Organic Flea Beetle Control

Of all the garden pests to be had, the Flea Beetle ranks as one of my favorites. Yes, I used the words favorite and pests in the same sentence! I say this only because the flea beetle turns out to be one of the less destructive and easier to manage garden pests. Well, at least for the container gardener it is. These very small beetles often have a stunning metallic color and are characterized by enlarged hind legs that give them the ability to quickly spring great distances when disturbed. In small numbers, these beetles are actually quite fun to watch jump away when you rustle the foliage of infested plants, but in large numbers, flea beetles can become quite the bane for any gardener. In this guide, learn which edible crops are at risk, identification, and how to implement your own organic flea beetle controls.

Garden Update #10

Last week, I was almost completely sure that there were no more planters to be added to the mix, but as a gardener, plant collecting never ceases! Well, that is until you find yourself completely out of usable space. Though I'd always be down to have a few more plants to grow, the limited space of our four by eight foot patio just won't permit anymore. So, without further ado, here's a photographic look at the finalized Patio of Pots Container Garden:

I had to climb up on the railing of the staircase to snap this picture! You can clearly see the extent of how
packed our patio really is. 
Here's a shot from the door facing outwards!
Bull's Blood beets and Kaleidoscope Mix of carrots.
I absolutely love the foliage of the beets! With a touch of  carrot leaf in the photo, this
turned out to be one cool pic!
The radish planter is absolutely bursting with growth! This photo was taken
just before I harvested the first radish crop!
While not the greatest angle, here's a look at the Alaskan Early shelling peas. They've
grown quite a bit in the recent days, and I even think that there's a few flowers on the way!
The tomatoes have been caged and the total count stands at three. While I only planned on growing two tomatoes, I ended up taking on one more. There are two Zapotec Ribbed Heirloom Tomato plants and one San Marzano Roma. 
Who wants tomatoes without basil right? In this planter, there's four Sweet Basil plants and one Fern Leaf Dill.
Moving right along to the floral side of the garden, you can see  Purple ASTI© Daisies and Goodwin Creek Grey lavender. Both of these plants were purchased at a nursery and were locally grown in Arvada, CO. 
I didn't realize I captured a cat hair as well until I got to uploading!
One of the newest additions, Goodwin Creek Lavender.
In the bottom right corner, part of the bonsai-style olive tree can be seen. The Kangaroo
Paw is the main flower in this photo. 
Although the Kangaroo Paw is native to New Zealand, I'm sure that it will do great in the
arid climate of Colorado. This plant instantly became a favorite.
White ASTI© Daisies. 
In my older updates, I was getting pretty good with keeping track of the weather and current plantings, but with all the work that needed to be accomplished this month, I slipped up a little. Don't worry though, I'll catch you up!

Observed Weather - 

May 1 - 7
  • Average High - 57.1°F
  • Average Low - 30.4°F
May 8 - 15
  • Average High - 73.9°F
  • Average Low - 48.5°F
May 16 - 23
  • Average High - 72.3°F
  • Average Low - 47.1°F
May 24 - 27
  • Average High - 84.0°F
  • Average Low - 54.5°F
Current Planting - 
  • Vegetables: Bull's Blood Beets, Kaleidoscope Mix Carrots, French Breakfast Radishes, and five heads of an unknown variety of Garlic. 
  • Fruits - San Marzano Roma Tomatoes, Zapotec Ribbed Heirloom Beefsteak Tomatoes, Peter Peppers, Mexican Sour Gherkins, and strawberries. 
  • Herbs - Sweet Basil, Lemon Balm, Goodwin Creek Lavender, Fern Leaf Dill, and Common Sage. 
  • Flowers - White and Purple ASTI© Daisies, Kangaroo Paw, Snapdragons and a couple different miscellaneous annuals. 
  • Still to Come - Fatalii Chili Peppers, Purple Beauty Bell Peppers, O'Dham Indian Heirloom Chili Peppers, and Heirloom German Cabbage. (Once the radishes, beets and carrots finish, these will be rotated into the garden.)

Harvesting Radishes

As the month of May draws to a close, so does the window of spring weather ripe for growing radishes. Here in Denver, temperatures over the Memorial Day Weekend consistently soared well into the 80's. Sure, the tomatoes are absolutely loving the warm spike, but the radishes won't hold out much longer. Luckily, they won't have to! Having sprouted roughly twenty four days ago, it's time to begin harvesting radishes. That's right, it's radish harvest time!

Garden Update #9

 Well, it's finally here! That's right, the big debut for the Patio of Pots container garden! Over the last couple weeks I've been working quite hard on finishing planters, hardening off indoor grown plants, and finalizing the garden design. I've had to sacrifice the frequency of my blog entries, but I'd say the work was well worth it. I'll let you be the judge of that though!

Planter #1 - Beets & Carrots
  • The Bull's Blood beets and Kaleidoscope Mix of carrots are really starting to grow quickly now. With the beets taking roughly 50-60 days to grow, I'd say they're getting fairly close to harvesting. The carrots should be soon to follow as well. It's still very much up for grabs as to what will be planted next after they're harvested, but I'm leaning more and more towards my original plan of three heirloom cabbage heads!

Planter #2 - Alaska Early Peas & Mouse Melons
  • The peas have started to climb their trellis with vigor, but the overall up and down weather they've endured may have taken it's toll. Early in the season, the peas were subjected to temperatures as low as 19°F, and as of late, temperatures have soared into the mid 80's. Not exactly pea growing weather, but I'm still giving them a chance! 
  • Since I'm a bit unsure if I'll get a pea crop or not, I did end up thinning the middle row of pea plants in order to allow the Mouse Melons (Mexican Sour Gherkins) to gain a head start. There's three of these plants that will continue growing once the peas are gone. 
Planter #3 - French Breakfast Radishes
  • It's almost time for harvesting the radishes I've planted as well! The little radish seedlings began sprouting at the beginning of this month and are now very leafy! From inspecting the tops of the roots, I'd say they'll be ready for harvesting within a week or two. 

Planter #4 - Zapotec Ribbed Heirloom Tomatoes & Peter Peppers
  • This planter is the latest addition, and was planted with tomatoes and peppers that I've grown indoors since late March. The planter was constructed with old untreated fence posts and cost only five dollars to construct! Not bad at all considering that it's three feet long, seven inches wide, thirteen inches deep, and on wheels!
The Flower Corner - 
  • Personally, I never planned to grow as many flowers as we've collected, but whatever is good for the lady of the house, is good for us all! Ha. Actually, to be honest, I've grown quite fond of the contrast in colors and foliage! It's pretty cool. Here's a list of the plants growing: Lemon Balm, Snapdragons, Basil, Garlic, Dill, Kangaroo Paw, Olive Tree, Asti Daisies, Sage, and Strawberries. Oh, and the little wooden stand they're perched on was also constructed from salvaged fence posts!

So, there it is! The Patio of Pots Container Garden! I hope that you'll continue to check back in throughout the summer season to watch the garden grow. 

Transplanting Tomatoes Outside

Seeing that the average last frost date has come and gone, it's time to finally move the tomato plants from their indoor haven to the great outdoors! That's right, the tomato harvest is not far away now! Before we get too far ahead of ourselves though, let's talk about transplanting. The process is fairly straight forward and uncomplicated, but there are a couple crucial steps you'll want to follow through with in order to keep your plants thriving and fruitful. In this gardening guide, learn all about transplanting tomatoes outside and into your garden!
Hardening off two San Marzano Roma tomato plants. 

Hardening Off - 

If you've grown your tomato plants from seed indoors, the all-important process of hardening off must be completed. (Tomato plants purchased at outdoor nurseries have already gone through the hardening off process in one way or another.) One to two weeks before you plan to transplant, move the tomato plants outdoors for increased periods of time each day. Start with one hour the first day, and slowly increase the time period so that by the end of a week or two, the plants are staying outside the entire day. During this process, return the plants indoors during the evening. By completing this stage, the indoor grown tomato plants will have properly acclimated to life outdoors. This will make transplanting as stress-free as possible!

When to Transplant Tomato Seedlings - 
By the time your tomatoes are ready for transplanting outdoors, they'll hardly be seedlings any longer! With six to eight weeks of growth indoors, the tomato plants started from seed should have multiple sets of leaves and be quite tall. For transplanting, pick a date roughly two weeks after the average last frost in your area. In the weeks working up to the transplanting time, research extended forecasts in order to pick the best planting day. Personally, I prefer to transplant only when sunshine will be guaranteed for at least a few days afterward. I think it allows the tomatoes to ease into their spot a little better.
In the two photos above, you can see the Zapotec heirloom
tomatoes I'm planting. In the upper of the two, you can see
the plants before pruning, and in the lower, tomatoes that
are ready to be planted!

Transplanting - 
  1. Using the information above, complete the hardening off process and decide on a proper transplanting date.  
  2. Prepare your garden space by tilling deep (12 inches), or by filling and gently packing containers with soil.  
  3. Dig deep holes for the roots. Eight to twelve inches down should do the trick. Space tomato plants 18-24 inches from each other and in rows spaced 24-36 inches apart. 
  4. With sterilized shears, snip off the bottom two to three branches from the tomato plant. Cut as close to the plant stem as possible. 
  5. Now, remove the tomatoes from their seedling container and gently push the plant deep into the hole. The spots where you cut off the branches should now be under the soil line. This is good, as these will grow roots and provide extra stability for your tomato plants. 
  6. Back fill the holes with potting soil and water in well. 
  7. It's best to add tomato cages at this point to prevent damage to the roots from adding them later on. 
See, it's really not that hard! Transplanting tomatoes outside is easy business if you follow the correct steps. Thanks for tuning into this gardening guide on transplanting tomato plants outdoors and good luck with your crop! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have.

Garden Update #8

Almost half way through May, the planting date of summer crops is now very near. I've been plenty busy readying the tomatoes, peppers and some herbs for outdoor planting. With much more work to do and planters to build, I'm going to keep this entry short and sweet. I'll post an update very soon with the debut of the complete garden!

The carrots and beets are coming along!

Since thinning, the radishes have really taken off! They should be ready for harvesting in the next couple weeks.

While thinning, I found a pretty cool radish seedling. Though I'm sure it happens from time to time, this one particular seedling has three cotyledons instead of the normal two! Out of the 56 radishes growing, this was the only one to exhibit the trait. Pretty cool.

On the left is a normal radish seeding with two cotyledons (seed leaves). 
To the right is the one seedling exhibiting three cotyledons. 

Feeding Plants Molasses

Watering plants with molasses might sound a bit crazy, but don't be quick to blow off this useful gardening aid! As it turns out, a bit of molasses on a regular basis can actually work wonders for any garden. So, how is molasses good for plants? Well, I'm glad you asked! In this mini gardening guide, learn how your garden can benefit from feeding with molasses water.

Benefits of Molasses for Plants - 
This 16oz bottle of unsulphured molasses will last for
a couple months. Costing only seven dollars, it's a
  • Carbohydrates - Since molasses is the raw juice obtained from the sugar refining process, it's naturally loaded with carbohydrates (aka sugars). These carbohydrates are a great instant food source for beneficial soil microbes. With regular feedings of molasses, soils are able to support larger and more efficient populations of important, nutrient cycling, microbes. With more efficient microbes, there are more nutrients available for plant uptake. 
  • Trace Minerals - Besides sugars, unsulphured blackstrap molasses contains a great deal of trace minerals that are essential for plant growth. Natural sulphur, iron, potassium and calcium is supplied in small amounts to keep plants thriving. 
  • Chelating Agent - Some nutrients become "locked" in the soil as forms that plants aren't able to uptake. It doesn't mean that they can't be eventually consumed, it just means that something must come along and bind with it to create a form in which it's available for plant roots. The process of this binding is called chelation, and it just so happens to be that molasses a great chelating agent. When added to soils, molasses will naturally "unlock" some nutrients for additional plant uptake.
Unsulphured Blackstrap Molasses - 

Though there are a variety of grades of molasses, this raw and purest form is the favorite among gardeners! The reason is that this type has not been refined and contains the maximum nutritional value for garden plants and microbes. Of course, I will always recommend buying an organic molasses, but the choice is yours. You can find molasses with the syrup at your local supermarket. 

How to Water with Molasses - 

Molasses is super thick, and if you've ever tried, you'll find that it takes a bit of effort to get it to dissolve completely into room temperature water. Luckily, there's a way to bypass this extra work!
  1. In the microwave, bring one cup of water to a boil, then remove and let cool for a couple of minutes.
  2. To the cup of warm water, add one tablespoon of molasses for every gallon of water that you plan to feed with. Since the water is warm, the molasses should easily dissolve into a dark looking tea. 
  3. Fill your watering container with the desired amount of dechlorinated water and then add the cup of molasses solution. 
  4. Now, water your plants as normal. 
  5. Feed with molasses once a week for best results. 

Garden Update #7

Did the snow ever come? Why yes, it sure did! Shortly after I posted update #6 the clouds started rolling in and the temperature dropped steadily. So, I packed up the garden and once again, brought almost everything inside. What remained outside was covered well, as the evening of the 30th continuing all day the first of May, the Patio of Pots garden was hit with another six inches of snow. It's great for our state's snowpack, but not so great for garden pictures. Luckily, all you have to wait here in Colorado is a day or two before the weather has made a complete rebound. Here's some pictures from around the garden on this fine first weekend of May!

Observed Weather - (April 26-May 4)
  • Average High - 61.0°F
  • Average Low - 35.1°F

Pallet Planter #1 -  
The beets and carrots growing in planter #1 are doing well. Most of the seedlings have grown their first set of true leaves and are now onto their second. This being my first time growing the Bull's Blood variety of beets, I'm excited to see the foliage colors as they grow larger! 

Pallet Planter #2 - 
By the dozens, radish seedlings are sprouting in this planter! Thinning will be done sometime later this week. 

Pallet Planter #3 - 
Up until this last snow, the Alaskan Early shelling peas in this planter were making great headway. Though they were covered and protected from the snow, the freezing 19°F night of May 2nd slowed them down a bit. It'll be nice to see them bounce back with warmer weather ahead. 

Flower Planter #1 - 
Last update I showed a couple pictures of the first flower planter. Now, I'm not exactly big on flowers myself, but if there's a lady in the house, flowers are bound to be around. In this miniature container, we've planted a mix of snapdragons and a lemon balm plant shopped from a local nursery. It actually brings a nice bit of color, and still maintains edible functionality with the lemon balm. 

Growing Radishes From Seeds

French Breakfast radish
 seeds. This variety is
harvestable in as little
as twenty three days
from germination. 
Quick, name one vegetable crop that, from seed to harvest, finishes in less than a month! Obviously, it's not that hard once you've read the tile, but yes, radishes would be the answer we're looking for. These small root crops grow at astonishing rates that are sure to please children and even the most impatient of gardeners. As if that wasn't news enough, you'll also be please to know that growing radishes couldn't be easier, even in when grown in containers. This spring and autumn season, let the radishes grow! In this gardening guide, learn the basics of growing radishes from seeds.

Plant Identification - Radishes
  • Binomial Name - Raphanus sativus
  • Family - Brassicaceae
Basics for Gardening Radishes - 
  • Container - If you plan on growing radishes in a container, all you really need is a depth of six inches. Almost any container will be suitable for radishes, but you'll find that long, shallow and wide storage containers with large surface areas can provide maximum harvests. 
  • Well Draining Soil - Radishes aren't too picky about the soil that they're grown in, as long as it drains well. My recommendation is to choose a quality potting soil amended with perlite or vermiculite. This will provide enough nutrition and the proper drainage needed to keep radishes thriving.
  • Full Sun/Part Shade - Radishes will grow well with a minimum of six hours of full sunlight daily. While radishes love the early morning sunlight, the intense heat of the afternoon sun can sometimes be too much, and cause them to bolt. To prevent early bolting, plant radishes where they will receive full sunlight during the morning hours and be in shade/partial shade during the intense sunlight of the afternoon.
  • Spring and Autumn - For most gardeners, spring and autumn will be about the only times that you'll be able to grow radishes outdoors. As a cool season crop, radishes will thrive in temperatures ranging from 45-70°F, but quickly diminish if temperatures warm or cool beyond this. 
Planting Radishes - 
Newly germinated radish seedlings. (More pictures will
come as the season progresses.)
  1. Four to six weeks before the average last frost in your area, radish seeds can be sown. Using an all-direction planting method, plant radish seeds 1/2 inch deep and spaced one inch from each other. To avoid one large harvest, plant a few seeds weekly until early summer. This staggered planting will allow you to harvest radishes weekly. 
  2. Keep the soil moist while waiting for the seeds to germinate. Most radish seeds will have germinated in less than ten days, with some sprouting as soon as day two. 
  3. Once the radish seeds have germinated, keep the seedlings moist but not over watered. Since the seedlings have fairly small root systems at this point, I like to water once the top inch of soil has become dry. 
  4. About a week and half to two weeks from germination, the radish plants will need to be thinned. Using sterile scissors, cut the base of the weakest radishes off at the soil line. Thin the plants so that the remaining now stand two inches apart. 
  5. Reduce the watering so that you are doing so only once the top two inches of soil are dry. 
Harvesting Radishes - 
2013 Radish planter. With all-direction
planting, upwards of 60 radishes will be
grown in this planter. 
  1. Depending on the variety you're growing, the radishes will be ready for harvest in around 20-35 days from germination. 
  2. To tell if your radishes are ready for harvest, gently remove the soil around the tops of each plant. If the radish root top is around the size of a quarter, it's ready to be picked. 
  3. Avoid letting radishes get too large, as they will lose their flavor and turn woody. 
Though it may seems too good to be true, gardening radishes is seriously that easy! Just plant, water, watch, and in no time at all, you'll have dozens of delicious radishes ready for the eating. Thank you for reading this guide on growing radishes from seeds, and the best of luck to you on your crop this season! Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you have.