Garden Q&A


Q. When is the appropriate time to plant Garlic?

A. You want to plant your Garlic cloves 3 to 4 weeks before the ground freezes. (Here in Milwaukee we plant our Garlic the first Saturday in October this will allow the roots to establish and they will over winter just fine.)We have found that you do not need to mulch the Garlic. You will see the Garlic sprout, and may grow a few inches this is okay. If you are in an area that the ground does not freeze this can be more of a challenge. This is a link of our fall 2014 digital magazine where we interviewed Carolyn Binder who talks about how she grows Garlic in Florida and the tips that works for here

Q. What do you think of the back to Eden method?
A. Back to Eden method if done right can work well but it take time. It is something we have looked at and it just does not work for us.

Q. What do I do about Rollie pollies (Pill bugs)? They are in my soil and eat my plants no matter what stage

A. If you are looking for organic solutions to getting rid of these bugs, here are a few:

  • Cut a piece of honey dew melon or cantaloupe (corncobs work also) and put it in your garden upside down with the rind facing the sun (this keeps it from drying out).  The bugs become attracted to the melon and collect on the fruit.  You can then either throw it in the trash or rinse it off with a hose (away from your garden) and put it back into the garden.
  • Mix rotten veggies with mulch, grass clippings, coffee grinds and/or compost on the outside of your veggie garden to divert them out of the garden. 
  • Try putting a small bowl of beer in your garden.  They dive in and drown just like slugs and snails.
  • Put collars around your young plants (you can use toilet paper rolls) to keep them from munching on the base of the stem.  Rollie pollies prefer young plants.
  • Cornmeal was listed online as a suggestion; however, I have not tried this one so I can’t guarantee it works.
  • If they are eating your fresh flowers, plant companion flowers for them to eat, such as impatiens and pansies.  They also eat butterfly bushes, salvia and butterfly weeds.
  • Manually remove them.  Poke them with a stick and remove them once they are in a ball.  One person suggested using a shop vaccuum and just vacuum them up from the top layer of the soil.
  • Loosely roll up a damp newspaper and tie it with string, placing it in your garden where they camp out. During the night, they will crawl inside, then you can dispose of them and the newspaper. Repeat until they are under control. You can also get rid of earwigs this way.  I haven’t seen many earwigs here in Georgia, but I know there are a lot of them in Colorado and the mid west.
  • If you can afford it, add natural predators of these animals.  Frogs love them.  If you live on a farm, ducks love to eat rollie pollies.  Believe it or not koi fish love to eat them too.  Certain spiders also eat rollie pollies.  Unfortunately, I have two really rotten cats who would eat the predators so this won’t work for me.
  • Set out small containers, such as coffee cups or even laundry detergent scoopers, in the problem areas. Place the cups down in the ground so that the brim is at or barely above ground level. Boil water with two packets of yeast in a medium-sized pot to dissolve the yeast. Pour the yeast solution (beer can be used, but yeast packets are cheaper) into the cups. You can slightly cover the containers to keep rain water (yard water) and other elements from diluting the solution. Tons more information can be found at.

Q. Do you soak your seeds in milk or buttermilk?

A. No we do no soak our seeds in milk or buttermilk. Buttermilk will work for soaking seeds with a thick seed coating on them such as Okra. We soak our seeds in Moo Poo Tea from Authentic Haven Brand Haven Brand uses only the highest quality manures from livestock that are raised on permanent, native grass pastures at the Haven Family Ranch. And no air stones are needed to brew the tea

Q. Is all Epsom salt the same there’s one for bath and one for garden? 

A. All Epson Salts are the same if your going to use it buy it from the pharmacy area it is cheaper rather then the garden center and the unscented kind is what you want.

Q. Compost and rock dust?

A. Compost it the best it is easy to make cheap if you are in the upper Midwest the best we have found in it is a leaf compost. Rock dust comes from 100s if not 1,000s of miles away and it is mined here is a link from Alberta Urban Garden Simple Organic and Sustainable on Autumn Leaves vs Rock Dust: Mineral by Mineral Comparison and Autumn Leaves vs Rock Dust: Mineral by Mineral Comparison from OneYardRevolution | Frugal & Sustainable Organic Gardening   Does Rock Dust Increase the Nutrient Density of Food?
Q. Where do you get your grow bags?

A. We get our grow bags from the name of the grow bags are Root Trapper II they come in a number of sizes. We use 5,7,10,15 and 60 gallon

note the larger grow bags have a mesh netting for a bottom not a fabric these were developed in 1968 so roots on trees would air prune better. These bags are tough and work great from vegetables.

Q. What audio recorder you are using to record audio?

A. We use pro 88w/t wireless microphone from audio technica.

Q. What are your walk paths made of? Are you using coffee bags on the walk paths to suppress weed growth?

A. Yes those are burlap sacks we got for free from our local coffee roster. You may have to call a few rosters to find them we get them for free. If you find them avoid paying for them people will give them for free we find they last one season and they start to biodegrade.

Q. What kind of compost tea do you use?

A. We us Moo Poo Tea from Authentic Haven Brand

Q. Do you bag your tomato blossoms if your going to save seeds?

A. No we do not there is a small chance that they could be cross pollinated but that is only a 10% chance it would be. If you are wanting to save pure seed and have no cross you can hand pollinate your tomatoes and use and net bag or pantie hoes. You can also plant the ones you are wanting to saves seeds from away from the other plants.

Q. Could too much coffee make the soil acidic?

A. No soil has what is call a buffering capacity here is a great video that explain in detail why coffee will not make soil acidic. Can you use Coffee as an Organic Fertilizer and will it Change the pH of your Soil from Alberta Urban Garden Simple Organic and Sustainable

Q. I planted Ever bearing strawberries in a small raised bed three years ago. They’ve established and are forming plenty of flowers. Unfortunately, the flowers then die off, no fruit for me! What things might I look at to determine why this is? What about the soil, bugs, watering regimen, other clues might I look for? Thanks in advance.

A. Sorry to hear about your strawberry issues.  We found this great resource for you.  It could be multiple reasons.  Hope you can find a solution here.

Q.I live in Canada and I have planted sweet potatoes and they are ready to harvest but i want to keep some of the cuttings next year to start them again. How can I store them over the winter. so that I can start to root them in the spring. Can I freeze them? or just keep them in a dark cool place.
A. The best way we have found is to keep the sweet potatoes in a cool dry place. If you have several you are wanting to save you can start one in a mason jar and allow it to begin to grow roots we find with a new potato that it can take 4 to 5 months to get roots and growth on the potato you can play around with that if you want now. We keep the same potato in mason jar for 2 years in the window seal and just let it grow and as it got big we would just cut it back and it would grow again.

Q. Will scarlet runners do well in a self-irrigated planter?

A. Yes, you can plant them in the planter. You would want to have some type of trellis for them though.

Q.It’s gets very windy where I live. How do I keep the mulch from blowing away?

A. A few ways keeping it wet also if you use leaves or grass clipping you can lay the mulch down and cover it with a little soil to help to hold it down

Q. Are black eyed peas bush or pole?

A. You can get both bush and vining types determinate and indeterminate varieties Big Boy is one popular bush type, and most crowder peas are also compact bush plants.

Q. I want to ask what type of wood you would recommend using to make a raised vegetable garden. In the past I have used lumber treated with Micronized Copper Azole and now realize there are many conflicting thoughts on using treated lumber in vegetable gardens. Just wondering your opinion as I strive to make my garden as organic as possible, but still would like it to be raised. Thank you.

A. If you want to go with wood only, a nice red cedar would be a strong wood to use. Another option would be to use untreated standard lumber, and then coat it with these organic friendly coatings Test have been done on treated wood in garden beds and have found not to toxic to the soil you can see that video here from Alberta Urban Garden Simple Organic and Sustainable

Q. Is the straw bale organic? Is it possible to buy organic straw bales?

A. Yes there are such a thing is a link to tell you more about it. It can be harder to find organic straw bales. Straw is the died stalks of the plant that we are making break down to a compost form i don’t know if in the end it would have a different result if it was organic or not.

Q. How long do you usually soak the Garlic before planting?

A. We soak our Garlic cloves for 24 hrs with Moo Poo Tea the larger the seed the longer you should soak it for to hydrate the seeds to give them a jump start before they go in the ground.

Q. Why do you pulled the old root matter out of a bed per-planting? Wouldn’t it just decompose in the soil and add some fertility later? Is it a disease thing or would the grass come back eventually?

A. You are correct some of the grass will come back so it was best for us to just remove the grass. We have grasses that spread underground and pop up in other locations so we try to get all the roots out as possible.

Q. I started some seeds for this year’s garden two weeks ago, and the soil seems to attract a ridiculous amount of fruit flies (I’m using organic potting soil). This is my second year gardening by myself, but the first year of starting my own seeds from scratch.
I set up an apple cider vinegar trap next to my seedlings because of how successful it’s been before, but there isn’t a single victim. The fruit flies have only multiplied. Is there a way to get rid of the fruit flies without harming my seedlings?

A. One thing you can do is take a spray bottle with soapy water, a few drops of dish soap per cup of water, and spray the top of the soil and the stems of the seedlings. You want to do this daily. If you live in an area where it is warmer during the day – close to 60 degrees – set your seedling outside for 10 to 15 min and that may encourage these bugs to fly away. However, use best judgment. Cool weather crops will do better with that than others. We have been told if you freeze the soil that should kill off and eggs that many be in the soil also baking the soil in your oven will also have the same effect you can find how long to bake the soil for online. 

Q. I raked a bunch of leaves into my garden because I was having my lawn aerated and needed to put the leaves somewhere. Can I just use these leaves as is for mulch, or would I need to shred them first?

A. You can leave your leaves in the garden they will break down it will take slower since they are not mulched but this is a good thing you can use the leaves around the plants in the spring to keep weeds down and hold water in the ground.

Q. I am trying to start some chile piquin pepper seeds indoors, and several of them have sprouted. I am using those individual peat pots that expand. When should I remove the sprouted peppers from the covered dome sprouter? The largest pepper has 2 tiny leaves on it right now. Should I remove them individually as they reach a certain height and just leave the others covered until they germinate?

A. On your peppers i would leave them covered until the pepper get to about a inch to two inches tall then move them and leave the others covered till they get to that height keep them watered and bottom heat for those that have not sprouted remove the bottom heat for those that have sprouted.

Q. Where did you find your black eyed pees seeds ?

A. We get all our seeds including Black Eye Pees from

Q. Can you please tell me just when to know when to harvest your garlic?

A. The best way to know is when you see the lower leaves turn yellow and that happens around 1 to 3 weeks after you harvest the scapes.

Q. Do poppies flower the 1st year?

A. Yes poppies will first year and will naturally seed and come back year after year

Q. Do you have a problem with cross fertilization of different cucumber types? I planted my cukes near some pumpkin a few years back and wound up with cucpumpkins, or if you prefer pumpkumbers.

A. We have not had this problem if you are saving seeds from these plants and they are crossed then you will have this problem. Or if the company you got your seeds from this may have happened to them. You will not see this happen in your garden in the first year if your seed our of a pure variety. For the pollination effect the seeds of the plant that you are going to save, only the second year if they are crossed.

Q. How do you deal with the flea beetles?

A. Row cover if you can cover your plants before they get to them. If they are already on your plants Diatomaceous earth will repel most flea beetles. Here is an article that tells more.

Q. I’m growing tomatoes in an area which I never have used, it has always been grass there. I’ve noticed some of my tomatoes plants’ leaves look somewhat wilted, even though they have a steady supply of water. What could cause this?

A. You could be watering too much If the soil is too acidic, perhaps there was a walnut tree in the same area before, this could cause wilting. Also, watering too much at night could cause wilting. Look at the plant under the leaves and make sure their is not something eating the leaves from underneath. If that is the case, take a hose and spray them off the plant or pick then off.

Q. Can you recommend anything for soil that is low on potash, phosphorus & no nitrogen. Our soil is alkaline also, the PH is around 8. We have mostly sand. Would not like to use animal products.

A. Id put a heath layer of compost on, at least 2 inches. I would then mulch with a really thick layer of wood chips, alfalfa, hay, leaves really any organic matter. After that id grow a nitrogen fixing crop that also roots deep here is a good article that may help

Q. This is my first attempt at growing eggplant. I have them in containers. Am I supposed to prune out some of the flowers? There are so many at each leaf joint

A.With the eggplant there really isn’t a need to prune any of those flowers off. However, you may have a bunch of smaller eggplants as a result. We generally don’t prune ours off, but that really is at your discretion. We’re more of the type of people that let the plants grow more naturally. The best way to to grow them is good soil water and heat the more heat the better just keep them watered and full sun and they will grow great.

Q. What’s you idea on water bath canning beans, meat, … and letting it boil for 15 minutes before eating? That’s how we have to do it. We can’t have pressure canners (Belgum, Europe) So what is your idea about our way to can and use those foods? Do you think it is safe to boil 15 minutes before eating? I ask this because till now I didn’t can foods that have to be pressure canned.
A.This is highly unsafe and I would absolutely not do this.

Q. I like my apple butter a bit tart. Do you think this would still be safe for canning if I didn’t use any sugar or only used a bit?

A.We didn’t add any sugar to our apple butter so if you use tart apples then you should end up with a more tart result.

Q. Any tips on taming a crazy, wild patch of raspberries? I need to trim them back but not sure what canes to cut, what to leave. Old growth, new growth?

A. Thank you for your question I have found a link that explains very well how you should prune your raspberries