September 28, 2008
September 27, 2008
This is one of the smallest items you could possibly refer to as a greenhouse. But this little windowsill greenhouse will start seeds as well as any commercial greenhouse. The secret is all in how well you sing to them. Alright, you need water and light, too. This little tray fits on a windowsill and comes with the peat pots (no mixing soil in the house!) and a dome to keep the heat and moisture in. I don't know how these could sell for only $5.12 each. It would take me a quite a while to find the right size tray for a windowsill, find a dome to fit over it, and then get a set of peat pots to sit inside it. I might as well put one on every windowsill in the house.
September 26, 2008
Here's a link to an interview with Alice Waters, one of my heroes, and the California chef who created the "edible schoolyard" in Berkeley, CA. She promotes healthy eating for kids by introducing them to the seasons, nature and gardening. Ms. Waters says, "My solution is not to try to feed children in the same way that fast food nation does -- which is to figure out a gimmick to get them to eat something. It's to bring them into a whole relationship with food that's connected to nature and our culture." Click here to read this interview.
September 26, 2008
This is a great seed starter that can be reused again and again. Comes with a tray, peat pots, plug-in heat mat, and a dome to cover the tray. Great for planting some herb seeds - basil, parsley, cilantro, chives - now for using through the winter. After the seeds sprout and outgrow the peat pot, plant them - pot and all - into a bigger pot and set on a sunny windowsill.
In the spring, this is a great tray to start your tomatoes and peppers in. The Jiffy Heated Greenhouse is available at Amazon for $43.99. In the past, I've purchased a heated mat alone at a garden center for about the same price so this is a good deal.
September 25, 2008
Okay, if you're really serious about having a greenhouse, you're probably resigned to the fact that you'll have to fork over $1,200 or more to get something decent. If you don't want to suffer through buying a used one that you dismantle, transport home and reconstruct (like GardenSnob did), do yourself a favor and buy one from Farmtek. They have great stuff for farm, garden and home.
September 24, 2008
Here's another greenhouse option for indoor use. What? Indoor use? That's what they say but there are no suggestions as to what type of plant would do well in it. It's also odor-proof so there's a big clue. An expensive little recreational item at $195.25 through Amazon and I don't recommend buying one. Just like to keep people informed about what's out there. If you are foolish enough to buy one, make sure you don't have it delivered to your home - this is one sale that could trigger an investigation!
September 22, 2008
If you usually make a cold frame for spring time or cover your beloved tomato plants in the fall for a few weeks, you might want to consider something like this portable greenhouse.
The set up is similar to a camping tent and it's plenty big for most backyard gardeners. Invest in this and save money in the spring by starting your own plants from seed. Available from Amazon for $189.05.
September 21, 2008
September 20, 2008
Row covers are great for growing mustard greens and other veggies that get chowed by bugs. Now that you've eaten all those greens, pull the row covers over the tomatoes or basil to get a few more days or weeks (you never know around here) out of the summer garden. We will be covering our basil, carrots, beets and tomatoes until we get enough sauce and pesto made or until we are so sick of it that we just let the plants perish in the cold.
These row covers are available from Johnny's Seeds for as little as $16.00 for 83' x 50'. Make sure you buy the heavy grade for maximum warming.
The beets will be pulled up before they get mushy and the carrots will be covered with 2' of hay and left in the ground all winter. We hope to shovel back the snow, roll away the hay and dig carrots all winter. The farmer from whom we bought Spicy, one of the pigs, does this every year and says it works much better than pulling them and storing them in sawdust. We'll see about that and we will of course be documenting it over the winter. But for now we will steal a few more days from summer.
September 19, 2008
As we were gathering the last of the tomatoes for canning, we went at it with gusto, confident that all the worms, bugs and caterpillars had taken wing in their new forms and gone on to greener pastures. But, soon enough, we were rubbing shoulders (no horns - I checked both ends) with this one.
Could be a late season hornworm since there can be two generations of them in a single year. And, there must be more than one in the GardenSnob garden because many tomatoes had that characteristic, quarter-sized bite shaved off of them. This one is a purple/brown/grey color, though, not the typical green, so we'll keep searching for its proper identity. We decided to leave this little guy on the tomato so it can mature into a moth. We have enough tomatoes and it would be really cool to see the giant 5-6" moth.
One way to stave off next year's hornworms is to till your garden this fall, keeping an eye out for the cocoons which are reddish brown. Make sure you crush, destroy, pulverize them. The Mantis tiller might be just the thing for this job. It's light and maneuverable and uses a dependable Honda engine.
I've only heard good things about them and am tempted to get one myself. Although it's more expensive, I recommend the one with the 4-cycle engine because it's easier to start and a lot quieter. On sale at Amazon for $448.82.
And now for the fun stuff. How could we mention something as disgusting as a tobacco worm without giving a visual? Here's a really gross video for all the worm lovers but especially my 7 & 8 year old nephews. It shows a pretty girl eating a large tobacco hornworm on a dare. This is as gross as it gets! Don't say I didn't warn you.
Hot Chick Eating Juicy Tomato Worm - The most popular videos are here
The hornworm has taken quite a beating this season so let's see it in its hummingbird moth form. Looks graceful enough and the flower sure is pretty.
(Photo courtesy of Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota)
September 18, 2008
(photo via Christine Peterson for The Boston Globe)
We were not imagining it - this has been a very wet year. GardenSnob has noticed it primarily with tomatoes but pumpkin growers are also having a bad year. There has been so much rain that pollination rates are lower because bees don't fly in the rain. Then, fruits become so waterlogged, they fall off the vine early and rot. Read more about New England pumpkin farmers in this article by Michael Levenson for the Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/09/18/a_crop_so_waterlogged_its_scary/?page=1
If you're looking for a pie pumpkin, we had good luck with the Long Pie pumpkin this year which is available at Fedco Seeds, a quirky co-op seed catalog. This heirloom pumpkin is shaped like a large zucchini and hails from Maine. When it is still dark green but sporting a circle of orange on its side, the pumpkin is ready to be picked. After a few weeks in storage, it turns a vivid orange and keeps well into the winter. It also has a voice that sounds a bit like James Brown, but it only speaks out in the field so you'd have to visit next year to hear that. :)
September 17, 2008
The birds are starting to pack it up and head south. When their singing becomes less frequent, I pay more attention to my windchimes. We have some in the back and some on the front porch. The Woodstock Alto Chime has been hanging outside all year round for several years and it still looks and sounds beautiful. Even with a slight breeze, it chimes. When it is very windy, it never gets annoying because it sounds like an instrument, not a tinny dime store trinket. It might seem expensive at $39.99 (from Amazon), but when you hear it, you won't think so.
September 14, 2008
This introduction to the film, The Future of Food, reviews the history of seed saving, the decision to allow the patenting of life and seeds, and the corporations who are attempting to control the world's food supply. It also explores the growth of small farms in the past few years and their attempts to bring seeds and food back into the hands of individuals.
">The Future of Food
Now here's a site to get lost in - at least I did. Lots of bulbs, good prices and good information about growing, planting, etc. My favorite bulb is scilla. They are small and maybe a little expensive for their size, but they are one of the longest lasting bulbs.
The site recommends planting them under spring flowering shrubs such as azaleas and rhododendrons but I like to plant them in the lawn. After they've naturalized for a few years, they create a beautiful spread and blend with the spring green grass. Plus, you don't have to mow the grass until after they stop blooming. I mean, who would want you to mow down flowers?
To make sure you don't order more bulbs than you have time to plant, here's a way to estimate the work load. Time yourself as you dig a hole with your bulb planter, add bone meal or whatever you like to add, stick a rock or, better yet, a gold coin in the hole, and tamp it down. If it took you 1 minute and you want to order 300 bulbs, plan on spending a minimum of 6 hours planting bulbs. Another way to get the job done is to make a crock pot full of chili and some corn bread and invite people over for a bulb planting party. If everyone plants 30 bulbs, you need 10 hungry people.
September 13, 2008
I've walked past that 50 lb bag of pelletized lime in the barn for several months now. It belongs on the grass, yes, the grass with the 5.2 pH! I just couldn't bear the thought of one more contraption taking up room in the tiny garden shed so I never bought a spreader. Also, it's hard to get motivated to grow "lawn" when there are so many other more interesting things to grow. Now I'm faced with looking at that bag of lime all winter or forking over the dough to get the job done.
This hand-operated spreader from Earthway seems like a good solution. At 4 lbs, it won't wear me out and it has a shoulder strap as well. I'll use it for the lime pellets and also for broadcasting a cover crop on the garden. Best of all, it doesn't have a motor (no maintenance) or long handles to tangle with all the other long handles in the shed. At $29.91, this spreader/seeder seems like the best choice. For more information on lawns, lawn care and liming, check out this bulletin from Virginia Tech Extension, LIMING - The Why's And How To's.
September 12, 2008
Believe it or not, I just saw organic heirloom tomatoes selling for $4.99/lb. And this wasn't NYC, this was Raymond, Maine in September when everyone is giving tomatoes away! It's time to take this tomato thing more seriously and start selling them. At least we could break even with our gardening obsession and get the tomatoes to pay for their own seeds, the other vegetable seeds, and miscellaneous stuff that adds up so quickly.
The first thing to do is to get a greenhouse somehow. New, used, or take over the next door neighbor's greenhouse that has 6' weeds growing out of the windows. We bought a used one from www.craigslist.org. (We also got our pigs and Kabota 3010 tractor there. It can be a very economical resource for farmers and gardeners.) Over the next few weeks, we'll be putting it up with the help of this book, Greenhouse Gardener's Companion: Growing Food and Flowers in your Greenhouse or Sunroom by Shane Smith.
It is a great resource for greenhouse beginners. Luckily, the author is not a fan of hydroponics and doesn't waste much time with that. Instead, he gives detailed instructions on light, temperature, thermal mass, fans and drainage just to list a few topics. We will be documenting the raising of the GardenSnob greenhouse here so stay tuned . . .
September 11, 2008
Quite a while ago, I had a garden plot in the community garden of the town where I lived. While gathering some late season vegetables, I noticed a woman darting around all the garden plots, stopping for a few minutes, then moving on to another area. I asked what she was up to because I had seen her at my plot when I drove up. Turns out, she was collecting seeds from various plants that she had watched throughout the season. She told me I had a very unusual zinnia in my garden and that it was difficult to get that color anywhere.
From then on, I have been fascinated with seeds and have saved some every year. Some of the easiest ones (I think) to save are pumpkins, tomatoes and flowers. Of course, to really be scientific about it, you need to pay attention to cross pollination and contamination from other varieties.
To learn more about collecting and saving your own seeds, read this book, Seed to Seed, by Suzanne Ashworth. It's packed with information on saving seeds for 160 vegetables. Great photos, too. Available for $25.95 from High Mowing Seeds, an organic seed catalog company in Vermont.
September 9, 2008
Even if you have a small garden, 10' x 20' or even smaller, you might want to consider planting a green manure in the fall. This practice helps to prevent erosion and adds valuable nutrients to your garden soil.
There are many types of grains and legumes that can serve this purpose such as crimson clover, red clover, white clover, field peas, alfalfa, rye, oilseed radish and hairy vetch (pictured above). Sow cover crop seeds in the fall after you've pulled all the dead vegetable and flower plants out. Rake lightly to slightly cover the seeds. Come spring, till this crop into the soil before you plant your spring veggies such as lettuce, carrots, peas and other cold crops. Lots of options are available at Johnny's Seeds.
September 8, 2008
Canning is very satisfying, especially when you rest your eyes on many jars full of food from your garden. However, and this is a major however, it takes way too long. Who has time to preserve their harvest when we have to spend so much time working? It's hard enough just getting a garden going.
The Sauce Master is one item I wish I had had this summer. It's not too late to benefit from it, though, given all the foraging still to be done.
This contraption promises to cut my canning time in half by eliminating coring and peeling of fruits and vegetables. If I didn't have to dip the tomatoes in boiling water for 60 seconds, then peel them, then get the seeds out, then crush them with a potato masher while they heated up, I could can five times as much sauce, go into business and quit my day job. And, I don't have to plug the Sauce Master in so, if the power goes out, the canning will go on. Great name and reasonable price considering what it helps you accomplish. At Johnny's Seeds for $52.00.
September 7, 2008
Here's a short film (8 min, 42 sec) about Monsanto's "round-up ready" genetically modified seeds and the farmers who use them. Watch interviews with farmers who have had to use increasingly more pesticides instead of less and who are now experiencing health problems.
">The Genetic Conspiracy
For more information about genetic engineering and your food, read Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey M. Smith. The editorial review by Publishers Weekly suggests that Smith's book is one-sided. Given the millions of dollars Monsanto spends to promote their products, seems to me like they have presented their side enough already. Why would Smith give them even one page of his book? This book is a great intro to what goes on behind the scenes in the food world.
September 6, 2008
If you planted a fall crop of peas last week, they probably look like this now:
We planted these on Aug. 27th - well, stuck them in the ground in 30 seconds and barely covered them - under the dying vines of the cucumbers and they are just about 1" high (in front of the stick). Not bad for day 9. They will climb up the cucumber trellis and we'll dine on fresh peas for a couple of months.
September 5, 2008
This is what I have been looking for - work gloves that won't disintegrate when they get wet. Last year, I bought a pair of Carhartt's women's leather work gloves (for $20, too!) and they busted out at the thumbs the 3rd time I brought in firewood. Needless to say, I was not happy and reverted back to my 1/4" thick felt mittens. Still, it would be nice to have grippy gloves for picking up firewood that would truly be my size. These have a synthetic suede palms and reinforced fingertips so they just might last through the season. And the sniffle circle (they call it a brow wipe but, really, we all know it is for wiping your nose) is an added bonus. A bargain at $19.95, if they live up to their advertising.
September 4, 2008
Here's just the thing to help you clean up after Hanna the hurricane (or tropical storm or whatever she ends up being).
Also good for collecting weeds or bringing mulch or compost to your flowerbeds. Holds 2.9 gallons. Collapses into a 2" thick circle and looks sturdier than the larger (and cheaper) version found in some outlet stores. For $12.95 at Amazon.
September 3, 2008
If you plant these now, you'll see them bloom this fall. This is an heirloom bulb which will multiply freely and help stretch the summer with its happy, yellow flowers. From White Flower Farm, 12 for $16.50.
September 2, 2008
Now is the best time of year to collect free food. And I don't mean sneaking into the farmer's orchard after sunset. Good foraging locations are everywhere. If you're out walking or biking, the sweet smell of ripening grapes will lure you as if hypnotized into the brambles on the side of the road. Tie a plastic bag around the handlebars or stuff one into your back pocket so you can take some late summer sun back home with you in the form of beach plums, beach rose hips, Concord grapes, wild blueberries, autumn olives - the list seems endless. All these fruits are waiting for you to pick them and put them up for the coming year. The only question is how to tell the cucumbers and tomatoes to back off and stop hogging the all canning equipment.
Speaking of canning, here's a new book, Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No. 2, from River Cottage that I can't wait to get my sticky canning mitts on. It just came out so you'll have to order it and then wait. My guess is that it'll be well worth the wait for all the jam, jelly, curd, fruit leather, pickle, chutney, cordial, vinegar and sauce recipes as well as the fabulous pictures and thorough instructions. If summer has to end, sipping on a homemade cordial in front of the woodstove sounds like a good way to wait out the winter.
September 1, 2008
Container Gardens & Window Boxes
worms, bugs & gross things