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Friday, April 27, 2012

Got Compost: 'Mini' Possibilities! Don't Let Lack of Space Keep...

Got Compost: 'Mini' Possibilities! Don't Let Lack of Space Keep...: We’re so lucky. We live in an urban area but have enough room to support several garden areas and 2 small compost piles; used to suppleme...

'Mini' Possibilities! Don't Let Lack of Space Keep You from Gardening

We’re so lucky. We live in an urban area but have enough room to support several garden areas and 2 small compost piles; used to supplement the fresh, bulk compost we purchase locally. This month we’ve enjoyed fresh lettuce (4 varieties), radishes and carrots, so it’s like a ready-made salad growing in our back yard! We’ve even had artichokes – a little on the small side, but delicious! Tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers are started – so before long we’ll have a real salad bar of veggies to choose from.
OK, so our veggie loving, Bay Area daughter visited us this past weekend; ooh-ing and ahh-ing over our mini harvest. Living in a small, upstairs apartment in the city, she resorts to shopping Trader Joe’s and the weekly Farmer’s Market in order to satisfy her ‘green tooth’. Of course we loaded her up with bags of lettuce, carrots and the like; but she wanted to know how to create her own little ‘slice of heaven’ with only a cement patio.
This got us to thinking…there are many people who never try gardening due to space issues. If they could see the pots of Tom Thumb Lettuce growing along our driveway, they might want to try it for themselves. One way to experience the joy of planting, tending to and then devouring your own crops is to find space in your local Community Garden. These plots are normally very affordable and allow you to get outside, get your hands dirty and plant (mostly) whatever you want.
Another method is container gardening. Like our mini heads of lettuce growing in terra cotta pots, many veggies do just fine in a confined space. Look for key words like: bush, compact, and space saver when seed or transplant shopping. The color of container matters! Be careful when using dark colored containers because they absorb heat which could possibly damage the plant roots. If you do use dark colored pots, try painting them a lighter color or shading just the container, not the plants.
Size: This is one case where size does matter. For larger vegetables like tomatoes and eggplants, you should use a five gallon container for each plant. You can grow these plants in two gallon containers; but you’ll need to give the plants quite a bit more water.
Soil: Raised-bed gardens have a lot of advantages. They elevate plants so it’s easier to work with them. The soil stays loose and friable with fewer weeds so plant roots can grow easily. Getting the right soil mix for your raised-bed garden can make all the difference in the success of your garden.
Please, don’t use regular garden soil to fill containers. Ordinary garden soil is loaded with weed seeds as well as diseases and even bugs – all of which can undo all your hard work. Ordinary garden soil may also contain a large amount of clay or silt that packs down in the box, closing off pore spaces that are needed to hold water and air for the roots.
Raised beds should therefore be filled with a weed-free mix of sand, loamy soil and compost. You can make your own, using Harvest Blend Compost – available at authorized dealers on the Central Coast. A 4-by-8-foot box, 8 inches deep, will take just under a cubic yard of mix to fill. If you use a commercial ‘three-way mix’ it can be heavy and a little short on nutrients. In this case, you might want to add an equal amount of compost to the mix to improve its texture.

What to plant?
The earth’s the limit! Veggies from Arugula to Zucchini (and everything in between) can be grown in containers. We don’t want to take up more space here so click the links for suggestions and valuable planting tips. Really, as long as you begin with healthy soil (thanks to organic matter in that compost) and water accordingly, you’ll be enjoying your own fresh, healthy mini harvest this summer. Naturally!
http://www.gotcompost/ for all the dirt on compost.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Got Compost: Open (Green)House!

Got Compost: Open (Green)House!: OK, so it’s finally beginning to look and feel like spring on the Central Coast. We’re itching to head into the garden this weekend to be...

Open (Green)House!

OK, so it’s finally beginning to look and feel like spring on the Central Coast. We’re itching to head into the garden this weekend to begin prepping the soil for our spring and summer veggie garden. Looks like we have everything needed to get started:
1.     Clean, sharpened garden tools – check!
2.     A lovely pile of fresh, local Harvest Blend Compost – check!
3.     Rain – check! Wait…what? Not this weekend!
Rain will definitely dampen (no pun intended) our plans. What to do, what to do. Hey, isn’t there something on Harvest Blend Compost’s Facebook page about a greenhouse tour? Yeah, here it is. It’s the Central Coast Greenhouse Growers annual Open House: SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2012
They have a lot of great things planned for their visitors! All seven nurseries will be showcasing locally grown products for sale.
·        Viva Farms’ beautiful hanging baskets
·        Pacific Sun Growers’ amazing tropicals and succulents
·        Clearwater Nursery’s vibrant potted flowers
·        Eufloria’s gorgeous long stem roses in every color!
·        Native Sons’ features hearty, healthy outdoor landscape plants
·        BallFloraPlant’s decorative, colorful containers
·        Ball Tagawa’s trays of veggies, bedding pack and ever popular potting soil
If you’re farther South, fear not! Rain or shine, Santa Barbara County Flower and Nursery Growers’ Association is hosting a day of farm tours in the Carpinteria Valley this Saturday April 14th between 11 am and 4 pm.  The public is invited to come and learn about the local flower industry and see the variety of crops that are grown. This event is free and open to gardeners of all ages.

Don’t let a little rain stop you from meeting your Flower Farmer. These tours are mainly indoors but in case of a little rain, an umbrella may be handy. Tell your friends and share this unique opportunity to meet your local flower grower! You might pick up some great flowers, tools and/or ideas for your own garden. Naturally!

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