3 Ways Green Thumbs have Growing Pains

3/2/2015 - 7:11:39 AM

It’s the first week of March, and spring fever is officially taking over our lives. Never mind that real spring is still weeks away and the trees aren’t budding, we don’t care, spring is just around the corner. The weather from this point on doesn’t have to be perfect, because we know it doesn’t have a choice but to get warmer. It would only make sense to make a bunch of spring food at this point because “baby it’s cold outside,” but since we have a bunch of apples to use up from last years crop we’re going for warm apple muffins instead. We promise, spring is coming!

Speaking of spring, now is the perfect time to get going on garden and flower bed plans and while some folks have a green thumb and it seems like everything they touch just magically turns into luscious vegetables and flowers (not to mention fruits) not everyone gets that lucky. There might be something to that, but mostly growing things is a matter of a lot of hard work and attention because you can’t just stick something into the ground and assume it will grow. It might need extra water, it might need fertilizer, maybe some kind of nasty little bug is eating away at it, or the soil conditions are wrong. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need to worry about soil conditions, but over the years things like acid rain, hard soil usage, chemicals and lower organic matter have taken a toll on the quality of our soil. No matter if you have a container garden or regular garden, flowerbeds or hanging pots this is something we have to take into consideration.

Growing Pain 1: Acidic soil Vs. Alkaline dirt

The PH in soil is a major point as plants differ in what they need to thrive. Plants that aren’t thriving can be a result of the dirt either being too acid or too alkaline. Neutral is the best middle and while farmers and crop experts have their soil tested and analyzed that may be more for which we want to go to the trouble. For home users there is a inexpensive home test that you can easily buy and use that will gain you some kind of idea what type of soil you have. This method won’t give you the specific PH reading, but you’ll be able to tell if your soil is alkaline, acidic or neutral.

Another method is to the vinegar method, which we have not tested, could either be one of those Pinterest fails or really effective.

Vinegar: Take a sample of about 1/4th cup of dry dirt and mix with distilled water to make a liquid mud, and then pour a household vinegar over the top. If the mixture fizzes, it’s alkaline.

Baking Soda: Mix up the dry dirt and distilled water same as the above instructions, and sprinkle the baking soda over the top. If the mixture bubbles it is acidic. With little or no reaction your soil is fairly neutral.

How to Plant: List of plants & vegetables that love acidic, or alkaline soil

Growing Pain #2: Timing

When you plant your garden makes the biggest difference in how it will grow. Most of us know planting tulips in the spring isn’t going to get you gorgeous blooms by April or May. Tulips have to be planted in the fall, along with crops like garlic for use in spring, and some greens like parsley, radishes, kohlrabi, kale, spinach, etc can tolerate late or early frosts fairly well. Other things like potatoes, corn, melons and etc can’t tolerate a cold soil at all and have to wait until the danger of frosting is gone. Check out this list for a better overview of planting timing.

Growing Pain # 3: Bugs

This one is one of the trickiest ones for organic and natural gardeners as they are unwilling to spray just anything on their gardens and flowers for environmental and health concerns. The Midwest for example, has high rates of cancer and high usage of pesticides on their corn and soybeans crops to go with it. Many of us grow our own in the summer not just to save costs, but quality control what we’re eating as well, and bugs can be a big problem.

  1. lightly use pesticides when necessary, but work on reducing them and begin to make or use natural bug-killers.

  2. learn which plants repel bugs. This is called companion planting and is by far the best method for bug control. For example aphids love vegetables, but hate marigolds, so interspersing marigolds all throughout your garden discourages the little pests to make themselves at home. Marigolds also deter Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms and whiteflies. They can also repel harmful root knot worms that attack root vegetables, roses and strawberries as the root of the marigold produces a chemical that kills the worms as they enter the soil. If a whole area is infested turn the marigolds into the ground at the end of a season so the roots decay in the soil. Check out this list here for a good round-up (no pun intended) of which natural plants repel what.

  3. make a natural pesticide as shown in this cool infographic, or go into Pinterest (who doesn’t want an excuse to Pinterest a while) and search for natural plant pesticides to read what did or didn’t work for certain bugs. This isn’t the type of one-thing-works-for-all remedy, but certain things like vinegar, garlic and cinnamon go a long way to repelling little nasties.

Kauffman’s Double Apple Muffin Mix

Now it’s time for our weekly recipe: our Double Apple Muffin Mix. This handy little mix only requires having fresh fruit and wet ingredients mixed in for baking and is perfect for a quick coffee break or for with tea if you’re not a coffee drinker.

This is also great with a simple streusel topping to finish it off, though we opted for the powdered sugar for this one.

Happy gardening!


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