Keeping up with the Joneses

Winterizing the Garden

It’s spring in Australia, and just cool enough now that our southern neighbors are starting their fall gardens.

Areas north have already received snow.

Here in Northeastern Pa. it’s time to put most of the garden to bed for the winter.

winterizing the garden

cardboard keeps the weeds away

There are a number of ways you can do this, this is what’s happening here.

Towards the end of the summer, we place cardboard over harvested beds to keep out any weed seeds until the frost kills them off.
If we plan on tilling a bed, which is rare, we leave the cardboard on through the winter to also keep out the spring weeds, and till in the soil amendments when the weather gets warm again.

winterizing the garden

summer's mulch and fall leaves add organic matter naturally

Between the falling autumn leaves and the straw that was used as mulch, some beds have a head start on winter. For the ones that won’t be tilled, we begin with nature.

winterizing the garden

so that's where my knife went

We add more rough compost to the beds. It will break down further over time, and can just be worked into the soil if needed before planting.

winterizing the garden

spread rough compost on top of your soil

To top this off we add a nice layer of leaves. These will also break down over time.
Just remember that some of your furry friends may decide to make a home underneath.

winterizing the garden

leaves act as mulch

You wouldn’t want to find a little bunny’s nest there…

winterizing the garden

...or something worse.

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Categories: faq's, gardening, techniques

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4 Reasons to Use a Garden Sink

garden sink

An adjustable nozzle and 2 attached drainboards.

My husband purchased a garden sink as a birthday gift, he’s so sweet. He found it at Tractor Supply, and I just love it.

Here’s why:

1. It saves time.

Instead of harvesting veggies and bringing them into the kitchen, they get a quick cleaning first. Now there is no longer a dirty kitchen sink to deal with, and less time spent chasing those freeloading bugs you sometimes find.

This particular sinks made by Vertex has 2 drainboards, so some trimming can also be done, and cuttings deposited in the composter that is right next to the sink.

2. It saves water.

It hooks directly to a garden hose. It also has a drain that goes into a bucket as shown, allowing for the water to be reclaimed back into the garden.

If you pay for your water use, this can also save money.

garden sink

It even has a little shelf for a bar of soap. Aww.

3. It saves good garden soil.

No longer is soil washed into the septic tank, but along with the water it can be added back into the garden. Even cleaning the sink itself brings some more soil back.

Okay, it’s a little thing. But it’s a good little thing.

garden sink

2 drainboards fold over to keep the sink free of fallen leaves.

4. It’s a toy.

Admit it. Chances are you like gardening toys.
With most hobbies, the ‘tools’ are part of the fun.

Just a note: You can find this sink and similar ones on Amazon, but you can also DIY a set-up of your own.

Categories: gardening people, places & things, tools and toys

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3 Common Corn Problems

corn smut

1. Corn Smut

This is a fungus issue more likely to be found in heirloom and open-pollinated varieties. It destroys the ear, and can have negative effects on the entire plant.
It can also survive to cause issues again the following season.

What we didn’t know, until it was too late this year, it is an edible fungus, and considered to be quite the delicacy in some cuisines.

Now we’re hoping we get lucky and have some smut again next year!

2. Small ears

There are a number of possibilities that could have happened here. Lack of nitrogen in the soil, under-watering or over-crowding. In our case it was the latter, a failed experiment to see just how much corn we could fit into a 4×4 space.

Okay, yeah; well not quite that many.

unsuccessful corn pollination

3. Not full ears and/or misshapen ears

This is a pollination issue, and an easy one to avoid in the future. Be sure to plant your corn in blocks rather than rows. Once you see tassels, give each stalk a little shake when you walk by. Unless it is windy, of course.

This helps spread the pollen and you are more likely to get those nice full ears you hope for.

Here’s a short video showing how we grow corn.

Categories: gardening, plant problems

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Notes to Self

sunflower and friend

One of the survivors, with a hitchhiker.

Sometimes we refer to gardening as the yearly crap-shoot; but whether things go wrong because of Mother Nature or at the hands of the gardeners themselves, it is always an opportunity to learn.

That being said, some years we learn more than others. ;-)

Supposition:
Planting beds of sunflowers and okra seeds on each side of the front porch steps is a great idea. It will look so wonderful!

Unless you have free range chickens.

Note to self #1:
Build a raised bed with a removable chicken wire cover to give those seeds and seedlings a chance to survive. Duh.

Supposition:
Planting the garlic in the area where the new dwarf fruit trees and berry shrubberies are will save space in the garden.
Makes sense, right?

Except that fruit trees and shrubs grow fast, suck up a lot of nutrients and create too much shade.

Note to self #2:
Remember Uncle Joe’s garlic bed and the best bulbs in the family? Garlic likes to be in the same space year after year. Sure, give it some bone meal and soak the cloves in moo poo tea, but follow his example. Build a permanent garlic-only bed.

Supposition:
Planting the brassicas near the grapevines will offer them some shade. The Farmer’s Almanac predicted a very hot summer, we better not take a chance.

Note to self #3:
Since when did you start believing the Farmer’s Almanac? It never barely hit 90F all summer.
Plus, some people think grapes are detrimental to the brassicas. Strawberries are, so who knows? Better play it safer next year.

Supposition:
If you keep trying, eventually you will be able to grow an almond tree.

Okay, so the first one was eaten by deer, a learning experience.
The second was bought online, and arrived so extremely pruned it could not recover.
The third year a gourd plant growing nearby and rapidly upward latched on to the baby tree and took it with it, roots and all. A bizarre learning experience admittedly, but still a good one.
This year the tree was planted in a very good spot. Success?

Noooo! The tree was purchased last fall from a local big box store and never survived the winter.

Note to self #4:
Put on your big girl panties come spring and cart yourself off to a local nursery. Find a good almond tree. Ask questions about how to grow them. Learn what you need to learn.

Four trees have already been sacrificed, this is your last chance.

Categories: How to Grow, Keeping up with the Joneses

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5 Ways to Handle Upcoming Light Frost

green tomatoes

Ready to ripen indoors.

Well, the weather forecasters are saying the F-word again.
Last year frost didn’t hit until the end of October, but we can’t always be that lucky.

Here are a few ways to handle your veggies with the cold temps coming:

1. Harvest them.

All of the heat loving crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, summer squashes and eggplant cannot handle the cold. Let them ripen indoors, use them up or preserve what you can for the winter.

2. Bring them indoors.

Potted plants can come inside and you get a wee bit more life from them. We have heard of people overwintering pepper plants and having them live for years.

We’re going to give it a try with one pepper plant and a transplanted eggplant.

We also have 3 tomato plants in the greenhouse, just to keep that fresh taste going longer. May as well, right?

jones gardening system

Inserting the plastic panels for frost protection.

3. Cover them.

You can use something as simple as a sheet, or more elaborate like our garden system. This picture is of the sweet potato bed in the original test system. The longer we can keep them alive, the better the harvest will be.

4. Let them be.

Many veggies can handle the cold. All of the cold weather crops will survive a light frost. These include peas, most greens, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, scorzonera and parsley.

If you’re not sure weather they will survive or not, one frost will answer that question. Just don’t allow the lettuce to fool you. It may look like it is dead in the morning, and then perk back up when the sun comes out.

5. Water them in.

This is something we have never tried, but it makes sense and is often recommended. Water your garden at ground level thoroughly before a frost is predicted. Presumably the wet soil will hold the warm temperatures longer, and release heat at the base of the plant, offering them some protection.

We have also heard, but have not tried, watering the garden again before the sun hits the plants, in effect washing the frost droplets off and helping the plants survive.

We have had sufficient success with the first four methods, so have not had to try the fifth.

Well, got to go harvest the grapes and make some juice.
Happy gardening!

Categories: extending the season, harvesting, techniques

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5 Lessons Learned at a Garlic Festival

garlic festival food

1. You can put garlic in anything.

Oh sure, we all know the most common foods, and this sign was just the beginning.

It went on from there to sauces, garlic-hot pepper jelly, oils and in case that wasn’t enough… garlic ice cream.

Yep, you read that right, and it was surprisingly not as bad as we expected.

2. That German White and Purple Stripe are two of the best varieties for colder climates.

Every farm stand that was selling garlic had at least these 2 selections. Both are hardneck and cold hardy, something we need here in the northeast and even up into Canada.

The Purple Stripe is also considered to be the ‘Grand-daddy of all garlic” in that it is thought to be the oldest type still around. Kind of neat, right?

How to freeze garlic.

3. You can freeze garlic.

And perhaps you should. Frozen garlic will hold its flavor better than refrigerated bulbs.

We never really thought about it before, but it does make sense. It certainly is easy enough to try.

4. That a garlic bed should be fertilized twice.

At planting time, here in zone 5/6 that is mid-October, and again when the ground thaws in the spring, add bone meal, blood meal and a fertilizer that is about 10-20-20. Of course that depends on your soil, but generally a good plan of action.

This summer we saw how well bone meal worked for our onions, so knew it would likewise be good for the garlic.

Garlic Viengar shots.

5. That some people will try anything.

Garlic is good for you, vinegar is good for you. Why not combine them, right?

Mandolin was just one of a number of people, men mostly, that tried the garlic vinegar. Perhaps it was the sign ‘More potent than Viagra’ that got their attention.

We’ll leave it at that. ;-D

Categories: gardening people, places & things, garlic

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3 Ways to Remove Kernels from Fresh Corn

corn kernel tools

2 possibilities.

We recently purchased 100 ears of corn from the local farmer and set about preserving it. Some of it was frozen on the cob, the rest we wanted to remove the kernels from the corn to can.

Here’s what we found with the tools we tested:

The one on the right made by Norpro we had heard about online. It did great for cream style corn, not so much for just kernels.

A similar tool made by Lee does much better, as you can see in this video.

The second tool is called The Corn Zipper. This one did a pretty good job of removing the kernels, although it tended to leave rows that had to be redone.

It also would have been very tedious with that many ears, but if you are just doing a few it is pretty handy.

Removing corn kernels using the Corn Zipper.

Since Mandolin Jones is a food service guy, he ended up just sharpening one of his knives and removing the kernels that way.

Removing corn kernels by a professional.

We did learn right away that this is very messy, so he soon took the process outside.

It is impressive how far that corn milk can splash!

Here is some of the finished product:

Home Food Preservation

Well worth the effort.

Categories: gardening people, places & things

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1 Problem with the Three Sisters of the Field

Three Sisters of the Field

It’s a jungle in there.

The Three Sisters of the Field is a traditional method for growing corn, squash and beans that was introduced to the pilgrims by the indigenous people of this country. It is gaining in popularity as more home growers learn about it.

Intercropping veggies in this way helps save space, cuts down on weeds, and the plants benefit each other.
It also looks wonderful.

There is just one wee problem.

Many gardeners don’t realize that this method is meant for dry beans, field corn, and winter squash.

If they plant sweet corn and pole beans, they will most likely run into this issue:

Three Sisters of the Field

Playing hard to get.

The beans can wrap themselves around the corn cobs so tightly that harvesting them can be difficult.

There are two ways to avoid this issue:

1. Plant the traditional method by using field corn and dry beans. This way, the corn and beans, along with the squash, are all harvested about the same time.

2. Change it up with sweet corn but use bush or half runner beans. You won’t have any interference harvesting your corn.

Keep in mind that half runner beans can take up a lot of space; if you use them consider planting a bush type squash such as acorn or most summer squash.

One lesson we learned the hard way, that you don’t have to.

Categories: gardening, techniques

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A Rant: For Our Children and Grandchildren Pt. 2

cow and friend

I am still ticked about what happened yesterday, and there is something I have been holding in that started to seep out in that last post.
Now’s the time to get this off my chest:

Lots of people talk about pesticides, herbicides and genetically engineered foods; this is important information to get out there. Here is a different approach to what might be an overlooked yet significant issue with our food supply.

Did you know that animals can smell death?
Sometimes we can as well, I did once, nurses probably do.
But animals smell it as a matter of survival.

It is not unheard of for a pig, held in a holding pen in line to be slaughtered, to simply faint. Fear?
They are very social animals as well, and when kept in isolation in birthing cages, have been known to bang their heads against the side of the cage until they die.
What kind of emotional suffering causes that behavior?

Chickens often are subject to what would be considered inhumane practices as they are being ‘processed’.

Milk cows have their young taken away soon after birth, so they can be artificially impregnated again and the milk supply continue.

This is not all farms, but this is now the most common.
You read and hear a lot about all the other issues with our food supply, but rarely have I seen anyone talk about this aspect of it.

Just as we excrete chemicals in our body as a result of life circumstances such as happiness, fear, loneliness and love, so do animals.

As a society what we are consuming and feeding to our children is suffering, loneliness, fear, anxiety and an unnatural break from nature.

I would bet that if a scientist were to look at a sample of muscle from a deer taken by a hunter, and compare that to a pig killed in a slaughterhouse, they would find very different levels of these chemicals.

Why are animals being factory farmed this way, when there are alternatives?

Now the farmer would answer that they need to raise the meat using these practices because of the demand for it, and to keep prices low. This is especially the case for farmers who supply most fast food places.

So what is the one variable in this formula that we, as concerned consumers, can change?

The Demand.

We can demand less, and demand better.

Many Americans eat meat three times a day, which is much more than we need.
Technically, we don’t need to eat any meat, but let’s not go there.

If we all cut down to either once or twice per day, we could afford to buy the grass fed beef and the organic eggs.

If we cut out one or two days a week, a Meatless Monday for example, we could afford the better products.

We could eat the meat that comes from happy animals, ones that were allowed to be outdoors and have families and range in their natural way.

The same way we grow our own veggies because they taste better and are healthier, we can make the change that will allow us to have the better quality meat as well.

And if the demand for better quality goes up, more farmers will look to provide quality over quantity.
Economics 101.

Then what we will have will be better for us, better for our children, and better for the environment.

In the long run, that may be just what we need to turn around all the violence and need for medications that our children and grandchildren now face as a part of daily life.

Shouldn’t we do that for them?
Isn’t one day without meat worth it?

For more information on our food supply:
The Chipotle’s Scarecrow.
Food, Inc.
Suggested reading: Eating Animals

Categories: special posts, you are what you eat

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A Rant: For Our Children and Grandchildren Pt. 1

gardener's perspective

The facility I work at has on site a pre-school program, government offices, a senior center, a playground and a little league ball field. It is a place where many local residents can find something to do.

Today, a 16 year old boy shot a younger boy playing nearby with an air BB gun, multiple times. The physical wounds were not severe, about a dozen welts to the arm and back.
The emotional wounds, for both boys, will last much longer.

When questioned by police the older boy reported that he had not taken his medication that morning, he has anger issues and sometimes does bad things without his medication.

Both boys are victims here, and I’ll explain why I say that.

We are spiritual beings in a chemical body. If you don’t have a religious faith, we are still chemical beings.

‘Carbon based life forms’ is what they called it on Star Trek, but that is exactly what we are.

When we hurt, when we are sad or happy, and when we are fearful or feel any other emotions, our brains and bodies secrete chemicals that flow throughout us.

Did you ever see a video of a child playing with puppies?
If you smiled and felt good, that was at least partially the result of your brain releasing a chemical called Serotonin into your body. Yeah, advertisers know this.

My background is not in horticulture but actually in psychology, and we’ve learned from studies and information gathered long ago that our minds react chemically, and also in other ways that is more difficult to understand. Many call that part the ‘soul’.

In the recent example of Robin Williams, I believe he was a soul tortured by what the chemical processes were doing inside his body. Depression causes a known chemical reaction in the body. The same is true for anger issues and many other deviations from what we might consider the average.

Note I don’t use the term ‘normal’.

So what has happened to our children that we now see a young person go out and harm someone defenseless?
Sandy Hook, Columbine… plus there are many other incidences, like the one here, that you never hear of.

I grew up in the town where I work, and I don’t remember ever hearing of anything other than normal growing pains amongst kids.
What has changed in the past 40-some years? Well, a lot; but one of the main things is our diet.

“You are what you eat” or more literally, “Man is as he eats” was quoted almost 200 years ago by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

Most of what we eat today is meat filled with the chemicals secreted by fear, suffering, maltreatment and pain. With few exceptions, our burgers and eggs are heavily dosed with antibiotics and the feed these animals are given is laden with pesticides. Man made chemicals are also found on a lot of the produce we consume.

We’re feeding this to our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews and step-children.

I understand it is easier to get and afford these ‘foods’ than the better alternative, but all of us can make a few choices, easy choices really, to change this.

I’ll post that tomorrow, right now I need to take a walk in the garden to help put it all in perspective.

Tomorrow I’ll post what I think we can all do to help change this, from the easy to the more involved.

I hope you will share that post as much as you can… this has got to stop.

For now, thanks for listening. <3

Categories: gardening people, places & things, special posts, you are what you eat

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Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2014 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

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