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Vegetable Gardening Software Review

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When it comes to planning my vegetable garden I must say this is definitely one of my weaknesses.  I make a good attempt to map things out on graph paper ahead of time only to decide to add/remove a crop and eventually resort back to my memory and then get a surprise when I find I planted carrots and cilantro in the same place.

Given I am required to spend around 10 hours a day in front of a computer my first thought was to find a solution online in the form of some sort of vegetable gardening software.  I tried some trials of several products and got so frustrated I was about to create my own when I came across GrowVeg.com.  After signing up for their 30 day trial within 15 minutes I had my gardens planned out and saved for future reference. 

Now if when I change my mind on planting preferences I can easily modify my plan to the new desired configuration.  When I see easy I really mean it, it completely passed the “I am a man and don’t read instructions” test but there are some helpful video tutorials for those with more patience.  I can honestly say it is so easy a 4-year-old can do it.  She saw me “playing” with my garden and asked if she could “play” the gardening game as you can see below.

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Once my daughter was done with her garden I proceeded to check out some of the other features.  The next feature I came across was by clicking on any of the plants it would return helpful plant information from how to plant, how to harvest, and even how/when to apply fertilizer.

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Definitely the feature I was most impressed with was the planting schedule it automatically generates after you have added plants to your plan.  Not only does it tell you when to plant but also when to expect your harvest.  What I love about this is, if you are like me, you can’t decide what your frost date is, you can simply change it in the settings and the schedule automatically updates.  Now if you are forgetful like me, there is even a feature to notify you by email when it is time to plant your seeds.

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Once you have built your history of garden plans throughout the years, the program will use this information my warning you if you are planning on planting the same type of plant in the same location you did before.  This enforcement of crop rotation can significantly help reduce the accumulation of soil borne fungus/disease.

For more information see GrowVeg.com

Life in the growbox

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Right about now the temperatures outside should be increasing and I should be thinking about start hardening off my summer plants over the next few weeks. 

Unfortunately we seeing hail the past few days along with some pretty cold nights.  Looks like even though I was fairly pessimistic about my last frost date I may have another battle of tomatoes/peppers over taking the growbox or bring them out into the elements a little too early…

To make a little room I did move my herbs (oregano/parsley) out to the cold frame with the basil struggling to survive in the growbox I will give it a little time to bounce back.

SHOWDOWN: PC Grow Box versus The Sun

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I am running out of space in my PC grow box now I have added lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers along with the original inhabitant, the strawberry plant. I noticed that the two cucumber plants were approximately the same size and taking up quite a bit of space, so decided to have a little competition and experiment and see which grows better given different environments. I will have one in the PC grow box and the other in its permanent spot in the garden under a miniature greenhouse (2-liter bottle with bottle cut off)

At two weeks after my last frost date (end of March in my area) I will plant the cucumber plant in the PC grow box next to the other plant and report my findings. Anyone have any predictions of the outcome?

Starting my first seeds of the season

My two daughters and I could not take it anymore and had to get our hands dirty and start some seeds indoors. Cute to hear my 3 year old say in the dead of winter “Can we garden now?” when it is 20 degrees outside and 4 inches of snow.

Given that our last frost date is March 15th and I don’t have a good southern facing window I might regret the early start but I always have my grow box if the steps start to get leggy. I was also thinking that my grow box would be a decent way to start hardening off young seedlings with wind and temperature a little more in my control.

I normally start my seeds with netted peat pellets, but this year for environment concerns and because I am cheap I went with coconut coir. I must say I love this stuff it retains water very well, which is great for those little seedlings. The kids also got a kick out of watching the little brick expand to half fill my 5 gallon bucket after adding the 5 quarts of water. Now one lesson learned is to cut that block up into small pieces especially if you are not doing all of your planting at once.

I was planning on starting some cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes but apparently I didn’t save any tomato seeds from last year so looks like I am stuck with the local seed selection this year. I didn’t have any small pots around so grabbed some of my kids’ water cups and cut a hole in the bottom and filled them full of damp coconut coir and let the excess water drain and put them in a strawberry container which may work as a nice little greenhouse. If you look close enough you can see some little sprouts already starting from the lettuce in just one day. I also cut the top off a 2 liter bottle to top off one of my terra cotta pots which I planted lavender.



Making the Most Out of a Small Space

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There is a common misconception that you need to have a huge sprawling garden to be able to grow vegetables, but that is simply not true. Even the smallest of gardens can grow sumptuous vegetables.  By utilizing the space you have available you can grow a wide variety of climbing vegetables. Whether you have a gazebo, a trellis or just an outside wall you can plant some truly succulent vegetables, which will produce not only food, but also some amazing flowers too.

Runner beans are a great plant to start with; all they need is sunshine and fertile soil. They also produce flowers, which are certainly a welcome addition to any garden. For runner beans you need to either make a wigwam, lashed together with string at the top, or create a parallel row of canes, which are firmly secured to a horizontal cane running along the top. The best time to plant Runner Beans is a week before the last frost; these plants are originally from South America so die out every year after the frost. Runner beans need to be watered particularly heavily, but twice a week in dry weather.

Japanese cucumbers, which will reach several feet, are a more demanding vegetable, and require different types of fertilizer at different times of the development, although all the hard work is certainly worth it, especially when you get to taste your produce. Although not widely known, several of the smaller pumpkin species, including trailing pumpkins, can be grown vertically. These are easy to grow and even easier to cook and enjoy! Marrows will also clamber over fences, or up trellises. All you need to do is prepare the soil well, with lots of fertilizer.

There are hundreds of things that you can grow up a trellis over a wall and even up a gazebo, so this spring make the most out of the space you have!

How to Prepare Your Vegetable Garden for a Harsh Winter

According to Game of Thrones fans everywhere, winter is coming. And while this may mean snowmen, Christmas decorations and mulled wine for some, for the keen gardener it can mean fingernails bitten to the quick and sleepless nights worrying about cabbages.

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Image credit: vegetable garden

Well, maybe we wouldn’t go quite that far – but after all the effort you’ve put into your vegetables, you won’t want your hard work to go to waste for next year. Fear not – we’ve got a guide on how to make sure that your vegetable garden is both ready for next year and useful throughout winter. Here’s how…

Harvest

First things first, take in all of the vegetables that are ready to be harvested and make the most of them. Make sure that you cure and store your produce properly, and you might just end up with a stash that will last all winter long!

Clear out

After you’ve collected all of your delicious vegetables but before you get started on the chutney, it’s time to clear up your yard. If you’re tempted to put this job off, think of it as a treat for your future self when you’re planting more vegetables in the spring. You’ll be glad you put the groundwork in when May rolls around! While you’re there, prepare perennial vegetables for survival by removing old foliage and stems.

Make your garden useful throughout winter

Though it may seem like all plants are dead in winter, there are a few vegetables that will actually be ready for harvesting when it’s very cold outside, so with a little preparation and clever planting you can make your garden produce food until late in the season.

  • Carrots are actually sweeter when harvested after the frost. Plant them around late August or early September and cover them with straw for a little insulation.
  • Plant kale and collards in mid-August and harvest young leaves from October onwards.
  • It’s best to plant Spinach around four to six weeks before the first frost of winter – again, cover with straw, then harvest in late winter or early spring.
  • November is the ideal time to plant overwintering onions.
  • Don’t have space in the pantry for all of your produce? Don’t worry – your garden can act as a fridge. Bury cabbages, with their roots still attached and a marker in the soil above so you don’t lose them, and dig them up when you fancy bubble and squeak. Potatoes and carrots will also keep when buried in the garden, but add some straw over the top to protect them.
  • Give your vegetables lots of compost and a layer of mulch, for nutrients and protection. And, while the soil is a great protector for vegetables – especially root vegetables – it won’t hurt to give them a little water before a big freeze, when it may be difficult for your plants to reach water. However, be wary of over-watering, which can lead to cold, soggy roots and very unhappy plants.

Plant a cover crop

You may not be using your whole garden to grow overwintering vegetables, so to keep your soil ship shape and ready for spring it’s a good idea to plant a cover crop such as buckwheat or rye. These plants will suppress weed growth, feed bees and keep soil in place, then they’ll act as a ‘green manure’ for your garden by breaking down and providing your soil with lots of lovely nutrients.

About The Author

This guest post was written by Ricky Peterson. Ricky is a keen gardener and loves spending time outdoors, he works at Swallow Aquatics, who sell various pond and garden supplies. Ricky also likes to travel and loves hiking and climbing.

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