Category Archives: Home & Garden

Preparing Garden Soil

The key to any successful gardening is good soil preparation. Inadequate attention to preparation at the outset is difficult to remedy once the plant has put down its roots and become established.

First of all, it is extremely important to clear the soil of perennial weeds. If only one piece of many of these remains, it will soon re-grow and, if the roots become entwined in those of the climber, could become impossible to eradicate. Once the planting area is completely cleared, however, it is not such a difficult task to remove weed seedlings and keep the bed and the plants clear from then on.

Digging is important, too, as it breaks up the soil, allowing moisture and air to enter, both being vital to the well-being of the plant. The process also allows the gardener to keep an eye out for any soil pests. Dig the soil some time before you intend to plant thebe; digging in autumn and planting in early spring, after checking for any emerging weeds, is ideal.

As you dig the soil, incorporate well-rotted organic material. Not only does it provide food for the plants but it also helps to improve the structure of the soil. The fibrous material helps to breakdown the soil to a crumbly consistency, which allows free drainage of excess water and, at the same time, acts as a reservoir to hold sufficient water for the plants without water-logging them.

The final breaking down of the soil with a rake is more for aesthetic appeal than usefulness; the planting area will look more attractive if it has a smooth finish than if it is left rough.

If possible, prepare an area of at least1-1.2 m/3-4 ft in diameter, so that the roots can spread out into good soil as they grow.

Soil conditioners

Most gardens have patches where, for whatever reason, there is less moisture than elsewhere. If you improve the soil and select plants that are able to thrive in dry conditions, however, this need not be a problem.

Chipped or composted bark has little nutritional value, but makes a good mulch when spread on the surface, by reducing water evaporation and discouraging weeds. It will break down in time. Farmyard manure is rich in nutrients but often contains weed seed; it is a good conditioner. Garden compost (soil mix) is also very good as a conditioner and has good nutrient value. Leaf mould, made from composted leaves, also has good nutritional value and is an excellent conditioner and mulch. Peat is not very suitable as it breaks down too quickly and has little nutritional value.

Tending The Soil

1. Using a chemical spray is the only way to be sure of completely eradicating perennial weeds. Use a non-persistent herbicide, which breaks down when it comes into contact with the soil. It is vital always to follow the instructions on the pack exactly, not only for the obvious safety reasons but also to ensure you use the correct dose to kill all the weeds in the area first time.

2. If the turf to be removed does not include perennial weeds, or the soil is friable enough for the weed’s roots to be removed by hand, it is safer to remove the turf by slicing it off with a spade. Stack the turf in a heap, grass-side down, and use them as compost (soil mix)when they have broken down.

3. Dig over the soil ‘and, as you dig, remove any weed roots and large stones. Double dig, if the subsoil needs to be broken up. Add as much well-rotted organic material as you can to the soil before it is planted, in order to improve its condition.

4. Add the compost (Soil mix) or manure to the soil as you dig, or spread it over the top after all weed roots have been removed, and fork it in.

5. If you dig in the autumn, leave the soil for the winter weather to break down; at any other time, break the soil down by hand into a reasonably fine tilth. Use a rake or hoe to break down the larger lumps of soil, until the bed has an even appearance

Planting Mustard

Mustard is a weedy annual herb belonging to the Cruciferae family. Mustard is related to a number of vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. The plant has large, thick, jagged leaves of a dark green color and is found in most temperate regions of the world.

There are many species of mustard plants, three best known for their commercial black, grown for the proof table mustard, white, its pungent seed, and brown, grown for use as a potherb.

The plant has been used in condiments for centuries. It is mentioned in the New Testament scriptures. The ancient Greeks and Romans employed it for many of the purposes for which it is still used. The oldest known recipe for preparing mustard was written by Columella, a native of Gades in the first century A.D. The English herbalist Parkinson described the grinding of mustard seed using a quern “with some good vinegar to make it liquid and running.”

Mustard is an easy crop to grow. All the common varieties are annuals and will grow from seed. White mustard (also referred to as yellow mustard) is best adapted to a rather heavy type of sandy loam and light adobe soil. The darker variety requires an even lighter, sandier loam. The crop needs only limited rainfall, preferably distributed so that the seed can mature during a period of dry weather.

Seed should be sown two weeks before the last spring frost. Seed for a fall crop should be sown at least six weeks before the first autumn frost. An alfalfa or grain seeder can be used for planting larger crops once the ground is harrowed. About three pounds of the darker seed or four pounds of the lighter seed are required per acre.

In most areas, the first planting will be ready for harvesting about August. The crop must be harvested while the seedpods are fully grown, yet closed, because the pod will shatter when it is fully ripe. The crop may be cut with mowers and dried in the sun. It can then be threshed with a pickup harvester when dry; or it can be cut and bound with a grain binder, cured in the field and then threshed with a modified grain thresher.

The taller, black mustard plant seeds are smaller than those of the white mustard plant. Average yields per acre range from 115 to 548 pounds. Individual growers, however, have reported yields as high as 1,500 pounds. Mustard is grown most successfully for commercial purposes in the western United States, since it is an annual crop that yields early returns and can be easily handled by equipment available on larger farms. In other localities, it is advisable to grow small trial acreage.

For home gardeners, it would be inadvisable to plant mustard in the garden or flower border. It self-sows very easily and might become a pest.

Besides the commercial value of mustard seed, the plant’s leaves, which are an excellent source of A and C vitamins, can be used as salad greens. In addition, their bulk and fiber tend to produce a mild laxative effect.

Powder made from the seed is used as a salad dressing, for flavoring meat and preparing pickles. In making mustard, turmeric can be added to color and add aroma.

Medicinally, mustard has been used in many ways. It has been used as a relief for aches, fevers, coughs, asthma and also for liver, stomach and throat pain. Mustard liniment consists of camphor oil and a volatile mustard-seed.

Planting Cherry Trees

Many home gardeners will find, after due consideration, that they do not wish to grow cherries, for 2 reasons. Birds can, and frequently do, eat a major part of the crop. Also, cherries have a tendency to split if periods of heavy rains coincide with ripening. It’s practically impossible for the gardener to control either one of these hazards. Birds like blueberries, but these can be covered with netting. However, covering entire trees with netting just is not practical.

Cherries are of 3 general types—sour cherries(varieties of Prunus. cerasus) which are mostly self-fertile; Sweet Cherries (varieties of P. avium) which are not self-fertile, but need other varieties for cross-pollination; and the Duke cherries, supposed to be crosses between the sour and the sweet, which also need other cherries for cross-pollination. Since the home gardener frequently considers planting the Sweet Cherry, he must also surmount the hurdle of needing several trees of different varieties to insure having a crop. Often this is a greater undertaking than the cherries are worth.

The main sweet cherry-growing areas of the U.S. are the Pacific Coast states, chiefly Calif., Ore. and Wash., western N.Y. and western Mich. The chief sour cherry-growing areas are northern Ohio, western N.Y. and the Hudson Valley, western Mich., Wise. and Colo.

All cherries bloom early in the spring, before the leaves appear, and hence the flowers are susceptible to killing by late frosts. The Sweet Cherry is about as hardy as the Peach; the Sour Cherry is slightly more hardy. All cherries are susceptible to various virus diseases, and one should be certain that, in purchasing trees, virus-free plants are purchased, the under stock as well as the tops.

Propagation is by budding on either P. avium, the Mazzard Cherry, or P. mahaleb, the Mahaleb Cherry. The latter is cheap and easy to work, but the Mazzard Cherry is the superior under stock, and trees on this stock should be obtained if possible, for they make much better trees.

Sweet cherries should be planted 30 ft. apart, sour cherries about 25 ft. apart and ‘Morello’ cherries about 18 ft. apart.

As for pruning, sweet cherries are pruned the least. These trees usually grow taller than those of the sour cherries and they just do not seem to demand the careful pruning required by many other kinds of fruit trees. Little pruning is necessary on sour cherries, especially if crossed branches and weak branches are removed as they appear.

Cherry Cross-Pollination

One should be as careful with cherries as with plums in the cross-pollination requirements. All sweet cherries require cross-pollination and the chances are that it is these which would be selected for the home garden. Varieties which have proved good pollinizers for other sweet cherry varieties are ‘Black Tatarian’, ‘Grant’, ‘Seneca’ and ‘Lyons’. It should be remembered, too, that varieties like ‘Bing’, ‘Lambert’, ‘Napoleon’ and ‘Emperor Francis’ are all inter-sterile, one with the other.

The Duke cherries. ‘Reine Hortense’ and ‘Royal Duke’, are self-sterile and either sour or sweet cherries can be used as pollinizers for these. The sour cherries are mostly self-fertile.

Cherry Fertilizers

Fertilizers might be applied in the early spring at about the time the buds burst. A 3-4-year-old tree in a cultivated orchard might be given. If it is over two years old it might be given 5 lbs. Trees growing in sod, which receive more and sweeter cherries because they grow into larger trees, would also receive heavier applications, might be used. Tent caterpillars infest cherry in the spring, and other caterpillars are occasionally troublesome.

Cherry Diseases

Brown rot causes lesion on twigs and rot on ripening fruit. Bacterial leaf spot in which the spots often drop out, causing a shot-hole effect. Attacks both sweet and sour cherries and defoliates the trees. Spraying with fungicide when petals fall and after harvest is helpful. A fungus leaf spot or yellow leaf is controlled by fungicide in early and late applications. Black knot develops on sour cherries. Virus diseases discourage the growing of cherries in some areas. Destroying infected trees and controlling insects are the only remedies.

Planting Celery

Celery and closely related Celeriac both belong to the genus Apium of the Carrot or Umbelliferae Family which includes some 20 species of herbs that are best adapted to the northern temperate zone.

Celery is one of the more difficult crops to grow in the home garden because it requires more detailed care than most other crops. It is a cool weather plant and, therefore, in the south it is grown as a winter and spring crop and farther north as a summer and fall crop.

The more important commercial production areas are located in Calif., Fla., and Ariz. in the south and N.Y., N.J., Mich., Ohio, Pa., and Wash. in the north.

Celery Varieties

Green varieties have increased in importance and the so-called yellow or self-blanching types have decreased in use during the past 20 years. The most important green varieties are ‘Utah’, of which there are number of strains, ‘Giant Pascal’, ‘Summer Pascal’ and ‘Fordhook’. Varieties in the self-blanching category are ‘Golden Self Blanching’, ‘Wonderful’ or ‘Golden Plume’, ‘Michigan’ and ‘Detroit Golden’.

Celery Soils and Fertilizers

No garden crop grown is such a rich feeder as Celery. The soil must have depth, mellowness, and an abundant supply of moisture. A well-drained muck or peat soil is ideal but most home gardeners will find a sandy loam soil that is well supplied with organic matter to be very satisfactory. A heavy clay soil should be avoided. The soil pH should range between 5.8 and 6.7.

For sandy loam soils, bushels of animal manure or well-decomposed compost should be thoroughly plowed or spaded into the soil to a depth of 7-8 in. Celery is a heavy feeder and a poor forager and, therefore, in addition to the manure or compost it is advisable to broadcast, at the time of plowing or spading.

Raising Celery Plants from Seed

Most home gardeners will find it more desirable to buy plants from a dealer or commercial grower. Celery seed is small, germinates slowly and must have careful attention as to temperature and soil moisture during the germination period.

The seed should be planted in a very light sandy soil, preferably in drills 11-12 in. apart. After the seed is covered a piece of burlap or even a newspaper is placed over the flat or container to help maintain uniform moisture of the soil during the germination period. Temperatures of 70-75°F. are optimum.

The young seedlings are very delicate and spindly until they reach a height of I-1-2 in. When the second true leaves appear the plants should be transplanted into a good potting soil 11-12 in. apart. Maintaining a uniform moisture and temperature is very important introducing a good stocky plant. Temperature exposure of 50° F. or below, for 7 days or more, will result in premature seed-stalk development. Some 8-9 weeks are necessary before plants are ready for out-of-door planting.

Celery Planting and Care

The garden soil should be fine, smooth, moist and fairly firm and the plants stocky, 4-5in. tall with plenty of roots. Out-of-door planting should be delayed until danger of frost is past. Planting distance, 5-6 in. in the row and 24-30 in. between rows. In planting set the plants level with the crown of the plant or not deeper than they were in the flat or seedbed. The young plants should be watered daily until they are well established.

Shallow cultivation should start as soon as possible after planting in order to control weeds and to maintain a thin, loose surface of the soil.

Celery will respond to several applications of nitrate of soda during the growing season. Each application of 3-4 lbs. per too ft. of row should be placed several inches from the plants on both sides and then lightly worked into the top surface of the soil. Watering will help to make the fertilizer available to the plants.

Celery Blanching and Harvesting

Blanching means the loss of green color and since it is known that the green color of plants contains higher vitamin A content than non-white parts the demands for blanched celery has materially decreased.

Blanching of the self-blanching or early types is usually done by the use of wide rolls of heavy building paper boards which are placed on either side of the row of Celery and then held together by wire hooks.

For the late varieties the most satisfactory method of blanching is to gradually pull soil around the plant until only the top of the leaves show above the mound. No soil must be allowed to fall into the heart of the plant. This type of blanching should not be done until late in the fall or when the plants are fully grown. Placing hay or straw over the hilled row will mean that the plants can be kept until early winter.

There is no definite stage of maturity at which Celery must be harvested. Its best quality is attained when the plants have reached full size. In harvesting the plants are cut off below the surface of the soil with a large knife. Pull off the outside stalks and use them for celery soup or flavoring.

Celery Storage

The fall crop of Celery may be stored for periods of 4-8 weeks. Perhaps the most practical method for the home gardener is in using a trench in the garden area. Three to 4 rows of Celery are packed tight and upright in the trench. Boards are set against the side and over the top of the trench. Hay or straw is then placed over the boards and as colder weather sets in a layer of soil is placed over the hay. Cold frames may also be used to store Celery for short periods.

Celery Diseases and Insects

Celery is subject to a number of diseases and insects, but only a few are generally of importance. Early and late blight are carried over from year to year in the seed and on old Celery plant refuse. In the home garden the most satisfactory control is the use of a copper-lime dust or Bordeaux mixture (4 oz. copper sulphate, 4 oz. hydrated lime to 3 gals. of water) as a spray applied at weekly intervals.

Bacterial leaf spot, root rot and yellows are other diseases which may be important. Insects that may be important are the carrot rust fly and the tarnished plant bug. The latter insect may be controlled with dimethoate. Be sure to read the label.

Two physiological disorders are frequently important, namely, black heart and cracked stem. Black heart first shows as a tip burn on young leaves and then spreads to the heart tissue of the plant which in severe cases is killed and turns black. This condition probably is due to deficiency of calcium and an imbalance of other nutrient elements in the soil. Cracked stem results in brownish cracks and lesions on the inner and outer surface of the leaf petiole. This condition can be controlled by adding small amounts of borax, to the fertilizer used prior to planting or in applying borax as a solution near the base of the plant.

Planting Artichokes

Native to the Mediterranean region, the globe artichoke is finding increasing popularity among gardeners in the damp mild coastal regions of this country. Generally three to five feet tall, this coarse, herbaceous perennial has large, lobed leaves to three feet long and good-sized heads that take on a violet shade as they ripen. The base of the scales of the unripe flower head, along with the bottom part of the artichoke, is eaten either cooked or raw.

Artichokes are best planted as started seedlings in trenches eight inches deep, lined with one inch of compost or rotted manure. While it does best in rich sandy loam, the artichoke will grow on any kind of soil, so long as it is trenched, pulverized and well manured. Plant roots five to six inches below the surface, cover with soil and tamp firmly. When plants are six inches tall, mulch heavily to preserve moisture. Cut away all but six of the suckers that develop at the base when plant reaches eight inches and transplant the suckers to make a new row. Plant these singly two feet apart, in rows at least four feet apart, or in groups of three in triangles, at least four feet apart in the row. Protect the young suckers with hot caps, evergreen boughs or some other protecting material. Cut plants back to the ground in fall. In cool areas, protect through the winter with an inverted bushel basket with leaves.

During dry weather furnish artichokes with copious amounts of manure water or compost tea. Deep, thorough watering is best, followed by a liberal mulching of half-rotted manure between the rows.

Crops are produced in spring in warmer areas; in summer farther north. Halfway through the growing season, apply a small handful of fertilizer around the base of each plant, and repeat after harvest. When harvesting, cut with one inch of stem. The preferred method of preparing artichokes is to harvest a head while still green and unopened, when it is about the size of an orange. Heads are placed in a pot of cold water, salted and cooked for 45 minutes after the water has begun to boil. Individual leaves are then picked off and eaten one by one, starting at the outside. The thickened bottom portion of the leaf is dipped in melted butter or basil vinaigrette and its fleshy part stripped between the teeth. When all the leaves have been eaten and the hairy “choke” at the heart removed, the meaty and delicious artichoke heart—the best part of the plant—reveals itself.

The variety most commonly grown in this country is large Green Globe, which normally buds in its second year.

Although it bears a slight resemblance in taste, the globe artichoke is completely unrelated to the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthustuberosus), a North American sunflower.

Planting Currants

These Ribes species are not nearly as popular as they used to be for 2 reasons. In the first place, the fruits must be processed as soon as they are picked. Secondly, most Ribes species have proved susceptible as alternate hosts to the White Pine blister rust disease and there are definite restrictions placed (by Federal Quarantine Acts) against growing them in many states and counties. The home gardener who wants to grow currants (or gooseberries) should first write his State Experiment Station to ascertain whether it is permissible to grow them in his area.

Currants are grown in bush form, in normal garden soil. They are hardy well north of where apple trees are grown. These shrubs take little care. They might be mulched to help with the weed problem. The application of well-rotted manure not only acts as mulch but a fertilizer as well. The application of commercial fertilizers is usually not worth the effort except on very poor soils, but plants in the home garden frequently respond well to addition of nitrogen in the form of a complete fertilizer. They should be spaced about 5 ft. apart. All canes over 3 years old should be removed. Fruits should be used as soon as they are picked, but they can remain on the bush for a week or so in an almost fully ripe condition.

Currants are propagated commercially by hardwood cuttings taken in the fall after the leaves have dropped. The home gardener can easily obtain a few extra bushes merely by layering a few branches.

As for varieties, ‘Red Lake’ is an excellent one for the home garden. ‘Wilder’ produces more heavily and so is preferred for commercial plantings. Fifty percent of the currants grown in the U.S. today are grown in N.Y. ‘White Imperial’ is the best white-fruited variety, and ‘White Grape’ is sometimes listed by nurseries.

The black over-wintering eggs and San Jose scale are killed by dormant sprays of insecticide. Insecticide is effective if thoroughly applied to the curled leaves. Currant borer which tunnels and kills the canes and currant stem girdlers which cause the new canes to break near the tip in early summer are checked by sprays of insecticide when the adults are active, but butting and burning the infested canes is advised. Imported currant worms, the larvae of a sawfly, are voracious caters when the leaves are about full grown. Spray with insecticide but do not use insecticides that may leave harmful residue on the harvested fruit. Plant bugs and San Jose scale may infest currant.

Currant Diseases

Brown or purplish spots on the leaves indicate infection by currant anthracnose, and fungicide gives good control. Blister rust, which is more important on White Pine, occurs as bright orange spots on Currant leaves in midsummer. Fungicide is advised. Before planting currants, check with local authorities concerning restrictions.

A South African bulbous plant similar to Gladiolus, belonging to the iris Family, is related to Antholyza. Flowers are red and yellow borne in spikes and grown from bulbs planted in the spring.

Planting Peas

Peas are high in food value and rich in vitamins A, the B group and C. It is of very ancient origin being grown and used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Garden Pea is very sensitive to heat and thrives only in cool weather. In the South it is grown during the fall and winter and in the North in the spring. In the North late plantings for maturity in the fall are seldom satisfactory. In hot weather growth is retarded, insects and diseases are a problem, pollination is poor resulting in pods with few, if any, seeds.

Pea Varieties

The many listed varieties of peas are classified as dwarf or tall, smooth or wrinkle seeded, and edible podded. Recommended dwarf sorts are ‘Alaska’ (smooth-seeded), ‘Little Marvel’, ‘Laxtonian’ and ‘Progress’. Tall varieties are ‘Treezonia’ and ‘Alderman’. ‘Wanda’, 24-30 in. plant, is the most resistant variety to heat. Edible podded peas of excellent quality are ‘Mammoth Melting Sugar’, 50-60 in. plant, and ‘Dwarf Gray Sugar’, 26-32 in. plant.

Pea Soils and Fertilizers

Peas can be grown in a variety of soil types. For very early planting a sandy or silt loam is preferred, but for a later planting a well-drained clay loam is ideal because of its cooler temperature. The soil reaction for acidity should test from 6.0 to 6.5 pH.

If manure is used it must be well rotted or else worked into the soil in the previous fall. The Pea is a legume and, consequently, absorbs nitrogen from the air. This is of relatively little importance with the quick-maturing dwarf varieties. If manure has been used, broadcast15-20 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. of a 5-to-5 commercial fertilizer and thoroughly mix into the soil. If no manure was used, increase the fertilizer application by 10 lbs. In some cases, it may be advisable to side dress in bands 2 in. from row with nitrate of soda, 2-3 lbs. per 100 ft. of row, at the time of pod set. For peas the soil should be thoroughly prepared and fertilized to provide a fine friable seedbed.

Planting Peas

Peas should be planted as early as the soil can be properly prepared and, therefore, are usually one of the first crops planted in the home garden. While the smooth-seeded sorts such as ‘Alaska’ will stand lower temperatures than the wrinkled sorts, both must be planted early to obtain a good succession for harvest, e.g. ‘Alaska’ matures in 55-60 days, ‘Little Marvel’ and ‘Laxtonian’ in 60-63, ‘Freezonia’ 63-65, ‘Wanda’ 70-72 and ‘Alderman’ 74-76. This procedure is preferred to several succession plantings of 1 variety.

Dwarf sorts are planted 24-30 in. apart between rows and 2-in. spacing will provide a good stand of plants in the row. Seed should not be planted deeper than 1 or 2 in. For tall varieties it is a common practice to space the rows 30-36 in. apart and the seeds are planted in double rows. Make 2 parallel drills 6 in. apart and 4 in. deep. Sow the seed and cover the seed with 2 in. of soil. Gradually fill the drill as the plants come up. The object of this double row is to provide space between the drills for the brush or wire trellis needed to support these tall varieties. It also makes more efficient use of space in the garden. The same planting procedure should be used for single row culture.

Supports should be placed at planting time and may consist of (1) brush, 4-5 ft. high after the stems have been pushed into the soil for a distance of 12-18 in. The brush should be well-branched and close enough together to provide a ready hold for the pea-vine tendrils. (2) Chicken wire, 4-5 ft. high, stretched as tight as possible between posts placed at 8-10 ft. intervals. The advantage of chicken wire is that after cleaning it can be rolled up and stored for the next year. Brush is not so easy to obtain and dispose of at the end of the season.

Pea Cultivation

Peas require sufficient shallow cultivation to control weeds. Where brush or wire trellis is used hand weeding is necessary in the row. Commercial growers use the selective herbicide, Premerge, as a pre- and post-emergence chemical to control weeds. This is not recommended for use by the home gardeners.

Pea Harvesting

The pods are hand-picked when the seeds are beginning to fill out the pods. Quality in peas is associated with tenderness and high sugar content. During maturity of the seed the sugar content decreases rapidly with an increase in starch. Fully matured pods will contain peas that are tough and flat in flavor. Peas that are harvested at peak quality and then exposed for 4-5 hours to high temperatures, 75° F. plus, will also lose their sweetness and tender texture.

Pea Insects

Pea aphid, a rather large green plant louse, sucks the juice first from the growing tip but eventually from the entire plant. It can be controlled by dusting with malathion, Diazinonor dimethoate. Do not feed treated foliage to cattle. Pea weevil is brownish with white, black and gray markings. Adults feed on blossoms and larvae burrow into green seed which are most troublesome in western states. Control by parathion spray using 8% emulsion concentrate or 2% emulsion concentrate 1 pt. per 100 gal. Use parathion with caution. Do not apply later than 10 days before harvest.

Pea Diseases

Powdery mildew, a fungus, most serious during hot, humid weather, forms a dense white or grayish coating on the leaves. Dusting with sulfur-lime gives fair control. Root rots caused by several different fungi which live over in the soil are frequently serious in reducing the stand of plants. The basic control lies in crop rotation, planting in well-drained and aerated soils and possibly treating the seed prior to planting with Spergon or Arasan. Wilt is another fungus disease common to peas and is soil borne. Infected plants show a downward curling of the leaves, a wilted appearance resulting in stunted growth. Control is same as for root rot.

Planting Aloe Seeds

Grown mainly outdoors in the warmer climates, aloe vera remains among the most popular houseplants. Famous for its medicinal qualities, aloe vera is used to soothe skin irritation, hair care and cosmetics. To grow the plant most persons will start with a ‘pup’ which is a cutting from a mature aloe vera plant. The main reason for this is that they tend to grow a little faster. However, using seeds is also a good option considering that mature plants from seeds do not take considerably longer.

When growing aloe vera from seeds, on average you need aloe vera seed, potting soil, compost, plastic planting tray, 3-inch pots, sand, peat and water. To start, mix peat and sand, then use the moist mixture to fill the plastic planting try. Seeds must be sown on top of the mixture then covered by sprinkling compost over them.

Caring for the Aloe Seed after Planting

The tray must then be placed in a location with temperatures between 70°F and 78°F. Trays must be exposed to sufficient light since this will significantly help the seeds to germinate. Sunlight is essential for germination however, a brown discoloration can result from sunburn so light should be indirect.

Without over watering, ensure that the soil is always moist. It can take anywhere between one to four months for germination to start. Once the seedlings have grown large enough to hold without breaking, the 3-inch pots filled with potting soil should be used to transplant them. Pots are used as the permanent beds for aloe vera because they are often grown for ornamental purposes in and around the home.

When using pots, make sure that the potting soil is well-drained and sandy. Some gardeners prefer to use terracotta (unglazed, clay-based ceramic) pots because they are porous. Making sure that there is a drainage hole can be a good step. Commercial pre-packaged or propagation mixes aid good drainage and are recommended where available. Most will have granite grit or coarse sand as well as extra perlite in them. Succulent and cacti mixes tend to eliminate the guess work as well.

In cold areas or seasons, the pots should be stored indoors (whether in the home or a greenhouse) and kept as warm as possible since they are intolerant of heavy snow and frost. Aloe Vera is resistant to most insects so pest control is relatively easy however, scale insects, aphid species and mealy bugs can damage them.

When watering potted plants, it is important that gardeners allow plants to dry completely before watering them again to avoid sogging which will undermine their health and overall growth. During cold months plants tend to dry out slower than normal so reduce watering.

Watch your aloe vera plants for new shoots when they begin to mature. Once shoots are 3 to 4 inches tall they should be removed to their own pots or they will suck the life from their ‘mother plant’. This is characterized by the mature plant turning bright green and spreading its leaves horizontally instead of upward. Leave newly potted plants for 3 weeks before watering, turning grey or brown shortly after repotting is normal and not a sign that they need water.

Planting Cucumbers

A member of the Cucumber family, native to tropical Africa, the watermelon needs a long, dry growing season.

Cucumber Planting and Culture

Soil, for good watermelons, should be light, fertile, deep, and well drained. A pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is preferred. Preparation of the soil should begin the fall before planting. At that time, turn under manure to a depth of six to eight inches. If there is a plentiful supply of manure on hand, dig in an inch layer of it all over the watermelon bed. If the supply is limited, a few forkfuls maybe dug into the hills, and left to decompose during the winter, so that the nutrients have time to leach down into the soil to a depth where the vine’s deepest roots will find them. A handful of phosphate rock and one of greensand or granite dust may be incorporated into the hills at the same time. Lime should not be used unless the pH is below 5.

In cool areas, or where the growing season is short, seed may be started indoors in peat or compressed manure pots and moved to the garden when all danger of frost is past. A greenhouse or hotbed makes it possible to start the seed eight weeks before field-planting time. If they must be started in the home, sow them just six weeks before field planting. Otherwise they will become leggy. Plant three or four seeds in each pot and thin to one vine. Later, when setting out plants, place three pots in each hill. After the vines have made a foot or two of growth, thin each hill to one or two vines.

If seeds are to be started directly in the garden, space hills six to 12 feet apart, depending upon the variety planted and the fertility of the soil. On rich soil with high summer temperatures, the plants will grow and fruit rapidly. In the South, practically all are started in the open. Seeds are planted ten to 14 days before the last expected frost, so that the seedlings will come up as soon as possible after the frost. If there is any danger that frost may overtake the seedlings, make two plantings in each hill a week apart, putting in half the seeds each time. A total of eight to ten seeds should be planted in each hill in a circle that is 13 inches in diameter. Cover the seeds with an inch of soil. After the first true leaves appear on the young plants, reduce the number plants to four or five per hill. Gradually thin them as they grow larger, until only one or two long vines are left.

Cucumber Mulching

Watermelon vines should be mulched to keep down the weeds, but the mulch should not be applied until the soil is thoroughly warm. In the meantime, keep the area clean with hay or chopped leaves. Spread them in over the entire watermelon mulch and draw the mulch up to the base. This should be done before fruits begin to form, because the small fruits may be damaged by handling. The best time to apply mulch is after a rain.

Cucumber Thinning

Commercial growers often thin on the vines in order to produce larger, more uniform melons and to speed ripening when no more than two melons are left on each plant. In the home garden, the vines may be premixed to set more fruit, but late-set fruit should be removed. When too few hot days are left for maturing fruit, all blossoms should be removed from the plants before they begin to develop. The sooner these are removed, the more plant energy will be diverted the development of the early-set fruit.

Cucumber Harvesting

Melons are most flavorful when permitted to ripen on the vine. Experience is the best judge of ripeness and none of the many ways advanced to choose a ripe melon is infallible. According to Mark Twain, a green melon says “pink” or “pank” when thumped with the knuckles; a ripe one says punk.” A less subjective way to determine ripeness is to take a look at the melon and vines. The fruit is apt to be ripe when the underside turns from white to yellow and at least three tendrils on each side of the melon are dead.

Cucumber Varieties

Charleston Gray adapts to climates throughout the United States. It has an 85-day maturation period, and is fiber-free and disease resistant. Dixie Queen is wilt resistant and requires 90 warm days to reach maturity. Fordhook Hybrid bears small-seeded fruits and is hardy in the North. Also recommended for the North are Crimson Sweet, New Hampshire Midget, Golden Midget, and Sugar Baby. They are well adapted to cool climates and have growing periods of 65 to 90 days.

Raising Turkey Chicks

Turkeys can be a profitable sideline for a homesteader, particularly if he can grow the green feed on which the birds thrive, and if he can sell them at retail. If not, turkeys still make good eating, and a homesteader can raise a few to dress for table use for the family.

Stand warned, however, that these birds are difficult to raise. Turkeys are highly prone to disease and they are unintelligent. When young, they often starve to death without discovering their feed is right next to them. Mature hens are no smarter. They lay their eggs standing up, killing their unhatched young. The least scare sends turkeys piling into corners where they often suffocate.

Some of the most popular breeds are the White Holland, Bronze, Bourbon Red, and Narragansett. The new, smaller Beltsville turkeys, developed by the Department of Agriculture Research Center at Beltsville, Maryland, are gaining in popularity and find a good market throughout the year. Always buy quality stock from a reputable hatchery or breeder.

Turkey Housing

For retail production, start with newly hatched turkeys or “poults.” A pen approximately 20 by 20 feet in a barn or poultry house will handle 100 to 150 poults until they are put on range at ten weeks of age. A raised wire porch the same size is necessary to keep the poults off the ground and reduce the danger of the highly infectious, fatal blackhead disease.

A good-sized electric brooder and hoppers for water and feed are other needs. Sand and shavings are usually used for litter in the poultry house. After they are two weeks old, the poults can go outside on the porch in good weather.

Turkey Care and Feeding

Grains are fed in addition to starter mash after the birds are two months old. Good commercial feeds for starting are available. Grain rations can be homemade if grains are raised on the homestead, or you can use a commercially made preparation. If the birds’ entire lives are spent on wire, they should have fresh green feed, such as rapeseed, oats or ladino clover, brought to them. Alfalfa, lettuce, cabbage, and other greens, less expensive than commercial pellets, can form as much as 25 percent of the ration. This can enable homesteaders to compete in price with commercial growers.

Turkeys on range will eat great quantities of forage, as well as pick up waste grain, weed seed and insects. An acre of good range generally supports 100 birds until they are six months old and ready to be slaughtered. Oats and rapeseed make fine pasture for turkeys. For permanent pastures, a good mixture is red, ladino and alsike clover with timothy and Kentucky bluegrass. During the last five weeks before slaughter, the birds need plenty of whole corn to fatten them.

An acre of good range can support about 100turkeys, provided their diet is supplemented with whole corn, commercial feed, and milk or water.

Excess milk from goats or cows can also be used in turkey feed. The liquid is used to moisten the mash. Feeders can be located inside the pen or outside in wooden troughs. Two inches of feeding space per bird is suggested.

Turkeys need water. This can be supplied by having fountains inside the pen or by attaching a water pan to the outside of the pen, allowing it to be more easily filled and cleaned.

Turkey Diseases

Turkeys are susceptible to many diseases. The most serious one is black-head which is hosted by a worm common to chickens. Symptoms are droopiness and yellow droppings. Cage cleanliness and separation of turkeys from chickens help combat the disease. Turkeys housed on a raised sun porch are resistant to the disease. Turkey manure is an excellent fertilizer, so clean up and compost the droppings weekly.