How to Grow Carrots

Every vegetable garden should grow at least one variety of carrots. Once you’ve grown them, I’m certain you’ll be hooked. I grew a row of 10 carrots wide by 25 feet long. That’s a lot of carrots and to my surprise, although I have a bunny running around the garden at night, not one of the carrots was destroyed! I will admit that a few of the leaves were eaten, but no digging or other damage.

I started all of my carrots by seed, and yes it is a little tough planting all of those tiny seeds, but the benefits were quite obviously worth the trouble. I planted in a row three feet wide, which equaled to a thinned row of ten carrots per row. I also planted each row three inches apart, so, my calculations tell me that at harvest time, barring any lose to rabbits, insects and diseases; I could easily harvest 1,000 carrots…That’s a lot of rabbit food.

After the seed germinated, I thinned the plants to three inches apart. I then spent the next several weeks watching them grow. Carrots have a beautiful, fernlike top, so it was a pleasure watching them wave in our Texas breezes. I checked them daily as they grew, and enjoyed the growth spurts after a wonderful rain, or after fertilizing.

Because I planted early, I had very little problem with pests. Right as I began to harvest some of them, I noticed some small grasshoppers starting to get interested in the tops. While harvesting, I noticed a caterpillar starting to munch. This caterpillar was so very small, that I could not really tell what it was, and quite honestly at this point I did not care.

I processed the carrots by cutting off the tops. Those tops immediately went back into the compost pile. I then cleaned them and did any necessary additional trimming. I put them on ice and made a plan for canning them. Once I found a good recipe, I broke out the canning gear and got busy in the kitchen. 16 pints later and I have a great feeling of accomplishment. To know that I can feed my family by the planning and hard work put into my vegetable garden just makes me feel really good.

I hope you are having some of the same successes as I am having. Please feel free to join us on my Facebook page, where I hope you will come and participate by asking questions, and posting your photos.


A Product Review: Winchester Gardens Select Organics Fertilizers

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On a warm and early spring morning, the 3rd of April, 2012, my father in-law and I had just put the finishing filming touches on my very first vegetable gardening video. At the end of the filming, the wind started to pick up and it was very fitting for the video, and how mulching your vegetables can help stabilize your veggies in high wind.

He headed home before the storm started, and I broke out the samples of Winchester Gardens Select Organics fertilizer samples that were sent to me for review. I quickly read the directions for use on each packet, and started to apply the fertilizers accordingly.

First the tomato stakes. My plants were about 6” tall at the time of fertilizer application. I pushed three stakes into the ground around each plant to a depth of more than one inch and proceeded to the next vegetable. It has been just a few days longer than three weeks since the stakes were pushed into the ground, and I must say that I am extremely happy with the results.

The tomatoes are all about 16 inches tall with very stout branches, stems and leaves. I’ve never grown plants that looked so healthy. The fruit is approximately quarter size or bigger with lots of fruit coming on and more blooms.

My potatoes were approximately 6-8 inches tall at the time of the making of the video. I fertilized this 35 foot row of Red Potatoes with the “Vegetable” fertilizer at about half the rate, just in case we had a heavy downpour. To my surprise, the plants took off and are currently 18-20 inches tall in some cases. The plants are blooming like I’ve never seen my potatoes bloom and, needless to say, I am also very happy with the results.

I used the Berry fertilizer on my Blackberries (they were about 12” tall when I applied the fertilizer), White Grapes that were about two feet tall (I’d pruned them back in the fall), and my newly planted Blueberries (I planted gallon containers with fruit).

Three days after I fertilized, blooms began to show on the grapes. I was shocked, because there were so many blooms for such young plants. The blooms continued to pop out of almost every new stem and now that they have matured over the last three weeks, I’ve got grapes that are set, and maturing.

The Blackberries are producing lots of vegetative growth and will soon show flowers. I’m thrilled with their progress, because blackberries are my favorite bramble fruit. And finally, the blueberries are maintaining most of the fruit that came with the plants at the time of purchase, and have even begun to grow a lot more foliage.

Moving down the garden rows, each of the different vegetables have outperformed last year’s growth and blossom set. Yellow crookneck squash are producing a little earlier and I have already made two harvests from enough plants to provide some fresh veggies for us and the neighbors who aren’t growing a garden this year. The yellow sweet corn is taller than I had expected. The zucchini has exceeded my expectations. The pumpkin plants have already filled their growing area, with baby pumpkins already set and waiting for pollination.

Watermelon and cantaloupe plants are already beginning to send out running vines and the White Scalloped Squash are about the size of a quarter as well.

The best results that I’ve gotten so far are not necessarily huge growth spurts, or lots of blossoms, but the recovery of plants that I was sure would not make it. Somehow I had forgotten about some Bell Pepper plants that had been placed in a corner out of my eyesight. I think they received no attention for a period of about three days, as these delicate transplants were yellowing and drying out.

I immediately planted them into a spot in the garden and added a small portion of the vegetable fertilizer, so as to not burn the already stressed roots. To my complete amazement, approximately three days later I began to see recovery. Today, just two weeks later, the pepper plants are going to make it to maturity, with several new sets of solid green leaves and are currently about 8 inches tall…WOW!

Please go take a look at Winchester Gardens complete line of fertilizer products today, and get your vegetables, herbs, berries, nut trees and more off to a great start this gardening season.

To Vegetable Garden Or Not?

Are you thinking about starting a vegetable garden? Or, are you the type that considers it too much work for the results? Well, all I can tell you is that I’ve reaped the rewards for the last 40 plus years by planting vegetables and receiving some other rewards from the work as well.

The benefit in knowledge gained (and shared with anyone who wants to learn what I’ve learned) is just tremendous and you can just imagine all of the other benefits that come from spending time in the garden with family, teaching the next generation.

And let’s not forget the health benefits! I just came from a visit with my doctor, who said that beyond a few very small problems easily fixed, he’d never seen a 55 year old as healthy looking as me. He knows my gardening history, and partially attributes my level of health to my involvement in the garden.

I know you really want to get started. I can feel it right through this keyboard as I type this post to you. So, are you ready? Where do I start, you may ask? Start by setting a goal. Start out with a 4X4 foot area. Learn as you grow, but get started. There are so many viable resources available to anyone who wants to get started, so get started! I’m here to help. Ask questions and get to it today!

Please get started with my free email subscription to this blog today! Just type your email address in the small form on the right side of this page.

Tomatoes: Determinate and Indeterminate. What’s the difference?

The true definition of the word determinate is; having defined limits, or; conclusively determined.

All determinate tomatoes are varieties that have been bred to grow shorter in height than indeterminate types. Determinate varieties may only grow to be about four or five feet tall. They will stop growing when flowers have set their fruit on the terminal bud. Determinate tomatoes will ripen their entire crop at the same time and then they will complete their lifecycle and die back.

Supporting your tomatoes is always important, and it doesn’t matter whether they are determinate or indeterminate. They all need some sort of support. No pruning is necessary with either type of tomato; however, if you do pinch out the sucker growth of a determinate tomato, you are removing a lot of the potential for flowers to set fruit. I grow Celebrity and Roma varieties. These two examples are known as determinate tomatoes. Remember: Do Not Pinch Suckers!

Indeterminate varieties or the so called “vining” tomatoes require a lot of support. Using 6” square wire mesh used in the pouring of concrete driveways is a good material to wrap in a three foot diameter circle for a cage. These cages could be as tall as eight feet, depending on the width of the wire mesh. This type of wire mesh can be found at your local “big box” hardware store, or lumberyard.

Indeterminate tomatoes grow throughout the season putting on a lot of vegetation and fruit until it gets so cold that the plants can be killed. They are known to flower, bear fruit and ripen all at the same time as the growing season progresses. Remember: it is not necessary to pinch out the suckers on an indeterminate variety of tomato, but you may have been taught, or are already practicing this acceptable method of improving fruit quality. I’ve planted Early Girl, and cherry tomatoes that are indeterminate varieties.

Regardless of the variety or its determinate or indeterminate nature, during times of high heat and humidity, you are bound to see fruit set decrease dramatically. The pollen gets too sticky, and is unable to float to other flowers. Bees are not typically found out working in the extreme heat of the day in places like Texas.

Always check the label in the pot or the back side of a seed packet prior to purchasing your tomatoes so that you know if they are determinate or indeterminate. You will better understand your tomatoes growth patterns and how to best care for them during the growing season.

Slipping the Tubers

Please read this blog owners take on working with Sweet Potato slips. She has done a very good job at making it easy to understand. This is an article that you want your children reading. It is full of simple reading and great photos, making it easy for any reader to participate in the process.

Will you also please consider subscribing to her blog as well?

Click here to read the article

How to Grow Great Potatoes

I didn’t know this, but apparently there’s well over a 1000 known varieties of potatoes in existence around the world. Can you believe it?

Heirloom varieties are famous for their flavors, and equally notorious for growing well in some areas, but not in others.

The world’s number one “bible” on growing potatoes – How to Grow Great Potatoes – delivers 12 pages of detailed information on potato varieties. There’s photos, cultivation notes and cooking notes on over 100 varieties, including russet, red, white, fingerling and blue/purple potatoes.

Apparently when selecting varieties for your garden, you should consider your main cooking use, variety productivity, suitability to your soil conditions and disease resistance. The potato variety that you pick should also be a good fit for your climate because healthy plants produce better-tasting tubers.

This book contains 11 beautifully illustrated chapters which cover everything from soil preparation, planting, watering, nutrition and controlling pests and diseases.

I love this book. It’s got a quick start guide for beginners and quite advanced information for seasoned growers. Co-Author Lucia Grimmer holds a Masters Degree in Plant Pathology and Nutrition – so she knows a thing or two about pest, disease, nutrition and cultivation.

Click here to see the book.

Thank you,
Steven Coyne

PS: Oh, and the ebook comes with 2 further bonus ebooks too. One of them is a lovely recipe book called How to Cook Yummy Potatoes and provides 45 gorgeous recipes and images. The other is How to Cook Jerusalem Artichokes, another tasty vegetable which is surprisingly easy to grow.

How to Grow Potatoes

So Your Child Wants to Be a Vegetable Gardener

When my mother first found out that I’d had even the slightest interest in vegetable gardening, she started me off learning with a few simple tools. One of those tools was educating me on how plants grow under certain conditions. We embarked on what has now been a 45 year love affair with the vegetable garden and all that happens in it.

The very first step we took together was that which has happened in most family homes for many years…the Sweet Potato! Yes, she cut the top off of a sweet potato and forced some toothpicks into it so that it would sit in just enough water in an old mason jar filled to the top. I was instructed to watch for new roots and shoots that would start appearing soon.

To my great excitement, the day came when I walked into the kitchen counter and, behold, tiny little roots and shoots started to show themselves. I quickly hurried to mom’s bedroom and began to shake her awake, insisting that she hurry to see the new growth. She reluctantly wrapped herself up in her housecoat and came to the kitchen.

In my exuberance, we found three new sprouts from the top of the sweet potato and, too numerous to remember, lots of tiny new roots coming out of the bottom of the cut end of the potato. We had success! We watched that old cut piece of potato grow shoots, that had also grown adventitious roots out of them as well, and enough roots to support all of that growth.

As time went on, we snipped and gathered some of those sprouts that were now about one foot tall, and went out to a prepared garden area where we were to grow these little plants into edible tubers. I was so excited that I asked mom if there were other vegetables that we could do the same thing with.

Of course she said yes, and immediately went to the refrigerator and collected an almost used up stalk of celery.

She made me diligently trim off a few stalks and keep just 3 or 4 of the tiniest stalks. We placed the bottom of that little crown of celery in a bowl of warm water and as I did with the sweet potato, watch it begin to grow. I changed the water daily. I then began to notice that the existing small stalks started to grow a little.

Then I noticed that the stalks started to expand out and away from the center. Something magical was happening and I couldn’t keep my eyes, or for that matter my mind off of that little crown of celery sitting in that bowl of water. A few more days went by and I began to see roots. I was surely becoming a gardener at eight years old.

I soon took that little experiment out to its own space reserved specifically for celery and planted it according to my mother’s explicit instructions. She then started showing me how to prepare soil by making and adding some compost. We discussed seeds and how to store, freeze if necessary, and eventually plant them at just the right time. She taught me the importance of doing things right the “first time” and everything else that I needed to do to get the best results.

I was becoming a very good gardener with lots of experience by the time I was eleven years old. Not many kids in my neighborhood could say that! I was always thrilled to run home from school and get any homework done before I could go out and learn something new in the vegetable garden. During a time when a famous brand of canned vegetables was running an extremely popular commercial to advertise its canned goods, I was known as the green giant on my street.

I planted everything from green beans, to broccoli, to cantaloupe and zucchini. I learned things that still have value to my life, even outside of the vegetable garden. I had quickly become popular with those that were also growing their own vegetables in the community. We all had “green thumbs” and enjoyed sharing information that would help each other produce the best yields for our efforts.

Now that I’m an old coot, I still find myself overjoyed to share what I’ve learned through the years. And to think, it all started with a little piece of sweet potato!

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