Growing anything is usually a work in progress particularly vegetable gardens. I have come to appreciate that the key to gardening is the care and feeding of the soil.
Since I expanded my garden space in 2011, I have been building the soil organics with a yearly application of leaves composted with my chicken bedding and manure.
I rely on my drip tape system and faucet timer to water the soil the right amount, thoroughly, and efficiently.
I rely on Turboganic My Garden liquid formula to continue building a healthy population of soil micro and macro organisms. Of course it also helps the plants on a cellular level to deal with environmental stresses and repel pests. I can tell the difference if I get busy and don't give my plants their regular dose. I am always amazed how well the plants rebound and pests disappear.
I am currently starting my seeds under a grow light. Last year I finally found a controller for the heat pad under the trays which keeps the soil at a constant optimal temperature. And, that Turboganic helps get the seedlings off to a strong start.
As I finish using the canned or frozen garden vegetables from last season, my mouth starts watering at the prospect of fresh. Here are a few favorite vegetables I have found that do well in my garden soil.
Tomatoes - San Remo Paste Tomato, Yellow Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Isis Candy
Detroit and Golden Beets
Russian Blue Garlic
Purple Haze Carrots
Turkey Craw Pole Beans
And it wouldn't be the same without all the lettuce, spinach, snow peas, radishes, basil, peppers, potatoes, onions, zucchini, and marigolds all in my 11' x 16' garden space.
As you may have noted, Turboganic My Garden is integral to the health of my garden and plants. I asked to be a distributor for Turboganic My Garden because I know it works.
I sell the quart bottle of concentrate which makes 25 gallons for $29.95 + tax. It is listed on my Price List and Order Form. For much more information or questions about Turboganic My Garden go to www.turbomygarden.com or call John Blatnick at 801-808-4588.
Do you have shrubs taking over the yard or hiding your house and view out? Or, are your roses threatening any passer-by? But they were so nice when they were young and small!
Sometimes you just want to rip them out and start over. However, you know that it is a big project to take on and then what do you plant instead?
I am here to reassure you that you can take back your yard, your views, your sense of calm in your own yard by learning how to rejuvenate and prune your shrubs. With pruning knowledge you will have no problem keeping your yard under control and thriving.
You don't have to rip everything out and start over. I can help you evaluate what you have in your yard, what can be rejuvenated, and what needs to be removed. Those include shrubs that come with high maintenance, that do not fit the location or purpose, or are not healthy.
We can also talk about what new shrubs or other plants can be used that is appropriate for the location and is low maintenance.
Contact me for details and to schedule an initial consultation. The best time is now especially for roses that will respond to a good spring pruning with increased blooms this summer.
Know someone else that needs help? Referrals are always welcome.
Last June, my lovely red chard patch was attacked by a major infestation of leafminers. I applied Turboganic My Garden and all damage stopped in three days. With occasional use through the summer, I had no more problems and the leaves grew big, colorful, and tasty even during the 100+ degree summer. True story.
Want a complete, organic, safe, and amazing plant nutrient? I highly recommend Turboganic My Garden made locally and distributed by developer John Pease and his business partner John Blatnick. They are providing gardeners the finest organic solution for growing healthy and productive plants AND it supports soil health over the long term. That means less pest invasions, greater harvests, tastier produce, and a longer harvesting season.
This is a highly concentrated liquid that you dilute and apply by hand according to instructions on the label. Turbo is also ideal for use in fertigation - fertilizer injected into irrigation systems. It stays in solution so it works through drip tape without clogging the emitters.
Go online at www.turbomygarden.com for more information or call 801-808-4588.
Turboganic My Garden is available on the website (above) and in the Salt Lake area at select Farmer's Markets at a discount and where you can meet John Pease, John Blatnick, and associates who are glad to answer your questions and listen to your success stories. Currently, they are at SLC Winter Farmer's Markets at the Rio Grand Station and the Spring Market @ Wheeler Farm through mid-April.
Beginning mid-June they will be at Downtown SLC Farmers Market, Gardner Village, and Thanksgiving Point on Saturdays and Wheeler Farm on Sundays. Call for details or other events at 801-808-4588.
You can also order the 1 quart size through The Gardening Coach by email or phone for the online price of $29.95 plus tax and pick it up at my house. Mention this article and you will get the market price of $25 including tax. (Expires June 30, 2014)
I often get the question: How much should I water? The answer: It depends. I know, I know that sounds overwhelming so I will give you just the basics and a practical method that you can use now.
Watering length and frequency is determined by 3 factors: Soil, weather, and how much water the plant uses (transevaporation.) These factors are modified by conditions of shade either on the plant or on the soil.
Soil texture can be clay, silt, sand or a variety of combinations of all 3. For more information on soil texture and fun, easy ways to test your soil click here.
Clay and silt will absorb water slowly and spread out from the water source near the surface and eventually go deeper. If you add water quickly it will just runoff. The watering strategy is to water longer and infrequently. If you see water running off, stop irrigating for an hour let it absorb and then resume the water cycle. This is a very useful technique for lawns.
Sandy soils and light box garden and potting soil mixes drain water immediately with very little spreading out to the roots. The watering strategy is short frequent cycles. For example, in these extremely porous soils, you may have to run a cycle twice a day for a few minutes. And, if you are using drip irrigation, the emitters need to be close to the plant.
You cannot deep soak these porous soils and benefit shallow rooted plants. A hazard particular to box gardens is when excess irrigation water settles in the bottom and can't drain out fast enough. When this happens, you will smell a swamp-like stench when you dig deep into the box indicating a lack of oxygen. This condition will kill roots and waste water.
The combinations of clay, silt and sand create different loams that absorbs the water rather than draining or running off and spreads it quicker and deeper into the root zone. Your watering strategy for these soils will fall somewhere in the middle.
Water absorption ability and rates in all soils mentioned above can be modified by mixing organics (compost) into the soil. Adding a layer of mulch will help reduce evaporation.
Weather will change your garden watering cycles. Adjust your watering as the days get longer or shorter, with changes in temperature and humidity, wind, and rain.
Different plants will absorb water at different rates. Vegetables and annuals usually have a higher rate of consumption and need the upper layer of soil moist because of their shallow root systems. Perennials, shrubs, and trees tend to have deeper and wider spread root systems so deeper and less frequent watering is the general rule.
So How Do You Know if Your Plants Need Water?
In vegetable and annual beds the premier monitoring tool is your gardening hands in the dirt with gloves off. Poke around with your finger at different soil depths including the surface and downward in increments of inches. You want to get to where the roots are or should be. The soil moisture should feel similar to a wrung-out sponge.
If you are using drip tape, check for moisture between the emitters when your water cycle is done. It should feel moist, just below the surface.
Young seedlings need to have consistent moisture from the surface to just beyond the tip of their root system. As they grow larger and the roots grow deeper, the surface moisture is not as critical as the root zone.
In established planting beds, around shrubs and trees, or in the lawn, a long screwdriver comes in handy to gage soil moisture if you don't have rocky soil. Push the screwdriver into the soil. If the soil is dry you will meet a lot of resistance. Get to know your yard's soil moisture by doing it several times over the growing season. For help with lawn watering schedules through the summer, check out the Utah Lawn Weekly Lawn Watering Guide based on real time field data.
While the east side of the US is experiencing dramatic mood swings of nature in the form of moisture, we in the West are still under drought conditions. And, while we may not all be under water restrictions this summer, here are some steps you can take to reduce water consumption for your yard without a major makeover.
- Water audit your lawn sprinklers. It is a free service that will help you to be more water efficient. To signup go to www.slowtheflow.org or call 877-728-3420.
- Refer to the handy Utah Weekly Lawn Watering Guide based on real time field data at www.conservewater.utah.gov/WateringIndex/.
- Use a drip or micro-spray irrigation system for your beds of shrubs and flowers.
- Create a separate watering zone for the very low water plants. They will thrive and you will save water.
- Use timers. Set watering time and frequency for each station according to the needs of the plants with the sprinkler control box and/or faucet timers. Adjust them throughout the season according to the change in daylight hours, temperature, and natural moisture.
- Use drip irrigation on your garden and check the soil moisture frequently. Click here for an article on How to Know When to Water and for How Long.
- Use a layer of mulch to retain moisture.
- Use a broom to cleanup rather than the hose.
The Changing Home Landscapes of Utah
In the 25 years that I have been involved with Utah landscapes, there has been a growing awareness that our home and city landscapes can be so much more than lawn and trees. The factors that have led to this evolution are many but the bottom line is that Utahns are connecting themselves more and more with their climate, soils, and native plants. They also have been drawn back to growing their own vegetables and fruits, and raising poultry and honeybees. All of this is accomplished successfully on a fraction of the acreage than their parents or grandparents had in a more rural setting.
It is exciting to see the many resources available including classes and workshops, demonstration gardens, native plant availability in the nurseries, and garden and landscape books for the intermountain west region by experts with lots of experience. Twenty-five years ago there were none.
In the late 1980s, the dialog about using native plants or habitat in a home landscape was still novel with few examples in Utah or anywhere else. In 1990, the 34 page book “Creating Landscapes for Wildlife, a Guide for Back Yards in Utah” was published by the Utah Division of Wildlife under the supervision of Margie Halpin in the Urban Wildlife program. It was written by Sue Nordstrum and illustrated by me during graduate studies at Utah State University Department of Landscape and Environmental Planning. It was the first of its kind in Utah. In fact during research we could only find similar state publications in Florida and Minnesota.
Another first around that time in the public sector was the use of native drought tolerant plants on urban public rights-of-way along I-215 corridor. The steep slopes and the amount of water required to water the extensive corridor of traditional lawn was not reasonable but native plants made sense.
The blending of native, urban, and rural in Utah’s communities creates rich neighborhood experiences. Each home landscape reflects the needs and personality of the occupants. And, community gardens add to that colorful tapestry. I am thrilled to be a part of this growing awareness and the personal creations it inspires. Click here for my upcoming classes and click here for recommended resources.
After all the persistent snow and cold, my cold season crops wintered over well most likely because of the insulating value of the snow and the mulch of chipped leaves. Chard, spinach, onions, carrots, and of course garlic all made it through. I am anticipating tasting the spring greens soon.
Last year I used a layer of straw to keep the leaves in place and moist enough so they would be composted by spring. I was happy with the results especially since the winter was so warm. However, some nasty weeds showed up and I decided to try something different .
This year I covered the leaves on the beds with the light weight crop cover cloth. It kept everything in place but did not create a good environment for composting the leaves. Perhaps I could use black plastic but for me that is getting even further from a sustainable way of gardening.
It’s funny how gardening demands the attention to details that one would like to come easy. I don’t know what I will do next fall but my solution for now is to strip the leaves from the garden and start an new compost pile and use the existing materials from my bin composted over winter. I have plenty of chicken manure from winter coop cleaning to add to the leaves.
Maybe this is the best solution after all.
Drip Irrigation for Containers and Box Gardening
Container gardening with flowers and vegetables is great for adding design elements in the landscape, extending vegetable garden space, optimizing sun in a shady yard, and utilizing small spaces such as patios and balconies. At the same time growing in containers has its own challenges with soil, nutrients, and watering. Similar to container growing are box gardens for vegetables which uses a light weight soil and has nutrient and watering challenges.
From experience, I found a reliable drip irrigation system for each: dripperline for containers such as pots and half-barrels, and drip tape for vegetable box gardens. If you are interested, I carry all the supplies mentioned below. Please click here for an irrigation supplies catalog and click here for a current price list.
Watering Containers with Drip Irrigation
I have tried a variety of irrigation methods to water containers including sprayers and several types of emitters. My choice for containers 10” in diameter or larger is a loop of dripperline with emitters every 12”. The advantage is that the water is distributed evenly around the container and the growing leaves will not interfere with the watering like with sprayers. For more information click here for Basics of Drip Irrigation.
Dripperline is ¼” poly tube with emitters built in every 12 or 6 inches. I recommend the 12” spacing because 6” emitter spacing often delivers too much water too fast. For containers smaller than 10” diameter, a single low flow emitter is recommended.
Dripperline has emitters that are non-pressure compensated meaning that the flow from the emitters is variable depending on the water pressure which is typically between 15 to 30 psi. However, each emitter in the dripperline will flow at an even rate. This is in contrast to soaker hoses or laser drilled soaker lines that have inconsistent flow rates from one end of the tube to the other. Below is a table of dripperline flow rates at different water pressures.
Pressure Versus Flow
Pressure in PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch)
Flow in GPH (Gallons Per Hour)
How Many Emitters to Use in a Container?
The length of the dripperline with emitters every 12” will be determined by the size of the container. A 10” diameter container may only use a length of 2 emitters (2 feet.) The 24” diameter container may use 4 or 5 emitters (4 or 5 feet.) The number of emitters in the container will depend on the size of the container, what you are growing, how long you will be watering, and the environment of the containers. Containers in some shade will not need as much water as containers in full sun on a warm patio.
Installing your Drip Irrigation
The following are directions for setting up your drip irrigation system for containers using dripperline.
1. Attach to the water source
Two options exist to attach to a water source.
Attach a brass Y shut-off valve first. On one side attach the timer and drip system and use the other side for your garden hose. Since the shutoff valve is under constant pressure with the timer, do not use a plastic or zinc coated valve because they are likely to fail. Always use plumbers (teflon) tape on all connections and tighten with only enough pressure to stop leaks. Photo at right show full faucet assemble including shutoff valves, timer, pressure reducer, filter, and hose swivel attached to the submain.
Sprinkler system valve station
The valve station you attach to must be dedicated for your drip system. You cannot run both drip and lawn sprinklers on the same valve station due to the difference in timing for containers and lawn.
If you are using an existing system, select the sprinkler head connection closest to your containers to attach the drip system to and use pvc plugs to seal off the rest. Dig down to the pvc line and plug it there. Don’t just cap off the flex pipe or riser.
At your selected connection point, remove the sprinkler from the flex pipe elbow adapter and bring the end to the surface. If your sprinkler head was not attached to flex pipe, connect a length of flex pipe to the pvc that is long enough to reach the soil surface without kinking. The flex pipe should have 1/2” elbow adapters at either end.
To attach the pressure reducer, you will need to first put a thread adapter on the elbow at the surface. I use a brass bushing ½” female pipe thread x male hose thread. Photo at left shows full sprinkler valve assembly including flex pipe with elbow adapter, brass thread adapter, pressure reducer, filter, and hose swivel attached to the submain. This assembly should not be buried in the soil but can be lightly covered with mulch.
2. Attach the pressure reducer and filter
Attach the pressure reducer first then the filter. A 150-mesh filter is highly recommended even with household water. Using a filter and cleaning it occasionally will help to extend the life of your drip system. For irrigation water or secondary water, a large filter and more frequent cleaning is required.
3. Getting the water to the containers
Attach the ½” submain tubing to the filter with a hose thread swivel and run the submain near your containers. Close off the end with an end cap.
Assemble your supplies including dripperline, ¼” tubing, scissors or clippers, barb connectors, goof plugs, ¼” valves, and hole punch.
Punch a hole in the submain with a ¼” hole punch near the container. Using a ¼” barb connector, attach a length of ¼” tubing to the submain that is long enough to go to the rim of your container. Cut the ¼” tube a little long so that you can move the container around a bit.
Use another ¼” barb connector (straight or elbow) to attach the dripperline at the rim of your container.
Then plug the end of the dripperline with a goof plug. Loop the dripperline around the inside of the container with the emitters evenly spaced and stake it in place. If you have a young plant in the center of the container, position one of the emitters next to it.
4. Add a shutoff valve
Cut the ¼” tube in a convenient location and insert a ¼” shutoff valve. These handy valves will allow you to turn off the water to that container when it is not needed.
Watering groups of containers
Be consistent with the number of emitters you use in containers that are the same size under the same conditions eg., sun or shade. When watering several different size pots in different conditions, the trick is to have everything perfectly watered by the end of the water cycle. When testing your system for the first time you may have to add or remove a dripperline emitter in a container to get it right.
Watering small containers
Use individual emitters on the end of a ¼” tube for pots smaller than 10”. Use low flow emitters so small pots won’t be over watered during the same time period the other containers are being watered.
How long should you water?
Containers usually need short periods of daily watering and sometimes twice a day in midsummer. Too much water will cause nutrients to be washed away. How often to water depends on how quickly your soil dries. If you have one container that consistently dries quicker than the others, simply add more dripperline to it.
Watering Box Gardens with Drip Irrigation
Watering box gardens is similar to pots and other containers. The plants are usually space more closely than when planted in the open beds and light weight garden box soils may be used especially for intensive gardening.
When a light weight box soil mix is used, water will quickly go through the upper layers similar to containers. The difference is that usually the containers have adequate drainage holes that allow excess water to flow out. However, excess water in garden boxes with light weight soil mix on top of native clay soils or weed clothe will tend to settle in the bottom creating a saturated oxygen deprived condition that can destroy root systems.
The strategy for watering garden boxes is short, frequent, even watering. I have found that drip tape with emitters spaced 4” apart is ideal. Drip tape coupled with a timer that can be set for at least 2 waterings a day makes a successful combination.
When using drip tape to water intensive gardening boxes, use 2 drip tape rows of 4” emitter spacing per linear foot so that a 4” x 6” grid of emitters waters every square foot effectively, even around the edges. For garden boxes configured in rows, drip tape with 4”, 6”, or 8” spacing is also an excellent choice. In that case use one row of tape per row of vegetables.
The water needs to be on only for a short time, maybe 5 to 10 minutes. Check the soil at the bottom of the box for excessively saturated conditions. You may need to water more frequent short times than you are use to.
For more information on setting up a drip tape system for your garden boxes go to the click here for Drip Tape Instructions.
Great gardening! Kathlyn Collins
Ground moisture becomes an issue for evergreen trees and shrubs and some perennials when the temperatures warm and very little snow falls. As everyone has noticed our weather is very mild this winter. It certainly contrasts with last winter’s snow and cold.
Evergreen trees and shrubs continue to trans-evaporate and suffer with lack of soil moisture. Trees have surface roots that extend far beyond the extent of the canopy. Those extensive roots in landscape trees are typically watered during the summer by lawn and garden irrigation. In the winter, they don’t get that extra water.
Evergreens need a good soaking once in a while to saturate the ground during mild winters particularly trees planted less than 2 years ago. On warm days with no moisture in the forecast, I use a soaker hose and lay out the coils around the tree and let it soak for a couple hours. I also frequently fill the basin around young evergreens I recently planted. It has been so mild, I have not stored my garden hose in the garage but keep it drained and ready to connect to the faucet outside.
Fall planted perennials are the most at risk of suffering from mild winters because they haven’t had time to grow a deep root system. A good thick layer of mulch such as leaves in the fall help perennials get through mild winters. Care should be taken however to not smother certain low water plants that don’t do well with moisture on their stems in winter such as hummingbird mints (Agastache), certain sages (Artemisia and Salvia), and penstemons. In these cases use a rock mulch around the base without covering the stems. They will be much happier.
Are you looking for a quick and easy tabletop grow light to start your vegetables and flowers? Check out the PVC frame grow light from Utah State Extension Service. Click here for a pdf download. Photo is of my grow light setup in my basement using 3 sets of lights. It is all disassembled and stored neatly the rest of the year.