Saturday, February 28, 2009

What is growing in my Kitchen Garden

I used to not have anything in my Kitchen Garden over the Winter but with the years I figured out an easy way to always have at least some Greens and Lettuce for fresh eating at a time in late Winter when most people haven't even started planting their Spring Garden yet.
My Winter Garden Secret? Just let the late Summer/Fall plants bolt and the seeds fall to the ground. For me it sometimes is just more reliable then planting them at a specific time. The seeds know when it is the right time to sprout.
Naturally you don't want to do this with Hybrid Seeds. Hybrid Seeds are seeds produced by artificially cross pollinating different plant varieties to produce a new variety with specific characteristics. So when you plant their seed, they do not reliably produce true copies of the new varieties. You don't know what comes out of them.
To get true copies of the plant you have, you need Heirloom Seeds or Open Pollinated Seed.
Because most of my vegetable plants are now Heirlooms or Open pollinated seeds, I now collect seeds of many vegetables I plant. Some I don't even bother to seed out, I just let some seeds fall to the ground and let them do their own work of seeding out. It works well for me. In late fall or Spring I just dig up as many plants I want and move them to the new prepared beds.
Sometimes some plants, especially Arugula will seed way more out then I can move. I just let it grow where it is, even if it is in the walk ways and just harvest as much as I can before it bolts again. Arugula is a welcome Greens in my late Winter Garden, when there is not much else to harvest. It seems to be real hardy and grows well through the winter.

So this is what I have planted so far and what can be found in my Kitchen Garden Spring 2009 Garden Season.

Peas: They have not sprouted yet - planted mid February '09
Shelling Peas
'Kleine Rheinländerin', from Gourmet Seed International
'Eclipse' >> Johnny's Selected Seeds
'Dakota' >> Johnny's Selected Seeds
Snow Peas:
'Snow Wind' >> Johnny's Selected Seeds
'Norli' >> Shepherd's Garden Seed

Italian Arugula >> from Gourmet Seed International
This comes up real early in the season, because I just let some seed out in Fall,
I am already harvesting and eating Arugula

Machè/Cornsalad/Feldsalat >>Old Unknown German Variety
I also let this seed out late Summer, I am never without in late Winter, already harvesting

Spinach: has not sprouted yet - seeded out mid February '09
'Bloomsdale' >> Gourmet Seed International
'Oriental Giant' >> Renee's Garden Seed

Russian Kale >> Seeds of Change
planted last Fall '08 - overwintered

'Red Arrow' >> locally bought - Mr. Fothergills Seeds/UK
'White Sprouting' >> Gourmet Seeds International - Mr. Fothergills Seeds/UK
'Zamboni' >> Territorial Seed Company/local company in Cottage Grove, OR
all planted Summer '08, overwintered and are starting to grow heads

'Gigante Di Napoli Marzatico' >>Gourmet Seed International
planted in late Summer and overwintered, it is growing nicely while some of my other Cauliflower, which was a different cultivar all froze this year.

'Red Cabeza'
seeded in late summer '08 >> Gourmet Seed International
and 'Super Red 80 F1' two small Red Cabbages, which I harvested, but then left the root in, so it regrew two small heads. >> Johnny's Selected Seeds
'Cour Di Bue' - these ones did take a beating in this cold winter, but now seem to make some heads >> Gourmet Seed International

'di Ruffec'
and 'Bubikopf' >> Italian Seed & Tool Co
I have been letting it seed out in late Summer '08 and will be eating Endive soon

'Palla Rossa 3' also from letting it seed outside. So far I only found 2 of those so I probably will seed some more out >> Gourmet Seed International

Lettuce: I have a variety of Lettuces, which I let seed out last fall. So far I see I have growing
Butterhead Lettuce 'Sandrina' >> Seeds of Change,
Leaf Lettuce 'Verde Riccciolina', Butter Head Lettuce 'Santa Anna',
Red Butter Head Lettuce 'German Brown', Crisp Head Lettuce 'Ice Queen',
Head Lettuce 'Trotzkopf' >> Italian Seed & Tool Co
Romaine type 'Cimmaron' >> locally bought 'Botanical Interest' Seed
Crisphead Lettuce >>locally bought 'Botanical Interest' Seed
Loose Leaf Head lettuce 'Red Prize'>> was a free Seedpack, 'Ferry Morse Seed' it is very similar to 'Four Seasons'
Leaf Lettuce: 'Dark Red Oak Leaf'-white Seed' >>my own Garden Seed I had for a long time
and a lighter colored variety 'Light Red Oak Leaf-white Seed' my own Garden seed
Red Loose leaf Head lettuce 'Four Seasons' >> Seeds of Change
'Green Romaine-white Seed' >> my own Garden seed, don't remember Cultivar
Butterhead Lettuce: 'Green Leaved-white Seed' >>my own Garden seed
Butterhead Lettuce: 'Green Leaved-black Seed' >>my own Garden seed

Parsley: I have different varieties
'Curly Parsley', 'Italian Flat Leaf', 'Giant Flat Leaf'

>> Originally from Territorial Seed Co
I let them seed out last fall and then moved the young plants to where I wanted them

Garlic: planted Early November '08
Elephant Garlic, Softneck 'French Tarne' , 'Siciliano' and 'Transylvanian'.
Hardneck 'Georgian Crystal', 'German Porcelain' and 'Purple Glazer'
>> The Garlic Store

Shallots 'Dutch Yellow' and 'German Red'

>> Big John's Garden/Klamath Falls, OR
Italian Red Onion-long day type 'Cipolla Rossa Piatta D'italia'
>> Italian Seed & Tool Co
I planted those late Summer '08 and let them overwinter

- Baby Leek size >> Renee's Garden Seeds
and 'Sherwood Leek' a large type Leek >> Seeds of Change
from harvested Seed and planted late Summer '08 letting it overwinter

Variety 'Brilliant'
, from harvested Seed from '08 >> Territorial Seed Co
seeded in late Summer and overwintered

I also seeded out a variety of Carrots Summer '08, but the freezing and thawing this winter pushed them out of the ground, so there will be no Carrots early this Spring.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Seed growing

I finally found time to start some seeds.
Usually I start all my seeds in my small sun room adjacent to my living room with mixed results. The sun room is not heated and is built with old, drafty, big, single pane, sliding doors, which lets all the cold air in. It can get very cold in there, I measured temperatures in the upper mid 30s F in there when it is freezing outside. Not exactly the best seed starting environment.
In fact the first year I moved in this house I was so overjoyed of finally having a sun room that I went out and bought a lot of houseplants, put them in the sun room, which then all expired over the first winter because of the cold. Eventually I hope to remodel this room to make it more useful.
The coolness in this room is not so much a problem at this time of the year for starting some lettuce and other cool season crops, but forget about Tomatoes and Peppers. So I usually had to wait until it warmed up outside before I could even think of trying to start these warm season plants. This meant not until late March to May. Even then the room was too cool for them to grow well, the seeds taking a long time to sprout and then growing slowly. Tomatoes usually did better, but for Peppers and Eggplants it is important to have a warm growing condition, they experience a big set back in growing, which will hinder fruit development for the rest of the season, they just don't produce well with such a bad start at life.

So this year I decided to start the plants on my sowing table in my office. They do not get as much light as in the sun room, but I used the upper part of my homemade PVC-Pipe growing shelf in the sun room, hooked up some florescent lighting above and hopefully they will grow better then the last years.

In the last years I used a seed starting system called 'APS' which stands for 'Accelerated Propagation System' I got at 'Gardeners Supply Company' . They are Styrofoam seedling trays, which sit on top of an Styrofoam insert, between them a capillary mat, all sitting inside a plastic reservoir with a clear cover on top. The capillary fleece mat between wicks moisture from the reservoir to feed just the right amount of water to the growing medium and come in different sizes.
Instead I decided to use my dear old 'Newspaper pot maker' again
and a new growing system, I found at 'Jung Seed' made in Sweden by 'Agralan' called 'Compact Plant Trainer System'.
It looks real sturdy and they say you can wash the trays in the dishwasher.

It is not that the APS system did not work well. It did provide a good growing environment for the seedlings, but I did not like that it is made with Styrofoam, a material which is pretty low on the list of environmental good materials, but it also was hard to clean without breaking the material and the plastic parts were a bit flimsy and I knew I would soon have to replace them.
So in my opinion not very sustainable.
The Plant trainer has 49 spaces for small plug trained plants, so I will have to transplant them to larger pots at some point, but it also is self watering, has the same features then the 'APS' system, but sturdier. They really look like they will last many years, which again fits in my viewpoint of trying to be more sustainable.

I filled the seedlings trays with one of the Seedling dirt mixes from the Lane County 'Master Gardener Association' using Coconut Fibers, Garden Compost, Vermiculite, Perlite and Sand and will see how well my plants will grow in this mixture.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sustainable urban homestead heroes

Here used to be a post proclaiming the Path to Freedom website people as heroes of the Urban Homesteading movement but I removed all links and postings pointing to their site and I here I am explaining why I did that!

 Path to Freedom - Lost Urban Homestead Hero status!

Luckily, we still have Urban homesteading Heroes in our midst

Patti Moreno aka 'The gardengirl' on is the first person I came across who was doing the Urban sustainable homesteading, even tough she was not the first in doing it, she became my first garden hero of this movement. Patti showed me what is possible on an urban city lot. She inspires me to become a better gardener and try to grow more food. It is because of her, that I decided to get some chickens for my garden.

Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne are blooging at
Homegrown Evolution
they live in Los Angeles in one of those typical small California Bungalows where they grow most of their food. They also wrote a book called 'The Urban Homestead'

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Where the heck am I

Fact: The United States is the only major industrial country without universal health coverage.

To me, being German, it is just inconceivable that the richest country in this world will not provide this safety net to its citizens.

Almost on a weekly basis I read an article in the newspaper about someone without health insurance, who is loosing their home, having to file bankruptcy because they happened to get sick. I read about the numbers of the uninsured steadily rising. Just today I read about young people, like my 21 year old son, who loose their coverage on their parents policy once they turn 19 or after finishing college, who turn to online resources like WebMD for self diagnosis. Some resort to set their own broken bones, or share pharmaceuticals with others, or stretch their Asthma and Diabetes drugs. The young adults are the nation's largest group of uninsured people in America. There were 13.2 million of them in 2007, or 29%. To be able to get Medicaid, a single adult has to earn less then $707 a month, which is more then the minimum wage but the average insurance premium for a single, young adult is about $900. You do the math, who could afford that?
The latest numbers by the Census Bureau show there were 47 million-15.8% of Americans without health insurance in 2006. In 2000 this number had been 38.4 million, in 2005 the number was 44.8 million people-15.3%, so the average annual increase of uninsured people has been 1.4 million each year. Since the year 2000 there has been an increase of 22% in uninsured Americans.
For the last six years the numbers of Citizens without insurance has gone up each year and we don't even know yet the numbers from last year. For all I know it has not gotten better.

We don't even take care of the children. If the parents loose their health coverage, or they can't afford it and they earn too much money for Medicaid the little babes loose their health care as well. In 2005 there were 10.9 % of uninsured children, this rose to 11.7% in 2006. The census also found that children between ages 12 and 17 were more likely to be uninsured then children younger then 12.
More then 21000 people die each year because they have no insurance.
I can not understand, that in this day of age, the 21st century, in the richest nation of this world a statistic like above does not shock, depress or upset Americans enough to revolt.
People should be enraged, be out on the streets protesting this unjust treatment of their fellow citizens. It is time for this to end.

This is a bad reflection on this country.
Come on America, India has better health care then the US.

Health care is a human right!
When will you vote for universal health care?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sustainable OSU Corvallis

A newspaper article I read this morning told about a new thing the Oregon State University in Corvallis Oregon is doing. The OSU students in 2007 voted to tax themselves $8.50 per student per term to purchase renewable energy for the campus. Since then, 3/4 of the university's electricity is coming from renewable production using sustainable technology paid for by this tax.

Now they came up with something neat again, they figured, there are thousands of students regularly using the cardio exercise machines to stay in shape. The spent energy of the students could be used to make electricity. So they retrofitted 22 of the eliptical exercise machines in the student-fee funded Recreation center with new technology developed by a firm in Florida and are harnessing the energy of the machines to generate electricity. Student Power in the true sense of the word.
The say the workouts of the students will produce an estimated 3,500 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which would be the equivalent to the electric needs of a small, very efficient house.
Cool, isn't it?
Students generating electricity while sweating on the exercise machine.
Just imagine, if every place using exercise machines would do that. It won't power a city, but it could power the building they are in. Every little bit counts if we want to get conserve energy.

Oregon again is the Frontier in Sustainability

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tools to grow your seeds

I just found a neat, low tech tool for figuring out when you need to start your seeds indoor or outdoor and when to plant them in your garden.
All you need to know is when your last and first frost is in your growing area, a printer and some printer paper. It is like a little booklet you print out and then you add your frost dates and then you fold it and staple it together. Voila! you are done.
It has a place for adding your notes, or you could add more vegetable names.
It is so nice, there are so many resources for the gardener on the web. Gardeners are very resourceful kind of people, very inventive and just as they like to share their plants, they like to share what they come up with. Thank you Ivory for sharing this neat tool.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Seedling potting mixes, home made

I have been looking in my garden books for some seed and potting soil mixes and like to share some.

Many of the older recipes call for peat moss, peat moss is not a sustainable material so I like to substitute coco fiber for it. This used be hard to find but now you can buy coco fiber in many home and garden stores. The other common ingredients in these mixes are vermiculite, perlite, sand, coarse sand, milled sphagnum peat moss, leaf mold, compost, good garden soil.
Then some nutrient ingredients you might need for potting soil, which are cotton seed, rock phospate, green sand, blood meal, bone meal, lime, wood ash.

Here are the recipe and the source they are from.

Seedling mixes

1. from the Lane County Master Gardener Association, Eugene, Oregon
'Garden Rhytm-A year round guide and journal for the maritime Northwest

Seedling mix

1 part garden soil or finished Compost
1 part equal amounts of sand, vermiculite, and perlite
1 part coconut fiber

mix all ingredients together. To sterilize, bake the soil in an uncovered pan at 180°F for 30 to 60 minutes.

2. from the old garden book stable Rodale,
'All new encyclopedia of Organic Gardening-the indispensable Resource for every Gardener'
page 529

they suggest for a soil less mix using the ingredient alone or mix two or more together. No proportions are given, so you have to experiment
Ingredients given are
vermiculite, milled sphagnum peat moss (you can substitute coconut fiber), perlite, and compost. Use it to grow until the seedlings have their first true leaves and then transplant them in a richer potting mix.

3. from the same Rodale book. If you like to start the seedlings in a richer mix so you don't have to transplant them.
combine equal amounts of compost and vermiculite

4. From the book 'Growing Vegetables west of the Cascades' by Steve Solomon

Seedling mix

1 part by volume garden soil
1/2 part by volume finely screened compost
1/2 part by volume sifted and premoisted sphagnum moss
Blend into each cubic foot (5 gallons) of mix:
2 cups complete organic fertilizer (see below)
1/2 cup agricultural lime (in addition to what is the complete organic fertilizer)

He suggests if you have sandy garden soil to add vermiculite instead of sphagnum moss

Solomon's Fertilizer mix

4 parts seed meal (cotton seed or canola meal are available in our region, also can use linseed meal and soybean meal, all oil seed is generally similar in fertility (6% Nitrogen - 4% Phosporos - 2 % pottasium)
½ part lime (best is an equal mix of agricultural lime and dolomite)
½ part phosphate rock or bone meal (steamed or raw)
½ part kelp meal (any kind of pure seaweed meal from anywhere)

5. from the book 'Great Garden Formulas' from the Rodale company
page 71

Seedling mix

1 part vermiculite
1 part compost (sifted)
Milled sphagnum peat moss, or clean fine sand

Blend vermiculite into compost and fill flats or small (4") pots with the mix.
sow your seeds as directed
Sprinkle a fine dusting of moss or sand on the surface of the mix to discourage the fatal disease called 'damping off' that can infect seedlings at ground level in moist conditions.

6. same book, page 74
This is a High fertility seed starting mix from the Zephyr Farm in Stoughton, Wisconsin

¼ cup ground limestone
1 ½ cups Fertility mix (see recipe below)
3-gallon Bucket (for measuring)
2 buckets sphagnum peat moss (substitute coco fiber)
1 ½ buckets vermiculite
1 ½ buckets compost, shredded and sifted (first spread compost on tarp to dry and shred (if possible), then sift it through ¼-inch hardware cloth)

Sprinkle the ground limestone and Fertility mix over the peat and mix thoroughly
Add the vermiculite and compost and mix well
Yield: 15 gallons of seed starting mix
note: to fill seedling containers, moisten the mix so that you can feel a little moisture when you touch it.
You don't need any extra fertilizer as long you don't overwater, which leaches out the nutrients.

The Zephyr Farm Organic fertility mix

2 cups rock phospate
2 cups green sand
2 cups blood meal
½ cup bone meal
¼ cup kelp (seaweed) meal
yield: 6-3/4 cups

mix all ingredients together
sprinkle the Fertility mix over 15 gallons of commercial potting soil, or stir into the seed starting formula above

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Getting Ready Or Not

I am getting ready to start my new kitchen garden for this year. Or am I?
In this region, you must take your chance to go out, when it comes. The chance is, when the rain stops.

Last week I got out, it was a nice, rare sunny Oregon winter day. I was able to fill up some of my garden beds with some home made compost and some mint compost from Lane Forest Product, which is one of our local yard waste and wood recyclers. They sell all kinds of garden dirt and compost. Mint compost I have been told is a great supplement for tired and hard soil. I never heard of Mint compost before I moved here. Oregon used to have a lot of Mint farms, for Mint oil production, it leaves over a lot of waste material. Anyway I tried it last year and it seemed to do a good job. My dirt is looking better already. I am not making enough compost to fill these new garden beds so I am glad there are many places in town to get compost.

I just started last year converting some of my beds into raised Beds. Before, I just heaped the soil up into rectangular beds. There nothing was holding up the soil, eventually it all slipped into the walk ways, the neighbors cats, didn't help the matter either. They like to dig in my garden beds to do their business in it. I don't like the cats.
I didn't like how the weeds kept blowing into the beds from the walk way, it was hard to keep up with weeding. So I found these garden beds made in England at Gardener Supply Co, they are made of recycled plastic, you stick them together and they are affordable. They work and so far I am happy with them. Last year I did not have enough dirt to fill them. So I had to finish filling them up this year.
I also got a few more of the slim ones, for my Raspberries. I didn't like how the Raspberries constantly spread all over in the corner of the vegetable garden. They are shallow rooted and the boxes are 10" high. I put one of these fabrics for putting under mulch on the bottom, wrapping it in the inside of the box, then filled it up with my dirt mix and replanted them. I hope it works.
I like to garden, but I don't like unnecessary work. Anything I can do to reduce unnecessary work is good.

This week I was planning to put some of my seeds in the ground and in pots. But first I wanted to put all my seed information, when to plant what, according to the last Frost Date for our region into my
Garden Database software I have on my computer. Let me tell you, there is a lot of conflicting information about when the last and first frost is supposed to be. How is a Transplanted Gardener to know when to start what? Some claim the first frost to be May 21. others April 24., which is almost a month apart. I have been in this area only for 6 years, I have not yet seen any frost past April, so I chose the April date.
The week is not over yet, but so far I have not been able to get one seed into a pot. Instead I spent too much time, finding and sorting information on my computer and ordering new seeds.
Never mind I got some nice seeds, they were all open pollinated mostly Heirlooms. Open pollinated seeds fit more into my picture of trying to be a Self sustainable gardener. Luckily for me there are more and more companies selling Open-pollinated and Heirloom Vegetable Seeds. There are so many online companies, it took me a long time to make up my orders. I have more seeds of varieties then I need or could grow in one season. I am all for variety, trying new things.
To me gardening is all about the adventure, doing things differently, experiencing new things and constantly learning something new. And having fun doing it.
If I just could get organized and get them started.