Picture Snob

September 20, 2010

My first artichoke is very sad


As we know, our best efforts don't always work and my artichoke experiment is looking less than successful. The picture above shows what I imagined my harvest to look like. One of the four plants I put in the garden sent up a stalk. The head was very small and as I walked by the plant today, I snipped it off and saw that the whole inside was eaten out by some black fungus.

Now I've done a little more reseach on artichokes and find they are native to the Mediterranean and don't like frozen ground in winter although with some care they can be grown in my area. The also like fairly cool summers which is really not possible where I live. The three remaining plants look fine and show no signs of either disease or of sending up a stalk. I'm going to mulch them for protection this winter.

It seems my one budding artichoke has bacterial crown rot. The plant is stunted. It didn't show any tendency to wilt but the crown and tap root tissues become soft, rotted, and turn brown or black. Infected crowns are readily identified after cutting because blackened tissue can be seen in the cross section of the stem.


I'm not going to compost this crown for fear of spreading the infection. I'll take it and toss it over a bank on the way to town where it won't hurt anything. Northern Star is the variety to plant if you have cold winters. I'm going to keep on trying with the plants I have.

At Green Globe Artichoke - 8 Plants - Artichokes this Year

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September 15, 2010

The mysterious volunteer is always a welcome puzzle

I kept watching this plant in the garden. I didn't recognize it's leaves and it was big and kept getting bigger. I thought it was some exotic herb that an herbalist friend of mine sometimes brings me and that it had reseeded itself, so I let it go.

And Voila! I am walking up from the compost pile and there is the flower! So recognizable. IMG_1475.jpg

I've never grown sunflowers before so this must have come from a bird or a packet of old flower seeds I threw out sure that nothing would geminate. What a pleasant surprise! I'm just going to let it go and let the birds have a feast as I've never found a good way to shell the seeds except with my teeth and that has always seemed like too much work for too little gain. So I'll let it be my gift to the birds!

Sunflowers must be very easy to grow since I didn't water feed or pay any attention to its nurturing. Love it! And if you're interested, they come in all colors.

At Heirloom Sunflower Seeds Flash Blend Certified Organic

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September 10, 2010

Winter vegetables are in the ground!


I planted broccoli and cabbage about two weeks ago and they have struggled to survive in the 100 degree weather. Two of them got nipped off by unknown culprits. I doubt it was the grey squirrel I caught because there was so much more inviting plants to nibble on. I put some fertilizer on the plants and they looks somewhat better.

So when I went to town yesterday, I stopped at the nursery and bought a six pack of broccoli and one of brussel sprouts and got them in the ground. I planted near the gate so I don't have to go trapsing over mud to get to them in midwinter. They look great although the row goes wandering around a little. I certainly do not have the military look of straight rows all neat as a pin. But never mind. This winter I will be so happy to go out to the garden and pick a meal of broccoli or brussel sprouts for dinner. All I need are about two heads of cabbage as it is a vegie that last forever picked and in the fridge.

At Ferry-Morse Seeds 2031 Brussels Sprouts - Catskill 1.7 Gram Packet

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September 8, 2010

Sungold tomatoes are the best!


Every day at some point I go out to the garden to pick vegetables for supper and I never fail to bring in a couple of quarts of the Sungold cherry tomatoes. They are wihout a doubt the sweetest tomato grown. I planted several hybrids, Brandywine, for one, and some familar hybrid favorite, Early Girl and Big Boy and none of them come close to the flavor and sweetness of the Sungold.

The Sungold was also the first to ripen. They came in about a month ahead of the others, even the Early Girl. I have used them on sandwiches and in salads and to make salsa. I think the only thing they wouldn't work for is a spagetti sauce. Now that all the rest of the big red tomatoes are ripening and it possible to compare the flavor.

I'm definitely including these in my tomato garden every year.

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

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September 2, 2010

How to save your seed and keep it safe How about a spice rack?


If you're growing heirloom vegetables and want to save the seed, this article from the University of Illinois is a great help. Not all seed should be saved and doing it properly insures next year's seeds viability. So it pays to do it right.

"Not every plant's seeds are worth keeping. Hybrid plants are developed by crossing specific parent plants. Hybrids are wonderful plants but the seed is often sterile or does not reproduce true to the parent plant. Therefore, never save the seed from hybrids. Another major problem is some plants' flowers are open pollinated by insects, wind or people. These plants include squash, cucumbers, melon, parsley, cabbage, chard, broccoli, mustard greens, celery, spinach, cauliflower, kale, radish, beets, onion, and basil. These plants cross with others within their family. The only way to maintain the original variety is to isolate by large distances. Isolation is often impossible or impractical in a home garden.

Some seeds may transmit certain diseases. A disease that infected a crop at the end of the growing season may do little damage to that crop. However, if the seed is saved and planted the following year, the disease may severely injure or even kill the young plants.

What can you save? Standard or heirloom varieties that are not cross-pollinated by nearby plants are good candidates. Many gardeners successfully keep beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers. Plants you know are heirloom varieties are easy to save. Ask the person or organization you obtained the seed from how they did it. Some people like to experiment, but make sure you don't bet the whole garden on saved seed.

When saving seed, always harvest from the best. Choose disease-free plants with qualities you desire. Look for the most flavorful vegetables or beautiful flowers. Consider size, harvest time and other characteristics.

Always harvest mature seed. For example, cucumber seeds at the eating stage are not ripe and will not germinate if saved. You must allow the fruit and seed to fully mature. Because seed set reduces the vigor of the plant and discourages further fruit production, wait until near the end of the season to save fruit for seed.

Seeds are mature or ripe when flowers are faded and dry or have puffy tops. Plants with pods, like beans, are ready when the pods are brown and dry. When seeds are ripe they usually turn from white to cream colored or light brown to dark brown. Collect the seed or fruits when most of the seed is ripe. Do not wait for everything to mature because you may lose most of the seed to birds or animals.

Beans, peas, onions, carrots, corn, most flowers and herb seeds are prepared by a dry method. Allow the seed to mature and dry as long as possible on the plant. Complete the drying process by spreading on a screen in a single layer in a well-ventilated dry location. As the seed dries the chaff or pods can be removed or blown gently away. An alternative method for extremely small or lightweight seed is putting the dry seed heads into paper bags that will catch the seed as it falls out.

Seed contained in fleshy fruits should be cleaned using the wet method. Tomatoes, melons, squash, cucumber and roses are prepared this way. Scoop the seed masses out of the fruit or lightly crush fruits. Put the seed mass and a small amount of warm water in a bucket or jar. Let the mix ferment for two to four days. Stir daily. The fermentation process kills viruses and separates the good seed from the bad seed and fruit pulp. After two to four days, the good viable seeds will sink to the bottom of the container while the pulp and bad seed float. Pour off the pulp, water, bad seed and mold. Spread the good seed on a screen or paper towel to dry.

Seeds must be stored dry. Place in glass jar or envelopes. Make sure you label all the containers or packages with the seed type or variety, and date. Put in the freezer for two days to kill pests. Then store in a cool dry location like a refrigerator. Seed that molds was not sufficiently dry before storage.

Seed viability decreases over time. Parsley, onion, and sweet corn must be used the next year. Most seed should be used within three years.

Seed saving is essential for maintaining unusual or heritage vegetables and flowers. It is a great way to propagate many native plants too. There are numerous seed saver exchanges, clubs, and listings in magazines like Organic Gardening. Although you shouldn't base your entire garden on saved seed you may want to give seed saving a try."

Small zip lock bags are good seed storers, but this spice rack looks like it would work just as well and be more managable.
At Prodyne A-845 Acrylic 20 Bottle Spice Rack

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August 30, 2010

The dilemna of the fall cover crop is finally solved


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 18, 2010

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


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 11, 2010

Things going to seed in your garden?


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


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


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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