Author Archives: growingmydinner

About growingmydinner

Just a farmer who loves to eat!

Iron makes plants strong

Iron is required for photosynthesis, but in minute quantities, and helps move energy within the plant through respiration and metabolism. It can be found within enzymes and proteins and is used for nitrogen fixation. It is especially important to celery, cabbage, beets, alfalfa, beans, asparagus, cauliflower, soy, barley, sorghum, spinach, tomatoes and strawberries, rye grass, oats and Brussels sprouts.

Iron deficiency will show up on the leaves, which will develop yellow-green colour between the veins, which later turn completely yellow. Growth is stunted then stops, and yellow leaves develop dead patches and fall off. Deficiency in the soil is often a result of not enough gases in the soil and too much water that sits around the roots, and/or high concentration of colloidal particles, or compacted soil. Iron deficiency can also be caused by too much manganese, as well as poor root growth. Phosphorous deficiency could cause the root growth problem, in turn causing the iron deficiency.

To correct a deficiency
  • cultivating the soil to aerate it
  • digging in organic matter like compost or renewable peat moss to provide soil structure to enhance air spaces, moisture absorption and retention capability

Note: to allay any oncerns around using peat moss, check out this link

Too much iron in the soil can cause manganese deficiency. Toxicity is often connected to low pH or a zinc deficiency or high levels of molybdenum.

To offset an excess of iron
  • increasing potassium which will increase zinc content
  • raise pH by applying dolomitic limestone, which will also add magnesium and calcium

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

[tweetthis]Iron makes plants strong. Find out more here![/tweetthis]

Lessons Learned – 2015

Reflections 2015

Yesterday it was 30 plus degrees Celsius, now it isn’t even 20, and the day is dull and gray. Rain is gently pattering around me, and my fingers are a little numb from cold (lol)…but I am safe for now under my patio umbrella. Stubbornly indulging in a margarita, I’m pretending it is still summer. It’s so hard to let go of the warmth and life of it. The enforced inactivity turns my thoughts to my garden season, my triumphs and my lessons learned.

Reflections on lessons learned

When I look back on the past year, from a gardening perspective, I have done a whole lot. There were a bunch of lessons learned, too, and I’ve come up with an answer to many challenges I faced this year. Next year will be even better!

Hoop House

The hoop house has continuing problems with the pvc pipes popping out of the holes they should sit in, along the centre beam. The beam is an improvement over the previous pvc pipe joiners, which constantly cracked and broke with the movement. But it didn’t solve the problem of holding the pipes in place, just bolstered the overall strength of the structure.

 

Lessons Learned

Hoop Houses move a lot in the wind. If you fix it to a solid centre beam, you have to fix the pvc pipe securely or it pops out of where you want it.

Action

  • I used Gorilla Glue™ to try and hold the PVC pipes in place in the holes in the wooden beam

I will grow peppers in hanging pots in the hoop house – these did tremendously for me this year, while the ones I grew in the hoop house beds were all chewed upon by a small, unidentified critter. Aside: Why do they do that, chew just some, out of each pepper?? Eat one whole one, leave others for others I say! Silly rabbits. I thought pepper dust, spray, etc is a critter deterrent? Not here! But next year only mice will have access and they will have to be acrobats.

Lessons Learned

Hoop Houses offer excellent housing to snakes, mice, spiders, grasshoppers, butterflies and moths, even rabbits. You can’t pile up anything without something deciding it looks like home. And remedies, like hot peppers, that work in one location, may not work in another.

Action

  • I am running a length of chicken wire around the bottom edge of the hoop house, to keep out critters bigger than mice. Since the snakes favour my hoop house, I assume they will keep mice in check.
  • I cleaned out all the mess and odds and ends of fabric row covers, unusable wildly bent PVC pipe sections, tools, old pots, greenhouse cover clips…you name it, somewhere in a jungle of weeds and exuberant growth lurked one of almost everything garden related. I bumped into a spider with a body the size of a ping pong ball. And a garter snake about two feet long. Shudder!
  • grow peppers in hanging pots inside the hoop house

 

The hoop house was not magically weed free in 2015. The ones that did grow seemed to become monstrous overnight, basking in the excellent conditions they found themselves in. I can’t face any more weeding!!! Trying to garden organically has left me exhausted from battling weeds!

Lessons Learned

Weeds require a strong, consistent strategy or they take over everything. Weeds love a hoop house and are even harder to control organically inside it than they are outside the hoop house environment.

Action

  • I’ve laid down tarp sections throughout the inside of the hoop house, and covered them in bark chips. Some raised beds direct in the ground remain, these are not covered in tarps and bark chips.
  • I will grow inside the hoophouse, in recycled feed bags on a bark chips floor.

Feed bag garden lessons learned in actionFeed bag garden - lessons learned in action
Each plant can receive individual nutrients and care, and can be removed if it succumbs to insect pests or other factors that could be a threat to the rest of my crop.

Harvest

My okra in feed bags on my back deck are flowering and spawning many baby okra…will they survive they next week of low nightime temps? I don’t feel confident, so I harvested what they produced so far, and made a huge pot of vegetarian gumbo and threw in some carrots I grew as well.

Yesterday, when summer was still here, I waited until the late afternoon, when oils are the highest, and harvested lettuce leaf basil, and Persian basil. I made herbal vinegar using them, for Christmas gifts to family and friends. That plan led to me acquiring some nifty little teflon funnels, to pour the vinegar from the mason jars I made it in, into the decorative bottles for gifts. He he he.

The cucumber test trials were plagued with disaster, including rampaging dogs (my own!), overnight visits from raccoons, and cold nights. The labels all faded in the summer sun, and I don’t recall which ones were necessarily wine or not. I guess I will repeat the trial next year….you can read about this year’s cucumber soaking sweetness trial here.

New Ideas

I went to a workshop on zero waste gardening last year. We made starting and even growing containers from both new and used plastic recyclable, food safe containers.
Zero waste garden

  • Save my plastic drink bottles and make reusable plant starter containers for plants I will transplant elsewhere
  • make big buckets like the one picture here for all season and even indoor growing

 

Someone whose garden I drool over nightly on my commute from my day job had some great ideas that I plan to implement next year. They planted peas and beans on two rows and then in between, made tall but narrow hoops out of pvc pipe – they span the two rows only. The vines grew up and over this hoop, making a tunnel of clean, freely hanging fruits to be harvested easily. Great idea, and I’m happy to use it!

  • make a tall tunnel of pvc pipes bent into hoops bug enough to walk under, cover them with chicken wire to make a tunnel
  • plant runner beans and cucumbers there
  • grow lettuce underneath 

I will make a canning and preserving  plan and try to grow as much or more of what I need for executing said plan. As I am also learning to cook as I go, I learn more each year what I think I would like to can or cook or bake, and I can refine my garden plans from there.

  • Plan garden back from a preserving and harvest plan for my own eating and cooking plans
  • write a blog post about it

I hope to grow pea shoots and greens and herbs indoors this winter, something I never have any luck at but never stop trying to achieve! I have hundreds of thousands of pea seeds that I will not use up before they are too unreliable at germinating to bother with, planting in a normal fashion. I suppose there is a lesson for the lessons learned there too: dont buy more seeds than you will germinate in a year or two. I love stir fries, and love pea shoots in salad so why not try my hand at serious green raising, indoors, this winter.

My approach is to try things on a very small scale, perfect the method, and then scale up. I’ll bring you along with me on this latest adventure, growing and eating gourmet greens indoors.

  • Sprout and eat pea shoots over the winter season, indoors
  • write a blog post about it

 

Is that Canada Geese overhead? Sigh. A winter rest sounds good….but my soul yearns for the garden ….and winter from here, seems an eternity. Still…..only a few months until a new publication of seed porn, ahem seed catalogues. I can savour my apple jelly, hot pepper jelly,  fennel saffron sweet pepper pickles and dream of next year’s bounty while I sit by the fire and warm these bones, dogs at my feet and the garden in my heart. And my lessons learned are documented, safe and ready to implement.

So, how did your garden grow this summer? Tell me in the comments section, I would love to hear about your own adventures, struggles and surprising victories in 2015!

[tweetthis]Growing My Dinner in 2015 – My Lessons Learned[/tweetthis]

Sulfur

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Sulfur falls onto Ontario, Canada farms in the form of acid (sulfur dioxide) rain, depositing 8-13kg per hectare each year, so soil deficiency is not common here. Sulfur can be used as a soil amendment to correct high pH of above 7.0, and can help reduce higher levels of lime and sodium. Lime gets converted into gypsum which has the benefit of providing calcium. Sodium is freed so that leaching can remove it from the soil. Sulfur helps improve soil quality by building tilth, and also by reducing the tendency to crust by removing sodium. Sulfur also makes other nutrients like phosphorous more available.

Deficiencies in Sulfur will show as yellowing leaves, beginning with the younger leaves.

To correct a deficiency of Sulfur
  • organic matter releases sulfur as it decomposes, and minerals in the soil can also slowly release it so add compost, worm casings and greensand and rock dust to prevent or treat a deficiency
  • elemental Sulfur can be applied to provide a fast acting source

If too much sulfur is present it will negatively impact the plant’s ability to take in molybdenum. That can result in leaves that show curled mottled edges.

To offset excessive Sulfur
  • Corn, alfalfa, wheat, legumes and oil seeds remove large amounts of sulfur.
  • Add sand to the soil to increase leaching and help reduce accumulation of sulfur

[tweetthis]Sulfur smells, but plants really need it! Learn more here [/tweetthis]

Magnesium

 

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

Magnesium is vital to the process of photosynthesis and is found in the enzymes of the chlorophyll molecules, giving plants their green colour. Plants require Magnesium to stabilize cell membranes as well as to metabolize carbohydrates. Magnesium is used to move phosphates within the plant. Plants deficient in Magnesium will display yellow mottling and brown spots on the lower leaves, that begins between the veins. The soil is usually not deficient and just the plant is. High Calcium or Potassium levels and low pH can interfere with a plant’s ability to absorb Magnesium.

To correct a deficiency of magnesium
  • use organic compost, both to supply Magnesium and also to enrich the soil and enhance its moisture retaining capability
  • for a fast fix mix 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts with one litre of water and spray it on the foliage, on a cloudy day to avoid burning the leaves

Plants that have Magnesium toxicity are rare and this would generally be caused by human application of high-Magnesium chemical fertilizers. Leaf margins appear scorched with a coppery colour, and the leaves are dark green; once the leaves are falling off it is probably too late to fix it. Soils high in Magnesium lose structure and become sticky when wet with a tendency to harden into a hard to till crust with greatly reduced air spaces once dried.

To offset excessive magnesium
  • increasing Calcium with crushed sea shells to bind some Magnesium
  • plant the soil in rotations containing grasses like rye
  • add composted manure

[tweetthis]Plants need Magnesium! Read more here [/tweetthis]

Calcium

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Calcium is used by the plant to build the structure of cell membranes, supporting the development of cell wall rigidity. Calcium helps water penetrate the soil which helps reduce salinity and better maintain a chemical balance. Calcium is also important to neutralize acids within the cells and remove carbohydrates if unused.

Deficiencies in Calcium will appear first at the top of the plant, with the youngest leaves developing transparent white spots between the veins and along the edges of the leaves. The leaves will turn yellow between the veins, which remain green. Roots will be short and thick and have few root hairs but will be highly branched. Flowers will just fall off, and fruits fail to develop properly and lack sweetness or good taste.

To correct a deficiency of Calcium
  • to facilitate the plant absorbing Calcium make sure the pH is not too acidic
  • keep peat and manure levels low enough that they do not increase acidity
  • Add fish bone meal to add direct Calcium
    NOTE: this will add phosphorous as well

Too much Calcium in the soil can make it harder for plants to take up other nutrients, including Magnesium, Boron, Iron, Phosporous, Potassium, Zinc, Copper and Iron which can result in or worsen deficiencies in those nutrients.

To offset excessive Calcium
  • bring the other nutrients, in particualr Magnesium, into balance by adding them

[tweetthis]Do your plants need Calcium? Find out by reading this post![/tweetthis]

Molybdenum

 

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Molybdenum is required by the plant for carrying out “redox reactions” in enzymes that include nitrate reductase to convert nitrates into amino acids. Redox reactions are necessary to processes involving nitrogen metabolism as well as synthesizing phytohormones. Molybdenum is also crucial for the symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria that is found in legumes, and is necessary in order to convert inorganic phosphorous into organic forms within the plant. Without Molybdenum, plants could not utilize phosphorous or nitrogen.

If the leaves show curled mottled edges the plant may have a deficiency of molybdenum.

To correct a deficiency of Molybdenum
  • add lime or wood ash, which will be most effective in acidic soils or soils that get leached by a lot of rain
  • young plants can be sprayed with a 5% solution of sodium molybdate (a salt)

Like any salt, if Molybdenum builds up in the soil it will also accumulate within the plant and cause damage such as the edges of the leaves looking scorched and leaves falling off the plant. Eating a lot of plant material with a high Molybdenum concentration can lead to a condition called Molybdenosis in livestock.

To offset excessive Molybdenum
  • Adding sulfur to the soil can help decrease the plant’s Molybdenum uptake
    NOTE: Elemental sulfur is an accepted organic additive, however, Ontario Canada farms receive yearly 8- 13 kg/ha (7- 12 pounds/acre) of sulfur deposited by rainfall so this should be included in considering how much to apply

[tweetthis]Wondering about Molybdenum? Read about its impact on your plants![/tweetthis]

Cucumbers in 2015 sweetness trial

Does Soaking Seeds In Wine Make Cucumber Sweeter?

This trial documents the results I got when testing the effect of soaking (or not) cucumber seeds overnight before planting. I used three test groups, each with the same number of seeds of the same variety of cucumbers but applied a different soaking variable to each trial. The soaking variable values are in wine overnight, in water overnight, and no soaking.

The trial is happening during the 2015 growing season. I will soak the first seeds May 3, 2015 overnight and plant them May 4, 2015. I’ll fill in the results as the season progresses so check back for the latest!

Seed Soaking Effect On Cucumber Sweetness

Wine Soaked Result
Bush Didn’t germinate
Vine Sweetness is a 3 out of 5
Lemon Didn’t germinate
Water Soaked Result
Bush Sweetness is a 2 out of 5
Vine Didn’t germinate
Lemon Didn’t germinate
Not Soaked Result
Bush Didn’t germinate
Vine Didn’t germinate
Lemon Sweetness is a 2 out of 5

 

Conclusion

I think I need to work on getting more uniform germination to really make my results meaningful. However, based on what happened here,

the sweetest cucumbers did come from wine soaked seeds after all!

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@growingmydinner” hidden_hashtags=”#growingmydinner”]Does Soaking Seeds In Wine Make Cucumber Sweeter?[/tweetthis]

Potassium

 

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Potassium is needed by plants for normal growth and high fruit quality. Potassium atoms are positively charged and balance out negatively charged compounds like sulphates, nitrates and chlorides. Potassium is necessary for the plant to manage its transpiration, the process of moving water through the plant and out the pores into the atmosphere, and is also used in opening and closing the stomates, the small holes in the leaves. It is important for creating cell walls.

Plants that are deficient in Potassium will show signs beginning at the oldest leaves, which will develop yellow margins and curl downward while the veins remain green. Fruit will also be impacted, and have a skimpy stem end. Growth will be stunted and leaves will be small. Potassium deficiency tends to cause or worsen an iron deficiency. Legumes may be particularly impacted by having their Nitrogen fixing bacteria produce less Nitrogen due to decreased sugar processed within the plant nodules.

To correct a deficiency of Potassium
  • first ensure that your soil has adequate organic matter and is not too sandy
  • make sure the pH is not too low, as low pH makes it harder for plants to absorb Potassium
  • add kelp, banana peels, greensand and small amounts of wood ash to the soil to add Potassium

Plants with too much Potassium in their soil may have dead leaf margins but Potassium toxicity is rare.

To offset excessive Potassium
  • create a strategy to boost other nutrients, especially Nitrogen without using manure (because manure is very high in Phosphorous)
  • plant beans and peas (legumes) which will fix Nitrogen and make it available to other plants without introducing Phosphorous or Potassium
  • both cucumbers and tomatoes like slightly less Nitrogen versus Phosphorous and could help use up some of the Phosphorous in the soil
  • Root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, beets and radishes all require Phosphorous and Potassium
  • Clover and vetch (do not eat vetch it is poisonous) can be used to balance the nutrients in the soil
  • Design a rotation something like this: Carrots, Beets, Radishes, Clover, Parsnip, Beans, Vetch (do not eat vetch it is poisonous), Peas, Cucumber, Tomato

[tweetthis]Plants & Potassium? Learn more in this post![/tweetthis]

Copyright © 2015 Lori Wardell

Phosphorous

[tweetthis]13 Key Nutrients for Plants – #2 Phosphorous[/tweetthis]

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Phosphorus is important to early root development, especially important when the soil is cool. It is crucial to leaf and fruit production and is required to perform cellular division and for energy transformation. Phosphorus is easily leached from soilless mixtures and soils high in peat and it needs to be provided continuously in those situations. The quantity required is usually less than nitrogen.

A plant that is deficient in phosphorous will be stunted, with water-soaked patches on older leaves. New leaves will be small, stiff and dark coloured. If this is not corrected the leaves will shrivel up and dry out.

To correct a deficiency of phosphorous
  • add colloidal phosphate to the soil the year prior to when you will grow in that location
  • Add fish bone meal to the soil to add direct phosphorous
    note this will add calcium as well.

Leaves showing an orange-yellow colour between the veins which remain green, is a potential sign of phosphorous toxicity. A soil that has too much phosphorous may develop deficiencies of other nutrients, in particular zinc and iron, however, toxicity is not generally a problem except sometimes in a hydroponic system.

To offset excessive phosphorous
  • create a strategy to boost other nutrients, especially nitrogen without using manure (because manure is very high in phosphorous)
  • plant beans and peas (legumes) which will fix nitrogen and make it available to other plants without introducing phosphorous or potassium
  • both cucumbers and tomatoes like slightly less nitrogen versus phosphorous and could help use up some of the phosphorous in the soil
  • Root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, beets and radishes all require phosphorous and potassium
  • Clover and vetch (do not eat vetch it is poisonous) can be used to balance the nutrients in the soil
  • Design a rotation something like this: Carrots, Beets, Radishes, Clover, Parsnip, Beans, Vetch (do not eat vetch it is poisonous), Peas, Cucumber, Tomato

[tweetthis]Learn about Phosphorous in plants![/tweetthis]

Saving Your Cucumber Seeds In 8 Easy Steps

Saving your own seeds can be a real money saver but more importantly, you can, over time, develop a particular line of seeds unique to your garden, having evolved to best suit your conditions. Read the articles in this series to learn more about saving the specific types of seeds.

 

 

Saving Cucumber Seeds - Image <!-- HTML Credit Code for Can Stock Photo-->
Cucumber seeds are very easy to save and usually have little problem with moulds if properly dried before storage. Unused cucumber seeds will keep for 5 years and still sprout reliably.  If you have a plant that does very well and you intend to buy the same variety of seeds next year why not give saving your own seeds a try?

 

To save your cucumber seeds:

  • leave fruits on the plant until the skin becomes brown and leathery
  • peel the fruit by slicing close to the centre core where the seeds are
  • put that core into a bucket of water
  • use your hands to squish the core to seperate out the seeds from the core flesh
  • let the seeds sit in the water for a few days
  • gather the seeds which have sunk to the bottom
  • dry these seeds at room temperature for 3-4 weeks
  • choose the nicest, biggest seeds that are plump, and store them in a dry cool area

Check out this post for information on a seeds storage system I implemented – “Seed Storage 2.0″!

[tweetthis]Saving Cucumber Seeds In 8 Easy Steps! Read more here! [/tweetthis]