Thursday, July 28, 2016

Growing Strawberries - Ozark Beauty

Ozark Beauty Strawberries

Who can resist a juicy strawberry dipped in chocolate? Well, I definitely can’t. We call them “Nature’s love fruit” because they are the perfect heart shape and make your taste buds instantly fall in love with them.  Fully ripened fresh strawberries plucked straight from your garden have a rich, juicy flavor and texture which cannot be matched with strawberries bought at a super market. Savoring the juiciness and sweetness of a freshly picked strawberry is one reason you should try growing your own. Besides it’s easy to grow and prosper well in small containers or hanging baskets if you are limited in space.

In today’s blog post, we will go through the plant profile of a strawberry variety called Ozark beauty which is an ever bearing variety, easy to maintain, bears small to medium sized delicious fruits from spring up to late fall.  You can plant it in full sun or partial shade, it needs at least 5 hours of full sun each day to thrive. Strawberries prefer slightly acidic soil, so if soil in your area is more alkaline you can grow them in containers enriched with peat moss (which adds acidity), compost, organic matter and vermiculite to improve drainage. To make your soil more acidic and reduce alkalinity, use sulfur.

Be sure to plant your strawberry plants such that the roots are well covered with soil but the central stem or crown is exposed to sun and air, otherwise the plant may rot. Water them well and add mulch to help keep the soil moist. Fertilize well throughout the growing season to increase productivity.

The most common question we have when growing strawberries is how long do the plants produce fruits and when you should discard them? Strawberry plants are perennials, they stay dormant in winter and grow back vigorously when the soil gets warmer in spring. The first year, the strawberry plant may not produce fruits. In their 2nd and third year of growth you will notice the most optimal production of fruits so it is very important that you take good care of your plant and fertilize it during this time. After the third year of bearing fruits, you can discard the plant. Each strawberry plant produce runners which are small plants that grow around the mother plant. You can transplant these runners to have an endless supply of strawberries in your garden. And if you are producing more strawberries than you can consume, you can freeze the extra strawberries and make preserves or jams with it.

Troubleshooting some common problems that usually plague strawberry plants

Slugs often make holes in the strawberries as they begin to ripen. You can deter them from your fruits by following some of the tips we have detailed in the blog titled “Slug and snail control”.

Birds, they love to feast on ripe strawberries and by far are the worst offenders. To keep robins and other fruit eaters from feasting on your berries, cover your plants with a protective bird netting when the strawberries are beginning to ripen.

Several fungal diseases can cause some of the strawberry plant leaves to rot, turn yellow or form black spots.  You can safely clip these leaves and regularly remove the dead leaves to keep your plants clean and healthy.

If you notice your fruits are smaller in size and coming out deformed, it could be because the plants are not getting enough nutrients. Use an organic fertilizer meant for vegetables and tomatoes, apply those 4-6 months in advance and regularly water your plants.

Growing Guide Video

Here is a detailed video on how to grow this wonderful strawberry variety.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Small space gardening – Ideas to grow plants in apartments, patio and small areas

If you are living in an apartment or have a small yard and yearn to garden and grow your own produce, you may get frustrated that you can’t do it. But fret not, don’t let limited outdoor space or a tiny backyard bog you down and prevent you from trying out your green thumb.

Small Space Gardening
Small Space Gardening

Container gardening and knowing what to grow is the answer to growing it all when you are crunched and limited in space. Hopefully, these tips will motivate you in setting up your very own garden that you have always wanted.

For setting up an herb garden, all you would need is a sunny window sill area or porch that receives some sun. Many herb plants thrive well in small containers with minimal sunlight. For example, you can grow plants like mint, cilantro, parsley, etc. they only need a few hours of sunlight to grow and thrive.

Cilantro growing in aluminum tray
Cilantro growing in aluminum tray

Cilantro growing in small container
Cilantro growing in small container

Set up your vertical garden in a vertical shelving unit. Not only does it save space it also helps keep unwanted pests and critters away from your plants. The shelving unit can be easily bought at any utility store in your area like Amazon, Home Depot or Lowes or you can find some good ones at yard or garage sales. You can grow a variety of plants in individual small to medium containers in each tier of the unit.  Most of the containers pictured here are around 12 inches by 8 inches and 6 inches deep. You can buy these at your local garden store or at a dollar store, Walmart or Ikea. Another advantage of container gardening is that you can experiment and move the containers or shelving unit around if you feel one plant variety requires more sunlight than the other. Here are some great plants that you can grow in containers and which are very productive.

Onion harvest from shelving unit

Onion harvest from shelving unit
Onion harvest from shelving unit

  • Bush Beans (Red Burgundy or Yellow Wax varieties) – These bush type plants don’t grow as large as the vining pole beans variety and are just as productive for the small space it occupies. This bean variety needs full sun, around 8 hours to thrive so make sure you place the container in an area which receives lot of sunlight.
Bush Beans in small containers
Bush Beans in small containers

  • Cilantro – You can either start cilantro seeds indoors in your greenhouse, transplant them into a container or directly sow the seeds in the container.  You can also grow these easily in aluminum trays, fill them up with sand, compost or any other planting medium. Once the seeds germinate, thin them if required and make sure you water them regularly. When they are ready for harvest, just chop their tops off by pinching at the stem, you don’t need to yank the entire plant from the root. That way the stems will regrow and you can keep re harvesting for a continuous supply of this wonderful herb. The plant will produce leaves for around 2 months. So plant in succession every month or so for a continuous harvest.
Cilantro growing in container
Cilantro growing in small space

  • Radish (Burpee White, Crimson Giant, Early Scarlet Globe varieties – Radishes are easy to grow in containers. The plants usually mature and are ready for harvest in 30-40 days. You can keep planting them in succession for a good yield. You can harvest around 6-7 radishes in the container size pictured below.
White Radish harvest from container
White Radish harvest from container
  • Turnips – Easy to grow in small containers and require less maintenance. You can sow the seeds directly in the container and thin them when they germinate. Keep them watered and you can harvest your first yield in 3-4 weeks, you can easily harvest 6 turnips (roots) from a container sized 12 inches by 6 inches wide and 6 inches deep. The turnip greens are also edible and resemble mustard greens in flavor.

Turnip harvest
Turnip harvest

In this video you will find all these tips neatly presented so you can watch and follow.

Hope you found these tips useful. “The tiniest garden is often the loveliest” – Vita Sackville West.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The California Garden in April

You know spring is here when the days get longer and you can feel the warmth of the sun, smell fresh air and hear the sweet melodious chirping of birds, their dawn chorus is the herald of spring indeed. This is the time of the year to start most of your summer veggies, if you haven't already!

We'd like to take you on a tour of how our California Garden looks like in the month of April.

Garden Tour!
  • Red Onion, sets were planted in December and would be ready for harvest during the end of summer. These are now growing strong and will start producing big bulbs soon!

  • Okra, seeds sowed in the beginning of April. Okra grows great in warm weather, so start now!

  • Leafy greens, the nutrition pack house duo Kale and Swiss Chard

  • Tomatoes, April is the time when these set fruits.

  • Hyacinth beans

  • Garlic & Onion bed

  • Bush Beans

  • A bed dedicated for corn.

  • Poblano peppers and eggplants

  • Avocados blooming

  • Fruit trees, Washington naval oranges and pomegranates

  • Flame Seedless Grapes, this variety is seedless, requires less chill hours and thrives in Southern California weather.


And here are some pictures of the harvests this month. Try to involve your kids in this fun activity, it keeps them engaged and teaches them about growing and eating healthy.

What to do this month!

  • Transplant your seedlings in containers or sow them in the ground
  • Fertilize your plants
  • Hand pollinate your tomato and eggplant flowers for maximum yield

Here is the video guide of how the California Garden looks like in the month of April
I'd like to end this blog with a quote
"Why, try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden". -Robert Brault

Sunday, July 3, 2016

How to control slugs and snails in your vegetable garden

Pest control is important in vegetable gardens to keep slugs, snails and hungry insects from feasting on your vegetables and fruits that you have toiled so hard to grow. Spraying your plants with pesticides that contain harsh toxins often leave chemical residue on your produce. The good news is that is not the only resort, there are other ways by which you can keep the snails and slugs away and enjoy that perfect strawberry or tomato from your garden without having to worry about what you are ingesting . In this blog we will go through a few steps you can take to control snails and slugs in your garden.

Slug damage to plant leaves
1. Modify your watering schedule:

Water plants in the morning
Snails and slugs are most efficient in damp and moist conditions. Avoid watering your plants in the evening, instead water them early in the morning. That way the surface soil will dry by evening and will deter slugs which love moist environment and are mostly active at night.

2. Use a Beer trap:

Beer Trap For Slugs
Beer trap for slugs and snails
Yum.. Leave some left over beer in a small wide container and bury it at the surface level in the soil in an area infested with slugs/snails. Make sure there is enough space between the rim of the container and the beer so the slugs have to crawl to get in. Slugs are attracted to the yeast in the beer, will gather around the container and eventually drown in them.  Beer does the trick, you will be surprised at the number of sloshed slugs you will find in the morning.

3. Hand Picking:

Hand picking slugs and snails
Hand picking slugs and snails
Have you ever gone snail/slug hunting? If not, it's never too late to explore the nooks and crannies and roll out your troops. Kids love to participate in this fun activity so equip yourself with a flashlight and do a night patrol. Slugs and Snails love to go munching at night. After all who doesn't love a late evening snack. :)  They love feasting on leafy greens, cabbage and radish leaves.Don't try to pick them up with your hand, they are slimy and will usually slip out.  Either scoop them up with a plastic spoon or use tweezers. They both do the job very well.

4. Use slug baits that contain Iron Phosphate:

Slug bait iron phosphate
Slug bait iron phosphate

Simply scatter the iron phosphate pellets and granules over the soil surface where the snail and slugs feed.   Iron and phosphorus are minerals that are naturally found in the soil, if it's not consumed by slugs/snails it breaks down and act as fertilizer for your plants. It is absolutely safe to use around pets.

Avoid any slug bait that contains metaldehyde. This is not safe around kids and pets and is not safe for you and the environment.

5. Copper Strips:

Snails and slugs usually avoid going over a copper strip placed on the ground. The fluids they secrete react with copper and give them a mild electric jolt. Make a copper barrier or fence and lay them or peg them in the ground. Ensure there are no leaves hanging over these strips that snails/slugs could use as bridge to climb over and cross. This works great as barriers around containers and raised beds.

So we hope you enjoyed today's post and to see all this in action, don't forget to check out our video below: