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Garden Stuff

September 30, 2011

Fall chores abound in September


If you're awaiting the first frosts, there's a long list of tasks to transition the garden safely. Now is the time to stop pruning and fertilizing and it's a good idea to bring houseplants that have been happily outside back into the house. If there are any tender plants that you want to save through the first freezes, nows the time to cover them. I've saved tomaotes all the way to Thanksgiving this way. And if you're ready to give up the outdoor plants, you can pick the green tomatoes and bring them indoors. If you wrap them in newspaper and pack them carefully, you can then bring them out to ripen as you need them.

If you have tender bulbs that won't take a cold winter, you should dig them up--that includes dahlias, caladiums, cannas and tuberous begonias. And spring flowering bulbs can be put out in their place.

It really a great time of year. There is the satisfaction of the harvest and the ease of preparing for winter. Take your time and enjoy sitting in the waning sun, taking in the beauty of the late blooming flowers and be grateful for what you have created.

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September 23, 2011

Gazpacho for an end of summer treat


If you have given away all the vegetables you can, tossed the imperfect ones in the compost and still have more than you can deal with, try this: Make a gazpacho soup doubling the recipe below and invite friends over for an end of summer evening delight!

6 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 serrano pepper, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 lemon cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups tomato juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons medium-acid balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsely
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
sea salt and black pepper in a mill to taste
1/2 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all of the vegetables in a large bowl. Add the juice, lemon juice and vinegar and stir very briefly. Stir in the fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill the soup for at least one hour before serving. Remove from the refrigerator, stir, let rest for 15 minutes and then pour the olive oil over the soup and serve with some homemade bread. Fabulous!

At gazpacho

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September 22, 2011

Another great end of season recipe--Corn Chowder

Just as I was getting all excited about gazpacho, the weather took a turn for the worse and it's 65 degrees today. Just saying--you might try some corn chowder for a change!

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 strip of bacon or 1 teaspoon of bacon fat or another Tbsp of butter(
I large yellow onion, chopped
1 or 2 large carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
5 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs but reserve the cobs
1 bay leaf and a sprig sweet basil
3 1/2 cups milk, whole or low fat
3 medium potatos dices
1 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bacon strip and fry until the bacon renders its fat, but doesn't begin to brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the onions and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 4 or 5 more minutes.

Break the corn cobs in half and add them to the saucepan. Add the milk and bay leaf.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer. Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer to prevent scalding the milk on the bottom of the pan.

Discard the cobs, the bacon strip, and the bay leaf. Raise the heat, add the potatoes, red pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt, fresh ground pepper to taste, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are almost fork tender.

Raise the heat, add the corn kernels and the thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

This is a great meal for a cool fall evening to celebrate the end of the hot weather garden. The corn can be overripe and still be delicious.


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January 20, 2011

Spray-N-Grow: Garden products that are safe


I got this catalog for the first time this year. I'm always a little sceptical that every garden nurtrient can be supplied by spray products, but some of their offerings are very tempting. They say their Spray-N-Grow product is not a fertilizer or a hormone but a unique organic based micronutrient. An 8 oz. bottle is $11.95,

They advertise Bill's Perfect Fertilizer, 6-11-5. It blends hydrolyzed fish, calcium, sugar can extract, humus and seaweed. You can spray it on the leaves of the plant or pour it on the soil. Of course they also sell power sprayers as well as hand pump ones and they have a whole line of animal repellents. It's quite amazing to see a different repellent for moles, geese, squirrels, snakes rabbits and mice!

There is an interesting plant cage that is spiral and collapses for storage and a tomato round which is plastic circle six inches high to put around plants and fill with water to make sure the water soaks deeply into the soil. It's a little pricey at $8.95. I couldn't afford to buy it for my 20 tomatoe plants although I often have wanted just such a device.
There is a line of plant fungus and disease fighting products and calcium for eliminating blossom end rot on tomatoes. The compost pail looks interesting. It has a filter and is dishwasher safe.

It's an interesting catalog which you can order at 1.800.323.2363 or see online at Spray-n-grow

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December 21, 2010

The tree holes revisited after a week of rains


I had four tree holes dug around the new house and this winter I hope to plant some shade trees. Last month I did a bunch of posts on what some possibilities were. The trees I plant need to be hardy enough to survive in mostly heavy clay soil and few nutrients other than the ones I'm going to supply when I plant. I'll add potting soil, fertilizer, green sand and other amendments, hoping to give the trees a good start.

Now that I"m back at the house and it has rained for several weeks steadily and on and off, I went out to inspect the tree holes. The picture above shows one that is still holding water after three days of dry. The other holes look empty and fine. So the drainage in this hole is going to have to be fixed, if possible. I'm thinking a French drain might work. French drain was not created in France as I had always thought, but by Henry French in Concord, Massachusetts. My idea is simple. I would dig out a small piece of the wall of the hole, down to the bottom. Then insert a small piece of 2 inch pipe, put gravel over the pipe and the bottom of the hole and then pack the dirt back in to fill in the wall again.

I hope this works as the tree hole that is not draining is right at the sunniest corner of the house and I need shade there badly. It would be a real bummer to plant there and have it die in the first rains.

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October 21, 2010

Pumpkin time is here!

We love those orange globes that make great pies as well as provide the essential ingredients for Halloween fun.
This may be too late for this year, but many people, especially kids, like to personalize their pumpkins -- inscribe their names or draw a picture or a face on one of their growing treasures. Perhaps it has something to do with the urge to establish ownership, engage in primitive tribal scarring, or simply to co-create with nature. Wait until the pumpkin is about 3 to 4 weeks old or developed enough to have smooth, slightly toughened skin (all fuzz long gone). Any blunt tool will do; a large nail works fine or even a ball point pen. Break the skin and don't penetrate more than 1/8 inch. There will be some "bleeding" for a few hours after surgery. Wipe the marking during the next few hours, and it should seal within a day. At first, it may be hard to see the results; but the scar will show in time and will grow in size along with the pumpkin

As the fruit ripens, the vine displays the inevitable signs of age: older leaves become tattered, fewer flowers bloom and the energy of the plant seems to turn more inward, focusing on the fruit filled with the seeds that hold the promise of the future. Eventually, the scraggly vines lie like skeletons through the garden while the pumpkins -- fiery skulls that have trapped the energy of summer -- are scattered throughout.

Pumpkins are ready to harvest once the color of the fruit has deepened into one of the shades of the setting sun -- somewhere between deep yellow and fiery red, depending on the variety. Leave several inches of stem -- it helps them stay fresh -- and let them cure in the sun for 10 days. Cover them at night if there is danger of frost. Then, store the harvest in a dry cool place. With proper care, you may just have pumpkins until Spring.

And then of course, there's the Jack-o'Lantern!


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August 31, 2010

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


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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July 9, 2010

A great hammock is the perfect summer pleasure


I bought this hammock four years ago and it has held up very well. It has no tears, no fraying, no problems whatsoever, although I sometimes have the sprinkler going and it gets wet. The colors have stayed bright! I have it up all summer and only take it down when the rains start in the fall.

I've had a lot of hammocks. I used to swear by the Mayan string hammocks, but they did not hold up well with the abuse they get from visiting children. The spreading hammocks are fine for adults. I have a rope one on a stand which is great for me, but kids like a hammock what cradles them. My difficult to put to sleep grandaughter fell asleep easily in the Jobek hammock. Older kids put the strength of this hammock to a real test. They love to swing each other high and fast enough for the adults to occasionally to intervene to calm things down. After my guests had left, I lay down to relax in the hammock and although the rope that held it to the trees had stretched with the vigor of child play, the hammock itself was still unsullied and I relaxed with some lemonade and a short doze before continuing on with my day.

At Jobek 24107 Light Blue, Vanilla Stripe Rumba Spreadless Hammock

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March 29, 2010

Baker Creek Heirloom seed catalog is amazing


Trust me. This is the shinniest, glossiest seed catalog it's ever been my pleasure to look at. Baker Creek has been around for 12 years and is located in Missouri as well as having a Petaluma, California stores. They handle only open pollinated seed and promote the pure food movement by educating their customers about the dangers of GMO and corporate patented and owned seeds.

The Gettles who run Baker seed say their business is growing very fast so that it is hard to keep up with demand. Many homeowners are starting gardens for the first time, spurring on by the current recession and in rebellion against the limited and controlled offerings of fruit and vegetables in the supermarkets. What I like about this attitude is that gardeners are encouraged to save their own seed which can be done with open pollinated varieties but can't be done with hybrids. Michael Pollen is involved in this movement and will be signing his book, The Omnivore's Dilemna" at the Baker Creek seed bank in Petaluma.

But the catalog itself is something to behold. There are huge life size photos of every variety of vegetable. They have gone all out to make your eyes light up and the mouth water. Included in the catalog are some asian and tropical fruits, an amazing variety of lettuces and melons. African wild melons are included which I have never seen before anywhere if you're into stunning your friends and neighbors. There are full page spreads of peppers life size and gorgeous. Strange items like Red Roselle are listed along with rutabagas. The cranberry flavored Roselle is used for making jellies and drinks. There are squash varieties we've never seen and of course, page after page of purple, red, orange, green, yellow and stripped tomatoes.

This catalog is worth checking out for the pictures and layout alone, even if you are not a died in the wool pure food person. Great fun.

At Baker Creek

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March 16, 2010

Jawa Nome from StarWars to guard the garden


OK. Couldn't resist this item. A garden nome exclusively at the StarWarsShop stands about a foot high and has amber eyes that glow. Perfect for the StarWars fans everywhere and a great addition to the garden, protecting the plants from predators of all kinds.

  • Crafted in solid resin, this fully painted Jawa is ready - rain or shine

  • Measures close to a foot in height

  • Sculpted in a chunky, garden gnome-like style

At Jawa Garden Gnome

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March 2, 2010

Organic Bytes is a newletter that informs and provides action alerts


If you are truely concerned about home grown and organic food, this newletter is a great help. It alerts readers to threats to organic laws and provides email addresses and advice for action. This week it alerted readers that the Obama administration is trying to lift the ban on Monsanto's roundup ready alfalfa. As you may know, Monsanto genetically alters corn so that the plant will be able to withstand massive doses of Monsanto's Roundup. " Patented "Roundup Ready" genes are now spliced into millions of acres of corn, cotton, soy, canola, sugar beets and alfalfa. A 2009 study showed that, in 13 years, Roundup Ready crops increased herbicide use by 383 million pounds. This is very good business for Monsanto, but not so good for the environment.

During the Bush administration, the movement to stop GMOs was making progress. Reflecting public concern over GMOs, in 2007, a Federal court ruled that the Bush USDA's approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa violated the law because it failed to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa and the development of "super-weeds." The court banned the planting of GM alfalfa until USDA completed a rigorous analysis of these impacts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice affirmed the national ban on Roundup Ready alfalfa planting, but Monsanto is appealing. They're taking organic alfalfa farmers all the way to the Supreme Court!"

If this abuse of corporate power makes you angry, then in this website, you can take action to stop Monsanto.

At Organic Bytes

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January 29, 2010

Burpee seed catalog brings the hope of spring

Burpee is one of the oldest and most venerable of seed companies. It made itself famous during WWII promoting victory gardens and in 1954 offered $10,000 for a white marigold. This is the company that developed the Big Boy Tomato and has continued to supply seeds and plants, both perennial and annual as well as garden supplies.

This year's catalog has a seed growing supplies and a tomato growing book as well. They have a raised bed 4' by 4' which can be doubled in size, and they claim any novice can set up it easily. There are all the flowers and vegies that any garderner needs and any homebound wishful thinker could spend hours enjoying and dreaming.

It's a great catalog, a classic, and one well worth perusing.

At Burpee seed catalog

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January 28, 2010

Thermostatically Controlled Outlet comes on at 35°F, goes off at 45°F


This is a great idea for those of us who have a greenhouse or unheated room, anywhere a freeze needs to be avoided, yet don't want the expense of heating it all the time. The outlet plugs into any 15 amp socket and turns on automatically and goes off automatically according to air temperature. Just what is needed, for example, in a greenhouse to keep the seedlings frost free. It turns on at 35 degrees and off at 45 degrees. So simple and such a energy saver as well as keeping free from the anxiety of a sudden freeze. Each unit has two recepticals for use with more than one heating device. There are five models each of which has it's own temperature controls. The one reviewed here is for frost protection.

At Farm Innovators Thermo Cube Thermostatically Controlled Outlets Model TC-3 - On at 35°F, Off approx. 45°F

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January 14, 2010

Southern Exposure Seed Catalog has heirloom and open poliinated seed


The seed catalogs have started coming and there is nothing more cheerful during the third week of snow and cold in January than to sit inside and thumb through the lovely pictures of flowers and vegetables and dream about the garden to come. Southern Exposure is located in Virginia and specializes in organic and mid-Atlantic seed, but serves the whole country and encourages seed saving and heirloom varieties.

What I like about this catalog is that it explains their perference for open polinated and heirloom seed and their rejection of GMO crops even though if people save the seed they buy from Southern Exposure, they have no reason to buy seed the next year. The price of the seed is comparable to other major seed stores and the planting information is extensive and very helpful. For example, with the open pollinated corn seed, they include tips on using mineral oil on the silk to discourage corn ear worms.
They also include a section on gifts for gardeners.

In all, a really informative and helpful gardening catalog well worth having no matter what part of the country you garden in.

At Southern Exposure

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