum edges, or plastic edges. When using metal edges, make sure to wear shoes when you’re walking around your garden or you could easily get a cut.

You can install edges around your garden by digging a trench all around your garden as the first step. Next, you will want to use stakes and the materials mentioned above to secure the material into the ground so it’s not easily uprooted. Be careful not to create garden edges too closely to where you have planted roots. Skilled lawn care workers can also easily install these edges for you or you can look on the web for tutorials on proper installation.

Your lawn edges will need maintenance as time goes on. When trimming overgrown or unruly grass around your garden, it’s inevitable that some pieces may fall into the topsoil and mix. It’s important to have topsoil on hand to refresh the top inch or two after trimming. Having a lawn edge is definitely a great preventative method but you still need to make sure you’re maintaining the edges of your garden when necessary.

If you hire a company to take care of your lawn and garden, make sure the workers know to replenish topsoil. Have them use topsoil that’s of high quality, dark, rich, and free of debris.

Topsoil Top Points

To summarize, select the perfect topsoil for your home garden by choosing dark and nutrient-rich soil. Make sure it’s loose and easily tillable. Invest in soil that may cost more but will have better long-term effectiveness. Know your garden dimensions and have enough to cover the necessary depth. Lastly, upkeep your garden with lawn edging and replacing topsoil after trims and lawn work.

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Growing Asparagus

 

Growing asparagus plants

Growing Asparagus

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Growing Asparagus

Like most things in my life, I like my asparagus prepared simply. I love to just steam it lightly. Then I take some extra virgin olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, a touch of salt and some freshly shredded parmesan. I toss everything together and that is it. I am getting hungry just thinking about it. Unfortunately, the harvesting season for asparagus is for such a short period it is hard to enjoy it all year long. But, the good news is that if fresh asparagus is blanched and frozen, it will preserve well.



Asparagus Facts

Asparagus is typically thought of as being green. But, there are purple hybrid varieties as well. Don’t get too excited about this. If you cook the purple asparagus it will revert back to the green color. That is not the case for white asparagus. It is most desired because it is considered less bitter and more tender. The white color is obtained by keeping the asparagus covered with dirt while it is growing. There is no exposure to the sun so there is no photosynthesis which produces chlorophyll. The chlorophyll is what causes the green color.

  • This plant is a perennial, which means that it lives more than 2 years. Actually it will last a lot longer than that. A well maintained asparagus bed may live up to 15 – 20 years.
  • The plants grow 39″ to 84″ tall.
  • Asparagus is approximately 93% water.
  • Plants are either male or female. Female plants produce a red berry which is poisonous. They will appear after the fern like leaves are already open.
  • There are some hybrid varieties available that only produce male plants. These hybrids are also resistant to some of the more common diseases that plague asparagus such as Fusarium or crown rot.
  • Asparagus does not like to compete with weeds. Be sure to keep your bed weed free.

Planting Asparagus

Asparagus will only grow in zones 4 – 8. You can plant this from seeds, but it will add an additional year onto the time to harvest. Most people will  plant crowns. These are 1 year old dormant plants that can be purchased from seed companies. Yes, they are more expensive than the seeds, but considering the lifetime of the plants, I would opt for getting to harvest a year sooner. This is a plant that does extremely well in a raised bed growing situation.

Crowns should be planted in sunny, well drained, loose soil in the Spring and in the Fall in some warmer climates. In the Spring you should plant outside 4 – 6 weeks before the last frost date. It prefers a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. You should test your soil first and amend before planting if needed.  To plant dig a trench that is 12″ to 15″ wide and 6″ to 8″ deep. If you are planting multiple rows they should be 3′ apart. Soak your crowns in water for 15 – 30 minutes before planting to be sure they are hydrated . Place a small mound of dirt in the bottom of the trench. Place your crown on this. Be sure to fan out your roots around the crown. Fill in you trench . Water immediately after planting. Cover your bed with mulch to help control weeds and maintain moisture levels. Do not use straw as it may contain seeds.

Growing Asparagus

  • Asparagus grows best in temperatures of 65 to 85 degrees F.
  • Production is inhibited at temperatures of 50 degrees F or lower.
  • Keep your beds weed free.
  • Do not over water as this plant does not like wet roots.
  • Keep any mulch off of the plants as it may cause rot.
  • Fertilize before the spring growth and right after harvest
  • Use a fertilizer high in Nitrogen (N) and Potassium (K) and lower in Phosphorus (P)
  • cut back stalks to the ground in fall




Harvesting

During the first year you should maintain the plants per their requirements. But, you will not harvest during the first year. During the second year you can harvest lightly. The third year is when the bed starts to come into full production.

Plants should be harvested when they are 6″ to 8″ tall. You should not harvest plants that are under 1/4″ in diameter. With ideal growing conditions this plant will grow rapidly. You should check for plants to harvest daily during the short 8 week harvest period. You should cut the plants at the soil level using an asparagus knife.

Preparing Asparagus

Asparagus can be steamed, boiled or blanched, roasted, stir fried or it can be eaten raw. Asparagus can also be preserved by freezing or pickling. It is simple to prepare. The woody ends must be removed. To find where this is you would simply hold each end of the spear and flex it. The best way to do this is to just break it while you are bending it. You can however pile up the whole batch and use a knife to cut off the bottoms. Asparagus should be thoroughly rinsed under water before cooking or eating.

Conclusion

This plant is high in many vitamins, but it has very few calories. It is a good source of antioxidants and has been known to help lower blood pressure. Plus, it is simple to prepare and oh yeah, tasty. Go out and plant some asparagus today!

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