Picture Snob

August 31, 2010

Revisited! There's a mystery scavanger in the garden!

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Remember this entry? I was hoeing a row of corn yesterday in the garden when I discovered some red tinted feces filled with strawberry seeds. Definitely a small mammal. I check over the whole fence looking for possible entries and found nothing that looked like it had been breached. The is always very unsettling. It makes the whole garden vulnerable. It wasn't a bird so some animal has found a way inside.

After some speculation and a look in the Sierra Nevada Natural History, I settled on a the idea that is is a ringtail cat. The can climb a little, can squeeze through small apertures and eat fruit as well as other small animals and bugs. Other possibilities are a fox who eats mostly small animals but does eat berries on occassion or a raccoon.

So I have a plan. I 'm going to put the Have A Heart trap out in the garden. I"ll put in s rotten strawberry or two and some fish and a piece of meat and set it in the garden near the corn where it seems to have established it's bathroom. Hopefully I'll get the little critter and take it for a long long ride and let it loose.

Well the picture shows what I caught! I was thrilled that I had out foxed the fox and took him/her to an area about 10 miles away and let it loose!

The bad news is that there is a ground squirrel or a mole digging in the garden now and I have to set the trap again and hope it does it's job.

At Havahart 1089 Collapsible One-Door 32-by-10-by-12-inch Cage Trap for Raccoons, Stray Cats, and Woodchucks

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August 30, 2010

The dilemna of the fall cover crop is finally solved

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I usually plant a fall cover crop in September and spent some time trying to decide which plant to use. I planted Berseem Clover several years in a row and had good luck with it. It puts a lot of nitrogen in the ground when tilled under and doesnt grow so high as to be unmanagable. However, one winter the temperature dipped down to ten degrees and it all died out, leaving the ground bare and vulnerable to leaching and erosion.

Fava beans are very good ground cover. The fix nitrogen also and are hardy down to 10 degrees. Another plus is that they break up nicely when you till them under. However, they sometimes grow as high as six feet tall which makes them difficult to till unless you weed eat them first.

Vetches are legumes and excellent nitrogen fixers. They should be innoculated before sowing. The one reason I stopped using them was the diffuculty in tilling in the spring. They grow tall, sometimes five feet tall and twine around the prongs of the tiller, making it bind up. So much time is spent stopping and unraveling the vines before continuing the work. I think weedeating first would help, and then letting the crop dry and wilt before beginning to till.

That has been my experience with cover crops. This year I'm taking a chance and using Territorial Seeds fall mix which includes vetch, rye, Australian peas, and clover. I'm hoping that some of negatives will balance each other out like the the difference in cold tolerance, and so I will end up with a good crop to till in in the spring. Territorial Seed has a good selection of different cover crops and a great fall catalogue.

At Fall cover crop

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August 27, 2010

Wild Blackberries are the best and worst of companions

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Ever since a fire swept through the forest land around my place, wild blackberries have taken hold in the wet places. There is, like most incidents, an up side and a down side. The up side is, of course, that I can pick a gallon in an hour right near my house. They are one of the most delicious fruits when they are fully ripe so that they fall off into your hand. The taste of one of these sun drenched, warm, and flavorful berries is truely heavenly and would make anyone wish for more. They are much more flavorful than the thornless berries you buy for your garden borders or fence rows and are much beloved by quail, bear, and deer.

Then of course there is the down side. In the right conditions they are invasive and really really hard to control. It doesn't take much to get them started. A small vine noticed one fall became a six foot tall by six foot wide bush with long canes spreading out in every direction ready to make more of itself over winter when the rains start. This particular vine is making berries already and I am enjoying them in the morning with cereal. However, it must go! It is too close to the garden and in an area where I had planned to have a small bench near the artisan well to sit and watch birds and small animals and just to contemplate the loveliness of nature.

Here is my plan of destruction without the use of herbicide. I will pick all the ripe berries and then cut the canes back with a weedeater or pruners. After the debris has been raked up and thrown in the compost or into a place where it will not begin to spread, I take a shovel and dig down into the root area to take the plants beneath the soil. Then I intend to put an old piece of tin roofing over the root area to keep light out and to keep the canes from breaking through to daylight. The area will have to be watched for canes attempting to grow out from underneath the tin and clipped off. A seasonal cycle should do it and then I can plant some grass and wildflowers to attrack birds and butterflys.

If you prefer your blackberries to be thornless, the Black Satin Berries are hardy and prolific bearers.

At Black Satin Blackberry One Gallon Triple Staked

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August 27, 2010

August chores keep gardeners busy

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Hopefully, you are enjoying the well deserved bounty your labors have created. It's always important to take time to sit and stare at the flowers, the fruiting plants, and the lush greenery in your yard and garden.

But there are never ending tasks to take care of this month. To keep the harvest growing you can plant a row of peas and lettuce for fall harvesting. Many of the herbs, like basil, are going to seed, so it's a good idea to harvest some and dry them, and others can be dug, potted so they can be brought indoors for the cold season. I have moved a dry seeded stalk of cilantro to a bare place in the garden where I want a new crop of cilantro and used another stalk to harvest and save the coriander.

You can check out the rows of mulch and see if they need more to preserve the moisture and add manure to any plant that looks like it's too yellow. Needless to say, dead heading is a constant job. I do it almost automatically and my granddaugther learned the task too well as you have to stop her from picking the flowers off before they are spent. Don't forget to start thumbing through the fall catalogues where you can order your garlic and flower bulbs for fall planting.

Its' a great season for the garden. Enjoy!

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August 18, 2010

Purslane--it's annoying and it's edible

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The main summer weed in my garden is purslane. It starts so innocently as a tiny purple tinted sprout and soon grows into a spreading, whorl of succulent leaves on a reddish stem and a tiny yellow flower whose seed pod soon opens to drops tiny seeds for next year. The first year I gardened, I discovered it was edible and suggested to my visiting father that we could eat it. His reaction was typical for someone raised in the depression who had to eat "weeds". We tried it pickled and as a salad green and were mostly unimpressed. A friend of mine ordered purslane seeds from a catalogue with her other garden vegetables, not realizing until it grew that she had it in abundance all over her garden.

The following years of gardening, I mostly pulled it out. You have to get it out of the garden because it lives on after being pulled from the ground and wills till drop seeds for the next year for you to pull again. One plant can produce over 50,000 seeds. One gardener who should know said that it provides tons of nitrogen for the garden if you till it in and I sometimes do that also, although it is warm weather crop and the nitrogen is leached out here by the winter rains.

Purslane originated in India and was supposedly it was Ghandi's favorite plant. Since I have the usual abundance this year, I'm going to try it in the green bean salad. Supposedly it can be used as a substitute for spinach in lasagnas and pasta dishes. It has very high nutritional values being full or omega 3's, and very low in calories,

At Organic Golden Purslane - 500 Seeds - Veggie

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August 17, 2010

Straw mulch solves a lot of August gardening problems

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If you happen to be tired of pulling weeds and it's really hot to be out in the garden, then straw mulch is a good solution. You can buy it in bales from the feed store and put it around plants in the cool of the evening. It breaks off in thick 3" to 5" pieces and can be used that thick which should garuantee no weeds popping up underneath it. Or if you are budget conscious, then you can go to your local store, ask for cardboard boxes and bring them home to break open and lay down between plants to begin with. The cardboard will break down over winter as will the straw that you lay on top of it and provide organic material to compost right in the garden. Putting the straw on top of the mulch makes the rows look much neater also, although cardboard alone would do the job of keeping sun from providing warmth and food for growing weeds.

The other advantage this method has for the August garden is that it reduces the need for water. I always try to soak the garden well before putting down the cardboard and straw mulch. Then light soakings directly on the plants keep them going with much less water. Soaker hose along the row works well now, or drippers to keep the plants moist is good. A light spraying in the evenings directly on the leaves keeps the plants free of dust and provides some nutrients from the water.

In case there's no cardboard boxes available, here's some biodegradable paper to use.


At Easy Gardener 702 WeedBlock Biodegradable Paper Mulch - 3-Foot x 50-Foot

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August 16, 2010

Planting Fig Trees

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I planted this fig tree about 30 years ago from a small one foot seedling in a neighbors deserted orchard. Once it got frozen back to the roots in zero degree temperatures which happen very rarely here. Now it has grown into a lovely tree that produces black figs. The first flush is ripe now and there are some huge figs coming on for later pickings.

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When my grandchildren were here in July they loved climbing from the low branches up to the tallest and kept wanting to know when the figs would be ripe. Now I'm going to sun dry the ripe ones and send them to the grandkids for a treat and a reminder of the wealth and bounty of their grandmother's yard.

Figs can be raised from seed, by ground layering, or by cuttings. They grow well in a wide range of soils. My soil is fairly acid and the tree is prospering. They grow up to 30 feet high and their large lobed leaves are very attractive so that people often remark on my fig tree. The tree originated in Western Asia and spread throughout the Mediterrean. The tree produces several crops a year. My fig keeps ripening fruit up unitl the first frosts in October. You can also grow it as a container plant.

I'm not really fond of the fresh fruit, but love them roasted, with goat cheese in salads or as an appetizer. They are easy to dry and then make tasty snacks.

At Fig 'Black Mission' Tree Container Plant

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August 12, 2010

News from the Organic Consumers Association

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Challenging the Biotech Bullying of the Infamous Chemical Company

Only 26% percent of US consumers are aware that most of the non-organic processed food in the nation is contaminated with gene-spliced DNA, bacteria, and viruses - ingredients derived from Monsanto's genetically engineered crops or from animals given genetically engineered growth hormones, vaccines or feed.

The aim of the Organic Consumers Association's Millions Against Monsanto campaign is to make US consumers aware that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are hazardous, untested, and unlabeled, and that the chemical fertilizers and pesticides applied to GMO crops are damaging the environment, polluting our water and food, and releasing dangerous greenhouse gases.

The U.S. government has never tested genetically engineered foods to find out whether they are safe for human consumption. Consumers need to know that many scientists are now warning that these foods are damaging the vital organs and fertility of animals, and therefore obviously poisoning humans as well. Monsanto and the food industry have up until now blocked all U.S. legislation to label GMO-tainted foods, because they know that most consumers, if given the choice (as in the EU, where labels are required), would not consume them.

Stand up for the OCA. Stand up against Monsanto.

At Organic Consumers Association

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August 11, 2010

Things going to seed in your garden?

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August is a great month. You can enjoy the fruits of the garden that you've worked so hard to produce. It's a month when you kind of coast a little. But it's good to remember to harvest more than the ripe tomatoes and corn. My corn just started coming in and, man, is it delicious!

Lots of plants are now making seed and it is a fairly easy task to harvest the seed also. I just cut the seeds off my Russian Kale. It is so easy to do. I just clipped the tips of the seeded stalks and put them in a paper bag. Since the stalk and seed pods are bulky, I break them up inside the bag with my hand and throw the husks away. Then the seeds can be stored in a plastic bag and labeled. The labeling is really necessary because although you think you might remember, the seeds of all the cabbage family look exactly alike. So be careful you know which is which.

The cilantro is also going to seed. The seed of cilantro is the spice coriander. So the seed can be used to replinish your spice rack as well as stored for more cilantro. Try planting the seed now and to get in a last crop of cilantro. It is a quick growing plant and can provide tasty additions to salads and salsas up until the first frost.

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August 10, 2010

Hot weather gardening tips

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We found this rather interesting set of tips from Scott Richter on hot weather gardening. We have to agree with all of them, but we really always hate the extra mulching when it's hot.

Garden Maintenance Tips

1) Keep plants mulched. You probably already know of the many benefits of mulch. Keep the mulch replenished in the heat. Look for free sources of organic mulches in your area such as neighborhood leaves or grass clippings. Apply a thin layer of fresh clippings and let dry for a few days before adding more.

2) Keep Weeding. Here's a fast, easy way to recapture weed infested areas of your garden. Wet the soil thoroughly. Tall weeds may need to be mowed before wetting. Place a 4 sheet thick layer of newspaper over the weeds covering the entire row up around your garden plants. Wet the newspaper to hold it in place and cover with leaves or hay.

I have even come back a few weeks later and planted transplants or larger seeds like okra through holes in the newspaper. Sprinkle a handful of soil or compost over the seeds and then water. You'll be amazed how well they grow.

3) Keep Yourself Watered. Drink plenty of water when working outdoors. The hot humid weather can be dangerous if you work outdoors during midday. Use sunscreen with at least a SPF 15 rating and avoid extended time out in the sun during the heat of the day.

4) Add Manure. Vegetable gardens not in production can benefit from an addition of manure and other organic matter this month. This material will decompose rapidly and be ready for fall planting in late summer. Southern peas such as blackeye, purplehull, cream and crowders make a great, edible summer cover crop for building the soil and providing food. The pea vines can be mowed and rototilled under while still green for extra soil building benefits or allowed to produce peas and then tilled under.

Let the hot sun work for you by tilling unused areas of the garden and expose the soil to the heat. This will kill nematodes and young weeds. After a couple of weeks repeat tilling to bring more weed seeds and nematodes to the surface.

5) Water Deeply. Irrigate the soil deeply and infrequently rather than giving plants a light sprinkling each day. Apply enough water to wet a sandy soil 1 foot deep and a clay soil 6 to 8 inches deep. This requires about 1 inch of rain or sprinkler irrigation.

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August 9, 2010

This Summertime salad just keeps on giving

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Now that the Sungold tomatoes are ripening and the cucumbers and beans are ready to be picked I can begin to make my favorite summertime green bean salad. The Sungold tomatoes are cherry type and are the sweetest of all the tomatoes. I usually plant a six pack of them to make sure I get enough for all the summertime salads.

The green bean salad I make is very simple. Steam the green beans for about 10 minutes and add them with whatever tomatoes are on hand. Slice cucumbers and a red onion, add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and salt to taste. It's sooooo simple. I always keep the leftover salad and the next day add more ingredients and serve it again. You can add broccoli and some sweet corn for variety. Potatoes can also be used for a potato salad without mayonnaise.

So enjoy the bounty of the garden in mid summer. These are the months we have been working for all year long.

At Sun Gold Tomato 20 Seeds - Golden Orange Cherry - Sweet

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August 6, 2010

The Winter Garden needs some planning

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I've planted late beans and put in a winter planting of beets. I think the broccoli, kale and cabbage will have to be started indoors and transplanted as the weather is too hot right now for good germination. Fall planted vegetables take about two weeks longer to mature because the daylight is getting shorter and all plants respond to that. So it's a good idea to get a jump on fall plantings by prespourting seeds.

To presprout seeds, place them between two layers of damp paper towels. Place the towels in a plastic bag and keep them in a warm place until the seeds germinate. Another method is to soak seeds for 4 hours. Allow the seedlings to reach a length of up to 1 inch. Be careful not to break the roots when planting. You can plant sprouted seeds more deeply than normal to help prevent drying out. Water well until the plants break the soil surface.

If it's hot and sunny when you plant, young plants will need extra care. Water transplants daily at first. You might need to sprinkle seeds and newly germinated seedlings twice a day. To keep the soil moist and protect young plants from the sun, temporarily shade them. Boards and umbrellas make good shade structures and a mulch of straw or hay helps.

At Renee's Greens Crispy Winter Seeds 900 Seeds

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August 5, 2010

Territorial Seed fall catalog reminds me to think about fall

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i got my Territorial Fall Seed catalogue. The good thing about this is it reminds me that fall plantings are due and gives me a chance to sit and ponder what ground cover to use. I need to put in more broccoli as it winters over nicely and provides greens all year long. The Russian red leaf kale also over winters and self sows so I have to check to make sure I have some seedlings and replant them if necessary to a place in the garden easy to get to in the winter.

I'm going to plant fava beans to overwinter also. They usually ripen in very early spring and so provide much needed vegetable while everything else is just been sown. Late Cabbage will overwinter where I am and some cauliflower will be good. The weather right now is really hot and I'm sitting inside, thinking about fall and winter, before I head to the river to cool off. Very sweet counterpoint.

At Territorial Seeds

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August 4, 2010

How to replant a fading flower bed

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Flower beds past their prime and overrun with weeds can be a common sight in late-summer landscape. The intense heat makes me reluctant to do much work outside, it's not reasonable to expect all the plants you carefully tended to hold up from the beginning of the summer growing season in early May until its end several months later. Fortunately, nurseries are still well-stocked with colorful, heat-tolerant bedding plants that will grow vigorously from now through late October. You can still plant seeds of many flowers and expect to see their color before the frost.

To replant your beds, first remove the old plants and put them in your compost pile. But try to avoid putting any weeds that have set seeds in the compost. Just dig those out and throw them away.

Next, spread a 1-inch to 2-inch layer of organic matter, such as compost, bagged or aged manure, landscape soil conditioner, grass clippings or peat moss, over the bed. Sprinkle a light application of high nitrogen fertilizer over the organic matter and then thoroughly incorporate everything into the soil of the bed. Rake it smooth, and the bed is ready to plant.

When planting late in the growing season, choose well-established plants in 4-inch pots or larger. Make sure the plants you purchase are healthy and vigorous and have been properly cared for. Avoid plants that look wilted or leggy, have poor color or show signs of insect or disease problems. This is not the time of year to nurse struggling plants back to health. Start off with the highest quality plants you can find.

If you're planting from seed, this mix below has some lovely old fashioned flowers not often seen in nurserys. They provide surprising variety and beautiful color and often self sow.

At Grandmother's Cut Flower Garden Seed Mix 15 Grams 22 Varieties

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August 2, 2010

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