Thursday, June 6, 2013

What do I do about diseased plants or bugs?

Please don't use an inorganic pesticide or fungicide. Trim the bad parts off, or if the entire plant is in poor shape, compost the whole thing. Squash seeds can be replanted, as can tomato plants. I would rather start over than allow us to put those chemicals into the ground and our body. With proper nutrition (fertilizer), and watering, the plants should be fine.

Seeing lots of bugs? Mix some dish soap (in the shed) with a watering bucket and rinse. Another method is the squash method. (step on it)

There are also "orange oil" rinses that can be purchased at any local nursery or HEB.

May I use ant poison?

Yes! There is some in the shed. It is activated by water. Sprinkle, then water. You may also bring your own, or use corn meal for an organic option. I find that inorganic poisons are more effective for this pest.

Roundup - to use or not to use?

I have a love/hate relationship with roundup. It is good, because it kills anything it touches. It is bad, because it kills anything it touches. 

Some info about round up: 

  • It is systemic, so if it touches the leaf, the chemical enters the plants vascular tissue (like veins) and attacks the entire plant. In a few days, it turns brown. This includes trees. 
  • WEAR A MASK. This is not something to inhale
  • WEAR GLOVES. We are made of cells. You don't want this in your cells, at all. 
  • Spray at your own risk. We are not asking you to spray, but if you choose to do so, know that there are health consequences of inhaling. 

If you choose to spray: 
  • Spray any areas of granite 
  • Spray walkways 
  • Don't spray to "edge or trim" (if you spray the end of a plant, it will kill the ENTIRE plant) 
  • Call Ms. Windwehen for more specific instructions (361-648-3814) 

Can I plant more things?

YES! Please plant more crops. Use the other plants as a guide if you don't know how large they get to ensure you are giving them enough growing room. There are several spots in the large vegetable beds that could use some plants. We just pulled onions, so there is much room.

Ideas for what to plant: sweet potatoes, more tomatoes, more peppers, more corn

When do I water?

  • Plants need water everyday
  • If the sprinkler hits them, don't water that same plant (esp. the vegetables ... they will rot.. specifically the squash/zucchini) 
  • If the ground looks gritty and arid, it needs water
  • If it is moist it doesn't need water
  • If it is soaked and sodden, it definitely doesn't water 
  • Fertilized+watered them? Don't add additional water 
  • If the plant is wilted, it needs water
  • If the plant is brown and crusty, it has gotten dried out
  • If the plant is yellow, it has gotten too much water
  • If vegetables have mold on them, they have gotten too much water (if this happens, take them to the compost bin.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to: Fertilize this organic garden

We pride ourselves in the fact that this garden is almost 100% organic. During class, students are taught the benefits of organic gardening, and it is known that Ms. Windwehen won't allow any inorganic fertilizers or pesticides to be put on the vegetables we eat. Coupled with better health for the plant itself, the vegetable also functions in our body much better without all the extra poisonous chemicals.

That being said, we have prepared some photos so that you can fertilize the plants properly. Under no circumstances should inorganic fertilizer or pesticides be applied to the vegetables or fruits. We have a standard and safety regulations that we follow. Roundup should not be used inside the beds. It kills anything it touches.*, **

Overall Tips:
  • The plants should be fertilized 1-2 times per week to allow for maximum fruiting. We use the 5 gallon pickle buckets and galvenized watering cans for fertilizing.
  • Fertilizing should happen as you water .You mix the fertilizer in, so it will irrigate+feed at the same time. Don't water separately then fertilize, just do it altogether.
  • WEAR GLOVES!!!!!

Miracle-Gro Organic Choice
Organic Granular Fertilizer
(read the directions on these)
Epsom Salt (add 2tbs per 5 gallon bucket in every watering)
add humus from the compost bin, only after watching the compost video


Use Medina Hasta-Gro
Epsom Salts (2tbs per 5 gallon bucket in every watering)
add humus from the compost bin, only after watching the compost video

Non-edible plants
Use inorganic Miracle-Gro (the one in the huge box that you mix with water. It is blue/green)
Do not use organic fertilizers on these plants (if we could afford it, we would... organic is more expensive)
Epsom Salts (2tbs per 5 gallon bucket in every watering)
add humus from the compost bin, only after watching the compost video

*Manure should not be added to anything edible, as it contains harmful bacteria that the plant likely not likely break-down.
** Go to Starbucks? Ask for coffee grounds to add to the rose beds. They love the acid. They also love acid in the pickle juice.

ORGANIC CHOICE - for Vegetable beds, only
 Organic Choice - Follow the directions on the back and feed to vegetables beds only, every FRIDAY! Fertilizing Friday!

Medina Hasta Gro- Add to fruit trees once/week! Follow the directions on the back.

Medina Hasta Gro- Follow the directions on the back and feed to fruit trees only, every FRIDAY! Fertilizing Friday!

Super Thrive - to inedible plants ONLY. 1 capful/5 gallon bucket - no more! This is potent!
Super Thrive: Follow the directions on the back and feed to NON-EDIBLE plants only, every FRIDAY! Fertilizing Friday

Miracle-Gro - Feed all inedible plants every Friday

All - Purpose Food: Follow the directions on the back and feed to non-edible plants only, every FRIDAY! Fertilizing Friday!

Add 2tbs per 5 gallon bucket to ALL PLANTS
Epsom Salt: Follow the directions on the back and feed to ALL PLANTS, every FRIDAY! Fertilizing Friday

Harvesting Vegetables

We are so grateful for your service this summer by helping us remove the bermuda grass and other weeds from the beds. To show our appreciation, we invite you to pick some incredibly tasty organic vegetables from our garden. 

I would like to remind you of a few things, and then include some pictures and videos to help you know when to harvest. 

  • Communicate with people working during your week so that you know you are sharing the crops fairly, but also make sure that no vegetables are just going to the waste.
  • Some vegetables do well in the ground longer, and some need to come so that the crops continue to produce. I will outline each vegetable we have in the ground, and try my best to explain when to pick. Remember, experience will always be your best teacher.
  • Don't pull the plant with the vegetable. Use clippers or twist, but don't pull. ;)  
  • If you find that vegetables aren't producing fruit like you would imagine they should be, they might need more fertilizer. Refer to the fertilizer post and video for that instruction
  • The longer the plant is in the ground, the longer it extracts nutrients from the ground, into the fruit. Therefore, the longer you can wait, the better for your health. However, sometimes this means it might be "strong" or even tough. 
  • When you see a bloom, this is the beginning of a fruit. A fruit is the reproductive organ of the plant. In many cases, we call these vegetables, because of the way they are grown. But, they're all the fruit of our plants. 

In order of back (near the fruit tress) to front (by the large "cash crops") in the garden: 

Pears: When they look like they do in the store, pick them. (size of your fist) These pears will be great for canning or making pies, but probably not raw. They are tough and a little gritty. 

Peaches: Same as above. They should be about the size of an apple, and their flesh should be a light orange-red color. Apply a small amount of pressure to the fruit. If it gives, it is ripe. Don't damage the fruit when you check it. If you do, pick it, or it will invite bacteria and rot. 

Squash: Pick it when it is small for the best flavor. What is "small?" About the size of your entire hand. This all depends on your taste preference. Additionally, the longer they sit on the ground, the longer they have time to rot. The more you pick, the more will grow. There should be 1-2 squash per day if they are being fed right. 

Zucchini: Same as squash. It is essentially the same vegetable. 

Peppers (all): The longer you can wait on these, the better. Peppers are a great (the best) source of vitamin C that we can find. The longer they grow, the more potent they become. However, if you need it for your dinner that night, peppers are great because their taste stays consistent from the beginning of its fruit to the very end, unlike other fruits and vegetables. 

Strawberries: The redder the better! Wait until they are RED! Be sure and leave NO openings in the screen. Coons, possums, skunks, and mostly, BIRDS like to eat this very uneconomical crop. 

Sweet Peas: Size of your thumb

Corn: When the corn is about the size of a 20 oz coke bottle. (When it looks like it does at the store). Take some clippers or a pocket knife that you might have and cut it off the stalk. 

Green Beans: There are yellow and green. When they are about the size of a crayon or a little large, pick them. They taste great raw and have so much more nutrition, like all vegetables, if you can eat them raw. 

Dill: The closer to the ground that you can pick this, the better. You want to pick more leaves, less stems for the best taste. 

Tomatoes: Look for color. When they are red, pick them. However, if you notice throughout the summer that other critters are ruining the crop, pick them and let them ripen in a window. Birds like these, but again the longer they're in the ground the more nutrition you'll receive. 

Eggplant: These are about the same as squash. When they are the size of a 20 ox coke bottle, they are ready. You can let them get bigger. We have white and purple. The white ones are the plants that earned their name, "egg" plant! 

Tomatillos: When these are ready, they should be about the size of cherry tomato. 

Okra: Pick these when they are the length of about two of your thumbs. The longer you wait to pick these, the tougher they did. 

Enjoy your harvest! When in doubt, just try it! The fruit will get about the size of the leaf on the plant, as the leaf is what makes the food for the plant via photosynthesis. 

Thanks again for your service! You are changing the lives of kids! 

How to: Water and use the timer

In addition to the video provided below, we have made step-by-step instructions to guide you through this process. I encourage you to practice using this until you are comfortable.

(please read) Note: The timer is set to go off near 4:30 am for 30 minutes. Wherever you have the sprinklers set for that day will tell you what will be watered the following morning. If you are working consecutive days, this will help you know what you shouldn't water by-hand the next day. However, if you come in and the timer has already gone off, look for where the sprinkler is. Remember, if the soil is moist or wet, it does not need water. Additionally, if you hand-water an area thoroughly, move the sprinkler to a different location so that water reaches a new area the next day*. Vegetables especially can be overwatered very easily (particularly the small crops with the weed barrier holding the water in like a sponge), and it will kill the whole crop. On the other hand, if the soil is arid (dry), it needs to be watered until the soil turns dark and moist. If plants wilt, they need water. If vegetables wilt, you can pretty well guarantee that you won't get fruit off of that plant for quite some time. Plants fruit as a result of optimal health.
*In the heat of the summer, the plants need a good soaking every day, but not more than once a day.

How to set up the sprinklers before you leave:
Timer instructions:
Step 1: Be sure the timer is set to AUTO
Step 2: Be sure the valves are open only on the hoses you want to release water when the timer goes off
Step 3:  To test this, hit MANUAL, wait about 5 seconds, and you will hear and see where the water is coming out; if you don't see the sprinkler on, the valve is probably not open; if you see a hose on you don't want on, turn that valve off

How to use the water as you work and bypass the timer (how to just use the hose)
Step 1: Turn the black lever down towards the ground to open the water pressure (turn it on)
Step 2: Make sure the valves are open on the hose you wish to use
Step 3: Make sure that the nozzle on the hose is on "shower" (plants should never be water on "full," "jet," etc., in that it will cause root damage and erode the soil-gentle is best

How to use hoses with a water key
Step 1: Hook up the hose to the end of the key
Step 2: Place the key in outlet
Step 3: Turn the key to make it perpendicular
Step 4: Replace the copper key in the hiding place