Tag Archives: vegetable garden

3 Natural Remedies to Eliminate Garden Pests

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Slug on a white background, vector illustration
Your Garden Slug

There’s nothing more frustrating than spending time, energy and money putting in a garden, particularly a vegetable garden, only to have it disappear down the gullet (or whatever they have) of your friendly garden slug. But slugs are just one of  a whole host of pests that can silently and efficiently decimate your garden, because nothing tastes better than a free lunch!

If you’re like me and would prefer not using toxic chemicals on my flowers, or particularly on the vegitables I intend my family to eat,  here are three natural remedies that can eliminate these pesky pests.

spray-bottleWhat You Need

Spray bottles
Biodegradable liquid dish soap
Lemon or orange essential oil
Cooking oil
Baking soda
Garlic
Chili powder
Water

Natural Insecticidal Soap Spray

This is by far the spray I reach for most often. It’s easy to make and keep on hand, and should take care of most of those annoying common pests such as aphids, mites, white flies, thrips, and mealy bugs. It kills them by attacking them at the skin, suffocating and therefore eliminating them. I like to add a few drops of orange or lemon essential oil, which is in itself a natural insecticide, especially effective against ants and scale, and it also helps the the spray stick to your plants.

1 1/2 tablespoons of liquid soap
1 quart of water
A couple drops of orange or lemon essential oil

Use a biodegradable, liquid soap (such as Murphy’s oil soap, castile soap or Ivory), to make the mixture. Add water and essential oil to the spray bottle and shake. Spray your plant thoroughly, making sure you cover the underside of the leaves as well.

All-Purpose Garlic Chili Spray

Pepper and garlic are both natural insect repellents and will help to repel Japanese Beetles, borers, leafhoppers and slugs. Garlic also deters larger pest like deer and rabbit.

Natural Insecticidal Soap Spray (from recipe above)
1 tablespoon of chili powder (you could also use fresh or dried hot peppers)
5 cloves of garlic, crushed and cut roughly

Allow garlic and chili powder to steep overnight. Strain and pour into a spray bottle. Add Natural Insecticidal Soap Spray. Should keep for a couple weeks.

Baking Soda Spray

This spray is great for treating plants with fungal diseases. There is nothing quite as frustrating as discovering your plant has an unsightly case of mildew, a type of fungal disease. Suddenly your beautiful green cucumber and squash leaves are replaced by patches of grayish-white blotches.

1 tablespoon of baking soda
1/2 tablespoon of oil
2 quarts of warm water

Add baking soda and oil to a cup of warm water until it dissolves. Mix in the rest of the water. Before attempting to spray and treat your plant, remove the most severely damaged leaves first. Then spray your solution, repeating every few days until it disappears. This mixture is best made and used immediately.

Additional Notes: It’s best to spray your plants in the morning, before the sun is too hot or you run the risk of burning the leaves of your plant. And while these spray are non-toxic and less harmful than commercial pesticides, they will kill beneficial bugs along with the harmful ones. I recommend using these sprays sparingly, only treating the infected plants.

Raised Bed Gardening

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artistic design garden bedWith spring now upon us, I’ve been asked by several of my clients about the viability of raised bed gardens for growing vegetables and, in one instance, flowers for cutting. They wanted to know how practical they were, the cost involved and if they were really worth the bother? My answer is quite simple; if you’re serious about raising vegetables or creating a cutting garden, constructing a raised bed make perfect sense.

A raised bed makes gardening easy. Filled with the appropriate soil mix, they provide the excellent drainage needed to grow picture-perfect vegetables and flowers.

accessible-raised-garden-beds-placing-raised-beds-like-the-ones-on-1024x768

For many gardeners, not having to bend or kneel to weed and harvest crops is a real bonus. And if your objective is to grow tomatoes, building a raised bed against a sunny wall or fence means that heat-loving crops, such as tomatoes, will thrive and require less watering than those grown in pots.

Here is Wikipedia’s take on Raised Bed Gardening

Overview

Raised beds lend themselves to the development of complex agriculture systems that utilize many of the principles and methods of permaculture (agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient). They can be used effectively to control erosion and recycle and conserve water and nutrients by building them along contour lines on slopes.

This also makes more space available for intensive crop production. They can be created over large areas using any number of commonly available materials and efficiently maintained, planted and harvested using hand tools.

Materials and Construction

RaisedGardenBeds Illustration

Vegetable garden bed construction materials should be chosen carefully. Some concerns exist regarding the use of pressure-treated timber. Pine that was treated using chromated copper arsenate or CCA, a toxic chemical mix for preserving timber that may leach chemicals into the soil which in turn can be drawn up into the plants, is a concern for vegetable growers, where part or all of the plant is eaten.

If using timber to raise the garden bed, ensure that it is an untreated hardwood to prevent the risk of chemicals leaching into the soil. A common approach is to use timber sleepers joined with steel rods to hold them together.

Building Raised Garden Bed

Another approach is to use concrete blocks, although less aesthetically pleasing, they are inexpensive to source and easy to use.

On the market are also prefab raised garden bed solutions which are made from long lasting polyethylene that is UV stabilized and food grade so it will not leach undesirable chemicals into the soil or deteriorate in the elements. A double skinned wall provides an air pocket of insulation that minimizes the temperature fluctuations and drying out of the soil in the garden bed.

Sometimes raised bed gardens are covered with clear plastic to protect the crops from wind and strong rains.

In addition to wood, stone, concrete, cinder block, galvanized culverts, stock tanks, Cor-Ten steel and pre-manufactured raised bed products, there is a new fun product that not only provides an interesting solution to creating a raised bed, it helps deal with the problem of what to do with plastic by creating a Lego-like modular system of interlocking blocks for easy assembly

togetherFarm-box-edge Check out this simple but ingenious design solution at Urban Gardens. And here are 8 materials for raised bed gardens described in an excellent article in Houzz.

Planning A Vegetable Garden

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Vegetable Garden Planning for BeginnersI’ve just had a request from a client to replace a chunk of her back yard (all grass requiring a lot of water) with a vegetable garden. She decided that if she has to pay for water she might as well as get a return on her investment. I thought other folks might be interested in getting a return on their monthly LADWP (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) contribution so here is a primer from The Old Farmer’s Almanack on Vegetable Garden Planning for Beginners.

Smaller Is Better

If you’re a beginner vegetable gardener, here are basics on vegetable garden planning: site selection, plot size, which vegetables to grow, and other gardening tips.

Remember this: It’s better to be proud of a small garden than to be frustrated by a big one!

One of the common errors for beginners is planting too much too soon and way more than anybody could eat or want. Unless you want to have zucchini taking up residence in your attic, plan carefully. Start small.

The Very Basics

First, here are some very basic concepts on topics you’ll want to explore further as you become a vegetable gardener extraordinaire:

  • Do you have enough sun exposure? Vegetables love the sun. They need at least 6 hours of full sun every day, and preferably 8.
  • Know your soil. Most soil can be enriched with compost and be fine for planting, but some soil needs more help. Vegetables must have good, loamy, well-drained soil. Check with your local nursery or local cooperative extension office about free soil test kits so that you can assess your soil type. See our article on preparing soil for planting.
  • Placement is everything. Avoid planting too near a tree, which will steal nutrients and shade the garden. In addition, a garden too close to the house will help to discourage wild animals from nibbling away your potential harvest.
  • Decide between tilling and a raised bed.  If you have poor soil or a bad back, a raised bed built with nonpressure-treated wood offers many benefits. See more about raised garden beds and how to build them.
  • Vegetables need lots of water, at least 1 inch of water a week. See more about when to water vegetables.
  • You’ll need some basic planting tools.  These are the essentials: spade, garden fork, soaking hose, hoe, hand weeder, and wheelbarrow (or bucket) for moving around mulch or soil. It’s worth paying a bit extra for quality tools.
  • Study those seed catalogs and order early.
  • Check your frost dates. Find first and last frost dates in your area and be alert to your local conditions.

Deciding How Big

A good-size beginner vegetable garden is about 16×10 feet and features crops that are easy to grow. A plot this size, planted as suggested below, can feed a family of four for one summer, with a little extra for canning and freezing (or giving away).

Make your garden 11 rows wide, with each row 10 feet long. The rows should run north and south to take full advantage of the sun.

Vegetables that may yield more than one crop per season are beans, beets, carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips.

Suggested Plants for 11 Rows

The vegetables suggested below are common, productive plants but you’ll also want to contract your local cooperative extension to determine what plants grow best in your local area. Think about what you like to eat as well as what’s difficult to find in a grocery store or farmers’ market.

(Note: Link from each vegetable to a free planting and growing guide.)

(Note: If this garden is too large for your needs, you do not have to plant all 11 rows, and you can also make the rows shorter. You can choose the veggies that you’d like to grow!)

When to Plant?

Try our Garden Planner

It’s easy to plan your garden with our Almanac Garden Planner!
This planning tool spaces out your vegetables for you, provides sowing dates, and has many free garden plans for inspiration! Try it for free here.

Related Articles

Other Resources

There are numerous sites that deal with all aspects of this topic, so just search Google or check out these previous blogs: Growing Tomatoes in Southern CaliforniaVegetable Gardens – Good For Your Health & Pocketbook, and Creating Your Own Victory Garden.

 

Growing Tomatoes In A Southern California Winter

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Heirloom Tomatoes

I’ve been asked by several of my clients about the possibility of growing tomatoes during the winter here in Southern California. This is a doable proposition since our climate rarely has frost.  For planting instructions and plant selection there are a number of sites on the Internet that will provide you with this information. The following comes from, How to Grow Tomatoes in the Winter in Southern California.

Tomatoes grow as annuals in most of the cold-winter areas of the United States. The plants grow, bloom, bear fruit during summer and die at the first frost. However, in hardiness zones 10 and above, where there is little chance of frost, tomatoes are perennials. Southern California is one such area. Plant tomatoes in late summer and enjoy them all winter.

Instructions

  1. Buy an “indeterminate variety of tomato,” because indeterminate tomatoes bear fruit over the course of a season while “determinate tomatoes” produce a bumper crop all at one time. There are a number of Indeterminate varieties including heirloom. When shopping for your tomato plants, you will be looking for “indeterminate” on the label, or the abbreviation “IND” (or, less commonly, “INDET”).
  2. Locate the tomato where it receives a minimum of eight hours of sunlight per day. Planting the tomato against a stone wall or the side of the house gives it an extra boost of warmth. Make sure the tomato isn’t shaded by the wall.
  3. Dig up the ground to a depth of 24 inches. Add a bucket or two of compost or other organic material to the soil and work in well for each tomato plant. Tomato roots go as deep as 36 inches.
  4. Plant the transplant so its root ball is covered, but don’t lay the tomato on its side and bury the stem as you might have done in the early summer, suggests Robert Smaus in his article “August: Map Out a New Design, Sow Seeds, Try Winter Tomatoes,” published on the LA Times website.
  5. Caged Tomatoes
  6. Fertilize once a month per package directions.
  7. Water if the tomato doesn’t receive 1 1/2 inches of rain each week. Winter is the rainy season in Southern California so you might not have to water very much.
  8. Remove blossoms until the tomato plant is 24 inches high so energy is directed at producing a strong healthy plant rather than fruiting.
  9. Cage the tomatoes with stakes and string or a wire tomato cage if you wish to keep the tomatoes off the ground. This will protect the plant from the many slugs and snails in Southern California. Place empty tuna cans filled with beer at ground level. Slugs and snails are attracted to the smell, fall in and drown.
  10. Cover the cages with bird netting when tomatoes start to blush. A few tomatoes on the outside may be still be ruined by the birds because they can sit on the cage and peck inside. Most of the tomatoes will be safe.

Tips & Warnings

Protect young plants on cold nights by covering them. Use a gallon water or milk jug with the top cut off placed over the seedling. Frost is rare in SoCal.

Tomato plants are toxic. Keep away from children and pets.

Additional Resource, About.com

The Monthly Gardener – August – Living Is Easy

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While August may be the “dog days of summer” to some, to me, it’s the time to enjoy your garden to its fullest and if you’ve planted vegetables, a lot of delicious produce.

Other than maintenance and watering, which I have written about extensively over the last couple of months and guarding and spraying against insects, there’s not a lot that you have to do. So sit by the pool, have a barbeque or enjoy our cool summer evenings with friends, family, a pitcher of lemonade or, my preference, a frosty gin and tonic.

However, if you must busy yourself in the garden, do it in the early morning or early evening so that you and your plants aren’t stressed out by the sun and the heat of the day.

Can’t Stop Gardening?

If there are beds that still need to be tended or areas that cry out for help, and if you live in a costal zone, it’s still possible to plant:

and to fertilize:

  • roses, fuchsias, tuberous begonias, tropicals, ferns, water lilies, cymbidiums, warm-season lawns and succulents growing in containers

Pests & Diseases

Scale, spider mites, and thrips may attack during summer months. Mist plants frequently to increase humidity and reduce stress. Treat plant infestations with insecticidal soap, following label instructions or with a neem oil product if the infestation persists.

More Information

If you want to know more about what to do in the garden in August, check out Pat Welsh’s “Southern California Gardening – A Month-by-Month Guide, or Google, “Southern California Gardening August.”

The Monthly Gardner – May – Growing Your Own Vegetables

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May is the month to finish up your spring planting by focusing on those heat-loving vegetables. While many of Southern California’s native plants are beginning to shut down for the dry summer months, if you plant your vegetables now and keep them well mulched and watered, they should flourish throughout the summer and provide a bountiful return come fall.

As I wrote in March and April’s blogs, “Creating Your Own Victory Garden” and “Recession Proves Fertile Ground For Fruits & Vegetables,” more and more people are recognizing that the smart thing to do is to take a portion of their beautifully manicured landscape, dig it up and turn it into a vegetable garden – following in the footsteps of Michelle Obama’s famous White House vegetable garden. This isn’t just about saving money at the grocery store, it’s about growing your own and eating you own delicious, natural (even organic) produce.

Planting Vegetables

You can either sow the seeds directly in the soil, or germinate them indoors in individual containers (see Planting Vegetable from Seed) that can be planted directly into the soil. Here is a list of vegetable that should be planted this month:

lima and snap beans, beets, carrots, celery, chard, chicory, chives, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, leeks, warm-season lettuces, melons, okras, green onions, peanuts, peppers, pumpkins, soybeans, warm-season spinaches, squashes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

Here are some additional tips for intelligent planting:

  • Interplant cucumbers and beans to repel cucumber beetles and prevent the wilt diseases they carry
  • Plant potatoes to repel squash bugs
  • Plant corn in blocks of at least four rows in each direction to assure good pollination and continue planting only through the end of June, as later planting suffer from severe smut when maturing in September
  • Corn stalks make convenient pole bean supports if the beans are planted after the corn is six inches tall, so that the beans don’t outgrow the corn

Using Trellises

A trellis provides support for greater vegetable and fruit production per square foot of soil and for longer periods because more leaf area is exposed to sunlight and more air circulates. Vines grown on a trellis provide shade for a porch, patio or wall. Crops grown on a trellis are easier to pick and cleaner, not available to snails and slugs and not prone to ground rot.

Some vines need more guidance and anchoring onto the trellis than others, but all will grow well with proper fertilization and irrigation.

Mulching

Maintain a good mulch of organic matter covering garden soil throughout the summer. This prevents the cracking of the soil surface, holds in moisture, encourages earthworms, moderates soil temperatures for optimum root growth, improves the soil as it decomposes and prevents weeds from germinating.

A two-to-four inch layer of mulch decreases evaporation from the soil by 70% or more, allowing you to water less often (but still deeply).

For more May gardening tips, please see May Gardening Tips for Los Angeles County Residents, which is the resource for this blog.

Creating Your Own Victory Garden

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Word War II Victory Garden Poster

The term “Victory Garden” came into being during World War I, was brought out of retirement during World War II and while it’s not actually in use – except by me – its concept – people growing their own vegetables – is making yet another appearance in our nation’s gardens.

As I mentioned in the August 2011 edition of Eva’s Notes & News, (“Vegetable Gardens – Great For You Health & Pocketbook“), our country’s First Lady, Michelle Obama, turned 1,100 square feet of White House lawn into a vegetable garden, planting 55 varieties of vegetables. The Obama family and their guests consume much of this produce. What isn’t consumed at the White House is donated to a local soup kitchen and food bank. Good nutrition is the reason behind Michelle’s decision to plant and it’s an awfully good one for anyone interested in healthy eating.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

Vegetable Gardens – Good For Your Health & Pocketbook

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White House Vegetable Garden

Given our country’s financial situation – the debt crisis, the drop in our credit rating, the falling stock market and the rising cost of food – it makes perfect sense for the First Lady to turn a portion of the White House lawn into a vegetable garden.

I mean, who needs all that manicured grass when that earth could be put to so much better use – putting fresh veggies on the White House table and saving a dollar or two in the process. Of course, the same could be said for most of our own yards and … what do you know … some of my clients are actually considering that very possibility. In fact, I have one that has asked me to create a plan to turn her entire front yard into a vegetable garden that will be viable and productive year round.

Rather than focus the newsletter on the gardening aspect of planting vegetables, I thought it would be interesting to look at a vegetable garden from a nutritional point of view. So I’ve asked the lovely and very energetic Ruth Smith, who happens to be a member of my BNI chapter (West Hollywood Professionals) and is co-founder of Sage Wellness, to share her knowledge on the nutritional value of certain garden vegetables.

Continue reading . . .  Eva’s Notes & News