Keeping up with the Joneses
5 December 2014, by gj
So much of the corn being grown in the US is now genetically engineered by crossing it with e. coli, then doused heavily with pesticides.
Although you can find organic alternatives, if you have the room you can grow quite a lot of popcorn. Just 10 plants can yield anywhere from 4000-12000 kernels, in only an area about 12″ x 30″.
Choose a variety that is recommended for popping, here are a few to look at.
Grow like you would sweet corn, just don’t harvest as soon. Let the corn stay on the stalk until the plant starts to die off, or the ears begin to fall over. Leave in the husk to dry for about a week. The longer it dries the easier it is to get the kernels off, simply by pushing on them with your thumb. You can make it even simpler by twisting the cob or breaking it in half.
When the kernels are completely dry, just store in a food grade container.
How you pop it is up to you. It can be done in the microwave, but we prefer the old fashioned stove top method of popping it in just a little oil in a covered pot on med-high heat.
And just to be on the safe side, we also have a really old popcorn popper that can be used over an open flame, back from the days before Jiffy Pop and Monsanto; you know, when corn was just corn.
You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Click on the logo above to read many more such posts.
Categories: corn, you can grow that
28 November 2014, by gj
Often referred to as Tree Rats by aggravated gardeners, squirrels can do a lot of damage. They can jump 6 ft. straight up, and have been known to use sunflowers as a mode of transportation; snacks included. Fencing does little to stop these pests, unless it is an electric fence.
Squirrels enjoy taking just a few bites from a juicy tomato, and then moving on to the next one. It can be very frustrating to pick a beautiful, long anticipated fruit, only to find bite marks.
But there are a number of things you can do to help keep your veggies safe.
1. Use hot pepper.
Squirrels hate that stuff. You can use it as a spray or just buy a cheap powdered spice. It will need to be reapplied after a rain or after watering, that’s the down side.
If you have a bird feeder, lace it with hot pepper as well. The birds don’t care, but it will help keep the squirrels away.
2. Use a motion sensitive sprinkler.
This will startle the squirrels and then may just move to some other garden instead.
3. Let nature do it’s thing.
If you already have a dog, try letting it get in the area of the squirrels. Cats can be great at scaring off squirrels, just be sure they don’t damage your garden themselves. Letting your pets into the garden, unless they are trained, can also do harm.
You might consider attracting some owls to your neighborhood instead. They do a great job at rodent control in general. Supply them with a place to live, and you get the added advantage of catching glimpses of these beautiful birds.
4. Give them what they want, but on your terms.
Squirrels only take a few bites of a tomato because what they are really after is the water content. Of course they do more damage in the hottest part of the season, which is also when the tomatoes are ripening.
You can help by providing them with a water source. We use an old birdbath set on the ground. Little by little, move the water source away from your garden and you’ll be drawing their attention away as well.
Categories: gardening, pests
22 November 2014, by gj
There are a number of items you may be recycling that can save you some money when it comes to indoor growing.
You can start seeds in a lot of clean containers, such as:
1) Yogurt Cups
2) Plastic produce containers
3) Empty toilet paper rolls
4) Likewise, scaled down paper towel rolls
5) Aluminum cans, be careful cutting these
6) Tin cans from canned soup or veggies
7) Milk cartons
8) Wax cartons such as for orange juice
9) Disposable cups such as solo cups
10) Other food grade plastic containers such as tofu tubs, guacamole, and ready to eat food trays
The main thing to remember is that you need some form of drainage holes. This is easy enough to do in plastic with a scissors or sharp knife. Use caution of course.
For metal containers hammering a nail through them in a few places should do the trick.
Keep in mind you need enough room for the plants to be able to establish their root systems. We would say no less than 3 inches.
You can aid germination by covering containers with (11) recycled plastic sandwich type bags, as shown above. You can see a tiny seedling just sprouting, surrounded by water droplets. This creates a green house effect, keeping your seeds moist until they sprout.
And when that happens, there is one more way to upcycle using a sharpie marker. (12)
Don’t tell me you’ve been getting rid of free plant markers.
13.) When you transplant, you can still use some of the larger food containers, 5 gallon buckets, as well as reuse pots from plants you have purchased. Again, be sure all containers are clean and have drainage.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season, How to Grow
16 November 2014, by gj
And so it begins
When it comes to larger financial decisions, my husband and I hold off unless we both agree. Usually, when one person doesn’t want to spend the money, the other one finds creative ways to talk him into it.
And so it was with an unheated room that would be a great place to not only start seedlings, but also to grow food through the winter.
“You would have to make it worth it,” he said, not really wanting an increase in a utility bill.
To a gardening addict, just the activity itself is worth it.
“Like how?” I asked.
“Well, if you grew tomato plants and sold them, that would be good.”
Hmmm, that was part of the plan but that would be months away yet.
“How about having fresh tomatoes and herbs all year?” I suggested, appealing to the cook in him.
“And hot peppers?” he asked.
Let the growing commence.
Here are some of the best veggies to grow indoors:
1. Carrots- small round types such as Parisienne.
2. Tomatoes- romas, Tiny Tom or patio
5. Hot peppers
7. Garlic chives
8. Meyer lemons
9. Snow peas
11. Watermelon- small types such as sugar baby
12. Fruit trees on dwarf tree stock
Note there are a number of fruiting trees that are available grafted to dwarf root tree stock, far too many to list.
Categories: container gardening, extending the season, garden projects, The Experiments
15 November 2014, by gj
Winter’s ill effects.
Not all gnomes are cold hardy, in fact some do not handle the outdoors well at all. Unfortunately they are not labeled and won’t tell you themselves. As of yet nobody has compiled a classification table for them, but we’re working on it.
So all a gardener can do for now is to use your best judgement.
Here are a few tips we’ve learned that may help:
1. If your gnome is a one of a kind or an unusual breed, and not from a family of metals, consider it to not be weather hardy unless you are told otherwise. These, the most unique of gnomes, are likely descendents from the family line of Plaster of Paris. The gentleman pictured above is a good example. These gnomes require the utmost care and should be afforded the best accommodations.
2. If your gnome originates in the orient, it may have the wherewithal to handle the harsh weather, but will likely not last more than one winter without showing the dire effects. These folk are usually happy to be hoarded into any enclosure, and left to their own devices until spring.
Happy in hiding.
3. Smaller gnomes often prefer to associate themselves with a land feature, and are unlikely to handle the weather well. This is not only true for winter, as many of these gnomes are very outdoor-sensitive. Unless you can offer them protection such as a covered porch, it is best to keep them inside all year.
4. Some gnomes can handle decades of being outdoors 24/7. It has been our experience that these types are usually from a family of Ceramics. They can be distinguished by accessories in bright acrylics, and often will have distinguishing marks in the form of initials on their bottom-most feature.
5. And finally, if your gnome is wearing anything other than a red hat, consider it suspicious. Red is the traditional color, any other implies a rebellious nature. These fellows are best placed year round in such a way that they cannot go anywhere unseen. Do not trust them too close to other gnomes, as they may try to convert them.
Are they plotting?
In summary, you can tell a lot by just looking at a gnome. Most cannot handle winter weather, and are best brought indoors. Some cannot handle wet weather at all, and others well… just don’t turn your back on them.
Naming gnomes and some gnome links.
Gnomes on Pinterest.
Categories: fairy and miniature gardens
14 November 2014, by gj
The only snow that got in was when I lifted the cover.
There are a number of ways you can get more growing time for your garden. Which you choose will depend on your budget, the size of your garden, and the extent to which you want to grow in the cold weather.
Here are a few to consider:
1. Cold Frames
Not only good for starting seedlings, cold frames can also house veggies and keep them protected enough to go farther into the winter. They are basically boxes, higher on one side that the opposite side, with glass or plastic hinged tops. The clear panels let light into to warm up the interior. Tops can be kept ajar when the day temperatures are still warm. Cold frames can get buried in snow; but if it isn’t too deep, it can actually help insulate the boxes.
2. Low tunnels
These can be made by bending PVC pipe or heavy wire into an inverted U-shape. This is then covered in plastic, again protecting the plants while letting the light through. To ventilate, the plastic must be pulled back and clipped.
Low tunnels are by design used only for shorter types of plants.
In large gardens, using portable low tunnels can help you protect different areas each year. This helps when you are rotating crops.
3. The Jones’ Garden System
Our favorite of course, the system acts similar to both a cold frame and low & high tunnels, allowing you to start seedlings as well as protect all sizes of plants in place.
It also grows more food in less space than a high tunnel, and is easier on the back than a cold frame. You can go farther into the cold with the help of heat tape.
The design makes it user friendly and we think the best solution for smaller gardens. To ventilate, simply move the top frame to the side.
4 & 5. High Tunnels and Greenhouses
Similar in that you can walk into them, these season extenders can help protect taller plants. They don’t hold the heat overnight as well as you might think, but do warm up fast during the day. They both do have the advantage that they can house a heating unit, and that you can be out of the cold weather while gardening.
High tunnels are usually ventilated by opening the door flaps. Greenhouse have ventilating panels as part of the design.
Read here about a high tunnel in Holland.
Do you use season extenders to get more from your garden?
Categories: extending the season, gardening, Keeping up with the Joneses
11 November 2014, by gj
If you have little ones in your life, and you are a gardener, then you are doubly blessed.
Choosing what to plant for healthy baby food and for older kids should center on two main things:
1. What produce has the most pesticides in it, and
2. What do kids like?
The first one is easy. The Environmental Working Group is the wonderful non-profit that has compiled this information.
Fruits are some of the worst things to give a baby, unless they are grown organically. If you cannot have room for a few dwarf sized trees, try to buy organic versions of apples, peaches and nectarines. Strawberries are also highly hit with pesticides, but are very easy to grow and preserve. Likewise, grapes.
On the vegetable side celery, cucumbers, summer squash and sweet bell peppers are more items with the worst levels of pesticides. All are easy enough to grow.
When it is time to introduce baby to greens, again it is better if they are homegrown or at least organic. Kale can be grown almost year round even here in Zone 5/6.
What little one doesn’t like mashed potatoes? Guess what, they are not only hit with pesticides on the root ends, but then herbicides are applied on the tops before harvesting. They are so simple to grow, really, and easy to store.
So now your garden is keeping baby’s diet cleaner, what will little ones also like to eat? Probably not broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts or cauliflower, though there are exceptions. We used to marinate fresh cauliflower in oil and vinegar with Italian seasonings when our kids were younger and they loved it.
Carrots are sure to be a favorite, and homegrown ones are so sweet they are like candy. Green beans are generally bland, so kids go for them. Choose a stringless variety to make things easier.
Every garden should sport at least one tomato plant. For taste, we recommend sungold cherry tomatoes, for older kids.
Still got room for more? Butternut and acorn squash are so healthy, and generally well received by little ones.
Check out the baby food aisle at your local market for ideas on veggie combos to blend for smaller kids, and to combine for older ones. Adding some pears and strawberries to shredded fresh spinach may just be the ticket to get older kids to eat their greens.
Categories: grandkids and kids, you are what you eat
4 November 2014, by gj
When most people think of perennial edible plants, they probably think of apple trees and berry bushes, and that’s a great start. Fruit trees will bear for decades, berry bushes and canes give out new growth each year, grapes new vines, and even strawberries reproduce themselves providing younger, more vigorous plants.
But you don’t have to stop there if you want a lifetime of food. Plants such as asparagus and perennial onions never seem to stop coming back, and in fact, produce more. One horseradish root can provide you with more than you probably want. Be careful with these, they can be very invasive! Likewise, sunchokes aka Jerusalem artichokes. Although also invasive these have a bonus feature of producing lovely flowers that smell like chocolate.
Can you imagine?
Many herbs like sage, chives and thyme are perennial, others such as all the mint family including the balms and oregano, as well as dill, will reseed themselves. Our oregano bed is a good 10 years old and still going strong. The joke in this area is ‘Don’t trip carrying a pack of oregano seeds.’ Yep, it is that easy to grow, and that willing to spread.
Then there are the plants that give you something to put back, most in the form of seeds. The easiest example of this would be dry beans. With little effort on your part, you can purchase seeds once and never need to buy more. Forever.
You can save the seeds from many other edibles, just watch for cross pollination. Even then, a surprise once in a while is fun.
And it doesn’t stop there. You can replant some of the potatoes you harvest the following spring. Just be sure to start with a variety that holds well, and use the best of what you grew. Garlic is the same way, except that it gets planted just a few months after harvesting.
Let a few of your sweet potatoes start growing vines or ‘slips’ and you’ll be ready to grow another crop.
There are 3 ways new to us that we are trying this year to grow forever food. The first was to bring in a sweet pepper and an eggplant to see if we can keep them alive until spring and then bring back outside to start producing again.
The second is the parsnip experiment, shown above. We let a few roots go to seed, and the bed is now full of free plants. If they can get big enough to survive the winter, that’s one less thing we’ll need to plant.
If not, well we have a jar full of seeds.
The last was an accident. When harvesting some basil, we found a number of smaller plants that still had their roots on when pulled. They are now happily growing in a jar of water by the window, with no signs of giving up.
So what it comes down to is there is very little we need to buy to have a great harvest each year.
Of course, we still do. We just love trying new varieties.
You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Click on the logo above to read many more such posts.
Categories: gardening, perennials, you can grow that
25 October 2014, by gj
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
leaves act as mulch
You wouldn’t want to find a little bunny’s nest there…
...or something worse.
Categories: faq's, gardening, techniques
7 October 2014, by gj
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.
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.
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.
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