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Sow, Everything!

Everything you need to know about Sowing
Source::Grow Veg
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

You are fully informed on the basics and then some when it comes to sowing seeds. Now is a great time to start a garden and to join the many others who have started their own gardens since COVID 19. How did this article help you? What did you learn? What will you sow? Email us photos and we will share them with the community.

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Watermelon, Greenhouses & Indoor Gardening

Sugarbaby Watermelon Shidonna Raven

When we decided to start our garden, as you know, it began humbly with a mere 2 packs of seeds destined for the kitchen window. It quickly grew into over 30 seeds. We planted each one. Some where successful and others were not. But, as Eliot Coleman will tell you, even the experienced farmer learns through trail and error. When we started we began in our mini greenhouse, which is really our garage with 3 windows. We were so excited to get started that we begun at the end of the winter season, which was at the very very beginning of the growing season for many of our seeds in our zone (Virginia, USA). When you began before the last frost has past, you must start inside with the seeds that can be transplanted. Then once the frost has past and its growing season has begun one can transplant them outside. So, because we began early we started in our mini greenhouse and got a jump on the season. Greenhouses can be used year around for various reasons. However, they are key when you want to grow outside of a seeds growing season by either starting early or extending the season.

Pumpkin Flower in Bloom
Pumpkin Flower in Bloom

The watermelon you see (1st image) in our outside garden started as a seedling in our mini greenhouse. The mini greenhouse presented several challenges to us with its high moisture and low light. We discovered there were many other factors that were hindering the success of some of our seedlings. When we had questions and were left scratching our head when our seedlings ran into trouble, we turned to Richard Bray’s book “Greenhouse Gardening” for answers to our questions. Understanding greenhouse gardening is understanding how to garden indoors whether one has a kitchen herb plant or a simple house plant. He helped me to understand factors such as heat, ventilation, watering and sunlight. This book was a tremendous resource that helped us grow our watermelon successfully. We had to sow her several times. At first she did not sprout successfully. But, once we understood greenhouse gardening more, we were able to grow her successfully into a plantling. Now she is in the garden outside thriving. We located “Greenhouse Gardening” for an absolute steal. We love deals around here. Click the link below to get yours. We can not wait to see her fruit. I know someone who is a huge watermelon fan! So we are happy to report that she is doing well and in the same row as pumpkin. Stay tuned to see her progress.

What information do you find helpful? How did “Greenhouse Gardening” by Richard Bray help you? Email us photos to share with the community. Which one do you prefer: pumpkin or watermelon? We have big fans of both. As usually, we are all waiting to taste!

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Harvesting Basil

Harvesting Basil

Sweet Basil went to its new home along with Echinacea. Included in this article is a video on how to harvest Sweet Basil. Below is also a link describing how to care for Sweet Basil indoors or in a container. Both Sweet Basil and Echinacea were brought outdoors and put in pots before going to their new homes. One thing that is important to remember is that plants can go into shock. Taking a plant from outdoors to indoors can cause shock due to a lack of fresh air, sun exposure and a difference in water intake. So, it is very important to watch how your plants react to the difference in environment when you bring them home. Ease them into their new environments. Leave them out doors for a while and gradually bring them inside. Note how much light and fresh air they need and place them in the right place inside. What do you noticed about the plants you bring home? How do they adjust to their new environments? What type of care instructions do you get with them? Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing.

Source: Caring for Basil

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Bugging

Good Garden Bugs

Being on an Organic Journey there are many organizations that you come to like such as the USDA Organic Certification Program. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is one of them. Our government does not do everything right but the EPA is definitely a move in the right direction. We have found them to be a great resource of information. They have compiled a book to help us identify garden bugs, so we know which ones are good and which ones are ‘not helpful’ and how we can address these pests in an Organic manner. Click EPA to get this booklet.

Our transplanted Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts (learn more about effective ways to transplant by reading our May 2, 2020 article “True to Transplanting”) from the garden center, that came to us as small plants, have faced one pest after the other. Just when we got rid of one here came another. They ate both plants before we even had a chance to say harvest. Now we have found that what we believed to have been spider webs was actually larva, big lesson, and they hatched and became what we believe to be slugs. We are pretty certain since we have snails on the garage door and found some on the plants. First, the best thing to do is to remove the larva before they hatch. Just when we reduced the number of ants then came the flies. They were munching on the plants and we did not know. Then came the snails who laid their eggs and now we have slugs.

Plant shock threw these plants into one predator issue to another. The good news is that the EPA has an Organic Remedy to these bugs. We will be employing some of these remedies and will let you know what we discover. The Mole Max (uses sound) has thus far proven to be very useful in resolving our Vole issue. We believe, we never saw it, that a Vole was eating our plants from underneath the ground. This also caused a lot of stress and probably root problems for our plants. Our plants have been through a lot. Nonetheless, the Organic Remedies are plentiful and we believe one is bound to work. FYI: Lady Bugs are Good Bugs.

What are some other tools you can use to help identify the issue(s) your plants are having when they get in trouble? What are some other organizations that provide helpful information for Organic Consuming? What is important to you as an Organic Consumer? As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Transplant for Take Out

Transplanting

When we were just a collection of pots, soil and seeds, we were very excited to begin the gardening portion of our journey and you were just as excited as we were. Since then we have faced and seen many challenges from environmental to nutritional to disease to predatory. It has been non-stop for our new garden. Needless to say, as we learn together, we have learned a lot since February. Some plants are growing tall and flourishing. Other seeds never sprouted and some have begun to bear vegetables.

As we begin to get the many challenges we face under control, we can begin to see our garden taking flight. The Organic Journey has truly been one of great patience and observation. Some of the greatest challenges have been just understanding nature. Understanding nature better has helped us with identifying why a plant is in trouble as well as when and if a plant is in trouble.  This alone, we have found, is half the battle. The other half is finding an effective and Organic Remedy as well as being persistent until the issue is resolved.

Through that journey we have seen some plants flounder and others come back stronger than Rocky after being knocked down. This is always an amazing experience. We promised a few kitchen plants to some of our early enthusiasts and hope to deliver on those promises. Some of the kitchen plants that we almost gave up on have come back and just may go to their new homes after all. We re-potted Oregano and placed a few Soil Blocks in pots.

Included in this article you can see the process of transplanting a plant, Oregano, from one, smaller pot, to a larger pot. A good way to know if your plant is ready for a new pot is to check the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot, in the case of our clay pots, and if the roots are peaking out you know they are in search of more resources. Larger pots can encourage plant growth by giving your plant more resources to feed off of. You may also find that you are okay with the size of your plant and maintain the pot size you have despite what the roots are telling you. These images are a great learning tool for those who have kitchen or container gardener and will not be planting outdoors or in the ground. Note: we added soil to the larger pot first. Remember you container plants / potted plants need food. So, remember to fertilize your pot soil so that your plants continue to get the nutrients it needs.

Have you started your own urban garden? How is it going? Drop us a line and give us an update anytime. We know the process can be one of patience, so we will check back with you. What is the best part about having a garden? Do you have a small space outside where you can grow one plant? Have you considered growing an edible flower? As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Air Flow

Oregano

As we shared with all of you, we moved some diseased plants and plants that never sprouted outside near our back porch to segregate them from the other healthier plants. So far this coupled with the fresh air we have been allowing to circulate in the garage (aka mini green house) has seemed to help. Not to mention the fresh air the struggling plants get now that they are outside near the back porch. Plants need a flow of fresh air also. This is how some plants pollinate. It is also contributes to plant health and discourages disease. Since we have moved the struggling plants about 4 of the plants have made surprising come backs. 

It is so interesting to continue to watch a plant and to continue to nourish it. Just when you think the plant is done and you are ready to give up on it, it makes a surprising come back. We were recently asked about our Oregano plant by someone, you guessed it, who loves Oregano. Oregano was one of those plants that was really struggling. It sprouted and looked just fine. But, its leaves were very small and the sprouts were no taller than an eighth of an inch. Since we have been clearing the transplants out of the garage. Moving the diseased and struggling plants completely out of the garage and increased the air flow in the garage, plants like Oregano have seen positive results. 

The Three Benefits of Air Flow

  • it is how some plants pollinate
  • promotes plant health
  • discourages disease
Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Dill & Eggplant

We are really focusing on plant health and the health conditions of the environment we put our plants in. For those plants that struggle and experience disease we remove the plants from the healthy plants environment quick and isolate them. We are also trying to create an environment in which the plants can thrive such as discouraging predators that feed off struggling plants. And bringing in all sorts of plants and plant products (such as Neem Oil) that plant predators just do not like. We want to give our plants a fighting chance since in many ways we are also learning. So far, the biggest lesson is to nip any issues or trouble in the bud. When you first see a plant in trouble immediately identify and address the issue. It could take weeks if not months for an Organic Remedy to take effect. You may also have to try some other things that work better for you. In the mean time your plants may struggle or not survive.

What lessons have you learned? What are some of your favorite plants that you would like to know about? Ok, maybe we should have said food instead of plant. What is the difference between Organic Remedies and Chemical Pesticides? What difference does it make to you which one is used on your foods? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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How is the Garden?

Transplants

We always get the question: how is the garden doing? Well we are happy to report that while some pest issues still remain: namely the ants and flies, the pests have either disappeared (vole) are been reduced. The ants remain our most persistent and clandestine pest. As with most things worth doing persistence is key when it comes to addressing these pests. Check back in with us to see how things are going.

100% Pure & Organic Neem Oil

Which brings us to Neem Oil, an Organic and Natural pesticide, fungicide and miticide. Because the Neem Oil Solution we found had 1% Neem oil and 99% of unknown ingredients, we decided to make our own solution. One it is cheaper and Two we will know what is in the product. We were able to source 100% pure unrefined organic Neem Oil from a small women business owner and at about the same cost as the (excluding shipping) the Neem Oil Solution we initially purchased. Because we will be mixing it with water (and possible a detergent to enhance application), the bang for our buck will increase even further. So, thus far we are pretty pleased with this find and purchase. It should help us significantly with our pest problem and is inline with our Organic pursuits and sourcing of Organic Remedies.

We are still using the remainder of the initial Neem Oil Solution we purchased and still need to try out our new Neem Oil. Stay tuned for how this works out including the mixing ratio and whether or not we decided to add detergent as well as the comparative benefits of the Neem Oil Solution we purchased and the one we will be making ourselves.

Transplants

Now that our pest problems have begun to come under control, we have started putting our transplants out in the garden. Yesterday we put out 6 – 7 plants and thus far we are happy to report they are all doing just fine. We also hope to be sending some kitchen plants home from our “nursery” from those who have requested plants. Right now these potential kitchen or patio/porch plants are out near MiMi’s flower on the lawn table taking full advantage of the sun which has been sweltering for some of our plants. Our Marketmore Cucumber plantling just did not make it through the transplant process as the sun was just too much for it.

Green Beans

We are happy to report that the Green Bean plant sported its beautiful purple flowers, which is a sign of pollination, and soon after sprouted 2 green bean pods, thus far! We can not help but lick our lips and wait for the others to sprout. They should be good in a salad or as a side dish.

What are your questions about the garden? What are your questions about gardening? If you could start your own garden, would it be in or outdoors? What would you grow and why? What keeps you from getting started? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Green Beans
Green Bean Pods
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

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Zoning

When you purchase a packet of seeds, typically you will see a color coded map with a key to help you identify your growing zone. The USDA divides the United States into 11 separate planting zones. Each growing zone is 10 degrees (fahrenheit) warmer or cooler than the adjacent growing zone during an average winter. Near the color coded map there should also be a key with months in it. These months tell you the months in which it is best to begin planting or sowing seeds based on your growing zone.

While these maps do not tell you what is ideal to grow in your zone, it is important to know which plants will succeed in your growing zone and which will not. Where the map does come in handy is informing you of when to grow a particular plant. Some plants will grow into late fall just fine while other plants will not make it into the late fall months. Some plants can be started in doors before the traditional planting season and some cannot simply because they do not grow in containers well or they do not transplant well. Typically, plants cannot be started until the inside location (greenhouse) you have them in can remain above frost temperatures when temperatures dip.

Be careful to keep an eye out for cool summer nights when the last frost is already thought to have past. April is the big month to start sowing seeds in Norfolk, VA where we are (growing zone). Nonetheless, I have gotten more than my fair share of calls warning me about an ensuing frosty night. If you would like to learn more about protecting plants from frost, read our article “What do bed Sheets have to do with it?” dated May 2, 2020. To learn more about reading seed packets and the valuable information you can find on them read our article “Sow” dated May 12, 2020.

It amazes us how far we have come in such a short time in our journey. We have learned a lot together and in many ways our journey is just beginning. Our pest problems seem to be disappearing and the garden seems to be getting the start it needs. What has been the best part of the journey so far? How has your health changed? They say you need at least 30 days of consistency to see a change. What would you like to see in this journey? We have been getting a lot of comments, questions and positive feedback from everyone. And we would like you all to see what each other is saying, so feel at ease to leave your comments and questions here so the whole community can benefit. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Neem Oil

When our Cabbage & Brussel Sprouts leaves were being eaten up, we went in search for an Organic Remedy. Most organic gardeners and farmers will tell you the best remedy is plant health. Those plants that come under attack are typically not in good health. Although the vole might be putting them under stress. We found that the plants coming under attack were perfectly healthy plants but young and tender. Some of them were going through the transplant process and experiencing some stress and shock. All things we think the plants could bounce back from without problem. So, we have decided to give our plantings a little Organic help to promote growth and health while we get our garden off the ground.

Our search produced a recommendation to use Neem Oil. We found a product that left us with a little more questions than answers because it did not fully disclose all of its ingredients. We discovered that Neem Oil is often mixed with dish detergent and water. The emulsifier in the dish detergent helps break down the oil and give it a little structure. Naturally the oil will loosen up if heated but that is not a good application method for your plants. Once the detergent, water and neem oil mixture is made it must be used otherwise it will break down and become unusable. Well we want to know what we are putting on our food so, we found 100% cold pressed neem oil. We will add our own water. If you decided to use detergent, we recommend Castile soap, which is a natural (and can be organic) soap with no chemicals. You can find this soap at your local store or order it online. We found our Neem Oil online for about $5 per 8 ounces plus shipping. We decided to buy in bulk so we got 32 ounces for that price (per 8 ounces).

Although we think it is still to early to tell, the results thus far have been very positive. We have seen a noticeable difference in the amount of flies. They have decreased in number and have become more clandestine. Just because they get clandestine does not mean they are gone. Remember to keep up your Organic Remedy Regimen for at least 2 – 4 weeks. It is recommended to keep treating plants 2 weeks after desired results are achieved. Click here to learn more about Neem Oil from the Smiling Gardener. We did not buy our Neem Oil from this supplier, but found them to have a great deal of knowledge regarding Neem Oil as it relates to gardening and farming.

This Organic Remedy should allow our plants time to get over any shock or stress. We also dug new ground and are always learning what works best. So, there are a lot of factors to consider. We wanted a product whose ingredients we knew. Also, we are always looking for a good deal. We don’t mind mixing up our own Neem Oil solution in order to get these things. We believe you should know what is on and in your food. So, we decided to go with a small business owner supplier who provided unfiltered and cold pressed Neem Oil.

We have high hopes for our garden once these seedlings have an opportunity to flourish. They are on average very healthy and strong. The introduction of Soil Blocks and other methods that discourage disease have significantly improved our sowing success, it is on track to be 100% of seeds sown sprout into healthy plants. The transplanting process has been improved. And we are in the process of helping them catch root quicker. Discouraging voles and other mole like animals should also keep the plants from being uprooted once successfully transplanted. What we believe is a vole could have also been preventing our plantings from developing healthy root systems as well as taking root sooner and completing the transplant process. We will be observing if these pest remedies shorten the transplant process.

We believe the Neem Oil will help keep pests at bay and give these plants a chance to recover from any stress or shock. When reading packages they often make EPA, USDA and other certifications. Do you know what these standards are and are these standards acceptable to you? Do you think manufacturers should release all ingredients despite their desire to protect trade secrets? How can you help influence EPA & USDA standards that are more transparent and acceptable to your own personal standards? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Organic Remedies

We have been facing a few pests in our garden some unseen; some low key and some unknown. As we have shared in the past, the Ants have been a persistent pest that we have been dealing with. While we thought they were gone or no longer an issue, we can see that they just became more low key. Here are a few organic remedies we have identified:

Ants

  • Ground Black Pepper and Water solution around the perimeter of the garden. We also poured it between the rows. You can also apply via spray bottle.
  • Cinnamon Oil and Water. We have not yet tried this remedy, but we hear that it works.
  • White Vinegar
  • Boiling Water

We like the Ground Black Pepper and Water Solution better because it should create a border around the garden that the ants do not cross. The Vinegar and Boiling Water had some adverse effects on the plants. Although they recovered, we think the Ground Black Pepper Solution should be a lot less intrusive.

Flies

We saw the flies in the garden but thought they were harmless until one of our friends and contributors came by to check on the garden. He informed us that the flies were eating the plants. That is why we have seen holes in the cabbage and Brussles Sprouts. We had applied white vinegar to the area, which scorched the leaves of the plants when they were younger.  Initially we though the holes were because of this. But he clarified that the flies were eating our delicious plants. Naturally, we plan to do that.

Our friend and contributor informed us that we could get a spray to discourage the flies from eating the plants. We went to our local nursery / store and talked to an associate regarding the problem and he know just what we were talking about. I told him that we are on an organic journey and needed an Organic solution and he immediately pointed out a product with Neem Oil as the active ingredient. Neem Oil is indeed a natural fly repellent that comes from the Neem Tree, which is an evergreen. The product we got / Neem Oil is a Fungicide, Miticide & Insecticide. It thus is a three in one repellent. The product we got has less than 1% of Neem Oil. We have since seen products with more Neem Oil and would probably opt for those next time to give us a bigger bang for our buck. We are guessing that the other inactive ingredient is water.

Mole like

We have also been under the most duress by the disappearing of our transplant leaves. Green Bean, Tomato and Pumpkin all have fallen prey to this pest. We thought it was because of the ants. The ants have indeed gotten more clandestine and are still a pest problem. However, some of the activity seemed too large for ants even if it was an army of ants. So, we talked, again, with the staff at the local nursery / store and conducted some research and discovered that while the issue may not actually be a mole it could be a mole like animal causing the issue. We discovered this after the staff member put in a call to her mother who is somewhat of an expert on these matters. She seems like a lady with several years of observation experience.

After identifying this underground culprit we could not see, the nursery staff member was able to recommend an organic and environmentally friendly product that uses sound as a repellent for these pests. The Mole Max – Mole & Gopher Repeller Sonic Spike. It uses solar power to operate and sound to repel. It covers 7,500 square feet, which should be more than enough for our small garden. We have to let it solar power up for 2 days before anchoring it into the ground and activating it for use.

As the sowing season is closing fast, we hope to get the rest of our transplants out and to alive our plants of any hindrance to growth. Many of these plants are small and vulnerable. They need to develop roots systems in order to get the nutrients they need to survive and to grow. So they do not have a fighting chance because of the types and multitudes of attacks they have been facing. We are hoping to get them off the ground and growing like the other plantlings that were brought here from the nursery / store. Some of the remedies we have identified will take some time to be effective. Some will take up to a few weeks before we begin to see results. We must persist with our Organic remedy regimen knowing that pests can also be persistent.

Stay tuned for updates on how these Organic pest remedies are working and what alterations we make based on the results we get. In our research we discovered many natural remedies for pest that you can get right out of your kitchen. We have also discovered there is a good product selection on the market for the Organic Gardener, which is a huge relief and resource. We are hoping these remedies are effective for us and help our plants get the fighting chance they need to grow into plantlings and full fledge fruit bearing plants. These pest issues have been simmering for too long and we hope today that we are well on our way to nipping them in the bud. We will begin putting our transplants out once we have the Mole Max in place. We are working with a fast ticking clock since the sowing season is quickly wrapping up so we will put them out and monitor the issue closely. We hope for fruitful results.

As always you are the best part of what we do. Some of you are already aware of the pest issues we have been facing. Thank you for your feedback and suggestions. My dad was spot on weeks ago that the pest issue was a mole or a golfer, so the staff member at the nursery / store believes. How do you identify pests in your garden or yard? What are some organic, natural or environmentally friendly remedies that you have identified? How will this help you with your garden? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.