Category Archives: Homesteading
It’s that time of the year again. Time to go to the farm store, pick out your seeds, and get them started indoors while you wait for winter to pass.
Squash is a seasonal vegetable. It is very susceptible to frost and heat damage, but with proper care it will produce a bumper crop with very few plants.
- If you wish to start seeds indoors due to a short gardening season, sow 2 to 4 weeks before last spring frost in peat pots. However, we recommend direct-seeding for squash because they do not always transplant well. If you do transplant, be very gentle with the roots.
- If you wish to get an early start, it may be better to warm the soil with black plastic mulch once the soil has been prepared in early spring.
- The soil needs to be warm (at least 60º at a two-inch depth) so we plant summer squash after our spring crops of peas, lettuce, and spinach—about one week after the last spring frost to midsummer.
- In fact, waiting to plant a few seeds in midsummer will help avoid problems from vine borers and other pests and diseases common earlier in the season.
- The outside planting site needs to receive full sun; the soil should be moist and well-drained, but not soggy.
- Squash plants are heavy feeders. Work compost and plenty of organic matter into the soil before planting for a rich soil base.
- To germinate outside, use cloche or frame protection in cold climates for the first few weeks.
- Plant seeds about one-inch deep and 2 to 3 feet apart in a traditional garden bed.
- Or, you could also plant as a “hill” of 3 or 4 seeds sown close together on a small mound; this is helpful in northern climates as the soil is warmer off the ground. Allow 5 to 6 feet between hills.
- Most summer squashes now come in bush varieties, which uses less space, but winter squash is a vine plant and needs more space. They will need to be thinned in early stages of development to about 8 to 12 inches apart.
- Mulch plants to protect shallow roots, discourage weeds, and retain moisture.
- When the first blooms appear, apply a small amount of fertilizer as a side dress application.
- For all type of squash, frequent and consistent watering is recommended. Water most diligently when fruits form and throughout their growth period.
- Water deeply once a week, applying at least one inch of water. Do not water shallowly; the soil needs to be moist 4 inches down.
- After harvest begins, fertilize occasionally for vigorous growth and lots of fruits.
- If your fruits are misshapen, they might not have received enough water or fertilization.
- There are a couple of challenging pests, especially the squash vine borer and the squash bug. The best solution is to get ahead of them before they arrive. See our links below on these pests for more information.
- If your zucchini blooms flowers but never bears actual zucchini, or it bears fruit that stops growing when it’s very small, then it’s a pollination issue. Most squashes have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. To produce fruit, pollen from male flowers must be physically transferred to the female flowers by bees. If you do not have enough bees, you can manually pollinate with a Q-tip—or, add nearby plants that attract bees!
- Cucumber Beetle
- Blossom-End Rot: If the blossom ends of your squash turn black and rot, then your squash have blossom-end rot. This condition is caused by uneven soil moisture levels, often wide fluctuations between wet and dry soil. It can also be caused by calcium levels. To correct the problem, water deeply and apply a thick mulch over the soil surface to keep evaporation at a minimum. Keep the soil evenly moist like a wrung out sponge, not wet and not completely dried out.
- Stink Bug: If your squash looks distorted with dippled area, the stink bugs overwintered in your yard. You need to spray or dust with approved insecticides and hand pick in the morning. Clean up nearby weeds and garden debris at the end of the season to avoid this problem.
- Harvest summer squash when small and tender for best flavor. Most varieties average 60 days to maturity, and are ready as soon as a week after flowering.
- Check plants everyday for new produce.
- Cut the gourds off the vine rather than breaking them off.
- Fresh summer squash can be stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days.
- Harvest winter squash when rind is hard and deep in color, usually late September through October.
- Winter squash can be stored in a cool, dark place until needed. It will last for most of the winter. If you have a cool bedroom, stashing them under the bed works well. They like a temperature of about 50 to 65 degrees F.
- Freezing Summer squash: Wash it, cut off the ends, and slice or cube the squash. Blanch for three minutes, then immediately immerse in cold water and drain. Pack in freezer containers and freeze.
- Freezing Winter squash: Cook as you normally would, then mash. Pack in freezer containers.
- Pull up those vines and compost them after you’ve picked everything or after a frost has killed them. Then till the soil to stir up the insects a bit,
I love blueberries and I love making jams and jellies so when I get blueberries, some will go into the freezer and some will be canned.
I must confess that though I love making jams, I don’t really eat a lot of it for breakfast. I do however, use my jams in recipes like muffins and cupcakes.
I usually use my old Ball Blue Book of Preserving for my canning recipes and that is where this recipe for Blueberry Jam comes from. I did however, add lemon juice because I like to add a little tartness into my sweet jams.
- 9 cups of crushed Blueberries
- 6 cups of Sugar
- 3 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
I am planting green beans (snap beans, string beans) for the first time this year. I go out daily to see how much they have grown while I was a work. It has become a daily routine that is somehow calming to my spirit.
I understand that green beans are supposed to be easy to grow and are easy to care for. I’ll save judgement until I see my crop.
If you are thinking about growing green beans, here are some helpful tips.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Keep beans weeded, and mulch over the spaces between plants to conserve moisture and reduce problems with weeds. Mulch also helps keep the pods clean, which is a terrific convenience with snap beans. Snap beans are easy to grow in any warm, well-drained soil, but they must have warmth. Wait until after your last frost has passed to set out the plants, then space them about 8 inches apart. A double row, in which 2 rows of plants are grown with 12 inches between the rows, will produce the most beans per square foot. For a steady harvest all summer, set out a second set of plants 3 to 4 weeks after your first planting. Before setting out the plants, mix a 3-inch layer of compost into the soil. When given a little starter fertilizer and biologically active compost, beans usually need no further feeding. By teaming up with bacteria in the soil, beans create their own nitrogen – the most important nutrient plants require if they are to make strong new growth.
New garden beds made in areas that were previously covered with grass often host a hidden danger for snap beans: cutworms. These earth-colored caterpillars are active at night, and often kill seedlings by girdling their main stems, making them look like little felled trees. The easiestt way to prevent cutworm damage is to encircle each plant with a rigid “collar” as soon as it is transplanted. To make cutworm collars, cut an 8- to 10-ounce plastic cup or similar size container into 3-inch-tall rings. Pop them around the plants, making sure you push them into the soil about an inch deep. Another easy way to prevent cutworm damage is to use small strips of aluminum foil to sheathe the base of each stem. After snap beans have been growing in your garden for a couple of weeks, their stems become so tough that cutworms can no longer damage them. Slugs and snails often make holes in bean leaves, and Japanese beetles like to eat leaves, too. Slugs are easily trapped in shallow containers filled with beer or a mixture of sugar water and yeast, or you can treat the area with a slug bait approved for food gardens in order to bring serious infestations under control. Products that use iron phosphate as their active ingredient are considered organic. Use row covers to protect plants from Japanese beetles.
Snap bean pods that dangle to the ground can rot, but mulch helps prevent this.
Harvest and Storage
You may pick snap beans when they are very young and serve them as baby snap beans, or you can wait until they reach full size for a more bountiful harvest. Use two hands to pick, because heavily-laden bean stems are easily broken. Don’t yank on the pods; hold the stem in one hand and pick with the other. Pick every other day when the beans begin bearing to make sure that they produce to their full potential. Healthy bush bean plants will often rebloom and produce a second (or third) flush of beans when growing conditions are especially good. Blanching and freezing is the easiest way to preserve a bumper crop of snap beans. Blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute and then quickly cool them in ice water. This process brightens and fixes their color while preserving the crisp texture of the pods.
You can read more about growing plants from Bonnie Plants.
Unlike regular potatoes, which grow best when the soil is cool, sweet potatoes like it hot! They are tropical plants that are very sensitive to cold weather. In warm climates, many gardeners plant sweet potatoes about a month after the last spring frost, when both the air and soil are dependably warm. The plants produce lush vines that make a pretty ground cover, so they are a great crop for beds that adjoin areas that are difficult or tiresome to mow.