GrowVeg vegetable gardening software: Square Foot Gardening and more

plan your vegetable garden

Seeing a few rays of sunshine in the gloomy Pacific Northwest, I decided to open up GrowVeg and start planning for my fall crops for the upcoming season.  I was pleased to notice a new bit of functionality the Square Foot Gardening feature.  I started growing with the square foot method after being inspired with my first gardening book appropriately titles “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew.  I consider him the original cheap vegetable gardener where this book provides a great way to produce more food in less space but is also filled with very cost efficient tips for your home garden.

GrowVeg takes advantage of this technique by allowing you to select the plants you want to grow and automatically shows you the amount of “squares” your plant needs as well as how many plants you can add in the square with the number appearing in the top left corner.

One additional benefit of GrowVeg is when you use the service for a couple years, not only can you save time by reusing the template from the previous year, but it also remembers what you planted at the various locations and warns you to not plant that family of vegetables in the same location for effective crop rotation (another recommendation of Square Foot Gardening) by showing a glowing red indicator (see below) where to avoid planting this year.

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Another cool feature is revealed by clicking on the info icon it will display a real picture of the plant and all of the basic information you need to know to grow almost any edible plant you can think of.

GrowVeg Software

I will admit last year I did not follow the planting dates that GrowVeg recommended, I was optimistic (ok really just impatient) and started my seed a few weeks too early resulting in some poor yields for my cold spring crops.  This year I am going to be a little more pessimistic and use their dates and following the convenient planting guide.  Which along with the reminder emails (and a little restraint) hopefully I will been eating a few more spring veggies this year.

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If you want to to try GrowVeg.com out for yourself you can sign up for a free 30 day trial and in a 5-10 minutes you can have some detailed plans as well.

Go Green in the Veggie Patch

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Vegetable gardeners inherently have a leg up on the casual nature lover: they’re already doing their part for the environment by growing their own vegetables in the first place. Mass-produced horticulture can be a pretty massive strain on the environment when you factor in the nasty effects of pesticides and the sometimes wasteful techniques employed by factory farmers. The agribusiness is a sticky one; while it provides much of our nation with balanced nutrition and a range of job opportunities, it’s tough to deny the toll it takes on Mother Nature.

Vegetable gardens, while often small and discreet, are a common way for homeowners to allay their environmental impact. Here are a few tips to keep in mind in order to get the most out of your veggie plot while wounding the least of the environment:

1. Compost. Of course, that means a little extra effort on your end, but it’s well worth it. We all know what an ecological perk homegrown compost can be, so don’t skip out. Use what you have on hand – eggshells, grass cuttings, newspaper, manure, whatever it may be. Just make sure you’ve got something you can throw together to make your own organic fertilizer.

2. Accessorize. Eco-friendly garden maintenance is a lot easier when you have a little help. Make things easier on yourself by equipping your vegetable patch with the right supplies. Make your own plant markers or purchase recycled materials that will help you separate your squash from your spinach. Put out a rain barrel and make use of precipitation to water your plants at a later date. Look around for trowels and spades made with bamboo or other organic materials – there are plenty of brands out there that are selling earth friendly gardening tools.

3. Simplify. Certain vegetables offer up low maintenance, low effort endeavors that can produce surprisingly high yield. Potatoes, green beans and carrots are all pretty easy to grow, and don’t require much attention. Make some room and plant a few of your favorites; there won’t be much more you have to do other than some routine upkeep. The environmental benefit comes in what you don’t end up spending on potentially harmful garden care products

That’s it! Well, of course, that’s not all of it – but those are some great places to start. Follow these Eco-friendly tips in your vegetable garden and spread the word! What are you and your friends doing to stay green in the veggie patch?

Author: Kristina Ross is a writer by trade and gardener by habit. She’s currently a freelancer and blogger for Save On Energy.

Building Your Greenhouse For Success

Most of us think of building and maintaining greenhouses as a labor of love, a fulfilling hobby, or simply an aesthetic pursuit. We invest our time, effort, and money into greenhouses for the joy of gardening and the sake of surrounding ourselves with beauty. But efficient greenhouses can also give back in more explicit ways. From filling kitchens with fresh produce to supplementing incomes and increasing property values, greenhouse success can translate into personal success in countless ways and look like a thing of beauty surrounded by exotic flowers.

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Of course, the primary benefit of a greenhouse is the control it affords. A well-made greenhouse will overcome seasons, sudden temperature shifts, and blights of harmful insects. In the UK, where wintertime freezes it makes gardening impossible, with a greenhouse we can cultivate exotic species and delicate produce, while substantially extending the growing season. To optimize space, the best greenhouse plants are those with the largest flowerings and blooms relative to their size. The more dense and diverse a greenhouse, the more efficient it will be, and the fewer resources it will require to equalize temperature and humidity. Green onions, hanging patio tomatoes, peppers, and carrots are efficient growers with consistently high outputs. Narcissus and Snapdragon are large blooming flowers with relatively low space requirements

Designing Your Greenhouse

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Careful planning is the key to optimizing your greenhouse’s potential. This starts with construction and continues with each new plant addition. Most greenhouses will need to be oriented North-South, to extend the growing season and maximize sun exposure. In some cases, however, due to local wind threats or special crop requirements, an East-West orientation will be more efficient, as it best utilizes light during the earliest and latest growing seasons. But no single building plan is best for everyone. The decision depends entirely upon geography and local climate.

Thoughtful planning must go into how the greenhouse is constructed, thinking about how to minimize waste and prevent costly, avoidable problems. Plan by talking with your plumbers about this so you know what access to water pipes you have, what would be needed to be built in place for water access and the cost this may involve. All this will help maintain the greenhouse in the future so is worth planning well from day one.

The next important stage is to consider how best to utilize existing resources rather than buying unnecessary implements. Is there an abandoned outbuilding on your property? Old windows lying around? Perhaps an addition to a detached garage or boathouse can help circumvent the need to build a freestanding structure. Maybe a fragment of a low-lying wall can serve as a building platform. The beauty of greenhouses is that each is unique. No single design trumps the others. Lean-to structures, triangular houses, and arched-roofs have the potential to work equally well. In regions where the weather permits, plastic sheeting and PVC can replace glass and wood. Inexpensive aluminum piping is a sturdy and easily assembled option for those in harsher climates. Ultimately, the most successful greenhouses are designed for longevity. Keep in mind that greenhouses are wet environments, so wood structures will need to be sanded, primed, and painted to avoid rot.

Many minor additions can drastically improve greenhouse productivity, stability, and sustainability. Simple rainwater and dew collection systems can lead to substantial water savings. Ventilation fans (purchased at any local hardware store) make humidity regulation easy, moisture meters and thermostats allow for scientific precision and will facilitate year-to-year refinements, a portable potting bench will prevent countless head- and back-aches, and cheap solar lighting is an eco-friendly, wireless solution. Many simple solar lights can be purchased for around £60-£100. For those who need artificial heating, the best option is electric. It is emission-free and relatively efficient. But be sure to eliminate droughts wherever possible to prevent heat loss and reduce energy costs. Also clear away or trim back nearby trees to prevent potential damage and maximize light.

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Economic And Lifestyle Benefits

As the prices of organic produce continue to climb, greenhouse gardening is becoming more and more economically logical. Not only does home growing ensure your family eats the cleanest and healthiest produce, it can also be a fulfilling business venture. By selling to local farmers markets or organic co-ops, many gardeners can at least cover greenhouse expenses, and some larger greenhouses can even become quite lucrative. Growing and selling local is also an important environmental contribution: one that is more important than ever in our rapidly globalizing world economy. And with the holidays fast approaching, don’t forget that hand grown plants make wonderful gifts.

But even despite the many material benefits of gardening, at the end of the day the best aspect of a greenhouse is its function as a sanctum. Greenhouses are therapeutic places of beauty, serenity, and growth. They are a place to find balance and release stress. So take this into careful account when designing your greenhouse space. Add personal decorative touches. Consider installing a simple macadam walkway, a reading nook, wooden scrollwork, a stained-glass windowpane, or a swing seat. Plan your floral arrangements with soothing palettes in mind. It is true that successful greenhouses are a healthy economic investment. But, far more importantly, greenhouses are an investment in the health of body and mind.


Author: Jenny Beswick loves home improvement ideas and making her garden the focus point in her home design. Consulting with a London Plumber, careful planning and creative designs are a few steps forward to a successful greenhouse. Keep us informed on how your development plans out!

Free Gardening Books

Free gardening books

The great thing about home gardening is that people have been doing it for thousands of years and even better writing about for at least the last few hundred.  Fortunately this provides us with a great amount of knowledge of from many generations back.

What’s even better many of these get gems are under the public domain so they are completely free gardening books to have as a resource to read online and is even available in EBOOK format to take with on your favorite.  To check out these great books yourself check out Google Books with the public domain filter enabled.

Currently I am checking out “The home vegetable garden” by W. R. Beattie in printed in 1906. Sure it doesn’t have a real catching marketing title but provides some great tips and makes use of low cost solutions to the same problems we come across today.  One of my favorite finds was this handy Planting table:

Gardener's Planting Table

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Update: Max mentioned in the comments of another great resource your local Cooperative Extension Service just go to Bing.com and type “Cooperative Extension Service” and then your zip code to find your local office and get some great local info.

BING

 

So check these out and let me know what treasures you find in the comments.

Growing Vegetables in the City

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The days when city dwellers had no hope of growing their own vegetables are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, as urban farmers discover ever more ingenious ways to squeeze growing space into the most compact area. Window boxes, balcony planters and even blank walls can be put to good use as growing space for healthy and economical vegetable production, and the beauty of a tightly contained ‘garden’ is that the environment can be strictly controlled, ensuring that pests are kept away and no harmful chemicals creep into the organic compost or soil.

Legumes thrive in planters and can stand being planted quite close together. Even a relatively short planter, of approximately 70cm to 1m can yield enough beans or peas to feed a family every other day for the duration of the harvest season. Providing a climbing frame for these vegetables will give the plant greater height, which will allow a bigger yield of tasty and nutritious vegetables for your table.

Carrots lend themselves well to being grown in a container. If the pot or planter is relatively shallow, it would be advisable to choose ‘dwarf’ varieties which tend to be shorter. Carrots must be sown thickly, with about a 5cm covering layer of soil or compost, and then thinned out once they have sprouted to be sure each carrot has enough room to grow out.

Cucumber

Cucumbers, eggplants and melons can all be grown in a rooftop or balcony garden but all of these plants require a fairly generous and deep container. As a rule of the thumb a half-barrel, or two motor-vehicle tires laid one on top of the other is the sort of space needed, so growing these plants will very much depend on the space available to our bijou gardener. Cucumbers and melons, particularly, need space to spread, being ground-creepers that are not easily able to climb. Attention must be paid to the fruits as they grow, they often sit on the ground which means they can be prone to insect depredation and rotting. An eggplant forms a rather attractive bushy plant which can be very decorative, the effect being enhanced when it has a couple of the shiny purple fruit forming.

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Tomatoes are very versatile and will grow under most conditions. The bigger varieties need a large deep pot, and a stake to keep them upright once they have reached maturity. Smaller types of tomato, like the cherry tomato can even grow in very small pots, but in general, the larger the pot and the plant, the higher the yield and the longer the growing season will be. Tomatoes must not be allowed to sit in standing water as this can cause the plant to start rotting away.

Lettuce

Lettuces adore being grown in pots and planters, they positively thrive in that situation, mainly because it is very much easier for the gardener to ensure that the lettuces are in the right environment for optimum growth. In general, growing lettuces can be as simple as sprinkling in some seeds, making sure the soil stays moist and getting ready for a healthy feast as they grow to full size. Lettuces in a garden bed can be tricky as too much water is dreadful for them, causing the plants to rot, while not enough water creates a small bitter-tasting leaf. Planters generally have drainage holes at the bottom which automatically maintain the moisture level of the soil, taking some of the guesswork out of proceedings.

Many species of vegetable can be grown in pots and containers and the best advice would be to try one or two specimens and see how they do. Organic vegetables may benefit from fish or blood-and-bone meal fertilizers to give them a boost, but if you are using any of the patented organic composts that are readily available at gardening centers and DIY shops you may not need to add any extra nutrients to the soil. Organic produce is easily protected from insects, parasites and diseases when it is grown far from other plant-life, a boon to the urban vegetable grower.

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If you are strapped for space, but desperate to grow food or flowers, have a look at your window-sills with a view to fitting in a window-box, examine hidden corners to see if there is space for a deep planter or a strawberry pot, and even study the walls of the outside of your house or flat: vertical gardening is becoming fashionable, with pots and planters being layered up a wall to make maximum use of the space available. As long as you have a space that attracts at least six hours of sun per day, you too can become an urban gardener!

AUTHOR: Thomas Jones is a keen gardener, renovator and DIY enthusiast. Having lived and worked in the city, he’s learnt a few tricks on how to grow good produce. Thomas currently works with Falcon Pools.

Rooftop garden image Source: http://www.bucolicbushwick.com

Things to Know before Installing a Sprinkler System

 

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Sandy soil, clay soil, grass types, it can be a lot to take in. And knowing exactly how to water your lawn to keep it green and healthy can be a task. However, automatic sprinkler systems can help ease your burden. But a sprinkler system isn’t a one-and-done type of project. It takes planning, preparation, and time to achieve your goal of installing an automatic sprinkler system. Here are a few things you’ll need to do prior to installing your new system.

Need a Permit?

One of the most commonly overlooked tasks when homeowners install sprinkler systems is checking with your locality to see if you are required to obtain a building permit to install your system. Now, you may be scratching your head and asking, “Why would I need a building permit? I’m installing something underground on my property.”

Well, when it comes to sprinkler systems, you aren’t simply laying piping down in the ground and connecting a hose to it. There is a good deal of wiring that goes into it, and your city or county may have requirements you must meet prior to installing your system. While most contractors will take care of all your permit needs, if you are planning on installing yourself, you will need to do your due diligence and contact the proper locality to determine what permits you may need.

Check for Underground Utilities

Prior to planting your shovel into the ground, you need to check for any underground utilities that may be in your yard. This is not just a safety concern, it is required by law that you check for utilities prior to digging on your property. Some utilities are not far beneath the surface, and even a relatively shallow dig can get you in a world of trouble.

Digging without knowing where your underground utilities are located puts you in harm’s way. Knowing where your utility lines are buried will help protect you from injury and prevent damages to your utilities, service disruptions, and potential fines and repair costs. Even if you’ve called before for a similar digging project, call again. Every job requires a call to your utility providers to ensure your safety and your neighborhood’s utility service.

Local Watering Ordinances

Lastly, you’ll want to check all of your local watering ordinances to see if you must adhere to certain watering restrictions. Many municipalities have responded to water shortages and droughts by implementing laws that restrict how many times per week you can water your lawn, for how long, and in some cases, have implemented laws dictating when you can water your lawn. To verify any watering ordinances for your area, you can search online for your city and county water restrictions to see which restrictions, if any, apply to your location.

Finding the Right Sprinkler for Your Garden

With the right watering habits and right system for your garden, you can enjoy a healthy lawn and garden each and every year. However, it’s important to know which type of sprinkler system is best for your needs.

There are several factors to consider when choosing your new sprinkler system. You may even be best suited to utilize more than one type of sprinkler to ensure your yard and garden are covered. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you shop for the right sprinkler system for your garden.

  • > How large is the area that needs to be watered?
  • > How frequently should you water?
  • > What is the climate like in your region?
  • > How can you most effectively water those hard-to-reach areas in your garden?

Types of Sprinkler Nozzles

When you’re in need of a sprinkler system, knowing the differences between the different types of sprinklers will help you choose the best fit for your lawn. Fixed sprinklers feature several different designs that cast water in a single pattern over a fixed area. They offer fast and precise watering, and can water those hard-to-reach areas and are ideal for small areas, gardens and landscaping, fixed sprinklers.

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Oscillating sprinklers have a long tube with numerous openings and move back and forth, creating a fan-shaped waterfall. Best for medium- and large-sized areas and areas that are newly seeded, oscillating sprinklers provide you with gentle watering, even coverage, and are best for covering a rectangular or square pattern.

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Impact sprinklers, also known as impulse sprinklers, are those which rotate in a circle and shoot a single jet of water and make a distinctive clicking sound when in use. Best for large areas, impact sprinklers are very wind-resistant, are less likely to clog, offer an adjustable pattern, and provide you with lower water pressure and flow rate.

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Rotating sprinklers, best for gardens and medium-sized areas, have two or more arms and spin to disperse water in a circular pattern. The benefits of a rotating sprinkler include even water distribution, they often feature adjustable jets and bases, and they work quickly.

Traveling_sprinklers

Traveling sprinklers, which resemble little tractors, move through your yard in a preset pattern. These mini-tractors drag the hose behind them as they water your yard. These are great for using in a wide area, and can save you time watering your yard and garden. Traveling sprinklers are best for areas that are uneven, and yards that are oddly shaped.

Drip Irrigation

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Drip irrigation, a combination of several low-pressure, low-volume water delivery systems, is also known as a micro-irrigation system. Each system is distinguished by a different style of water emitter. Originating with commercial growers and farmers, drip irrigation systems are now a popular option for home gardeners who desire to conserve water.

These systems are the best way of getting the most from your plants while maximizing your water resources. Drip irrigation systems tend to use less water than conventional watering techniques and systems, as they aim to keep the plant’s roots moist without saturating. Drip systems are often installed in the subsoil, where they can be hidden beneath a layer of mulch.

Great for long strips of lawn, oddly shaped gardens, and raised beds, drip irrigation systems offer a low flow rate, easy installation, and allow you to target the exact area where you want to water, and allows you to deliver it exactly when you want when used with a timer. Other benefits of drip irrigation systems include their ability to deliver water without creating an overly moist environment, helping keep fungal diseases from your garden, and they improve the water-holding capacity in sandier soils.

Rachael Jones is a Staff Writer for DIYMother

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