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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. All Rights Reserved – Shidonna Raven (c) 2025 – Garden & Cook.

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How to Compost

There are essentially three major ways to compost. We will be covering 2 out of three. The first way, the one we will not cover here, is making your own compost on the bare ground. As we shared earlier because we are largely focusing on more urban rather than rural areas we will be focusing on the Compost Tumbler or enclosed Bins as well as the store bought compost options. Urban spaces typically lack the space needed to dedicate to cultivating compost. Compost is also a delicate processes. Although it is a fairly simple process, because you are dealing with decomposition and microorganisms disease prevention and sanitary needs must be carefully attended to when taking on composting. Nonetheless, if you have questions about composting piles made on the bare ground, just ask and we will answer your questions.

Tumblers  

A tumbler is simply a barrel of sorts that can be rotated or turned to promote air flow and encourage the compositing process. Commercial tumblers are typically made from recycled plastics. The tumbler is filled with compost friendly material according to the directions of the tumbler. Compost friendly materials include such items as:

  • grass clippings
  • tree leaves
  • vegetable food scraps (coffee grounds, lettuce, potato peels, banana peels, avocado skins, etc.)
  • black and white newspaper
  • printer paper
  • most disease free yard waste
  • cardboard
  • animal manure (e.g. cows, horses, rabbits, hamsters, etc.)
  • Wood shavings or sawdust

Tumblers are more ideal for urban settings because the composting process is contained within the bin, barrel or tumbler. It is also activated with commercial starters, manures, already finished compost, garden soil or nothing at all. The organic materials are broken down, as in the compost heap method, by microbes and other living organisms fueled by oxygen. To encourage the composting process the tumbler is turned twice or three times a week, mixing the microbes with the organic material while infusing fresh supplies of oxygen. The key here is that the tumbler keeps the materials contained, as well as the heat the process generates. In a month or two fresh compost is produced. As gardener’s say, you now have black gold. This is still technically making it yourself.

A Quick Guide to Buying Compost

There are four main types of compost that are commercially sold by the bag as Bonnie Plants shares with us. Keep in mind that you may need a lot of compost to cover your area in which case it may be best to buy bulk. However, some compost will instruct you to use it sparingly as too much of some of the composts’ content may not be good for the plants that you are growing or the soil you are cultivating.

Type 1: Yard Waste Compost

Yard waste compost is made from leaves and grass clippings. It has a light texture similar to peat moss and is usually inexpensive. It is sold in bags or may be even offered for free from municipal mulch piles. Some municipalities also deliver composted leaves by the load for a fee. Check with your city or county government to see if this service is available. Local Master Gardeners may also know where you can get free yard waste compost. Yard waste compost is especially beneficial to heavy clay soil or any soil that contains very little organic matter. Yard waste compost is a great source of organic matter, but it’s lean on nutrients. Don’t forget the fertilizer when you prepare planting space with this type of compost.

Type 2: Manure Compost

Composted manure may be made from cow, horse, or poultry manures that have been combined with sawdust, yard waste, or other high-carbon materials to create a rich yet heavy-textured compost. A little goes a long way, especially in naturally fertile soils. Composted manure contains several important nutrients, so you can reduce fertilizer application rates by half when using this type of compost. Organic growers who incorporate composted manure into the soil in bulk do so in the fall to make sure that bacterial pathogens from the manure are gone by the time the crop is planted. The bagged composted manure that you’ll find in garden centers has usually been treated to kill bacteria.

Type 3: Mushroom Compost

Mushroom compost starts out as rich and hot compost made from straw and horse or cow manure or plant meals. Then, just as the compost cools down, it is inoculated with mushroom spawn and given just the right conditions to produce delicious button mushrooms. After the mushrooms fruit, the leftover soil is packaged and resold. Mushroom compost is often smelly when you first open the bag, but the odor goes away in a few days. It contains several important nutrients, so you can reduce fertilizer application rates by about one third when using this type of compost.

Type 4: VermiCompost

Vermicompost or worm castings are produced from manures, food wastes, and paper, yard waste, or other bulky material. Under carefully controlled conditions, the ingredients are processed by millions of redworms, and their waste becomes vermincompost. Before it is sold, vermincompost is usually mixed with high-quality soil to improve its texture and dilute its nutrients. The potency of vermicompost varies among products, so follow application rates given on the product’s label. Too much vermicompost can injure plant roots and flood the soil with excessive salts. Vermicompost is best used to prepare soil for root crops or as a midseason pick-me-up for peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetables that bear for a long time. Ever-bearing strawberries grown in containers also respond well to topdressing with vermicompost.

How will you choose to compost? Why is that method of composting good for you? What do you think are the benefits of composting? How can you save by composting? Share your thoughts 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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Why Compost

Eliot Coleman, master gardener, like compost and makes his own. Composting involves microorganisms and the decomposition of waste such as leaves, vegetable scraps (like potato peels) and old tea bags. It is a slow, simple and methodical process. However, it is a careful process that must be watched, maintained and kept disease free while being made. You must also have the space to dedicate to the cultivation of compost. Some people create compost in a matter of months while people like Coleman takes at least over a year to make his.

Compost cannot only be an Organic, Natural and Environmentally friendly product highly reducing your footprint, most gardeners would tell you it is like having Black Gold. In our research we discovered that composting should be done when planting. While we still have several transplants to plant, most of our plants have been transplanted or were sown directly into the ground. So, we really missed the opportunity to use compost, which means we will probably fertilize more to attempt to enrich the soil and consequently the plants.

Nonetheless, we wanted to share the benefits of compost with you as you can begin to prepare and plan your composting for next season. Similar to the Soil Blocks recommended by Coleman, there are many ways to save money when composting yourself like many of the recommendations Coleman makes. While we have opted to go with store bought compost given the fact that we are in a more urban environment and lack the space we feel we need to compost in an effective manner, although compost tumblers are a good option. We think this is the best way for us to begin because we would like to work on disease management and understanding how plants thrive at this point in our journey.

Making your own compost whether on bare ground or via a tumbler you will reap the following benefits:

  • save money
  • save resources
  • improve your soil
  • reduce your impact on the environment
  • increases soil stability
  • improves drainage
  • retains moisture
  • nutrients are not washed away by rain
  • zero waste
  • free or repurposed materials
  • reduces landfill waste
  • re-purposes valuable resources
  • use less water because of water retention
  • reduces cost of public waste disposal
  • prolongs the life of landfills
  • 40% of residential waste is compostable
  • returns valuable nutrients to the soil which helps maintain soil quality and fertility
  • compost is a mild, slow release, natural fertilizer that won’t burn plants like chemical fertilizers
  • It also improves texture and air circulation for heavier soils (like Manitoba gumbo)
  • It helps to increase the water retention of sandy soils
  • It provides organic matter and nutrients which improve plant growth and harvest yields.

Compost is like nature’s way of recycling if it could. Applying compost to your garden will both fertilize the soil and feed the soil with a diversity of nutrients and microorganisms that will improve plant growth. Chemical fertilizers are just not a part of our Organic Journey because they only provide a quick burst of a limited number of nutrients that can wash away into our rivers and streams.

Do you use compost in your garden now? How can you introduce compost to your garden this year or next year? What ways can you get started with planning your garden and preparing your soil for planting next year? What would you like to grow next year? If you did not begin your garden this year, will you begin one next year? How can you start planning and preparing for 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 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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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.