Wow. It is heaven around here with strawberries ripening all over the place! Sweet ambrosia. Home grown is so much better than store bought!
My parents have tried growing strawberries in several different places the last few years and none of them worked out until they planted them in the well drained Mittleider soilless mix of peatmoss and sand. Now they are multiplying like crazy and giving us beautiful fruit.
I fertilized them with the Mittleider weekly feed when they started to grow this spring, again when they flowered and I will feed them in the next few days now that they are producing heavily. I didn’t have to water them at all until a few weeks ago. Now I make sure they don’t go too dry and they are doing very well.
This fall or next spring we will need to thin them out quite a bit and start a new strawberry patch. After a few years in the same spot the mother plant sends off so many shoots that the berries start getting small. If we were more diligent about cutting off the shoots that turn into new plants we wouldn’t need to thin them.
I made a short little YouTube video showing the watering system my Dad built in our garden. Click this link to see the video. This is how we water our garden
Here are pictures to outline the different components of the system that is inspired by Jacob Mittleider. It is made with 1/2 inch PVC. Watering this way is so easy, water saving, time saving, and makes so much sense if you have permanent garden boxes.
See the yellow in the middle of that flower? It is a baby strawberry! We haven’t had to water the strawberries at all this year or really take care of them except to pull the mulch off them in the early Spring and give them some Mittleider weekly feed. It seems that such goodness should come with a much higher price. If you haven’t had a fresh strawberry you just can’t imagine the sweet perfect flavor. The under ripe, chemical laden excuse for strawberries in the stores pale in comparison. Oh how I am excited for strawberry season!
I have now planted the things that can be put in 2 weeks before the last Spring frost date. These include:
If you live where it is quite dry then you can put in Potatoes too. Where I live the rain still comes down quite frequently and the potatoes can rot before they sprout so I will wait a few weeks for them.
All of the seeds I started a few weeks ago are up and growing beautifully so now I start feeding them the natural Mittleider fertilizer mix once a week.(get it at www.growfood.com and learn how to use it HERE.) A few weeks ago I told you to get your micronutrients ordered and now is the time you will be using them.
I like to set aside one day a week (Mondays for me) to fertilize any garden plants that have sprouted. I stop doing this weekly feed when they are a few weeks from being mature. The fertilizer stays with them a few weeks so I don’t want to waste fertilizer on things I am going to be harvesting.
If I am fertilizing a 30′ x 18″ bed, once a week I will add 16 oz.(a soup can) of weekly feed to the bed near the roots of the plants. You don’t have to till it in or anything, just put in on the surface and when you water or it rains, the fertilizer will go into the soil. Messing up the surface of the soil and getting good contact with the fertilizer will actually help the fertilizer get into the soil better but it is not necessary.
In a 3×8′ bed put down 8 ounces (1 cup) of weekly feed).
As it warms up our plants will shoot up and we will be so grateful for the work we have put in!
Another thing to be doing right now is disturbing the soil in our garden beds. When you do this, weeds that have gotten started will be uprooted and won’t be able to grow. You are not disturbing your seedlings, but the rest of the soil. You aren’t watering the isles with this method of gardening so weeding will be kept to a minimum but to keep it even less, move your soil.
If you are growing straight in the soil, break down the sides of your garden beds and build them back up again to kill any weeds that have been germinating. You will be glad you took the time to do this. Eliminate the weeds while they are small and you will have much less work to do later.
I get so excited this time of year when the weather is mild enough that I can be outside without a heavy coat and dig in the beautiful loamy soil that is begging for something to grow in it! Before I can stick any seeds in the ground there are some steps I must take to make sure the growing plants have every advantage I can give them. Listed below are the steps I take to have a beautiful garden:)
1. First, I make sure the ground is tilled. I use this tiller. It has done big jobs and little ones beautifully for several years now.
If I am growing in a garden box I use my small Mantis tiller and make sure the soil or soilless mix I talk about HERE is an inch below the sides of the bed so the soil and water will stay in the box. If I am growing straight in the ground, I will mark off the rows and isles. I show how to do that HERE.
2. I make a pre plant mixture that will help my seeds germinate well and that will condition the soil(any soil). It is a mix of
a. 20 cups gypsum (we get it at Home Depot, or a home improvement store).
b. 1 cup epsom salt (you can buy this at the pharmacy).
c. 1/4 cup borax (you can find this in the laundry isle at the store).
When I have the pre plant mixture made, I store it in a bucket and use it as needed.
3. In a garden box measuring 3×8 feet I will put 16 oz. (an empty soup can) of this pre plant mixture into the bed and till it in. If my bed is directly in the soil, and I’m using the Mittleider method of 18″ beds by 30 feet long, I will till in 2 of the 16 ounce soup cans full of the pre plant mixture.
4.When the pre plant mixture is tilled in I then level the bed out so water won’t run off, form edges if the beds are directly in the soil, and water the bed heavily until it is soaked. This will help keep the seeds moist and keep the seeds from washing away on the first watering.
5. Now I mark where I’ll be putting the seeds. In an 18″ wide bed I’ll normally have two rows of seeds going down the length of the 30 foot bed. In a 3 foot wide bed I do 4 rows of seeds down the length. I show this HERE.
6. When the seed rows are marked and the bed is wet I am ready to plant. If the bed is clay soil and the water takes a long time to soak in I wait to plant until the water is well soaked in. Each seed will need its own planting depth and spacing. The rule of thumb is that you plant the seed 3x the thickness of the seed. So if a bean is 1/4″ thick you will plant it 3/4 ” deep. Usually the seed packet will tell you how deep to plant your seed.
7. Plant your seeds and if you have a good loamy soil, cover your seeds and lightly tamp the soil down so the seed has contact with the soil If your soil is clay you will not want to cover the seeds with the clay soil because it will tend to dry and form a crust which is hard for the growing seed to penetrate. In this case you will cover your seeds with sand. Also as your clay soil dries and cracks, fill the cracks with sand.
8. When your seeds are in the ground the next step is to keep them constantly moist but not swimming in water. If the weather is very hot or your soil is more sandy you will want to water several times a day. For small seeds like carrots and lettuce it is helpful to put down a layer of burlap cloth so when you water the seeds they don’t wash away, and so the seeds stay moist between waterings. The smaller seeds are closer to the surface and tend to dry out quicker making it harder to germinate them successfully. If your soil is clay you will not need to water as often because the water will be retained better. Just check the beds and get familiar with how quickly the top 1/2″ of soil dries out.
Congratulations if you follow the above steps. You are on your way to a fantastic garden and so am I 🙂
The next steps for gardening will require that you have an order of micronutrients ready along 25 pounds of 16-16-16 all purpose fertilizer. You can order your micronutrients at www.growfood.com. Tell them that Elisa sent you. 🙂
Some of our 9 foot tomato plants in July. We have months of growing to do. What are we going to do with these monsters?
The peppers are growing like weeds. 🙂 I won’t get rid of this kind of weed!
These tomatoes are the first full harvest we had. They were yummy….. No, I did not sell these guys. They were the first fruits of the harvest which equals high standing in vegetable world. Nobody would want to pay the price I would put on these babies! I love eating them and knowing there are no pesticides sprayed on them.
In the forefront is the heirloom organic corn we are growing. In the background is the totally awesome hoophouse getting built. It is going to make it so we can grow earlier and later in the season which equals more varieties of foods longer in the year. It is also a great insect repellent! (Bugs can’t freely get inside.)
This is a fuzzy shot of some more of the garden. We have 100 rows like the ones you see here. They are 18″ wide and 30 feet long. It has been a lot of work putting this garden together but the education alone has been worth it.
So, there you go. Another month goes by and a ton of things happen at the farm. We are starting to have more produce on our table and money in our pockets from people supporting our efforts through ordering and enjoying our vegetables. July has been a good garden month.
We are flooding our garden beds today so I thought I’d show you how it is done.
To start with we made beds that are level and have banks to keep the water where the roots are. The area that is being flooded in this video is about 12″ wide and 30′ long. That is the size of bed recommended by growfood.com and is the size we used for all 100 of our soil beds. It works very well.
In the video I show how I tie an old dishcloth onto the end of a hose to keep the direct flow of water from digging a hole in the soil. I have been watering this way for 2 years and I love it. Once we make the pvc watering system we will be abandoning this hose flooding, but until then there isn’t a better way.
HOW TO PREPARE A GARDEN BED USING THE MITTLEIDER METHOD
Before putting any soil in your 36″x8′ beds, sprinkle 1 1/2 cups gypsum on the ground. The 36″x8′ beds are what I have in the greenhouse and you can plant 4 rows in it. Outside I have 18″x30′ beds. Those would get 4 cups of the pre-plant mixture tilled in and 2 cups of weekly feed when the plants are up. After putting in 1 part sand and 3 parts (or 1 part sand, 2 parts sawdust and 2 parts pearlite) sawdust into your beds until the beds are level with the tops of the boxes, sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of the following pre-plant mixture. 20 cups gypsum(hardware store); 1 cup epsom salts(pharmacy); 1/4 cup Borax(laundry isle). Till or shovel it into the top 6 -8 inches of soil. When the plants are up, start fertilizing once week with 3/4 c. of the weekly feed mixture. You can buy the micronutrients that will come with the recipe at growfood.com for about $14. When you know your plants only have a couple more weeks until they are through producing, you can stop the weekly feed. If you plant something else in their place, start with the pre-plant mixture again. Do not put the pre-plant mixture in with seeds. They will not germinate correctly.