Cleaning and Disinfecting Pots Is It Really Necessary?

Cleaning and disinfecting pots for reuse is one of those jobs we tend to want to skip.  As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until last year when I was volunteering for the master gardeners plant sale fundraiser, that I realized how vital of a step this is.  The reason cleaning and disinfecting is so important is because used pots can harbor disease organisms, which can reinfect the newly planted plants.  If you are reusing pots for seedlings this is a step you don’t want to skip, especially, if your seedlings are going in a greenhouse, or other enclosed space, where diseases can spread.

Cleaning and disinfecting plastic pots:

1.  Knock any dirt and trash out of pots.

2.  Clean pots in a bin filled with water using a sponge or brush to remove any debris stuck in the pots.  This is done because if debris is left in the pots, diseases can hide under it and not be killed in the disinfecting process.

3.  Submerge pots in a 10 percent, one part bleach to nine parts water, bleach solution for 10 minutes.

4.  Rinse pots with clean water after they come out of the bleach solution.

5.  Air dry.

Cleaning and disinfecting Terra Cotta pots:

1.  Knock any dirt and trash out of pots.

2.  Clean pots in a bin filled with water using a steel wool or a wire brush to remove any debris stuck in the pots.  If there are tough mineral deposits use a knife to scrape them off.

3.  Submerge pots in a 10 percent, one part bleach to nine parts water, bleach solution for 20 minutes.

4.  Rinse pots with clean water after they come out of the bleach solution.

5.  Air dry.

Clean pots of all debris.

Disinfect pots by soaking in bleach solution.

Use a 10% bleach solution to soak pots. 1 part bleach 9 parts water.

After rinsing the bleach solution from pots allow them to air dry.

I still have more pots to clean and disinfect so I must get to work.  I want to have them all ready for when I up pot my veggies.

Happy Planting!

Seed Starting Guide

I know it’s early but I’m getting excited about my summer garden.  I searched for a seed starting guide of zone 8 but didn’t find one.  So, I made my own, which I am happy to share with you here, or you may notice I added a new page to my blog.  For those of you who don’t live in zone 8 and are needing this info, organic gardening has a seed starting plan that I found very helpful.  The first step in designing your own seed starting guide is to pick a frost free date.  When doing this I went to the National Climate Data Center , this site allows you to pick your state and city.  If you are in a small town like me, pick the nearest city with weather closest to yours.  Once you’ve selected this, the site gives you the data.  For me, at first glance this was a bit confusing.  It gives you three temperatures 36, 32, and 28 and dates that correspond to each with either a 10, 50, or 90 percent chance of frost beyond/before these dates.  For the seed starting guide I made, I choose the date that had only a 10 percent chance of frost later then this date.  My house seems to have a micro climate that is colder then the surrounding areas, and I would rather be safe then sorry.  All that being said, as gardeners, we know that there is no guarantee mother nature will do as we wish.  Just pay attention to the weather and if it predicts temperatures below 40 degrees in the week following  your plant out date, hold off on planting or be prepared to cover your veggies.

The other day I did an inventory of my old seeds.  A few of my seeds are about 3 or 4 years old, but I can’t bring myself to throw seeds out.  I figured I would give them a try, and if they don’t germinate, well, I wasted some seed starting mix and a little time.  But, for me it’s worth the risk.

This is the newest member of the family, Misha, helping with the seed inventory.

I also ordered some new variety of vegetable seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  These haven’t come in, but I can’t wait for them to get here.

I started planting my seeds and well, you know who, decided she needed to help.  But really, with a face like that, of course, she got to help.

It’s always nice to have a little extra help.

But by the end she was exhausted and needed a nap.

My helper, Misha, was exhausted from all the planting and needed a nap.

I hope for those of you living in zone 8 my seed starting guide helps.  If you have any questions please feel free to ask.

Happy Planting!!!

2014 At A Glance

I can’t believe I have been away sooo long.   2014 brought so many different things.  Winter brought an ice storm, spring brought flooding rains, summer brought severe heat, and well fall, I’ll get to that in a bit.  For me personally, it was a crazy year.   For the garden, it started off good, but then I got busy and the garden hit some pitfalls.  The chickens and ducks also had their ups and downs.

Spring of 2014 brought 20″ of rain in two days.

Above is a picture of my back yard after the flooding rains.  The ducks only had to exit their coop to be able to take a swim.  At that time, I only had potatoes planted in the garden and thanks to our sandy soil the water drained away in a matter days and I ended up with a bumper crop of potatoes.

2014 brought some new baby chicks.   Where I live roosters are “allowed”, but I don’t want to upset my neighbors so I always buy pullets to ensure I don’t get roosters.  I bought two batches of babies last year, with the first coming from my local feed store and my second batch from TS.  As luck would have it, I got one rooster in each batch.  I have to say the roosters were beautiful, but they had to be re-homed.  Thankfully, a kind couple who live in the country took them in and they have lots of room to roam and many animal friends.

The first batch of chicks taking a nap.

The roosters were beautiful.

My veggies in the west garden did not do well this past year.  I finally figured out I had nematodes.   Here is a picture and information about nematodes.  I talked to our local extension office and they could give me no real way to get rid of nematodes.  They said I could solarize the soil but there was no guarantee that would work.  Solarizing the soil is basically baking the soil.  Black plastic is placed over the soil and the heat from the sun kills the insects.  I had to make a decision to completely remove all the soil from the beds, figure out a way to raise them, and keep the native soil and nematodes out of the beds, or just remove the west garden.  For now, I have done away with the west garden.  My hope is to plant some fruit trees in this area.  Bu first I must find fruit trees with a root stock that is nematode resistant.  Until I do that, the ducks and chickens are enjoying the extra space and fertilizing the area for me.

Overall, I would say the most trying time of year was fall.  I live in the panhandle of Florida and over the past few years that I have had chickens I have had my trouble with the black bears.  This fall brought with it a bear who was unlike any other bear that had come my way.  On November 2nd, I awoke to the bear having broken into my chicken coop and him sitting by my coop still feeding on some of my girls.  I lost 7 of my chicks to the bear that night.  I was beyond upset and contacted the Florida Wildlife Commission. This was not my first time talking with them.  They agreed to send one of their contractors out and have him put up an electric fence around my chicken coop.  My ducks have their own coop on the opposite side of the yard from the chickens, and the contractor assured me that bears do not like ducks, as they are noisy, and they should be safe.  Well, a couple of nights later the bear was back and after much work was able to break in my duck coop and killed both my girl ducks leaving the two boys.  I moved my boy ducks in with the chickens, which in hind sight is what I should have done to begin with,  so they could be protected by the electric fence.  After losing my ducks I once again contacted the FWC and they told me they thought this bear was the same bear causing trouble at other houses in my area.   They sent out a biologist and contractor and they set up the bear trap.  On the second night the bear was trapped and the biologist and contractor took him away.  It took me many week ends, but I put an electric fence around the entire area where the chicken and ducks are allowed to roam.   Now they are safe.  It broke my heart to see the boys so depressed looking for their girls.  They have adjusted to the girls being gone, but even now, months later, do not like to go into their own coop.  They want to be with the chickens.

 

Chicken coop after the bear broke in.

Damage done by bear to the duck coop.

Bear trap.

The bear was trapped. The biologist and contractor came to take him away.

My entire chicken area is now protected by an electric fence.

I am looking forward to 2015 and all of the ups and downs it is sure to bring.

 

Winterizing The Garden

I’m sure that most everyone has already winterized their garden, but for us here in zone 8b temps have been very mild this year.  The forecast has it dipping into the upper 30′s this week and although I have my doubts that it will actually get that cold, I figured it’s better safe then sorry.  I’ve had a very busy weekend getting the garden ready for winter, but am glad to say I am finished. This year I decided to build  low tunnels for most of my garden beds after the huge success I had with the one bed I covered last year.  I got the idea for low tunnels from Mother of a Hubbard.  Although I built mine a little differently, the principle is the same. Since all my beds are raised beds made out of wood I decided to attach the PVC pipe to the beds using metal brackets.  I found the brackets at my local box store in the electrical section.

Drill, screws, 1/2″ brackets

Attach the PVC pipe to the side of the bed using metal brackets.

Once the first side is attached just bend the pipe over and attach the other side.  It took less then an hour to attach the pipes here in the East Garden.

This is what the beds after the PVC pipes were attached.

Once the PVC pipes are secured it’s time to put the plastic on.  Since temps here in Florida don’t get too cold, and it never snows, I went with a 4 mil plastic.  The rolls I got were 12′ by 100′.  The plastic went over the beds perfectly with about a foot on either side.  I secured one side by laying some 2×4′s and whatever else I could find on the plastic to weigh it down.  I used clips to roll up the other side to insure the hot air could escapes and the veggies didn’t overheat.  Putting the side up and down only takes a few minutes.  When the side goes down I’ll just weigh that side down too.

Here is what the East Garden looked like once the plastic was put on.

Not only did I have to get my beds covered but I have a few papaya plants, which are tender tropicals, that  I want to keep from freezing.   The easiest and cheapest way was to build a frame out of PVC and cover it with plastic.  I used 1″ PVC, only because it’s what I had, I don’t think I would use thinner pipe but thicker stuff would be fine.  I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the frame before I put the plastic on, but I didn’t.  The plastic was quite a job to get on so once on I didn’t want to take it back off to take pictures.  :(   I used the same plastic as I did for the tunnels, with one layer going from back to front and a second from side to side using clips to secure it in place.  If heavy wind is predicted I will tie a rope around the top and bottom, thankfully it’s not hurricane season.  Here are some pictures, and I hope you get the idea.

The structure is 9 feet tall with a center pole about 13′ tall to try to keep the water from pooling on the top.  The upright pipes were driven at least one foot into the ground to give it some stability.

A look at the top corner or the stucture.

A picture from further away with plastic clipped open.

Here’s what it looks like all closed up.

The other thing going on in the garden is there has been a rabbit eating my asparagus.  It has taken over a week but it has eaten the entire bed down.  I think it will continue returning to eat any new shoots that come up so I put some chicken wire around the bed.  Not sure if that will work but I had to try something.  I secured the bottom of the chicken wire to the bed with staples so it will not be able to squeeze under.  I don’t think they can climb so I am hopeful this will work.   Not sure how I will get in the bed if needed but I’ll figure that out when that day comes.

Chicken wire around the asparagus bed. Sure hope this keeps the rabbit out!

I thought since it has been so long since I posted I would add a few pictures of the chickens and ducks.        

Another Rainy Day

Today is another rainy day here in the panhandle of florida.  Between yesterday and today we have had about 3 1/2 inches of rain with more to come.  But, it has been mostly a slow steady rain, which is the kind of rain I love.  As you can imagine the ducks are happy, the chickens and Kahlo are miserable, and me, well, just enjoying to day.

I was scheduled t0 work with the Master Gardeners to help propagate plants for out Spring Plant Sale, but that had to be rescheduled due to all the rain.  So here I am with a free Saturday, what to do, what to do.  Not that my to do list isn’t miles long, like I’m sure yours is too. But an unexpected free day, even if it is rainy is just glorious.

After a few extra cups of coffee, out I went to work in the garden, in the rain.  A slow steady rain with no lighting or thunder was perfect weather to get my veggies transplanted.  I had direct seeded turnips, rutabaga, and collards in the garden.  The  last few week have been mostly dry, and I have been spoiled from not having to water the garden in July, so the direct seeded veggies germinated but not evenly.  I’m sure the spotty germination was a lack of constant moisture which is a must for seeds to germinate.  I wanted to move some of the seedlings, that had germinated in clumps, to areas where none had germinated.  With the temperatures in the 70′s, no sun, and slow rain, I felt the chance of these very small plants surviving the transplant was pretty high.  I also had small seedlings of broccoli and cauliflower that I had intended to up pot, but decided instead to plant them directly into the garden.  The tomatoes I started in the middle of July were getting pretty big so out they went as well.  I am pretty pleased with the outcome, just crossing my fingers the transplants take.  Here are some pictures I took of the garden this afternoon in the rain.

Lima beans are doing great. A butternut squash is also in there.

Jalapenos and eggplants that are still producing.

I’m not even sure you can see the tiny plants I was transplanting today.

Lima beans, okra, and asparagus in the west garden.

Zucchini and crooked neck squash with a couple eggplants to the back.

Tomatoes were planted.

One of my papayas has 3 papayas on it. I have visions of green papaya salad in my head.

This picture was taken a few days ago, but the banana’s are growing.

 

Did I mention today was a pretty good day?  Well, here’s what came in the mail a couple days earlier than expected.

I finally have a full sized pressure canner. I am super excited. I know I’m a bit late for the summer growing season, but what should I can first?

I didn’t use my new pressure cooker to make them, but I made some pickled okra this afternoon.  I got the Ball book at TS a few weeks ago and used the recipe from there.  It called for one hot pepper per jar, but I used only a half of a Thai pepper in each and am a little concerned even that may be too much heat.  I only planted one raised bed with okra so I didn’t have very many okras.  I halved the recipe and made two pints.  Can’t wait to try them.  I think you are supposed to wait for a while before eating them but not sure.  Anyhow, here they are.

Pickled Okra.

Look out world, between this book and my new pressure cooker I hope to be a canning fool.

Bonus pictures:

This is a picture I took the other day of Ghost and one of the young chicks. Aren’t they getting big?

The ducks were napping this afternoon having worn themselves out playing in the mud.

 

Vegetables to plant in August

I have to say, in a way I am thrilled it’s August but also feel a tinge of dread.  This is because, here in zone 8b, we are now officially into the second summer garden stage, yet August is normally the hottest month for us.   The month of July was not as hot as normal, due to the fact we had rain nearly every day with a total of 19 inches for the month.  I think I watered my garden one time all month, and even that watering was unnecessary as it rained shortly after I watered.  So far no real rain here in August, so hopefully we’ll get a reprieve from the rain, but I know, be careful what you wish for.  I think tomorrow I will have to water as things are beginning to look like they need it.

This is my first day off this month so I should be out in the garden, yet haven’t managed to make myself brave the heat and go and do just that.   Thankfully, I took advantage of a few of those rainy days in July and prepared my beds.  So maybe this evening when it cools a bit I will head out and plant my seeds.

Here is the list of  vegetables to plant in August.

Vegetables to plant in August for zone 8b:

beans, bush and pole
lima beans
corn
cucumbers
southern peas
peppers
pumpkin
summer squash
winter squash
tomatoes
watermelon
broccoli
Cauliflower
Collards
Rutabaga
Turnip

As you can see, the top part of the list is summer veggies we can have a second go at, and the bottom is the start of the winter  veggies.  I have read  that it is good  to start the broccoli and cauliflower seeds indoors, as it is too hot for them to germinate outside.

 

Vegetables To Plant In July

As I mentioned last month, the list of veggies to plant in July is very short.

Vegetables to plant in July for zone 8b:

  • beans, lima
  • eggplant
  • okra
  • peas, southern
  • peppers
  • watermelon

For me, the only one on the list not currently in the garden is southern peas.  I have never grown them,but I think I can scrounge up some garden space to try some.   I am hording garden space because August is the month to start a second summer garden here in zone 8b.  I hope everyones garden is still surviving better yet I hope it is flourishing.  Mine is a mix of these two, depending on which vegetable we are talking about.   I’m looking forward to getting a fresh start come August.

A Midsummer Garden Update

Here in the panhandle of Florida, it’s been a crazy summer.  If the heat hasn’t gotten to your garden, then the rain probably has.  Over this Fourth of July holiday, here at my house, I have had over 8″ of rain, but I know others on the panhandle have had more then that.  Hopefully, we are going to be drying up this next week and I will be watching the garden for signs of wilt and fungus.

June was a tough months for the garden, I spent a lot of time picking caterpillars off the tomatoes.  After a two week onslaught, the tomatoes survived, but were no longer the pretty plants they once were.  But even with that, I was able to can and dehydrate lots of tomatoes.  I will be using the dehydrated ones in stews and soup come winter.  The tomatoes are now coming to their end.  I read the other day that tomatoes quit producing blooms when night temperatures are above 75 degrees.  This is the first time I had heard this and it makes sense, but I will do more research.   A quick run down of the rest of the gardens goes like this.  Green beans, for me are a great veggie.  They taste great, freeze well, and best of all are easy to grow.  I grew both bush and vining varieties, planting them weeks apart, so some of my vining ones are just beginning to produce as the bush ones are ending.  I have lots of beans in the freezer.  Peppers have also been good this year.  They have nice thick walls, which I think is due to the fact we have had a lot of rain.  I chipped up and froze 30 or more peppers, and am hoping the plants survive this wet week so they can continue to produce until winter.  The eggplants have just recently begun to produce.  I am not sure why they have been so late, but I’m happy to have them as other things are slowing down. Cucumbers are done, I got an okay crop but they were all on the small side.  I think that bed needs the soil reworked, more compost please!  After a bumper crop of zucchini to start June off, I lost almost all of them to vine borers.   I need to find a fix for that next season.  Failures were tomatillos and onions.  I’m not sure exactly what happened with either, but I will try grow onions again next year, but I think I am done with tomatillos.  A few of the other things growing are, carrots, kale (not sure how this is holding on but the ducks are happy),  okra, and lima beans.  The okra and lima beans were planted mid June and are still small.  My package of lima beans was marked as bush limas but guess what, they are the vining type.   I had two choices, dig them up and plant something else or construct some makeshift trellises.  I can’t bring myself to dig up good plants, so I looked around and used what I had and made trellises.  Then I had to transplant some of the limas, as spacing for pole varieties is much different from bush varieties.  This was one time I was happy for it being cloudy and rainy.  I think they will all survive the move. This wraps up how the garden is growing.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I am growing asparagus for the first time.  I always thought I lived too far south to grow asparagus, but learned it can be grown all the way to zone 9.  I bought larger root stock in hopes to be able to get a few next year.  Crossing my fingers on this one, as I love asparagus!

Here are a few pictures of the garden.

West Garden. Left side front to back, okra, peppers and kale, tomatoes. Right side front to back, lima beans, onions (which need to be removed as they did nothing), tomatoes, asparagus.

East Garden. Left side front bed bush beans that are spent but I have been giving them to the chicks who love them, next is a hodge podge bed with a couple zucchini, jalapeno, a tomato and tomatillo, then a bed with a few carrots. Right side front bed, lima beans, next tomatoes, back bed has peppers and eggplants. The trellis beds have pole beans in front and cucumbers which need to be removed in back bed. Outside front bed is done, except two eggplants, with pole beans in back bed.

This is my asparagus. As I have never grown or seen it grown before, I hope this is what it is supposed to look like. I also have two pots of papayas. The one has been in a pot all along while I just dug up the other one out of the yard and put it in a pot. I had no luck with them in the ground. The two remaining in the ground look awful.

My herb bed running along the outside of the east garden.

Kahlo and the ducks.

Ducks loving the puddles from all the rain.

The chicks have been miserable!

I just had to show you this. I’ve got some banana’s. I think it is early enough that they will have time to ripen before the first freeze. I am very excited out this!

I just love sunflowers! Not even all the rain can keep them down!

Vegetables To Plant In June

Summer is definitely here.  The good news is the spring veggies are ripening, the bad news is, it’s getting tough to be working in the garden.   But, I’m sure many of you are hardcore gardeners like me, and the heat isn’t going to keep us down!   If you have some empty space in the garden, here is a list of veggies to plant in June.

Vegetables to plant in June for zone 8b:

  • beans, lima
  • eggplant
  • okra
  • peas, southern
  • potatoes, sweet

Both June and July have very small selections of veggies to plant, but save up some energy, because in August, it will be round two of the classic summer veggies.

Here’s a look at my kitchen counter.   This helps energize me to keep working in the garden.

Summer harvest!

 

 

 

Back Yard and Garden Update in Pictures

I was sitting on my deck when I got home this afternoon and decided to take pictures.  Here are some pictures of what my back yard looks like from my deck, and just for fun, I’ll add a few more.

The pond with the west garden in the background.

The west garden and part of the duck, chicken play area.

Duck and chicken runs and coops next to the east garden with rose bed on the right.

The duck and chicken coops and run with the east garden on the right.

A closer view of the ducks taunting Kahlo and Kahlo barking back.

West Garden

East Garden

Kahlo showing off!

The ducks are telling you “Life is Great!”, well, I hope they feel that way.

 

I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour of my back yard and gardens.