Prepared for CathyCorner
Q: If you’ve never gardened before, what’s the first thing you would like to plant? If you have done some gardening, is there something featured in the course you would like to try?
A: I would like to say I have really enjoyed taking the class. The modules have been challenging and have encouraged me to learn the topics from many different angles. I have done some basic gardening before. After completing the class, I have thought about a vegetable I would like to try growing. I have thought about a propagation technique I would like to try. I have thought of one garden theme I would like to build. Finally, I would like to try to maintain a compost -pile.
The basics of composting are not to compost things that did not once come from the kitchen table or that will end up on your future dinner plate. This is a generalization, but it makes the point that certain things people might put in a general compost pile will not break down into safe elements for a food garden. Items not to use in organic composting for edibles are Feces of any kind, Meat scraps, Bone, or non-organic Lawn Clippings. My father’s father used to maintain a compost bin. Along the rim of the trash pale, he would hang a paper bag inside of the regular plastic trash bag. When I visited him during mealtime, or when I slept over there, he sometimes would tell me to put certain things into the paper bag. He often added grapefruit skins, toast crusts, egg shells, and paper towels. There also might be some vegetable items in there. A couple of times, I put a pork chop bone or other item that did not belong. My grandmother would explain my mistake the next day to me. I would ask my grandfather if there wasn’t a way to convert everything, but he said some things were not worth the risk.
My summer group also worked on a house in Greenwich, CT this past summer, which had an official architecturally design compost station immediately preceding a lower driveway. It consisted of a poured concrete structure with 8 cans with lids set in the mold. I found this structure, because like all ‘first day’ workers, I mistakenly raked the acorns around the compost station when I was supposed to rake the edging differential gutter in the pack of Sandra bed. I lifted a couple of lids, and although the cans were empty, I knew exactly what the structure was designed for.
After learning what to use for compost, it is necessary to find a location for a typical plastic bin or hay bale arrangement. I would use a plastic bin, to ensure no smells offended the neighbors behind my house. Also, one rainy night a giant opossum climbed my front stairs and started eating the feral outdoor cats dried food. Meriden, CT was once populated by farmers, and some artifacts still remain. The opossum intimidated the cats, so it is no mystery what it will do to a garden of healthy greens.
The bin’s lid should protect the items inside. It will most likely consist of leaves and clippings. That is what I have the most of around my house. I make very little food waste per week. However, to increase the rate of compost breakdown, I do like the idea of adding red earthworms. The earthworms chew through the materials, and the digested castings exit their bodies as a finely kneaded mixture. The castings are critical for a healthy lawn. In a compost application, the earthworms rapidly break down the organics much faster than a bin without the earthworms. The bin’s contents needs to be physically turned over and kneaded by human hands, in much the same way as if hay bales were used in place of plastic. The final product is an excellent soil amendment that will fortify any patch where it is applied.
Once I have enough compost, I would like to try to grow watermelons, or muskmelons. Muskmelons were the one plant I could never bring to a successful harvest. The closest melon I grew was golf ball to tennis ball sized fruit. Inevitably, the stem between the fruit and the plant would rot out before the fruit got to mature size. The farmer across the street regularly grew muskmelons, and I asked their advice more than once. They told me I needed to plant each seeding in a mound, which I tried. I ensured no down flowing water would wash out the mounds. I heard the plants need warm temperatures, but needed partial shade so they would not burn up. I planted some in partial sun, some in partial shade, and some in filtered shade. I also tried to plant other vine vegetables nearby to determine if something else was wrong. Cucumbers and pumpkins grew fabulously in the same areas. Marigolds and sunflowers grew well also. An article from eHow.com did a Raised Bed planting, and stated muskmelons and watermelons could be grown as cold as in Zone 4 [Meriden, CT is 6b, lower number means colder, greater frost exposures].
. The article didn’t really offer any secrets. But the Raised Bed Gardening solves the mounding problems. The best solution was an inset link at the bottom of the page: ‘Watermelon Growing in a Bucket.’ This is a fine example of ‘Container’ Gardening. If I was to apply this to my old garden, I would half bury the bucket in the garden. I need to make sure the plants receive at least six hours of sunlight per day. The 5-gallon buckets are first prepared with two inches of clean gravel. The remaining depth is occupied by bagged potting soil. I will again use seedlings, so in late May; I will root a seedling in a prepared bucket. The article mentions the importance of placing 10-0-0 [nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium] around the plant base, but a few inches away from the stalk. I did not do this step, and the chapters expressly recommend against fertilization. I will admit, whenever I do a transplant or a tree installation, I use a little Miracle Grow around the plant. Not at my current job however. The article goes on to instruct fastening a 5 to 6 foot lattice section, anchored into the ground, next to the bucket. Apparently, this author elevates the vine structure by weaving the gripping curly fingers of the vine onto the trellis. Further, only two or three fruits are allowed per plant. Onion netting is fastened to the trellis and each fruit is wrapped in its own pouch. The grower needs to be aware that all weight is on the trellis [not the vine] and the 3” to 4” fruits are captured in the secured netting. The plants need to be watered once or twice per week. The tip is to ensure the soil never dries out because dry soil will trap and strangle a plant. Aqua globes will be used to make sure of sufficient watering while at work. . [http://www.ehow.com/how_8526392_grow-watermelons-bucket.html] Sturdy netting and a watered Neem oil mixture are two good organic pest solutions for watermelons and muskmelons. [ http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/pests/pesticides/neem-oil-uses.htm ]
I would like to build a butterfly garden. The chapter gives two main recommendations. First, all butterfly gardens need a water feature. The trick is to not allow enough water which will drown the butterflies, only enough for them to be attracted to, and sip from. Second, butterflies tend to be attracted to Butterfly Weed, Buddleja Davioii, and Lantana plants. A quick read of an internet article presents further considerations. It is documented that butterflies enjoy Nectar Plants, but they also require ‘host’ plants to lay their eggs on. These host plant should be placed relatively close to the nectar plants. When the eggs hatch and little caterpillars get hungry, they eat the host plant. Fennel is an acceptable host plant. As mentioned, the host plants need to be situated very close to the Nectar plants.
The chapter makes it very clear that NO Insecticides should be used in butterfly garden. Insecticides will kill the butterflies and their young. [http://www.butterfly–garden.com/] I am guessing that at some point the host plants need to be covered so birds won’t eat the eggs or hatchlings. Butterflies need full sun; so of course, I will need to plant the garden in an area with at least 8 hours of full sun. It is also a good idea for there to be some type of shelter for the butterflies. I have a 6-foot tall staircase whose underside will be suitable for a safe zone. Many butterfly plants are perennials. This means it will take two to three years from seed to get this project up and running. By purchasing potted plants and planting them in correct soil, a butterfly garden will be flying in no time.
I would like to do a plant grafting. My mother’s father used to do quite a bit of work in the garden areas in the house where I grew up. Before we ate dinner, he would work on a plant or two, trimming and watering. He would often stop by Kmart and pick up a new rose plant, on his way to my house. Occasionally a great rose plant would present itself from the garden, and I watched him attempt a semi-hard wood graft. I did not really understand what was involved, just snip and bury in new soil that had all the weeds removed, or attach to another plant.
An online article discusses the importance of finding a healthy specimen with the appearance of very strong roots. This plant is to be pruned back heavily. The pruned plant is called the scion. A cut piece of another plant with the desired rose flower is cut and then soaked in water for approximately one hour. Find a bud on the scion [host plant] and make a cut to the woody center incision above the bud, then slice back out at the bottom of the bud. The bud slice is plucked away from the woody stalk, exposing the ‘cambium’ oozy layer. The article then instructs a shallow ‘T’ shape to be made at the insertion junction of the ‘stock’ plant, or the cutting with the good flower, at the point where the graft will merge. The flaps of the cut are peeled back. The ‘T’ peel is inserted into the long cut in the scion, where the two cuts intersect. The bud faces upwards. The graft, or flower, is inserted into the plant stem down, to the point of the bud. The peeled layers are pulled back over the graft of the bud and pressed into place. Grafting tape is used to hold the fused roses together. After 7 to 10 days the entire area should be healed. [http://www.wikihow.com/Graft-Roses] Rooting hormone may improve grafting success [I had a hunch…]
Picture of insertion [w/o permission]: 8Edit step
Peel the corners of the “T” from the point where the lines of the “t” intersect. Place the rose bud inside the slit with the bud facing upwards. The rose bud should come into contact with two cambium layers. Pull the peeled corners back over the bud graft and press them into place.
Study done that shows rooting hormone may improve grafts—rooting hormone is also thought of as a bonding agent, selective cell propagator:
We sought to enhance that regulatory stimulus by applying a solution of a synthetic growth regulator. In the dormant season, we prepared whip-and tongue bench grafts of seven hardy varieties with potential as winter-tolerant frame builders. On half of the grafts of each variety, we applied a 2000 ppm solution of IBA (3-indole butyric acid) to the cut surface of the scion before joining stock and scion. After four weeks of callusing in a storage cellar at about 45 to 50F, we planted the grafts in the nursery; during the summer, we provided normal tillage but no irrigation. Trees were harvested in November. We evaluated each set for survival and for tree quality.
With all seven varieties, survival was greater for the IBA-treated grafts than for those not treated; with five of the varieties, all treated grafts survived
This passage [w/o permission] is from http://www.rooting-hormones.com/cummins.htm.
My plan for the butterfly garden is to keep it small and manageable. A mind’s sketch is three to four nectar plants, and two fennel plants. I am thinking about a diamond shape. The perimeter will be unbounded. The garden will be located adjacent to the kitchen window. It may allow for a few herbs to be planted in future time, perhaps in submerged containers, or around a small birdbath. The rose plants will likely exist in containers on the other side of the back staircase [butterflies left facing stairs, containers right]. This will allow for simplicity and easy moving in and out of the sun.
The compost pile, muskmelon plants, rose grafting, and butterfly garden are ideas from the course I would like to try. They have jumped out from the chapters, as I was moving through the course. Planning is perhaps the most important concept reiterated in the course work. Exciting texts, concepts, and enjoyment for the hobby make it easy to begin to map inspired projects. The pre-planning is a subtle addition that makes actual planning easier when the time arrives to begin a project. It is always beneficial to keep a brain file of partially constructed sketches. This course helps achieve that very goal.
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