Homegrown Harvest Q&A Thursday Live!

Thursday – May 23, 2019

Every Thursday live on Instagram @homegrown_harvest answers questions from followers about gardening and sustainable living. If you have any questions you would like answered, we would love to help out. Send your questions to info@homegrownharvest.com.

I am worried about my newly planted seeds washing away in these torrential rains. What can I do?

  • Put a light layer of pine straw as a mulch to help hold things in place and diffuse the heavy water.

My compost this spring didn’t seem ready. I have a black plastic box. I was ill this winter and didn’t turn the lawn mowed leaves from last fall. I put in some organic compost starter to get it moving. Does my compost need to be as broken down as what comes in the bags to spread in the garden?

The short answer is yes it should look like what comes out of the bag if you were to buy it. Compost is ready when it looks dark brown in color, feels like rich crumbly earth, and smells like rich earth. It should not smell like rotting vegetables – nor should you be able to recognize any kitchen scraps or garden refuse.

It’s important that your compost is ready since it does contain substances which can be damaging to plants such as acids and pathogens which need to go through the complete process of decomposition to be safe to use.  Plus, nitrogen and oxygen are used during the process and would not be available for the plants use if the soil is still using it to decompose matter.

Hot piles require regular turning – which may be one reason your compost didn’t’ seem ready since you were sick. Also since you didn’t add your mowed trimmings you may have not had the regular balance you always have of nitrogen to carbon (greens to browns) which also effect the rate of decomposition. Composting requires the right balance of carbons to nitrogen (brown matter to green matter). 2:1 carbon to nitrogen for hot composting and 3:1 carbon to nitrogen for cold composting.

Screen your mulch and pick out large things that haven’t decomposed that take a long time like avocado pits and corn cobs – throw then back in to the compose – they will eventually break down

Last year my basil was three feet tall. This year I can’t get it to grow at all. Good irrigated soil, same location. I do see some tiny holes in lower leaves. Any suggestions?

You may have a soil borne disease building up in your soil.  Although herbs are not as susceptible to soil borne diseases like other vegetables, we recommend rotating herbs along with your other crops. Also like other crops, herbs will benefit from having some fresh compost put in the area where it’s to be planted. Pruning your basil also helps it to thrive.

You can watch our Homegrown Harvest Live videos on our new YouTube Channel and this episode which aired May 23, 2019.

Homegrown Harvest Live Q&A Thursday

Welcome to Homegrown Harvest Live Q&A Thursday! Every Thursday at 2pm, Mark and Xine answer questions related to gardening or sustainable living from followers during their live podcast aired on Instagram @homegrown_harvest

Daphne from Connecticut – Zone 6b asks “How do you take care of a Ranunculus Mache Pastel flowers? Am I supposed to prune this thing, how often do I water it, do I planted into the ground?

Tecolote Ranunculus – incredibly bold colors, make for great cut flowers with extended vase life. They need bright sun, rich soil and light watering – if planted needs to be in well drained area

In zones 8 and warmer they can be planted in the fall. In zone 7 and colder, plant bulbs in the springtime or plant in containers.

When choosing a container, you always need to be sure to pick the right size container for the plant you are growing. For ranunculus bulbs leave 3- 4 inches between the bulbs, and plant 2” deep in the container. Once there is no threat of a frost put the container outside in a sunny spot.

Ranunculus are perennials in warm climates zone 8 and higher; whereas zone 7 and lower the plant acts as an annual, so you have to start over the following spring with new bulbs

As a cut flower they can last up to 10 days!

Kristin from Connecticut – zone 6 writes in that she mulches her garden beds and the property slopes downward. What is the best mulch that will stay put in heavy rains?

All mulches will float and wash away in a flood but some stay put better than others. Pine straw is highly recommended since the needles entwine and it help it stay put better than wood chips or bark nuggets which float off onto the lawn. Shredded bark or wood is good, something with pieces that tangle and hold onto one another. 

Ideally if you can edge your garden with something high enough to hold the mulch in place – stones, wood that helps. You can also use other plants plie monkey grass of hostas or a type of ground cover as a protective border to keep the mulch in. Trenching a 3- 4” deep moat around the bed will help geep the mulch from floating off. 

The Idaho Dept of Environmental Quality recommends that mulches that as meant to last longer than 3 months on slopes steeper than 50% – you use straw or hay held in place by netting. And they don’t recommend using wood chips if the slope is steeper than 6%, because they wash away.

Kristin, I would use pine straw and depending on your slope possibly throw some netting down and tack it down with landscape fabric stakes.

Carolyn from Connecticut asks what is the best time to prune ones rose bushes?

The trick about pruning is timing since if you do it too soon, you run the risk of having new growth stimulated during a warm spell which could be killed later by a freeze.  Prune too late and your plant misses the spring bloom.  So how do you know?

One trick is if you live in an area where there are forsythias -wait until the forsythias are in bloom. Forsythias only bloom when the soil temperature is 55° of warmer in the first 6 inches of soil depth – this is a natural indicator that it’s the perfect time to prune your roses.  If you don’t live in an area where there are forsythias – early spring after the last frost in colder climates, when they start to bud or leaf out. If you have a soil thermometer again you are looking for 55°.

Homegrown Harvest Live! Q&A Thursday

Every Thursday live on Instagram @homegrown_harvest answers questions from followers about gardening and sustainable living. If you have any questions you would like answered, we would love to help out. Send your questions to info@homegrownharvest.com.

Samantha in Maine asks: What’s the best way to incorporate my compost into my garden? Shouldn’t I “till” my soil with gas tiller or something?

Hand mixing is the best way to incorporate compost and any other amendments that you introduce into the soil. It doesn’t destroy the microorganisms that live in the soil web which is the first few layers of the soil. Healthy soil is biologically alive and balanced in minerals and carbon content. The inter-connected activities of soil organisms improve soil stability and underpin nutrient cycling on a global scale.

It’s a fact that healthy soils are responsible for the production of food borne antibiotics, vitamins, phyto-chemicals and amino acids – all of which are crucial the health of humans. The right soil will yield the most nutritious and flavorful food possible.

The second part asked about roto-tilling and hoeing on soil – old school of thought – This can be very disruptive to soil organisms.  We always recommend raised beds which help avoids soil compaction which also effects soils organisms and the soil can be worked more easily without disrupting soil organisms too much. Repeat This is why we recommend hand mixing.

Melissa from Virginia asks: I want to grow fruit trees. Do they need to be planted in pairs to pollinate? 

Without pollination there would be no fruit, so it’s important to know. Fruit tree pollination = sexual reproduction and fruit development. Fruit trees fall into 2 categories: self-pollinating and pollinator required.

Self-pollinators are trees that don’t need another to complete the pollination process. Most apricots, nectarines, peaches and sour cherries are self-pollinators.

Fruit trees that require pollinators are trees that need to be planted by another variety of tree. These include. apples, pears, plums and sweet cherries. So it all depends on what you want to grow.

Diane in Connecticut asks if you could have 1 vegetable plant which would give you the most beauty for viewing or the most value for eating?

Mark’s favorite thing to grow are tomatoes. He absolutely loves them, low fat, no cholesterol, versatile in the kitchen and delicious – beautiful to grow they come in a variety of colors from red, orange, yellow, even purple! For me, for its beauty while it’s growing – I’d have to say lettuce since it comes in so many beautiful varieties and colors, shapes and textures – you can make an entire mosaic out of it in the garden – not to mention it’s simple to grow, even indoors. Plus with all the recalls on lettuce – I prefer to grow our own. But if we were talking just value for eating – that I like – because stuff like kale would probably be no.1 as far nutritional value but I hate kale so I’ll say peas. They are high in fiber, protein, vitamins A, C and K, riboflavin and thiamin, niacin and foliate – also have some compound known as saponins known for their anti-cancer effects. Plus they are super easy to grow – are pretty and tasty, tasty. Homegrown peas are the best tasting peas you will ever taste. Everything homegrown tastes better.