Organic Gardening Tip of the Week

If you see black or rotting bottoms on your tomatoes, peppers or eggplants (less common), it is most likely blossom end rot. Tomato varieties that set all of its fruit at once (determinate) are commonly affected; cherry tomatoes rarely get blossom end rot. It is caused by a calcium deficiency in your plants caused by soil deficiencies or from uneven watering (calcium is not taken up). To help prevent this, mulch around your plants to help conserve soil moisture, keep your plants evenly watered, and make sure your soil has sufficient amounts of calcium. If your soil has sufficient calcium, then no supplement is needed. Don’t over fertilize your plants with high nitrogen either. Excessive nitrogen will lead to more foliage which will reduce the amount of calcium available to the fruit. Remove the damaged fruit.

Week of July 2, 2020

Table grape vines can be pruned in June through July to thin out shoots which will open up the plant for better sunlight penetration and air circulation. This will also help in preventing powdery mildew. You want to wait and thin out your vines after your plant has set fruit and the clusters are starting to size up (size of a pea). Thin to 6-8 shoots per foot of canopy. You also want to trim the vines with fruit clusters. Trim them to leave about 15-17 leaves after the fruit cluster. Remove the suckers growing on the trunk of grape vine. Cluster thin your vines so you only have 1-2 fruit clusters per shoot. You should pick the largest clusters and remove any misshaped clusters. You can also snip off the bottom of each grape cluster, which will improve the size of the fruit.

Week of June 29, 2020

June/July is a busy month if you planted garlic the previous fall. Once your garlic is ready to harvest, dig the bulbs up carefully with a garden fork or shovel. Remove most of the soil, being careful not to hit the bulb (it bruises easily), leaving the roots & stems. Cure out of the sun (and rain) in a place with good air circulation. Tie the garlic with twine in bunches of 6 to 12 plants. Hang the bunches in a place out of direct sun and rain. A shed or under a large tree (as long as there is no rain). Temperatures should be around 80°F and garlic should be cured for at least two weeks. Once cured, trim off the leaves (don’t cut too close to the top of the bulb) and roots, leaving about 1/2” of roots. Store in mesh bags at around 60-65°F in an area with some air circulation.

Week of June 1, 2020

The removal of fruit may seem counterintuitive, but it will actually give you a better crop and will help prevent biennial bearing (producing fruit every other year). Thinning will help prevent limb damage, improve size of the remaining fruit and discourage early fruit drop. June is a good time to thin out your fruit set on your apples, pears and stone fruit. Thin the fruit in the clusters and thin between the fruit. For apples or pears, thin to 1-2 fruit per cluster, nectarines and peaches can be thinned to one fruit every six inches and thin any fruit growing in pairs. Pick up any aborted fruit on the ground and if there are no signs of disease, you can add it to your compost pile or worm bin or your chickens might enjoy a fruit salad. If you have not fertilized your fruit trees, it is not too late to do so this season.

Week of February 28, 2020

Winter is a good time to prune your established grape vines. Grapes can be spur or cane pruned, depending on the variety. Cane pruning promotes the highest yield for most table grapes. Select a total of about 4 canes that come off close to the trunk and remove the rest (but not before you select your renewal canes). The canes that you are keeping should have at least 15 buds and be about pencil size. These canes will be your fruiting canes. Cut the fruiting cane back to about 15 buds and and remove any laterals. For every fruiting cane you keep, you should also keep one renewal spur. The renewal spurs will produce next years fruiting canes. The renewal spurs are short and should be cut back to about 2 buds. The other method of pruning grapes is spur pruning. Watch our video to learn more about spur and cane pruning.

Week of December 17, 2019

Blackberries have three possible growth habits—erect, semi-erect or trailing. The way to train and prune them will depend on the type. If you did not top the new canes during the late summer, you should top them to about 5’. Dormant pruning of erect blackberries entails removing dead canes and cutting back laterals to 12–18”. Semi-erect blackberries should be thinned to 5 to 8 of the strongest canes, shorten the laterals to 12–18” and remove any growing on the lower 3’ section of the main canes. Tie to a fence or trellis to provide support. Trailing blackberries are less cold tolerant and in cold regions the canes can be left on the ground and protected with rowcover or mulch over the winter. In spring the canes can be lifted and tied to a trellis at 3’ and 6’.

Week of November 12, 2019

Garlic plants can withstand cold weather as long as they are not exposed to a sudden drop of freezing temperatures. To help protect garlic from sudden drops in temperatures, apply a thick layer of mulch such as straw mulch (seed-free)—a minimum of 4 inches is recommended, and thicker in regions with harsh winters. In the spring the mulch can be pulled back to allow the soil to warm up faster and also helps avoid excess moisture, which can cause rot. Another benefit to mulching is weed control. Garlic does not like to compete with weeds and it will suffer if weeds are not removed.

Week of November 5, 2019

Perennial vegetables like artichokes and asparagus need protection over the winter to help survive freezing temperatures. Artichokes are hardy down to zone 6, but they do need care before the cold winter temperatures set in. Cut back last years flower stalks to about 6” and tie up the remaining leaves with a piece of twine. Apply a thick layer of compost around the base of the plant and top off with about 8 inches of straw or leaves. Asparagus is hardy down to zone 4 and needs a little care in the fall. When the ferns start to turn yellow to brown, or after the first frost, cut them back to about 2 inch stubs. This will help cut down on disease setting in over the winter. Apply about 2–3” of compost around the remaining plants and cover with a mulch such as rice straw to a depth of about 4–6”.

Week of October 29, 2019

Freezing temperatures are just around the corner for some gardens. If you have flowering summer plants in your landscape, continue reading. Some beautiful summer plants like dahlia, gladiolus, tuberous begonia, canna, calla lily, and Elephant Ear are actually either subtropical or tropical plants. Their bulbs, corms, rhizomes or tubers will not survive if your ground freezes and they should be lifted before that happens. These can be dug up after the plant is killed by frost or after the foliage has dried up. After curing, place in sphagnum peat or vermiculite and store in a cool (45–50°F), dry location over the winter. Monitor over the winter and remove any rotting pieces. You could also transfer to soil in a pot and move into a greenhouse or shed, but do not allow soil to freeze.

Week of October 22, 2019

Cooler weather is here to stay, but what about the green tomatoes still on the vine. Not to worry, you can ripen them and maybe even try your hand at fried green tomatoes! Fruits stop ripening when temps drop below 50°F, so if you are still warmer than that during the day, leave the fruit on the vine as long as possible. Remove any flowers & small fruit, and decrease the watering. Once daytime temps are consistently below 50°F and before the first frost, harvest all of the fruit. Place it in a single layer in a box lined with newspaper, and store between 55-70°F. To speed up the ripening process, add a couple of apples to the box. Check weekly for ripened tomatoes and remove any rotted fruit. If some just don’t seem to be changing color at all, try some fried green tomatoes. Check out the recipe we have posted (under Entrées) for all the details.

Week of October 15, 2019

Raw legumes in your cover crops need to be inoculated (coated) with rhizobia bacteria in order to fix nitrogen on their roots. Inoculate your seeds right before you are ready to plant. Put your seeds in a bucket or big bowl and either moisten with non-chlorinated water or a mixture of milk and molasses (one quart and 2 Tbs, respectively). Adjust the amount of liquid you add to just moisten the seed. Sprinkle the inoculant over the seeds and stir to coat. Don’t skimp on the inoculant, more is better than not enough. Plant the seeds right away. The bacteria on the legumes’ roots in your cover crop will take atmospheric nitrogen and fix it in small nodules on the roots. When the roots break down, the nitrogen will be released into the soil.

Week of October 8, 2019

October is a great time to plant garlic in your garden. Garlic is easy to grow but follow some simple steps to make sure you will get the biggest bulbs the following summer. First is to select the variety that is right for your growing region. Hardneck garlic makes the biggest bulbs if grown in colder winter regions. Softnecks are more suited to mild winter climates. Another tip is to plant the biggest cloves, they will produce the biggest bulbs. Don’t toss out the smaller cloves–grow them to use as garlic scallions. Next, don’t plant them too close together, give them at least 6” between cloves. Gophers love garlic, so use gopher baskets or gopher wire to protect from hungry pests. Keep your garlic bed well weeded, garlic does not like to compete with other plants. Add a layer of mulch to your garlic bed and you’re done!

Week of October 1, 2019

Whether you are growing vegetables on a large scale or as a home gardener, planting cover crops is a good thing to do for your soil’s health. Cover crops not only increases microbial activity, but helps prevent soil erosion, increases water infiltration, provides weed competition and if your mix includes legumes, it will add nitrogen to the soil. Cover crop seeds can be easily broadcast, raked in and covered with a thin layer of compost or a mulch like straw. Cool-season seeds can be planted in the fall and allowed to grow over the winter and turned under in the spring. The seeds will need to be watered until the fall rains arrive and allowed to establish before freezing temperatures arrive. Read our full article for more information on the benefits of planting a cover crop and watch the video on how to plant it in the fall.

Week of September 24, 2019

Wildflowers can be planted in the fall or spring. If you live in regions with harsh winters, it is better to wait until the spring to plant. Areas with mild winters, plant wildflowers in the fall or spring (before the end of the rain). Unless specifically buying a shade-loving mix, wildflowers like full sun in a good draining location. In the area that you want to plant, disturb the ground then irrigate. This will get those nasty weed seeds to germinate. Weed the area using a hoe or small tiller and you may want to repeat one more time. Once you have had your first hard frost, time to plant your wildflower seeds. Many wildflower seeds are very small so it is best to mix with an inert material like sand (not sea sand) or vermiculite in a 1:10 ratio and add to a seed spreader to broadcast.

Week of September 17, 2019

Onion transplants can be fall-planted in zones with milder winters or in colder zones, if you mulch heavily to prevent freezing. You should be home to receive your order so you can open the box right away. The onions may be a little slimy and the tops may be a little wilted, this is ok, they can live up to 3 weeks from the energy of the bulb. If you can’t plant them right away, store them in a cool location like a garage. Spread them out in a bin until you are ready to plant. Once you are ready to plant, work some compost into your soil. Trim the tops to about 3” and the roots can be trimmed a little as well. Water your transplants and mulch them to help conserve water and also to protect them over the winter. For more information, watch our video “Selecting, Ordering & Receiving Your Onion Transplants”.

Week of September 10, 2019

There are two basic types of garlic available to plant–hardneck and softneck varieties. So how do you decide which one to grow? If you live in a region with very mild winters, the softneck garlic will perform better than hardnecks. Hardneck garlic requires colder winter temperatures to make large bulbs, so plant this variety if you live in a region with very frigid winters. So now you have settled on either a hardneck or softneck, how do you choose within those groups. Well hardnecks can be mild to very, very spicy. Read the description before buying to get the flavor you desire. If you want something really mild, and you live in a mild winter region, plant some Elephant garlic. It is not even garlic but a member of the leek family, but it smells and tastes like garlic. If you are unsure about what to grow, consider ordering our Garlic Combo.

Week of September 3, 2019

Saving seeds from your favorite tomato takes a little bit of effort. Make sure you are saving seeds from fully mature, disease-free tomatoes and from a plant that is the healthiest and biggest. Tomatoes need a fermenting process that will mimic the rotting process of the fruit. Put the tomato seeds and pulp in a glass jar filled with water. Set at room temperature out of the sun for about 5 days. The mix will get a little frothy, but that is normal. Stir occasionally to help separate the seeds from the pulp and skim off any seeds that are floating, these are non-viable. After 5 days, pour off the liquid using a screen and repeat several times until you have removed all floating seeds and the good seeds are clean. Spread out in a pie tin and allow to dry. Store dried seeds in a rodent-free container in a cool dry place.

Week of August 27, 2019

Winter squash grow all summer to be harvested in the fall. The squash develops a hard skin, which allows for longer storage. Test by pressing your nail against the skin, it should not leave a dent if mature. The skin should be a full rich color and not have any soft spots. If it seems ripe but has soft spots, pick it and eat it right away, cutting away any of the area that may be soft. Another thing to look at is the stem. The stem should look kind of dry and not green. When cutting from the vine, leave about 2-3 inches of stem on the squash. If the squash pulls off the vine without the stem it may not store as long, so eat those fruits first. Store your winter squash indoors (between 55–60°F) in a single layer where they are not touching each other. This will help prevent premature rotting.

Week of August 20, 2019

Fall is just around the corner and now is the time to start veggies for a fall or early winter finish. What and when you plant will really depend on your frost date, so you can use our Planting Calculator to see what can be planted in the fall and the times to plant. Just put in your first expected frost date then click calculate. The general planting guide will give you date ranges when you can direct sow seeds. Some seeds that you can direct sow now are beets, carrots, chard, most greens, lettuce (hot regions may need to plant under some shade cloth), or peas. You can sow broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi or kale, but don’t wait, those are best sown in July to August. Later in September you can plant your radishes, turnips, onions, shallots and garlic. Have some Agribon rowcover on hand in the fall for those early unexpected cold nights.

Week of August 13, 2019

Summer is a wonderful time for eating homegrown melons, but sometimes it is hard to tell when the melon is ripe. For cantaloupes and other melons with netted rinds, the color under the netting (ground color) will change to a golden color. When ripe, the melon easily separates from the stem (slipping). They will also smell sweet and the end will be slightly soft. Honeydew melons are a little different, they don’t easily detach from the vine or develop a strong aroma. The rind will change from green to a creamy yellow. Don’t try to pull the honeydew from the vine, remove it with snips. For watermelons, look for when tendril has dried up. Also where the melon sits on the ground, this spot remains green, as melon ripens it turns a yellowish color (as long as you don’t turn the melon). Watermelons also don’t slip off the vine, they need to be cut off.

Week of August 6, 2019

Blackberries have two kinds of canes, floricanes (2nd year primocanes that bear the fruit) and primocanes (first year canes that will bear next years fruit). The primocanes grow really tall during the summer and they should be topped off between 4–5 feet or the same height as their support structure. If you are growing trailing blackberries (Olallie or Marion), do not tip prune the primocanes. Semi-erect blackberries can be tied up to the support. Thin to about 3–4 primocanes per plant, selecting the strongest, biggest canes. After the fruit has been picked the floricanes can be pruned down to the ground. Keep weeds removed around your plants and since berries have shallow root systems, it is better to pull them by hand. Keep a thick layer of mulch (straw works great) around the base of the plant to help conserve water and keep weeds down.

Week of July 30, 2019

Look for when your corn silks start to appear. Usually corn will be ready to pick about 20 days later. To pick at the peak of sweetness and flavor, harvest early in the morning when the sugar content is at its highest. Test to see if your corn is at the “milk stage” by puncturing a kernel and if the liquid is clear wait a little longer, if there is no liquid the ear is past its prime. Also look at the silks, they should have turned brown at the top with a little green near the kernels. If your stalk has produced more than one ear, it is usually the top ear that ripens first. The ear will feel full and it will lean away from the stalk. You can peel back the husk on one ear to check the kernel size. Corn is best eaten right after picking, but if you are not going to eat it right away, leave the husks on. This will help keep the corn nice and moist until you are ready to eat.

Week of July 23, 2019

Homegrown tomatoes are so much better than those grown in greenhouses or picked green and shipped to grocery stores. But if you don’t pick them at their peak, the taste may be disappointing. If allowing to vine ripen, the color should be a deep rich color (according to the variety) and the outside will give a little when touched (not too soft or not too hard). Cut your tomato from the vine to avoid damaging the plant and the fruit. Handle the tomatoes with care, they bruise easily. If picked at the breaker stage (at least some pink showing) you can store at 50-85°F on the counter until fully in color. Store it with the stem side up. Do not refrigerate, this can affect the flavor and texture of the tomato, also do not leave in a sunny window.

Week of July 16, 2019

If you see black or rotting bottoms on your tomatoes, peppers or eggplants (less common), it is most likely blossom end rot. Tomato varieties that set all of its fruit at once (determinate) are commonly affected; cherry tomatoes rarely get blossom end rot. It is caused by a calcium deficiency in your plants caused by soil deficiencies or from uneven watering (calcium is not taken up). To help prevent this, mulch around your plants to help conserve soil moisture, keep your plants evenly watered, and make sure your soil has sufficient amounts of calcium. If your soil has sufficient calcium, then no supplement is needed. Don’t over fertilize your plants with high nitrogen either. Excessive nitrogen will lead to more foliage which will reduce the amount of calcium available to the fruit. Remove the damaged fruit.

Week of July 9, 2019

July is a busy month if you planted garlic the previous fall. Once your garlic is ready to harvest, dig the bulbs up carefully with a garden fork or shovel. Remove most of the soil, being careful not to hit the bulb (it bruises easily), leaving the roots & stems. Cure out of the sun (and rain) in a place with good air circulation. Tie the garlic with twine in bunches of 6 to 12 plants. Hang the bunches in a place out of direct sun and rain. A shed or under a large tree (as long as there is no rain). Temperatures should be around 80°F and garlic should be cured for at least two weeks. Once cured, trim off the leaves (don’t cut too close to the top of the bulb) and roots, leaving about 1/2” of roots. Store in mesh bags at around 60-65°F in an area with some air circulation.

Week of July 2, 2019

Table grape vines can be pruned in June through July to thin out shoots which will open up the plant for better sunlight penetration and air circulation. This will also help in preventing powdery mildew. You want to wait and thin out your vines after your plant has set fruit and the clusters are starting to size up (size of a pea). Thin to 6-8 shoots per foot of canopy. You also want to trim the vines with fruit clusters. Trim them to leave about 15-17 leaves after the fruit cluster. Remove the suckers growing on the trunk of grape vine. Cluster thin your vines so you only have 1-2 fruit clusters per shoot. You should pick the largest clusters and remove any misshaped clusters. You can also snip off the bottom of each grape cluster, which will improve the size of the fruit.

Week of June 25, 2019

After your garlic has produced scapes (hardneck varieties) your bulbs are really starting to size up. You can start cutting back on the amount of water they are getting, but you don’t want your garlic to dry out. Once your garlic has a couple of dead bottom leaves you will want to stop watering. You can dig your garlic in a couple of weeks. If you are unsure if your hardneck garlic is ready to harvest, look for about 3-4 dried leaves at the bottom of the plant. Dig up a test bulb to see how well the bulb has sized up. If it is nice and large, you can dig up the remaining bulbs. Don’t harvest too soon or you may have small bulbs, too late and the wrappers may have broken down and your garlic may not keep as long. If this happens eat these bulbs first. Softneck garlic is a little different than hardnecks. Softnecks are ready for harvesting when the top of the plant falls over, similar to onions.

Week of June 18, 2019

Many of our favorite fruits and vegetables require pollinators. Fortunately you don’t need to keep a beehive to ensure that your fruit trees and vegetable garden produce an abundant harvest. By attracting honeybees, native bees, butterflies, moths, and other pollinators, you can help your garden and the environment at the same time! You can plant cover crops, flowers, flowering bushes, and berries. Some summer-loving cover crops include buckwheat, alfalfa, or clover. Flowers are an important food source so plant plenty of sunflowers, zinnias, coneflowers, daisies, scabiosa, Four O’Clocks, evening primrose, alyssum, yarrow, chamomile, marigolds, lavender and so many more. Also keep some water on hand for them as well. You can build a little drinking pool with a shallow pot filled with rocks and water.

Week of June 11, 2019

Now that your tomatoes are growing like weeds it it time to prune out the suckers. The advantages to pruning out the suckers on your tomatoes are increased fruit size, better air circulation which will help with disease prevention. The suckers are the stems growing out of the leaf crotch. You should remove the suckers from the bottom of the plant up to the first flower cluster. Remove them before they get too big, less than 3” long is a good rule of thumb. You will need to keep an eye on your tomato plants throughout the season and prune the suckers as they get big enough, look for new growth coming up at the ground and you want to remove the yellow or dead leaves (especially seen on the bottom of the plant). You only want to prune indeterminate varieties; determinate varieties should not get pruned, you can leave the suckers on those plants.

Week of May 28, 2019

By now your hardneck garlic is shooting up a funny looking curly stalk. Those curly-Q things are called scapes. They are a false flower stalk that starts out straight, then curls around into one or two loops then straightens again. They are produced on hardneck varieties and most people like to remove them. Removing them will direct the plants’ energy into making a larger bulb. But don’t just throw them into your compost pile–scapes are very delicious to eat and are milder than the garlic cloves. Allow them to grow down into a single loop (the longer they grow the tougher then get), cut them off and take them to the kitchen. You can steam them, saute them in olive oil or butter, pickle them, freeze them for later use, or if you don’t want to eat them, toss them in your compost pile.

Week of May 21, 2019

Throw your plants a compost tea party this spring! Compost tea can be applied as a foliar or soil drench. It is easy to make with just a few components and can be customized to your plants' needs. Compost tea takes all the goodness from your compost and makes it even better. We have a great video showing you step-by-step on how to make it. There are so many versions of compost tea recipes but you can “brew” your own version. The basic components of compost tea include water, compost (or you can use arctic humus or worm castings) and a tea catalyst. Additions can be made to your tea–liquid kelp or maxicrop (a kelp extract), liquid fish or water soluble bat guano are great to supplement your compost tea. You can customize your brew according to the stage of growth your plants are in (growing, blooming or fruiting).

Week of May 14, 2019

If you are just setting up your drip irrigation system for your garden or yard, there are quite a few things to consider when choosing the type of irrigation you want to use. Drip systems can be made up of either drip tape, emitterline, soaker hose, drip emitters or a combination. If you are watering straight, flat rows then drip tape is a good choice. Unless you have a low pressure system, you will need to put a pressure reducer on your drip tape system. If your property has a slope, then you may want to use emitterline (works best with higher pressure). Soaker hose is great if you want to wind it around your landscape plants (not sharp curves). Drip emitters can be plugged right into your 1/2” poly or attached to 1/4” poly and run to your plants. There are so many options with drip irrigation, check out our selection to choose the right system for you.

Week of May 7, 2019

“Hardening off” is the process of acclimating your pampered vegetable starts to the outdoors. The process should be gradual and can take place over a weeks time. Take your starts outdoors and introduce them to an hour of sunlight (morning sun is best) and increase the time by an hour each day. By the end of the week they will be have been exposed to 7 hours of continuous sunlight and are ready to go into their permanent location. Avoid putting them out on windy days and when temps are going to be below 45°F. It is also important to slowly decrease the amount of water they are getting, but not to the point that they will wilt. Do not fertilize your seedlings during the process as well. You want to slow down their growth rate a bit during the hardening off process.

Week of April 30, 2019

Spring is a great time to start planting (zones 7 and up) in the garden but the weather can be very unpredictable so you don’t want to jump into direct seeding your warm weather seeds until conditions are right. Two important tools to have on hand in the spring is a soil thermometer and some floating row cover for the cold temperatures that warm-season seedlings do not favor. Most common warm season seeds that are direct seeded are beans, corn, squash and melons. In general, if the soil is 70°F, these seeds will germinate. If you soil has not warmed up enough, you can put down a plastic mulch to speed up warming the soil. Watch the nighttime temperature as well. If it is forecast to dip below 45°F, then you will want to cover your seedlings with a floating row cover such as Agribon AG19. This will give just enough protection for the tender seedlings.

Week of April 23, 2019

Spring is here and so are the flies. When controlling flies, it is important to control the larvae (maggots) and the adults. To control the larvae, fly parasites are the answer. If you have livestock, the fly parasites should be released every 2 weeks throughout the season. A monthly or weekly shipping can easily be set up for you in our Order Department so you don’t miss releasing the parasites on a regular schedule. Release them near a fly breeding site, like a chicken coop or stable. Adult flies can be caught with traps. Most traps use a smelly bait to lure the flies into the trap, then they can’t figure out how to get back out. You can use the Peaceful Valley Fly Bait or make your own. Place the traps in the sun and near your livestock.

Week of April 16, 2019

Who doesn’t like fresh potatoes from the garden? Here is an easy way to grow them in a SmartPot (large one about 30-40 gallons). You can pre-sprout your potatoes by putting them into a paper bag with an apple or onion, but this is optional. First of all cut up your large potatoes into pieces with about 2 eyes, set them out to air dry overnight; this helps prevent rot. The soil should be about 40°F, if not, wait until it is warm enough. Put down a 12” layer of sticks on the bottom, then add alternate layers of 2-4” of compost, blood meal and bone meal, with the last layer being the compost. Layers should be about 10” deep. Put your potato pieces on the compost at 8-10” apart, cover with 2-4” of compost, then add thick layer of straw on top (especially if in cold zones). Keep watered over the season.

Week of April 9, 2019

Codling moths can ruin your apples, pears or walnuts and who wants that? Codling moths will start emerging, (depending on your temperatures) in March or April. A good way to monitor for their activity is to put out a trap with a codling moth lure. The male moths will be attracted to the pheromone in the lure and get trapped in the sticky substance on the inside of the trap. If your populations are low, then the sticky traps may be enough to disrupt the mating process. If the infestation is heavy then you will want to use a combination of monitoring traps and insecticides that are labeled for codling moths. Another solution is to apply a barrier around your developing fruit so the codling moth larva cannot penetrate such as our Maggot Barriers. For more information, check out our video on Controlling Codling Moths.

Week of April 2, 2019

If you planted a soil building cover crop in the fall and about half of the plants (the peas and vetch) are blooming, it is time to cut it down. The easiest and fastest way to incorporate all of the goodness of the cover crop is to cut it with a weed eater or mower, apply a product to speed up decomposition like our Biodynamic Field Spray (ISO200), and turn it under with either a rototiller or garden fork. If you don’t add the Field Spray, then the cover crop should be allowed to decompose for about 3 to 6 weeks before planting your next crop. It’s important to wait because your cover crop will be decomposing and during this decomposition process you will temporarily lock up some of the nitrogen in the soil. If you don’t want to wait, the plant material that you cut down can be added to your compost pile to decompose.

Week of March 26, 2019

Wildflowers can be planted in the fall or spring. If you live in regions with harsh winters, it is better to wait until the spring to plant. Areas with mild winters, you can plant wildflowers in the fall or spring (before the end of the rain). Wildflowers will grow just fine in native soil, so no need to fertilize or amend. Unless specifically buying a shade-loving mix, wildflowers like full sun. But they don’t like soggy, wet feet, so a good draining location is a must. Make sure all of the weeds are removed from the area you will planting the seeds. Many wildflower seeds are very small so it is best to mix with an inert material like sand (not sea sand) or vermiculite in a 1:10 ratio and add to a seed spreader to broadcast. After seeding wildflowers, roll area to get good seed-soil contact , or you can press down with a piece of plywood.

Week of March 19, 2019

Getting your soil tested is a great idea and it all starts with taking a good sample. First of all start with a clean trowel; don’t use ones made of brass or soft steel and never use your hands. Have a clean plastic bucket or pail to use, don’t use galvanized steel or rubber. Do not sample your soil if it is wetter than you would want for tilling. Take about 10–12 subsamples in your garden soil or raised beds to get a good composite of your soil. Clear away any debris or organic material from the top of the soil. Dig down about 6” or as deep as you are planning to cultivate. Dry soil should be submitted for analysis, so if your soil is too wet, spread out on a newspaper and allow to air dry (and out of direct sunlight). Watch our video on How to Take a Good Soil Sample for Soil Testing for more information.

Week of March 12, 2019

Growing your veggie garden from seed is a great way to grow a more diverse selection of plants. Now that your seedlings have germinated, what should you do now? Make sure that they stay warm enough, especially if they are tender summer annuals like peppers or eggplant. Another thing to consider is light–make sure they have a good light source either natural light or artificial grow lights. If you have planted multiple seeds in one cell, you can thin out the weaker seedlings using snips. Once the seedlings have their first set of true leaves, you can start fertilizing with a weak solution (1/4 strength) of a liquid fertilizer, like our Liquid Fish or Liquid Grow, combined with a kelp solution (also diluted 1/4-1/2 strength). Once the seedlings start to outgrow their original container, move up into a larger pot.

Week of March 5, 2019

Weed Flamers are great to use during the winter and spring months, when weeds are still relatively small. The flamer will actually heat up the plant and cause the cells to burst. When using the flamer you will hear kind of a crackling sound; that is the plants’ cells bursting. On larger weeds, you might need to flame the weeds a couple of times to kill the plant. You never want to use the flamer during dry times and always have a hose set up when using the flamer. Becareful of irrigation lines hidden by the weeds; the flamer will melt poly tubing very fast! Organic herbicides are also great to use but are most effective when weeds are small and applied during a sunny day. They are not selective so apply only on wind-free days. These herbicides also do not translocate (go into the roots) so they will only kill the top portion of the plant.

February 26, 2019

Winter is a good time to prune your established grape vines. Grapes can be spur or cane pruned, depending on the variety. Cane pruning promotes the highest yield for most table grapes. Select a total of about 4 canes that come off close to the trunk and remove the rest (but not before you select your renewal canes). The canes that you are keeping should have at least 15 buds and be about pencil size. These canes will be your fruiting canes. Cut the fruiting cane back to about 15 buds and and remove any laterals. For every fruiting cane you keep, you should also keep one renewal spur. The renewal spurs will produce next years fruiting canes. The renewal spurs are short and should be cut back to about 2 buds. The other method of pruning grapes is spur pruning. Watch our video to learn more about spur and cane pruning.

Week of February 19, 2019

Planting bare root strawberry plants is easy and the most economical way to go. If you are planting Day Neutral and Everbearing plants the best way to plant those is with the Hill Method. The plants are put closer together (1 foot apart), since they don’t put out as many runners as the June-bearing strawberries. June-bearers should be planted farther apart (2 feet) in the Matted Row Method. Don’t plant too deep or too shallow. Set the plant in well-drained soil so the roots are just covered. Don’t cover the crown, this will cause the plant to rot. Make sure to plant where they will get at least 8 hours of full sun. If they don’t get enough sun, they will make lots of leaves but not much fruit. Check out our video on Growing Strawberries for more information.

Week of February 12, 2019

Grapes are a great addition to the edible landscape. They can be planted by an arbor and used as shade or planted along a fence and used as a border. Grapes will grow in zones 6-10 and are pretty easy to grow. Site selection is important, choose a location with full sun and a southern exposure. The soil should have moderate fertility, with a pH of 5.5–7. Soak the roots in water for a couple of hours before planting. Plant at the same level that they were planted in the nursery. The first season you want to allow your grapes to grow and establish a good root system. About the third season you can start to spur prune or cane prune. Watch our Planting Grapes video for more helpful information to successfully grow grapes for eating or wine-making.

Week of February 5, 2019

If you are unsure of when to start your seeds indoors or when to direct seed, try our Seed Planting Calculator. Go to the top of our site and click Blog, that will take you to our Organic Gardening Resource Center. To the right of the page, click on Find Your Dates. This will take you to the Seed Planting Calculator. The calculator will determine spring or fall planting times based on either your last or first frost of the season. If you are unsure of your frost dates click on the link and put in your state. It will bring up a chart of counties. Find the county or city closest to you. Planting dates are given for Spring Planting dates and are estimates only. For more information about soil temperature and seed starting, check the back of your seed packs.

Week of January 29, 2019

Figs can be tricky to get established, especially in very cold regions (zone 6 and colder), however, some figs can be planted in containers and brought into a protected area when temperatures drop below freezing. Not all varieties are appropriate for container growing, however, there are a few varieties that do well in containers. The Brown Turkey fig, Violette de Bordeaux fig and the Black Jack fig are varieties that are container compatible. The container should have drainage holes and of sufficient size to allow for growth; at least a 7–10 gallon pot is suggested for planting your new fig. After a few years, move the fig up into a larger pot (a wheeled pot stand makes moving much easier).

Week of January 15, 2019

Raspberries are easy to grow and make a great hedge along a fence. When choosing a location to plant, select an area as far away from any wild blackberries (at least 300 feet), and the soil should be well-drained. If your soil is poorly draining, amend with some compost or plant in a raised area. If you don’t plan on planting against a fence, a support structure should be put up to support the plants from falling to the ground. Space your raspberries about 2-3 feet apart and plant at the same level they were planted in the nursery. Mulch around the plants to control weeds and protect from winter injury. Raspberries will put out new shoots (primocanes) the first year and bear fruit the second year on those canes (floricanes).

Week of January 8, 2019

Bare root trees are shipping out to their new homes and they need to be cared for upon arrival. Take the trees out of the box and inspect them for any damage at the graft, some broken branches are fine, they will regrow quickly in the spring. If you can’t plant your tree in the ground right away, they should be heeled in to protect the roots until planting time. This can be done outside if the ground is not frozen, or if it is, put them in the garage, covered with loose soil, compost or wood shavings (but not cedar, redwood or rice hulls). Keep the roots moist but not soaking wet. Plant your tree as soon as you can and definitely before it breaks dormancy in the spring (leafing out and blooming).

Week of January 1, 2019

It is bare root tree season and here are some essential steps to take when planting your new bare-root tree: When you are ready to plant, soak your tree’s roots in water for a few hours (no more than 24 hours); dig a hole that is saucer shaped (wider than deep); the graft union should be about 2–3” above the ground; if planting a multi-graft tree, position the smallest graft (scion) to the south; amend the soil with compost if the native soil is heavy clay soil or has poor drainage; backfill the soil and gently tamp down; water thoroughly. To help prevent sun scald you can add a tree wrap around the base of the tree. If you can’t plant your tree yet due to frozen ground, heel them in inside a garage or shed, and place in moist soil, compost or wood shavings (no cedar, redwood or rice hulls).

Week of December 18, 2018

Blackberries have three possible growth habits—erect, semi-erect or trailing. The way to train and prune them will depend on the type. If you did not top the new canes during the late summer, you should prune them to about 5’. Dormant pruning of erect blackberries entails removing dead canes and cutting back laterals to 12–18”. Semi-erect blackberries should be thinned to 5 to 8 of the strongest canes, shorten the laterals to 12–18” and remove any growing on the lower 3’ section of the main canes. Tie to a fence or trellis to provide support. Trailing blackberries are less cold tolerant and in cold regions the canes can be left on the ground and protected with rowcover or mulch over the winter. In spring the canes can be lifted and tied to a trellis at 3’ and 6’.

Week of December 11, 2018

Fruit trees should be pruned from the time they are planted. Early pruning will shape the tree into a desirable structure and will encourage better fruit production and less broken branches later in life. There are three types of pruning systems, Central Leader, Vase or Open Center and Modified Central Leader. The type of tree will dictate the pruning system chosen. Central Leader is best for apples, pears, persimmons and pecans. Apples, pears, peaches and nectarines can be pruned during the winter, but wait until summer to prune apricots, cherries and pluots. Do not prune when rain is forcast–you want dry weather for the cuts to heal over. Make sure your pruners are clean and sharp. Clean up leaves and dropped fruit on the ground to decrease potential overwintering spots for pests and disease.

Week of November 27, 2018

In addition to good orchard sanitation (picking up rotten fruit and raking leaves), applying dormant sprays in the fall and winter is a great way to reduce overwintering pests & diseases in the home orchard. Dormant oils are applied when trees have dropped their leaves and are dormant. The oils can be applied when daytime temperatures are over 35-40°F. Dormant oils control aphids, scale, spider mites and many other insects by smothering eggs and larvae. To control diseases such as peach leaf curl, a fungicide is applied multiple times throughout the dormant season. An easy way to remember when to apply the fungicide is after leaf drop, New Years day (or around that time) and a final treatment on Valentine’s Day (before buds have broken or blossoming).

Week of November 20, 2018

Garlic plants can withstand cold weather as long as they are not exposed to a sudden drop of freezing temperatures. To help protect garlic from sudden drops in temperatures, apply a thick layer of mulch such as straw mulch (seed-free)—a minimum of 4 inches is recommended, and thicker in regions with harsh winters. In the spring the mulch can be pulled back to allow the soil to warm up faster and also helps avoid excess moisture, which can cause rot. Another benefit to mulching is weed control. Garlic does not like to compete with weeds and it will suffer if weeds are not removed.

Week of November 13, 2018

Perennial vegetables like artichokes and asparagus need protection over the winter to help survive freezing temperatures. Artichokes are hardy down to zone 6, but they do need care before the cold winter temperatures set in. Cut back last years flower stocks to about 6” and tie up the remaining leaves with a piece of twine. Apply a thick layer of compost around the base of the plant and top off with about 8 inches of straw or leaves. Asparagus is hardy down to zone 4 and needs a little care in the fall. When the ferns start to turn yellow to brown, or after the first frost, cut them back to about 2 inch stubs. This will help cut down on disease setting in over the winter. Apply about 2–3” of compost around the remaining plants and cover with a mulch such as rice straw to a depth of about 4–6”.

Week of November 6, 2018

Your composting redworms will tolerate temperatures between 45-80°F, but they do their best work between 55-75°F. If your winters are very cold (< 40°F) then your redworms will not survive if in an outside bin. To keep your worm bin going over the winter, consider moving your worm bin indoors or insulate it to keep your worms from freezing. Also keep an eye on the moisture levels and keep the bottom reservoir drained. If you can’t bring your worm bin indoors, consider insulating it with straw bales, rigid insulation, or adding a small seed starting heat mat can help keep your worms toasty warm. Redworms will not break down scraps as fast during the winter so you may need to back off on how many scraps you feed them and to cut up your scraps into smaller pieces, it will help your worms out.

Week of October 30, 2018

Freezing temperatures are just around the corner for some gardens. If you have flowering summer plants in your landscape, continue reading. Some beautiful summer plants like dahlia, gladiolus, tuberous begonia, canna, calla lily, and Elephant Ear are actually either subtropical or tropical plants. Their bulbs, corms, rhizomes or tubers will not survive if your ground freezes and they should be lifted before that happens. These can be dug up after the plant is killed by frost or after the foliage has dried up. After curing, place in sphagnum peat or vermiculite and store in a cool (45–50°F), dry location over the winter. Monitor over the winter and remove any rotting pieces. You could also transfer to soil in a pot and move into a greenhouse or shed, but do not allow soil to freeze.

Week of October 23, 2018

Cooler weather is here to stay, but what about the green tomatoes still on the vine. Not to worry, you can ripen them and maybe even try your hand at fried green tomatoes! Fruits stop ripening when temps drop below 50°F, so if you are still warmer than that during the day, leave the fruit on the vine as long as possible. Remove any flowers & small fruit, and decrease the watering. Once daytime temps are consistently below 50°F and before the first frost, harvest all of the fruit. Place it in a single layer in a box lined with newspaper, and store between 55-70°F. To speed up the ripening process, add a couple of apples to the box. Check weekly for ripened tomatoes and remove any rotted fruit. If some just don’t seem to be changing color at all, try some fried green tomatoes. Check out the recipe we have posted (under Entrées) for all the details.

Week of October 16, 2018

October is still a good time to plant garlic in your garden. Garlic is easy to grow but follow some simple steps to make sure you will get the biggest bulbs the following summer. First is to select the variety that is right for your growing region. Hardneck garlic makes the biggest bulbs if grown in colder winter regions. Softnecks are more suited to mild winter climates. Another tip is to plant the biggest cloves, they will produce the biggest bulbs. Don’t toss out the smaller cloves–grow them to use as garlic scallions. Next, don’t plant them too close together, give them at least 6” between cloves. Gophers love garlic, so use gopher baskets or gopher wire to protect from hungry pests. Keep your garlic bed well weeded, garlic does not like to compete with other plants. Add a layer of mulch to your garlic bed and you’re done!

Week of October 9, 2018

Leeks are a wonderful addition to the fall garden. They are not dependent on day-length like onions and can withstand some cold temperatures (down to 20°F). Leeks do best in well-draining soils with a pH of around 6.5. Start with a trench or a hole about 6” deep and plant them 2-6” apart. Leeks send their leaves up exactly opposite one another, so position the plants so the leaves face into the rows. As the leeks grow, you can continue to fill in the trench and hill up with soil to get the sweet and tender white stems. You can harvest your leeks when they are about 1” thick. Keep your leeks well weeded as they do not do well with competition. If you live in an area with very harsh winters (ground freezes) it will be better to plant your leeks in the spring once the ground can be worked; mild winter climates can grow leeks over the winter.

Week of October 2, 2018

Onion transplants can be fall-planted in zones with milder winters. If you live in zones with harsh winters, transplants should be planted in the spring. You should be home to receive your order so you can open the box right away. The onions may be a little slimy and the tops may be a little wilted, this is ok, they can live up to 3 weeks from the energy of the bulb. If you can’t plant them right away, store them in a cool location like a garage. Spread them out in a bin until you are ready to plant. Once you are ready to plant, work some compost into your soil. Trim the tops to about 3” and the roots can be trimmed a little as well. Water your transplants and mulch them to help conserve water and also to protect them over the winter. For more information, watch our video “Selecting Onions, Ordering & Receiving Your Onion Transplants”.

Week of September 25, 2018

Whether you are growing vegetables on a large scale or as a home gardener, planting cover crops is a good thing to do for your soil’s health. Cover crops not only increases microbial activity, but helps prevent soil erosion, increases water infiltration, provides weed competition and if your mix includes legumes, it will add nitrogen to the soil. Cover crop seeds can be easily broadcast, raked in and covered with a thin layer of compost or a mulch like straw. Cool-season seeds can be planted in the fall and allowed to grow over the winter and turned under in the spring. The seeds will need to be watered until the fall rains arrive and allowed to establish before freezing temperatures arrive. Read our full article for more information on the benefits of planting a cover crop and how to plant it in the fall.

Week of September 18, 2018

Saving seeds from your favorite tomato takes a little bit of effort. Make sure you are saving seeds from fully mature, disease-free tomatoes and from a plant that is the healthiest and biggest. Tomatoes need a fermenting process that will mimic the rotting process of the fruit. Put the tomato seeds and pulp in a glass jar filled with water. Set at room temperature out of the sun for about 5 days. The mix will get a little frothy, but that is normal. Stir occasionally to help separate the seeds from the pulp and skim off any seeds that are floating, these are non-viable. After 5 days, pour off the liquid using a screen and repeat several times until you have removed all floating seeds and the good seeds are clean. Spread out in a pie tin and allow to dry. Store dried seeds in a rodent-free container in a cool dry place.

Week of September 11, 2018

Wildflowers can be planted in the fall or spring. If you live in regions with harsh winters, it is better to wait until the spring to plant. Areas with mild winters, plant wildflowers in the fall or spring (before the end of the rain). Unless specifically buying a shade-loving mix, wildflowers like full sun in a good draining location. In the area that you want to plant, disturb the ground then irrigate. This will get those nasty weed seeds to germinate. Weed the area using a hoe or small tiller and you may want to repeat one more time. Once you have had your first hard frost, time to plant your wildflower seeds. Many wildflower seeds are very small so it is best to mix with an inert material like sand (not sea sand) or vermiculite in a 1:10 ratio and add to a seed spreader to broadcast.

Week of September 4, 2018

Fall is just around the corner and now is the time to think about planting a cover crop to enrich the soil. A great mix is the PVFS Soil Builder cover crop which contains a mix of Bell Beans, BioMaster Peas, Dunsdale Peas, Purple Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Common Vetch and Cayuse Oats. The legumes in the mix “fix” nitrogen in the soil but they can’t do it without the proper strain of rhizobia bacteria (inoculant). Raw cover crop seeds must be inoculated with the proper strain of rhizobia bacteria. All our cover crop seeds list the recommended inoculant to buy for the “raw” seed. If the seed says “nitrocoated” then the inoculant is already coated around the seed and no further inoculation is needed. The Premium Soil Builder mix is a raw seed and can be inoculated with either the Pea Vetch or Garden Combination Inoculant.

Week of August 28, 2018

Winter squash develops a hard skin, which allows for longer storage. Test by pressing your nail against the skin, it should not leave a dent if mature. The skin should be a full rich color and not have any soft spots. If it seems ripe but has soft spots, pick it and eat it right away, cutting away any of the area that may be soft. Another thing to look at is the stem. The stem should look kind of dry and not green. When cutting from the vine, leave about 2-3 inches of stem on the squash. If the squash pulls off the vine without the stem it may not store as long, so eat those fruits first. Store your winter squash indoors (between 55–60°F) in a single layer where they are not touching each other. This will help prevent premature rotting.

Week of August 21, 2018

Blackberries have two kinds of canes floricanes (2nd year primocanes that bear the fruit) and primocanes (first year canes that will bear next years fruit). The primocanes grow really tall and they should be topped off between 4–5 feet or the same height as their support structure. If you are growing trailing blackberries (Olallie or Marion), do not tip prune the primocanes. Semi-erect blackberries can be tied up to the support. Thin to about 3–4 primocanes per plant, selecting the strongest, biggest canes. After the fruit has been picked the floricanes can be pruned down to the ground. Keep weeds removed around your plants and since berries have shallow root systems, it is better to pull them by hand. Keep a thick layer of mulch (straw works great) around the base of the plant to help conserve water and keep weeds down.

Week of August 14, 2018

Fall is just around the corner and now is the time to start veggies for a fall or early winter finish. You can use our Planting Calculator to see what can be planted in the fall and the times to plant. Just put in your first expected frost date then click calculate. The general planting guide will give you date ranges when you can direct sow seeds. Some seeds that you can direct sow now are beets, carrots, chard, most greens, lettuce (hot regions may need to plant under some shade cloth), or peas. You can sow broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi or kale, but don’t wait, those are best sown in July. Later in September you can plant your radishes, turnips, onions, shallots and garlic. Have some Agribon rowcover on hand in the fall for those early unexpected cold nights.

Week of August 7, 2018

Nothing says summer like sweet corn on the BBQ. But how is the best way to tell when your sweet corn might be ready to harvest? To pick at the peak of sweetness and flavor, harvest early in the morning when the sugar content is at its highest. There are a couple of signals that your corn is ready to pick. First is the look and feel of the silks– silks should have turned brown and are dry to the touch. If your stalk has produced more than one ear, it is usually the top ear that ripens first. The ear will feel full and it will lean away from the stalk. You can peel back the husk on one ear to check the kernel size. Corn is best eaten right after picking, but if you are not going to eat it right away, leave the husks on. This will help keep the corn nice and moist until you are ready to eat.

Week of July 31, 2018

Summer is a wonderful time for eating homegrown melons, but sometimes it is hard to tell when the melon is ripe. For cantaloupes and other melons with netted rinds, the color under the netting (ground color) will change to a golden color. When ripe, the melon easily separates from the stem (slipping). They will also smell sweet and the end will be slightly soft. Honeydew melons are a little different, they don’t easily detach from the vine or develop a strong aroma. The rind will change from green to a creamy yellow. Don’t try to pull the honeydew from the vine, remove it with snips. For watermelons, look for when tendril has dried up. Also where the melon sits on the ground, this spot remains green, as melon ripens it turns a yellowish color (as long as you don’t turn the melon). Watermelons also don’t slip off the vine, they need to be cut off.

Week of July 24, 2018

Homegrown tomatoes are so much better than those grown in greenhouses or picked green and shipped to grocery stores. But if you don’t pick them at their peak, the taste may be disappointing. If allowing to vine ripen, the color should be a deep rich color (according to the variety) and the outside will give a little when touched (not too soft or not too hard). Cut your tomato from the vine to avoid damaging the plant and the fruit. Handle the tomatoes with care, they bruise easily. If picked at the breaker stage (at least some pink showing) you can store at 50-85°F on the counter until fully in color. Store it with the stem side up. Do not refrigerate, this can affect the flavor and texture of the tomato, also do not leave in a sunny window.

Week of July 17, 2018

July is a busy month if you planted garlic the previous fall. Once your garlic is ready to harvest, dig the bulbs up carefully with a garden fork or shovel. Remove most of the soil, being careful not to hit the bulb (it bruises easily), leaving the roots & stems. Cure out of the sun (and rain) in a place with good air circulation. Tie the garlic with twine in bunches of 6 to 12 plants. Hang the bunches in a place out of direct sun and rain. A shed or under a large tree (as long as there is no rain). Temperatures should be around 80°F and garlic should be cured for at least two weeks. Once cured, trim off the leaves (don’t cut too close to the top of the bulb) and roots, leaving about 1/2” of roots. Store in mesh bags at around 60-65°F in an area with some air circulation.

Week of July 10, 2018

If you see black or rotting bottoms on your tomatoes, peppers or eggplants (less common), it is most likely blossom end rot. Tomato varieties that set all of its fruit at once (determinate) are commonly affected; cherry tomatoes rarely get blossom end rot. It is caused by a calcium deficiency in your plants caused by soil deficiencies or from uneven watering (calcium is not taken up). Mulch around your plants to help conserve the moisture and remove affected fruit. If your soil has sufficient calcium, then no supplement is needed. Deep cultivation can damage roots which in turn may impair nutrient and water uptake. Don’t over fertilize your plants with high nitrogen either. Excessive nitrogen will lead to more foliage which will reduce the amount of calcium available to the fruit.

Week of July 3, 2018

Table grape vines can be pruned in June through July to thin out shoots which will open up the plant for better sunlight penetration and air circulation. This will also help in preventing powdery mildew. You want to wait and thin out your vines after your plant has set fruit and the clusters are starting to size up (size of a pea). Thin to 6-8 shoots per foot of canopy. You also want to trim the vines with fruit clusters. Trim them about two to three nodes after the fruit cluster. Remove the suckers growing on the trunk of grape vine. Cluster thin your vines so you only have one fruit cluster per shoot. You should pick the largest cluster and remove any misshaped clusters. You can also snip off the bottom of each grape cluster, which will improve the size of the fruit.

Week of June 26, 2018

After your garlic has produced scapes (hardneck varieties) your bulbs are really starting to size up. You can start cutting back on the amount of water they are getting, but you don’t want your garlic to dry out. In the first part of July you will want to stop watering. If you are unsure if your hardneck garlic is ready to harvest, look for about 3 to 4 dried leaves at the bottom of the plant. Dig up a test bulb to see how well the bulb has sized up. If it is nice and large, you can dig up the remaining bulbs. Don’t harvest too soon or you may have small bulbs, too late and the wrappers may have broken down and your garlic may not keep as long. Softneck garlic is a little different than hardnecks. Softnecks are ready for harvesting when the top of the plant falls over, similar to onions.

Week of June 19, 2018

Now that Mother Nature has turned up the heat, your summer garden is loving it but your cool-weather plants like peas and lettuce are not so happy. One thing that can benefit both is installing some shade cloth. There are different shade cloth percentages available and a good rule of thumb is to install 30% shade cloth for plants that love the heat; cool-weather plants like lettuce, greens and broccoli, use 47% shade cloth in hot climates. Placement is also important. Install it on the west side of your garden beds to shade your plants during the hottest part of the day. You can also use shade cloth over greenhouses to keep them cooler in the summer. 50-60% shade cloth can be installed over shade-loving plants and 80% over patios to cool down your outdoor living space.

Week of June 12, 2018

Now that your tomatoes are growing like weeds it it time to prune out the suckers. The advantages to pruning out the suckers on your tomatoes are increased fruit size, better air circulation which will help with disease prevention. The suckers are the stems growing out of the leaf crotch. You should remove the suckers from the bottom of the plant up to the first flower cluster. Remove them before they get too big, less than 3” long is a good rule of thumb. You will need to keep an eye on your tomato plants throughout the season and prune the suckers as they get big enough and you want to remove the yellow or dead leaves (especially seen on the bottom of the plant). You only want to prune indeterminate varieties; determinate varieties should not get pruned, you can leave the suckers on those plants.

Week of June 5, 2018

The removal of fruit may seem counterintuitive, but it will actually give you a better crop and will help prevent biennial bearing (producing fruit every other year). Thinning will help prevent limb damage, improve size of the remaining fruit and discourage early fruit drop. June is a good time to thin out your fruit set on your apples, pears and stone fruit. Thin the fruit in the clusters and thin between the fruit. For apples or pears, thin to 1-2 fruit per cluster, nectarines and peaches can be thinned to one fruit every six inches. Pick up any aborted fruit on the ground and if there are no signs of disease, you can add it to your compost pile or worm bin or your chickens might enjoy a fruit salad.

Week of May 29, 2018

Those curly-Q things are called scapes. They are a false flower stalk that starts out straight, then curls around into one or two loops then straightens again. They are produced on hardneck varieties and most people like to remove them. Removing them will direct the plants’ energy into making a larger bulb. But don’t just throw them into your compost pile–scapes are very delicious to eat and are milder than the garlic cloves. Allow them to grow down into a single loop (longer they grow the tougher then get), cut them off and take them to the kitchen. You can steam them, saute them, pickle them, freeze them for later use, or if you don’t want to eat them, add them to your compost pile.

Week of May 22, 2018

Throw your plants a compost tea party this spring ! Compost tea can be applied as a foliar spray or soil drench. It is easy to make at home with just a few components and can be customized to your plants' needs. Compost tea takes all the goodness from your compost and makes it even better. Compost tea is easy to make and we have a great video showing you step by step how to make it. There are so many versions of compost tea recipes but you can “brew” your own version. The basic components of compost tea include water, compost (or you can use arctic humus or worm castings) and a tea catalyst. Additions can be made to your tea–liquid kelp or maxicrop, liquid fish or water soluble bat guano are great to supplement your compost tea. Any method you use, your plants will love it!

Week of May 15, 2018

If you are just setting up your drip irrigation system for your garden or yard, there are quite a few things to consider when choosing the type of irrigation you want to use. Drip systems can be made up of either drip tape, emitterline, soaker hose, drip emitters or a combination. If you are watering straight, flat rows then drip tape is a good choice. Unless you have a low flow system, you will need to put a pressure reducer on your drip tape system. If your property has a slope, then you may want to use emitterline. Soaker hose is great if you want to wind it around your landscape plants (not sharp curves). Drip emitters can be plugged right into your 1/2” poly or attached to 1/4” poly and run to your plants. There are so many options with drip irrigation, check out our selection to choose the right system for you.

Week of May 8, 2018

Vegetable seeds like beans and corn are best planted directly in the ground when the soil has warmed enough to favor germination. But the new sprouts are vulnerable to pests like birds. They will pluck the newly sprouted seed right out of the ground. Protect your sprouts with bird netting or lightweight floating rowcover, like Agribon AG-15 or AG-19. If you have hoops over your raised beds, you can drape the bird netting over the structure. If you are not planting in raised beds, you can use a Loop Hoop or purchase our heavy weight wire for making hoops. The light weight floating row cover can be laid directly on the seedlings. Leave it on until the sprouts are big enough so birds will not bother them.

Week of May 1, 2018

“Hardening off” is the process of acclimating your pampered vegetable starts to the outdoors. The process should be gradual and can take place over a weeks time. Take your starts outdoors and introduce them to an hour of sunlight (morning sun is best) and increase the time by an hour each day. By the end of the week they will be have been exposed to 7 hours of continuous sunlight and are ready to go into their permanent location. Avoid putting them out on windy days and when temps are going to be below 45°F. It is also important to slowly decrease the amount of water they are getting, but not to the point that they will wilt. Do not fertilize your seedlings during the process as well. You want to slow down their growth rate a bit during the hardening off process.

Week of April 24, 2018

Spring is here and so are the flies. When controlling flies, it is important to control the larvae (maggots) and the adults. To control the larvae, fly parasites are the answer. If you have livestock, the fly parasites should be released every 2 weeks throughout the season. A monthly or weekly shipping can easily be set up for you in our Order Department so you don’t miss releasing the parasites on a regular schedule. Release them near a fly breeding site. Adult flies can be caught with traps. Most traps use a smelly bait to lure the flies into the trap, then they can’t figure out how to get back out. The best fly control approach, especially if you have livestock, is to use a combination of traps and fly parasites.

Week of April 17, 2018

Spring is a great time to start planting (zones 7 and up) in the garden but the weather can be very unpredictable so you don’t want to jump into direct seeding your warm weather seeds until conditions are right. Two important tools to have on hand in the spring is a soil thermometer and some floating row cover for the cold temperatures that warm-season seedlings do not favor. Most common warm season seeds that are direct seeded are beans, corn, squash and melons. In general, if the soil is 70°F, these seeds will germinate. If you soil has not warmed up enough, you can put down a plastic mulch to speed up warming the soil. Watch the nighttime temperature as well. If it is forecast to dip below 45°F, then you will want to cover your seedlings with a floating row cover such as Agribon.

Week of April 10, 2018

Who doesn’t like fresh potatoes from the garden? Here is an easy way to grow them in a GeoBin or SmartPot (large one about 30-40 gallons). First of all cut up your large potatoes into pieces with about 2 eyes, set them out to air dry overnight; this helps prevent rot. The soil should be about 40°F, if not wait until it is warm enough. Set up a GeoBin to about a 3’ diameter and put gopher wire on the bottom. Put down a 12” layer of sticks on top of the wire, then add alternate layers of 2-4” of compost, blood meal and bone meal, with the last layer being the compost. Layers should be about 10” deep. Put your potato pieces on the compost at 8-10” apart, cover with 2-4” of compost, then add thick layer of straw on top (especially if in cold zones). Keep watered over the season.

Week of April 3, 2018

Codling moths can ruin your apples, pears or walnuts and who wants that? Codling moths will start emerging, depending on your temperatures, in March or April. A good way to monitor for their activity is to put out a trap with a codling moth lure. The male moths will be attracted to the pheromone in the lure and get trapped in the sticky substance on the inside of the trap. If your populations are low, then the sticky traps may be enough to disrupt the mating process. If the infestation is heavy then you will want to use a combination of monitoring traps and insecticides that are labeled for codling moths. Another solution is to apply a barrier around your developing fruit so the codling moth larva cannot penetrate. For more information check out our video on Controlling Codling Moths Organically.

Week of March 27, 2018

Wildflowers can be planted in the fall or spring. If you live in regions with harsh winters, it is better to wait until the spring to plant. Areas with mild winters can plant wildflowers in the fall or spring (before the end of the rain). Wildflowers will grow just fine in native soil, so no need to fertilize. Unless specifically buying a shade-loving mix, wildflowers like full sun. But they don’t like soggy, wet feet, so a good draining location is a must. Many wildflower seeds are very small so it is best to mix with an inert material like sand (not sea sand) or vermiculite in a 1:10 ratio and add to a seed spreader to broadcast. Plant some wildflowers for your hard-working pollinators and to add beauty to your yard.

Week of March 20, 2018

If you planted a soil building cover crop in the fall and about half of the plants (the peas and vetch) are blooming, it is time to cut it down. The easiest and fastest way to incorporate all of the goodness of the cover crop is to cut it with a weed eater or mower, apply a product to speed up decomposition like our Biodynamic Field Spray (ISO200), and turn it under with either a rototiller or garden fork. If you don’t add the Field Spray, then the cover crop should be allowed to decompose for about 3 to 6 weeks before planting your next crop. It’s important to wait because your cover crop will be decomposing and during this decomposition process you will temporarily lock up some of the nitrogen in the soil.

Week of March 13, 2018

Getting your soil tested is a great idea and it all starts with taking a good sample. First of all start with a clean trowel; don’t use ones made of brass or soft steel and never use your hands. Have a clean plastic bucket or pail to use, don’t use galvanized steel or rubber. Do not sample your soil if it is wetter than you would want for tilling. Take about 10–12 subsamples in your garden soil or raised beds to get a good composite of your soil. Clear away any debris or organic material from the top of the soil. Dig down about 6” or as deep as you are planning to cultivate. Dry soil should be submitted for analysis, so if your soil is too wet, spread out on a newspaper and allow to air dry (and out of direct sunlight). Watch our video on How to Take a Good Soil Sample for Soil Testing for more information.

Week of March 6, 2018

Cane pruning promotes the highest yield for most table grapes. Select a total of about 4 canes that come off close to the trunk and remove the rest (but not before you select your renewal canes). The canes that you are keeping should have at least 15 buds and be about pencil size. These canes will be your fruiting canes. Cut the fruiting cane back to about 15 buds and and remove any laterals. For every fruiting cane you keep, you should also keep one renewal spur. The renewal spurs will produce next years fruiting canes. The renewal spurs are short and should be cut back to about 2 buds. The other method of pruning grapes is spur pruning. Watch our video to learn more about spur pruning.

Week of February 27, 2018

Growing your veggie garden from seed is a great way to grow a more diverse selection of plants. Now that your seedlings have germinated, what should you do now? Make sure that they stay warm enough, especially if they are tender summer annuals like peppers or eggplant. Another thing to consider is light–make sure they have a good light source either natural light or artificial grow lights. If you have planted multiple seeds in one cell, you can thin out the weaker seedlings using snips. Once the seedlings have their first set of true leaves, you can start fertilizing with a weak solution (1/4 strength) of a low-nitrogen liquid fertilizer, like our Liquid Fish, combined with a kelp solution (also diluted 1/4-1/2 strength). Once the seedlings start to outgrow their original container, move up into a larger pot. Transplant out into the garden when conditions are optimum for the plant you are growing.

Week of February 20, 2018

Weed Flamers are great to use during the winter and spring months, when weeds are still relatively small. The flamer will actually heat up the plant and cause the cells to burst. When using the flamer you will hear kind of a crackling sound; that is the plants’ cells bursting. On larger weeds, you might need to flame the weeds a couple of times to kill the plant. You never want to use the flamer during dry times and always have a hose set up when using the flamer. Organic herbicides are also great to use but are most effective when weeds are small and applied during a sunny day. They are not selective so apply only on wind-free days. These herbicides also do not translocate (go into the roots) so they will only kill the top portion of the plant.

Week of February 13, 2018

If you are unsure of when to start your seeds indoors or when to direct seed, try our Seed Planting Calculator. Go to the top of our site and click Blog, that will take you to our Organic Gardening Resource Center. To the right of the page, click on Find Your Dates. This will take you to the Seed Planting Calculator. The calculator will determine spring or fall planting times based on either your last or first frost of the season. Planting dates are given for Spring Planting dates and are estimates only. For more information, check the back of your seed packs.

Week of February 6, 2018

Grapes are a great addition to the edible landscape. They can be planted by an arbor and used as shade or planted along a fence and used as a border. Grapes will grow in zones 6-10 and are pretty easy to grow. Site selection is important, choose a location with full sun and a southern exposure. The soil should have moderate fertility, with a pH of 5.5–7. Soak the roots in water for a couple of hours before planting. Plant at the same level that they were planted in the nursery. You want to initially train your new grape to a single stem. Watch our Planting Grapes video for more helpful information to successfully grow grapes for eating or wine-making.

Week of January 30, 2018

Figs can be tricky to get established, especially in very cold regions (zone 6 and colder), however, some figs can be planted in containers and brought into a protected area when temperatures drop below freezing. Not all varieties are appropriate for container growing, however, there are a few varieties that do well in containers. The Brown Turkey fig, Violette de Bordeaux fig and the Black Jack fig are varieties that are container compatible. The container should have drainage holes and of sufficient size to allow for growth; at least a 7–10 gallon pot is suggested for planting your new fig. After a few years, move the fig up into a larger pot (a wheeled pot stand makes moving much easier).

Week of January 23, 2018

Planting bare root strawberry starts is easy and most the economical way to go. If you are planting Day Neutral and Everbearing plants the best way to plant those is with the Hill Method. The plants are put closer together (1 foot apart), since they don’t put out as many runners as the June-bearing strawberries. June-bearers should be planted farther apart (2 feet) in the Matted Row Method. Don’t plant too deep or too shallow. Set the plant in well-drained soil so the roots are just covered. Don’t cover the crown, this will cause the plant to rot. Check out our video on Growing Strawberries for more information.

Week of January 17, 2018

Raspberries are easy to grow and make a great hedge along a fence. When choosing a location to plant, select an area as far away from any wild berries, and the soil should be well-drained. If your soil is poorly draining, amend with some compost or plant in a raised area. If you don’t plan on planting against a fence, a support structure should be put up to support the plants from falling to the ground. Space your raspberries about 2-3 feet apart and plant at the same level they were planted in the nursery. Mulch around the plants to control weeds and protect from winter injury. Raspberries will put out new shoots (primocanes) the first year and bear fruit the second year on those canes (floricanes).

Week of January 10, 2018

Pruning your established blueberry bushes will help to increase fruit production and improve the overall health of your plant. If you live in a mild winter region, pruning can be done during the winter. However, in harsh winter regions, pruning should be delayed until the end of winter or beginning of spring. First remove any dead branches from the plant. Dead or dying branches will be a different color than living tissue. Next remove any root suckers that are growing away from the center of the plant. Cut out any branches that are crossing or rubbing and open up the center of the bush to allow for improved light penetration and air circulation.

Week of January 3, 2018

Fruit trees should be pruned from the time they are planted. Early pruning will shape the tree into a desirable structure and will encourage better fruit production and less broken branches later in life. There are three types of pruning systems, Central Leader, Vase or Open Center and Modified Central Leader. The type of tree will dictate the pruning system chosen. Central Leader is best for apples, pears, persimmons and pecans. Vase or Open Center is best for almonds, apricot, cherry, fig, nectarine, olive, peach, pear, plum & pomegranate. Whereas the Modified Central Leader is a good choice for many fruit trees. Apples, pears, peaches and nectarines can be pruned during the winter, but wait until summer to prune apricots, cherries and pluots.
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