Saturday, April 4, 2009


I hope everyone enjoyed last Saturday's gathering as much as I did. People brought all kinds of dishes, breads, smoked meats, goat cheese and roasted peppers - all homemade!. We even had some of the fingerling potatoes in our soup. But enjoying your company beat all that. I love introducing interesting people I know and love to other interesting people I know and love.
And the kids - can you believe it? I was sure at least one would require medical attention at some time. But, you could hardly tell they were here. And, they even picked up all their toys before they vanished.
Now for the garden news. On Stan's recommendation, I mailed soil samples to the U of Massachusetts this week. I've never had the soil tested by a lab, so I am really interested in the results. He also found the attached guide to choosing soil amendments. They caution against adding wood ash, which I thought was an elixir. And, they discourage adding sand to clay soils, which on the surface seems to make sense. But, it "creates a soil structure similar to concrete".
I also ordered 3 yards of soil/compost from Musselman's nursery. It arrives Monday, March 2nd. We'll have to move it from the top of the driveway to the small garden. So if you get frustrated during the day and wish to burn off some steam, drop by and grab a shovel.
During our get-togethers, most of the real learning about gardening comes from individual to individual discussions. I swapped seeds with Chantelle before everyone else arrived. Melissa gave me a packet of New Jersey Tea seeds - I'd unsuccessfully tried to locate this plant for years! (The seeds are cool in that they require you to condition them in 180 degree water before planting them in late winter. Who would have thought.) Stan, as always, was full of new and interesting ideas. Everyone was exposed to new ways to preserve and prepare food. I want to use these informal exchanges as the primary way to help one another.
As early as this Saturday, I might start some of the cold weather plants as seedlings. I'm thinking about the lettuces, kale, chard, spinach - those guys. Then, in a couple of weeks we can transplant them into the garden. I'm also interested in starting shrubs from cuttings. I want to do this every year, but I always miss the window of opportunity.
We'll need to start the warmer weather plants in a couple of weeks (tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers). That means we have to order any new seeds shortly. I am still very receptive to new ideas for these and other plants. I am afraid I discouraged everyone at the meeting in this regard.
Rebecca is part of a food co-op, and its members order plant material from a gardener called the "Chile Woman" in Bloomington. Her website is www.thechilewoman.com . Each plant is $3, which would be expensive for our 30+ pepper plants and 20+ tomato plants, for example. But, if you need a plant or two for a smaller garden, it sounds like a great choice. Rebecca can help you add to their order.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thinking From Stan

I was just thinking about the garden. It’s funny how our minds work as soon as the sun comes out!!!! I’ve been searching for interesting and new seeds to try.

Time To Start Planning

Mickey and I are planning on hosting a meeting to discuss plans for this year's garden.
We are thinking about doing this Saturday, Feb. 21st at 3PM. We could eat together afterwards.
Other individuals and families have expressed interest in joining us this year. So, at that the meeting and over the next few weeks we can adjust our plans accordingly.
I will send out plans and formalize the invitation shortly.
Let me know if the day/time does not work for you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

September 21 Pepper Time


We have several types of nice peppers. We have far more than Mickey and I can use, so if you want some, come by or let us know soon. We also have an overabundance of potatoes.
The fall greens are coming in nicely. Again, this year we can see that fall gardening is way underrated.
Yesterday I took down most of the cucumber vines because there was no more fruit or blossoms. They were getting old and decaying, so I gathered them up and added them to the burn pile.
I also decommissioned a few of the tomato plants that were so sick they could not support the fruit on the vines. This year the leaves of the tomatoes progressively died from the bottom up. The same thing happened last year, but not as bad. What caused this?
To investigate, I conducted an autopsy. Above ground, I saw only dead leaves. So I looked below ground. I found that the primary root ball was only the size of the pot that we grew the seedlings in. Only a few roots penetrated into the surrounding soil. That's a problem, considering the size of the plant upstairs versus the supporting root structure. It's a mystery how the roots managed what they did.
So, why were most of the roots contained in the original soil? Plants do not do well when they are place in soil that has a stark boundary. The roots much prefer the richer soil and tend to stay there.
There are two solutions. One is to enrich all the soil in the garden. Hmmm. That's not going to happen on such a large scale.
The 2nd involves mixing "good" and "bad" dirt around the planting hole. That transition will get the roots started in the right direction.
It took 2 seasons and 2 marginal crops to concoct this premise. Add, I won't know if it is correct until late next year. But that's how things go sometimes.
Start thinking about bringing fall leaves and other organic material over.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Our September Garden September 14th

Our small garden was nearly bare a month ago. Now it is about 1/2 full of fall crops, most of which are at least partially frost hardy. We are getting new crops of beets, chard, green beans and spinach. First fruits again! Lettuce will be ready in a week or so.
The back garden is yielding last fruits of potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes. It will provide a huge number of peppers until frost. On the other hand, we harvested our first tomatilloes just this week.
I used all of the compost from the past year as dressing between the rows of the small garden. I still haven't figured out compost. We put SO MUCH material in the compost bin and ended up with just a bushel or two of compost. Then, when you incorporate it into the garden or add is as a top dressing, it continues to decay - substantially. Within a year or so, most of it is gone. I don't understand how this creates and sustains a balance of soil humus. It seems you have to constantly add organic material to the soil. In an established prairie or forest, replenishment occurs constantly and naturally - but in a garden or a farmed field?
Last Friday night Mickey and I attended a meeting to discuss "food justice." It's a very broad topic that includes legislation, buying habits, agricultural practices, consumer education, the problem of the underfed and the growing problem of the overfed. Everyone that attended took a couple minutes to talk about their food background and their vision for the group. The stories were remarkably diverse, and they accurately described the many facets our food culture. We are not sure where the group's passion and skills will take us, but there seems to be plenty of options.
This past week our granddaughter, Elsa, volunteered to help for a few minutes. She trimmed some of the greens, taste tested the soil, and showed us how to handle tiny seeds with her tiny hands. Quite impressive for a city girl.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

August 27th The True Harvest

Last Sunday the McGuckins and the Lavengoods visited us to barbecue and share a meal. It's clear that everyone should have some daily exposure to young children. Perhaps the highlight of the garden year is seeing the kids dig potatoes - and scream as loudly as possible at every small living thing they noticed. We only got through one small row, so if someone else needs some fun, bring a couple of kids over.

After months of receiving consistent rain I finally had to water the back garden. The
tomatoes and peppers were looking pretty droopy. But that hasn't kept them from producing. I picked about 1 gallon of cherry tomatoes last evening. I take them a day or so before they fully ripen (and crack). They seem to ripen just fine in the house. The regular tomatoes are pick early, too. If you need any, you will find them in our basement.

The fall gree
ns are looking OK - just OK. This hot dry weather came at just the wrong time for the seedlings.

This week we have ple
nty of tomatoes, cucumbers (we saw some whitening of the leaves, so enjoy them while you can), beets (in the small garden), onions (storing well), potatoes, chard and French green beans. We harvested, blanched and froze all the edamame last week. Let us know if you 'd like to try some. Tomatilloes are slowly getting there.
A superstar will be visiting us for the next couple of weeks. If you'd like to stop by to meet her, please do so.