Nov 05

How Much to Plant

How much space do you have?

There is very possibly not a veggie gardener out there who has been growing for at least a few seasons who has not had the “problem” of over-planting something. Years ago when we owned a restaurant, it was not uncommon for us to find a few boxes of zucchini or cabbages left on the doorstep overnight. Just this morning I was giving away jars of home-canned pickles.

How much you plant of each crop is a personal decision, one that should be based not only on how much each veggie plant produces, but more on what you like and what you intend to do with it.

I have read articles that tell a gardener how much to plant. A comment like “plant one eggplant for every family member that likes eggplant” does not look at whether you intend to freeze or dehydrate any, or just eat it fresh. In order to decide how much to plant, you need to look at why you are gardening.

What do you like?

If it’s to enjoy eating fresh produce during the season, you may want fewer amounts but more varieties. You would probably avoid the storage-type veggies, such as onions and winter squash, and instead look at summer squash and scallions. Heirlooms might be good for you because in most cases they do not produce as much, and many consider the flavor to be far superior. Also look for indeterminate tomatoes and pole beans, both of which produce less at once but over a longer period of time.

If you are gardening primarily to save money, the plan changes a bit. It depends on where you live of course. I garden in the Northeast, where short-season crops, like asparagus, and hard-to-transport items, like raspberries, are the most expensive. Look at what you are paying a lot for, and see if you can’t grow it yourself. Potatoes and onions are pretty cheap here, but broccoli and lettuce are steep. Go figure.

Will you be preserving the harvest?

Are you planning to put food by? If you are, that changes again what you should grow. Here’s really where the size of your garden, your growing season, how you will store food, and especially what you like come in to play more specifically. Although these considerations are important to every gardener, when you are planning on storing food over a longer period of time, the calculations need to be more specific. Did you know that potatoes can give you a return of 6 to 8 lbs., or more, per pound planted? Winter squashes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and potatoes are all crops that can be held fresh over the winter. With some help, so can cabbages, carrots, celery, leeks and brussel sprouts. And almost anything can be canned, frozen or dehydrated.

Once you know how you plan to use what you grow, it’s easy to find out how much a given plant will produce. There’s information like that on the blog for most veggies.

Just keep in mind, plans change.

Oct 29

Your Food Supply

Food has changed dramatically since the days of the Baby Boom in the U. S. The result is that people are dying at a younger age than their parents, a tragic first.

It has been said by a number of people that what we eat in this country is not food, but food-like substances.
Just look at the supermarket aisles and you can see that this is true.

Here you will find links to posts, books and videos that can help you understand what is happening to your food supply, and learn how to deal with it.

BTW all links added after today will be dated so you will easily find what is new.

You really are what you eat, and right now that probably includes poisons, unwanted medicines, and more than likely unnecessary fear and suffering.
It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you don’t want to know what is in your food supply, that is of course your choice. The fact that you are here shows you are at least concerned about some of it.

Growing your own food is a great start, but there is so much more you can do for your own health and that of those you love.

Happy chickens lay healthier eggs.

Warning: These links may cause you to change your eating habits. And, well… we think that’s a good thing.

This short video by Chipotle Restaurants sums it up very well. If you do nothing else, just watch this.
It won’t hurt, I promise.

Then watch this 20 minute video on TED of Mark Bittman, NY Times food writer, on What’s Wrong With the Way We Eat.
This is an entertaining and very informative video, you’ll learn a lot.
If you learn nothing- you’re awesome and already on the right track!!

Factory Farming

11/17/13 Americans, Why do You Keep Refrigerating your Eggs?

Food, Inc. Official trailer.

Eating Animals – this is a link to the book on Amazon. A well written and insightful book worth taking a look at.


Myths and Truths

GMO Lab Test Results

Fighting for GMO labeling.

Processed Foods

8 Foods We eat in the US That are Banned in Other Countries

11/5/13 Do You Eat Beaver Butt? aka ‘natural flavoring’

Plant Based Diets

Forks Over Knives Official Trailer
Forks Over Knives Panel Discussion

Pesticides in Food

The Dirty 13

Getting Healthy

11/3/13 Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead -The trailer.

Oct 22

Planning a Butterfly Garden

If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, you need to know which butterflies are local to your area, and what plants they like.

Even more important, what do their caterpillars like to eat?

Pretty swallowtail cat.

Butterfly caterpillars or “cats” can be found nibbling on the leaves of Asters, Anise, Carrots, Dill, Fennel, Milkweed, Parsley, Parsnips, Snapdragons, Sunflowers, and Violets.

That’s okay, as they won’t cause any significant damage.

In my Northeast Pennsylvania garden, these are the butterflies I would expect to see: Brush-footed, Swallowtails, Gossamer winged, Metalmarks, Whites and Sulfurs and Skippers.

Find what’s common to your area.

To attract these butterflies:

Plant Flower Color Bloom Height Sunlight Note
Aster Blue White Pink Purple Late summer to fall Dwarf: 12-18” Regular: 18-24” Dwarf: Partial Shade Regular: Full Sun Deer resistant
Bee Balm Pink or purple Summer to Fall 36-48” Full Sun and Partial Shade Edible
Black-eyed Susan Yellow Mid-summer to Fall 18-30” Full Sun and Partial Shade Deer resistant
Butterfly bush Dark purple Mid-late summer 6-10’ Full Sun Deer resistant Shrub
Butterfly weed Orange and yellow Late Spring-Midsummer 18-24” Full Sun and Partial Shade
Coreopsis Yellow Pink Red Summer-fall 10-24” Full Sun and Partial Shade Some varieties are Deer Resistant
Lilac purple Early Spring Most 4-8’ up to 30’ Full Sun Shrub
Marjoram both Wild and Sweet Pink- purple Midsummer to Fall Wild 18-40” Sweet 4-6” Full Sun Can be invasive Edible
Marigolds Yellow and Orange Midsummer to Fall Most var. 8-12” Full sun Attract Japanese beetles Repels rabbits
Phlox Pink Purple and White Early summer to Fall 24-40” Partial Shade Deer resistant
Purple Coneflower Purple Mid-late summer 2-4’ Full Sun to Partial Shade Deer resistant
Sage Violet-blue Mid-summer to Fall 2-4’ Partial Shade Deer resistant Edible
Zinnia Multiple colors Mid-summer to Fall To 40” Full sun Good in pots and for cutting.

Dill is a favorite of some caterpillars.

Of course you can add some edibles as well. Planting carrots, fennel and dill will help your Butterfly Garden thrive.

Oct 13

Container Gardening

Please click here for this post.

White Cherry tomatoes in a 5 gallon planter.

Oct 13

Starting Seeds


With more than 50 years experience, Master Gardener Walter Kunz explains what’s needed for successful seed starting.

The first requirement is to start out with the proper equipment.
· You will need a container to hold the growing medium. We recommend a clear plastic dish 8″ in diameter which is normally used under flower pots to catch excess water. These dishes are easily obtained in garden centers and are relatively inexpensive.
· Next you will need a piece of 1 & 1/2″ PVC pipe about 2″ long. See your plumber for some scrap pieces. (He/She might even cut them for you) or go to your plumbing supply house. It cuts easily with a saw.
· You will need a small sieve for screening the soil to cover the seeds after they are sowed, this is the same type of screening used for screen doors. See your hardware dealer.
· Finally the growing medium. A few are listed below.
1. Vermiculite: This is obtained at your garden center. It is a non organic substance which has the ability to hold water. The advantage of vermiculite is the seedlings are easily removed when it is time to transplant them. Disadvantage is having no organic properties a little plant food should be added to the water.
2. Seed starting formula: Many seed starting mixtures are on the market for this purpose such as Scott’s Potting Soil for Seed Starting. Contains complete instructions.
3. Pro Mix: A popular item used by many professionals.
Now that we have all the equipment together lets get started.
Place the piece of PVC pipe in the center of the clear plastic dish and carefully fill in the space with your growing medium. The purpose of the piece of PVC pipe ( if you haven’t guessed it by now) is for watering the seedlings. It is important that the seedlings are watered from below. Smooth the growing medium with your hand so that it is even all around.
Next carefully pour water into the center of the piece of PVC until the growing medium is completely moistened. This may take a little time of the growing medium is completely dried out. Now it’s time to sew the seeds. The plant we are featuring today is the DIANTHUS ( di-ann-thus). Or commonly referred to as Pinks. They are low growing perennials that are very aromatic, suitable in rock gardens or as a house plant. Keep in mind that when growing from seed you will have a large number of plants on hand to give away or plant in your garden.
Carefully cut off the top of the seed package with a scissors. With your fingers, make a crease in one side of the seed package, while holding it upright so as to not spill the seeds. The purpose of the crease is to guide the seeds out over the edge of the package and onto the growing medium. Carefully hold the seed package over the growing medium about four inches while gently tapping the package with your finger to coax the seeds out of the package and onto the growing medium. Try to space them out so that they are not too crowded. Now it’s time for the sieve. Follow the directions on the seed package which says to barely cover with soil. A small piece of cardboard can be cut out to fit over the PVC pipe to prevent it getting filled with the sieved dirt.
These next instructions are very important. Never let the growing medium dry out. Keep it evenly moist. After the seedlings have sprouted you can cut back on the watering a little but still maintain some moisture. Place the container with the seedlings in a location with even heat, about 70 degrees, until the seeds have germinated. They can then be moved to a cooler location such as a window sill. Never put them in direct sunlight or on a furnace or radiator. Germination time can be speeded up by providing bottom heat from a heating coil. See your garden supply house or if you want specific instructions contact Gardening Jones.
It will take from 4 to 14 days for your seed to germinate so sit back, relax and let nature take place.

By Penn State Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Walter Kunz

Oct 13

Companion Planting

Many plants benefit, as well as are detrimentally affected by, other plants; whether it is because of soil requirements, synergy, or the pest(s) involved.

Gardening books such as Carrots Love Tomatoes and others offer time tested tips in this area.

Here is what we have learned over the years:

Vegetable Companion Enemy
Asparagus Tomatoes Basil Parsley None that we could find
Beans Almost anything esp. Corn & Squash (3 sisters of the Field) Chives Garlic Onions Pole types don't like brassicas or beets
Beets Brassicas Lettuce Onions Pole Beans
The Brassicas -Broccoli Cauliflower Kale Kohlrabi Cabbage Brussel Sprouts Aromatic Herbs Potatoes Celery Beets Onion Family Spinach and Chard Dill Pole Beans Strawberries Tomatoes
Carrots Peas Onion Family Tomatoes Rosemary Sage Dill
Celery Brassicas Bush Beans Leeks Onion Family Tomatoes None that we could find
Corn Beans Cucumbers Potatoes Peas Pumpkins and Squashes Tomato
Cucumbers and Concurbits including Melons (but not Watermelon) Beans Carrots Corn Lettuce Onions Peas Radish Sunflowers Aromatic Herbs Potatoes
Eggplant Beans and Potatoes None that we could find
Lettuce Carrot Cucumber Radish Strawberry None that we could find
Onion Family -inc. Chives Garlic Leeks Brassicas Beets Carrot Lettuce Beans Peas
Peppers Basil Okra Everybody loves peppers
Potatoes Beans Brassicas Corn Cucumber Squashes Tomatoes Raspberries
Pumpkins Corn Potato
Radish Cucumber Lettuce Nasturtiums Peas Friendly little devils.
Spinach Strawberries Likewise no enemies.
Squash Corn Nasturtiums Potatoes
Strawberries Bush Beans Spinach Onions Brassicas
Tomatoes Asparagus Basil Onion Family Parsley Nasturtiums Brassicas Corn Potatoes
Turnips Peas Potatoes