Determining Planting Methods

Published December 28, 2012 by blmercier91

We’ve already talked about the fact that you can’t just throw seeds into a hole and expect them to grow. Did you know that different seeds grow better depending on how you plant them? I’ve given definitions of some terms that I’m going to use here to get you started.

Hill: A pile of soil anywhere between 6″-1′ tall.
Mound: A pile of soil greater than 1′ tall.
Furrow: A long shallow trench with a flat bottom.

I think this is a good place to note that even when planting in hills or mounds, it is still best to keep neat, orderly rows and/or columns in place that way the soil is dispersed evenly over each hill or mound, and so that you know what is a vegetable and what is a weed.

Things that grow best in hills are sprawling things with seeds that are easily handled one at a time, like beans, peas, and sunflowers. The tops of each hill should be 1′ apart, that way the roots have enough room to spread out as well as down, and you will get a robust crop. If you have tested the viability of your seeds, and you know that it is good, it’s ok to plant just 3 seeds in a hill or mound and let them grow. (Some sources believe it is best to thin to the two strongest plants per hill or mound, but I have grown 3 plants per mound and had a bountiful harvest anyway.) If you have not tested the viability of your seeds, I recommend planting 10 seeds per hill or mound, and thinning to the strongest plants once the seedlings are 6″ tall. Also consider putting a miniature moat around the bottom of your hill or mound to retain water for you plants when things get dry.

Mounds should be at least 1′ tall, and have a bottom 18″ wide. Mounds are best for things that are big and sprawling, such as cucumbers, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, and melons. While the closest mounds can be to each other is 18″, keep in mind that the bigger what you’re planting is, the further apart you will want them to be. For small pumpkins and melons, I recommend putting the tops of the mounds at least 3′ apart. If you’re growing those giant pumpkins that can weigh up to 200 pounds, you might be putting them more like 10-15 feet apart. The space between mounds is where your plant will be growing, so there should be enough room when you make the mound and plant your seed for the entire mature plant to sit between two mounds.

If you’re not sure whether to plant something in a hill or mound, a general rule to follow is if the plant needs to be “well-drained”, start with a hill and see how it does. If things go well, feel free to plant it in a hill again. If you think things could have gone better, try planting it in a mound next year, or find another way that you like better.

Things that need more depth, and not necessarily space, to grow are best planted in a furrow. When I say things that need more depth, I’m talking about root plants such as potatoes and onions, carrots, rhubarb, asparagus, turnips and the like. When you make your furrow, pile the soil up on the sides so that you can easily cover either your seeds, or the roots of your seedlings.

Growing something in a “patch” means that it likes to be with a lot of it’s own kind, think of this as a heard of horses, or a school of fish- it’s the same concept. While some things will do well if not grown in a patch (melons, pumpkins), they still prefer a lot of their own kind. Other things- namely corn- will not do well with just a handful of plants, and must be grown with a lot of their own kind. A good number to follow for patch fruits and vegetables is 15. Make sure you have enough room for 15 corn plants, 15 melons, or 15 pumpkins. (Although, again, with melons and pumpkins, they will do OK with less of their own kind- experiment!) Grass also grows in patches.

“Broadcasting”, when truly done, means that you just take a handful of seeds and toss them over an area without bothering to space them out, or cover them. This method is used mostly just for grass seed, although if you know of anything else this is used with, I’d love to hear about it. You can also kind of use broadcasting for carrots (I know, I mentioned carrots for furrows too; there’s more than one way to grow something). To do this, spread a handful of carrot seeds over a 3′ by 3′ area, and cover them with 1/8″ of top soil.

These are just a few different common planting methods, there’s too many to talk about every single way to grow something. Like I’ve said, one plant can be grown more than one way, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what works best for you.

Sorry for the Delay

Published December 27, 2012 by blmercier91

Dear loyal readers and followers, I apologize for the time it’s been since I’ve written a new gardening article. What with the holidays and all, it’s been kind of crazy. I will write an excellent article tomorrow.

Pets and Your Garden Part 2: Cats

Published December 21, 2012 by blmercier91

While cats are not usually as destructive to your garden as dogs, they can still be pesky. Cats can defecate in your garden, attempt to pounce on a bird that’s on top of a tomato plant and tear the whole thing down, and while their digging isn’t as bad as a dogs, it still does harm. If there is a cat digging in your garden, try adding sharp, pokey things into the ground, such as pine needles. The scarecrow sprinkler, which I talked about yesterday in the dog article, will also repel cats. Catnip and cat grass are also a way to give your cat an alternative to being in your garden.

Garden Plan-Finished!

Published December 20, 2012 by blmercier91


This is my own virtual garden plan, finally finished. Well, maybe. My awesome grandma is sending me some of her heirloom seeds all the way from Bellingham, Washington, so I might change some things once I get that. Once it’s too cold for all the things that require a lot of heat to grow- the melons, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, etc, I plan to quickly tear them out and plant my pumpkins. Mm mm mm!

Pets and Your Garden Part 1: Dogs

Published December 20, 2012 by blmercier91

It’s something that many people, including myself, have a hard time dealing with: Pets- particularly dogs- getting into their garden and crushing seedlings or digging up plants. The damage can be even worse if you planted carefully saved heirloom seeds. There are so few left, that the damage can be irreparable. So let’s talk about some ways to solve this problem, or at least reduce the damage.

If you have a young puppy, it is possible to train them to avoid the garden area. Whenever you take them out into the yard, have a leash on them, and let them go wherever they want, except into the garden area. This works because over time, they will learn that they are allowed to go anywhere they want except for over there. You can gradually take them off the leash when you think they start to get it, and should they wander into the forbidden area scold them verbally, put the leash back on (this means you have to carry it out with you), and take them to another area of the yard. This does take up time, and it means that you can’t just let your puppy into the area with your gardening space unattended. If your pet should wander into your gardening space and not get scolded, you have to start all over. Cost: None

If you don’t have the time, or don’t want to put in the effort into teaching your dog to avoid the area, a fence is a practical and easy solution. Fences come in a variety of heights and looks, so they are also somewhat customizable. If you have a teeny tiny dog, like a tea cup poodle, your fence doesn’t need to be very tall, maybe 6″ max. (Another alternative for small dogs is to used raised gardening beds instead of ground-level beds) If you have an Aussie who can jump a 6′ fence from a sitting position right in front of it like I do, you may want to rethink. Cost: dependent. If you buy just a roll of chicken wire and use that as a fence, the cost is just pennies per foot; if you go with something more aesthetically pleasing, expect to pay at least $4 per foot.

The Scarecrow Sprinkler is a rather effective and popular solution. It has a motion detector, and whenever it detects the movement of an animal, it lets out a short, quick burst of water. It keeps letting the bursts of water out until the animal is out of range. This can be a good solution if you have the money to spare- 1 sprinkler with the mounting bracket (which is sold separately), runs up to $104. Scarecrow
20121220-094010.jpg sprinkler is ideal if you move your garden frequently, as the set up and take down is much faster than that of a traditional fence. The sprinkler will also detect a variety of animals: dogs, cats, squirrels, birds, and even deer, but I don’t see what’s stopping it from spraying you as well when you try to enter the garden. I can see it working best in an area such as the mountains, where there is a large variety of wildlife and it’s not always legal to build a fence. Cost: $3.47-$10.40 per foot.

Keeping dogs out of gardens doesn’t have to be about barriers. Barriers, even ones that are really sprinklers, can diminish the look of your garden. Open gardens are more inviting and pleasing to look at, so sometimes instead of trying to keep your dog out, you can offer them an alternative. Pet grass is a healthy, yummy treat that many dogs like, and it can deter them from ruining your vegetables. Give your pet their own gardening space to play! Many dogs also enjoy eating the green tops of carrots, berries, and a few other things. You need to make sure that what your dog is eating won’t harm him though, the most common toxic vegetables are garlic and onions, so monitor these closely.

Something that isn’t always feasible for everyone, is also to move the garden. If your dog has free access to the back yard, and is ruining everything, can you move the garden to the front yard? You can also switch to gardening in containers, or-if you have the money- build a greenhouse.

We love our pets, and we love our gardens, get the two to be harmonious.

Garden Planning

Published December 19, 2012 by blmercier91

Planning a garden is no easy task. That is why I recommend starting it now. Between finding out what’s compatible with what, but not with that and remembering that cucumbers like beans and peas and carrots, but the beans don’t like onions even though cucumbers do, you can see how it can become overwhelming. While some might think that it’s easier with a larger space, I respectfully disagree. My back yard- the primary gardening area- is over 2800 square feet, and it takes me several weeks to finish my plan. I’ve included two pictures of my work in progress, one showing just the primary vegetable area, and the other showing the whole yard.

This is the picture of the primary vegetable area.


This is the whole yard, the trees at the bottom are mature plum trees, they’re fantastic! The other tree is dead, we have plans to cut it down and turn it into a table, using half wooden barrels for seats. There is a set of horse shoe pits (not pictured), and some old bush stumps along the upper left side that need to be removed.


This is a work in progress, I’ll post an update when I’m much further along. What do you guys think?

What to do in Winter

Published December 19, 2012 by blmercier91

*TV guy voice*
It’s a problem that thousands of people face every year. Harder to solve than who took the cookies from the cookie jar, and just as expected as the sun coming up, thousands are still devastated whenever it happens… Just what can a gardener do *dun dun dun* when the snow starts falling?*end TV guy voice*

Ok so maybe that’s a little over dramatic, but it IS a problem that most gardeners face. Most people think that you can’t do anything related to a garden once it turns cold and the snow comes.

I’ve never been one to listen to what other people think.

There’s plenty you can do for your garden when the weather is wintry, and if you’re a beginner who’s just starting out, there’s even more to do. Novices can read books such as “Starter Vegetable Gardens”, to get an idea of how to plan and plant their garden, or “Seed Sowing and Saving” , to learn about individual plants, where and how they grow best, ways to get them to germinate, whether they can be transplanted easily, how to transplant without damage, if the seeds should be soaked or scratched or put in the freezer, and how to tell if seeds are viable or not. Advanced gardeners can read these same books to get new ideas, or books like “Four Season Harvest” to learn what things grow in cold weather or “The Vegetable Gardeners Book of Building Projects” to learn about things to increase productivity and size of your plants.

If reading is not your forte, think about what you feel went well with your garden this season, make a note to do those things again, and also what went not so well (keep a running list throughout the season so you can remember anything), so that you know what to tweak next year. Figure out how you’re going to rotate your crops- it is essential to do so to keep your soil full of nutrients, and to keep building the soil after you take so much from it. If you have any sort of “i” device, download the ‘Grow Planner’ app from Mother Earth News and start making a plan for next year! If you don’t have an “i” device, get a piece of graphing paper and you can do the same thing! (The graph paper might even be easier).

If you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse, then just keep gardening! Invite neighbors to visit your greenhouse and give them lessons on gardening basics, share tips, and tell them what you’re favorite things to grow are and why.

Winter is also the BEST time to buy gardening supplies. Just like all the candy goes on sale after All Hallows’ Eve, all the gardening stuff goes on sale as soon as it starts to get chilly outside! Have you been needing to buy a fence to keep the dog from crushing your seedlings? Buy it now! Was that irrigation system you wanted too expensive in May? It’s probably not anymore! And don’t just look at gardening stores or supply stores like Lowe’s… check out sites like Craigslist. Many people get rid of most of their gardening stuff after the growing season is over, and give it away for free on there! You can get shovels and fencing and mulch and hoses and pots. If you want to start your seedlings indoors and have never done so before, build a cold frame– you get more points if you’re able to transport or carry it.

You can also join a seed exchange, and get new things to grow for next year. Alpine strawberries are supposed to be planted in October! Instead of raking up leaves and throwing them away, spread them over the soil where you want your gardening area to be, they will insulate it and you can start planting sooner! Rake up your neighbors leaves for free and use them too. Composting can be done all year round, and you can use this time to improve your compost if it hasn’t been exactly right.

If you want something more hands-on, start an indoor herb garden in your windowsill. Fresh herbs all year long, and it doesn’t even take up much room. I use the containers we have for Christmas cookies! (A downside to this is that I have to wait until the Christmas cookies are made and all of them have been eaten). But you can use a bowl, a large cup or mug, or anything else you can think of to upcycle.

There’s plenty to do for your garden in the winter, and not all of it involves buying a bunch of fancy, often expensive, gadgetry or supplies. Those who say you can’t garden in winter, simply aren’t trying to find enough to do.