Friday, February 17, 2012

Vegetable Planting Guide - By Soil Temperature

Vegetable Planting Guide  
According To Ground Temperature

When planting vegetables according to soil temperature, you'll have a higher ratio in determining if that seed will survive through germination.
Planting seeds is like sending a baby turtle out into the seed. There are environmental elements that will either attack the seed through cold, heat, drought, moisture, etc. If you plant your seeds in the wrong temperature for that particular seed, you're bound to kill it, stunt it's growth or create a crazy looking vegetable.
Your chances of having most of your seeds grow is by determining if your seeds are cool, warm or hot season crops. For instance, a tomato likes warm - hot soil, as to where a turnip preferres a cold soil temperature.
It's very important for a backyard gardener to plant according to soil temperature which will increase their yields by getting an earlier start on germination.
Money is often waisted when a gardener plants seeds according to their wall calendar. Just because the calendar says that it's now Spring, it doesn't necessarily mean that you should be planting your Spring vegetable garden. If the ground is either too cold or too hot, it will completely kill the seeds germination.

You can always assist soil temperatures and fooling a seed to germinate for earlier planting by either placing black fabric on the soil to help it warm up or cool it down with a canopy of shade. Indoor container gardens are always a great way to assist germination. Either way, if the ground temperature isn't at the right degree, you just waisted time, effort and a whole lot of seeds.

Here's a basic soil temperature guide that I follow with much success. Successful seed germination is determined by soil temperature, growing time, moisture, soil type.

Cold Hardy Vegetables - Cool Soil Temperature


Semi Hardy Vegetables - Cool Soil Temperature


If you don't wait to plant these vegetables after the Cold-Hardy vegetables, you're taking a chance at your seeds or seedlings dying from frost bite.

*Remember you can always get a head start on germination by planting indoors in containers. That way your plants are 2 - 4 inches in heigth and have a good root system.

Tender Vegetables - Warm / Hot Temperature 

The air and ground temperatures are beginning to warm. Here's a list of early Spring vegetables that Burpee, Gurney's, Park Seed, Johnny Seed and Harris Seed Company have all agreed are ok to plant at a ground temperature of 60F and above.

*It's important to know that these vegetables require a warm daytime temperature, prefer warm summer days and are completely intolerant to frost. This means, if planted in too cold of soil they will die or be severely damaged.  

Plant these tender vegetables after frost-free dates. These dates can be easily found Farmers Almanac, Victory Seed, (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) Humes Seeds, (California) Victory Seeds, Burpee Seeds.

Extremely Tender Vegetables

Here's a list of common vegetables that comletely thrive during the hot summer days. Most varieties are intolerant of frost and cool spring winds. So, if you reside in zones that get late frost up until April - May, start your plants indoors and plant by Mid May.

An aqua dome, newspaper, wall of water (plant protector), tarp, cardboard box, light blanket will help protect these vegetable while they get their start in the spring.

Plant these very tender vegetables 1-2 weeks after the tender vegetables listed above.

Late Crops for Fall Harvest -  Warm / Cool

In most areas of U.S., you can get a second crop of: Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Lettuce, Onion, Peas, Spinach. Plant the last crops in Mid July through August to ensure a bumper crops.

I reside in southern California where we have long growing seasons and most vegetables grow all year round. The only vegetable that I have a hard time growing is lettuce varieties. They don't like heat and will either bolt quickly or turn bitter to taste.

If planting lettuce varieties in the southwest were it is often hot and arid during summer, I would recommend a canopy of shade and moniter water levels. They enjoy a consistant moisture level. If your plants are too moist, they'll surely rot. If you don't have consistant moisture, they'll bolt, flower and then go to seed. Shade is your friend when it comes to lettuce in the southwest.

Gardening By The Moon

How The Technique Works

Gardening by the moon phases has been in practice since the early days of domestic gardening. Even our forefathers like George Washington, William Penn and Ben Franklin gardened by moon phases. 

It's a technique that has been known to speed the germination of your seeds by working with the forces of nature. Just like people and animals are affected by moon phases, so are plants. 

Plants, people and animals respond to the same gravitational pull of tides that affect the oceans. The gravitational pulls actually stimulates root and leaf growth. 
Seeds will sprout more quickly and plants grow faster at an optimum rate. Your harvests will be larger and the plants won't bolt or go to seed as fast when you follow a garden moon phase. 
This method has been practiced by many for hundreds of years. It's most effective if you have the time to study a moon phase chart. All living organisms for some reason have a bio-rhythm to the moon and it's phases all year long.
Another aspect to gardening by moon phases is that the lunar phase actually controls how much moisture is in the soil. Just like the sun, the moon can also evaporate moisture. Scientists have a way of predicting this. The moisture is at it's acme or peak during a new or full moon. When the sun and moon are lined up, there is a gravitational pull that effects oceans, lakes and other bodies of water. Moon phaes really do encourage or discourage germination and growth of plants. 


Nomads to modern day farmers have planted crops according to moon phases. Besides planting crops in sequence to moon phases, there's also pruning, harvesting, cultivating to be done. A waxing or waning moon can really make a difference in your bountiful harvest.

Purchase a Farmers Almanac and you'll see a wonderful easy to read guide that will illustrate each phase of the moon. Farmers Almanac also have a wall calander available that can be hung in your garden shed. You can find them at Amazon or Walmart for about $5 - $6.

That way you’ll know when the  moon is either new or full or waxing or waning while you're preparing your planting.

- When the moon is changing from a new moon into a full moon, it's called "waxing".

-When the moon is changing from a full moon to a new moon, it's called “waning.”

For a really great instructional site to easily learn more about our moon and its phases one of NASA's kid pages, apps, instructionals, etc. There's a few good recipes as well. 

Sun and Moon Snack Recipe
Create a healthy snack that looks just like the sun and moon! 

Peanut Butter      Round Cookie Cutter
Apple                  Knife
Banana               Imagination :O)


Make a peanut butter sandwich. Use round cookie cutter and press down on bread to cut out what will look like a round sun. 

Slice apple in wedge like pieces that look like sun rays. Place around the sun. 

Peel banana. This will be the moon.

*It's also fun to place a photo of the sun and moon in your child's lunchbox to they can simulate it themselves.

Crafting the Moon - Sensational Moon Phase Banner!

Wood Scroll Saw Moon or Felt Banner
Great Instructional Tool To Learn Phases of The Moon

In primary school we made moon phase banners from black and gray felt but, I think making the moon phase from round balsa wood is much better and more durable. It's just as easy to paint the scroll saw cut outs as cutting felt.

9 - 3" dia. Wood round cutouts (larger size can be used). 
1/16 drill bit or small nail and hammer

Black craft paint
Gray craft paint with glitter

Black embroidery thread or yarn
8 - 2" cut embroidery thread to attach each circle together
2 - Any length embroidery thread to hang

Needle or toothpick to help push string through holes.

*Optional - clear glow in the dark paint. 


*Your choice to drill hole before or after painting. If your craft paint is thick acrylic, you may want to drill holes after painting wood cutouts; otherwise, holes may get clogged with paint.

1. Paint all wood circles black. 

2. Drill holes in circles using 1/16" drill bit or use small nail and hammer. 

*Depending on thickness of paint, holes can be drilled either before or after painting. 

3. Paint moon phases in gray using photo below.

4. Once dry, use 2" embroidery thread to tie each round cutouts together. You can either thread string through thin needle and push through hole, then cut string to size or you can pre-cut string and use toothpick to push thread through hole.

5. Attach circles according to moon phase sequence.

6. Attach end strings to the desired length for hanging. 

This is a great instructional item to help you or your child learn moon phases. It's also a wonderful item to celebrate the cycles of the moon. It's also wonderful to cover the gray paint with a clear glow in the dark paint to make the banner visible in the dark.

Tips & Tricks - Gardening Helpful Hints

Tips & Tricks - Gardening Helpful Hints


Do you enjoy an occasional cup of tea?

Instead of throwing away the empty tea bags, brew them again for vegetable gardening, and provide your vegetable plants with free fertilizer. Cool the tea and use it to condition and enhance the soil when gardening.

This method of enriching the soil is considered free because the tea bags would otherwise end up in the trash. Some people even bury their used tea bags next to plants while vegetable gardening, and the bags naturally break down while the tea inside conditions the soil and helps the plants grow strong and produce abundantly.


Old coffee grounds make a great fertilizer for both flower and vegetable gardens. Coffee grounds offer alot of nutritional benefits to the plants than basic cow manure or hard to make compost.

Used coffee grounds definitely contain high amounts of minerals as like calcium, magnesium and nitrogen. All those thrown away worthy minerals support the growth of plants that are growing in soil which need a boost for a healthy plant.

The benefits to adding used coffee or tea grounds to your soil can be compared to or rise above those expensive store-bought vegetable and flower garden fertilizers as like Miracle Grow, Dr. Earth, Wal-Mart basic, Nature's Trust, etc.

It's so easy to use old coffee grounds to your garden. There's different ways to apply the grounds to your garden so, choose the easiest way for you by either simply adding the grounds directly to the by tossing them onto the top soil then scratch them into the soil, sprinkling the grounds on top of the soil and giving the plant a good watering, make a coffee ground slurry by adding two cups of used grounds to a (5) five-gallon bucket of water. Let the grounds steep for a 2 - 3 hours or  best overnight. You can even use this concoction as a liquid fertilizer for garden and container plants. If you filter the steeped grounds with an old t-shirt, cheese cloth or even a coffee filter, you can then add it to a sprayer of choice and spray the plants leaves. Think of the cost you just saved by not having to hop in the car to buy liquid plant spray.

Spend coffee grounds also make a great slug and snail barrier keeping your plants save from those ugly but leathal gnawing alien like creatures . Coffee grounds abrasive and acidic, so the barrier of coffee grounds placed near slug-prone plants will save them from these garden pests. The good news is, you don't have to pull out the ol' salt trick to melt the slugs like the Wicked ol' Witch from Oz.

Another great idea is to add used coffee grounds to your worm bins. Did you know that worms love coffee grounds. They don't care if they're from Starbucks or from the Coffee & Tea Leaf Company! Be sure not to add too many all at once because, the acidity in the grounds could toxicate the worms. One cup of grounds per week is a good amount to add. 


MURPHY'S OIL SOAP - Home Made Pesticide Recipe!

3 - tsp. Murphy's oil soap
3 - tsp. Ivory dish washing liquid
3 - cup Warm water
1 - cup warm water
1 - cup vegetable oil or mineral oil 

Mix all together and stir completely. Pour the entire soap mixture into a spray bottle and spray away! It's always best to apply any soap insecticide no more than once a week and always after a good soaking or a rainstorm. If your plants are either young or tender, simply dilute the solution with more water to prevent any damage.

This Old Farmer's Almanc recipe has been around for years and backyard gardeners swear by it. I use it on my tomato plants. Boy does it ward off aphids and spider mites.

How it works is the Murphy's and dish soaps are absorbed through the insect's body and will actually clog up their membranes. The concoction will kill the bugs but, not harm your plants. The eggs will either melt away or fall off the plant.

These soaps are highly effective in killing aphids, white flies and spidermites that often lay eggs and eat tomato plants, roses, cabbage, peppers, etc. The Murphy's oil soap pesticide recipe is a great pest control and is known to be safe for humans, animals and most importantly to the bees which help pollinate your plants.

CILANTRO - Kills Spider Mites & Aphids

1 - handful of cilantro (leaves & stems) 1 - 2 cups
4 - cups boiling water

A simple cilantro spray is great to use on spider mites and aphids. It's easy breezy to make by boiling a fist full of cilantro (leaves and stems) with water. Strain the mixture through an old t-shirt, cheesecloth or coffee filter.  After straining the mixture allow the liquid to cool before placing into a spray bottle. Apply as needed.  It's just like the Murphy's Oil recipe as it will soak into the insect's body and will clog their membranes. It will also melt away the eggs.

CHILI PEPPERS - Another Great Pest Deterrent

10 - Habanero or Serrano chilis
4 - cups hot water
3 - tsp soft soap (hand soap or diluted dish soap)

Did you know that Chili peppers deter many pests including aphids, birds, cats and dogs who like to eat plants, deer, rabbits, mice, spider mites and many more damaging insects. 

Boil 10 good size Habanero or Serrano chilis peppers in 4 cups of water for 10 minutes.

Steep the chilis and water overnight for about 8 hours. Then add 3 teaspoons of soft soap (hand soap or diluted dish soap) to the chili mixture. Strain the entire mixture through either a cheesecloth, old t-shirt or coffee filter then place in sprayer. It's ready to be applied to plants. BUT... be careful, when applying because, the chili mixture can burn tender or new plants. This mixture should be used sparingly.

*WARNING! Do not touch eyes, mouth or nose. You'll regret it! Burn, Burn, Burn!!

BAKING SODA - Controls & Kills Powdery Mildew

1 - tblsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp liquid soap
1 gal. water

There's literally 1001 uses for baking soda. Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate, makes a truly inexpensive control for powdery mildew on plants.

Did you ever wonder what the white film is on your cabbage or tomatoes? It's a fungus or mildew. Making a baking soda fungicide is most effective in killing off the fungus that causes a powdery mildew and it's important to use the mixture to prevent future powdery mildew.

It's important to use the mixture when the first signs of powdery mildew appear because, once the fungus begins.. it can take over an entire head of cabbage, broccoli or tomato plant. The mixture basically offers only minimal benefits after your plants has been entirely infected but, will completely help save the plant once the powdery mildew first appears.

Be sure not to store any unused mixture. This recipe is most effective but, it can burn the leaves of some plants. Storing the baking soda mixture will change the intensity from an alkaline to a acid.

Old backyard gardeners always recommend that you first water your infected plants well a couple of days in advance before applying this mixture and trying it on a small area first. That way you can see how well or little your plant is responding to the spray.

DON'T apply it in full sun. Baking soda reacts to the heat of the sun. Apply it early in the morning or towards the day's end.

A weekly spraying to your susceptible plants during humid and damp weather conditions will greatly reduce the spread of powdery mildew in your garden. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Backyard Garden Guide ~ Mission Statement

Let's face it. Gardening isn't exactly brain surgery. Whether you're wanting to grow herbs, flowers, fruits or vegetables knowing age ol' gardening basics can prove to be most rewarding for you.

There's quite a few simple tips and techniques to having a successful backyard garden which will reap you a bounty of tasty and hardy vegetables to give you neighborhood bragging rights.

Every productive backyard gardener or farmer has at least two gardening or planting tips in their garden bag that either came from an age old wive's tail, Native American planting technique, Farmer's Almanac or relative. There's reasons why those tequniques have lasted the test of time so, listen and learn.

Gardening doesn't have to cost much at all. Big industries have just told you that you need to buy this or that to have a successful garden. Don't listen to the loud and colorful commercials on tv.  Our ancestors didn't have all the specialized fertilizers, commercial products or gizmos that we have today and they were more productive at growing flowers and vegetables.

A backyard gardeners only needs good soil, occasional fertilizer, water, seed, know-how and a bit of effort. There's nothing finer than a cold cocktail while gardening. No one said that ever home gardener should break your back while sweating bullets. It's supposed to be fun and easy.

After an initial investment of a few gardening tools and supplies, flower and vetable gardening is rather inexpensive. Most home kitchens are equipped with basic cooling utinsels, pots and pans. Gardening is not different.

Starting flowers and vegetables from seed rather than buying already potted plants at a nursery costs only pennies. There's plenty of places to seedswap or purchase garden seeds for pennies and I'll later cover that with you. My point is.. why would you spend $3 - $10 dollars on a beefsteak tomato plant when you can buy a seed for 10 cents and grow it yourself? Hmm? Exactly!

Almost all backyard gardeners take much pride in being able to tell frieds and family that they had nurtured their crops from seed to harvest. I'm not ashamed to say that I've found myself bragging on quite a few ocasions. Ahh.. there's nothing like telling that vintage story of growing your vegetables from seed while you're handing over a 10 lb. Black Diamond-Yellow Belly Watermelon or 5 lb. Beefsteak tomato to your friend who's eyes are popping out of their head in amazement! Wink.

In the end, all you need is know-how, time, effort, basic supplies and you're truly going to have a most successful backyard garden with tons of bragging rights. Gardening is basically sticking a seed into the ground or pot, knowing how deep, when to plant and how much water to give the darn thing.