Monday, February 22, 2021

Jen Plans Her Vegetable Garden

 

Jen's country property is ready for a garden expansion

I opened the curtains to see the snowfall and decided that it was the perfect time to plan my garden. Well, to finish planning it. I’ve planned for the spring; now it’s time to get the summer planned. And since my snow day has given me loads of extra time, I can get those spring vegetable seeds started! YAY!

Read the seed labels. Marshmallow needs cold stratification before planting; that means time in the refrigerator before planting.

Every time I sit down to plan out the garden, I'm nervous. Can I grow everything that I want to grow? Do I have space? Can I find the seeds? Every. Single. Time. Having a plan for the spring already in place doesn't stop me from being worried about planning my summer vegetables today. 

Here are 3 steps to planning the garden. 


Step #1: Ask yourself, what do you want to grow?

It was quite easy for me this year. I had a problem starting seeds last year and ended up buying the plants. I still have all the seeds though, and they are still good. I already know what I want to grow. I also know that last year I didn’t grow enough San Marzano tomatoes (I have watery salsa to be eaten this winter…YUCK!).

Jen's snowy day project

Armed with my list of vegetables to grow, I drew out my garden. Ask yourself, what do you enjoy eating? For example, I like eggplant, but not enough that I want to grow it. I can get it at the farmer’s market and still have it fresh if I get a hankering for it. If you are going to eat it or preserve it, then you should grow it!

Plant your friend's favorites

Step #2: Plan where it will go

This part is easy/difficult. That makes no sense, I know – but, hear me out. I grow my vegetables and herbs in-ground, in raised beds, and in containers. Most of my herbs, because many are perennial, are in the ground. That leaves me with raised beds and containers for my vegetables. That’s the easy part. I have space; I know where it is and how much I have. The difficult part for me is how to get ALL of what I want to grow in that space. Even if you can’t grow in-ground, there are many options for growing in containers that make gardening more accessible than ever.

Jen makes use of many materials to create her garden plots

Beautiful surroundings make this garden even more enjoyable!

Plenty of space between plants

Pots come in a variety of colors, sizes, and materials

Earthboxes are a favorite 

Smart Pots are easily stored and are a lightweight option for garden pots and beds

If you look at my garden plan you can see that I have more than one plant per bed. This is where your garden center is your best friend. Another example: from working at Valley View, I have learned that tomatoes need space around them (it helps to cut back on diseases with better airflow and means they are not fighting for nutrients and water). If you have questions, call and ask us. I personally love to talk about growing veggies and herbs! So, in my 4’x3’ raised bed I’ll plant 3 tomatoes maximum, but I’ll throw extra basil and dill plants in the bed too. Just because I can!

Upright supports allow for better air movement and easier harvest

Raised bed gardens look ready to harvest

Salad for dinner tonight!

A quick google search will give you more information about plants that can be grown together. Also, use the University of Maryland Extension's Grow It, Eat It page for recommendations. My personal favorite is to  type into google,  “can I plant (blank) with (blank)?” I was checking if it would be okay to plant my peppers with beans. I got a few mixed messages but decided that I would try it. A lot of gardening and companion planting is all about experimentation. Most of the sites talked about green beans, so I decided I would plant my black beans there and plant my green beans with squash and zucchini which I know do well together. Hopefully, it turns into a winning solution.

Step #3: Prepare

You have the list of what you want to plant, and you know where it is going to go The next step is to prepare for the planting. Do you have enough fertilizer? Is your soil at the proper pH for your tomatoes to thrive? What problems did you have last year that could be fixed this year?

Invest in good, ergonomic garden tools

Plenty of organic and synthetic fertilizer options

I’m planning on putting my tomatoes in at the end of May. Knowing when you are going to plant means that you’ll know when to start your seeds, or when to buy the transplants. Remember to talk to your garden center employees; they can answer your questions.

This year I will have 6 more rows of peas than I did last year and 4 more rows of beans. I don’t have enough supports for all of them, so I will be looking for stakes, netting, and fencing to add to my garden structures. Knowing what you are planting, when you are planting them, and how to head off any problems is the recipe for success.

Another gardener's bean crop

We are here for you at the garden center to help inspire and guide you through planning and planting your garden. Stop in for helpful handouts and informational signage to get started. 

Informational signs help with plant selection
Over 70 varieties of tomatoes!


A free Vegetable Planting Guide provides tips, planting dates, and more


The snow will be gone soon. 

 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Bonsai Styles

 The following post is presented by Jen Kostick, our in-house Bonsai expert. As many of you know, we usually hold Bonsai classes on the first Saturday of most months. Unable to do so during the pandemic, we will be reaching out via Facebook to our Bonsai enthusiasts. We will be using Facebook live for various classes on Saturdays. Last week's class featured Bonsai Basics (and an audio issue). We will be repeating the class in a week or so. Here is Jen's post on Bonsai Styles. 


 



Bonsai Styles

 Let’s talk about some of the more popular bonsai styles. Bonsai trees are meant to mimic the trees found in nature. Today we are focusing on formal upright, informal upright, semi-cascade, and cascade.

 

Formal Upright vs. Informal Upright

Trees with formal upright styling mimic trees that have received ideal conditions – proper light, water, and fertilizer with no crazy weather – Marylanders will not know what that is like! They have strong, straight trunks that narrow to the top. Having enough space around them, the bottom branches are longer than the top and naturally create a pyramid shape.


Conversely, an informal upright has not received the same ideal conditions. In nature, these trees have competed for light, water, or food with other trees. The trunks and branches twist and bend, searching for what they need. This is one, if not the most, popular bonsai style.

 

Against All Odds: Semi-Cascade and Cascade

The most striking of bonsai styles, to me anyway, is the cascade and semi-cascade. These are the trees that live, even thrive, though the cards are stacked against them.

Semi-Cascade mimics the trees that you find reaching over the water. The tree grows horizontally, clinging to the soil of the bank while still reaching for the light.


Cascading trees are found high up on mountainsides. They have the same reaching habit as a semi-cascade, but the weight of the tree, gravity and even harsh mountain weather will push the trunk of the tree down.

 

Tips to achieving your style:

·         Think nature. Now is a great time to get out and see how trees are growing. Bundle up and take a walk around to see the trees without their leaves; you can really focus on the trunk line.

·         Visualize the triangle. Keeping a basic triangle shape allows light to reach every branch. Branches should climb from the bottom of the tree to the top like a spiral staircase.

·         Use wire to add bends in branches to shorten them without needing to prune. You can also use wire to bend the ends of the bottom branches slightly down to make the tree seem older. Bending a branch slightly upward will encourage new growth in that branch.

·         Semi-cascade trees grow horizontally and should not dip below the top of the pot.

·         Pinch out new growth on your trees to force more growing energy into the tree. A tree with a thick trunk will look older than it really is. Pinching out the new growth will also force the tree to add branches lower on the trunk.


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