Posts Tagged ‘VF-11’

Success growing backyard pumpkins

July 17, 2008

Last year we tried to grow pumpkins and failed miserably. Admittedly, the attempt was half hearted. The planting bed was hard-packed clay in an area that was formerly used for storing pipe. I dug deep holes and filled them with planting mix and compost, but the resulting vines were spindly and produced a small, thin crop.

Our first try at Big Max (Giant), Lumina (White), and Jack-Be-Little (Miniature) produced only a few little pumpkins. I blamed the poor production on the lack of bees, but after the changes we made this year, I can say that the bees were not totally to blame.

On the left is the BEFORE pic of our strawberry box in front of the newly planted pumpkin patch. On the right you can see our flourishing pumpkins (AFTER), now invading the strawberries.

Before

After

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Success! Two white “Lumina” pumpkins on the vine.

Two white pumpkins

After making the changes below, I am happy to say that we have a strong crop of pumpkins this year and daily visits by the local bees. We’ve never been more excited to see bees in the garden.


If you want to grow pumpkins in your backyard, try these 6 steps:

  1. Full sun. We planted our pumpkins in the same spot this year because it gets full sun all day long. It has a southern exposure and is the warmest and sunniest spot in our yard.
  2. Raised bed. This year I built a 4ft x10 ft box and filled it with 6 inches of “garden mix” from the local landscape yard. In large beds, always add a few stepping stones or boards to walk on so that you won’t compact the soil. Pumpkins like to root their vines into the soil as they grow, which provides more nutrients to the plant and, more importantly, the pumpkins! A raised bed creates the perfect environment.
  3. Drip irrigation. Pumpkins like water…lots of it…and at regular intervals. I recently read about a woman who lost her prized Big Max pumpkin when it received a large amount of water all at one time and swelled to the point of cracking. Our drip system is on a timer so the pumpkins get a daily dose of H2O.
  4. Mulch. We added a 2 inch layer of shredded cedar mulch to the raised bed once the plants were about 4 inches tall. This serves two purposes: (1) Moisture is retained in the soil and is less likely to dry out on hot days and (2) the pumpkins have a dry surface on which to grow. If pumpkins come in contact with damp soil for an extended period they can discolor and, in the worse cases, soften and rot.
  5. Flowers and Bees. Pumpkins need bees. Bees like flowers. Attract bees to your pumpkin patch and your flowers are more likely to be pollinated. We planted a row of sunflowers along the back of the box, along with zinnias, marigolds, and rosemary, but the pumpkins grew faster than expected. There are pumpkins on the vine but no sunflowers yet (we’ll plant them earlier next year). Other bee-friendly flowers that we have in the yard include azalea, rhododendron, rose, thyme, red apple, agapanthus, lobelia, lavender, columbine, cosmos, daisy, pansy, primrose, lamb’s ears, sage, poppy, basil, boysenberry, orange. Check out this list of bee-friendly flowers for ideas.
  6. VF-11. We apply VF-11 plant food weekly. This stuff is incredible, and seems like magic. Buy some and use it on all your plants.

Check out these amazing photos that Calvin took of the bees in our pumpkin patch.

Two Bees

Can you say pollination?

Can you say pollination?

And here a few more pumpkin pics…

Jack-Be-Little

Jack-Be-Little

Lumina (white) on the left & Big Max (giant) on the right

Lumina (white) on the left & Big Max (giant) on the right

Trevor just finished an iPhoto class. Here’s his take on the pumpkin patch…

Thank you, Sarah, for the seeds!

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Four Steps to Perfect Boysenberries

June 3, 2008

Grandma’s Thornless Boysenberries

We picked our first boysenberries today!

I’ve picked my fair share of blackberries and boysenberries but I’ve never grown them before. As a kid we used to pick blackberries by the gallon in a huge vacant lot near our cabin in Monte Rio, California. The plastic buckets hung from strings around our necks so that we could pick with both hands.

The berry patch was massive with tunnels and rows made from old planks that were smashed down over the vines. It was hot and humid. Our hands were purple, itchy, and sticky by the time we finished. We kept wet washcloths in the car for afterward.

At Phipp’s Country Store and Farm near Pescadero, CA, you can pick olallieberries and strawberries then cap it off with a day at the beach.

Our Thornless Boysenberries berries were given to us by Grandma Rita who lives with Grandpa Ed up in Washington. She occasionally brings us goodies. The lillies she gave us are just beginning to bloom.

A couple years ago she brought a hunk of thornless boysenberries from her wonderful garden. It was in a one-gallon can. We didn’t have a place to put it at the time, so I proceeded to abuse the poor plant. I moved the can around the garden and often forgot to water it. That berry plant died and came back to life many times before we finally planted it.

Eventually, we bought a trellis at Costco and set it up in the garden. I split the vine in two and planted one on each side of the trellis.

We don’t have the room to plant the berries in the “proper” manner, namely a one or two-wire trellis row as outlined below. Given this year’s production, I’m not too worried about it. Our thornless boysenberries are watered regularly and get VF-11 plant food weekly during the growing season.

To properly maintain boysenberries, you need to learn two new words: primocane and floracane. Primocanes are the new stems that grow this year. They do not produce berries in year one. The Floracanes are last year’s growth and produce this year’s flowers and berries.

PRUNING IN A NUTSHELL

1. After fruiting in the summer, cut floracanes down to the ground.

2. Tie this year’s primocanes onto trellis and prune to 6-8 ft.

3. Thin semi-upright varieties to 4-8 canes.

4. In early Spring, cut side branches back to 12 inches.

More blackberry tips: Pruning and Training Thornless Blackberries

3 Steps to the Perfect Vegetable Garden (Part One)

May 21, 2008

Step One: VF-11Plant Food

The bottle reads “Seems like magic! ON ALL YOUR PLANTS”. It’s a pretty non descript label…looks like something out of the 50’s. Nothing fancy. Just black ink on a white bottle. It’s called Eleanor’s VF-11 Plant Food and it blew me away when I first tried it.

VF-11

We use it on everything from tomatoes to zinnias to Japanese Maples. Last season our tomatoes and zinnias were over 5 feet tall, dark green, and very healthy. The Japanese Maple is lush and never looked so good. The roses are strong and suffered no aphid damage. The flowers actually perked up the day after application. I’m not kidding! I can go on and on.

The easiest way to apply it is with a hose-end auto-mix sprayer. We use the Gilmour Hose-End Sprayer #486 . It comes with two nozzles, the “wide spray” pictured here and a “gentle spray” which is great for pots with delicate plants. It requires no mixing. Just pour in the VF-11 and set the dial to “6”, which automatically mixes the VF-11 and water at the proper rate as you spray. All you need to do it wet down the plants, so you can cover a large area in just a few minutes.

Gilmour Sprayer 486

The trick is to make it easy for yourself. Buy the sprayer and keep it next to the VF-11 and in a convenient location (close to the hose). It’s important to make this a habit. Use it once per week on all your plants and write me if you do not see a major improvement.

I can’t say enough about the Gilmour people. I had an old Gilmour sprayer for over 10 years. It had seen better days and was beginning to leak and come apart. I was about to toss it out when I noticed “Lifetime Guarantee” on the label. I found their customer service number online and gave them a call. They asked me a few questions and then said “Your replacement sprayer will be shipped out this week”. No hassles. No charge. Gilmour’s product quality and customer service are both superb.

Get yourself a sprayer and some VF-11 and please let me know how it works for you.

It’s time to Plant the garden

May 20, 2008

Look at that squash! (2007)

Well here we go. I’ve been thinking about blogging for awhile now and the garden seems like the perfect place to start. This is Chris (Dad). I’ll be the primary voice here for awhile. Hopefully, one of the kids will chime in from time to time. Mom isn’t much into gardening, but she bears with the tracked-in dirt and the “compost bucket” under the sink.

We’ve had a lot of fun out there over the years. Our garden has seen its share of success and failure, and we’ve learned from it all.

We’ll share with you what works for us and what doesn’t as we plant our garden this year. We will include reviews on our favorite products (like VF-11, and Ladybug Land), gardening tips (like composting and square foot gardening), and share our struggles & successes. Last year’s challenge was pumpkins that never matured. This year we have what looks like verticillium wilt attacking a patch of pansies.

The bottom line is that it’s an adventure out there. If you haven’t started your garden this year, take a day this weekend and spend it in the garden. If the task seems too daunting, start small…very small. Clear enough space for one tomato plant and a few marigolds. If you don’t like tomatoes, how about bush beans?

THIS WEEKEND:

Buy a container and some good potting soil and start there. I’d suggest a depth of twelve inches or more on the container so that it retains moisture. Short boxes dry out too quickly and the plants will suffer if they dry out. Promise yourself that you’ll plant at least one veggie and one flower this weekend. And if you have kids, get them involved!