Troy Bilt Bronco TB70SS doesn’t run

My Troy Bilt gas powered string trimmer decided to quit on me this year.  I’ve only had it for 8+ years so I wondered why it picked this year to want attention.  8 years is a long time in cheap string trimmer years so here are a few things I did to help it get this far:

  • Only use non-ethanol fuel.  I’m fortunate that the closest gas station to my house has conventional gas – Commerce and 51 in Hernando.
  • Change the spark plug at least every 2 years
  • Do not keep mixed fuel longer than 8 months (much shorter if you use ethanol)
  • Empty the gas tank after you finish using it – back into the gas can

That is really all I did and my trimmer lasted 8+ years before it started to not run.  It started to not run well unless I had the choke in position #2, and after a few weeks of that, it stopped running any time I’d give it more than a light throttle.  I had several options without doing any work and I have an edger attachment for the Troy-Bilt trimmers so I’d need to either replace with a Troy-Bilt or get an edger attachment :

The first option was to buy a new string trimmer. Read the rest of this entry »

Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Seedlings sprouted!

I planted my tomato seedlings on January 15th just before we went skiing and left them under light. I used something similar to this Hydrofarm Germination Station with Heat Mat to keep the soil mix warm and moist.  The soil mix I used was one from Burpee that I found at Lowes called “Organic Seed Starting Mix”.  I mixed in a bit of perlite and moistened the mix before planting my seeds and covering the tray with the plastic dome cover.  We were gone for 10 days and had someone stop by to check the moisture of the soil.  The tray comes with a pad which lines the bottom and soaks up the water for slower release so she only had to add about 1L of water to the tray over the 10 days we were gone.

As soon as we returned home, I was pleased to see almost everything had sprouted.  On February 2nd, I potted up the tomato seedlings into 4″ round pots using a fresh mix of starter soil and perlite.  I did the usual method of planting them up to the bottom of the cotyledon leaves and then stuck them in the cold upstairs bedroom.  I was attempting to give them the “cold treatment”, however after I did some additional reading, the cold treatment for tomatoes is supposed to be just as soon as the cotyledon leaves appear and before the first real set of leaves show up.  Next year I will be more deliberate in my planting and I will give them a 10 – 15 day cold treatment before the first leaves appear.  They got about 5 days of cold treatment before I realized my mistake and just opened the vents and door to my upstairs growing room.  They’ll enjoy some nicer warm weather until they make it into the garden next month.

We decided to pot up our pepper plants on February 9th.  I used the same organic starter mix, perlite, and a very small amount of organic bone meal.  I have two trays of 18 – 3″ square pots for my peppers and I used about 2Tbsp bone meal for each tray.  These plants should continue to grow well until they make it out to the garden early to mid April.

Since I have been very stingy with pictures in the past, I hope you will enjoy the pictures of my potted up plants.

 

2013 Organic gardening is well under way

I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t had time to post any updates – I’ve barely had time to keep the garden going.  So far this year, we’ve added 5 blueberry plants, 3 grape vines, 2 blackberry patches, 2 raspberry patches, strawberry agro towers, and a strawberry patch.

The mild weather allowed me to get a lot in very early this year.  I have 3 tomatoes – two of which I started from seed and a Park’s Whopper I bought from the big-box store.  It’s mid June but the Park’s Whopper already has 40 fruit set and is 5 foot up the tomato tower – remember that in our type garden, one tomato plant goes in the middle of a 3′ diameter 10′ tall cage.  The Park’s Whopper was about 6″ tall when I put it in the ground on April 6th so it’s been growing a little over 2 months.  The other two tomatoes I’m growing are ones I started from seed around March 1st and were about 3″ tall when I put them in the ground early April.  To protect the tomatoes from frost and encourage them to get started, I prepped the bed by putting down Better Reds Plastic Mulch and a Wall O Water tomato tent.  I put the red wall o water over top of the plastic mulch squares to get the medium warmer and ready for the tomatoes.

The other two tomato varieties I’m growing are a Beef Steak heirloom and a Gold Medal Tomato which is supposed to be slightly less acidic and ripen yellow with red streaks up the sides of the fruit.

I know this post is worthless without pictures so if I get some spare time next week, I’ll put some pictures up.

Why I will never buy another Samsung TV (and why I will take this one back if I can)

My post isn’t in line with the focus of this blog, but I had to say something about my recent experience with Samsung TVs and help inform someone thinking about purchasing a new Samsung TV.  We gave our 6 year old 47″ Vizio to my mom  and I picked up a Samsung UN55ES6150F 55″ TV at Costco.

The Good

The TV is really a nice looking piece of electronics.  The picture is much sharper and the color more vibrant than our old Vizio.  The bezel is barely 1″ thick all the way around – most new LED TVs have a thin bezel so it’s not a huge selling feature, but from the 47″ Vizio with (what seemed to be) a 3″ bezel, this is nice.

The TV is very thin.. very.  I know most new TVs have most of these features, but built in wi-fi and a “SmartHub” (which we find out later isn’t so smart) are nice.

The bad

Ugh.. tonight I really wish I hadn’t bought this TV, but more on that later… I think that they were napping in the engineering department the day they drew this one up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sprinklers!

There isn’t much to this post, but I’ve added some drip sprinklers.  Here are some of the parts I used:

expansion valve

yard watering kit

1/4″ drip tube

pressure regulator

sprinkler

 

More planting, pruning, and caging in a square foot

Tonight after I arrived at home, the girls and I went out back to see what we could put in the ground.  We decided that it was time for more onions and carrots since the current crop of onions and carrots are two weeks under way.  This will be our first attempt at succession planting or stagger planting which I can already tell will take some planning to ensure we have a continual harvest without having a huge abundance.  We used the planting boards to put green onions in as well as three ‘presses’ of carrots – all different varieties.  What I’m calling a ‘press’ is when I take the 2′ x 1′ planting board and press it into the medium creating the spaced holes required to plant seed.  We planted 6 square feet of carrots and 2 square feet of green onions which should yield about 32 green onions and 96 carrots when they mature.  Maybe I’m wrong but this is incredibly efficient gardening.  In one 4×4 section of bed (16 sq ft), I can plant 256 carrots.  I have 16 of these 4×4 sections so I could plant approximately 4096 carrots at one time – not that I would, but you get the idea.  Radishes are on 1.5″ centres so double for radishes – 8192.  We also used the boards tonight to plant 18 red onions in bed 3 on four-inch centres, this should provide a nice variety of onion.

I decided to see how my tomatoes measured up after a week and here are the results : Mortgage Lifter tomato gained 4 inches at 21″ tall.  Park’s Whopper gained an impressive 7 inches at 29″ tall.  The Beefsteak tomato gained 5 inches at 18″ tall.  My pizza peppers have sprouted and I suspect I’ll need to transplant them in a week or so as they are way to close to the tomato cage and will quickly get choked out.

Planting boards – the end of row cropping

I realized this the first year we planted, but it’s just not practical to utilize row cropping in this system.  Your rows are 4′ long and if you space them out by the seed packet instructions, you are wasting a lot of space.  Len’s latest book includes instructions for building planting boards that are 1′ x 2′ with different spacing options.  I took the time to build some planting boards in different spacing widths and I’ll be using them in a few days when we plant again.  Another advantage to using the planting board is that you don’t have to ‘thin’ your crops.  In the row method, you’d drop seeds very close and then thin them out to be 3″ apart (carrots for our example).  I think that’s a waste of good seed.  In our medium, very few seeds fail to germinate so if you plant it, you can be almost assured that it will grow.  I can already see that when I use the planting board, I’ll be able to plant 32 carrots in a 1′ x 2′ space – radishes (at 1.5″ apart) 64 in a 1′ x 2′ space – that’s ~2048 radishes or ~1024 in one 4×16 bed – now we’re talking.  Goodbye row cropping, hello densely planted vegetables.

Tomato Cages / Towers and Pruning

One of the things I learned from Len’s book and video is how to support and prune tomatoes.  I won’t go into major detail on the pruning but it involves leaving some of the suckers and pinching off the leaves to get more base stems going up the supports.  His pruning style is similar to that found in the book How to Grow World Record Tomatoes by Charles Wilber who is a Guinness Champion tomato grower.  Len goes into much better detail than I can about pruning in the video you can pickup on his website.

Cages
The growing medium we are using is so loose that it is not possible to steak up a tomato in the traditional manner with a pole, wire cage, or other trellis that sticks in the ground.  Besides the loose medium, the indeterminate tomatoes we are growing can get very large so whatever we do, it needs to be robust enough to support a large plant.  Read the rest of this entry »

In a pickle

Bed #1

The radishes were the first to show, much to M’s delight, less than a week after she planted them.  I thought this was so awesome until I read that radishes can germinate and be a small plant within 3 days.  The radishes are joined by thin grass looking green onions and some small carrots.  The white onions we transplanted have greened up and are pointing to the sky now.  I’m no expert on sweet potatoes but they do look good!

Bed #2

The mortgage lifter tomato is now 18″ tall but no suckers have showed themselves yet (more on this later).  The Parks Whopper is coming strong at 22″ tall and very healthy looking.  I pinched off 6 of the leaves leaving the suckers and stabilized the plant with dowel rods on the cage (more on this later).  The Beefsteak tomato I had was just small.  It’s early June and I don’t want to waste any time so I was at HD replacing some of the peppers that sucked and saw that they had a larger Beefsteak.  This guy looks amazing – full, green, thick and healthy, so I transplanted it tonight @ 13″ tall.

A note about Home Depot in Southaven, MS and their garden center – I picked up a variety of pepper plants last week of which most of them looked very good.  Within 3 days I had 6 plants wilting on me while the rest of the garden including 9 other peppers within the same 4’x4′ area were doing fine.  I sent the dead peppers to Mississippi State Extension office in Hernando and they reported back that the peppers had Pythium Root Root – possibly from over watering at the store.  When I returned today to give it another shot, the peppers and tomatoes looked much better.

Bed #3

We picked up some pickling cucumbers , okra, and melons at Dan West in Memphis which made their way into bed #3 tonight.  The first few years, we grew all salad cucumbers.  What we found out is that even with giving away salad cucumbers to family and friends, we always had too many that ended up in the trash.  This year I planted one salad cucumber and three pickling cucumbers.  I’m going to make an early year prediction – we’ll have way to many pickling cucumbers that will make their way into the compost pile.

There is nothing wrong with having an abundance, but I never had a ComposTumbler before so anything I didn’t use went into the trash.

 

Sweet potatoes, peppers, and tomatos

Bed #1

We put down some white onions from bulb tonight as well as some sweet potatoes.  I know you can get sweet potatoes fairly cheap at the store, but I really want to taste an organic grown sweet potato from my garden.

Bed #2

Along with the onions and potatoes, I picked up a Mortgage Lifter tomato from C&C gardens in Hernando, a Park’s Whopper tomato, and a German Johnson Tomato, and about 16 pepper plants from Home Depot.  Some of the peppers don’t look so hot, but everything else is looking good so I transplanted them into the bed.  We also planted some ‘pizza peppers’ from seed in this bed – we’ll see how they do but I don’t have any expectations.

First crops for 2012 planted

M, A, and E helped me this evening get our first crops in.  We planted our first 4×4 section of bed #1 with sparkler radishes, green onions, and carrots.  A good watering and this bed is off to the races!!  I can’t wait to see what it is going to do this year.

Starting my garden for 2012

It’s sad but I’m getting the garden started late this year.  I intended to get it started earlier but some weather delays coupled with some availability of digging equipment pushed it back to mid/late may.

Our first year
…of gardening was 2010.  My mom came down from Branson and helped us build a 4’x16′ raised bed cinder block garden.  She heard about a gardening technique that a man named Len Pense from the Springfield Missouri area.  I purchased his downloadable manual which covered a lot of what you need to know to make these raised beds work so.. we built one bed.  I learned several things my first year:

#1 – Indeterminate tomatoes grow big – HUGE – in these beds.  I put two plants at one end of what I’ll call Bed #1 and they took off.  I made the mistake of planting two tomatoes together and buying the ‘big size’ tomato cages made of concrete reinforcement wire.  These cages are about 1.5′ in diameter and 5′ tall – great for most gardens – not for this one.  By the end of the growing season, both tomato plants were overflowing out the top and fell over.

#2 – I hate squash bugs.  I first saw the squash bugs and thought – eh.. no big deal – gardens are supposed to have bugs right?  No dummy – gardens are supposed to have worms.  The only reason most bugs show up is for dinner.  Thinking that gardens were supposed to have bugs, I paid these cute little white creatures no mind.  My yellow squash were the first plants to start to die followed by my beloved Zucchini.  I though.. what on earth would cause these plants to just die – was I not watering them enough? Watering too much?  No.. these white critters were now brown and there were even more little white critters … they were having dinner on my plants!!  Into the garbage heap and out to the street they went.

I learned several other lessons but those were the big ones.. oh.. and building raised bed cinder block gardens was challenging at best – especially when you have to dig out a hill to make it level.

Our second year
…started out pretty good.  I took some of the lessons I learned and tried to apply them:

Read the rest of this entry »

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