Defend Your Garden With The Owl!

Our co-worker Kristee had birds in her garden and wrote this blog article to tell us how to keep them out. You might have the same problem so this could save your produce.

In Gardening, Strawberries, Bird Repellent, Personal product review

Are The Seedlings Calling You?

It's time to start thinking about your gardening plans and what seedlings you might want to grow. One of our merchandise buyer is Susan and she loves to garden. I convinced her to write a story of the beginning thoughts of her planting season. She shares with us her process.

In Gardening, Tomato, Cucumbers, Strawberries, Seedlings

Oh No, Snake in the Strawberries!

My strawberries are starting to produce wonderful, big, juicy strawberries and there is nothing better than the taste of the first strawberries of the year.  I was admiring a gorgeous berry I had just picked when I heard a rustle behind me.  I turned and my worst fear was realized - there was a snake!  Of course, by the time I had fetched a hoe to kill it, the darn thing had vanished and was nowhere to be found.

Now, you have to understand that I am a nature lover and an animal lover.  I love just about every part of nature except for one thing – snakes!  Yes, I know that snakes eat mice and bugs and that they have their place in nature but they just need to do that somewhere other than my garden.  I hate snakes!  I nearly have a heart attack every time I see one.  The foliage of the strawberries and the straw around them provide a lot of places to hide and I do not want to be startled by a snake all the time, so I just do not want them anywhere around.

My garden is my own little oasis.  For me, it’s the most peaceful and relaxing place and my favorite hobby is spending time in my garden.  So a snake totally ruins the atmosphere and just has no place there!  But, what do you do?

Fortunately for me, I found the most wonderful product at Orscheln’s –
Sweeney's Snake Repellent.*  Yes, they do make a product for that!  Believe it or not, snakes apparently do not like the scent of cinnamon and that is what is used in Sweeney’s Snake Repellent.  It’s an all natural product that can safely be used in the garden, even right on fruit and vegetables (of course, you should wash anything coming out of the garden before eating it any way).

Sweeney’s Snake Repellent also comes in most clever bag.  It has a handle at the bottom and a zip lock closure at the top.  You just unzip the top, flip the bag over and hold it by the handle.  Then just give it a little shake as you walk and the repellent is dispensed easily without even getting on your hands.  I just had to take a stroll through the strawberry patch (with a hoe in the other hand just in case!) and shake out the repellent to make my garden a very disagreeable place for any snake.  You do need to reapply after a heavy rain.

And, a nice sideline – the cinnamon smell of the repellent is very pleasant to humans!

I have not seen the snake since I put out the repellent so I think it is working!  I have to admit it still keep an eye out when picking the strawberries but for the most part I can pick in peace.  Now, if I could just figure out a way to get rid of the little baby rabbit who has also taken residence in my strawberries.  I know there is a repellent for that too, but this little guy is just too cute!

In Gardening, Strawberries, Rodents, Personal product review

Getting the Garden Started with a 5 Gallon Bucket!

The gardening bug has definitely bit early this year!  The warm weather early on got me in the mood to start the garden even though I know this is too early.  As I blogged earlier, I uncovered my strawberries at the end of March and I hope everyone took my tip to leave the straw at the side of the rows to heart – because you would have needed it when we got the frost this week!  When I heard the frost prediction, I quickly covered my strawberries with the loose straw and it looks like it has protected them nicely.

So given that, would you believe that I planted my first group of tomato plants last weekend!  Normally, you would never catch me planting tomatoes before the first of May but everything just seems so early this year I could not resist.

First, I had to get the garden ready by giving it a good tilling.  One investment that every serious gardener needs to make is a good tiller.  I recommend a rear tine unit- they are easier to operate and in my opinion, do a much better job of tilling the ground. 
For later in the season, a mini-cultivator is great to work up between the rows and around plants. Till the soil until it is a nice, fine consistency.  I usually go back over it several times for the first tilling in the spring to aerate the soil well.  If you did not do it in the fall, scatter a little fertilizer – I prefer 12-12-12 but there are various formulas depending on what your soil needs.  Your Local Extension Office can do a soil sample for you to find out exactly what your soil needs.

Then I picked out four nice tomato plants – I will plant more later, but four was all I wanted to experiment with this early.  Look for plants that are at least 4-5 inches tall with a sturdy stalk and good green color (not yellowish).  For tomatoes, the sturdy stalk is one of the most important things to look for when selecting a plant.  Variety?  Well that is really just your personal preference and part of the fun to experiment with different varieties.  

Tomatoes are tender and don’t survive frost well, so you have to protect early plants at night.  The best thing I have ever found to protect my tomato plants is an Orscheln 5-gallon bucket!  5-gallon buckets are pretty handy for a lot of things but they work great to cover up tomato plants –tall and wide enough to not squish the leaves and heavy enough to not be easily blown over in the wind.  Looks a little strange but it works! Perfect tomato plant frost protection!

You can read more about rear-tine tillers here.

In Gardening, Tomato, Strawberries, Home Maintenance

Let the Gardening Begin with Strawberries!

Spring has sprung!  For those of us in mid-Missouri, we are enjoying a wonderfully early Spring – and I am thrilled.  I would never have expected start my gardening at the end of March but Mother Nature seems in a rush this year, so we have to keep up with her!

I don’t plant the early spring crops like lettuce or radishes because my garden is flat and typically does not dry out in time.  But I do grow strawberries and that is where my gardening starts off.

If you raise strawberries, then you know they need to be covered with straw during the winter because their roots are very close to the surface and need some protection from harsh winter temperatures.  In spring, then you uncover the strawberry plants from the straw.  Typically, I would do that about the middle of April – traditionally, it’s around Easter.

So you can imagine my surprise on March 24 to discover that my strawberries were already growing through the straw!  As warm as the temperatures have been, there was a risk of smothering the plants if I did not uncover them, so I did – at least 3 weeks earlier than normal.

Here’s a few of my favorite tips to get your strawberries started off right in the Spring:
•    When you uncover the strawberries, pull the straw back and use it to make a nice carpet between the rows instead of just disposing of it.  This serves two purposes.  First, the straw is nice and handy should you get a late frost after the berries are blooming – just lightly spread the straw back over the plants to protect the blooms.  Secondly, the straw lets you pick the strawberries without sinking knee-deep in mud if you get a rainy spell during harvest.
•    Take advantage of the early spring to weed the strawberries.  Dandelions just love strawberries for some reason!  Once the blooms start to set on you do not want to weed strawberries as the blooms are fragile, so get the patch cleaned out before blooming.  After blooms set on, just leave the weeds alone until after harvest – some weeds are ok to hide the berries from the birds (even weeds can serve a purpose sometime!).
•    Apply a fertilizer early.  I like to use
Miracle Gro Shake and Feed.  It is really easy to apply – just sprinkle it on.  If your rows are wide, you can just give it a little toss to reach the middle.  Instead of watering it in, I can just let the spring rains do that work for me and use my time for something else.

I can almost taste those strawberries now!

In Gardening, Agriculture, Strawberries, Home Maintenance