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Archive | Gardening

Suburban Farming: Growing Berries & Small Fruit

The more I explored the world of growing berries, the more I began to understand how limited most American consumers are in their knowledge and experience of these healthy and tasty foods. Additionally, many of the berries and small fruit I grow are unavailable to consumers, even in high-end supermarkets.

Ripening ‘Red Lake’ red currants.

Growing up in central New Jersey, I’ve seen large expanses of former farmland transformed into seemingly endless residential sprawl. While this doesn’t bode well for open space (as well as a host of other things), it does present opportunity for those able to attract these new potential customers.

One way is by creating a suburban farm. Such a farm, on less than an acre, allows spry and innovative farmers to use small size and proximity to market to their advantage.

Eight years ago, after my youngest child neared the end of high school, I decided to expand my love of gardening into a business. I started off small — about a tenth of an acre in part of my backyard. I named my suburban farm “Pitspone Farm” — from a Hebrew word meaning very small. Over the years I slowly expanded, until at this point I’ve more or less taken over my entire backyard, about one-third of an acre. Continue Reading →

Saving Your Own Tomato Seeds

Saving your own tomato seeds from homegrown heirloom tomatoes will give a better tasting and producing tomato as it adapts to your location in just a couple of years. You only need a few fruits and some simple tools to get started.

A few considerations on saving your own tomato seeds: select fruit that are fully ripe or even just slightly overripe to get mature seeds; choose fruit with the characteristics that you are looking for — best-looking, best-tasting, earliest, latest or perhaps, largest. This will help you achieve more of the same qualities next year.

Finally, make sure that you are choosing open-pollinated or heirloom tomatoes, as hybrids from the store won’t grow true to what you started with. Saving some of your own seeds helps carry on an ancient gardening tradition many generations old.

The fermentation method duplicates what happens naturally when a tomato falls off the vine, ferments and then rots, leaving the seeds ready to germinate next spring. Continue Reading →

Diatomaceous Earth for Pest Control

There is an ongoing circulation of bad, misinformed, incomplete, and overall biased information regarding diatomaceous earth. This article is intended to bring to light much of the research (peer-reviewed articles and government regulation) surrounding DE and the potential dangers of its contents in a way that people can understand.

Many of the websites that list the benefits and uses of diatomaceous earth have a stake in the game. They are usually trying to sell you diatomaceous earth or make a commission by referring you to another store through an affiliate link. They are incentivized to paint the product in the best light. A lot of the bad “not so fun” information is left out or not highlighted as nearly enough as it should be.

As a result, you have a recipe for disaster with people reading, sharing and spreading anecdotal information stemming from these articles about a topic potentially affecting thousands of people causing respiratory issues and/or further pest problems. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: Preventing Deer Damage, by Robert G. Juhre

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, Preventing Deer Damage, written by Robert G. Juhre. Copyright 2011. #6329. Softcover. 108 pages. BOTW price: $10.00. ($14.95 regularly priced.)

By Robert G. Juhre

Fences are good for defense, but do it early. If fencing is to be part of your strategy to protect a new project, do it before you plant that orchard or till that vegetable garden. Not only is it easier to build while the land is vacant, it is better that the deer do not estab­lish a habit of visiting the area to be planted. We will cover a variety of fence choices in this section. Weigh these

Preventing Deer Damage, $14.95

alternative ideas care­fully. Some are relatively expensive; some require maintenance; some are unsightly; some are time intensive for the do-it-yourselfer and some are oriented for specific needs. Because these various fencing solutions vary greatly in cost, appearance and effectiveness, they may be only part of your overall plan. At this point, we are assuming you are trying to keep deer out, not coexist.

Wood Fence with Sheep Wire, 12-Foot High

A 12′ high fence, constructed of treated 4” x 4”s, set on a con­crete base that is below the frost line, should have a 30-year life. Remember, your entrance gate needs to be the same height. Use 2” x 4” cross bars to firm up the corners or cables with turn buckles which can be used for the same purpose. Now attach 6’ sheep wire with 4” mesh to the lower section of the posts that have been set on ten foot centers. Tighten each section with a fence stretcher (usu­ally available at rental stores) and fasten the wire to the posts with galvanized staples. After the lower section is completed, follow the same procedure for the upper run of fencing wire. Attach the lower and upper runs of sheep fencing together with pig rings. These can be found at farm stores along with a special pliers-like tool for clos­ing them easily. If 6’ high sheep wire is not available, then use 4’ high wire. Now your installation is only 8’ high. To reach the desired 10 feet, you will have to string two runs of wire, a foot apart, across the upper two feet of space. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: How to Grow World Record Tomatoes by Charles Wilber

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, How to Grow World Record Tomatoes, written by veteran gardener and grower Charles Wilber. Copyright 1999. #6341. Softcover. 132 pages. $14.95 regularly priced.

By Charles Wilber

In the United States more gardeners grow tomatoes than any other vegetable. Some say nine­ty-five percent of our gardeners grow tomatoes. Most anywhere you find food, tomatoes will be found in some form.

How to Grow World Record Tomatoes, by Charles H. Wilber

Tomatoes will grow in many types of soil, but they prefer well-drained loams (a crumbly mix of sand, silt, and clay). They are easy to grow in a flower pot in the window or as a tree-like plant twenty-eight-feet or more tall in a garden.

Growing tomatoes can be done in the yard or most any place with plenty of sunshine. Be aware that tomatoes are easily killed by frost and early plants should be covered for protection.

Tomatoes are quite hardy and can be planted in leftover spaces like corners, fencerows, low-growing flower beds, early spring flower beds, on trellises beside buildings, or planted in the center of a bale of rotted hay or straw.

The two types of tomato classifications for many gardeners are the determinate and indeter­minate groups. Determinate are the lower growers. They have less production since the stem ends at the flower cluster. Seldom does this group require pruning or major caging. Indeterminate vines do not end at the flower cluster but keep on growing. Continue Reading →

Edible Landscaping with Elderberry

To harvest elderberries, cut the stem several inches below the cluster using a small pair of hand shears.

Elderberries have recently been dubbed a superfood, yet these big, beautiful plants with tiny dark berries have long been renowned for their versatility and flavor. Today, new elderberry cultivars are being bred from their wilder cousins to produce plants with improved disease resistance and higher production rates; a perfect combination for anyone wanting to add these luscious fruits to their edible landscape.

Recognizing Your Elders

Elders and elderberries belong to the Adoxaceae family of plants. Within this family is the elderberry genus known as Sambucus. This large genus contains more than 30 diverse species of shrubs and small trees. However, the two most common edible species of Sambucus in the United States are the relatively small native American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) and the larger, more widely cultivated European elderberry (Sambucus nigra). These two species have been used to breed a wide array of commercial and ornamental cultivars that are often referred to as Common elderberry (Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis).

These three elderberry species have very similar growth habits. All are perennial multi-stemmed shrubs characterized by their upright, bushy appearance and a tendency to grow in large colonies if not kept in check. Continue Reading →