Pruning zucchini

Pruning zucchini in your garden

Pruning zucchini isn’t one of those topics I’ve seen discussed often.  Neglect to prune your zucchini and they can become overgrown.  This makes it difficult to see or harvest those squash and apply your weekly feed.

A zucchini that becomes overgrown has leaves that touch the ground.  This makes a great hiding and breeding ground for insects.  Leaves that touch the ground also make the plant more prone to getting powdery mildew.  A good pruning allows proper airflow and makes it easier for the gardener to quickly identify and correct deficiencies and insect problems,

What to prune

Start with the leaves that touch the soil.  Those leaves make the plant easily  accessible to insects while providing them safety.  As previously mentioned leaves that are in constant contact with the soil hold moisture on the leaf and encourages powder mildew.

Old leaves that are damaged are also a good candidate for removal.  Removing these leaves that are generally located closest to the ground open up the plant and allow light and airflow to reach the plant.  Remember the 6 laws of plant growth?

When to prune

To reduce the stress on the plant it is best to prune while its cool.  During the spring or fall I prune in the morning or in the evening.  During our brutal hot summers I try and prune in the evenings.

How much do I prune

When I’ve neglected to prune as I should  I try to remove less that 50 percent of the total leaves. It is NOT ideal as this causes more stress to the plant.  Ideally I want to remove no more than a quarter of the leaves at any one time.

The pruning will stimulate the plant to grow and replace the leaves you just removed.  Keep it fed and watered in conjunction with routine pruning and you will have lots of zucchini.

What tool do I need for pruning?

For this particular job a good pair of ordinary kitchen scissors will work quite well.  But for pruning a Mittleider garden in general I love my Fiskars Softouch Micro-Tip Pruning Snips .  If you don’t have a pair watch for them on clearance at Walmart this fall.

My go to tool for pruning Zucchini
Softouch Micro-Tip Pruning Snip

Video of zucchini pruning

Six laws of plant growth

Six laws of plant growth

In the Mittleider gardening method Dr. Jacob Mittleider defined the six laws of plant growth.  If the gardener will observe these 6 laws their garden will do well.

Law 1 – Light

Direct sunlight is best for your garden.  All day sunlight is best but you will need 6-8 hours at a minimum.  Avoid shade from objects such as buildings and trees.  Shade from other plants should be avoided when possible.

Law 2 – Temperature

Seedling production and seed germination are best in a narrow temperature range.  Seed germination requires a soil temperature of 70-85 degrees.   Seedlings require soil and air temperatures to range from 65 to 85 degrees.  Outdoor plants need air temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees.

In temperatures above 90 degrees it may become necessary to provide partial shade.  For colder temperatures it will be necessary to provide supplemental heat.

Law 3 – Air

Third in the six laws of plant growth is air.  Plants pull three different nutrients from the air to create carbohydrates.  Those nutrients are oxygen, carbon and hydrogen.  Plants take in air through their roots so it is very important to have proper soil drainage.

Law 4 – Water

A plant is comprised of 80 percent water. Nutrients are carried down through the soil to the roots by water.  Water must be available at the roots for them to take up nutrients.  During hot weather the plant will try and control its temperature through transpiration with the water.  If the plant is wilting it is dying.

Law 5 – Nutrition

This law is the one that most gardeners fail to fully provide  for their garden.  Your garden needs 16 nutrients to produce healthy plants.  For healthy growth of your garden the plants require a balanced nutrition at all stages of growth.

Plants take in their nutrients in a water soluble form through their roots.  If your nutrients are not water soluble they will not be immediately available to the plant.

Three of those nutrients the plants take from the air, see Law 3 above.  The remaining 13 the Mittlieder gardener provides to the plants.  They are comprised of macro, secondary and micro nutrients.   Macro nutrients are NPK, also known as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.   The secondary elements your plants need are calcium, magnesium and sulfur.  The micro nutrients are zinc, manganese, molybdenum, copper, iron, boron and chlorine.

Law 6 – Competition

The sixth and final of the six laws of plant growth is competition.    Competition can come in several forms for the plants in your garden.  Disease, animals, out of control weeds, insects and even other plants in your garden can compete with your plants.  Learn to eliminate or control the competition while observing all of the six laws of plant growth and your garden will amaze you.

Six laws of plant growth in a Mittleider garden
Six laws of plant growth in a Mittleider garden

Interested in learning more?

You can get a copy of the Mittleider Gardening course book or even download the first 7 lessons for FREE.

Why we bought our All American Canner

Why we switched to an All American canner

Last year we retired our Presto canner and upgraded to the All American canner , model 930.  Our little Presto was a low end unit we bought at Walmart and it served us well.  That little Presto just wasn’t able to keep up with the amount of food we needed to put in our pantry.  As a result we needed to upgrade.

After watching lots of YouTube videos and reading more than a few blogs we decided on the All American model 930.  It is a 30 quart unit that can hold 19 pints or 14 quarts jars.  Canning 14 quarts of those green beans put a big dent in what we have picked for the day.

One good canning session with our All American model 930 would have required 2 sessions with our old  Presto.  While the 930 isn’t the largest model available, yet it still cut our time canning in half.  Additionally, the All American has a pressure gauge and is made in America.

 

30 quart all American pressure canner
This is a great choice for a dependable pressure canner

When we have a lot of canning to do we set up our canner outside.

 Can you use a pressure canner outside of your gardening season?

Absolutely you can.  If you catch a great bulk sale on meats, vegetables or anything else which you can pressure cook and add it to your pantry.

In addition to what you grow or raise at home, local stores will put items on clearance or have a bargain on  items like beans.  Use that All American canner, and get it added to your pantry.  Watch your local grocery stores for really great sales.  If you keep looking you can probably find enough sales to use your canner often.  Good luck and happy canning

Pressure canner setup outdoors

Setting up a pressure canner outside

A pressure canner like our All American is an invaluable tool for the self reliant gardener. When we have a large quantity of vegetables, like this mess of green beans, to can you’ll find our canning operation moved outdoors. To do this inside occupies the stove for the day and makes the AC work over time to remove all that extra heat and humidity coming off that pressure canner.

We setup our pressure canner is setup right outside the back door to allow us to sit inside enjoying the comfort of the AC while keeping an eye on the pressure gauge and the fire.  This makes it possible to continue our daily routine and still prepare meals in the kitchen.

 

Using a pressure canner on windy days

On especially windy days we do have to set up a wind block. A strong wind pushes the flame to one side of the pressure canner and makes controlling the temperature and pressure more challenging.  The wind makes it harder to get the canner up to operating temperature, that makes for a longer day of canning.  A strong wind will also cause you to burn more propane.

If its a windy day and you’ve got to put food in the pantry you can setup a wind break.  A crude frame with some sheet metal or even scrap lumber can be fashioned into a functional wind break

I had this camp stove out already but have also used a single burner fish/turkey fryer to run our All American pressure cooker. It’s closer to the ground and actually makes it easier to reach inside the pressure cooker to load it or pull out the finished product. The single burner is about half the cost of this two burner stove I’ve got in the picture below.

All American pressure canner setup outdoors for canning green beans
Pressure canner setup outdoors

pole beans ready for the pressure canner

Kentucky pole beans ready for the pressure canner

It’s always an exciting time when we bring in our first big batch of Kentucky pole beans for the year.  We eat the small batches in the early part of the gardening season.  When those pole beans are picked in mass we break out the pressure canner.

We’ve had several smaller batches of green beans from our garden so far this year that we’ve enjoyed as part of various meals. As you can see below, our pole beans have really begun to come on strong and it’s time to break out the pressure canner and start putting it in the pantry.

After making this blog entry the All American canner is going to get setup outside.  During the summer months and with big batches of food we do all our canning outside.  This prevents a lot of extra heat and humidity from being inside our house

 

Our canner will soon be fired up to preserve these green beans
Green beans headed to the canner

Pole beans are new in our garden

This is our first year growing a Kentucky pole bean.  Last year we grew bush bean for the first time with the Mittleider gardening method.  The sheer amount of beans we grew in a thirty foot row absolutely overwhelmed us.  Our little Presto canner had to be upgraded to handle the 60 plus pints we harvested each week.

After spending so much time bent over that row of bush beans we decided to try growing vertically this year with a pole bean variety.  My back is so very grateful!

Bush beans grown in a Mittleider garden
Bush beans nearly ready for harvest

 

Kenyon hoe needed sharpening

The mighty Kenyon 2-way hoe

The Kenyon hoe is known by other names.  It is also called a scuffle hoe or possibly even a stirrup hoe.  Regardless of the name it is one of the most used tools in our Mittleider garden.  From time to time the edge gets beat up due to normal use and needs fixed.  It is an easy process and only requires a small file.

The edge of our Kenyon 2-way hoe was getting a little beat up and becoming difficult to pull through this very dry heavy clay soil.  Rather than throw it away or paying someone to repair it we elected to do it ourselves.  A quick dressing took us just a minute or two with a file and as a result we got the edge back in good condition and working better.

Using a file to sharpen a Kenyon hoe
Sharpening a Kenyon gardening hoe with a file

To fix the edge of your Kenyon hoe with a file

It is an easy process and a decent file is inexpensive.  If you don’t have one  this flat file is just $6.21 and will do the job.  Keep the file at the same angle as the edge of the hoe.  A few passes will remove any burrs and dress that edge back to serviceable condition as a result of your effort.  During normal use you will hit small rocks and other such debris that will slightly damage the cutting edge.

Stanlet mill file
A good file choice for sharpening a Kenyon hoe

Do you want to put your own Kenyon hoe together?

In this YouTube video I show you how I assembled our Kenyon hoe and gave a quick example of it working in the garden.  These are an amazing tool and should probably  be present in every garden.  The Kenyon hoe allows you to remove the same amount of weeds from your garden with far less work than a traditional hoe.

 

Mittleider garden – grow in your own soil

Grow in your own soil on a budget

We are putting together this video series on how to grow a Mittleider garden cheaply and to grow in your soil.  Most homes already have the tools needed to grow in your own soil.  With a little of your labor you can have your own beds in and ready for the next step before planting.

With these tools you can grow in your soil
With these tools you can grow in your own soil

You don’t have to garden in grow boxes to have a Mittleider garden

There seems to be this misconception that one has to have expensive grow boxes to grow a Mittleider garden.  That is absolutely not true.  You can grow as good of a garden in your own soil for a lot less money.

Grow in your own soil
Using the Mittleider method allows you to grow in your own soil

But you don’t understand, my soil is horrible

Those words are heard a lot when trying to convince someone to stop amending their soil and grow with the Mittleider method. You can grow in your soil.  Because we provide all the nutrients the plant needs on a weekly basis the lack of nutrition in your soil is entirely irrelevant.  With the Mittleider gardening Method the soil is used for the following:

  1. it provides the plant with anchorage and protection for the roots
  2. Holds air and water for the plant
  3. It stores the nutrition we apply to the soil beds
  4. regulates temperature
  5. provides drainage
Grow in your own soil with raised Mittleider beds
Raised Mittlieder beds allow you to grow in your own soil

Get the 7 lessons on growing in your own soil for FREE

Jim Kennard and the Food for Everyone foundation has been gracious enough to offer the first 7 lessons out of the new Mittleider Gardening Course book for FREE !!  Just use my link and download your own copy in a searchable PDF file.

YouTube video series – grow in your own soil

This is an ongoing series on how to grow an inexpensive garden in your own soil.  Be sure to subscribe to see future videos to learn how you too can grow in your soil.

 

Geothermal Greenhouse in NW Missouri

A look inside a geothermal greenhouse

We know the owners of this geothermal greenhouse located in NW  Missouri and I get to go over and poke my head inside from time.  It seemed like a terrific idea and I was excited to even go watch it going up.

Yesterday we went by while we in the area to peek inside the geothermal greenhouse.  I was amazed with the progress of the plants inside.   These tomatoes, 5 different varieties if I remember correctly, were planted back in the first week of April.  They’re easily 3 times the size of my own tomatoes that are growing outdoors.

Tomatoes growing in a geothermal greenhouse in NW Missouri
Tomatoes growing in a geothermal greenhouse in NW Missouri
tomatoes grown vertically in a geothermal greenhouse
Tomatoes grown vertically using the Mittleider method in a geothermal greenhouse

About this greenhouse

This greenhouse is a Mittleider design as seen in the Mittleider Gardening Course book.

Spaghetti squash is growing like mad 

One of our favorite vegetables has become spaghetti squash over the last year.  The children are very picky eaters and I was amazed when I gave them a sample of spaghetti squash and they asked for more.

This year we are going to grow two crops of the spaghetti squash with the second one being in the in the garden green house.  The first crop is out in the soil and many of the plants are already over 8 feet tall.  Here is just one of the many squash growing in our garden.

Growing spaghetti squash vertically in a Mittleider garden

Our quest to be self reliant and grow a healthy garden