Beautiful Butterfly Plant – Black-eyed Susan Vine

We have a section on the side yard with about 15 EarthBoxes that were not in production since we weren’t going to the market anymore. So last year we decided that a planting of butterfly attracting plants was needed for the UNF. I planted a mix of Asclepias (butterfly weed), tropical variety with red and yellow flowers along with the variegated Monarch Promise, and I don’t remember the yellow flowered and the rusty orange African Sunset Black-eyed Susans.

Both grew great in the EBs. By the end of the year the BES had almost completely overrun the butterfly weed. which was OK because we didn’t have any Monarch visiters until November and actually watched Monarchs emerge between Christmas and New Years.

This year (2017) the BES came back with a vengeance. Four of the six original plants over wintered in our coastal Mississippi garden, along with numerous seedlings. I didn’t realize that BES could be that aggressive. 

Not only has the small fence completely covered up, but the BES has decided to take on my 8 foot privacy fence. I’ll admit I installed a few eye bolts and fishing line to encourage climbing up the tree we have painted on the fence. It needed some real foliage.

The best part of having all of this BES has been all the pollinator and butterfly action, lots of Gulf frittilary, yellow sulfurs and Monarchs (again, no caterpillar feeding on the butterfly weeds). Plus the occasional hummingbird.

Hurricane Nate

The Little Free Library at Heritage Cottage all battened down for Hurricane Nate.

Hurricane Nate is currently an hour or two away from making landfall on the Mississippi Gulf coast. The rain is really picking up and the Urban Nano Farm is in the cross hairs of this fast moving hurricane.

We spent the morning putting up the storm panels. We have panels constructed out of polycarbonate that meet the Dade County storm specs. These are great because they let light in. Using plywood for panels creates the feeling of being in a dark cave and unable to see out and observe what’s going on.

Polycarbonate storm panels are light weight and allow light through

The books were removed from the Little Free Library and the door secured. Everything this morning was about getting things put away and reduce the number of potential wind driven projectiles.

EarthBox grown roma tomatoes destined for sauce, if they get through Hurricane Nate with minor damage.

Some plants have been brought in for protection. My dragon fruit, recently purchased pansies and violas, and my rooted cuttings of the yellow-berried yaupon holly I found growing wild in Stone County last fall. Hopefully my heirlooms tomatoes will be mostly spared.

The rain from Hurricane Nate just starting

The good news is the hurricane will be passed us and moving up into the mid Atlantic states, then we’ll get out and see what needs attention.

Taking the LED Plunge

Well I’ve taken the plunge and replaced the T-8 fluorescent shop light on the first microgreens rack to LED shop lights. I have hesitated in the past to make this change due to high initial costs. But over the last couple of years the fixture costs have come down fairly significantly.

LED shop lights have the diodes built into the fixture and lined up like the fluorescent bulbs they replace.

When I first started looking each fixture was over $100 each, pretty stiff even with the huge savings in power usage. But I’ve found that these costs have decreased to a point where the replacement of the fluorescent fixtures makes sense. Each LED fixture was $25.

The yearly costs of power consumption for each fixture is estimated at $3.85, and a rated life span of 45,000 hours. The light output is 4500 lumens which is similar to the fluorescents.

LED shop lights provide bright light for the growing microgreens.

Now the only downside I’ve noticed is there is significantly less heat given off compared to the fluorescents. Initial germination and growth of microgreens is a little slower with the LEDs. I may have to set up a germination rack, simple fix.

For more up to date Changes to the Garden Paradigm follow along on Facebook Heritage Cottage Urban Nano Farm and Twitter, @realgarybachman 

Starting Seedlings Indoors

If you really want the varieties in your vegetable garden that YOU want you have to take control of the situation. Don’t fall into the trap of relying on the garden center or box stores. Let’s face it, they’re not in the business of taking chances with their seasonal sales. There’s actually more to seasonal sales but that’s for another day.

So many gardeners want to start their own plants from seeds, but growing from seed is more than just sowing seed in the garden beds. To be really successful having transplants ready for the start of the season is the key. That requires a little planning and sowing your seeds indoors up to eight weeks before you need the transplants.

Starting seeds indoors sounds easy. But the seedlings start stretching because they need more light and setting in a window won’t help. My solution was to use racks with workshop fluorescent lights. The shop lights are initially cheap and readily available. You don’t need fancy grow lights as the regular bulbs are fine for germinating seeds.

Easy to make seed germination racks

There are a couple of drawbacks to using the work shop light. The lights are not energy efficient as ballasts do produce heat and each light uses about $2 of electricity a month if running continuously. But there has been great strides in applying LED technology to growing seedlings. I’ve been converting all of the household lights to LED and my light racks are next on my list.

For more up to date Changes to the Garden Paradigm follow along on Facebook Heritage Cottage Urban Nano Farm and Twitter, @realgarybachman

 

Plan Now for Fall Tomatoes, But it’s Summer

Since I’ve started to become more garden self-sufficient I’ve discovered that if there are certain varieties of tomatoes I want, especially heirloom varieties, then I need to start them from seed myself. You see the home vegetable gardener can’t rely on the garden centers or big box stores to have much variety.

This is so true in the spring garden season, but what about those of us fortunate enough to have a second tomato season the the fall. You’ve got to be pretty far south, my UNF is in Zone 9a, to have enough time for the tomatoes to ripen. In the past our fall tomato season has gifted us with fresh tomatoes into the first weeks of December.

But one of the realities of the vegetable garden that I’ve learned over the years is if you want fall tomatoes, especially any of the heirloom varieties, you need to start your seeds in the blazing heat of summer. I have a unique germination setup I’ll share in a future post.

For me I like to seed the fall tomatoes by July 4th. This is symbolic as we as a nation celebrate our Independence from England, I feel like I’m celebrating our Independence from the tyranny of the grocery store and same old card board tomato.

Heirloom tomato plugs being grown for fall transplanting

I’ve always grown a selection of fall heirloom tomatoes in my EarthBoxes with Taxi, Black Sea Man and Orange Blossom being good producers. This year I’m only growing an unnamed Roma-type I was gifted from a friend many years ago. Mrs. gardendoc and I will be canning tomato sauce, tomato jam and tomato bruschetta spread to share with family and friends.

For more up to date Changes to the Garden Paradigm follow along on Facebook Heritage Cottage Urban Nano Farm and Twitter, @realgarybachman

Let’s Get Growing

Tropical Storm Cindy is really dumping a a lot of rain on south Mississippi and washing away the early summer weather we have had. With the clean slate this seems like the perfect time to start this blog, Changing the Garden Paradigm.

My thoughts about changing the garden paradigm isn’t about everyone doing something different. Well, actually it is, but not large wholesale changes. I’m going to share hair brain ideas I get and have tried out in our Heritage Cottage Urban Nano Farm, a small urban vegetable garden. Well, I will have had tried most of them.

My horticulture training had revolved around nursery and greenhouse production, after a brief fling with turf grass management. This primarily means growing plants in containers. I think growing vegetables in the ground is hard, so where does that put the new home gardener with a small yard?

Many new home gardeners will start with a vegetable garden in the spring, but when the spring starts to heat up, forget about the summer temperatures, everything needs to be watered and the weeds are taking over, all of a sudden the garden has become work. Who wants to work in the garden after working all day at the real job?

The garden is supposed to be enjoyable and theoretically you’re supposed to get tomatoes. I think container growing is the answer.

Containers are perfect for the porch and patio and balcony. You don’ need a large garden.

On Thursdays I’m going to share my thoughts, garden trials and tribulations, successes and failures, tips, vegetable and flower recommendations, etc. I hope you’ll follow along on this ride through my gardening adventures. Feel free to ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer.

You can follow along on various outlets on social media. On Facebook Heritage Cottage Urban Nano Farm and Twitter, @realgarybachman

The first ripe Angora Super Sweet heirloom tomato on April 29, 2017

 

Hello world!

Hi! I’m Gary Bachman also known as the gardendoc.

I’m a Certified Professional Horticulturist with 30+ years of experience. I’m currently an Extension state horticulture specialist for a major Land Grant University. My wife Katie and I are urban homesteaders and operate the Heritage Cottage Urban Nano Farm, our backyard garden. We utilized the EarthBox growing system and currently have 136 EarthBoxes in various stages of production.

I’m extremely interested in sharing my ideas that you don’t need a large garden to grow a bountiful harvest of veggies and flowers in a small footprint garden.

We also have established the Little Free Library at Heritage Cottage for the enjoyment of our friends and neighbors. Of course there is of course a small section of horticulture/gardening books in the library as well as sharing the bounty from our extensive garden.

Feel free to ask any gardening questions you might have.