9 Ways to Keep Critters Out of Your Garden

9 Ways to Keep Critters Out of Your Garden

A guest post from our sponsor –Park Seed

Few hobbies are quite as rewarding as growing a vegetable garden. From seed, you’re able to create colorful, delicious specimens—the pride of your kitchen! And, after all the babying, watering, and elbow grease you’ve put in throughout the season, nothing’s worse than watching critters munch on your home-grown fruits and veggies. Rather than the perfect and prize-winning, you’re left with the damaged, bruised, and half-eaten. Luckily, there are a few tried-and-true methods for keeping critters out, and we’re here to share some.

  1. Figure Out Who’s Munching What – Your veggie garden is like an all-you-can-eat buffet for rabbits, deer, chipmunks, squirrels, and insects, the fruits and leaves providing them with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But that information isn’t enough for you to formulate an effective keep-out plan. You have to know exactly who’s eating what.
    • This guide from the University of Massachusetts Amherst can help you figure out what kind of animals are gorging on your garden and why. Once you know for sure, you can tailor your strategy to the specific interloper.
  2. Build a Fence – If you’ve got a Peter Rabbit in your midst, you’re going to have to get creative like Mr. McGregor. A small fence around the garden is the perfect way to keep Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter from snacking on your veggies, but it’s probably not the best option for keeping out larger critters like deer, who are known to hop as high as 8 feet. Bunnies jump, too, of course, but most aren’t able to get any higher than 3 feet.
    • Choose a fence that offers both a visual and physical block so that animals can’t see what’s in the garden and won’t be tempted to break in.
  3. Plant Insect-Repellant Plants – Did you know that mint is a natural insect repellent? And, since it’s pretty darn easy to grow (and also tastes delicious in your summery cocktails), there’s no reason not to plant it all over the garden, as long as you keep its roots contained in a pot so it doesn’t spread—and it will. Using mint as an insect repellent is an especially useful approach if you’ve noticed damage from creepy crawlers and fliers, but it won’t do much for keeping out the fuzzy critters in the yard. Other insect-repelling plants include marigolds, mums, basil, lavender, and petunias.
  4. Use a Rabbit and Deer Repellent – There are tons of garden pest control products you can try, but some of the best are deer and rabbit repellents. For keeping out deer, choose a product that contains dried porcine and bovine blood—these ingredients repel browsing deer and keep them away before they can start to snack on your plants. Rabbits and other critters can also be repelled by products that contain concentrated garlic compounds and other odors that scare them away.
  5. Protect Plants with a Plastic Tunnel – Not everyone can have an expansive, animal-proof greenhouse for safeguarding their fragile plants, but net and plastic tunnels can provide similar effects to shield plants from weather and critters. You simply unfold the telescoping tunnel over your veggies and flowers, and they’ll instantly be protected from any nibbling nuisances. Pick a durable option made from high-density polypropylene mesh so you can use it next year, too.
  6. Plant in Raised Beds – One of the main benefits of growing your plants in raised beds is that they help prevent weeds from taking over your garden, and weeds are big sources of nutrients for many garden pests. Raise beds can also keep soil-level visitors, especially slugs and snails, from taking up residency in your garden.
    • They are also great platforms for wire fences to directly block access from deer and other creatures. If you like a more tailored and neat aesthetic or prefer to maintain some grass, raised beds are perfect for capturing that look, too!
  7. Scare Them Off – Scarecrows may be more novelty than practical in this day and age, hung up as fall décor rather than a summer decoy, but there are plenty of scare tactics you can use to keep animals out. For example, owl scarecrows—that’s what those plastic owl decoys are actually called—can be useful at deterring birds and small critters from entering your yard and eating your plants. For bigger (and hungrier) pest control, you may want to consider investing in a coyote replica, which may be able to scare away super-pesky geese and bunnies.
  8. Make Your Garden Diverse – Diversity seems like it would attract more critters, broadening the buffet so it appeals to the whole backyard animal kingdom. In reality, though, having a wide variety of plants in each corner of your garden can trick them into thinking there isn’t a lot of value in your yard. Having a large area of appetizing plants signals to animals that there’s an abundance of food available to them, and they’ll come back often and tell their friends, too. Achieve biodiversity in your garden by planting lots of flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and greens.
  9. Welcome Your Garden’s Protectors – Did you know that there are several wild animals that can help protect your garden from critters? Yep, the animal kingdom and biological hierarchy of your landscape naturally keeps the system in check.

Bats munch on tons of bugs that can feast on your plants, while birds of prey like owls and hawks survive on mice, shrews, voles, and other little critters that interlope in your garden. Encourage these predators to safeguard your plants by peppering your landscape with birdhouses and bat houses.

A Labor of Love

While pest control is most certainly a pain, it’s a reminder that we share the natural environment with lots of different species, and that’s a pretty good sign that our ecosystem is thriving! Using a few eco-friendly, safe, and proven garden pest control methods can definitely help you enjoy your garden—and the fruits of your labor—to its fullest.

 

Garden Tips from Madi

Madi has been one of our most successful Katie’s Krops Growers. Her accomplishments in and out of the garden have been numerous. We asked Madi to share her tips for being a successful grower and we are thrilled to share those tips with you.

My name is Madi and I was the 2015 Katie’s Krops Grower of the Year and the 2016 Katie’s Krops Top Grower. This is my fifth year growing with Katie’s Krops and it has been an amazing experience. I donate my crops to family friends going through rough times, MANNA Foodbank at my Grandma’s church, and I sell some crops for donations. All of the donations I receive go to Broyhill Baptist Children’s Home in Clyde, North Carolina. Since I started Katie’s Krops in 2013, I have grown a total of 12,344.15 pounds of produce. Here are my four main tips for growing a successful Katie’s Krops Garden

  1. Prayer — Especially if you’re a Christian, pray about your garden. God can help you through anything if it is in His will. He has definitely blessed my garden beyond what I had ever imagined. Even my first year of growing: I grew 510 pounds! I was astounded and that number just kept on going up and up. My faith has been my main asset through the good and the rough times in my garden. I am so happy to be able to help so many people through my garden.
  2. Experimenting — Try new things! See what works for you in your climate and what doesn’t. For example, I don’t have much luck with watermelon and pumpkins. The humid summers we get here in Western North Carolina rot the bottoms before they are ready to harvest. Cabbage and beans grow really well here though! The new things you try don’t just have to be the crops you are growing, it can also be techniques. I like to have raised beds in my garden for some small things like carrots, radishes, and romaine lettuce. The ones my Grandpa built for me lasted about three years before rotting, so this year we tried the hay bale raised beds we saw online. There was a lot of rain and the hay held that in almost too well. It got kind of soggy and flopped over. Who knows, it could work for one of you though!
  3. Crop Rotation — Don’t plant things like tomatoes in the same place consecutive years in a row. The plants will use up all the nutrients in the soil. You can use cover crops like soybeans in the winter to replenish the nutrients or you can trade out what plants go where every year. Or you can do a little bit of both like me! It doesn’t mean you can’t plant the same thing there ever again, just change it up every once in a while. It will be good for the soil and your plants.
  4. Gain Understanding — Research the plants you have. See how to grow them best, if they typically work well in your area etc. Know about what you are planting. Know the benefits and the risks. You will probably have problems with weeds, bugs, and maybe even some animals like groundhogs and deer. Understanding how to deal with those in a healthy and harmless way is one of the best things you can do for your garden. Lastly, look in the almanac if you have access to one. My Grandparents share part of my garden and they help me in mine. They use an almanac and it is very helpful. We know the best times to plant everything each season. Knowing about what you’re growing can really help.

Raising Sweet Potatoes from Slips

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You can follow these instructions to successfully start your own sweet potatoes at home.  There are two ways to start them.  Here is the first and the only method I have tried.

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1) Poke three toothpicks into the sweet potato to hold it in a container.  We used sweet potatoes we had stored over the winter.

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2) Place the sweet potato into a jar or container of water with a narrow top and place it near a sunny window.  It should look like the picture on the left.

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3) After the roots form, you will probably need to add some more water, and then the slips will start to form.

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4) Remove the slips off the sweet potato and plant them in wet potting soil.   Keep them watered very well.  Over a period of time, they will root out.

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5) You are now able to transplant them out doors after the danger of frost is over and watch them grow!

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6) Just before the first frost is the best time to harvest sweet potatoes.

 

Method 2, which I have never personally tried, is to take the sweet potato and bury half of it in dirt. If left in an area with sun, it will sprout and you would follow the same procedure described above.

 

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Josiah’s Tips:

• I would use black plastic versus fabric just from my experience with the fabric.

• If you use any plastic or fabric, it will attract mice.

• I recommend using the sweet potato variety Beauregard.

Happy Growing! Josiah

Our Top Tomato Tips

Our Top Tomato Tips

For our Spring and Summer crops, tomatoes are always favorite to grow in our Katie’s Krops’ gardens. Below, you will find great tips that will help you have a sucessful growing season in your garden.

Tomato Basics

  • Soil should be well drained, high in organic matter, and have an optimum soil pH of 6.2 to 6.5.
  • Planting times for Spring are March 25 – April 10 and for Fall are July 25 – 30. Optimum temperatures for planting are 70-80° F during the day and 60-70° F during the night.
  • Tomato plants need 1-1.5 gallons per day, which is the equivalent of 1-1.5 inches of rain per week. Adequate moisture aids in the nutrient uptake of the plant. Soils rich in organic matter hold more water than soils that have not been amended.
  • When fertilizing, apply Nitrogen monthly, because the plant uses it to make new foliage and fruit. When selecting a tomato plant, choose disease resistant varieties and purchase healthy transplants. If starting tomato plants from seed, use the recommended practices to avoid spindly growth and diseased seedlings.

There are two types of tomato plants – determinate and indeterminate.

  • Determinate tomato plants grow, flower, set fruit, and die early in the season.
  • Indeterminate tomato plants grow, flower, and produce fruit over a longer period. Most heirlooms are indeterminate. Indeterminate tomatoes must be staked and pruned.

Four amazing reasons to prune and stake your tomato plants.

  • It will maximize the photosynthesis efficiency of the plant.
  • It reduces disease.
  • It redirects carbohydrates to the fruit and away from the foliage of the plant.
  • Staking leads to earlier and larger fruiting. On indeterminate plants, staking will yield fruit 2-3 weeks earlier.

All of the above information is provided by the South Carolina Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service. For additional information on tomatoes, please visit the HGIC 1323 Tomato fact sheet at the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service Home and Garden Information Center website at:   http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/crops/hgic1323.html.

Embrace the Fall Season

The mission at Katie’s Krops is to feed as many people as necessary, but that mission cannot end when the summer tomatoes stop producing fruits. The families we help still need healthy meals after the summer harvest is over. Many people overlook the possibility of fall gardening but at Katie’s Krops we embrace the fall season!

When planning a fall garden there are several things to remember.

– Broccoli, Cabbage, lettuce, and other leafy greens are staples for every fall garden!
– Plant carrot seeds in mid-summer for a fall crop.
– Determining your growing season is very important.  12-14 weeks before your average first fall frost, start your seeds indoors in seed trays 8-10 weeks before the first frost, transplant your seeds to your garden!
– Just like a summer garden, fall gardens will need lot of sunlight. Because the temperature is cooler, direct sunlight is very important, make sure you choose your garden location carefully!
– To protect young plants, mulch them with hay or straw immediately after planting, and shade them – especially in the afternoon – with a shade cloth. The mulch keeps the soil cool and keeps weeds from taking over your garden.
– Cold weather plants love fertile soil, so work some compost into your soil before you plant your seedlings.
– Water is essential, and these crops like cool, moist soil. One inch of water per week is the suggested amount.

Grow What You Love!

Every gardener wants to grow the best crops, but sometimes that means growing things you don’t always love. It is good to try new things, and trust me; gardening has made me do that! I have tried so many new things with gardening! And now, I grow those veggies in my gardens! But it is really important to have fun in gardening.  Sometimes if you spend a lot of time caring for veggies you don’t like the taste of it takes away the fun. That’s why you should grow what YOU love!

If you have a favorite fruit or veggie then plant some of that in your garden too! That way you have something to look forward to. My little brother loves watermelon. Sometimes that is almost all he eats. And every time he finishes a piece he will take out the seeds and plant them outside. It is so cute.

Do you love strawberry shortcakes? Spaghetti with marinara sauce? Eggplant Parmesan? Why not grow some of the ingredients! Food always tastes better when you use fresh produce, especially when you have grown it!

As you watch your veggie grow, you get even more excited about eating it!  Grow what you love and love what you grow!!   

My brother planting the seeds from the watermelon he just ate!

And like every good gardener he makes sure his seeds are well watered!

The Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program Growing Dreams.

If it were not for the Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program my life would be so different. The giant cabbage I grew from Bonnie Plants transformed my life and opened my eyes to hunger in my community and in the world. I am so greatful that my 3rd grade teacher signed up for the free program. A few days ago I saw the flat of Bonnie Plant cabbages at my school just waiting for the 3rd graders to bring them home. I remember the day I brought home my cabbage and how excited I was to plant it in my backyard. If you are in the 3rd grade or it you are a 3rd grade teacher or a parent of a 3rd grader please make sure that your class is signed up for the free, fun, life changing program. I am so glad my teacher did! Thanks Mrs. Every-Andrew and a HUGE thanks to Bonnie Plants from growing my dream!

http://www.bonnieplants.com/CabbageProgram/RegisterYour3rdGradeClass/tabid/163/Default.aspx

Copy and past this link to connect to the Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program SIgn Up Page

How to Start a Vegetable Garden

How to Start a Vegetable Garden
By Katie Stagliano, age 11

Starting a vegetable garden can be great fun and full of surprise such as the 40 pound cabbage that I grew that changed my life! I am 11 years old and I have several vegetable gardens that I started after I grew my forty pound cabbage. What makes my vegetable gardens a little bit different is that I donate everything I harvest from my gardens to soup kitchens to help feed people in need.
If you want to start a vegetable garden for your family to enjoy or if you too want to plant a garden to feed families who need help putting food on their table, getting started is easier than you think. First, decide what type of garden you would like. You can choose from a few plants in pots, a raise bed garden or a garden planted directly in the ground. Selecting which one can depend on how much space you have. If you live in an apartment or have a small yard, plants in a pot maybe your best choice. If you have a large yard, a raised bed garden or in the ground garden is a great choice, you can even reuse an old sandbox and turn it into a raised bed garden. Keep in mind plants need sunlight to grow, so plan your garden in a sunny spot.
Your next step after selecting where you will have your garden is making sure you have good soil. When planting in pots, purchasing potting soil in bags is a good choice. For a raised bed garden made in an old sandbox (make sure it doesn’t have a bottom) you can also fill it in with bags of potting mix. If you want to plant your garden in the ground remove all of the grass and rocks before you start. Tilling or breaking up the soil will help when you are putting the plants in the ground.
What is the next step? Planning what you would like to grow! There are so many choices. You can pick your favorite vegetable to grow or try something new like okra. I prefer to plant with seedlings, a young plant.   You can buy seedlings at Wal-Mart, Home Depot or Lowes and if you are in the 3rd grade you can get a free cabbage seedling through the Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program by asking your teacher to sign up at http://www.bonnieplants.com/CabbageProgram/tabid/81/Default.aspx.   Bonnie plants use peat pot that make planting fun and easy with less waste. The tag that comes with the plants is very helpful. It teaches you how to plant and when to harvest. Dig a hole for your plant be sure to make it larger than the plant. Gently place your plant in the hole, fill in dirt around it and be sure to water it often enough, but don’t flood it. Also, if your plants don’t look quite right, try fertilizing them. Fertilizer is a great way to help your plants thrive.
It’s important to plant your garden at the right time, and the key is knowing when your area will see its last spring frost. You may lose your warm weather crops if you put them in the ground too soon. You can check the Old Farmer’s Almanac freeze chart by clicking here- http://www.almanac.com/content/frost-chart-united-states#chart.
The next part is amazing! Water, fertilize, keep the weeds away and watch your plant grow. Before you know it you will have vegetables to pick. You will be amazed at how delicious the vegetables you grow are. It’s that simple! And fun!
To learn more about what I do, go to www.katieskrops.com.

Earth Day Celebration at Children’s Orchard April 24, 2010

In celebration of Earth Day I am partnering with my friends at Children’s Orchard in Summerville. I will be there in the afternoon of Saturday, April 24th planting vegetable seeds for kids to bring home and start their own vegetable gardens.  I hope you will stop by and visiting me for this free event.

Children’s Orchard is located at :

1580 Old Trolley Road
Summerville, SC 29485
(843) 873-7142

 

How to help your garden grow when it is freezing outside.

It maybe freezing outside but you can still help your garden grow.  How?  You can compost.  Compost is using waste to create nutrients for your garden.  How do you do it, is really is easy.  When my mom cooks we take the vegetables and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells and place them in a big bin.  When the bin is filled we take the bin to my garden and dump them in compost bin my dad and brother built. We dump the kitchen waste into the bin that also has dirt, newspapers, grass clippings, leaves that have fallen from the trees and the old plants that we pulled from the garden.  We make sure it stays moist and about twice a week with a pitch fork we turn the compost and it slowly decays.  When the compost is ready we will till it into future gardens.  Below is a list of items that you can and cannot compost thanks to my Master Gardener Ms. Lisa!  Give it a try, it cuts down on waste in our landfills and will really help your garden in the future!

Materials for Composting

Weeds (without seed heads)

Bread and Grains

Coffee Grounds and Filters

Tea Bags and Loose Tea Leaves

Egg Shells

Fruit / Vegetable Rinds, Peelings, etc.

Grass Clippings

Leaves (preferably mulched)

Sawdust from Untreated, Unpainted Wood

Straw

Sod

Wood Ash (moderate amounts)

Wood Chips

Paper

Newspaper

 

What Not to Compost

Butter

Oils

Bones

Cat or Dog Manure

Cheese

Chicken Scraps

Fish Scraps

Lard

Vegetable Oil

Diseased Plants

Mayonnaise

Meats or Meat Fats

Milk

Peanut Butter

Salad Dressings

Sour Cream

Evergreen Leaves

Charcoal Ashes (can be toxic)

Any Treated, Painted Wood and/or Wood Chips

Coated Paper