Thursday, March 31, 2011

Planting vegetables by the traditional methods compared to new

Over the next few weeks I thought I would look into traditional methods of growing vegetables, here is a brief introduction. Beginning gardeners may prefer to use the traditional planting methods for their first garden. A basic piece of broken ground is the starting point for marking, shaping, and planting your spring seeds.
Choosing a planting method for your first garden can be difficult with so many different methods recommended by different gardeners. If you don’t want to experiment for your first trial, following the traditional planting methods of the past will yield an excellent harvest without any extra effort.
Rows, Mounds, and Other Matters

Corn, potatoes, and other crop-like plants are traditionally planted in rows, as well as “head” plants like lettuce, cabbage, or onion. Your dirt is mounded and hoed in a straight line, spaced evenly apart from the second row, with as many as your space allows. Planting corn in mounds (often round ones) allowed room for additional fertilizer to be added, like the Native American tradition of burying a small dead fish with the seeds.
Hills or mounds are traditional favourites for planting tomatoes, cucumbers, and even squash. The mounds vary in size, depending upon the recommended spacing for the plants, with no more than three plants usually added to each mound. Usually the dirt is mounded 2-4 inches thick above the level ground, with holes dug away from the centre and spaced apart according to the variety’s preferences

Placing rocks or markers around your mounds helps hold the mounds in place and keep them from washing away, as well as mark the location of your seeds. Place them at the ends of the rows to mark the beginning and end of each planting location
 I shall start this week with the potato.
Potatoes were originally first brought from the Americas to Europe in 1573 and introduced into Ireland around 1590. By around 1780 it was the staple Irish diet. The traditional Irish method of planting the potato was in what was called "lazy beds". Low trenches were dug at about three foot intervals. The sod and dirt were piled up between the trenches. The beds were enriched with manure, rotted straw, and/or sea weed. Whole potatoes were cut into pieces so each piece contained an eye. These seed potatoes were usually put in the ground in around May time. The beds were tended to keep the weeds from chocking the potato plants.
The leaves and flowers of the potato plant are poisonous. The tubers themselves can be poisonous if sunlight hits them and turns them green. Consequently, during the growing season more earth was taken from the trenches to cover the tubers and prevent them from turning green in the light. Early potatoes are ready after around 100 days with a second crop in around 110-120 days. The main crop matures in about 130 days. The first two crops were harvested when the plants was still green. The main crop was harvested after the mature plant has died.

remains of a lazy bed in Connemara

Things have certainly moved on, i tryed the stout method last year with very good results, this method first came aboout in the 1930s when Ruth Stout decided she no longer wanted to garden the old-fashioned way. She started growing all her vegetables, including potatoes, on top of the soil, by covering them with a very thick layer of  organic mulch.
The Stout method involves no digging, cultivating, hoeing, weeding or additional fertilizing. Seed potatoes are simply placed on the ground, and a thick layer measuring at least 8 inches of rotted straw, hay, grass clippings, leaf mould, garden compost is spread on top of the seed potatoes.
The Stout Method for Planting Potatoesthumbnail
 Potato shoots will grow up through the mulch; as they grow, more organic matter and straw can be added which replaces the earthing up process that is performed on potatoes grown in the soil. More hay or straw can also be added to choke off any weeds that appear or if the mulch becomes too compacted.This method for growing potatoes works best on soil that has already been enriched by previous additions of organic materials, as it takes a while for the thick first layer of mulch to decompose enough. Mulch can be put down at any time of year in an area that has been recently used for ither crops

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rabbit proofing your Garden.

If like me you have a problem with rabbits here are a number of ways of protecting your precious crops:
Employing rabbit-proof fences is a very sensible approach to wild rabbit control. Chicken wire is a good material for making rabbit-proof fences with which to surround your garden. This wild rabbit control measures will help keep out those cute marauders poised to munch on your plants.

Simple Rabbit-Proof Fences for Wild Rabbit Control: Chicken Wire

Use chicken wire that is 36" wide. Don't be confused by that measurement: when you lay out the chicken wire rabbit-proof fences around the perimeter of your gardens, that 36" will be the height of the fencing.
Dig a trench about 6" deep and 8" wide (assuming your stakes will be about 2" wide), to form the perimeter for rabbit-proof fences. Pound the stakes in on the inside of the trench. Bend the bottom 6" of the chicken wire outward along the ground (forming a letter "L" shape). This 6" flange will prevent the pests from tunneling their way under the fencing and into your garden -- an integral part of wild rabbit control. Set the flange end of the chicken wire fencing down into the trench, with the flange pointing away from your garden.
Fill the trench back in with dirt, burying the flange (and also burying about the bottom 6" of the vertical part of the "L" shape). Staple or tie the chicken wire to stakes. Spacing between stakes is up to you; but, obviously, the closer the stakes are to each other, the more support you're providing your rabbit-proof fences.
One of the best "homemade" organic rabbit repellents is the soiled cat litter from a cat that has killed and eaten wild animals. Spread such cat litter, while still fresh, around your landscaping trees or garden once a week.
Another commercial rabbit repellent that can be used safely on food crops is Hinder. Hinder's active ingredients are ammonium soaps of higher fatty acids. Thiram repellent, however, is dangerous, and it can be used only on ornamental plants.
Remember, too, that some plants function as "natural pest repellents," at least in terms of saving their own hides. Many of the same plants that are rabbit-resistant are also avoided by deer. In the case of some of these plants, it's easy to see why: although natural, they're poisonous (yes, to humans, too). For this reason, deer and rabbits will generally leave alone foxglove (Digitalis) and monkshood (Aconitum), for example.
In the case of other "natural pest repellents," rabbits avoid them not because they're poisonous, but because they don't smell good -- to rabbits, at least. Aromatic herbs such as lavender (Lavendula) may send humans scurrying for their potpourri supplies, but they send rabbits just plain scurrying! And if you aren't keen on spreading your cat's litter around the yard as a repellent, at least install some catnip plants, or "catmint" (Nepeta) for puss. Rabbits don't like the smell of catnip. Nor will they like the smell of a garden frequented by a catnip-craving cat. It's also a lot of fun to see cats going crazy over their catnip!


Advanced Rabbit-Proof Fences for Wild Rabbit Control: Electric Fencing

Electric fencing also makes for effective rabbit-proof fences. No trench is needed with electric fencing. Again, pound in your stakes first. But for electric rabbit-proof fences you'll need to attach insulators to the stakes. You'll be suspending 2 wires from these insulators. Run the bottom wire along the outside of the stakes, about 2" above the ground. Run the top wire along the inside, about 4" above the ground. Electric rabbit-proof fences can be charged with an electric fencing charger for gardens.


There are three main types - first earlies, second earlies and maincrops depending on when they are planted and harvested; grow a selection of all three for a long cropping period, and store maincrops over winter. Extra early potatoes can be obtained by planting varieties such as first earlies from late February under fleece. Potatoes need a sunny site away from frost pockets - the newly emerging foliage is susceptible to frost damage. You can prevent this by earthing up the soil around the shoots. It's imperative to keep light away from the developing new potatoes as light turns them green and green potatoes are poisonous.
Tubers ought to be planted around late March for first earlies, early to mid-April for second earlies and mid- to late April for maincrops. This varies slightly depending on where you are in the country.
There are numerous ways of growing potatoes.
It's very important with earlies and a good idea with maincrops to chit the seed tubers first before planting; this means allowing them to produce sturdy shoots. Buy your seed potatoes in late January/February and stand them rose end up (the rose end has the most eyes) in egg boxes or similar in a light, frost-free place. The tubers are ready to plant when the shoots are about 2.5cm long.
The long-established way is to dig a narrow channel 12.5cm deep. This can be lined with compost for a better crop. The seed tubers are spaced 30cm apart for earlies and 37.5cm for maincrop varieties in rows 60cm apart for earlies and 75cm apart for maincrop.  Slugs can be a problem. When the stems are about 23cm  high start earthing up by carefully drawing earth up to the stems and covering to produce a flat-topped ridge about 15cm high. This can be done little and often or in one go.
The other method is to grow the potatoes under black polythene. The tubers are planted through the black polythene. The advantage of this method is that there is no need to earth up and the new potatoes form just below soil level which means there's no digging to harvest them.
Keep crops well watered in dry weather; the vital time is once the tuber starts to form. A liquid feed of a balanced general feed every fortnight can help increase yields.
First earlies should be ready to lift in June and July, second earlies in July and August, maincrops from late August through October. With earlies wait until the flowers open or the buds drop; the tubers are ready to harvest when they are the size of hens' eggs. With maincrops for storage wait until the foliage turns yellow, then cut it and remove it. Leave for 10 days before harvesting the tubers, leaving them to dry for a few hours before storing.
Sweet potato
Sweet potatoes are well worth trying outdoors in milder areas - or in a glasshouse. Even in mild regions, indoor growing will produce more reliable crops.

Plants are best grown from cuttings or slips ordered from a mail order supplier, however you can grow them from shop-bought tubers, but you can't plant them like normal potatoes as they don't grow in the same way. Many shop-bought tubers are also treated with an anti-sprouting agent, so give them a good scrub to clean them first. Then place in moist sand in a hot propagator or in the airing cupboard. Once the shoots are 5-7.5cm long, they can be removed as cuttings and potted up into small pots of cuttings compost and placed in a warm propagator to root.
Plants are ordered as cuttings or slips, delivered from late April onwards. Pot the cuttings immediately on receipt into small individual pots of multipurpose compost. Should the slips be unrooted, simply cover the pots with a clear plastic bag or place in an unheated propagator until roots appear. Grow the plants on in a frost-free, well-lit spot until early June. In mild regions, sweet potatoes can be planted outdoors after a period of hardening off. They require a highly fertile but light, preferably sandy, soil. If your soil is not naturally sandy or free-draining, plant into ridges 15-30cm high, spacing plants 30cm apart, with 75cm between rows. Ideally, plant under a cloche or fleece tent. Alternatively, grow in a glasshouse in large tubs, growing-bags or the glasshouse border. Whitefly and red spider mite can cause problems on foliage under cover. Sweet potatoes crop best at temperatures between 21-26°C (70-80°F). Keep well watered, feeding every other week with a high-potassium liquid feed.
Tubers take from four to five months to mature. They can be lifted from the end of August, but it is usually better to leave them until the leaves begin to yellow and die

Water conservation Techniques in the garden

Water. It’s one of our most precious resources. It is essential to every life form, especially the vegetables that grow in our gardens. Without water, seeds won’t germinate, the lush green foliage of vegetable plants will wither away and fruits and vegetables won’t be plump and juicy.

Plants depend on water, carbon dioxide and light to manufacture food. When plants do not get enough water, the microscopic openings on the undersides of the leaves (called stomata) close to limit water loss. If too much water is lost, plants wilt.

To save the water supply and ensure there is enough water to grow vegetables to feed society, we need to balance conservation with need. It is important to use water wisely and efficiently in our gardens.

Here are a few tips to help you grow a luscious vegetable garden using the least amount of water possible.

Add organic matter to the soil. Organic matter provides nutrients and improves the water-holding capacity of the soil. Organic matter should be composted. Throw grass clippings and leaves, garden and kitchen wastes (no meats, fats, or oils), and livestock manures (but not from domestic pets such as cats and dogs) into a pile and let it rot. Work at least an inch of organic matter into the garden soil each year.
Water effectively. Water the soil not the plants using drip irrigation. Drip irrigation keeps the areas between plants dry and limits weed growth. A timer ensures that a measured amount of water gets to plants. Rain gauges keep the garden from being watered during a rainfall. Water in the morning to reduce water lost to evaporation.
Mulch regularly. Mulch retains water, reduces evaporation and keeps weeds under control. Weeds use nutrients and water that are needed by vegetables. Over time, the mulch decomposes and turns into compost.
Plant windbreaks and build fences. The wind can have a drying effect on plants. Windbreaks and fences slow down the force of the wind and reduce water evaporation from the soil.
Collect rain water. Install rain barrels next to downspouts. A 1,000 square foot roof yields about 625 gallons of water from one inch of rain.
By incorporating just a few of these water saving techniques in your garden, you can help ensure that our water resources will be available to provide future food supplies.

Monday, March 21, 2011

new layout

I have just had a bit of a hand, making the layout of this page a bit more user friendly, everyone needs a bit of a hand sometimes!Thank you Donal!
I will be posting over the next few days, the original allotment project, concerning all of the aspects of the planting which went on, on Corrigans city farm, it is all original material, as ever, and was passed on to all of the participants of the programme, it concerns all aspects of what we planted, Andy

slugs, every gardeners enemy!

Slugs and snails are molluscs, the same as oysters and clams (a bit of trivia there!). They are comparable in structure except that the snail is protected by a hard, calcareous shell that makes it less susceptible than slugs to dry conditions and sun exposure. When adverse living conditions confront snails, they react by sealing the opening of the shell with a mucus sheet, which soon hardens to a leathery texture. The snails can then become inactive and have the ability to remain in this condition for up to 4 years.
Slugs range in size from 0.5 to 20cm in length, depending on species and age, with colour variations of dark brown and black to light gray. Slugs and snails are creatures that slither along on a path of mucus. This mucus dries out and can be seen in the daytime as a shiny trail over leaves, fruit and soil. The discovery of these "slime trails" may be the only way of determining their being there, as slugs and snails by and large feed at night. Sporadically they come out of their hiding places and feed in the evening or on dreary days. For this reason, many growers do not attribute the obvious damage to slugs and snails, as the pests themselves are not observable. When trails and damage are observed, the slugs and snails can often be found on the ground close to the injured plants, hiding under decaying plant debris, stones, clods of soil, or logs.
Slugs and snails feed on the lower leaves of numerous plants particularly in the areas between the veins. Juvenile slugs and snails damage plants by rasping away the exterior tissue, while adults eat holes through the leaves, nip off tender shoots or cause total annihilation of seedlings. Damage to the leaves, along with blustery weather, time and again causes leaves to shred. Compost piles, drain pipes, litter heaps,  greenhouses, well walls and uncultivated areas with dense plant growth, provide ideal sites in which the gray garden slug, gray field slug and snails are capable of overwintering in all developmental stages.
Slugs and snails feed on plants such as Hostas,petunia, zinnia, salvia, lily-of-the-valley, bean, the fruit of tomato and strawberries, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, pepper and many other young vegetables we’re growing really.
These molluscs are more troublesome:
 During prolonged periods of wet, overcast weather. In crops with a dense protective canopy. In gardens that are heavily mulched and/or surrounded by tall grass and weeds.
 In areas containing debris such as decaying leaves, poles, boards and logs. Limited control of slugs and snails can be obtained by adjusting the above situations where possible. If damage persists, chemical control may be necessary. It is important to note that a combination of control methods is much more effective in reducing population levels.
Cultural Control Methods
Hygiene - hygiene can be highly beneficial in controlling populations of slugs and snails. It involves the removal of all materials that could provide daytime hiding places and ideal egg laying sites, such as plant debris, dense plant growth, rocks, boards, and logs. This is especially important in shaded areas near trees and buildings. The use of mulches should be avoided in any of these sites. Tall or densely growing plants may need to be thinned to allow for more air movement and light penetration and therefore, drier environmental conditions.
Barriers - Slugs and snails avoid crawling over any dry abrasive material such as gravel, sharp sand, wood ashes, diatomaceous earth, or lime. The increased production of mucus required to free themselves of these materials exhausts them and soon causes death. A 30-45cm  band of any one of these inert materials spread along borders or between rows of plants would be a beneficial repellent.
Fly screening, the green windbreak material, approximately 10cm wide will also provide a successful barrier against slugs and snails. This screening should be partially imbedded in the soil for support to a depth of 5cm and completely surround the plant. When using the screening on a cold frame, it should be tacked across the top of the frame leaving the cut edges of the screen sharp.
Traps - Traps are a successful method of control in small areas, boards, bark, or a comparable material at least 15cm square can be positioned in the garden close to those plants which are susceptible to slug and snail assault. These traps should be checked each morning so the slugs and snails can be removed from beneath them and destroyed. even though handpicking is labour intensive, one hour of doing so will give a noticeable reduction in populations.
Stale beer placed in a container, to a depth of about 2.5cm is extremely attractive to slugs and snails. These containers can be sunk into the soil so that the top edge is at ground level and placed 3 m apart throughout the garden. The slugs and snails will crawl into this container and drown. These traps should be put out early in the evening when feeding activity begins and emptied regularly as slugs and snails accumulate.
Natural Predators - Slugs and snails have natural enemies such as toads and several species of ground beetles and their larvae, wild birds and ducks, with the toad being the most important. It is highly beneficial to encourage such predators to reside in your garden to maintain a natural balance.
Control Methods
Chemical Control - Molluscicides such as metaldehyde or methiocarb are available in bait form for use in the control of slugs and snails. Baits are sold under several trade names in garden supply and hardware stores. Metaldehyde is registered for use in vegetable crops, while Methiocarb can be used on ornamentals and lawns only. Follow label direction to ensure safety and efficacy of each product. There are 'safe' baits you can use based on higher concentrations of iron phosphate that will only harm snails. These go under names like 'Escar-go' and 'Sluggo'.
Diatomaceous earth is a powder that will scratch snails and slugs causing them to loose moisture and die.
Copper repels slugs and snails so if you can surround an area with copper, you can discourage invasions.
Nemaslug,(available from Mr Middletons in Dublin, or at onlinev outlets) Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita (a member of the Phylum Nematoda family)
Nematodes are the latest and it seems the most effective way of controlling slugs, this beats the chemical alternatives easily. Nematodes are tiny organisms, so small they are invisible to the eye. They are naturally occurring organisms which are harmless to you, your kids, wildlife and your plants.
The idea is to them in plastic packages, put them into a watering can, add water and then water the areas affected by slugs. The little nematodes then enter the slugs and release bacteria which slowly kills the slug. Even better news is that the nematodes then multiply and go in search of more slugs! It does work -however the soil temperatures have to be warm.
I’ll try and write a bit about other common pests, diseases and possible solutions when I get a bit of time,
I hope this has been helpful,Andy

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pricking out and potting on seedlings

As soon as the first set of true leaves have opened the seedlings should be transplanted (Pricked Out)
This is a tedious but necessary task, however, with the aid of cell trays, as discussed in Seed sowing this task can be somewhat reduced.
What is being grown often determines what type of container the seedlings will be pricked out into.
Generally the larger the plant the larger the container, however do not be tempted to prick out into what eventually, will be the final pot size.It is much better to ‘pot on’ plants as they outgrow their container rather than do this.The most common containers are; Trays, Boxes, Punnets, Cell tray, and pots.In each case fill the container with a moist compost, prior to pricking out.Do not over compact the compost in the tray, it is better to just fill the container to its brim, tap the container on the bench.This should give all the compaction that is required.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New Blog

I will be adding more this weekend, concerning pricking out and moving on seedlings! Stay tuned

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The basic organic principle, and why

How do you begin gardening the organic way? Organic gardening is much more than using low-chemical sprays. There are several components of organic gardening.

All gardens have animals that are not desired by the gardeners, generally because those animals chew holes in our plants. The animals don’t realize that they are pests: they’re just enjoying their lunch. The organic gardener devises ways to get rid of these animals without damaging the surrounding plants and soil or adding pesticides to the garden.

Plants that attract beneficial insects or deter pests can be an important part of a pest control plan for the garden. Using companion plants that attract good or predator bugs to the garden is a sneaky way for a gardener to get ahead in the garden-munching game. Plants like marigolds and garlic deter just about any pest and can be planted liberally around the garden, while many herbs like dill, chamomile, and rosemary attract a selection of pollinator and predator insects.

Organic weed and disease control can also mean sprays, but these sprays are very different from the chemical-laden sprays of conventional gardening. A light dose of vinegar, soap and water sprayed onto the leaves of a weed can kill it. A cup of boiling water on a particularly stubborn garden weed will damage its root system and allow the gardener to remove the plant from the garden for good. Finding and following organic techniques is becoming much more mainstream, and there are now organic sprays available in stores. As organic gardening techniques become part of our culture, it’s becoming much simpler to find off-the-shelf products to facilitate organic gardening.

A brief overview of compost.

Organic gardening is all about cycles. It’s about honoring the natural cycles of birth, death, and decomposition within the garden ecosystem. Composting is an important part of this process.

When you purchase food or grow it in the garden, it’s alive until it is picked. You eat it and discard the peel or core. But where does it go? Does the waste enter the landfill, to sit and wait and produce methane gas? Or does the waste become something that is not waste at all, but rich humus for the garden?

Turning food scraps into compost is a cornerstone of organic gardening. Whether it’s pit composting on site in the garden or composting in a worm bin, tumbler, or homemade bin, composting food scraps ultimately yields rich soil that is full of nutrients and microbes. This rich soil feeds your plants and can act as a soil conditioner and mulch. What a benefit from the simple act of recycling your food waste!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Transplanting seedlings

More or less Practically any kind of seedling can be transplanted.
Plants almost always grow best and fastest when seeded where they are to stay. And seeding directly is easier on the gardener, too. If you can raise a plant by seeding it directly into the soil, do so -- for that is nature's way.
Yet, there are good reasons for wanting to transplant seedlings. Here are the main ones:
1. To get an earlier start. This is the reason warmth-loving plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are seeded indoors about two months before the weather is mild enough for them to be in the garden. Then when you move them to the garden as plants, it is as though your season started about two months sooner than it really did.
2. To protect plants while they are young and most vulnerable. Pests such as slugs and cutworms can wipe out an entire bed of tiny just-sprouted plants. But vigorous seedlings when moved to the garden can have a much better survival rate. Transplants aren't pest-proof but they are less likely to succumb to pests than the brand-new babies.
3. To save garden space. Suppose you have bush beans bearing in the only space available for late lettuce. By starting the lettuce in containers, you give the beans time to complete their bearing cycle before the ground is given over to lettuce. If you seeded the lettuce directly, in time to get a crop, you'd have to phase out the beans before they had finished their job.
How to Transplant
First lets take up containers and soil mixtures in which to grow seedlings for transplanting.
Containers: We use mainly two kinds, plastic containers about 3 by 5 inches, divided into six cells; and peat pots. We fill such containers with a commercial potting soil mixture, sometimes mixing it, about three parts to one, with milled sphagnum peat moss or with vermiculite for more water retention. But we have used many other sorts of containers, including wooden flats and plastic ones, egg cartons (punch a hole with a nail in the bottom of each compartment for drainage), peat blocks, and 3-inch squares of sod turned upside down -- an old and workable way to grow large-seeded plants such as grow large-seeded plants such as marrows.I try to put only one seed in each place where a plant is to grow, covering it lightly with vermiculite. We then water the container well, until water runs out the bottom. Then I enclose the container in a clear plastic bag, close the open end of the bab securely, and put the bag in a light but not sunny place. In cool weather we put it on a heating cable sold for this purpose (a 12-foot one, from garden suppliers, heats soil in containers to about 18-23 degree celcius.
Just as soon as seeds start sprouting, we remove the plastic bag. We then grow the seedlings, indoors if the weather is too cold for them, otherwise outdoors in a coldframe, until I need them in the garden and they are doing well.
The usual recommendation is to wait for transplanting until seedlings have their second set of true leaves.
Young transplants need a little temporary protection from sunshine,and colder nights so for a few days I make a temporary cloche from 1' plastic tubing and cover with the green wind break material.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sowing vegetable seeds

You can plant vegetable seeds indoors or outdoors. If you plant seeds indoors, you transplant them into your garden later. With direct seeding, you skip the indoor step and sow the seeds directly in your garden. If you're serious about growing vegetables, you'll probably end up using both options. Consider these points when making your choice:
You get a jump on the growing season when you sow seeds indoors. This process is called seed starting (or starting, for short). If you start at the right time, you can have vigorous seedlings ready to go into the ground at the ideal time. In areas with short growing seasons, starting seedlings indoors really gives you a head start.
The best candidates for an early start are plants that tolerate root disturbance and benefit from a jump on the season, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, leeks, onions, parsley, peppers, and tomatoes.
Seeds are easier to start indoors than outdoors. You can more easily provide the perfect conditions for hard-to-germinate or very small seeds, including the ideal temperature, moisture, and fertility.
Some vegetables don't like to be transplanted. These vegetables include many of the root crops, such as carrots, beets, turnips, and parsnips. They're cold-hardy vegetables, so you can direct seed them pretty early anyway. Crops like corn, beans, and peas are also pretty finicky about transplanting and grow better when you direct-seed.
Transplanting seedlings into the ground
Harden off vegetable seedlings that have been grown indoors or purchased from a greenhouse before exposing them to the elements. Hardening off is a way of increasing your plant's stamina before planting — similar to slowly acquiring a base tan before taking that outdoor, tropical vacation. Plants that have been growing outside at the nursery can go right into the ground, but greenhouse-grown plants are lush and soft and have never known a single day of sunshine in their lifetimes. You have to introduce them slowly to the harsh, real world.
To harden-off seedlings, leave the plants in their containers and put them in a shaded area with some indirect light for a few days. A north-facing, covered porch is ideal. Whenever a freeze is predicted, bring the plants inside overnight. If these are shade plants, you can leave them in this protected site for a few more days and then put them in the garden. For sunny-spot plants, give them a few days in the shaded area and then place the plants in a sunny location for an hour one day. Give them a couple of hours of sun the next day, and so on, increasing their exposure each day. At the end of a week, the plants are thoroughly accustomed to sunlight and wind and are ready to go into their new home.
Don't overharden your plants. Certain crops, such as cabbage and broccoli, can bolt (flower before they're supposed to) quickly if seedlings over three weeks old are repeatedly exposed to temperatures lower than 40°F (4°C) for a couple of weeks.
Before transplanting your seedlings, you need to prepare your soil and sculpt beds or rows, and your garden must be ready to plant. When setting out plants in biodegradable peat pots, make slits down the sides of the pots or gently tear the sides to enable the roots to push through. Also, tear off the lip (top) of the pot, so that it doesn't stick up above the soil surface and pull moisture out of the soil. With premade growing blocks encased in netting, cut off the netting before planting.
Choose a calm, cloudy day to transplant, if possible. Late afternoon is a good time because plants can recover from the shock of transplanting without sitting in the midday heat and sun. If you don't get an ideal transplanting day and the weather is hot and sunny, shade the plants until the sun goes down. Don't be alarmed if your plants look a little droopy after you set them out because they'll soon recover. Cabbage seedlings can droop and look almost dead, for example, and then be up and growing in a day or two.
Sowing seeds directly in your garden
Unless you live in an area where summers are really short, you're better off sowing some types of vegetables directly in a garden. Large-seeded, fast-growing vegetables, such as corn, melons, squash, beans, and peas, usually languish if they're grown in containers for even a day or two too long.
Before direct seeding, make sure that the soil has dried out sufficiently before you work it, and be sure that the soil is warm enough for the seeds that you want to plant. Pea seeds, for example, germinate in soil as cool as 40°F (4°C), and you can plant them as soon as you can work the soil in spring. Squash seeds, on the other hand, need warmth. If your soil temperature is much below 65°F (18°C), the seeds are likely to rot in the ground before they sprout. The best way to determine the temperature of your soil is to use a soil thermometer, which you can buy at a garden store.
You can plant seeds in a variety of patterns. The method that you choose depends on your climate, your tools, and your taste:
Row planting: Mark the placement of a row within your garden, and then make a furrow at the correct depth along the row. Some seeds may not sprout, so sow seeds more thickly than you want the final spacing of the crops to be. Thinning rows is less of a chore if you space seeds as evenly as possible. Cover the seeds with fine soil and then firm them in with the back of a hoe to make sure that all the seeds are in contact with the soil. Water gently. If you plan to use furrow irrigation, fill the furrows with water first and then push the large seeds into the top of raised beds.
Wide row planting: This method allows you to plant more seeds in less space by concentrating watering, weeding, and fertilizing in a smaller area. Rows are generally 10 to 16 inches (25 to 41 cm) wide. Sprinkle seeds over the entire row — with most crops, try to land the seeds about 1/2 to 1 inch (1 to 2 cm) apart. For peas and beans, space them 1-1/2 to 2 inches (4 to 5 cm). Cover small seeds with a thin layer of potting soil. Lightly pat the potting soil down again to bring the added soil into firm contact with the seeds.

Copper fungicide

A new broad spectrum fungicide has been proven to kill different fungi and bacteria in ornamentals.
Fungicides have been used for more than 400 years from as simple as a brine solution, which was used for cereal seed treatment, to the introduction of very complex organic chemical compounds in the earlier half of the 20th century. There are different classes of fungicides that are classified according to their chemical structure. One of them is copper-based fungicides or copper fungicides. It has been used to protect crops after the ‘accidental’ discovery of the Bordeaux mixture by Pierre-Marie-Alexis Millardet in the late 1800s.
Disease control with the use of a copper based fungicide is done by disrupting the functions of the cellular proteins of fungi and bacteria. This is because when cupric ions are released in the presence of moisture, it destroys the secondary and tertiary structures (denaturation) of these proteins upon contact. Once these proteins are denatured, its functions are lost.
Copper is an essential micro element needed by plants. It is an important component of proteins found in some enzymes which are involved in regulating some biochemical reactions. Copper is also responsible for chlorophyll formation and promotes seed production and formation. Excess concentration especially on the roots can largely affect as growth and morphology.
In the Philippines, the common copper based fungicides are copper oxychloride, copper hydroxide and cuprous oxide. Nordox 50 WP is the only copper fungicide in the market with cuprous oxide as its active ingredient. It is a broad spectrum fungicide used not only to kill different fungi but bacteria as well. It also breaks the resistance of these pathogens wherein it disrupts the disease build up in an area where there is a history of infection. Nordox 50 WP is produced in Norway by NORDOX AS, the worldleading producer of superior cuprous oxide for agrochemical use. It is super micronized with particles slightly larger than 1 micron that is why it is very effective in preventing and controlling the development of fungi.
Particle size and solubility
With copper fungicides, the effectivity to control fungi and bacteria is not determined by the number of applications per area or how many grams of active ingredient were applied, rather it depends on how long it retains on the plant surface. The longer it is retained the more effective it is in controlling pathogens.
The particle size of Nordox 50 WP is only 1.2 microns while copper hydroxide and copper oxychloride is 1.8 and 2.5 microns, respectively. Given its fine particle size, it gives a more uniform dispersion when mixed in water as compared to other fungicides. With even dispersion, the active ingredient is not settling at the bottom of the sprayer giving a more uniform application from the very start of application up to the last drop of the mixture. Since Nordox 50 WP is very fine, it has higher surface contact, so it can adhere longer on the plant surface giving better protection. This is the other two copper fungicides which have tendencies to settle and give an inconsistent mixture and can be easily removed by rain and wind when applied on leaves. The other copper fungicides with larger particles are easily removed from the leaf surface by rain or wind and then accumulate in the soil injuring the roots which adversely affects plant growth.
Another criterion to consider aside from the size of the particle is the solubility of the copper fungicides. This is because solubility determines the release rate of cupric ions. The copper in Nordox 50WP are more insoluble than the two copper fungicides. Being more insoluble, it provides a slower, controlled release of cupric ions on the leaf surface providing the plant longer, more cost efficient protection compared with other fungicides. If the copper source is very soluble, there is a tendency of releasing too many cupric ions that can damage the leaf.
Nordox 50WP is the cheapest copper fungicide in the market. It comes in a 1 kilogram box with a suggested retail price of Php600.00 and a recommended rate of 2 grams per load. Each load would cost about Php11.00 to Php17.00 depending on the rate. Although its price is almost the same as the other fungicides, the cost per knapsack load is cheaper and you save about 9% as compared to copper hydroxide and 118% as compared to copper oxychloride. These savings can be doubled or tripled especially during rainy season because with other fungicides, there is a need for a sticker and reapplication since these can be easily washed off by rain. Reapplication means added production costs. With Nordox 50WP, once you have applied it, you are certain that it stays there to give your plant better protection against diseases caused by fungi and bacteria.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

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