Picture Snob

June 30, 2010

Why we should all eat more strawberries


Of course strawberries are sweet and we love to eat them, but they also have a very important nutritious value. There are a lot of health benefits from eating strawberries.
Strawberries are good for your health because they contains minerals and vitamins that are important to boost the immune system. Some of the vitamins that people can get from this fruit are vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, vitamin B6 and vitamin K. Aside from these, strawberry is also rich in manganese, dietary fiber as well as iodine. If you need potassium and folate, you can get these from eating strawberries.

If you want to eliminate the harmful toxins in your blood, one of the best things to do is to eat strawberries because these have antioxidants, much like blueberries, that are important to combat free radicals. Eliminating free radicals prevents the development of cancer cells. Aside from having anti-aging properties, people can also benefit from strawberries since these have properties that can improve brain health.

If you want to store the berries, you need to keep the fruits in a cool and dry place. You can store the fruits for not more than two days since the nutritional components of strawberries are decreased when stored for a long time. If you have harvested more than you need, you can stem them, sprinkle sugar over them, and pop them in the freezer. Then some cold dreary winter day, you can open the pack and enjoy the taste of spring!

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June 29, 2010

A big bowl of strawberries is a feast for the eyes and the palate


I love strawberries fresh from the garden and eat them for breakfasts on buttered toast or for dessert. They really demand a lot of care. This wet spring has started some fungla diseases on my plants that have never been seen before. I have "strawberry scorch" and my neighbor has some "grey rot". Nonetheless I just picked a quick half gallon of berries and will be eating them for the next few days.

These two fungal diseases can't be cured by organic spray. The disease site I use mentions copper or sulpher spray to eliminate the infection. My grandkids are coming and I'm not about to spray something on the plants that is a heavy metal, so I will use my regular method, which is to pick off dry dead leaves which carry the fungus. Some of the plants are so scorched I think I'll just dig them up. Then fertilize! The organic gardeners solution to most pests and diseases is just that simple. Feed the plants well; the strong and slightly more resistant will live and be the better for it. The really best way to fertilze is to dig a little composted manure around each plant and pick the weeds while you are there. It's time consuming but you will be rewarded with lush healthy plants and tons of berries.

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June 28, 2010

Mr. BBQ 18-Piece Tool set is a perfect gift

Here's a good idea for Father's day. He already has a grill and this nice set of tools completes the pictures.

  • Be prepared in all grilling instances with this loaded, 18-piece tool set from Mr. BBQ
  • Includes a 4-in-1 spatula, knife, fork, tongs, basting brush, 8 corn holders, and 4 skewers
  • Whip it out to host family and friends at home, or pack it all up in the included aluminum carrying case to take on the road
  • Durably made, the set comes backed by a 5-year warranty

It comes with a carrying case if he wants to take it on the road! Have tools; will BBQ!

At Mr. BBQ 18-Piece Tool set with Case

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June 25, 2010

A Celebration of Spring at Garden Snob - 2010


When spring comes, it comes with a rush that pushes everything before it. And it sprouts, and bursts, and seethes with energy, turning the world mad with greeness and with profusion. You can see the tiny oak flowers in their lime green perfection, teasing and tantalizing with all that is to come. Surely Eve gave Adam the apple in the springtime and the serpent might have been spring itself. And so you are ready, you go for it, you give yourself up to wild activity, to great fantasies of accomplishment because everything is again possible in the spring. It is a world of potential and of promise. And it's almost impossible not to plant something.

I wrote that years ago and it's so true. Now it is June and everything is at the peak of flowering. Going outside, the eye is stunned by brilliant colors, the nose by delightful scents and the ear by the trilling and arias of bird. It's a magic transformation of the world and a time for celebration of life! This year in Northern California the rains have brought a profusion of growth and radiant green late into the year. The river is still high and the days just starting to warm up. This is such a gift after several years in a row of hot, dry springs and the danger of fire always present.


So even though the garden was started late because of the rain and cold, I'm happy just eating lettuce and a few asparagus from the old asparagus bed because the new bed can't be harvested until next year. The strawberries, however, are faithfully putting out quarts and gallons of ripe juicy fruit. What a blessing to go out in the morning and pick just enough for cereal, or later, to pick them all, put some sugar on them, and let them sit in the fridge until the juices flow and have the best of all possible desserts in the evening. It makes me grateful to be alive!


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June 24, 2010

Stihl trimmer works long and hard and lasts and lasts


I had my trimmer about 10 years and am so grateful for it. I have to admit it is sometimes hard to start. The choke is necessary and many pulls are needed before it powers up in the spring. But once it's going, it is easier to start the next time and it makes short work of the weeding around the garden fence where I try to keep the grass down so that weed seeds will not blow into the garden. I like to keep the area around the faucets cut down and now that I have another building on the place, I keep a path trimmed for easy walking.

I once bought a steel cutting plate, but I confess I've never used it. I got scared of the trimmer bouncing back on my shins, but the string and the plastic blades seem to do all the work that I need done. It is possible to be careful around plants so as not to scar the bark of young growing trees and the trimmer tips nicely at an angle so I can take edges down to dirt. I can get the stone path to the house totally free of grass.

This spring I started it up and after much pulling realized I needed a new spark plug. That's after ten years of service and that's what i call a good machine.

At Stihl trimmer

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June 23, 2010

Why Gardeners are happy people

Common Soil Bacteria Can Have Antidepressant Effects
by DEREK MARKHAM on APRIL 12, 2009 ยท

A recent study by UK scientists discovered that a common soil bacteria activates cells in the brain to produce serotonin and can alter behavior similar to antidepressants.

"These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health. They also leave us wondering if we shouldn't all be spending more time playing in the dirt." - Dr Chris Lowry, Bristol University

The research, published in the journal Neuroscience by collaborators at Bristol University and University College London, used lab mice treated with Mycobacterium vaccae and found that it activated a specific group of neurons in the brain that produce serotonin.

Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT) is an important neurotransmitter which plays a role regulating mood, metabolism, anger, aggression, sleep, and appetite, and is found in the brain, gut, and blood. A number of ailments are linked to low levels of serotonin, including anxiety and depression, bipolar disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Many antidepressants work with serotonin pathways to affect moods and anxiety, so finding a natural, commonly available substance that activates serotonin production could lead to new treatments for those suffering from depression.

While I don't see that doctors are going to start prescribing spoonfuls of dirt for clinical depression, this study affirms what many parents already know: Getting dirty is good for you.

Read more

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June 22, 2010

Alfalfa is a great mulch and soil conditioner


I bought two bales of alfalfa to mulch the artichokes and asparagus. Alfalfa has many advantages over straw or leaves. Leaves tend to blow away and are not compacted so that you have to pile them high in order to get the moisture and weed protection that mulch provides.

Alfalfa is usually cut before seeds form and is compacted so it provides a perfect mulch. And a little goes a long way.That is good news because alfalfa is expensive. I paid $10 a bale, but I can cover my whole perennial garden with one bale and use the other to put around sensitive plants to keep the ground around them moist and weed free. The other good quality alfalfa as is that is makes a good soil additive when it is tilled under providing a lot of nitrogen and tilth.

Barley and wheat straw are a lot cheaper but the problem is that when it rains the seeds in it sprout making its own set of weeds which have to be pulled if it's used for mulch. I don't use rice straw which is abundant in California because of the heavy spraying they undergo during the growing season. Any trip down I-5 during the summer and you will see crop dusters flying over the fields, spraying herbicide and insecticide. So for a few dollars more I use the alfalfa and am loving it. You can find it at your local feed store.It's also sometimes advertised along secondary roads where you can buy it direct from the farmer.

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June 21, 2010

Fiskars Garden Fork is made for turning compost


Since it's mid-July, your compost pile is probably piling up. Now is a good time to aerate it to assist in the breakdown of all that material. A good fork such as the Fiskars Compost/Mulch Fork makes short work of such a task. If you're doing this chore with a thick tined fork, you've got the wrong tool for the job. Save that fork for soil work such as turning your garden over in the spring. This fork with all steel construction, will pierce through a pile of compost or hay easily. I know, I know, it's a lot of money but don't cheap out and buy the inferior one! You'll end up bending the tines or the handle and then buying this one eventually anyway.

My compost pile is high with weeds I got from the neglected places in the garden and will need to be very hot if the weed seeds are going to be killed. Keeping the pile turned is one way to insure that everything gets composted.

At Fiskars Garden Fork #9666

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June 18, 2010

Organic Gypsum does seem the best buy


A few blogs ago, I talked about buying gypsum to help break up the heavy clay in my garden and I mentioned that since gypsum was a mineral, it seemed unnecessary to buy organic gypsum. A knowledgeable friend of mine has corrected this misconception. He says gypsum from China could have all kinds of contaminents in it and so it is better to buy American and organic to be sure.

Just wanted to make sure to clarify this error of mine which was posted in a previous blog. Here's more information of the use of gypsum as a soil additive.

"Gypsum alone has profound beneficial effects on soil because of its chemical effects. Gypsum is used to improve sodic soils, to create more favorable solute concentrations in soil, especially after leaching with heavy rainfall, and even to correct subsoil acidity. The combination of gypsum and organics can result in biological improvement of soil more than can organics alone. This is an extremely important aspect of soil quality. The combination of gypsum and water-soluble polymers, including with organics, can maximize the improvement of physical properties to soil. The chemical, biological, and physical properties of soil when improved together with gypsum, organics and water-soluble polymers constitute a triangle for major spoil improvement.

The gypsum triangle results in better quality soil - chemically, biologically and physically. The need for gypsum and other amendments is urgent in the Intermountain West and other arid and semi-arid areas. Gypsum contains both calcium and sulfur; each is an essential plant nutrient; however, calcium does much more than its role as a plant nutrient. Without it in a soluble form, soils would not be tillable. Without it in soluble or exchangeable form, other plant nutrients would not function properly. Soils usually contain considerable calcium in the soluble and exchangeable forms. Some soils also contain large quantities of calcium in the form of lime, but that form is not readily available to plants nor can it improve soil when existing as lime. When soil pH is over 8, the calcium in soil is not soluble enough to be of maximum value for either plants or soil. Large crop responses can be obtained to gypsum when soil pH is high and even under other circumstances."*

Arthur Wallace Wallace Laboratories
365 Coral Circle, El Segundo, CA 90245

So I'm taking back my generic gypsum and trading it in for some organic gypsum.

At Espoma Organic Traditions Garden Gypsum - 5 lb Bag #GG5

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June 15, 2010

Earthworm castings have mulitple benefits for your garden


If you are trying to reduce your dependence on chemicals and grow healthier garden crops, then earthwom castings will help you do the job. Earthworm castings are terrific fertilizers and also have some natural protection against fungal disease. A whole spectrum of nutrients are found in the castings that you cannot get with an chemical fertilizer.

The castings are usually made using red wiggler earthworms who digest organic material and excrete these tiny pellets filled with the right stuff. This end product is "super humus" which is extremely fertile top soil properly conditioned for best root growth, containing in rich proportion and water soluble form, all the elements required of the earth for optimum plant nutrition because they contain rich proportions of water-soluble nutrients. Worm castings allow plants to quickly and easily absorb all essential nutrients and trace elements in simple forms, so plants need only minimal effort to obtain them.

Another point in favor of earthworm castings is the high concentration of beneficial bacteria and microbes added to them by the earthworm in the digestive process. These microscopic creatures help different elements of the soil work in conjunction with each other to create healthy, working soil that provides the best possible atmosphere for optimum growth. Another benefit is the ability to improve soil structure. It allows for excellent drainage in soil so roots don't become waterlogged or develop root rot, while also increasing the soil's water retention capacity as they contain absorbent organic matter that holds only the necessary amounts of water needed by the roots and their shape allows unnecessary water to easily drain.

Worm castings are also an effective way to repel white flies, aphids and spider mites & any pest that feeds on plant juices. According to recent studies, applying earthworm castings to the soil around your plants increases the production of a certain enzyme that is offensive to these insects.

So what's not to like here. A perfect fertilizer, soil conditioner and pest controler!

At Wonder Worm Worm Castings - 10 liters

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June 14, 2010

The attack of the striped cucumber beetle


They are at it again. This is about the fourth year in a row that these voracious little beetles have come to feast on the cucumber, squash and melon plants I've planted. I never had them until about five years ago when they suddenly appeared. Usually I would have a few spotted cucumber beetles who were polite and mild mannered and ate only a little and the plants grew big and healthy anyway. The striped beetle kills the small seedlings and awaits the next planting with the same unsated appetite.

It's really a discouraging problem. With most pests or plant diseases, I can just feed the plants and keep them weeded, and they grow through whatever attacked them, but the striped cucumber beetle is an exception. When I went to check on the newly planted lemon cucumber seedlings, the plant and the soil surrounding it, were swarming with the hungry mob. This is the result of their work.

In desperation, I got out an old spray bottle of Neem and really soaked the soil and the plant and sprayed more lightly the seedlings still in pots that I had ready to plant in the garden. I was amazed! The beetles disappeared! I went out today to check again to make sure they hadn't just hid for a while and then would return, but they are still gone. So I have confidence enough to plant the rest of the squash and melons now that I know they can be saved from the striped menace.


At Green Light Neem II - 24 oz Spray #07824

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June 11, 2010

Beneficial Nematodes kill 230 species of bugs


If your plants start to droop and wilt but have plenty of water, these beneficial nematodes may be the answer. They work on soil dwelling and wood boring insects which are hard to see.

  • These microscopic insects will seek out and destroy over 230 kinds of harmful insects, including cutworms, armyworms, rootworms, weevils, grubs, fungus gnat larvae, and many more.

  • They are completely safe for people, pets, and the environment, and are compatible with other beneficial insects.

  • Beneficial nematodes are shipped live in the box

  • They are completely compatible with beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, and praying mantids and do not harm earthworms.

  • They are completely safe for people, pets, and the environment

At 7 Million Live Beneficial Nematodes-Kills over 230 Bugs

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June 10, 2010

Dig Hose Thread Watering Timer programs quickly and easily


This is the second generation of Dig timers. I still have the ones I first bought after ten years or so of use. I liked them because they kept working! The programming on the first timers was a ilttle tedious. There one dial which you had to use a small plastic tool to turn(or a dull knife when you of course lost the small tool) that was set for duration. Unfortunately, you had to set the time at the actual time you wanted irrigation to begin by pressing a button. So if you wanted to water, say at 2am when you would not waste water to evaporation, you had to be up at that time to press the start button and then, you had to press a button to stop the watering, an hour, half hour, two hours later. That was a drag. But the timers worked so damn well and lasted for so long that I still have and use them.


In fact, since I couldn't find them at OSH anymore, I was looking online to buy another, when I discovered the new model which is much sleeker and much easier to program. This has two dials, one for duration and another for how ofter you want the irrigation to come on. Simple! My kind of programming. Furthermore they have solved the problem of late night, early morning watering. By holding down the start button, you can delay the time to start by as much as six hours, allowing you to set the 2am watering at 8pm!. You can change the irrigation duration and time by changing the dials, but to change a delayed opening, you have to take out the batteries and leave them out three minutes before starting all over. That is the only down side programming.

At Hose Thread Watering Timer

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June 7, 2010

Loving care and a three tined hoe makes for garden success


That love and care can make houseplants thrive is now unquestioned, but garden plants thrive on the same love and care. I am always stunned by the response I get from row vegetables after I have gone over the row, weeding and loosening the soil around each plant. Often within a day, they are perked up and have grown! If I add some manure tea after the weeding, they soar! It's one of the things that makes gardening such a joy--seeing that response from plants you have cared for.

The weather here has been so wet and cool and cloudy that everything in my garden has been sitting there waiting out the winter. Today is the first day of full sun and warmth. It is such a good feeling to get out into the sunshine and the garden and start working. Birds are singing away. There is a Bullock's Oriole nesting nearby, and a Western Tanager as well as lots of robins, including one robin who keeps fluttering against my windows, trying to either scare or mate with his own image.

One of the tools I use to weed seedlings is a three tined hoe. It scratches the soil and tears up small weeds. You can work really close to seedlings with this hoe and also hill up the soil around the seedlings. Most plants like soil around their base. It helps support the plant and sometimes, they will make more roots higher on the stem.


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June 4, 2010

June 1, 2010

Dramm Soaker Garden Hose promises to solve soaker hose problems


If you have ever tried soaker hoses, you know some of the problems with them. They are supposed to seep water onto a bed, but very often there is a geyser sprayer up into the air. Or, if you're on uneven ground, the lower section of the hose will seep more water or geyser while the upper area is hardly watered. Then there is the problem of the hose clogging with silt and becomming non functional after a few years, or breaking at a weak spot and needing to be patched. I have soaker hoses with leaks wrapped in inner tube and fasteded with poly pipe clamps. That was a good fix until the price of the clamps soared to 59 cents.

To get the most out of soaker hoses, you need to start with a good brand like this Dramm Soaker. It is double walled to prevent the geyser effect and to avoid uneven watering. It's a good practice to slightly cover the hose with soil or to put a mulch over it. That protects it from sun and conserves the water from evaporating or geysering. I use soakers in my strawberries which always need a lot of moisture and bring one side down along a carrot bed which helps those seed to germinate. Once the garden gets going, I have another section of soaker which I attach to run along the new seed beds since the growing plants get watered only every other day in hot weather and the seed beds have to be kept moist constantly.

This Dramm soaker has a life time guarantee and is fitted with nickle brass couplings which won't crush or break easily. The Dramm soaker hose is more expensive, but it's highly recommended and gets great reviews.

At Dramm 17010 ColorStorm Premium 50-Foot-by-5/8-Inch Soaker Garden Hose, Black

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