Reply To: It's "What's In Your Garden?" Time

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The gardening thread is BACK!!! I was really enjoying this thread and then we went through the week from hell culminating in us having to bury our beloved German Shepherd Dog Moose who was my wife’s constant companion/shadow and her true soulmate. Tough time.

But it is gardening season, so that helps. Someone way back in the thread asked where I’m from and that’s way up in the NW part of Ashe County. 2 miles from the Voles and 5 miles from the Hokies. My gardens are at just shy of 4000 feet elevation. Gotta be tough and fast to grow up here.

I do everything organically and have been for over 40 years. We were in the certified organic vegetable business until a couple of years ago. Lots of folks still don’t understand organics very well. Certainly some practice organic by neglect but that’s not really the essence of it. It’s also way more than just avoiding certain “chemical” products and fertilizers. I use many techniques that focus on building the soil over time. There are some good organic fertilizers available, mostly based on chicken manure. I am going to be fertilizing my 15 acres of meadow with it this week if it dries out enough. I also keep it limed properly and oversees every 5 years o so. I keep a strong population of clover seeded because clovers actually capture nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil.

Our lawn is mostly creeping red fescue mixed with white clover. Again, the clover helps fix fertilizer for free. I also will put down an inch or so of black cow every few years. That’s it. I mow it rather close in the spring a few times and then leave it at 2-3 inches after that. Healthy grass chokes out the weeds. I get a few dandelions and I dig out a few of them. Dandelions are a great indication that your soil is too compact.

Great discussion on peppers. My father’s people are from Barbados where the Scotchbonnet is king. I’ve always thought that they were more or less habaneros. Too much heat for my bride’s senses. I grow a few jalapeƱos and a scotch bonnet, but I do about a half dozen Joe E Parkers. I think they are considered an Anaheim chile. I also grow a few of the Italian peppers mentioned before. Corno de Toro (Horn of the Bull). They are sweet and real nice. Peppers are really easy to preserve. We just cut them up into usable slices or chunks and freeze them on cookie sheets and pop them into ziploc bags. You can just grab as many as you want for chili or whatever.

I’m big into edible landscaping. I had a vision some years ago of having my fence along the driveway covered with roses (RED) and raspberries (WHITE blossoms) to make a living Wolfpack fence. So the roses bloomed later than the berries and the berries choked out the roses. But now, we get gallons and gallons of red raspberries. Again, all you have to do is spread them out on one of those cookie trays with the lip around it and freeze and bag those suckers. I also preserve a bunch of raspberry sorbet. We have several blueberry bushes scattered around. Thye freeze super easy, too.

We love fresh cukes and do several varieties of those. Somebody mentioned having some problems growing them. Most of the issues with dukes are directly or indirectly due to them dang cucumber beetles, the spotted ones and the stripy ones. They can devour your seedlings overnight and if they just nibble on them they spread all kinds of viruses and stuff. Prior to bloom, I dust with diatomaceous earth. After the dukes blossom, I stop that so as to protect the bees. I also use a technique called “trap cropping.” In this case, I always plant a winter squash variety called Blue Hubbard at the ends of each row of squash and cukes.. For whatever reason, these Blue Hubbards are like crack to those duke beetles. They will swarm it and mostly ignore the other stuff. Then you can concentrate your spraying on the masses. It really works.

I’ll leave it at that for now. I enjoy sharing some of my decades of experience with gardening/farming. It’s always fun to learn from others.