Posted on

Jeff’s Schedule for October 22-27, 2018

As I write this, I’m up in the Virginia mountains at my parent’s place that I call Locust Ridge. Their first freeze (more than a frost) is predicted for tonight. Even the Southern Piedmont has a possibility of frost tonight (10/21/18). Update: As of 10 AM on 10/22, My sources tell me frost was very spotty in and around Charlotte, NC. Same here in the mountains of Virginia.

This week’s tip

For those of you who have taken my Successful Gardener classes, you know that our “first” frost usually occurs around Halloween. So if we do have frost in the Charlotte area on 10/22, does that mean we’ve been wrong about that date? Not at all. You see, the dates for both “first” and “last” frost are determined by average dates over several years. So a “first” frost of 10/22 is close enough to the average that gardeners should be on the alert for cold weather. Since we spend so much time outside in our gardens and landscapes, we should be aware that it’s cooling off anyway. Yes, it has been unusually warm this Fall, but until I see a definite change in weather patterns, I’m still going to look for frost in late October. And if you’ve spent any time out in the open, you should have noticed that while the Sun was still warm, the air temps are cooler than a few weeks ago. So what does all this mean?
First, any tender annual flowers, herbs, or vegetables might get burned or killed by the frost. You can sometimes cover your plants with old sheets or plant bed floating row covers to protect them. Covers will usually give you an extra 2-5 degrees of protection. That may be enough to get them through the night without damage. It’s worth noting that frost often appears just after sunrise, before the Sun has had a chance to warm things up. Don’t be in a hurry to uncover things in your rush to schools and offices.
Frost also brings an unofficial end to the “growing season”, that period between last and first frosts when most folks do the bulk of their vegetable and flower growing. I have to note here that in the Southern Piedmont, we can grow all kinds of great plants nearly all year long. We just have to be aware of the best conditions for each of them. Cooler temps and shorter days, along with regular cloudy conditions, do slow down the growth of many plants, even the hardiest ones. So it’s good to know the last and first frost dates in your area. I’ve already mentioned Halloween as our first frost date. Last frost in the Southern Piedmont is an equally scary date; April 15, otherwise known as “Tax Day”. Again, these dates are averages, so we may have frost events before or after these days.
Cooler weather also brings with it the opportunity to extend our seasons past those dates. I’ve already mentioned the covers you can use for some protection. There are others you can use, as well. I expect all of us have used plastic milk jugs or over-turned flower pots to protect plants overnight. I stopped using those after chasing after and/or collecting them after even a light breeze. You can build a cold frame from lumber or PVC and cover it in a clear (preferably UV resistant) plastic. You can use glass, or even recycled windows or doors. This economical structure offers more protection from the elements. There are lots of plans for these season extenders, and here is a selection of them.
“Tunnel growing” is becoming more popular, and there are low and high versions. Essentially unheated greenhouses, they offer even more protection. Used mostly on commercial farms and greenhouse ranges, I think they have use in a home garden, too. You can easily grow lettuce and greens in a tunnel for most of the winter. They have some extra challenges compared to a simple plant bed cover. They can easily overheat on a sunny day, so you’ll need some way to vent excess heat and humidity. Also, snow or ice can collapse a tunnel if the load gets too heavy. But fresh greens are worth it, I think.
Greenhouse growing is, of course, the ultimate in season extension. It’s also a subject much too detailed for this short review. Be on the lookout for greenhouse information in a future post. Just be aware that frost brings with it new and interesting opportunities to learn to be a successful gardener!

2018 classes

Classes are done for the year, but please keep an eye out for the 2019 Successful Gardener Series, coming soon!!!

How can I help you?

If you’d like me to come by and help you with a garden consultation, I’d love to do it. I’m familiar with all kinds of landscapes, urban lot or country homestead, the silty, rocky soils of the mountains, the good red land of the Piedmont, or the sandy loam of the Sandhills. They each have their challenges and their beauty. In an hour, I can solve problems, identify plants, show you some opportunities, and help you enjoy your garden even more! If you’re interested, contact me here.

I farmed and operated a plant nursery in NC for 15 years, and was an NC Cooperative Extension agent for 8 years. In that time, I learned a LOT about farm production and farm business management. I can help you with organic certification, transition to organic practices, and marketing your farm and food products. To learn how to cultivate profit on your farm, contact me here.

I’m a certified small business educator as well. In these times of great opportunity, strategic planning is essential for success. I can help you write a business plan, construct enterprise and cash flow budgets, and do market research. Individual consultations and group trainings are options for getting the information you need to succeed! To take advantage of the opportunities that are available to small business owners, contact me here.

Remember to enjoy your garden, because THAT’S what makes you a Successful Gardener!
Hope to see you some time this week!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Posted on

Jeff’s Schedule for October 15-20, 2018

In case you’re looking for last week’s schedule/gardening tip, there isn’t one. I was under the weather most of the week, and had to cancel or miss most everything. But I’m back at it this week!

This week’s tip

This time of year is a really good time to plant lots of perennial plants, everything from trees to shrubs to flowers and vegetable plants. Planting in this cooler season gives your plants weeks of root growing before the warming temperatures bring on the riot of growth that is Spring. So cool-season planting is the start of your 2019 garden!
Let’s start that planting with onions and garlic! These plants are easy to grow, overwinter in our mild climate, and are powerhouses of nutrition and healing. There are several types and varieties to choose from, as well.
Garlic is a member of the Allium family, as are all onions. While there are several types of garlic, most of what is grown in the Southern Piedmont is called soft neck garlic. This phrase, “soft neck”, refers to the lack of a central flower scape coming from the bulb.
If you cook with garlic, you know it forms a bulb of several individual cloves. These cloves are separated for use in cooking, and you separate them for planting as well. Plant them unpeeled, root end down. Plant them about 1” deep, and about 6-8” apart. In a bed, you can plant in a 6” x 6” grid pattern. If you’re planting in rows, they should be at least 12” apart, but I usually make my rows 18”-24” to make it easier to cultivate and weed. Needing loamy, well-drained soils, raised beds or raised rows with lots of compost are a great place to plant garlic. Fall planted garlic gets a light mulch to protect it from the wide variations in temperature that we often experience in winter. Normally I use leaves, but wheat straw is OK, too. Before you ask, pine needles will work, but I personally don’t like using them (That’s another subject I’ll cover some other time.). Let them grow on through the winter, with harvest next Spring.
Elephant garlic, not a true garlic, is a different type, with a bigger, milder tasting clove. Plant it a little farther apart (9-10”) and stay with the 18-24” row spacing.
There are a few types of perennial/multiplier onions that are hardy old varieties that your parents and grandparents may have planted. Potato onions, walking onions, bunching onions, and shallots all multiply from a single set, or bulb. You’ll need to separate the individual onion bulbs in order to plant them. Like all the Alliums, they thrive in raised beds/rows with lots of compost. Plant the individual bulbs in mid-late Fall, spacing them 10-12” apart. If you are planting in long rows, give yourself plenty of room to weed and cultivate. Depending on the method of cultivation, I’d stick with 18-24” between rows. Bunching onions are grown from seed, and are great mild onions to use in salads and raw recipes. You can harvest some of these clumps of onions, eat some of the individual onions, and replant some, giving yourself a “perennial” source of onions.
Most of you will be more familiar with onion sets, or small onion plants that have been grown out and harvested for later planting. Usually available in red, white, or yellow varieties, they can be planted in both Fall and Spring. I’d recommend doing both to give yourself a longer harvest. Plant your sets in those compost-rich beds or rows on much tighter spacing, even 3-4” apart. As they grow, you can pull every other one and use it in your cooking. Run your rows 18-24” for ease of cultivation. I usually give these onions a bit of slow-release fertilizer as they are starting to grow again in the Spring. They seem to need a little more water during the growing season, too.
Plants and seeds are available for onions, too. I prefer to plant those in the Spring. They seem to do better if you avoid the cold temps. Growing and Spacing for most of them is the same as the other onions, but seeded onions can be planted closely, and the thinnings used in salads.
I mentioned early on that onions are very nutritious and healthy. While some amazing claims are made, there are some basic uses for onions for congestion relief. Some basic facts are onions are high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, low in calories, and high in fiber. That pungent flavor works with lots of other foods, from veggies to red meats. They are used in all kinds of cultures, and can be adapted for almost any dish. For cooks on a budget, a little onion can go a long way.
Even if you don’t want to plant anything else this year, you can still get started on next spring’s plantings with some onions and garlic. Give some of them a try!

2018 classes are wrapped up

Classes are done for the year, but please keep an eye out for the 2019 Successful Gardener Series, coming soon!!!

How can I help you?

If you’d like me to come by and help you with a garden consultation, I’d love to do it. I’m familiar with all kinds of landscapes, urban lot or country homestead, the silty, rocky soils of the mountains, the good red land of the Piedmont, or the sandy loam of the Sandhills. They each have their challenges and their beauty. In an hour, I can solve problems, identify plants, show you some opportunities, and help you enjoy your garden even more! If you’re interested, contact me here.

I farmed and operated a plant nursery in NC for 15 years, and was an NC Cooperative Extension agent for 8 years. In that time, I learned a LOT about farm production and farm business management. I can help you with organic certification, transition to organic practices, and marketing your farm and food products. To learn how to cultivate profit on your farm, contact me here.

I’m a certified small business educator as well. In these times of great opportunity, strategic planning is essential for success. I can help you write a business plan, construct enterprise and cash flow budgets, and do market research. Individual consultations and group trainings are options for getting the information you need to succeed! To take advantage of the opportunities that are available to small business owners, contact me here.

Remember to enjoy your garden, because THAT’S what makes you a Successful Gardener!
Hope to see you some time this week!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Posted on

Jeff’s Schedule for October 1-6, 2018

Well, Fall seems to be coming along slowly. Days are shorter, nights a bit cooler, leaf color changing, and some leaves already falling. And Fall is a great time to plant all kinds of things.

This Week’s Tip

Most of us tend to think of Spring as the best time to plant. For some things, that is true, but our hot (and often dry) Summers tend to put a lot of stress on Spring planted specimens. So why not plant all kinds of trees, shrubs, vines, and perennial flowers right now? When you plant in the fall, you give plants a 7 or 8 month head start on the hot, dry weather. Roots are growing during that time, even if other parts of the plant are dormant. This allows the plants to be well on their way to being established in the landscape before they have to face the stresses of Summer weather. So, now’s the time to plant!
Last week I posted a list of great plants to use to create an edible landscape; a yard/garden/orchard hybrid, if you will. Nearly every single one of them is a perennial plant of some sort, which means they continue to grow over the years. Some, in fact, live quite a long time. In fact, the oldest known cultivated muscadine grape vine was planted in the 1500’s on the Outer Banks Of NC!
My preferred method of tree planting is fairly simple. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball of your plant is thick, and twice as wide. For example, if you buy an apple tree in a “3 gallon” container, the root ball will be approximately 10” wide and 14” tall. So you’ll need to dig a hole 20” wide and 14” deep. Remove the plant from the container, and loosen the roots from the tight ball they grew in while in the container. This allows the plant’s roots to spread out faster. Fill the planting hole with 3-4” of native soil, and firm it a bit. This will raise the top of the root ball above the surrounding grade, and lessen the settling of the soil. In our clay soils, you want to plant most things a little high to prevent root and crown rots caused by rainwater puddling around tree trunks. Set the plant into the hole, and backfill with native soil. You might irrigate the soil and root ball when about half the planting hole is filled. Continue backfilling, and fill the planting hole up to the top of the rot ball. Make sure the root flare (the area of a tree trunk that widens into the root system) is visible just above the soil. You can water a bit more, then add your preferred organic mulch. This simple method should get your tree off to a fine start, and a long life. And remember, Fall is for planting!

Upcoming classes

Sustainable Ag 104, September 27 – November 15, 2018. 6-9PM
Lomax Incubator Farm, Atando Road, Concord, NC
This class is a part of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Agripreneur Academy. If you want to learn to cultivate an income through growing food, flowers, fiber, fuel, pharmaceuticals, and fermented beverages (unfermented ones, too), then come learn my “Cash Crop” method. Contact me here for more information.

Home Composting, Tuesday, October 3, 2018 630-930PM
Lomax Incubator Farm, Atando Road, Concord, NC
This is our second class at our new location. Compost is a great addition to any garden. It solves so many garden problems simply by adding organic matter to the soil. It’s easy to make, doesn’t need a fancy bin, and keeps food scraps out of the landfill. We’ll look at a simple compost system that will let you create lots of great garden soil. Here are the details.

Edible Landscapes, Tuesday, October 9, 630-830PM
Renfrow Farm, 409 W Charles Street, Matthews, NC We tend to look at our food crops through a single purpose lens. How much food will this plant yield? But many of our fruits and vegetables look great in the garden! Come learn how to add these plants to our landscapes. We’ll feed our souls beautiful gardens while we feed our bodies good food. Details and registration here.

Where I’ll Be

Monday, October 1, 2018 Matthews, NC
I’ll be working on my business, as opposed to in my business, but I’m in town if you need me. I’ll be speaking to the Matthews Rotary Club that day as well.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018 Matthews, NC
I’ll be at the farm helping prepare for the annual Farm dinner. That evening, I’ll be speaking to the Matthews HAWK (Habitat And Wildlife Keepers) chapter that evening.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018 Home Composting Class, 630-930PM
Lomax Incubator Farm, Atando Road, Concord, NC
Details are listed above.

Thursday, October 4, 2018 Sustainable Ag 103 600-900PM
Lomax Farm, Atando Road, Concord, NC
Demand for sustainable or organically grown products continues to increase. USDA Certified Organic produce is in short supply at all major grocery stores. Opportunities abound IF you can produce a quality product, grow in sufficient quantities, and know the proper marketing channels. I’ve been teaching farmers to cultivate profit since 1996. Come join us at the Lomax Farm to learn how to grow good food in a certified organic farm. We’re going to be on a working farm, so dress appropriately. That includes dressing for hot, humid weather. Closed toed shoes are required on the farm. This is a hands on class. Be prepared for most of the class to be in the field. Your own water bottle is recommended, as is sunscreen and a hat.

Friday, October 5, 2018 Matthews, NC
I’m available for home landscape consultations. Contact me here.

Saturday, October 6, 2018 On the road
I’m doing regional farm consultations. Contact me if I can help you.

How Can I Help You?

Well, it’s official; Fall is here! This is a great time in the garden, enjoying your garden, planting new things, building new projects. In all this activity, remember to feed your body good food from the garden. Feed your mind new knowledge as you learn more about nature. Feed your soul just by watching things grow. All this while having a beautiful place to sit and enjoy coffee before breakfast or a glass of wine in the evening. Get the kids outside and away from “the screen”. Decompress after a hectic day on the job. The movement and exertion of gardening has long been considered a beneficial physical activity, and you get food or flowers as a result!

If you’re not getting those benefits from your garden, right now is the time to change that. I can help you evaluate your home landscape and find the right landscape for your family. In a one hour consultation, I can solve problems, identify plants, show you some opportunities, and teach you some cool shortcuts that make gardening more fun and interesting. If you’re interested in enjoying your garden even more, contact me here.

Organic farming has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, even while other sectors of agriculture have slumped. I farmed and operated a plant nursery in NC for 15 years, and was an NC Cooperative Extension agent for 8 years. In that time, I learned a LOT about farm production and farm business management. I can help you with organic certification, transition to organic practices, and marketing your farm and food products. To learn how to cultivate profit on your farm, contact me here.

As a former Small Business Center Director in NC, I can tell you that these are times of great opportunity for small business owners. Many small businesses can be started for as little as $100! To take advantage of these opportunities, strategic planning is essential. I can help you write a business plan, construct enterprise and cash flow budgets, and do market research. Individual consultations and group trainings are options for getting the information you need to succeed! To take advantage of the opportunities that are available to small business owners, contact me here.

Remember to enjoy your garden, because THAT’S what makes you a Successful Gardener!!!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather