5 VEGETABLE GARDENING TRICKS TO TRY.

I don’t know why not a single one of you stopped me from renting another community plot when I said I was getting an extra one this year.  I now have two 40′ x 20′ garden plots to take care of along with my backyard, front yard vegetable garden and a persnickety half dead succulent in a pot.

For real. What’s wrong with you people?  It’s too much.  Why wouldn’t you say anything?  I also have to plant the vegetable garden I forced my niece to grow last year and my mother’s raised planter.  I’m not sure, but it’s like you aren’t even paying attention.  Seriously.  Why would you do this to me?  Bunch of snarklefarts you are.

At the time of writing this post I’ve managed to plant ONE of my community plots, get my strawberries and asparagus in my second plot and cancelled on planting my niece and mother’s gardens 4 times.  Oh, and my front yard I haven’t even touched yet, so, so much for turning it into the French Countryside Potager garden I envisioned.  At this point it looks like the kind of house you stayed away from as a kid because the person who lived there obviously ate kids. On the upside I think my succulent is almost dead enough to throw out.

There isn’t a lot of growing going on in my main community plot yet but I do have 5 tricks I’m going to use this year that I thought you might like to try too. Even though I really shouldn’t be sharing any fantastic information with you, what with you pretty much ruining my life and all.

THE HOOP HOUSE

hoop-house-2

Suck on that cabbage moths.  If you read my blog you know the cabbage moth and I have a love hate relationship. I hate it and it loves all of the plants that I grow.  Dinosaur kale, cabbages, broccoli, swiss chard … all of it covered by the second week in summer with tiny little green cabbage worms that stand up on their hind legs, look me in the eye and then slam back down into my brassicas mouth first.  It’s not the holes they make in my food, it’s the fact that they’re the exact same colour as it which makes them invisible. So no matter how many times I wash it there’s a good chance they’re still hanging on.

hoop-house

I’ve tried traps, scare tactics, kill crops, everything.  When none of that worked I decided this year I was going all out and building a hoop house to cover all of the my cole crops (also known as brassicas).  I’ll keep you updated on how this experiment goes. I’ve built many hoop houses over the years but never one this big and never for this purpose.  I could just end up trapping in all the other bastard insects like Swede Midge, guaranteeing the death of all my crops, not just cabbage moth holes.

 

GROWING POTATOES IN STRAW

potatoes-in-straw

I’ve grown potatoes in straw before and it was a complete disaster so don’t even ASK me why I’m not only trying it again this year but I’m solely using this method.  It’s a type of straw bale gardening where you don’t use soil to grow, but straw.  You plant your potato in a trench of nice, loose soil and then hill it immediately with 6 inches of straw instead of soil. Then you continue to hill with straw.  The logic is the straw is good for keeping weeds down, keeps the light out that would turn the potatoes green and most importantly makes the potatoes MUCH easier to harvest. You just pull the straw away and don’t need to use a fork or shovel.

Last year I hated digging up my potatoes so much I laid down in the dirt, threw a hissy fit and cried.  Then I ate a kid.

I’ve done my research and potatoes grown in straw DO have a lower yield than potatoes grown in soil BUT you don’t have any potato loss because you can easily find all of them and you aren’t stabbing and injuring any of them with a pitchfork.  To make up for the possible loss in yield I’m just going to plant more potatoes.

Russian-Blue-potato

The most important things for a high yield in potatoes is making sure the soil is cool. Potatoes don’t like hot soil. So I’ll dig a trench as deep into the soil as I can when I first plant them. The deeper down you dig, the cooler the soil which is especially important since I’m planting my potatoes WAY later than I should be so the soil is warmer.

The one problem I had with straw when I originally planted them in straw was the fact that straw really, REALLY holds in moisture.  I had planted them in peach baskets which maybe didn’t drain enough and I really packed the straw in. The vines all just kind of rotted. I was angry.  So I ate a kid.

This time I’ll loosely scatter the straw and I might water the potato beds with soaker hoses that won’t get the straw wet, which should help with that problem.

When did I get so serious?  I’m so serious when I talk about gardening tips.

ESPALIERED TOMATOES

tomato-espalier

This one I’m not convinced will work at all based on how tomatoes grow, but I’m going to try to espalier a few tomatoes along my garden fence just like you’d espalier a fruit tree.  So the tomato will grow flat against a wall or fence with the the lateral branches flat.  They’ll take up less space, get a ton of sun and air flow, and hopefully grow healthy tomatoes less prone to disease.  Although as I mentioned at the beginning, I’m not convinced this will work but I sure am excited to try it.

Wow.  Now I’m not only serious, I’m pretty dorky when talking about vegetable gardening.  If you’re new here, I’m normally more entertaining than this.  I swear.  So please give me another chance.

OMG, now I’m also needy.  This is nuts.

HONEYDEW

honeydew

The circled plants are the Honeydew. The rest of the plants are potatoes I missed digging up last year that are now growing!  Which is why I’m trying the easy dig straw planting method.

This isn’t so much a trick as a test.  I grew cantaloupe years ago in this zone when I was a teenager (because yes I was an unfunny, needy, vegetable dork as far back as then) and as far as I remember it was a success.  So honeydew can’t be that different can it? My little niece that doesn’t like me (although I’m growing on her) wanted to grow cantaloupe so I gave her a section in my garden for cantaloupe and dedicated another section to trying Honeydew. Which everyone knows is much more delicious than cantaloupe.  Also easier to spell.

DELAYED PLANTING

garlic

This is another risky one, but I’m going to have a safety net just in case.  A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to rent huge garden beds like mine. Or they have reliable true friends to talk them out of it. Either way,  they have a regular backyard vegetable garden which only has a certain amount of room and that means having to choose what you really want to grow.   But if you think about it a little bit and time things right you might have a lot more garden space than you think you do.

Lettuce croaks as soon as the weather gets hot so all the room that lettuce was taking will be available for something else that loves the heat.  That means when the lettuce bolts in the middle of June you can take that space to plant your zucchini which will still have plenty of time to grow.  This year I decided I could save a lot of gardening space if I waited to plant my squash until I harvested my garlic. I’d plant the squash in the huge bed I pulled my garlic out of.  I’ll also be planting some squash over in my second garden so I won’t be squashless if this experiment doesn’t work.  But if it does, then I know for next year that I can save a whole lot of space by delaying the planting of my squash.

Yeah, but for real. just to reiterate, I’m normally really entertaining. I mean I once nearly killed my sister I’m so funny.  If I’d thrown in a knock knock joke, she’d be as dead as a head of lettuce in July.

 

110 Comments

  1. Melissa says:

    ⚘I seriously can’t be drinking ANYthing when I read your blog, lest I end up dead.

    I mean, seriously. ?

  2. Cheryl says:

    Karen,
    I think you are marvelous. I am so relieved to learn there are others out there a lot like me. 🙂
    I will also mention that I am still trying to center the light over my dining room table after being inspired by your fannel pajama post. It has been interesting…

  3. Karen says:

    SEE???? I’M SO FUNNY I ALMOST KILL PEOPLE!!! PROOF!!! ~ karen!

  4. Karen says:

    Thanks Cheryl! Those beloved Buffalo plaid pajamas are getting holes in the cuffs. 🙁 I may bury them and have some sort of 21 slipper salute. ~ karen!

  5. I really do not understand how you can grow a gazillion different kinds of veggies and prettys but manage to kill a plant that you only have to water once a month. How does that happen Karen?? 🙂

  6. Diane says:

    So I thought I would be smart and planted potatoes in an old black plastic garbage can…in direct sun…and now you tell me they like cool soil? They are growing like crazy (over the top of the can already) and I’ve topped it up with soil. Do you think I need to shade the hot can? There is no way I can move it!!

    I must get a community garden plot…you’ve convinced me!

  7. Jennie Lee says:

    It wasn’t bad enough, that I always feel envious of your gardening adventures. My doctor’s put me on a low potassium diet, so I can’t eat potatoes, tomatoes, or cantaloupes. Because they are chock full of potassium. Eat some for me, okay?

  8. Lisa says:

    If this is what a snarklefart causes – can you send some my way. 🙂

    Cantaloupes – we call them Rockmelon. Some of those Australian southerners call them cantaloupes but we northerners call them Rockmelons, much easier. Looking forward to hearing how your potato and tomato plots grow.

  9. Paula says:

    Omg Karen, I am sure lots of people that read your blog sometimes feel this way, but we are sooo alike! Not so much personality but the things that we do, seriously it happens maybe 8 times out of 10. Did you read Ruth Stout’s book? That is the reason that I grow my potatoes with hay. Well they are in buckets too and I top up with straw.

    I found my stray potato plants growing my compost pile. I have exactly the same hooped setup with a very light row cover over my brassicas and I experimented with bamboo to make a cubed frame and I covered it with mosquito netting. The jury is still out on that one but so far, so good.

    My garlic and onion bed is on the periphery and is long and skinny and looks exactly like yours. I don’t espalier my tomatoes, I have a large frame around the raised bed and it has wire along the top that I have attached baling twine to and I wind the tomato up the twine as it grows and it supports the plant. It worked really well last year, if the indeterminates get too tall, you can loosen the twine and the plant sags along with the twine and I can reach the tomatoes.

    I bought some corner thingamajiggies for the corners and I framed my strawberries and I have netting around them. The spaces are big enough for the bees to get through but not the birds. Okay, okay I have definitely gotten carried away, but open the gardening conversation and I have no control. One more thing, this year in one of the raised beds, I have experimented with the sub irrigating planter (sip) method. So far it is amazing, during that dry spell we had (remember when it was warm), I didn’t have to water once and the plants aren’t yet established. Ok, I am done.

    Your garden looks really great btw! lol

  10. Paula says:

    Yep, just a little carried away…sorry

  11. robert says:

    Can you really not be funny? Like at all? At the beginning of the post I was like “OK Karen, next year we’ll try to stop you from doing so much gardening” but by the end of the page that idea gets thrown out because that would mean we might be missing many more posts about you calling us names and us dying of laughter. How come
    you don’t have your own sitcom?

  12. Bill says:

    Please abandon the pop up ads please. I know you make $$$ with your blog but it’s VERY annoying. I read your post on my phone and I usually turn to landscape mode and some ads just won’t disappear. Even when I “x” them off. They ask for feedback about the ad and just say “thank you”, but still stay on the screen blocking part of the screen. Makes me not want to click on the email to read the full article because I know I’m gonna be bombarded with pop ups.

  13. Marlene says:

    Finely chopped chillies with garlic, mixed with oil and a bit of water sprayed on to your brassicas (and any other plants) is a good natural way to stop any insect even thinking about chomping your yummies. Bonus – it’s totally natural and safe, doesn’t do anything to the plant other than protect it, insects hate the smell/taste, it’s very cheap and easy to make. The oil helps it stick to the leaves, but this will wear off after rain so keep some in a spray bottle and just respritz as required. Far less effort, and saved my edibles for many years now.

  14. Lindy says:

    Two community gardens? Get three!

    Wimp.

  15. Jim Mills says:

    Karen – where did you buy the row covers?
    I have been to 4 nurseries and I am lucky if they know what I am talking about.
    Jim

  16. Irene says:

    Right. As if you would have listened to any of us. Psssh.

  17. Karen says:

    Yeah, I don’t know either, lol. ~ karen!

  18. Karen says:

    Well, you won’t know until you harvest diane, but in general yes, regular potatoes do not like heat. Direct sun is fine, it’s the black garbage can that might do them in, lol. They might grow a ton of leaves but no potatoes. But who knows. It’s gardening where all hell can break loose at anytime. They might buck the odds and do just fine. ~ karen!

  19. Karen says:

    MUCH easier to spell. 🙂 ~ karen!

  20. Karen says:

    LOL, thanks Paula. Yup. Gardening. It does that to a person, lol!! Glad to see there’s more than one of us out there. 😉 LOVE my hoop house so far. It blew apart in a storm last week, lol, but that storm was like a hurricane. I’ve since put it back together and left more venting on the bottom so in big winds it’ll just flap open, not rip apart. ~ karen!

  21. Karen says:

    I know they might seem like a pain Bill, but I don’t think you’re being bombarded with pop ups. In fact, I think there’s just the one on the bottom of the screen if you’re on an iPhone. I’m afraid I can’t get rid of it, or any of the ads what with the mortgage and hydro and gas and food to buy and all. I tell you what though. Maybe we can make a deal. You agree to give up 1/5th of your income, and I’ll consider taking down the ad and giving up 1/5th of mine. 😉 ~ karen!

  22. Karen says:

    I don’t think for me it would be less effort Marlene since my community garden isn’t at my home and we’ve been getting a LOT of rain, lol. I’d have to run up to the garden the second after it rained to spray everything. And this year I really wanted something that was going to be almost 100% effective and fool proof. The hoop house went up in no time at all (maybe an hour in total). I will however give the spray a try at home here where I have 2 large kale plants I’d like to keep clean without having to net them! ~ karen!

  23. Karen says:

    O.K. You’ve convinced me. ~ karen!

  24. Karen says:

    Hi Jim. I bought row cover a few years ago from William Dam Seeds (damseeds.ca) but this stuff another gardening ordered for me along with his order and I can’t remember where it came from. It’s a HUGE roll and it only cost around $30. But it’s almost like tissue paper so very fragile. One season use only for it for sure. The original stuff I bought was a different type of fabric and weave and would last a few seasons. But it was also a lot more expensive. You’re better to check online or with seeds stores as opposed to nurseries I think. ~ karen!

  25. Karen says:

    You bring up an excellent point. ~ karen!

  26. Sideroad40 says:

    I’ve used ‘bridal tulle’ (that I had leftover from wedding projects) with great success…

  27. Leslie says:

    Wow Karen you experiment like I do. Hope it all works out. I am trying Cantaloupes too this year. We will see what happens. I tried once before and they don’t grow very well here as it is too cold. I have been putting a saran rapped frame thing I built on them at night to keep the soil warm. Love the straw potato thing. Hope that works!!

  28. danni says:

    I made a hoop house last year, pvc pipe sections attached to base hold ends of 10′ pvc pipes, tulle from fabric store sewn together, works great! Last year used for squash… I HATE the damn squash bugs, kept them off well… I until I had to uncover to let in the bees to pollinate. This year brassicas getting the hoop love.
    Four other raised beds have vertical structures for tomato, beans, squash, cukes, melons… it’s like an amusement park in my backyard. My kids are going to have a hell of a time selling when I go, it’s a very eclectic, crazy-lady-off-meds type of place. But the cob oven should seal the deal!

    I also had bad potato fortune last year, so screw that, shouldn’t be eating them anyway.

  29. Laura says:

    Don’t bury pajamas. Turn into Capri pants shorts. Instant post.

  30. Laura says:

    Or shoirts

  31. Catherine Naulin says:

    I’ll second Melissa’s comment: drinking any liquid whioe reading your posts is dangerous for one’s health ( I have the sinister reputation of having expelles wine through my nose after being told a very funny joke). SO! You are very funny, intertaining and I love reading the about the great stuff you make. So much talent, how do you do it all?
    Last year we planted potatoes just so our grand kids could harvest them. They thought it was magical, better than an Easter egg hunt.
    I’m going to try gardening ON hay bales. Will keep you posted on results ( if any)

  32. Shirley says:

    Karen, do you plant whole potatoes, as in the picture? I always thought the usual way was to cut them up into chunks, with an eye in each piece. Just wondering!

  33. judy says:

    nailed it! And why is this the case for some and not for me? I have lots of ads on the side of your post and maybe at the bottom? Which I can’t see at the moment. I actually get a big chuckle out of most ads trying to still sell this 75 year old carcass that which will make me irresistible to the opposite gender. I am definitely Hot but its more a failure of my systems thermostat than any pheromones’ I’m exuding.

  34. Anti Kate says:

    Some of us snarklefarts have a pool going about when, what, how and where the canteloupes will get up in arms, form an uneasy alliance with the brassicas and potatoes, and crown you Empress of their known worlds.

  35. Bill says:

    I’ve already given up over 75% of my income. I was employed in the oil industry until the price tanked. Got cut loose and sent home. I was an independent contractor (self employed) so no free government handouts for me (unemployment check). There are other ways you can monetize besides pop ups. If you annoy enough people, you’ll automatically cut your income by 1/5 because you’ll lose those valuable readers who will eventually quit reading your blog. Jmo

  36. It’s so hot in my part of Texas I can’t grow anything. So, like you, I get mad and eat a kid.

  37. Ann says:

    I wanted to come on and tell you about the product I use to keep out pests from my plants. But I was still having some degree of difficulty with scrolling on your page. Enough that I just spend 2 hrs trying to figure out how to GET RID OF FLASH on my laptop. They don’t make it easy to get rid of it. Not easy at all. But I think I must have finally gotten it figured out cause I had no issues what so ever just now….thank goodness…I was so missing this blog.

    I was able to mail order some greenhouse screen. It is nylon and the mesh is tight enough to keep out even the smallest bugs. It also lets more air and water thru than I have found with the lightweight row covers meant for summer time use. It provides minimal shade but here in south central Tennessee even a little bit can make a difference. My first order of this stuff has now been in use for 4 hot summer seasons with no signs of giving up the ghost. I have bought 2 more times and need to keep buying more. The very best way to grow organic is to block out any pest that flies in or even crawls along the ground. I even use it to block rabbits and such. Trouble is, this year none of the manufacturers have been able to keep up with the demand. I haven’t looked for a bit, but this spring none of the big greenhouse mega warehouse type on line stores could get it. I need to keep checking back and get more before fall. If you do order this just remember I think it only comes in 2 widths and you have to measure not only the size of the bed but include how high you are trying to cover. One of my pieces has hemmed edges which I do love, the other does not. It has raveled very slowly over time but not enough to make a problem since I have extra of the screening side to side. But the short ends are never hemmed and as I said the ravel rate is incredibly slow and maybe there would be a way to apply something to those ends to help. I can raise potatoes with no bug damage, broccoli, kale, green beans, basically anything that does not need bugs to pollinate.

    Again, what a joy to be able to come here and chat and get my good laugh for the day. Not your fault and I am still so touched that you cared enough to help out a single reader with her problem.

  38. Barngirl says:

    I think we all hate ads, but they are a necessary evil. I am more than happy to go past the ads if they will allow me to continue reading Karen’s current news and advice. She provides so much helpful and FREE information – I trust her instincts and salute her creativity and determination.

    Keep it up, Karen

  39. Jane S says:

    It might be time to give up and buy a farm. Then you could have goats.

  40. Stephanie Barnhart says:

    I wanted to question you about that second plot, but I was afraid you’d eat me. I know how you are.

  41. Woniya says:

    I eat kid too when stuff doesn’t grow well in t he garden. After all…no vegetables=kid soup, I guess.
    I have espaliered my tomatoes year after year. But I use concrete reinforcing grid so I can actually weave branches in and out and I have to tie limbs up less. It works really well, and the plants are prettier, AND it’s so much easier to pick the tomatoes rather than reaching through a cage wire.
    I wish I had the ability to rent a plot someplace to experiment with things that I have no real room for in the garden at home. It must be a heck of a lot of work, but really rewarding for you.

  42. Karen says:

    I always have great luck with potatoes so I’m dreading this year a bit with my whole “grow them in straw” and “plant they way too late” situation. I may look into sewing some netting together because it’s hard to work with this tissuey stuff. ~ karen!

  43. Karen says:

    Ha! ~ k!

  44. Karen says:

    Yup keep me posted! ~ karen!

  45. Karen says:

    Hi Shirley! Yes, I have chitted my potatoes at times, but the only reason to do that really is to extend your seed potatoes. One potato can become 2 or 3 to plant! But I had so many for such little space that I didn’t need to do that. I planted them whole and still had seed potatoes left over. ~ karen!

  46. Karen says:

    I think the bottom ad is what he’s referring to as a “pop up” ad. Which it isn’t. Truth be told there aren’t (or at least shouldn’t be at the moment) any pop up ads on my site. 🙂 Some people hate ads and think they should all go, others just don’t like certain ones. Either way I can’t accommodate everyone’s desires. ~ karen!

  47. Karen says:

    Wednesday. That will happen Wednesday. ~ karen!

  48. Karen says:

    Yes. There are other ways to monetize. I could charge a monthly subscription. That’s not a bad idea. ~ karen!

  49. Karen says:

    It happens. ~ karen!

  50. Karen says:

    No problem Ann. Your request was reasonable and it was the type of issue other people seemed to be having too. 🙂 ~ karen!

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