Category Archives: How To

Mid October is Garlic Planting Time in Ohio

October is the time to plant garlic in Ohio, so the Snarky Gardener has written a little ditty to help you out. Just don’t ask him to sing it.

Early Italian Softneck Garlic from Burbee. Click here to purchase
Early Italian Softneck Garlic from Burbee. Click here to purchase

Sang to the tune of “Closing Time” by Semisonic

 

Garlic time
Open up the ground and break up all the clumpy dirt.

Garlic time
Turn all of the garlic into separate cloves for sowing

Garlic time
One last call for October so finish your planting dear

Garlic time
You do have to plant it but you must not fear.

I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
Garlic cloves

Garlic Time
Time for you to plant cloves with the points up and butts down.

Garlic Time
This time will be open for your hardneck and softneck bulbs.
So gather up your leaves, and pile them up the rows
I hope you have mulched a bunch.

Garlic Time
Every garlic season comes from some other garlic season’s end.

Yeah, I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
Garlic cloves

Garlic Time
Time for you to plant cloves with the points up and butts down.

I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
Garlic cloves

I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
Garlic cloves

Garlic Time
Every garlic season comes from some other garlic season’s end.

Note: the Snarky Gardener participates in a few affiliate programs, so if you purchase your garlic through the above links, we get a small percentage of the sale to help us out with overhead costs (like earplugs for those who had to hear all the bad singing).

The Seed Library of the Kent Free Library

The Kent (Ohio) Free Library is starting a seed library and the Snarky Gardener is helping out!

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As the founder of Kent Ohio Food Not Lawns, I’ve been giving gardening talks at our local library – the Kent Free Library. My last presentation covered seed saving including the why’s and how to’s of saving seeds from one’s garden. I used several of my previous blog posts to develop my content, including tomatoes, peppers, mustard/kale/turnips, and beans, as I’m nothing if not lazy. For me, seed saving is a very important cause as it’s one of our most basic rights as human beings. Seeds have been saved and exchanged by individuals for thousands of years (no, they haven’t always been sold at big box stores or online). Seeds saved from your garden have been selected just by the very fact they survived and thrived at your location with your soil and environment. Add choosing the best specimens year after year (for taste or drought tolerance or color), and it turns the backyard gardener into a local plant breeder. Pretty cool and powerful stuff if you think about it.

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A blurry picture of the Snarky Gardener giving his seed saving talk. Trust me – it’s really him.  Or maybe Bigfoot.

Over this summer, the Snarky Girlfriend and I have been working with the KFL to start up a seed library. In a nutshell, a seed library is a central location for seed storage that allows community members to “check out” seeds. These usually come from donations, either from professional seed companies (like Johnny’s Selected Seeds), seed non-profits (like Seed Savers Exchange or the Cleveland Seed Bank), or preferably local amateur seed savers. Borrowers are encouraged (but not required) to return twice as much seed as they borrow, thus increasing the seed library’s inventory. Kent Ohio Food Not Lawns (KOFNL) has made a commitment to assist the library in maintaining the Seed Library and offering advice to gardeners who plan to save donated seeds. We held several seed repackaging parties this year to help KOFNL break down donated seed into business card size packets for distribution during our presentation events. I got the idea of seed packaging parties from my time spent with the Akron Seed Library earlier this year. The Seed Library of the Kent Free Library currently has a call out for seed donations and we should start organizing some repackaging parties this fall and winter. If you have donations (especially ones saved from your own garden) or want to participate in our “parties”, please send me an email at don@kofnl.org.

Here’s more information on the Kent Free Library seed library. 

How To Avoid Weeds In Your Garden

The Snarky Gardener tells you how to avoid weeds in your garden so you can do less work and produce more food.
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Several of the Snarky Gardener’s weed avoiding techniques are shown in this picture.

People and weeds have been enemies since the beginning of time. You plant the things you want and other plants have the audacity to grow instead.  Ever wonder why this is the case? Are there techniques you can use to lower or even eliminate the problem?  Of course there are – why else would I be writing this article?  (OK, maybe just to hear myself type, as my ego does take over at times).

Let’s start by understanding what weeds are.  In nature (and yes, your garden is in nature, despite what you try to do
to make it not so), weeds are used to cover and repair disturbances – fires, landslides, tree uprootings, volcanoes, sharknadoes, etc.  Bare soil is bad as the sun will damage it and water will wash it away.  Weed seeds are designed to sit in the soil for years and decades, just waiting for such an event.  Then they spring to action, coming up fast and producing lots and lots and lots of seeds.  After a year or two of this, other bigger species come in to take over (brambles, bushes, small trees, and eventually a whole forest).

When we till the soil, we are causing a giant disturbance.  It helps to cause this explosion of activity which our annual garden vegetables like, especially the cabbages (aka brassicas – kale, mustard, turnips, collards, broccoli).  Yes, I just called the vegetables we love to eat “weeds”.  Several years ago was my worst season for weeds.  It was also the last time I tilled my entire garden space.  Coincidence?  I think not.  So what can we smarter gardeners do about the weeds?

Weed avoidance strategies

1.  Don’t Till Very Much

Tilling should be kept to a minimum in your garden.  If you are converting lawn or have some really compacted soil, then till away.  I gave up my tiller a few years back and now use a broadfork instead.  It’s still technically tilling but it’s gentler (especially to the worms) and you can only do so much damage by hand (pant, pant, pant).  And to keep the soil from getting compacted in the first place, don’t step on the places where you want to grow stuff. Plan out your garden so it flows naturally, and then create permanent beds and paths.

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Using my broadfork Big Blue

2.  Use Mulch

Mulch is one of nature’s greatest inventions against weeds.  Weed seeds need light to grow and mulch keeps the sun away from them (be it leaves, straw, hay, food scraps, wood chips, newspaper, cardboard, or even man-made materials like plastic).  Plus organic mulch will break down and become more soil, helping your plants in the future.  Also, mulch not only your planting beds but your paths too.  Stomping on weeds keeps them at bay, but some actually prefer compacted soil.

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Great way to collect free mulch.

 

3.  Grow Cover Crops

Cover crops, like clover or mustard, will cover the ground and compete with weeds while making your soil better.

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Covering the soil, fixing nitrogen, and beautiful too! Also, the seedy looking plants behind the clover are corn salad going to seed, which is making an on purpose weed.

 

4.  Identify and Utilize Your Current Weeds

Have you ever looked up your garden weeds to see if they are edible or have other uses?  There are plant identification groups on the Internet (Facebook, etc) that will help you to figure out what your weeds are.  For example, I had one particularly obnoxious weed that would grow before anything else and would compete with my veggies.  Took me 2 years to ID it, but I finally confirmed that it was Quick Weed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galinsoga_parviflora), an edible plant.  Now I just eat it.

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Lambs Quarters – a great wild edible “weed”

5.  Make Your Own Weeds

If you let your plants go to seed, especially the leafy green ones, you can establish your own edible ‘weeds”.  I currently have oregano, lemon balm, corn salad, turnips, mustard, and several others that just come up all over the garden.  Some are the first to be eaten in the spring before other less evolved gardeners are even planning their spring tilling.  Some people see these plants as “invasive”, but I just think of them as perennial annuals.

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Lots of “weedy” corn salad (aka mache)

Happy Gardening!

How to Grow Microgreens

The Snarky Gardener grew some microgreens this winter so he could get some fresh nutritious greens while the snow fell outside
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Started with a Container Herb Mix of parsley, borage, catgrass, and watercress tangy

 

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Took me a while to figure out that the fuzzy leaves are borage

I read a blog post last summer that made me rethink my winter gardening. Normally I just grow herbs (and sometimes cherry tomatoes and jalapeno peppers) in my AeroGardens while I wait until it’s time (after March 1 here at Snarky Acres) to start my plants for the coming summer garden. For some reason, it never occurred to me to just fill some pots and plant trays with soil and seeds.  Using an old AeroGarden and a sun lamp for light, I started with a Container Herb Mix from Burpee (parsley, borage, catgrass, basil, and watercress tangy) as it sounded perfect for indoor growing.  The room I started them in is somewhat unheated (averages around 50 degrees F), so the basil never took off, but as you can see by the above pictures, everything else did very well.

A few weeks later I decided to fill a seed starting flat with organic soil (though seed starting mix would probably be better) and spinach seeds.  Again, being a cooler room, the spinach sprouted within a week.  About a month after that, the baby spinach was ready for dinner, though I ate some during this time as I thinned.  The most difficult part of growing these is to remember to water every other day or so.  I also used a spray bottle to mist them from time to time.  I was hoping they would grow faster but I think the combination of chilly air and irregular watering have slowed them down.  Then again, I might just be too impatient.

Microgreens are leafy greens grown just to the first true leaves. According to the USDA, they are several times more nutritionally packed than their full grown versions.  So don’t be too worried about the their size (or lack there of).  Just add them to your salads for a winter time boost of vitamins and minerals.

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Spinach coming up on Jan 12, 2015

 

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First leaves on January 21, 2015

 

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Yummy spinach on 2/13/2015

 

 

 

Building Raised Beds Using Hugelkultur

The Snarky Gardener built raised beds using hugelkultur

The new bed joins 3 previously prepared beds.  The green plants are a cover crop of turnips with a volunteer dill plant in the foreground.  South is to the left of this picture.
The new bed joins 3 previously prepared beds.  The green plants are a cover crop of turnips with a volunteer dill plant in the foreground.  South is to the left of this picture.
Same beds a month later.
Same beds a month later.
Same hugelkultur beds the following March. This is the first area in the garden to shed its snow mulch and will be planted with peas, onions, and spinach before anywhere else.  Note: the south is to the right of the picture.
Same hugelkultur beds the following March. This is the first area in the garden to shed its snow mulch and will be planted with peas, onions, and spinach before anywhere else.  Note: the south is to the right of the picture.

Hugelkultur is the German term for garden beds made with buried wood. The wood breaks down over time, providing garden vegetables with nutrients and moisture (as in you don’t have to fertilize and water as much, if at all!). The wood does not have to be brand new as rotted wood is actually better is some ways.

This fall, I decided to utilize this technique to build four 8 foot long by 4 foot wide by 3 feet high raised beds.  In general raised beds are beneficial as they warm up earlier in the spring, keep humans (but not my dog) from compacting soil, and allow plants better drainage. Usually raised beds are built with a frame around the soil, but my beds have no borders. After completing each bed, I planted cover crops (turnips, spinach and clover) to minimize winter soil exposure. My long term plan is to convert more of my garden into hugelkultur beds, but wanted to perform a trial first, as putting these beds in is labor intensive, with all the wood gathering, moving, and burying.

Started with a dug out bed
Started with a dug out bed
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The middle of the hole is filled with heavy logs
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Branches, and bark fill in over the logs
Dirt from the surrounding area is put on top of the wood
Dirt from the surrounding area is put on top of the wood

Many thanks to Paul Wheaton for his inspiring and detailed hugelkultur article – http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

A cool related podcast about hugelkultur – http://www.permaculturevoices.com/podcast/hugelkultur-what-it-is-when-is-it-appropriate-and-when-isnt-it-with-javan-bernakevitch-pvp082/