Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mint in Herb Garden - Bad Idea

If you have been reading this blog, you know that I started it in January 2010, about 9 months after we moved from our house in town where we had lived for over 25 years and which sat on a small city lot.  We moved to our 5-acres where we grow vegetables for our local farmers' market.  (See post from January 19, 2010.)

At that time, I grew a variety of herbs in our backyard in town.  So, in addition to moving our furniture, we also moved most of my herbs.  But, by the time we got to the herbs, we were running out of time, as well as energy and stamina.  So, for the most part, we just dug them up and put them in pots.   As I had time that spring, I would grab a couple of pots, take them out to the raised bed that Tom had prepared for me to use as an herb garden and plant them where ever I could find room.  There was not much planning that went into it.

They say "haste makes waste" and that saying came home to me this past summer.  Unfortunately, one of the herbs I had planted right in the middle of the herb garden was a pot of chocolate mint.  Now, if you know much about herbs, and mint in particular, you know you should contain mint with some sort of barrier, or else plant it where it will not bother other plants as it spreads.   That first year it seemed innocent enough and I actually worried whether or not it was going to survive because it looked somewhat sick for most of that first summer.

What I failed to realize was that it was using all its energy to send out runners underground.  I didn't know how bad it was until this past summer when it became apparent that it had taken over a good portion of the herb bed!  I didn't have time to deal with it at the time, so I just tried to keep it from spreading any more. 

Finally, last week during a spell of nice weather, I bit the bullet and began digging it up.  Here's a picture of what it looked like when I was about a fourth of the way finished.

All of that dead-looking stuff to the right of the shovel is the mint.  It looks dead, but I can assure you that it is very much alive because underneath that dead material is a sea of green runners just waiting to break forth for another assault in an attempt to consume the rest of the garden! 

As I dug it up, I put it on my garden wagon and trucked if over to an area beside the shed where Tom had roto-tilled a strip of ground for me to replant it.  It can spread as much as it wants to there without interfering with anything else. 

I worked on it an hour or so and ended up calling in the "big guns" (Tom) to help me.  But, we finally got it all removed and here is the result.

I know we probably missed some of the mint runners, but I'll dig those up as I find them this summer.  I'm just glad to have the mint gone and will try to be a bit better at planning when it comes to where I plant things!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Soil Temperature Thermometer

A handy, inexpensive tool to have for a garden is a soil thermometer because, as it turns out, different seeds sprout best at different soil temperatures.  There are many resources on the internet to help you determine what to plant at what temperatures.  For example, the link below takes you to a chart that lists many of the most common vegetables along with the minimum and maximum temperatures at which their seeds will sprout, as well as the optimum temperature.

We have a soil thermometer that I used last week to determine the temperature of the soil inside our hoophouse (also called a "high tunnel".... basically an unheated greenhouse).  Here's what it registered:

I was amazed to see that the soil temperature was almost 60 degrees, especially since just the week before, we had recorded an all-time record low temperature of -20 degrees!  So, I decided to see what the soil temperature was outside the hoophouse.  Here's what I discovered:

That is 15 degrees difference between the soil inside versus the soil outside. 

Now compare these temperatures to the chart pointed to in the link above and you'll see that many seeds can be planted outside even in mid-February.  Spinach and lettuce seed will germinate at 35 degrees, just slightly above freezing, while beets, cabbage, carrots, radish and swiss chard will germinate at 40 degrees.  However, the optimum range of temperatures for germination for most of these starts at 45 to 50 degrees.  Since the temperature inside our hoophouse is 60 degrees, we are able to jump-start most of the cool season seeds listed in the chart in our hoophouse.

You can accomplish the same thing on a small scale with an inexpensive "cold frame", like those shown below.  (You can see our hoophouse in the background.)

You can find plans for making these on the internet.  But, I'll post directions for building the ones we have here in a later post.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Recycling Bedding Pots

My last post showed the results of the blizzard we had on February 1.  It was a huge snow storm for Oklahoma and I was off work three days!  Then this week, we had a repeat.  Another snow storm dumped snow on us.  This storm did not have as much wind as the first one, but it brought really frigid temperatures that broke records for the coldest temperatures ever recorded in Oklahoma.  And, I was off work yet another day.

Tom and I stayed inside for the most part and made ourselves useful by washing some of the plastic pots that we saved from last year's bedding plants.  Every year we set out a couple of hundred tomato, pepper, basil and other herb plants.  We save the plastic pots that these are grown in and recycle those that are salvadgeable.  This keeps them out of the landfill and also saves us quite a bit of money to boot.

Here is my pot-washing setup:

I have the perfect place to do this in a small bathroom just off our laundry room that has a shower.   I fill a large plastic tub with warm water and add dishwashing detergent along with a small amount of bleach.  I use a long handled brush to scrub the pots.  Then I set them on the bottom of the shower and rinse them with clean water using one of those shower heads attached to a hose, as you can see.  Tom usually stacks them for me on towels that he spreads out on the floor and vanity.  It is a tiny bathroom, so there really is not much room.  And, after 45 minutes or so, we have every available inch of space covered!

It is a good way to make use of time when we cannot go outside.  So, pardon me while I go wash some more pots!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow 2011

I has been really dry here and we've been needing some moisture badly.  Well, yesterday morning we got it in the form of a blizzard that dumped about a foot of snow on us.  I'm not complaining, but the temperatures that came with it are just really frigid!  This morning when I woke up it was 5 degrees!   It is clear today, so tonight's low temperatures are expected to hover close to zero. BRRRRRRR.

However, the snow is really beautiful.  Here is a picture of snow ripples that were caused by the high winds that came with the blizzard.

But, even though it is beautiful, it is not fun to have to walk out to the mailbox in it. Poor Tom.

Guess he decided it was time to get to work clearing the driveway after that!