An intro to Garden Secrets

cats39(z5 Upstate NY)January 17, 2006

Hi All!

Took a 4 mile walk along the Erie Canal this morning. When I got back I checked out The Weather Channel for an update on the freezing rain that was coming. The temp at the time was 24 with 14 degree wind chill. During the walk the Sun was out and coming through behind high clouds, and it didn't feel that nippy. I also noticed the 7 day outlook was amazing for this part of the remainder of January, as now we're past the 1/2 point. It looks like our nighttime lows in CNY are going to be what we normally get for daytime highs.

I hope when March 15th arrives we get normal weather when everyone will be eager to get going with the upcoming Spring season. When you think about it now, it's really not that far away is it? Between the Winter Sowing Posts, the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics, and the Daytona 500 we'll be looking for Redwings within just a few days that follow those posts and events. In the meantime when we all can get away from our spring like "yardwork" because of these unusual temps maybe we could begin a "Garden Secrets" thread where I'm sure someone would benefit. At least it will help while away the hours in the next five or six weeks of possible "cabin fever", if your prone to it?

Some of my reasoning for a thread is I'm really new to a lot of gardening technique's mainly because of the soil I was able to plant in for over 35 years. It was a till, plant, weed and water when needed and watch things grow type of garden. My how I took things for granted. When I began gardening in this clay stuff I knew I had to grow on raised beds that I put together because the clay sits on a flood plain. It's been nothing less than a learning experience.

My first year raised bed vegetables were a disaster. I only had 2" of good soil. I had to pull all of my peppers. The cucumbers never came close to taking hold after TWO well established seedling starts. My tomatoes that the old neighborhood envied were a bummer and on top of that even before I began my new garden I lost all of my beautiful Dahlia tubers during the winter because I had to leave them in our garage. I had a cold room and built an indoor greenhouse at our other home for the tubers that I saved. All in all my first year here I almost came close to giving up, but fortunately I began to pay a little more attention to the Garden Web Forum. If it wasn't for the NYS Forum, and the Dahlia and Organic Forum's there's no doubt I probably would have planted shrubbery and ornamental trees, then kicked back and became a slave to TV watching. Not boasting I learned well from the GW. From composting to Lasagna Gardening.

For a Garden Secret starter I'd like to point out something I learned on the Clematis Forum. And if you would before I begin, you have to understand I didn't start "flower gardening" until 5 or 6 years ago, and that was before I knew of the Garden Web Forum. So much of what I did learn early on was from trial and error at the beginning. Five years ago I purchased my first Clematis. After the 3rd year the plant was thriving so well I had people asking if they could take cuttings. It was a Jackomani and was from my understanding not only popular but easy to grow, according to a co-worker.

I followed his instructions as to fertilization and bur-lapping with leaves in the Fall and it thrived. My wife to this day is upset we didn't dig it up and bring it here when we moved.

Well never the less even though I was a seasoned Clematis grower with great experience it would be a snap to start all over. That's what I thought. We decided on 3 plants in different areas. The first year was mediocre. The second year, well, I knew I had a soil problem but maybe with a little TLC we could get the results we were looking for. So we thought. By June '05 the leaves were yellowing to the point I thought we were going to lose the plants. Then Garden Web to the rescue.

I posted "How Do you Stop Yellowing?" to the Clematis Forum on Jun 15, 05.....................

The Garden Secret???????????????????????????????????????

Banana Peels.

Now I can only hope somebody Upstate didn't know this Garden Secret? Well let me tell you, I was off to buy 3lbs one for each plant. Coming from a 3rd party produce family I knew the ripest banana was the one that was spotted or dark skinned. So we ate the bananas after they were spotted and then waited for the peels to darken. Then I took scissors and cut the peels into small pieces and tilled them into the ground around the plants. Well let me tell you again, it was just a matter of a day or two that I could see the results. If I had only known sooner as with my first year plants. I'm not expecting my 3rd year plants to be as glorious as the one we left behind but I'm sure they're going to be better than the last two.

I know it's easy to do searches and so on to get the info you need, I.E. the Clematis Forum but this is more an idea for Upstate'er's. I'm sure I can find a Garden Secret on Dahlias on the Dahlia Forum, but would it come from someone in Texas who more than likely leaves their tubers in the ground all year and can't possibly have the same problem I or you have?

Plus do you really believe Ground Hog Day is Feb 2nd? It might in PA but I know for Syracuse, Pulaski and all points in between and around our GH Day is Mar 2nd.So if it's okay I'll call this thread "An intro to Upstate Garden Secrets" and then follow with another called "Upstate Garden Secrets" on eggshells and I don't mean to take away from other Forum's and please respond to this thread if you'd like or think it's okay?


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kareen(z5 NY Renss.Co.)

Great idea Jim,
I also use bananna peels to fertilize my roses.
Speaking of roses, if they are looking a little lethargic give them some will be amazed.
Use water from boiled dinners (such as ham and cabbage)to fertilize your lilacs and other shrubs... I swear it makes young lilacs bloom sooner.
I look forward to seeing others secrets!!!!!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2006 at 6:07PM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

I use tomato cages to stake my dahlias. It's so easy, and they grow so fast you can't see them after about a month. No more flopping, and no ugly stakes.

This is not the best picture, but you can only see the tomato cage down by the small Park Princess pink cactus dahlia. Normally I wouldn't stake the small dwarf dahlias, this was mislabeled. You can't even see the cages on the tall dahlias.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 6:31AM
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cats39(z5 Upstate NY)

Hi All!

Thanks Kareen for encouragement and what a great photo gottagarden. I've not used cages before and have a few extra. Will have to try this the next time around
Thanks for the Secret.

Now I have a question about starting a thread like this? Do you think it would be better to leave the thread as is and hopefully get hundreds of Secrets?

Or maybe starting a new thread for each Secret? If this "IS" a good idea I'd hate to see Garden Secrets for us Upstater's go stale after a couple of weeks, as we've got 16 or 17 weeks before serious planting time.

Before I post:

Garden Secrets Using Eggshells as a separate post I'd like to hear back.

I.E. I could have posted:

Garden Secrets Using Banana Peels

And of course Kareen popped in with her using the peels on her Roses. I don't grow Roses but what else do people use Banana Peels for?

Garden Secrets Using Tomato Cages for Dahlias

gottagarden had the right idea. What else do others use their tomato cages for?
Or what other innovative ways do they stake their dahlias?

What do you think?
I think separate threads would be the way to go. Then if it looks like it's going stale we can "shout out",,,,"Hey we need a Secret", I'm getting Cabin fever.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 8:05AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

Beside the previous mention ideas in my earlier post I did forget to mention that I also use tomato cages for some of my salvias that can get very tall and heavy. it make then stay nice and staight so that the flowers are easier for my little hummer to reach and the cage provides little rest stops for them so they don't have to hover as much.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 6:13PM
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Just found this forum for upstate NY. I usually spend a lot of time reading these forums in the winter. It helps pass the time until we can get back in our gardens. I really like the "secrets" found here. I've been gardening for about 25 years. I ran out of room at my house so I started flower gardens at my grandmothers and around my Dad's pond. I tend to buy plants on clearance and take whatever anyone is giving away for free. If something doesn't grow very well for me, I try something else. I started working for a new landscape company last summer and I get many questions answered on these forums. I really appreciate having all of you "experts" as a resource! Keep up the good work.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2006 at 11:33AM
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I use tomato cages on their sides as a fence to keep the deer away from the house garden. They can get caught in the mesh so they stay away. I've gotten caught a few times, too, when I forgot they were there. LOL.

I like all the secrets in one thread so we can keep resurrecting it with each new idea, instead of searching through a lot of separate threads.

Now I have to think of my secrets...

    Bookmark   January 22, 2006 at 7:43PM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

Do you ever plant things that just spread like crazy? Then you dig them out because they're taking over. Only all those little runners from the mother plants are everywhere and they're hard to find and you have to keep picking them out even after you dug out the mother plant. And they're in the middle of other plants. Ever have a plant like that? (turtlehead, obedient plant, ribbon grass, ...)

My problem is that I used to use a shovel for digging them out. Then I heard about a perennial fork. (Like a pitchfork, but a perennial fork has 4 flat blunt tines, while a pitchfork has 5 or more round sharp tines. ) A shovel cuts off all the runners and they stay in the ground unless you hunt for them. If you use a fork under the mother plant (when the ground is wet and soft!) all the runners just pull out as well. Really easy, no time, no leftover runners to take over this year.

I was skeptical that it would be that good, but they really are good for transplanting and weed removal.

Yesterday's ground was soft so I removed a few thugs from my beds. (this is turtlehead)

    Bookmark   January 24, 2006 at 7:17AM
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cats39(z5 Upstate NY)

Composting in the Winter in UpState NY

Living in Upstate sure creates a problem if you like to compost when knowing we have several months of almost cold dormancy. Like many of you we started kitchen composting years ago with a small 1 gallon bucket. It always worked fine in the warmer weather but in the dead of winter we always ended up with gallons of frozen compost in the bin that took weeks to thaw in the Spring. By the time it was mixed in with other greens and browns and turned into soil Winter was almost back at our doorstep.

What I've been doing now to overcome some of that problem and hasten that process came somewhat by accident. One Winter long ago, I left a gallon pail in our unheated 5x8 outerroom walkout basement where it became somewhat forgotten. There was generally about a weeks worth of kitchen waste whereas the bottom was always a little soggy under those circumstances. Then when I remembered the pail a few days later the waste was frozen solid. I couldn't get it out of the bucket. Having a lid I secured it tightly and brought it into the warmer cellar to let it thaw where again it sat harmlessly in the corner for probably at least a good week as we had already started another gallon container.

Then when I realized I'd better get it outdoors to the compost bin you can imagine how ripe things had gotten. Because a great deal of the waste had broken down into a slurry this is where I got my idea long before I heard of the Garden Web that has a great Compost Forum. Some might be thinking if this is about Composting put it on that Forum, but then again this is Central (Upstate) New York not Central Texas where they benefit by composting all year long. Hence hopefully this might be a Garden Secret for those who don't go to the Compost Forum and experience the same problem I used to have.

So I started Winter Basement Composting on a small scale using two 1 gallon pails. When the first kitchen pail filled I took it to the basement and let it set there 'til the second gallon pail was filled. Then I emptied the first one that was sitting for at least a week or more into the bin. There was always an odor but fortunately our home was adjacent to a park and I would dump either early in the morning or when the wind was coming out the west. I'm sure my neighbors must have thought I was nuts checking out the slight breeze after putting my index finger in my mouth and then either bringing out or not bringing out a bucket. Did they ever realize it was for their benefit :>)

It seemed to work so well and plus not having to go out in the cold as often I graduated to two 5 gal pails with lids. This also eliminated the need for having a kitchen pail as I would take whatever was available to the cellar. One pail would fill and sit with the tightly closed lid 'til the second pail was filled. Now with five gallons of slurry I really had to check the wind. Whew!

Then we moved. Then we had neighbors on both sides. Whew! What do I do? Shredded newspaper to the rescue.

I figured if the slurry could be absorbed the odor wouldn't be as severe, which is the case. Yes! There is an odor but almost minimal and not that offensive. So what I do is shred a section of newspaper and put that on the bottom. Depending on how much waste is available after I put it into the pail I either shred a section of newspaper right then to put on top of that or wait a couple of days. But I always place a whole untorn section of newspaper on the top whether I shred a section of paper or not. It's amazing how much the untorn section at the top absorbs the evaporation, again cutting down on any tell tale odor. Plus it tells me the little bit of heat inside is rising. I fill one 5 gal pail and wait for the other to fill before I dump the first into the bin. The process can take up to 3, 4 or even 5 weeks.

Obviously it doesn't break down to a slurry like it used to but it does break down somewhat. If you don't have neighbors slurry is the way to go. But then again indoors like the basement you will get some odor every time you open. In fact by using the newspaper the odor is definitely more of what I would call organic.

Another thing I noticed was, when the weather warms I continue to use the 5 gallon pail method by bringing them up to the garage. What I've noticed is after a period of time the material in the pail is definitely breaking down more rapidly because the whole untorn section is more moist and when you lift the section up you can feel the warmth coming from the inside. Why would I want to do this throughout the summer or warmer weather when it could be breaking down in the bin?

Good question? And I hope the answer makes sense? Less turning the bin and more time to pull weeds :>).

So I hope some one benefits or maybe even has another Garden Secret idea on the way they Compost that I'm unaware of.

I'm sure you Wintersower's are glad we're back to Winter, for at least a few days?


    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 10:23AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

with regards to composting I use a large trectangular storage tub that I have put holes into for drainage. I add kitchen scraps all winter including the left over jack o lanterns. by summer most everything is broken down due to the freeze thaw, freeze thaw. Come spring it goes right into my lasagna beds to finish decomposing. Believe it or not once it goes into the lasagna beds it finishes breaking down really fast (I must have some very hungry worms out there) LOL!

Oh I do throw a shovel full of soil over the compost but have never had an odor problem doing it this way.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 11:43AM
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crankyoldman(z5 NY)

My upstate gardening secret is about soil. I have rocky clay, like I'll bet a lot of folks upstate do. Before I moved up here, I'd gardened in sand or black soil, but not this stuff. So I thought, geez, I'm going to have to dig out all these rocks and amend the daylights out of this soil.:( Friends nearby cried about their rocky clay and only gardened in raised beds with compost they had trucked in.

Well, I found out that rocky clay is just fine for growing things in - tomatoes, peppers, squash, perennial flowers. It isn't pretty, but it has plenty of fertility. The only thing that didn't like it was the eggplants (which I grew in containers last year & they did great). I have compared areas where I added peat (which is what everyone adds where I am at) to those where I didn't, and the biggest difference I saw was poor performance where I put too much peat. Now, instead of adding tons of peat, I add a little, till under whatever was growing there in the spring, let it rot, add a little compost as a top dressing, and plant.

I was also very perturbed about all the rocks and would carefully go through and try to pick them out, which as everyone here knows, you can do till the end of time and still you have more rocks. Last year I just left them there and didn't see any difference. I also tried raking up the rocks around the peppers, and they did seem to like the extra warmth.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 10:04AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

I have heavy clay and last year I actually added pea gravel to the planting hole along with compost for better drainage. I really think it helped especially with plants that don't like wet feet.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 7:50AM
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laurelin(z5a/4b Upstate NY)

Fun thread!

Back to new uses for tomato cages for a moment: I use the folding tomato cages to deter squirrels from digging up freshly planted bulbs in the fall - I lay them flat on the ground over the buried bulbs, and overlap two if the "mesh" is really big, and the rotten rodents can't get the space to dig anything planted deeper than a few inches. The cages are easy to lift off in the spring when things start sprouting.

My only other original trick: when planting iris rhizomes (again, to protect from digging critters), I use 2-3 pieces of thin bamboo stakes, about 9" long, to peg the rhizomes to the ground. I bury the roots of the iris and firm the soil over them, leaving the rhizome at the surface. Then I cross the bamboo pieces over the top of the iris and push them into the ground at an angle, kind of like making a teepee, only firmly over the iris. I suppose chopsticks or other straight strong sticks would work just as well. After a few weeks the iris has dug its roots in and can hold its own, but I leave the sticks in over the winter to protect against frost heaving.

I'm going to try the snipped banana peels on some plants this spring. . . .


    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 9:41PM
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I've found that my potted roses don't care if the peel is cut up or layed out in whole strips. As long as the white fleshy part is down on the soil they grow and bloom like mad. Also mulch. It keeps the fruit flys down, but that's only a problem down here in the hot states.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 5:34PM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

It's hard to remember what color flowers are after they're done blooming. For example delphiniums, iris, daylilies, etc. all look the same out of bloom. So I tie different colored yarns on the base stalk when they bloom so I can tell them apart later. Then I can dig them up and move the colors I want when they are out of bloom season.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 7:16PM
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cats39(z5 Upstate NY)

Hi All!

Don't you just love the warm weather?

I read over the winter how good egg shells are for tomatoes plants. They say to add 12 eggs shells to each plant when planting.

Over the course of winter we've saved all of our shells. After they dried I took a rolling pin and crushed them fine.

I did this separately with 12. Then dried, rolled and measured. I've got a pretty substantial amount saved and can't wait 'til planting time.

Does anyone know if egg shells by themselves are good for other types of floral or vegetable plants?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 8:57PM
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I found this old thread when I was searching for something and thought it should be dragged out again. :)

Another great use for tomato cages: I place them over/around anything that's freshly planted to deter cats and squirrels from digging there. The cages also clearly mark the planting spots, particularly in the case of garlic or seeds.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 6:09AM
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