Sunday, February 5, 2012

Garden; February 2012

Well it’s that time again, garden time and another try at learning how to grow some food. As I’ve said before, I’m no gardener so every year I learn a little more from the last years mistakes. Gardening is not easy and it takes much more than luck, this is why I encourage everyone to at least try bucket or container gardening to learn what plants like, what and when to feed them and what bugs like to eat your plants!

Last year I had fair results with tomatoes, carrots, beets, scallions, radish and as you can see in the photo the Brussels sprouts are looking very good so far. Last years scallions were a complete failure.

The garden plot is just about 3 x 20 feet and was new last year. All I did to the dirt was to add some more dirt and Black Kow to the soil and fertilize.

So what did I learn from last year?
I needed to add Vermiculite to hold moisture and loosen the soil and most importantly a lot more fertilizer and more often as the first time used soil for a garden was very depleted of nutrients. Also my garden location only receives 2-3 hours of direct sunlight a day because it’s the only location I have available. So the time it takes for the veggies to produce is about five months instead of the normal three. Because I was getting impatient with the slow plant growth due to lack of sunlight I thought I’d start fertilizing every two weeks with Miracle Gro applying with a watering can to see if it would help the plants produce. The plant growth and maturity had noticeably increased.

A note to Preppers who own a retreat or retreat property for Bug Out purposes:
If having the mind set that if you Bug Out and will just start a garden to feed yourself, please think again! My attempts tell me that it will take 2-3 years to properly amend the soil to a reasonable production level. And if we’re into a long term disaster event you had better have all the fertilizers, bug control chemicals and other soil amendments in stock because you may not be able to buy any as hordes of other people will be buying the same items. With this said I would strongly recommend you till, amend and plant a garden on your property every year so you can monitor the results and adjust annually. Letting the garden fend for itself while you are at your everyday home is in this case is OK because you will see just what your garden plot can do with minimal attention and only the rain Mother Nature provides.

This year I added 6 bags of Vermiculite to loosen the soil and hold moisture and 4 more bags of Black Kow. Florida soil is really not soil but a sandy kind of dirt that compacts tightly and water runs quickly through it. This is the reason I add the Vermiculite and Black Kow to try and loosen up the soil and hold water longer.

Here’s the garden with the soil amended and ready to plant.

The Brussels sprouts are doing fine.

The Cherry and Celebrity tomato seeds started 1-22 are looking happy.

Seeds are from Johnny’s this year, last year were Ferry-Morse from Ace Hardware. The Ferry-Morse did very well as I had nearly 100% of the seeds grow. I switched to Johnny’s for two reasons; 1. They are commonly written about and praised on blogs and forums and 2. They offer a lot of useful information within the catalog and online, something I need. This year I will plant: Celebrity Tomatoes, Red Cherry Tomatoes, Green Onions, Beets, Carrots, Broccoli and Green Beans.

Miracle-Gro All Purpose 24-8-16 Plant Food in the economy size that contains 8 pre-measured packets. The cost was $17 or about half compared to the individual packet size cost. I currently plan to fertilize every two weeks so this box will last four months.

Hose End Sprayer made by Miracle-Gro:
This is what I use to apply the fertilizer. For a small area like mine it is quick and easy. The sprayer is designed well with three selectable spray patterns, a stream, flat spray and a full round soft spray and a trigger actuated on/off water control as well as another valve to select just water or just fertilizer spray. Another great feature is the hose connection that after the hose is connected the hose is still free to rotate so you’re not fighting a twisted hose and it doesn’t leak!
To use just empty a pre-measured packet of Miracle-Gro into the jar and you’re ready to dispense water with fertilize for 10-15 minutes or about500 square feet of garden space.


  1. I have never "fertilized" so to speak, with store bought stuff as I had thought that all the horse / goat / chicken compost would be enough, but now you've got me wondering if I should do a side-by-side comparison in buckets; some with homemade dirt and some with homemade dirty & M.G.

  2. Carolyn Renee,
    It looks to me that some of the photos of goodies from your garden looked pretty good so I guess you’re on the right track with what you’re doing. But again like I always say, I’m no gardener and am learning on the fly.

    Composted animal waste should be very good for the garden providing you’re not feeding the critters drugs or growth enhancers.

    Rather than growing a test batch in buckets, how about staking out maybe 3-4 feet of a row of several different veggies and use another fertilizers like M.G. or what ever on just that 3-4 feet. This method would be a more accurate comparison of results from the additional fertilizing because the sun and base dirt would be exactly the same.

    When it comes to gardening I probably should have paid attention to my Mom and her garden which was ¼ acre, but at 8-11 years old are you kidding  I hated the weeding and then all the canning, ugh! Mom and Dad lived and worked through the Great Depression so growing your own food was necessary along with raising some animals for meat during that time. Afterward they never stopped growing, raising and canning food. We raised rabbits and my aunts and uncles raised chickens plus gardened. We often traded food between us. I know now I should have paid attention because I would have learned some valuable skills, some come back now but not enough of them.

    Let me know if you decide to experiment with the fertilizers and how it goes!

    Good Luck!

  3. Hey there,
    Just wanted to suggest that if you're serious about adding vermiculite, you can get it in bulk amounts through Greenhouse Megastore online. 4 cubic ft is 24 dollars..ditto for perlite

    Also, you might want to get some perennial rye grass seed and throw that down, this stuff fixes nitrogen into the soil from the air we all breath; much less expensive expensive than Miracle Gro for nitrogen

    hope this helps

  4. Looking forward to seeing how your garden grows this year. There's always something to learn no matter how well our gardens grow from season to season. We're still far from preparing our raised beds for growing, although it's growing closer day by day. Right now we're enjoying the process of decided what to grow this year and getting ready to order seed. Hopefully, we'll get a post up soon.

    By the way, your garden soil looks nice; I'm sure your amendments will be helpful with water retention and plant health!

    Blessings, Lisa

  5. Anon 10:39pm
    Thanks for the tip about bulk buying of vermiculate and perilite. I’ll see how this year goes but next year I’ll buy in bulk and add considerably more to get the soil where I think it needs to be.

    As for rye grass I don’t think it’s an option for me because the garden space is small and renting a tiller for $120 for half a day is steep.


  6. Lisa,
    This year I am looking forward to a better crop. The soil should be much better and the heavy fertilizer may do the trick. For a small garden the cost of fertilizer isn’t bad but for a 50 x 100 foot garden I would have to come up with a more cost effective method. Then again once the soil gets to a point the plants like being there then it should be more like normal maintenance feeding and the cost will be small.

    This weekend I will plant the seeds and I’ll take a close up photo of the soil. The Black Kow gives it the dark color but it is a young compost product and full of small chopped wood chips, I think they use a lot of ground tree stumps from land clearing to make their product, but it does work well at 4.99 a bag. By the second year its 90% broken down and like regular dirt.

    Also I do love your Muffin Mondays, thanks for the effort! Maybe if you feed Dan a few more Muffins for energy he can knock out those raised beds for you! :-)


  7. When I start new gardens (like I don't have enough already lol) it takes about three years to get the soil into good shape.

    A friend started her garden a couple years ago and wondered why everyone said gardening was so hard. Her first year crop grew great, and depleted the soil of all its nutrients. Last year she could barely get anything to grow.

    You are so right, gardening starts with the dirt, not with the seeds. Great advice!

  8. I plan on starting a raised garden this spring for the first time in my life. Won't be a large one, just 4x8 feet. But I figure that is plenty big enough to make a whole lot of mistakes.

  9. TRLMML1,
    Good for you! I think everyone should grow something even in a single bucket garden is fun and educational.
    Mistakes are part of gardening so I recommend like many others that you keep a simple log of your new garden. The log has the history of what and when you planted and also what type, dates and amounts of fertilizer along with other details important to you.

    E-mail some photo's as you progress!

    Good Luck!

  10. I have all(maybe) my Gardening Equip purchased for my raised bed. The bed, soil, compost, fertilizer and several other things. Just waiting for Mar 10th to plant my potatoes. Wish me luck.

  11. trlmml1,
    Glad to hear you're ready with the garden and hope you grow more than you can eat!

    I was going to buy some Yukon Gold seed potatoes from Johnny's this morning only to find out they're sold out of them already. Guess I'll try supermarket ones this year.


Your thoughts are welcome!