Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

No Till Gardening II

Last June I posted my No Till Gardening post about how I had red Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich and studied his no-till method of gardening. I used that method last summer and found it quite successful. Though I do not have a significant weed problem in my garden boxes there were even fewer with no tilling.

My favorite British gardening videos recently discussed this. They call it no-dig gardening. They show how to create new garden beds without digging as well. It is certainly much easier than digging, and far easier than double digging.

This winter my boxes have a healthy cover crop of red clover. I am not sure yet whether I will try to pull them all out by hand or dig them in. My aim will be to dig as little as possible. One of the advantages of cover crops is to dig in the green material to benefit the soil. So there seems to be some conflict between these two methods. In the past I have removed the cover crop tops to the compost pile and only left some root material behind. I shall try that this year I think. That will avoid deep digging.

So have a watch of the video below about no dig gardening and consider using this method. No digging, no tilling – it is definitely easier and better for your soil.



Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy


Intensive Planting – New Goal for 2018

Every year this time as I peruse seed catalogues or websites I decide that this year I will plant and grow more intensely using succession planting, climbing plants, spacing plants more efficiently, etc.

And every spring and summer I fail to follow through and really do it. I plant my beds in spring and occasionally add something through the summer but I have not practiced the discipline to continue the process throughout the season.

Maybe I am a lazy gardener. Or maybe I just forget? I think I have set in my mind too rigidly that planting is in the spring and fail to consider the additional planting, especially the succession planting, that I could be doing all season long.

I fail to plan adequately. If I planned more intensive planting and more succession planting I would achieve a lot more. So that is my aim for 2018. I have a total of 64 square feet of planting space in my raised beds alone. I should be able to plant and harvest much more than I do in that space.

So this is my goal for this year: plant more, plant more often, and harvest more. Let’s see how it goes.

Now to learn more tips about planting more intensely watch this video by my favorite British garden guru—


Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Harvest Report

The vegetable garden is now almost totally put to bed. The only thing remaining are some marigolds and the potatoes. I have not had time to harvest the seeds off the Marigolds yet and am waiting for the tops of the potatoes to die back before digging them up.

Here are the vegetables I planted and how they did:


Sungold Cherry tomato – small orange fruit – we had an excellent yield and the fruit did not split or otherwise lose its structure. They were very sweet. I’d plant that again.

Brandywine beefstake tomato – very poor yield; maybe three or four fruit and the split or developed blossom end rot. I think this is my third run at these with poor luck; I will not plant these again.

Beefy Boy beefstake tomato – very poor yield

Early Girl tomato – poor yield; these have done well in the past but not this year.

Oregon Spring Tomato – plant was very small and only set a few fruit; flavor was OK.

Tomatoes did not do well this year over-all and the local farmers are having the same problems. Spring was too cold and too wet followed by a very hot summer with too little water. Tomatoes, despite being a semi-tropical plant, do not like a lot of heat.


Sweet Non Bell Pepper: v: “Fooled You” – a small non-bell pepper; the yield was very good this year. It was the best pepper growth I’ve ever had. The plant grew tall and vigorous with a lot of fruit. Flavor was good.

Sweet Bell Pepper –poor foliage with very poor yield; only one pepper reached maturity and it was too small.

Over all peppers do not seem to like my garden conditions and I will not plant them next year.

Other plantings:

Green Gold Broccoli – these may not have been hardened off well enough from my green house; they died within a week or two.

Butter Crunch lettuce – these did very well, excellent yield and flavor.

Genovese Basil – these did well with very nice flavor. They have been dried and saved in the kitchen.

Sunspot sunflower – this died within a couple weeks of planting the start; I suspect some kind of cut worm destroyed the stem.

Marigold Inca I – these did well, they are still growing.

I left most of my large box fallow this year; it has never been left fallow before and needed the rest. I only planted marigolds around the edge and they did well.

In the herb garden I added English Thyme, Italian Parsley and French Tarragon. The thyme is growing very slow.

Yesterday I threw out crimson clover throughout all the boxes for a cover crop. We are to get rain this week so if the soil stays warm enough it should sprout well.

Next year I will likely plant all four boxes and leave nothing fallow. I will try some succession planting as well. I’d like to plant some corn. We do not have room for much corn but I’d like to try it here.


Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy


Fall is in the Air

It feels to me as though fall is coming more quickly this year. It may be because August and the first week or so of September were so hot and so smoky. The upper 90F heat and the smoke sucked all my energy away.

Now for the past week the temperature has dropped very noticeably. The smoke cleared for several days though it was back yesterday. The forecast now calls for five days of cooler weather and rain.

There are other signs that fall is here even though the calendar will not acknowledge it for five more days. Leaves are beginning to turn and fall. Not in large numbers yet, but enough to tell you that summer is coming to an end. Nights and early mornings are now chilly. Yesterday morning I actually had to wear a jacket working in the yard until about 10 AM.

The vegetable plants are also showing the end of summer. The tomato plants are looking tired. The leaves are beginning to dry out and although there is still some fruit ripening it is near its end. The pepper plants still look vibrant as does the potato.

In the next week or so I will clean up the vegetable garden and consider planting a cover crop for winter.

I do not like the dog days of summer. There is no denying that climate change has made summer hotter here and it is no fun for me. The smoke this year from the many forest fires throughout the western US also made August less pleasant.

I still have projects to finish though. I need to fashion a cover for the new compost bins before the rains come. I also need to finish the rain collection barrels to be ready for early spring.

I did get one little job done yesterday – cleaned up the Japanese garden. I trimmed the boxwood shrub and trimmed the lace leaf maple a bit. As autumn sets in I want to plant a couple more plants in the Japanese garden and in the front yard. There are some bare spots that need filling.

A friend of mine told me he reads this blog and that I must be very serious about my gardening. I suppose I am. It is a great hobby and it feeds me! Not many hobbies do that.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Watering Tips

Here are ten tips from my favorite British garden expert on how to use water most effectively in the garden.

  1. Water selectively adding water when plants need it. Check soil moisture levels by digging down a bit. Hand watering can be the most effective way to get water just where it needs to be though drip systems can be effective too.
  2. Watering early in the morning gives plants a chance to absorb moisture before the heat of the day evaporates it. Morning watering also leads to less plant disease than evening watering.
  3. If watering by hand aim flow of water to the base of the plant.
  4. A good soaking less often is better than a light watering often. Deep watering encourages a good root system to develop.
  5. You can also sink a plastic pot (with drain holes) in the ground near the plants. Fill them with water which will then slowly drain into the soil.
  6. Use drip systems or leaking hose if you want to automate the watering. This I especially good if you cannot be present for a day or two.
  7. Clay pots are very porous which means they suck moisture out of the soil. In dry water this can be a problem. Plant in glazed pots or plastic pots to avoid this. You can place a plastic pot in a larger clay pot for a better appearance. Metal containers will heat up very quickly accelerating moisture loss. You can group pots together to provide shade and greater water conservation.
  8. Whether in pots or in the open soil use mulch to conserve water. The best mulch is a couple inches of well-rotted compost. You can use grass clippings, straw, black plastic and other materials.
  9. Collecting rain water conserves water, provides a free source of water to put on plants and it is better for plants then municipal water which has chemicals in it.
  10. Remove weeds as soon as they appear as they will compete with your plants for water.

The very hot weather we have been having in August and now in September with temperatures in the high 90s F. has made keeping the vegetables adequately watered a challenge. There have been days when the soil is sucked dry before I can get to it again. I try to water in the early morning as is recommended but often must water again in the late afternoon or evening.

I failed to mulch adequately this year. I was intending to get a bail of straw to mulch the veggies well but never got to it. I may yet do that for the remainder of the season as it looks like we will continue to hot weather for some time. I do however add compost.

Finally, I will mention that this is the 201st post on this blog. I forgot to mention last time that I’d reached #200.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Blossom End Rot

I’ve had blossom end rot attack my tomatoes in past years though most often it is not a problem. This year it is. One of my varieties, Big Boy, is supposed to be particularly vulnerable to it. I’ve lost about a third of my tomato crop to it so far.

Blossom end rot is when the blossom end of the tomato fruit turns brown and watery. You can cut it off but the entire tomato is often mealy.

My research indicates that inadequate calcium is the culprit. This often occurs because of erratic watering. I’ve been trying to water either every other day or every day during the recent hot period. I did not mulch my garden this year and I suspect that is also a problem – the soil is giving up moisture to quickly to evaporation.

From one on-line source I learned to make a slurry of pelleted lime and water. After mixing the slurry for a long time I then added it to the plants at the ground. I will report back on how that goes.

Today’s photo are my wife’s Morning Glory which is in full growth and bloom. It greets me every morning as I go out the door.

Happy Gardening,
Dan Murphy

How Should the Garden Grow?

Today’s title is a play on words. I have been thinking a lot about whether to expand our vegetable garden or not, and how best to deal with what is left of our little lawn.

I could expand the vegetable growing area to replace what is left of the lawn. I hesitate to do so however because it would mean much more work for far more vegetables than we could eat. Unless I want to spend all my time canning and garden-tending I am not sure expanding the vegetable garden makes sense.

Sometimes I get this bug in my head about it, thinking how great it would be to have more veggies growing. Then I think about the work involved and how it would prevent me from doing other things I’d like to do and the idea dies.

If I gardened the space I have more intensely I could increase yields as much as we could reasonably use. That then will be my goal for 2018 – to garden more intensely. I will use the space better and add a fall garden in the same space, or at least part of it.

It will be ultimately necessary to create an automated watering system to cover days when I cannot be here. That will allow us to travel a bit more without worry that all the veggies are drying up and dying.

Then what to do with the lawn, or what is left of it? We could create a few more flower beds but leave much of the lawn in its current form. That is feeling like the best plan at present.

I want to enjoy gardening and not have it turn into a chore. Achieving that balance is the challenge. It is a challenge I welcome. My problem is that I want to do too many things perhaps. I want to do more woodworking. I want to start making Shaker inspired furniture. I want to travel a bit more. Choices must be made.

I reflect that my parents had no difficulty tending a large garden because they rarely went anywhere. There were home all the time because they could not afford to travel much. I have spoken to avid gardeners who have large vegetable and flower gardens and they admit it demands a lot of time and attention daily from spring through fall. So the question I must answer is how much time do I want to devote to gardening?

Fortunately, I need not make that decision today. It will be something to think on over the next year.

Happy Gardening,
Dan Murphy