August 31, 2008
Tonight's Sunday night movie, Bad Seed (6 min, 37 sec), is about genetically modified food and the control of the world's seed supply. Think again about your decision to feed your chickens, goats, cows and pigs "regular" feed. Even if it doesn't contain antibiotics or pesticides, it probably contains genetically modified corn and soy. The only way to know what is in your feed is to grow your own or ask the farmer who grows it what kind of seed he/she uses.
Organic feed costs twice as much. But who knows how much cheaper it will turn out to be in the future when you factor in health costs. Do you really want to take that chance?
August 31, 2008
Alright, first it was the Mexican beetle, now it's one from China. Will everyone just keep their beetles to themselves? Maybe we have one that we can send abroad to visit. Here's an article about this relatively new invader from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:
A tree-destroying beetle that was discovered in Worcester early this month may have been in the city at least five years earlier than federal officials estimated.
A local pest control owner, Geoff Ford, says a sample of the Asian longhorned beetle has been in his insect collection since 1997, when someone brought it to him to identify.
Federal officials estimated the beetle was in Worcester since 2002 after a scientist examined what appeared to be the most infested tree.
For more information and more pictures of the life cycle of this pest, visit the website of UVM's entomology research laboratory.
August 30, 2008
Hot off the press, this book will give you all the info you need to keep a few pigs of your own. Chuck Wooster is a vegetable, sheep and hog farmer in Vermont (www.sunrisefarmvt.com) who somehow finds time to write books and articles. After reading this book, you will know how to buy piglets (ahem, shoats), house and fence them properly, and, yes, slaughter and butcher your own hogs.
Although Chuck describes his pigs as funny, smart and friendly, this is not a book about keeping pot-bellied pigs as pets. This is a farm book for omnivores. For a big hog belly laugh, read the negative review this book received at Amazon. (I'll bet my britches that reviewer eats bacon.) And then go buy the book. It is well written, explicitly photographed, and unapologetic when it comes to the slaughtering part, which, in this age of fake "pharm"ing and photoshop foolery, is quite a relief.
Check out Northern Woodlands Magazine and Living With Sheep, for more wizardly words about farming and the great outdoors by Chuck Wooster.
August 29, 2008
Our bees are going crazy over the blooming sedum in the front garden. Goldenrod, joe pie weed and loosestrife are among the last flowers from which bees can collect nectar. Sedum is another late season source for honeybees and, if our bees are any indication, they love it.
There are many different kinds of sedum available. Although planting perennials might not be the first thing on your list right now, it's a great time to buy sedum because you get to see the actual color of the flowers instead of examining the i.d. tag photo. Here are a couple considerations:
Dragon's Blood Sedum
August 28, 2008
This week a broad-billed hummingbird was vacationing in Dennis, MA.
(photo via Boston Globe)
It usually resides in Arizona but is enjoying the Cape this summer.
Sandra and Charles McGibbon, backyard birders, were having dinner on a deck in Dennis when their friends told them to keep their eyes peeled for a hummingbird. It wasn't the ruby-throated hummingbird typically seen on the Cape. They thought it was something special.
Read more in this Boston Globe article by
Okay, Mexico, we love your tacos and tomatillos, but please take your beetles back! They're eating all our beans. They remind me of those slimy Colorado potato beetles except that these (larvae) are yellow and hairy. If you haven't seen one in your garden, they look like this:
(picture via http://www.uri.edu/ce/factsheets/sheets/mexbeanbeetle.html)
The adult Mexican beetle looks like a yellow or copper colored ladybug but don't be fooled. They are evil.
Pick the beans that are ready, flick those beetles off and step on them.
According to Frank A. Hale, Associate Professor of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the University of Tennessee, "The adult Mexican bean beetle overwinters under leaves or other debris in grassy, weedy areas and around fence rows or trees. The adults move into the bean fields and gardens soon after the bean plants emerge. The adults feed for a week or two before laying their yellow egg masses on the underside of the leaves. The eggs hatch in five to 14 days."
"The bright yellow larvae are oval-shaped with six rows of branched spines. The larvae feed for two to five weeks. Larvae and adults feed on all types of beans and are an occasional pest of soybeans. They generally feed on the underside of leaves, removing all of the leaf tissue except the clear layer on the upper side of the leaf, called the epidermis."
"This damage, called "window-paning," gives the leaves a lace-like or skeletonized appearance. The remaining leaf tissue turns brown in a couple of days, giving the field a burnt cast. New pods and stems are often attacked, and severely damaged plants may die prematurely."
You can use a pyrethrum (chrysanthemum) based pesticide but there have been some studies that question the safety of these products. A cedar oil product might be better and is comparable in cost. Vacuuming is another way to get rid of these pests. If you want a physical barrier, try floating row covers from Johnny's Seeds.
August 27, 2008
It's not too late to get one last crop of snap, shelling, or snow peas in for fall harvesting. Sow two months before frost which around here has been early as Sept. 7th in 1993 or as late as Oct 20th. Peas can handle colder weather and it's always worth the cost of a packet of seeds ($2.95 from Johnny's Seeds in Albion, ME) to try and beat the weather. You can always throw a sheet over them at night just in case. If that's too much bother, and/or the frost is early this year, at least you've given your garden some extra nitrogen and have something to till into the soil for next year. Or divide it among the pigs and goats for a light afternoon snack.
August 26, 2008
This just couldn't wait for the Sunday Night Movie slot. Here's a great collection of pictures and clips of hummingbirds that will inspire you to plant flowers for them. Imagine seeing these amazing birds in your own yard! If you don't like the music, just turn the volume down and enjoy the pictures.
For more information on hummingbirds and planting gardens for them, buy this e-book from Mother Earth News for $6.95.
Look at this tiny hummingbird resting on a branch.
I had assumed hummingbirds rest from time to time, but had never seen one sit still until I sat still. And waited. And waited a little longer. Then, that distinctive buzz of the wings came from the right and a little blur flew up to a nearby branch. It sat and peeped like a chipmonk for a couple minutes, flew to the feeder and hovered for a second or two. Then it was gone!
There are never enough hummingbirds in the garden. To help attract them, we recommend this book, Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard, (A Rodale Organic Gardening Book) by Sally Roth. You can find it at Amazon for $12.89.
August 24, 2008
Watch this video, made by The Wall Street Journal, to learn how cattle feedlots are coping with higher corn costs. Yet another dumb idea from industrial "pharmers".
August 23, 2008
To conclude our week of worms, bugs and other gross things, here's a story to read after eating dinner.
A man claims a restaurant served him a tapeworm in his food.
Franz's lawsuit seeks $100,000 from Shaw's and its parent company, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, contending the restaurant's staff was negligent in serving him improperly cooked fish.
But Carrol Symank, vice president of food safety for Lettuce Entertain You, said the tapeworm didn't come from Shaw's. "We have done a thorough investigation and we're confident the restaurant is not the source," he said.
According to the Web site mayoclinic.com, tapeworms can measure up to 50 feet long. (article from Associated Press)
So, what does a tapeworm look like?
According to www.MedFriendly.com, "adult tapeworms have hooks, spiny structures, or suckers on their head, which allow them to attach to the wall of the intestine. The rest of the tapeworm is made up of a chain of flat segments. In the human digestive system, tapeworms develop into an adult form with one or more sexual organs that are capable of producing eggs. Adult tapeworms can be 20 to 30 feet in length!"
Full read at AP
Now this is one cool looking insect. No stomach upset here. And they are beneficial for the garden by eating all the other bugs that eat your plants.
Here's a poster print by Pete Oxford. The 40 x 30 print is available at Amazon for $69.99.
But the real thing is even better. Buy 4 praying mantises or an egg out of which 500 baby mantises could emerge from www.livemantis.com.
But, wait, there's more. Check out this clip of a female eating a male after mating.
August 22, 2008
Think you don't have enough room to farm? Think again. This worm farm measures 16" x 16" x 28". Hey, isn't that smaller than the average TV nowadays? Set it up right next to your trash can and compost pail in the kitchen. Or if you have one of those new, fancy kitchens and the trash can is a drawer in the cabinets, put the worm farm in the garage or basement or downstairs bathroom. Better yet, keep a small version under your desk at work. I'm not joking - people do this! This worm farm comes with coconut husk bedding to get you started. Find it at Amazon for $79.95.
And don't forget the worms! You can buy a pound of them from Amazon, too, for $39.95. 1,000 to 1,200 worms per pound. This certainly must be one of the stranger items for sale there.
Let's find some real pictures of those worms to keep the week's theme alive. Here's one from www.redwormcomposting.com, which has everything you need to know about composting with worms.
And here's another one from www.ourvitalearth.com, an online store with worm composting equipment.
Okay, that's enough. I've got the now familiar feeling in my stomach. Yuck.
August 21, 2008
This is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year: opening day at the blueberry farm. This is a beautiful and secluded farm with approx. 3,500 blueberry bushes.
It has a designated handicap access row as well. We usually pick upwards of 30 lbs of berries every year for fresh eating, making jam and freezing for blueberry pies throughout the year. The blueberries were blue, crowds were few, and it wasn't even raining. The berries tasted great and we settled in for a few focused hours of picking and eating.
After a couple hours, we recognized another devotee who gave a stern warning: Watch out for maggots. WHAT!? Gross. Then he showed us a berry with a tiny hole
which, when opened, revealed a little, white, disgusting maggot.
For more on the blueberry maggot (or blueberry fruit fly), read this info from the U of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Yes, it was true. Blueberry day was ruined. We started to pick again, but slower now, and no eating handfuls of berries. Barely registering 10 lbs of fruit, we quietly headed home to sort through them all and put the safe ones in the freezer, calculating silently how many maggots we had eaten that morning.
The chickens, on the other hand, loved the rejects, probably wondering who could have thought of such a delectable treat as a blueberry sheathed worm. This had to be something specifically created for them.
Just when you think you've found a fool-proof, pest proof, disease proof enterprise, along comes a maggot to bring things to a sudden halt. Farming is a tough business. Dave, the vegetable and fruit farmer down the street, reported yesterday that his crops have been hailed on several times this year, lettuce is rotting in the field, tomatoes aren't ripening because there hasn't been enough sunshine, 5 acres of pumpkins which should contain 40,000 lbs of fruit have almost none, and bees aren't pollinating because it has been so rainy. And, worst of all, he can't wait for this year to be over. Support your local farmer! The least we can do is buy the stuff that is growing this year. Click here to find a farmer's market near you.
The zinnias looked beautiful until some Japanese Beetles set up camp on them. Notice their beautiful, metallic green and copper colored bodies and wings. Yup, them slugs got wings now.
They eat in between the veins of leaves, after which a lacy skeleton remains.
There are several options available to get rid of these pests - powder or spray insecticides, traps and hand picking.
The insecticides work, of course, but now you have chemicals in your garden and possibly on your food. In one study, the half life of a popular one, permethrin, was 17 days. This means that the chemical is still hanging around and not broken down 17 days after you apply it. To read more about permethrin, click here.
Beetle traps are another remedy. We use these with success and recommend them highly. Suspend them from your metal bird feeder hooks which are hanging around and not paying any rent all summer long.
Some people say they attract more beetles to your property but as long as you locate the traps 30 ft. away from the plants you are trying to protect, it should be okay. And your neighbors will love you for taking away their Japanese beetles, too. Click here to buy this trap for $6.66 from Amazon.
A third option if you don't have a huge infestation or a big garden, is to hand pick them off the plants. I did this and gave them to the chickens but the chickens just pecked at them and didn't eat them which gave the beetles time to fly right back to the flowers! Old timers will fill a coffee can with a little motor oil or kerosene and drop the beetles in. This kills them instantly and it's a great camp fire starter. No! I didn't say that. Just kidding. Use kindling and don't be so impatient.
How about a container filled 1/2 way with soapy water? A few drops of dish detergent will do the trick. This kills them and you don't have to worry about disposal. GardenSnob staffers pick them off and crush them swiftly with their shoes. This also kills them, adds valuable organic matter to the garden, and gives a distinct level of satisfaction to the do-it-yourselfer.
To read more
August 18, 2008
WARNING: This is worm and bug week at GardenSnob. If you are grossed out easily, skip this blog for a few days and read your bank statement or local police blotter instead.
The tobacco worm has reared its ugly head again this summer. And I mean UGLY! This could easily turn a new gardener away from gardening AND tomatoes altogether.
These are some of the largest caterpillars found around here. They have a natural camouflage that would make any soldier envious and a red, pointy horn on one end. It's a little hard to tell which end it is because they seem to have eyes or a little face on both. (I hope no one says that about me, ever.) At some point, these things turn into hummingbird moths
August 17, 2008
Hey, why not have as much power on your side as you can? We use this auger for planting bulbs and it does a great job. Not only are you standing up while you work, but (as is the nature of augers) the auger pulls the soil out of the hole while it is making it so you don't have to get down and pull it out.
Just drill the hole and drop a bulb into it. We like the extra thick blade that can be sharpened again and again. The bulb auger (at Amazon for $32.99) and cordless drill make short work of this task, which is important if you went a little crazy buying bulbs and now are wondering how the heck 200 bulbs are going to find their way into the ground this fall. Nothing helps the motivation more than knowing it's a quick job. Well, except if you say you can have a beer when you're done.
For tips on a good cordless drill, go ask my brother-in-law at ToolSnob.
August 16, 2008
If you are looking for a cool collectible, this is it. These are beautiful blue fall-blooming crocus bulbs with stamens of saffron, the world's most expensive spice. Available from Amazon for $8.99 for ten bulbs. A very unusual and unique gift would be a tiny box of your own home-grown saffron. You could also give small containers of other dried herbs from your garden, such as dill, oregano, mint and thyme. Or a red-themed gift of saffron, strawberry jam and tomato sauce all from your own backyard!
August 15, 2008
Here's another long-handled bulb planter that looks promising. While it doesn't have the sharp and pointy blades of the last one, it does have a treaded foot bar so you can use your weight to get through the sod instead of your shoulders. For anyone with shoulder problems or arms that aren't quite as strong as they used to be, this is your bulb planter. Available from Amazon for $59.00.
August 14, 2008
If you're going to order bulbs, you'll need a bulb planter to get the job done in a reasonable timeframe. This is an interesting one based on the post hole digger design and we think it's worth trying.
With ash handles and steel blades, they've intended for this to be around for a long time. On sale at Gardener's Supply for $39.99.
Even though everything in the garden and yard is crying for more attention, it's time to think about ordering bulbs for fall planting. Don't wait until all the good stuff is gone. The bulbs can sit around in the basement for a few weeks where it's dark and cool until you have time to plant them. Most companies don't mail them out until planting time in your area, anyway. The key thing is to get the order in.
Here is a great mix of blue and purple tulips from Hirt's Gardens available through Amazon. Blue is one of the most unusual and highly sought after flower colors and these are gorgeous. They would look great amid crowds of yellow daffodils.
Finally, this evil empire gets a kick in the butt. The Organic Consumer Organization reports:
"Monsanto announced on August 6 it will "divest" or sell off its controversial genetically engineered animal drug, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Monsanto's divestment of rBGH is a direct result of 14 years of determined opposition by organic consumer, public interest, and family farmer groups. Since its founding, the Organic Consumers Association has campaigned against this cruel and dangerous drug, pointing out to organic and health-minded consumers that rBGH-tainted dairy products pose unacceptable dangers to humans from increased antibiotic residues and elevated levels of a potent cancer tumor promoter called IGF-1. OCA's "Millions Against Monsanto" campaign has generated over a quarter million emails and petition signatures on the topic of rBGH, helping make rBGH one of the most controversial food products in the world."
To learn more, go to the Organic Consumers website and watch an informative movie about rBGH by Jeffrey M. Smith (author of Seeds of Deception and other books).
August 11, 2008
By Associated Press
Borrowers at the Turner Public Library can choose from a large selection of gardening books -- and more than a dozen hand tools to carry out their chosen projects.
Spades and pruners, a cultivating fork, a root cutter and a bulb planter are among the tools that patrons can check out, just as they would a book. Library Director Vicki Varney said the tools are available to help both new gardeners and others who might not have the right tool for the job.
Offering garden tools was the brainchild of library trustee Pat Dickinson, who read about a similar project elsewhere. Jeff Timberlake of Northland True Value Hardware donated the tools. The tools are normally loaned for one week but can be renewed, just like a book.
Information from: Sun-Journal, http://www.sunjournal.com
August 10, 2008
This is one more fence item from Premier. It's a plastic sleeve that fits over a sapling to protect it from deer, rabbits, wind and (believe it or not) sun. Yes, trees can get sunburned! Not in New England this summer, though. Put the plastic sleeve around the trunk of the tree and then slide a post through the pre-cut holes. After money spent buying the tree, and the effort put forth to carefully plant and water it, 3 or 4 more bucks for the sleeve and post are totally worth it to protect your little sapling. But, why, Premier, why don't you sell the posts individually? Just break open one of those 20-packs and sell me 3 for my little sour cherry trees. Please?
August 9, 2008
So, it turns out that a surge of electricity came through the wall outlet and zapped the transformer and circuit board of our energizer. This is a bummer - a $143 bummer to be exact. The worst part is to know that a little $10.50 surge protector could have protected it. We have them for the computer stuff but it didn't cross my mind to have one for the fence. All I say to myself is "duh" because I'm so tired of the "oh, well, live and learn" lame excuse for making a dumb mistake. I've opted to have the energizer repaired rather than buy a new one and hope I'm not stepping over a nickel to pick up a penny. There's a 30-day warranty with the repair and a 2-year warranty (ours expired 1 1/2 months ago) with a new energizer. At Premier 1 Supplies, of course.
August 6, 2008
This is the electric netting we use at GardenSnob. It's held in goats, chickens and even pigs, well, that is until the pigs tunneled under it. They had a blast stopping traffic and dancing on the lawn. But, that's a story for another day. This netting will hold in all kinds of animals, even little chicks, and keep marauding dogs, skunks and foxes out. We move this fencing around all the time to give the animals fresh pasture. It is durable and light enough to carry around. It even sustained a lightning strike that blew out the transformer of our energizer. The most important thing is to keep the fence line mowed so the electric current remains strong. Available with single spikes (that's what we have) and double spikes for extra stability at Premier 1 Supplies.
August 5, 2008
The 20B Solar Battery Energizer was the first one we bought to power our electric net fencing. With this unit, your electric fence is completely portable so you can set it up far away from buildings or houses. While initially expensive, the many uses of this system outweigh its cost over time. We've used this to contain livestock and also put it around our vegetable garden to keep out rabbits and woodchucks. We recommend getting the one with the biggest battery (it says it will last 4 years) even though it costs more because we were going through one battery every year. Our recommendation is to supply your own ground rod so the fence is strong enough. The directions say that you can use the unit stand as the ground rod (see picture), but it's only approx. 7" long and doesn't go deep enough into the soil to provide a good ground. Buy a piece of rebar or find an old pipe at least 3 feet long and pound it into the ground near your energizer. Hook up the ground wire (green clip) to it. Just make sure you can get it out when it's time to move the fence. You can find this and other great fence products at Premier 1 Supplies.
Here at GardenSnob, the goats and chickens are contained with electric net fence. We power it with the IntelliShock 284 110v AC Energizer that is plugged into an outlet in the barn. This is a wide impedance energizer that can handle a few branches, a rock or two, or some snow but still deliver a good wallop to anything/anyone that touches it. Every few weeks, we mow the fence line so it stays at or near 6,000 volts. This might sound dangerous but it's a pulsing electric current, not a steady one. If we have visitors, we usually turn the fence off while they are here, but we hop right over it all the time as long as we have rubber soled boots on. I even go over it with only flip flops on if need be. It's an easy, portable and dependable system. We've had this unit for a couple years and then last week . . . BOOM! Lightning struck in the backyard and blew out the transformer in the unit. Good thing we bought it from Premier 1 Supplies. Their fencing products are of the highest quality and their customer service is the best I've ever experienced with any company. We shipped it back to them and will await the word on repairing vs. replacing the unit. Meanwhile, the animal fence is tied into the solar battery energizer. More on that next . . .
August 3, 2008
We bought a great new camera to take all kinds of flowery photos! We had the little PowerShot and were happy with it for the most part but wanted the optical zoom to really focus on bugs and other tiny garden inhabitants. So far, so good and we still have the awesome 2.5" viewing screen. It's also easier to hold than the little PowerShot because of the grippy thing on the right. But don't just take our word for it. We could be pulling the potatoes over your eyes. Go ask my sister - she's the pro . . . www.picturesnob.com.
August 2, 2008
For those who just want the info without all the pretty pictures, consult the Storey Publishing bulletins. These 32-page pamphlets offer lots of practical, hands-on instruction for everything from gardening to cooking with oats to wallpapering.
Here's the one on hanging plants and it's simple, well written and unbelievably cheap. I mean inexpensive. At $2.25, you really can't go wrong. Heck, kindling is probably going for that price now.
If you have to pay for shipping, you might as well get the Container Gardening one, too, or better yet, collect all 200 bulletins!
August 1, 2008
Here are a few pictures from Santa Fe, NM. This is a 2-story motel with window boxes along the entire U-shaped courtyard.
Second story window boxes at the St. Francis Hotel.
And a simple but gorgeous planter on the sidewalk.
Lastly, the rosemary and allysum (my favorite!) planters at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Huge and amazing!