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Sunday, October 15, 2017

How to Grow Sweet Potatoes in Containers: Making Slips, Container Preparation, Basic Feeding and Harvesting

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How to Grow Sweet Potatoes in Containers:
Making Slips, Container Preparation, Basic Feeding and Harvesting

My 2018 Sweet Potato Harvest from Containers
Growing Your Own Sweet Potato Slips:

Sweet Potatoes can be easily grown in containers. You don't start sweet potatoes from seeds or from 'seed potatoes'. You start them from slips. You can easily grow your own by dropping a portion of the sweet potato in a container  of water. Just like the old elementary school experiment. Use tooth picks to support the potato over a jar or glass of water, so it is submerged to 1/3 - 1/2 its size. Keep the jar full on a sunny windowsill and wait. It will soon start growing shoots that will become your slips.

You want to start growing your slips about 60-90 days before they are ready to go into the ground. They get planted after the danger of frost has passed. You might get lucky and get slips in 30 days but it is best to start earlier. When your slips or the growth on you sweet potato get about 3-5 inches tall you can cut them off and drop them into their own glass of water. They will root quickly and be ready for transplant in about 2 weeks. I purchased my sweet potatoes from a local grocery store that sells organic vegetables. The 2 videos shows you all the steps for growing your own sweet potato slips.

Container Selection:

Sweet potatoes can be grown in 5 gallon containers. Generally speaking, the yield is smaller but you can still get plenty of delicious sweet potatoes. No matter what size container you choose, the set up is the same. Make sure you have holes in the container. Excess water has to drain from the container or the plant's roots will rot. The container soil can really be any basic bagged potting mix. You just need a simple mix that drains well. If you want to make your own you can use 50% soil and 50% peat moss or coco coir. A combination of the two is fine. You can also cut the soil to 25% and add in 25% of true compost. What I mean by true compost is any fully composted product, not one that is still breaking down.  This video will give you some information on selecting containers.

Fertilizing and Feeding:

I recommend a balance fertilizer like a 5-5-5 NPK. Sweet potatoes are heavy feeders and you want to equally represent the phosphorous (5) and potassium (5) to a value at least equal to nitrogen (5) or even a little bit higher. Don't over stress with finding the right number. I use organic fertilizer with my potatoes when setting up the container mix for planting. Just follow the fertilizer package as directed. You don't want nitrogen to be over represented. You will have to follow, the basic soil set up, by feeding your sweet potatoes regularly with water soluble fertilizer.

The water soluble fertilizers have NPK and other nutrients the are readily or immediately available to the plants. You will have to do this every 10-14 days and of course use less when the plants are small and more as the summer progress. Again you want to make sure the phosphorous and potassium are well represented. You can use an organic water soluble fertilizer but the chemical fertilizer are often more balanced. Your plant can't tell the difference but use what you are comfortable with.

Harvesting Sweet Potatoes:

What I learned about harvesting is be patient and wait until the frost comes and takes the leaves. In Maryland Zone 7 you plant in mid May. You can plant in your zone once the danger of frost has passed. I was harvesting my sweet potatoes in September. I found letting them grow 4-6 weeks longer into October, when the first frost is arriving, made for larger sweet potatoes. Common sense to me now but you will see sweet potatoes breaking the surface in September and might be tempted to harvest them early. Simply put, wait till first frost.

Good Luck
Gary (The Rusted Garden)

6 Fall Vegetables To Plant Now: A Guest Post for The Rusted Garden

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This is a guest post by Wendy Dessler. Wendy is a super-connector with My Seed Needs. Wendy frequently writes about the latest in the gardening trends world and tries to help novice and experienced planters grow.

6 Fall Vegetables To Plant Now

Gardeners everywhere enjoy the wonderful food that has been harvested from spring and summer crops. But, there are also crops of vegetables that can be planted now, in early fall and they will be ready to eat before winter.

It is much easier to plant and tend a garden with the cooler days and the breezes keep the insects away. For a better variety of crops and a tasty winter season, see the list below.


Beets are not always the favorite food on the table, but there are some great recipes that can be added to. They are a good source of vitamin C, Iron, magnesium, and a lot more.

Copyright: buriy / 123RF Stock Photo


Snap beans and bush beans do well in the fall temperatures. Stay away from the pole beans. Beans are a great source of protein and they bring a heavy harvest so you will have enough to freeze or can them.
They give you copper, a good mixture of the vitamin B family, and minerals.


Broccoli is great when raw with ranch dip, or steamed. They are a vitamin powerhouse.
Vitamin B1, B6, E, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids. This is just a small part of what adding broccoli provides for your health.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussel sprouts will grow well until the first frost. At that point they are about finished for the season.

They are a source of Vitamin C, vitamin K, Vitamin B1, folate, manganese, vitamin B6, dietary fiber, choline, copper, potassium, phosphorus and omega-3 fatty acids.

Here is a list of veggies that will do well if planted now. Your seed provider can give you more information and variations.

  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Cauliflower
  • Turnips
  • Celeriac
  • Collards
  • Green Onions
  • Kohlrabi (very fast growing food).
  • Lettuce
  • Cauliflower
  • Peas (choose a short season seed for autumn)
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Parsley


Set these out now: 

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, and cauliflower seedlings, along with celery, bulb fennel, and parsley.

Direct sow these:

carrots, collards, leeks, scallions, and radishes. Don’t forget you can direct sow lettuce too.

It is not too late to plant and get a fall harvest. Speak to your seed distributor (see link above) for any advice you need. Remember there are varieties within each seed group. Make sure you order the correct variety.


Prepare your soil before you plant. If your garden from spring had a mulch covering it remove it. The soil under it is good soil for growing fall plants. Just till it and remove any weeds that may be there. If you are unsure how to do that, there are plenty knowledgeable people on forums and communities that even sell parts of the equipment that can facilitate your job. You can add a layer of compost or manure to add some growing power to the soil.

Taking care of you fall garden is much like taking care of your spring garden. You must keep the weeds away, and protect the plants from animals and insects. If you plan on using covers to protect the plants from early frost, get them now. You don’t want to be rushing around looking for them when the frost is predicted and all the other gardeners are out looking.

Start now and look for a great harvest!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Ten Great Holiday Gift Ideas for the Vegetable Gardener: From Free to a Nice Chunk of Change

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Ten Great Holiday Gift Ideas for the Vegetable Gardener:
From Free to a Nice Chunk of Change

Gardening is a global activity that is made up of, dare I say, some of the most wonderful people on the planet. We are happy with sunshine and dirt but gift giving can sometimes be a challenge. What do you get people that like the smell of compost, get excited by worms in their garden beds and can chat for hours about 1 inch tall seedlings?  The short answer is anything garden related. And we all know its not the gift but the act of giving and that you care enough to try that truly matters. I did say "most wonderful people." Here is a list of ten ideas that make trying a little bit easier.

Gift One - Seed Catalogs

Let's start with free. If you don't have the extra money to spend but have time, a wonderful gift and I might even say the best gift, is signing up the lucky gardener for a dozen or so free seed catalogs. We love them! Sometimes we don't have the time to sit down and subscribe. If you are concerned about using their address, use yours and bring them the catalogs when they arrive. Nothing beats the winter blues more than looking through seed catalogs. I have a list down the right side of my blog (I'll drop it here too) if you want to check them out.  You can also just do a simple search and find a lot of seed companies that offer color catalogs.

Abundant Life Seeds Catalog/Territorial Seed Company
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog/Rare Seeds
Botanical Interests Seed Catalog
Bountiful Gardens Seed Catalog
Burpee Seed Catalog
Dixondale Farms Catalog
Gardens Alive Seed Catalog
Gurney's Seed Catalog
Henry Field's Seed Catalog
High Mowing Organic Seeds Catalog
Kitazawa Seed Co. Catalog
NESeed Seed Catalog
Park Seed Co. Catalog
Richters Herb Plant and Seed Catalog
Seed Savers Exchange Heirloom Seed Catalog
Seeds of Change Organic Seed Catalog
Select Seeds Seed Catalog
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Catalog
The Online Greenhouse Seed Catalog
Thompson and Morgan Seed Catalog
Urban Farmer Seed and Plant Catalog

Gift Two - Organic Fertilizer Galore (Find Store Discounts Now!)

October, November, December are the months when places like Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart start putting all their garden products on sale. Here is a video that discusses it from my YouTube Channel - The Rusted Garden. You can really find products up to 75% off. It is a great way you give your gardener a gift of supplies for their soon to arrive spring gardening needs.

Gift Three - Cold Pressed Neem Oil from  The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

Well... (shameless plug) I have a seed and garden shop where I sell a lot of garden products. One great organic product for stopping chewing insects is Neem Oil. It must be 100% cold pressed Neem Oil with Azadiracthin. This is so important because it is the Azadirachtin that kills chewing insects. This oil is considered organic. This video explains the difference in Neem Oil products. A lot of what you buy off the store shelves is a hydrophobic extract of Neem Oil. It is garbage. The video explains the difference. If you buy it from my shop or online, make sure it is a 100% cold pressed Neem Oil. All gardener's could use help in stopping damaging insects.

Gift Four: Spray Bottles and Spray Tanks

We can never have enough sprayers in quart and gallon sizes. I sell an inverted sprayer and a 360 degree sprayer for quart containers at my seed and garden shop. Here is a video that shows you what they do. You can also pick up any of  the different  hand pump, 1 gallon or 2 gallon sprayers. We love them. Here are some sprayers you can find on Amazon or use as a guide. The 'hand' pump sprayers are outstanding as the are pressurized and allow for easily spraying the undersides of leaves. The ones I include here are the most common and needed types.

Gift Five: New Varieties of Seeds: All America-Selections

Seeds, need I say more. What kind do you buy? Well the easiest way is to buy seeds that will surprise the gardener you know.  You can do this by getting something that is new to the market. I've done work with All-America Selections and they do yearly seed trials to find the best new plant varieties on the market. They don't sell the seeds, they just declare plants AAS Winners. Why not get some AAS Winners for your gardener. I linked in their website. You can go there and look for the newest winners. They also have seed companies listed there that sell the winning varieties. Here are some videos I have done on AAS Winners. I recommend Sehychelles green beans, an oak leaf lettuce called Sandy and my favorite radish called Roxanne.

Gift Six: Seed Starting Supplies

Sometimes it is confusing to gift buyers when it comes to seed starting supplies and that is because the words cell, flat and trays are often used interchangeably. The basic supplies are seed starting mix, seed cells for holding the starting mix and seeds and seed flats to hold the seed cells. The best way to understand this is to show you. A gift box of seed starting mix, seed cells and flats make a wonder gift. I included my video so you can see how they are used.

Gift Seven: Grow Lights

We use grow light to start seeds indoors for garden transplants. Tomatoes and peppers are often plants gardeners start indoors. The reason we do this is to get 6-8 weeks of growth indoors while the outdoors is still cold and full of frost. You can't effectively grow seedlings on a windowsill. They just don't get enough light. Grow lights will fix that problem. If you are handy, check out my video on how to build a grow light station and you can make a gift. I also included some systems you can buy from Amazon. You can get a single system for the first time indoor seed starter or a more elaborate system that will let them manage hundreds of seedlings and transplants.

Gift Eight Twine and Hand Tools

We always need twine which is often Jute. A natural product that breaks down. Tools such as a soil knife, pruners and hand shovels are always loved. You don't need to spend a lot on them. A mixed box of twine and tools will make a great gift.

Gift Nine: 'Good Dirt' The Best Bagged Container Mix 

I have many videos on making your own potting or container mixes. But often people don't have the time to do that or they just want to have a wonderful container garden and get right to planting. I also have done plenty of videos on what makes the best container mix for our vegetables, herbs and flowers. The answers can be found in a single product called Good Dirt. I like to say it meets the three P's. It is the best product you can buy in a bag. Just Pour it, Plant it and Pick. It makes container gardening much simpler. It is perfect for the first time and seasoned gardener. Sometimes you just want to get to planting and don't want to worry about amending container mixes. Good Dirt solves that problem. Just pour it plant it and soon you be picking from it.

Gift Ten: TruDrop Self Watering Containers by Crescent Garden

Absolutely the best self watering container on the market and it comes with a 10 year warranty. I put it to the test and grew a cucumber tomato garden in a single container. It could go weeks without being watered. If you are looking for a quality high end gift that is absolutely fantastic, a TruDrop system is what I recommend. Here is my video on the system. The container every gardener wants.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Using Whole Eggs and Bananas as Organic Fertilizer for Tomato Plants: Using Compost Holes

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Using Whole Eggs and Bananas
as Organic Fertilizer for Tomato Plants: Using Compost Holes

Burying eggs, fish bones, animal parts and other organic matter in compost holes, for garden fertilizer, has been done for centuries. A compost hole differs from a compost pile in that you let the organic matter decay beneath the ground in the planting area you will be growing vegetable plants. Compost piles sit above the surface and the organic matter decays over months and sometimes years. Compost is always king, if you have the space to make plenty of it. We always don't have the space and compost holes are a simpler alternative.

Using Whole Eggs and Banana as Organic Fertilizer
Many of us spend a lot of money on organic fertilizers which are really no different than burying organic matter in a compost hole. Blood meal is freeze dried slaughter house blood. Bone meal is steamed crushed cattle bone. Fish emulsion is blended fish parts. Feather meal is pulverized feathers and the list of organic fertilizers follows this theme. They are typically, treated, blended and dried into a granule form. Once added to our gardens, soil life has to break the organic matter down into a plant useable form of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium as well as other elements. Burying an egg and banana follows the same biological processes. 

Using whole bananas and eggs as fertilizer, covers many of the major and micro-nutrients your vegetable plants will need. Dried banana peel is over 40% potassium. While they don't contain much in the way of nitrogen, they contain phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, manganese and other elements and vitamins. Eggs certainly contain calcium. They also contain potassium, phosphorous, nitrogen, magnesium, zinc and copper. Calcium helps prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes. Worms will help digest this organic matter and leave worm casting behind that have their own benefits. 

Here is the video I just made using the compost hole. I buried the eggs and bananas down about 15 inches, as of October 1st. This is my fall preparation for two tomato plants that will grow above the compost holes. The garden has 6 months to break down the organic matter and get it ready for the tomato plants come spring. If this interests you,  follow my YT channel as I will continue this series and show the growth of the tomatoes using only bananas and eggs as fertilizers through 2018.

You can actually save a lot of money by using whole bananas and eggs in compost holes. You can also use flayed fish bones. You don't need to use ripe bananas or good eggs. Freeze your bananas the brown out and eggs that expire. You can go to grocery stores and ask about getting the old bananas and expired eggs. Many seafood places will have fish waste for you.  Compost holes are an alternative to compost piles This practice has been around for centuries and is effective.

Try Something New
Gary (The Rusted Garden)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

6 Principles For Managing Pests and Diseases in A Vegetable Garden

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6 Principles For Managing Pests and Diseases in A Vegetable Garden

Pests and Diseases will show up in your garden. They can't be stopped.  What you can do is reduce damage and manage the problems. All treatments don't work equally in our gardens. What works in one garden zone my not work as well in another zone or it may not work at all.  Don't be fooled into thinking companion planting is the cure for all, it can help. Or that the word organic is magical. It is important to start with the least potent treatment for pests and diseases. Work your way up from there, until you find something that works in your own garden. The videos use aphids, slugs and powdery mildew to highlight these six principles.

First Principle:
Check your plants and garden two or three times a week and look for signs of pests and diseases. Learn what comes to your garden. It will have a pattern. If you are not checking several times a week... problems will take hold quickly. They always do. Pests and diseases are common.

Second Principle:
Any time you introduce a new spray to your garden, be it premade or homemade... TEST SPRAY. Sprays can damage and are influenced by weather conditions. A spray that did not damage when the temperatures were in the 70's, may damage in the 90's. Different plants have different tolerances so you have to test spray on different plant types. Spray a few leaves and wait 48 hours and look for damage. If there is no damage... fully spray your plants. Typically, you should not spray in full sun or when temperatures are over 90 degrees unless you are fully comfortable with the spray. During high temperature months, spray in the evening.

Third Principle:
Follow a spraying and treatment routine. It is important to pick your products and spray routinely to stop pests and diseases in your garden. If you decide to spray weekly. Spray weekly. If you decide to spray every two weeks... stick with your plan. This works extremely well for prevention. If you are treating an active problem you may have to spray every two days over a week on ten days. This is typically done to stop an entire life cycle for insects. Dose one kills off the living insects. Following doses kill off hatching eggs. This holds true for disease too as many release spores. Pick a plan and follow it.

Fourth Principle:
Stay vigilant with the first principle. Take the time to watch a learn what is coming to your garden over an entire season. The key to treating and reducing damage is to start treatments as early as possible. Remove leaves, start sprays and begin maintenance as soon as possible. It may take a few years to learn about the pests and diseases that come to your garden.

Fifth Principle:
Remove diseased leaves immediately and DO NOT compost them. Bag infected leaves and throw them a way. Pests and disease can live in compost. A process known as hot composting can kill diseases, spores and eggs. However, most of our compost piles are simple cold composting. Don't take a chance. Very little compost is made from the infected leaves and plants you remove. Just throw them away.

Sixth Principle:
You won't be able to remember everything after the slumber of winter. Keep a journal and make immediate entries when each pest and disease shows up in your garden. As I said a pattern will show up year after year. Start prevention spraying 2-4 weeks week before the problems arrive based on your data. This is the best way to treat and manage problems in your garden. Keep track of what you spray and how you spray. Adjust accordingly and use the journal entries for next year's plan.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

How to Identify and Treat Aphids on Your Tomato and Vegetable Plants: No Chemicals Needed

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How to Identify and Treat Aphids on Your Tomato and Vegetable Plants:
No Chemicals Needed

Many pests and diseases come to our garden. Not all of them need to be managed by stronger chemicals. Aphids are soft bodied insects that can be managed using any of these three spray methods.

1) Spray with a jet of water. Spray every other day for 3 rounds of spraying.
2) Make a soapy water spray. Spray every other day for 2-3 rounds of spraying.
3) Make a smothering oil and soap spray. Spray every other day for 2-3  rounds of spraying

Start with water spray. The aphids are weak and once knocked to the ground they don't return. They stay typically in the area from which they hatch. You want to manage aphids with several rounds of interventions as to control newly hatching aphids. By using water spray, you remove 90% of the aphids and do no harm to good insects. The good insects will come in and eat what is left.

You can add in soap and oil as you wish to increase the strength of the spray method. Soap damages the soft bodied insect and they die. Oil covers them and they smother. You may or may not need the stronger intervention but in the case of aphids no strong garden chemicals are needed. The video discuss all the mixes and how to make them. 

Good Luck in Your Gardens,
Gary (The Rusted Garden)

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Complete Guide on How to Oven Dry & Store Hot Peppers: Cayenne, Facing Heaven and Jalapenos

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A Complete Guide on How to Oven Dry and Store Hot Peppers:
Cayenne, Facing Heaven and Jalapenos

I show you how to oven dry hot peppers. I dry Red Cayenne, Facing Heaven and Jalapeno peppers. General setting for the oven is 180 degrees F or less. It will take 4 - 8 hours to dry your peppers depending on several factors. I found this to be the best way to quickly process and dry your peppers. If you want more flavor and less oil evaporation... drop the temperature down.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Understanding Bagged Garden Soil Products: What They Are & My Container Mix Recipe

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Understanding Bagged Garden Soil Products: 
What They Are & My Container Mix Recipe

What exactly is the difference between topsoil, garden soil, raised bed soil and potting mix? The bottom line is usually peat moss. The increase in peat moss with the addition of (in smaller amounts) coco coir, perlite and vermiculite is what typically changes the name on the bag. In addition to these amendments a lot of products have wood added to them under the name forestry product found under the ingredients label. You don't want excess would in your products.

This video explains the different labels and I show you what you find in the bag and discuss where you would use that bagged product. I also cover amendments; peat moss, leaf gro and humus & manure. It is important you know what you are buying and where you would use it in your garden. I also show you how I make my basic container soil that is cheaper than the bagged products.

Good Luck,
Gary (The Rusted Garden)

Growing Cherry Tomatoes from Start to Finish: Planting, Feeding, Staking, Pruning & More!

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Growing Cherry Tomatoes from Start to Finish: 
Planting, Feeding, Staking, Pruning and More!

This video is a compilation of 5 videos that teach you how to grow cherry tomatoes. I start with planting the seed in the the ground. You get to watch the plant grow from a seedling through full maturity and harvesting. The star of the video is a tomato variety called 'Midnight Snack.' It is an All-America Selections Winner for 2017.
If you are just starting to grow your own vegetables, cherry tomatoes are an outstanding addition. They grow quickly and really produce a lot of tomatoes. I recommend try two cherry tomato varieties in your garden. Pick up a transplant from your local stores and go with one of the sweet hybrid varieties. For the second tomato, find a variety that really looks interesting to you and order a pack of seeds. Two cherry type tomato plants will ensure you get a regular supply of tomatoes for your table.
Gary (The Rusted Garden)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Complete Guide to Growing Container Eggplant & How to Fry Your Harvest: Grow It Cook It Eat It!

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A Complete Guide to Growing Container Eggplant & How to Fry Your Harvest: 
Grow It Cook It Eat It!

Eggplant is an outstanding container vegetable. It is extremely productive. I show you everything you need to do to maintain them in containers, once planted and growing. 

Eggplant is the “meat” of the garden and Stacy Lyn will show you how to fry and make breaded garden fresh eggplant. A perfect golden fry that can be used with all kinds of sauces & preparations. Her cookbook, Harvest, contains this delicious recipe as well as many more!

Stacy Lyn's 'Harvest' Cookbook a perfect companion for Grow It Cook It Eat It
Stacy Lyn's Website Game and Garden
Stacy Lyn's YT Channel

Come Join Stacy and I in Grow It Cook it Eat it's FB group

Friday, August 25, 2017

How Well Do All-America Selections Winners Grow? Extremely Prolific Vegetable Plants for Your Gardens

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How Well Do All-America Selections Winners Grow? 
Extremely Prolific Vegetable Plants for Your Gardens

I had a great time growing All-America Selections Winners in my garden this year. I highly recommend going to their site and finding the new winners as well as some past winner from the last 85 years. Yes, they have doing this for 85 years! The 2018 AAS Winners have just been released and I will be growing some of them next year. Why not get something new and be the first in your area to grow it, show it off and of course eat it.

So... are the winners truly winners? Do they just have a stamp on them or do they offer something that merits the title of a winner?  What makes a vegetable or flower an AAS Winner? Well I have the answers for you in my garden tour video.

I grow and test before I recommend. Here is my most recent video with some wonderful, fully  'The Rusted Garden' tested,  All American Selections Winners. They one word I use, in the video, often is prolific. They really produce and produce and produce. I show off 8 mature vegetable varieties and 1 flower variety I grew this year.  And check out the production!

They were easy to grow, highly productive, great tasting and seemed to have some extra disease resistance (some varieties) compared to like vegetables.  I believe they have the qualities of winners. Check out my most recent video A Tour of My All-America Selection Winner's Garden: 9 Prolific Varieties for the Ground & Containers and decide for yourself.

I had a great time growing new found varieties I haven't grown before. I will be growing an All-America Selections garden next year. I encourage you to join me by following my YT Channel The Rusted Garden. Here are the vegetables in the videos.  All-America Selections doesn't sell the seeds, they only declare winners every year. You can find seed distributors that sell them by going to the AAS website or search the variety name to find sellers.

Find these All-America Selections Winners a:

Candle Fire Okra
Sweet Banana Pepper
Fantastico Tomato
Seyshelles Pole Bean
Cornito Gaillo Sweet Pepper
Patio Choice Yellow Tomato
Midnight Snack Tomato
Patio Baby Eggplant 
Pretty N Sweet Pepper

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mental Health and The Vegetable Garden Part One: Positively Changing Your Structure & Routine

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Mental Health and The Vegetable Garden
Part One: Positively Changing Your Structure and Routine
by Gary Pilarchik (The Rusted Garden) 

I have been working in the field of mental health for nearly 30 years and have been a Clinical Mental Heath Therapist for the last 15 years. My grandfather introduced me to world of vegetable gardening when I was in elementary school. He came over one day with tomato transplants and dug a garden. He taught me how to plant and grow my own tomato plants. My memories of him, in the garden with me, continue today. What he taught me that day ignited a passion and that passion continues to influences my daily life.

Mental heath is really about life quality. We perceive the world. We feel the world. We interact with the world. We are social beings that interact with family, friends and the communities in which we live. Life quality is often influenced by our daily structures and weekly routines. They vary greatly person to person. Sometimes our structures and routines are defined, in part, by things outside of our control. What is within our control, the things we can change, is how we can begin to improve our mental health and the quality of our lives.

Early Spring Container Garden

Think about your daily structure and weekly routine. They really are about activity, and far to often, the lack of activity or negative activity. Hobbies, like growing a vegetable garden, can change the way you interact with the world, at many levels. Positive activity additions to your life will greatly benefit your sense of wellbeing and mental health. Small changes in your daily life can make large changes in the quality of your life. The key is breaking your routine and trying something new. Change will never knock at your door. You literally have to go outside and dig around for it. This video explains some of the concepts in the article and teaches you how to start a small container garden. Please share you experience in the video comments. I think it will help others.

The keyword is enjoy. Planting, tending and harvesting vegetables from your own garden is a wonderful way to bring more enjoyment to your life. Too often we look at career, income, possessions and status as ways to become happier. While these things are important, you can make changes on a smaller scale. You can find an improved sense of well-being by finding and adding activities that you, not only enjoy, but can also share with family and friends. Gardening is both a solitary and social activity. As much as you may enjoy time alone, social interaction is also needed in life. Sharing a passion with like people will improve your mental health.

Gardening is a wonderful hobby because Nature designed the plants to grow and produce in all types of conditions. You can make mistakes and still get vegetables. You will learn life lessons in the garden and can teach life lessons to your children. You don't need formal training to have a garden. You only need to get started.

My Tomato Garden

You will need earth, sunshine, water and a space. You can dig a small garden in your yard or start on your deck or patio with containers. If you don't have land or enough sun, you can find family and friends that do and start gardening with them. There is a good chance there are community gardens in your area where you can rent a space at a very low price. The biggest barrier to positive change is putting out the effort to break your routine and add something different to it. If you don't want to start alone or need some help, find some family members or friends that want to give gardening a try. Have fun, share the experience and most importantly just get started.

Gardening will improve your mental health in many ways. I think the most important thing it does is it occupies your mind in healthy way for a period of time. You begin to focus on and get lost in the activity. You notice the smell of the soil, feel the shovel digging into the earth and hear the sounds of birds chirping around you. You begin to create, shape and transform your garden, completing the day's task. People stop worrying about the past, present and future and become totally absorb in the care of their garden. This process is called mindfulness.

When we lack positive or constructive daily activity and sit, we often dwell on the negative aspects of our lives. Caring for a vegetable garden takes you away from being sedentary and alone with unstructured time. It gets you out and interacting with your world. The outdoors, sunshine and plants will always beat staying indoors. Your are not only changing what you do but are changing how you think and perceive the world around you. This type of change may seem small but the impact on how you begin to feel is quite large.

Gardening will also reward you with a sense of accomplishment over and over again. The feeling of accomplishment leads to an improvement in self esteem. Taking a space and turning the ground over will be rewarding. Planting your first seeds and seeing them germinate will be rewarding. Picking your first radish will be rewarding. Tasting the herbs you grew in a meal will be rewarding. Remembering when you first turned the ground, planted a tiny tomato seed only to be standing next to a six foot tall plant full of red cherry tomatoes... will be deeply rewarding. Taking those cherry tomatoes to your family and friends and hearing how sweet they are will bring you a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Making changes to your life is not always easy. Gardening can be hard work. But if you start today, you and your garden will be better tomorrow. The second year gardener always does better than their first year. The third year gardener wants more land and new seed varieties to plant. The fourth year gardener now has a daily structure and weekly routine they love and enjoy and will never give up. If you are interested in gardening, start small, start with a friend, join some FaceBook gardening groups and start watching videos. You'll find the motivation to get started and begin to notice how getting lost in your garden helps you find a way to improve your mental health, life quality and overall well being.

Good Luck and Give It a Try,
Gary (The Rusted Garden)

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