Gardening: When, how long and how to water

By Tiffany Selvey, Master Gardener and mama of 1

We have had a really pleasant beginning to summer with warm days and plenty of rain. It’s very rare to make it to the beginning of July without having to occasionally break out the sprinkler system for the vegetable garden. This year has been the exception, which makes me happy because I have yet to set up my rain barrels, and am not excited about a significant increase in my water bill. Because I know dryer days are coming, I am prepared to water the garden when it’s needed. Here are a few tips for watering your garden.

When do I Water?

Containers and raised beds dry out faster than in-ground gardens, so they require more frequent watering than in-ground plants. The rule with watering anything — houseplants, outdoor containers, in-ground plants, etc. — is to water when the soil is dry one inch below the surface

How Long do I Water?

The duration of watering depends on your watering method; drip irrigation systems will water more slowly than an overhead sprinkler. Making sure you water thoroughly will take some trial and error. Water for 30 minutes, then dig a hole and see how deep the water has penetrated. Adjust your timing as needed to make sure water reaches the plant roots at 4 to 6 inches deep. Water after dusk or before dawn to keep evaporation to a minimum. Mulching well also prevents evaporation.water sprayer

What is the Best Method?

There is no one-size-fits-all method of watering. For small gardens and containers, a hose end sprayer works well. For large gardens, an overhead sprinkler is a frugal option, while a drip irrigation system offers an efficient use of water. For gardens close to the house, a rain barrel provides the best solution for free, biologically active water which is the best option for a healthy soil environment. Think about your budget and the size of your garden before deciding on an irrigation system. A combination of systems may work well for a large yard; consider a rain barrel for a small garden close to the house and a large overhead sprinkler for the veggie garden.

Dry spells are hard to anticipate but we almost always have at least six dry weeks in the summer, sometimes a lot more. Have your irrigation plan in place before the hot, dry days get here so you are prepared to keep your plants happy and healthy.

Tiffany Selvey, Master GardenerTiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally at www.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook, instagram and on twitter.

Gardening: Good Bug, Bad Bug

By Tiffany Selvey, Master Gardener and mama of 1

I’ve never had the typical “freak out” factor about bugs that folks expect from southern ladies. From the very beginning, I have found the world of insects fascinating. I didn’t like them to the extreme of wanting to become an entomologist, but rather on a superficial entertainment level, like a tiny, slow-moving TV show.

I still love to sit and watch the bugs in my garden although now my observations are as much about entertainment as they are about functionality. It’s important that I know what the good guys and the bad guys are doing.

Before I can know what my bugs are doing, I must be able to identify them. While some are easy to identify, others can be tricky. Here are a few insects that can easily be mistaken for each other:

ladybug cucumber beetleLadybugs and Cucumber Beetles: Sure, we all know what ladybugs look like. They are perfectly round in shades of orange and red, some with dots, some without. Similar beetles, called cucumber beetles, are sometimes mistaken for friendly ladybugs because they are also spotted beetles. While ladybugs are excellent at keeping aphids away, cucumber beetles actually do damage to plant leaves and fruit.

bee wasp

Bees and Wasps- They both sting when agitated, but there are many benefits to bees in the garden while wasps are just pests. In all my years of gardening, I’ve never been stung by a bee. I work around them all the time, often harvesting fruits while they collect nectar. I’ve never seen one act aggressively toward me. Wasps, on the other hand, will chase and sting. They are bad dudes and they hurt! Keep the bees, we need them as valuable pollinators, but steer clear of wasps.

butterfly cabbage mothButterflies and Cabbage Moths- Butterflies add beauty to the garden and act as living indicators of a healthy garden environment. There are many types of butterflies that you should be happy to see in the garden, but if you see something that looks like a small white butterfly circling any brassicas (kale, cabbages, broccoli, etc.), this is a cabbage moth.

There are many different management techniques for each pest, a topic better suited for a book than a blog post, but there are great online resources for pest management. If you have gardening questions or need help identifying the good vs. the bad, join and post to our NWA Gardeners facebook page. We would be happy to help!

P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm tour + college savings

pallen shannon, jacqueline and sarah

By Shannon Magsam, nwaMotherlode

When we arrived at P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home at Moss Mountain Farm, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

It had been a fun trip up with friends Jacqueline Presley (left) and Sarah Hood (right). I had dehydrated myself so I wouldn’t have to make too many bathroom stops. Success!

Plus, we had some deep and meaningful conversations on the way up (which is always fun for a thinker like me).

I figured we’d have a little tour, a little lunch, a little bit of time learning about the state’s Arkansas 529 College Savings Plan. And we did. But I enjoyed it even more than expected.

Here are a Few of My Favorite Things about P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain:

Raindrops on roses. It came a downpour while we were taking a tour of Moss Mountain’s flower and vegetable gardens, but we weren’t deterred. Look at this beauty:

pallen collage

Bright Shiny Kitchens with built-in warmers. The kitchen at Moss Mountain is exquisite. I love it. The pantry looks like it’s just a panel of art, but open it up and see all of P. Allen’s favorites. I spied some peanut butter, corn flakes before the panel was shut.

Sleeping porches with day beds and cool summer breezes. I honestly wish I could have grabbed one of the many books lying around in P. Allen’s house and had a little read-fest on the sleeping porch. The breeze was amazing and the view was inviting.

pallen collage 2

Savings for College. We were invited to Moss Mountain Farm not only to tour and make merry, but also to learn more about the state of Arkansas’ 529 College Savings Plan. I was sold after hearing from a mom and a grandma about how much money they had saved through the 529 plan.

529s are similar to retirement accounts where you contribute money every month and it’s invested in mutual funds, etc.., so it can make (or lose, if we’re honest here) more money over the long haul. You don’t have to contribute much every month. You just have to be consistent.

If you don’t have a plan to save for your kids’ college education, we would recommend this.

Dale Ellis and Emma Willis did a great job of explaining 529s and were so sincere and kind that I encourage you to call them if you have any questions or reservations about getting started. CLICK HERE for contact info.

CLICK HERE to visit the Gift Plan website.

Berry Amazing Lunches followed by Delicious Desserts. We had a delicious lunch which was followed by Banana Delight, one of the recipes in P. Allen’s cookbook.

seasonal.cover

Here’s the great group of bloggers who attended the event together. Aren’t we cute?

pallen and group

Gardening: How to grow tomatoes this summer!

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-tomato-patch-garden-image27560135By Tiffany Selvey, Master Gardener and mama of 1

Last month I gushed over my lifelong love affair with tomatoes and tried to convince you to grow some yourself. Now here we are, in May, and it’s time to plant! Before you set trowel to soil, there are a few things to consider.

Location:

When selecting your location for tomatoes, the first thing to consider is sun exposure. Tomatoes will only grow well in full sun — an area that gets at least 8 hours of direct sun every day. This is non-negotiable if you want healthy plants that produce fruit.

Ground vs. Containers:

Full sun might not be optional, but your method of planting is. Tomatoes grow well in the ground, raised beds or containers. Pretty much any variety can be grown in the ground or raised beds, but there are a few things to consider when planning a container garden. First, you’ll want to grow a determinate variety — those that only grow to a certain height and produce a certain amount of fruit. This ensures you don’t end up with a sickly jungle of vines too big for your container. You can even purchase varieties that are specifically for containers. Just look for plants with “patio” in the name.

If you’re growing in raised beds or in the plain old ground soil, I’d suggest indeterminate varieties. This is really where you get the most bang for your buck because they produce fruit as long as conditions are warm enough, which in in Northwest Arkansas tends to be well into October. Look on the product tags or ask a garden center employee if the varieties you’re considering are determinate or indeterminate. Now, if you’re going to grow indeterminate varieties, there’s one more thing to consider…

may tomatoesSupport:

For small, determinate varieties, those little three ring tomato cages are probably fine. They will not work for indeterminate varieties. I mean, they’ll support your tomato plant until sometime in early June when we get a thunderstorm and ALL your tomato cages will fall over creating a mangled mess of a garden. Ask me how I know. For a sturdy tomato cage, I like these concrete mesh cages that I made myself. They never tip and always keep my plants upright and healthy.

Planting:

Now that you know what type of tomato is right for you and you have your location decided, it’s time to plant! Here are a few tips for getting your tomatoes off to a good start:

  • I like to make a cocktail of nutrients to go in the hole with my tomato plants to make sure these heavy feeders have enough to live on throughout the summer: ¼ cup of feather meal (or other nitrogen source), 1 cup of compost, 2 TBSP of crushed eggshells, 1 TBSP of epsom salts. Put all that in the hole and top it with an inch of soil before placing your tomato.
  • Plant your tomato all the way up to about an inch below the top leaves. The buried section of stem will grow roots, building a very healthy root system.
  • Always water well after planting!

So, what do you think? Are you up for growing tomatoes this year? Keep us posted on your progress!

Tiffany Selvey, Master GardenerTiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally atwww.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook, instagram and on twitter.

Gardening: Get ready to grow tomatoes!

By Tiffany Selvey, Master Gardener and mama of 1

If you want to grow food but don’t know where to start, allow me to suggest something with which you might be familiar: Tomatoes.

I love tomatoes. For as long as I can remember, they have been a significant portion of my summer diet. Back in the day when white bread wasn’t considered we love tomatoesevil, my favorite lunch would be several slices of tomato from my grandpa’s garden, a slice of American cheese, and plenty of mayo sandwiched between two slices of soft white bread.

Oh, to have the metabolism of a child again! Well, I may be avoiding white bread these days, but tomatoes are still a significant part of my summer diet, usually with a dash of salt accompanied by farm-fresh eggs and sliced avocado. I may be thirty-something, but I can still eat well!

Aside from my own personal love affair with tomatoes, there are plenty of reasons to grow this lovely veggie. For the time and effort it takes to grow one tomato plant, you really get a lot of food in return. They are low-maintenance plants with few major pest and disease issues.

Perhaps my favorite part of growing tomatoes is that they grow quickly in our Arkansas summers. They love the heat and humidity, so it’s fun to watch the progress daily with the kiddos while learning more about how our food grows.

There are literally thousands of tomato varieties, so how could you possibly know what to get? Thankfully, you won’t find thousands of different varieties at our local garden centers, but you will find an assortment of plants with different features. You’ll need to have an idea of what you want before you go shopping.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • How much space do you have to plant? If you are growing in a container, there are specific varieties tomatoes that are bred to be more compact. All tomato plants are either determinate or indeterminate. tomatoesDeterminate plants only grow to a certain height and produce a certain number of fruits, regardless of the weather, while indeterminate plants continue to produce food as long as the weather is warm. If you’re limited in space, a determinate variety might be best for you, as they require smaller supports, but if you have plenty of garden space, I would recommend an indeterminate variety so you have fresh food all summer and fall. Read all plant labels for spacing instructions.
  • What does your family eat? When you’re at the grocery store or farmers market, do you tend to purchase slicing or cherry tomatoes? Naturally, I would encourage you to grow both, but your priority should be to grow what your family likes best. My family likes to eat cherry tomatoes straight from the vine in the garden.

We won’t start planting tomatoes until early May, when the soil warms, so you have some time to think things over and decide what your family would like to eat. In my next post, I’ll go through the simple details of planting. Let’s get the family in the garden!

Tiffany Selvey, Master GardenerTiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally atwww.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook, instagram and on twitter.

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