Tuesday, August 19, 2014

5 Ways to Save Water in the Garden

Water conservation in the garden is a big deal, especially in California. We are in the midst of a severe drought, and water restrictions have been implemented. This year has been a learning experience for us. Our goal has not only been to reduce the amount of water we use, but actually figure out how, in our dry and arid climate, to grow without irrigation. We are learning it is possible for long stretches of time.

 Pre-Sprout Seeds 

Pre-sprouted seeds save water in the garden.
Mung bean srpouts.\Plant pre-sprouted seeds to
save water and time in the garden. 
Pre-sprouting seeds takes the method of soaking seeds before planting one step further. Sprouted seeds have already germinated. They can be planted in the garden with a light covering of soil and lightly watered. While it is important to keep the soil consistently moist, the amount of water needed to get your sprouts established and growing is considerably less than if you were to plant dry seed in the soil and keep it wet enough for germination to occur. If you are an impatient gardener like me, you'll enjoy the added bonus of having plants coming up sooner. We are having great success with mung bean sprouts, sunflowers and carrots.

 Start Plants Indoors 


Starting seeds indoors in peat pellets or starter trays protects new plants from drying out in the sun-baked soil. Less evaporation occurs indoors, which means you will use less water. Let your seedlings grow two sets of true leaves before setting out in the garden. Also, propagate cuttings from the healthiest plants in your garden to start indoors. Watch the video below to learn how to propagate Brussels sprouts from cuttings.


Grow Healthy Plants

You have to grow healthy plants with healthy root systems. You don't want any sissy-pants plants growing in your garden. Toughen them up. Give them the nutrients they need with compost or manure tea, water only when necessary. Too much water does not promote a healthy, strong, root system. You want your plants to sink their roots deep. If you don't make them work for it, they will just stay close to the surface, sucking up water and trusting you'll baby them forever.


Water Smart

Water smart in the garden.
Water only when necessary. 
You have to be smart about your water use. Only water when necessary. Accept that plants will wilt a bit in hot weather and sun. If the plants don't recover in late afternoon or the cool of the evening, then give them a drink. You can also check the soil moisture. If it is dry two inches down, then watering is in order. Water at the base of the plants, at the root zone. Don't waste water with a sprinkler - most of the water that falls on top of the plants will be lost to evaporation. Water in the evening or early morning, before the heat of the day. We water by hand when necessary, with manure-tea-fortified water. Currently, we are using between 200 and 300 gallons a week in our 2500+ square foot garden, most of which is used to water containers; plants in the soil require a lot less water than containers.

Cover That Soil

Mulch in the garden saves water.
Mulch reduces water consumption in the garden..
I cannot stress how important it is to mulch. Mulch, mulch, mulch. A few inches of organic mulch covering the soil will prevent water loss. It also goes a long way to discourage weed growth. Weeds will fight your garden plants for moisture and the nutrients they need to grow healthy, strong roots. Don't forget to mulch your container gardens! We have Brussels sprouts, kale, chard, herbs and even corn that are growing fine - without irrigation - because they have a healthy layer of mulch. That says a lot, considering it is August in Inland Southern California, the hottest time of our year.





Monday, August 11, 2014

Grow Brussels Sprouts from Cuttings

Propagating Brussels sprouts from cuttings
Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a favorite in our house. Those tiny, delicious balls of cabbage will actually grow into a branch if left to themselves. Which makes them perfect for cuttings. Brussels sprouts take a long time to grow and mature, but starting with rooted cuttings speeds up the process considerably.

Brussels sprouts are a cool season crop. Once it gets too warm the sprouts will not form the tight little head. They just leaf out and grow into branches. You can leave a few sprouts on the plants for the purpose of propagating cuttings.

Propagating Brussels sprouts from cuttings
Select sturdy, thick cuttings to propagate.



Wait until the new branch is at least 4 or 5 inches long, and is fairly thick and sturdy, them remove it at the base, next to the main stalk of the plant.








Remove leaves from the cuttings and nick the stem.


Remove all but the very top leaves from the cutting. Carefully nick or shave off  a portion of the stem where the leaves were growing. Be careful not to remove too much of the stem. You need it to be strong and sturdy for planting.







Brussels sprout cuttings rooting in containers.

Fill small containers with moist, organic potting or garden soil. Use your finger or a pencil to make a deep hole in the soil. Place the cutting into the hole and gently pack the soil around it. Keep the soil consistently moist.

Our cuttings are in the kitchen window because it is too hot outside to start new plants.

Watering cuttings with Authentic Haven Brand Manure Tea  will promote strong and healthy root growth.

Propagating Brussels sprouts from cuttings
Brussels sprout cutting after two weeks growth. 

Keep the cutting in the container for several weeks. It needs time to establish a root system and start growing. You should see some healthy leaf growth within two or three weeks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Propagate Kale from Cuttings

Propagate kale from cuttings
Kale grows forever in our garden. The problem is that it gets uglier the older it gets. The plants start to look a little bit like dwarf palm trees after a year or so. But the good news is they start to branch out. Those branches are new plants just waiting to be rooted. You can remove those branches to grow new kale plants.

We have kale plants that have been growing in the gardens for 2 years. They continually leaf and branch out. If you want to propagate kale from cuttings, you have to wait for those branches to put on some good size. I have found that the thicker the stalk, the better the success rate. Smaller, thin stalks seem to rot before they root or grow.




How to Propagate Kale from Cuttings



Propagate kale from cuttings
Kale branches can be cut and rooted. 
1.     Select thick, new branches with several healthy leaves growing from the main stalk of the plant.

Propagate kale from cuttings
Kale branches for propagating

2.  Cut the branch off as close to the main stalk as possible.

How to grow kale cuttings.
Kale cuttings ready for rooting.

3.     Remove all but the very top leaves from the stalk.
4. Peel away a thin layer off the base of the branch with a sharp knife.

Root kale cuttings in small containers.
Kale cuttings growing in containers.

5.     Plant the cutting at least three inches deep in a 
container filled with organic garden soil. Water well.

6.     Place the newly planted cutting in a sunny window indoors for several weeks, 
until the roots are established and leaf  growth is evident. 
Keep the soil consistently moist, but not wet.  

7.     Once the plants have rooted and show signs of healthy growth, 
begin setting them outdoors, increasing sunlight time each day until 
they are acclimated to your climate.

8.     Plant your propagated kale in the garden


Happy gardening, 


~Julie




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