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As you know, I enjoy growing my own vegetables.  Many people ask me what the secret is to a healthy vegetable garden.


Well, what if I told you that the secret ingredient is a natural fertilizer that improves your soil, is plentiful and very cheap.


Would you want to try it in your garden?  Chances are that you are already familiar with this secret ingredient and farmers have been using it for centuries.


What is it?


MANURE


Manure along with compost are the backbone of my soil in my vegetable gardens.

I blogged about using manure when creating my newest vegetable garden early last year.

I recently wrote an article “The Poop Scoop: Enrich Your Soil With Good Old Manure” for Houzz.com

I hope you enjoy it!

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The most recent update on our daughter, Rachele, who is in basic training for the Navy is that she has to pass her last running test in order to graduate.

She is quite nervous about passing because she still hasn’t recovered from her twisted ankle and also has shin splints.  

I would appreciate your prayers that she will be able to pass 🙂


Using soil amendments is one of the best ways to grow healthy flowers and vegetables.

There are different types of soil amendments that act in different ways.

In order to help explain which soil amendments to use in your garden – I was to do a “How-To” video about the subject.  I hope you find it helpful.
*I must admit that I’m not comfortable watching myself on video – but I just remind myself that it isn’t about how my hair looks or if I repeated the same word too often – as long as I am able to help someone learn about gardening 😉
Graham Thomas, Abraham Darby, and Falstaff David Austin shrub roses.
Do you love roses?
I do….
In fact, at one time – I had 40 rose bushes growing in my garden in our first house.  I lovingly tended them and was rewarded with gorgeous blooms.
Years later, I don’t have quite as many roses in my current garden, but I love growing them just as much as I did years ago.
Abraham Darby
Because we grow roses for their beautiful blooms, I learned some tips from rose-growing experts on how to maximize blooms and the health of my rose bushes.
 
So, I’m going to share them with you.
*Basic rose care consists of fertilizing your roses in spring, using a fertilizer specially formulated for roses. You can do this and have a lovely rose bush. However, if you want the biggest and most floriferous rose bushes in your neighborhood, you’ll want to follow these tips. 
 
1. In spring, grab your broom (yes, I said a broom) and make six holes around each rose bush (about 1 ft. from the base).  Each hole should be 6 – 8 inches deep.  
 
2. For this next step, you will need 6 cups of compost, 3 cups of composted steer (or chicken or horse) manure, 1/2 cup of Epsom salts, the recommended amount of your favorite rose fertilizer and two handfuls of alfalfa pellets per rose bush.
 
So how do these ingredients help your roses?
– The compost improves your soil by adding fertility, increasing its ability to hold the right amount of water and feeds microorganisms in the soil.
– Using manure adds a natural source of nitrogen that is slowly released into the soil.  Make sure the manure is composted (aged) before using, or it can ‘burn’ your roses.
– Head to your nearest feed store and pick up some alfalfa pellets.  When alfalfa breaks down in the soil, it releases an alcohol (triacontanol) that roses love.  They respond to it by growing more branches (basal breaks) from the bud union AND increases the number of roses and their size.  
Falstaff
 
3. Mix all the ingredients together and then pour the mixture into each of the holes.  Work any extra mixture into the top inch of soil around your roses.  By adding the mixture into the holes, you are putting them right where the roots are.
4.  Water deeply to 18 inches.
That’s it!  Follow these tips, and your roses will soon be the envy of all your neighbors.
 
But, I’m not finished yet….
 
If you want to do even more….then follow this next step:
 
5. Add liquid fertilizer to your roses monthly during the growing season.
 
**In hot, dry desert climates – your roses will slow down their growth during the heat of summer because it is hard for them to focus on growth when it is hot.  Apply liquid fertilizer at 1/2 strength once a month beginning in May and lasting through August. In September begin your regular fertilizer schedule for beautiful, fall roses.

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Isn’t it true that most projects take longer then you plan on?

Still, I always approach projects with optimism that I will be able to finish in just a couple of days.

Of course, things just seem to come up with the kids and work.  I get really busy this time of year when people’s gardens are starting to grow again.

But finally, our new vegetable garden is finished!

Here are the last few steps…

 

 We added compost and manure to the existing soil (1/4 compost, 1/4 manure and 1/2 native soil) and mixed them together.  I finished it off by adding bone and blood meal, which are natural sources of phosphorus and nitrogen that will release slowly over time.  
You can simply add a mixture of compost and manure to your raised bed and no native soil if you desire.  This is easier, but I feel that working the soil down to a depth of 8 inches, helps with the growth of root vegetables.
 
My husband built fences for the raised bed because we have dogs and they don’t always stay out of the garden.  That and they love carrots.

We bought 6′ fence planks and then cut them in half.  A 3 ft. high fence is enough to keep them out.  The fence planks were attached at the top using a narrow strip of wood.  
 The base for the garden is made from a 2″ wide, 10″ high and this piece was 12 ft long.  We used pine wood for our garden.  Pine won’t last forever, but it will last for a few years and is relatively inexpensive.  Of course, you can use cedar, which will last a very long time, but it can be rather expensive.
**There is some controversy regarding using pressure treated wood for vegetable gardens because of the chemicals used in the process and whether or not they ‘leach’ into the soil.
 
My husband built a removable gate into the garden without using any hinges or latches.


As you can see, this removable gate has a narrow strip of wood on the inside and the other strip is on the top of the other side.

The gate slides down into the opening with the bottom strip of wood, resting on the raised bed on the inside and the outer wooden strip on the top fits on the outside.

 You can see how the gate fits, above.
We all had fun putting the sides up…it took three of us – two to hold the sides up while my husband attached the brackets.
The entire time we were putting up the sides, we were visited by a curious and hungry Anna’s hummingbird.  He would stop by every 5 minutes or so.
 

I planted sweet corn, bush beans and cucumbers in my new garden in addition to marigolds, nasturtium and bachelor’s button, which will attract pollinators and help keep harmful insects away.

I promise to show photos as soon as my seedlings come up 🙂

 I must confess that I have avoided going out into my garden.
Now, I love my garden and spending time outside tending my plants.  But, not when we have had record-breaking heat.  I normally don’t have a problem with the summer heat and I don’t like to complain about it.  
It’s not so much the heat itself, but when it is coupled with bright sunlight, it can be hard to bear if you are working out in the garden for an extended length of time.
 
So, I have been waiting impatiently for the temps to get back down to normal so that I can get out and get my vegetable garden ready for fall planting.  It is almost too late for me to plant my fall sweet corn.
Well, since the weather was not going to cooperate and I refused to be overcome by the heat, I had to take matters into my own hands.


I asked my husband to hang a light outdoors by the garden so that we could work out there at night.

My daughter, Ruthie, loves to work in the vegetable garden and was helping us to rip out some of the old summer vegetable plants that had stopped producing.
 
Believe it or not, gardening at night is not all that hard as long as you have some light source.  We made quick work of cleaning out the vegetable garden, adding compost, manure, blood meal and bone meal.

Now it was still hot outside, but the sun was down, which really makes a big difference.

As we were working in the garden, we had a little visitor who came out to see what we were doing….

He was actually hanging upside down, but I like how he looks ‘right side up’.

This praying mantis was fascinated by what we were doing.  I was very happy to see him because he helps to eat the harmful insects that would normally bother my vegetables.
He was soon joined by his friend or maybe it was his wife?
We were soon finished with our work and I could hardly wait to see the fruits of our labor in the morning….
I just love a blank canvas to add plants to, don’t you?
The step stones provide easy access for me to step out into the garden to harvest vegetables without crushing them with my feet.
(Once I took out the step stones, thinking I wanted the extra space for vegetables, but I had an awful time getting into and out of the garden without stepping on vegetables.)
We did leave the basil plant in the back, oregano on the side and a single cucumber plant, which will continue to produce once the temperatures cool down (I’m not sure it will ever cool down again).
I have wonderful plans for my vegetable garden….
I can hardly wait to harvest fresh corn, carrots, green snap beans, garlic, green onions, leaf lettuce and spinach.
  
You may wonder why I have a fence around the garden.  Well, the reason is that I have a little dog named Tobey that would love nothing better then to get inside and dig around in all the wonderful smelling compost and aged steer manure.

Now, I was bound and determined to get one thing planted in the garden, even if it was hot outside and I would probably start to sweat 😉
 
I got my corn seeds planted!

It only took me about 15 minutes to plant 3 rows of corn.
(It is important to plant corn in more then one row, which helps with pollination and helps all of the corn kernels to develop).
As you can see, I didn’t bring out any fancy tools to plant them.  I only needed a ruler to make sure that I planted them 1 ft. apart and I borrowed a spoon from my kitchen.  
Thankfully, I can wait until later this month to plant some of my other seeds when the weather is cooler.

Some people may think I am crazy to work in the garden at night and there are some things that you do have to have daylight for.  But I have pruned my shrubs at night to avoid the excess heat of the day.  
I wouldn’t advise doing any gardening tasks that require any detail work, such as planting vegetable seeds.

But, you never know….if it doesn’t cool off on time, I may be planting seeds at night with a flashlight 😉

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So, how about you?  
Do you have any strategies for dealing with the summer heat when you garden?