Thursday, November 18, 2010

Moving a Garden

I have been so busy outside, working in the garden I didn't find any time sharing on the blog.

Seems the summer went faster by then I wanted and even I worked so much outside I never managed to get control of my weed situation and I didn't get as many plants moved into the new garden area, I am working on, as I wanted.
All of a sudden our rainy season has started, it is getting cool and it is dark early making it difficult to get things done outside.
This year the summer vegetable garden was not very successful, I never had that bad of an harvest since I started gardening and I have been gardening for a long time now. Almost all the summer vegetables barely made enough to feed us over the summer, I am thankful that we at least got enough to  have some for dinner but I wished I could have filled my freezer also. I never seen so few Zucchinis and cucumbers, there wasn't even enough to pass on to friends as usually. At least I finally got some Tomatoes and even managed to put up a few tubs of tomato-sauce in the freezer for winter.
I did have a few success stories though.
For the first time in my gardening life I got the Radicchio to head up. Yeah!
Usually I got it to grow a bit and then it just shot up and flowered. This year I have beautiful, big heads out there waiting for me. I harvested a variety of red, green and Savoy cabbage, which grew beautiful and have some more growing. I accidentally must have let a stalk celery seed out last year and it started growing in my path ways, but that celery which was a Heirloom Red Stalk Celery is growing beautifully and unlike the year I intentionally seeded it, it is not hollow this year. I also planted a few new varieties, two of those varieties also are growing nicely, while the other two are having hollow stems. I read that some varieties are more prone to hollow stems and so I probably will next year only grow the ones which didn't have this problem of hollow stems. I have some Brussels Sprout out there which look like they are making little sprouts in the leaf axles and the Cauliflower is starting to head up. So not all is bad. And now it got cooler I again have my endive, corn salad, lettuce and varieties of greens like Kale, Arugula, Broccoli Rape and Mustard Greens coming. It is only good that eating greens is highly recommended for your health, because we have been eating a lot of greens this year.

If you remember I am making a new garden area in the second lot we have next to the house, which will be our future garden in a few years when we built a smaller house there.
 The area I planted in spring is growing nicely, the Chinese Apricot tree grew so much and filled out I crossing my fingers for some Apricots next year. Just a few please!

I didn't get as much moved from my old garden into the second new garden area as I planned and I didn't get the low area ready to be planted but even so it is slowly looking like a garden. A few weeks ago, as the season started changing and the sun was going down so much earlier, our old coffee drinking spot in the garden started getting to shady in the afternoon and it was too cool to sit so I made a nice little spot in the new garden.
Flattened out an area just big enough for the bench and table, terraced the hill behind it with old concrete and rocks found in the garden and started filling it with plants.
 I got a a variety of bulbs, different varieties of Tulips, under other Lily Tulips, Parrot Tulip a few Darwin and a low growing species Tulip,  also some fragrant Narcissus varieties and winter crocus, fragrant day lilies, Oriental lilies and a neat looking yellow Peony.
I want this area to be a fragrant garden so I can sit there, having my afternoon coffee and be surrounded by good smells, So I have been digging up some of  my fragrant shrubs, the ones which aren't too big yet and easy to move and planted them.
Unfortunately many of my shrubs are too big and instead trying to chance it killing them by transplanting I tried over the summer to take cuttings and root them. I never rooted shrubs before and was pleasantly surprised that so many rooted out. So by next year, I might be able to transplant my fragrant shrubs if they are big enough to plant out.
I did manage to move my Fringe tree and a lemony flavored cypress which I just planted last year.
 I always wanted one of these small, fragrant trees, which are native to the Southern US, are hard to find out here and I wasn't going to leave it behind in my old garden. So even I didn't get everything in the ground as planned and will have to wait until next spring. It is shaping up nicely.
 By next year it should be a nice place to sit and enjoy my afternoon coffee.
And for gardeners, there is always another year, another season.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Seed Saving - Tomatoes

Generally seeds saved from open-pollinated or heirloom Tomato varieties breed true to type. Which means you get the same variety from the seed as the one you collected from. But although Tomato flowers are usually self-pollinated, occasionally they may be cross pollinated by insects about 2% of the time. If you want to prevent cross pollination completely 100% you should keep the different varieties about 10' apart. Flowers of older varieties, like some Heirloom Tomatoes, are said to often have longer styles then more modern cultivars. Because it protrudes more it is more accessible to bees and other insects so these varieties have a higher chance of getting cross pollinated.

But what is a typical backyard gardener to do, most of us don't have the garden space to isolate our Tomatoes for 10 feet apart? You could plant either tall barrier plants between the Tomato plants or put another pollen producing crop between the different varieties. Or you just do it as I do, chance it.
After all it is only a small chance of cross pollination and who knows maybe you get a cool, new tomato variety out of the deal.
For seed saving, pick the best looking fruits, from your healthiest looking, best producing plants, when they are fully ripe. It is a good idea to save seeds from several fruits to maintain a larger gene pool. No need to waste a tomato just for saving seeds. When you are ready to process a tomato for eating or cooking, just scratch some of the seed containing pulp into a small glass jar (old jam jars work really great), I usually add just a splash of water and then let it ferment at room temperature.

 Don't put it in an especially warm place. At 80° F the fermentation takes about 2 days, at 70° F about 3 days. If you leave the seeds in the pulp for a longer period you get a better control of bacterial canker, which is a seed borne disease, but you should not let them ferment longer then 5 days or they might start to sprout. Stir the mixture each day and when it's ready, carefully pour most of the liquid with the pulp out, without loosing your seeds. You might have to keep adding water frequently to free the seeds from the pulp. Just add some more water, swirl, pour and do it until the water looks almost clean and there is no more pulp. Now you can strain it all over in a sieve, maybe rinse them some more and drop the seeds into a paper towel. Fold it over and let them dry for 3 to 7 days. After they are dry you can put the seeds in small zip lock bags or jars.

If you are saving seeds of many different cultivars it is advisable to label your jars with the name of the varieties you have. It is easy to get mixed up. Since I ferment several batches, after I am drying the first batch I put the jar with the label with the next batch on top of the corresponding Tomato variety drying in the paper towel.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Plum Cobbler recipe - in English and German

I love anything made with Italian Prune Plums or Zwetschgen as we call them in Germany. I look forward to September every year when they are in Season. I actually really enjoy not to have everything available all year round. I like to eat with the seasons. It is not just much more flavor full when it finally comes around it also makes you really appreciate the food and the seasons.

             Here is the Fruit Cobbler recipe made with Plums

Comments: This can be made with any fruit really, with denser Fruit like Apple, Plums...etc. I put the fruit in the baking dish and bake it for 20-30minutes before I add the cobbler mix on top and then bake it some more to finish. But most fruit you just add to baking dish, add the cobbler dough on top and then bake.

Recipe By     :Isabell Norman
Serving Size  : 6     Preparation Time: 0:15 min. Baking time: 0:20 and 0:30 min.                  
24                 Plums, pitted - Zwetschgen, entkernt, -- or more if you like
2   Tbsp        sugar-Zucker, I used Rapadura Sugar from Rapunzel  --
                    (this can be reduced or omitted if you wish)
1   tl              fresh Orange peel, grated - Orangenschale, gerieben
2   tbsp         Butter cut into small flakes- flockig geschnitten                  
For Dough - Teig
125  g           Flour, I used 1/2 white whole wheat  and whole wheat -
                     1/2 Weisses Vollweizen und  1/2 Vollkornmehl
1   Tsp           baking powder - Backpulver
2  Tbsp          Sugar - Zucker, Rapadura Sugar
50   g             Butter cut into small pieces - Butter, kleingeschnitten
1                    egg, lightly beaten - Ei, leicht geschlagen
2-3  Tbsp       Milk - Milch
1   Tbsp         Turbinado sugar - grober Brauner Zucker

Use a 1 1/2 liter baking dish, I use my Anchor Ware glass containers, I think it's 2 liter
-Du brauchst eine 1-1/2 liter grosse Auflaufform. Ich benutze meine Anchor Ware glass container in
denen man auch backen kann ungefaehr 2 liter Groesse.

Grease your baking form with some butter, pit the plums and cut them open flat and layer them upright into the pan
-Auflaufform mit etwas Butter einfetten, Plaumen entsteinen und wie bei Zwetschgenkuchen in die Form einlegen.

If you like it a bit sweeter now sprinkle the 2 tablespoon Sugar or as much you like over the plum, then also the Orange peel and add little butterflakes all over the plums
-Jetzt kann der Zucker nach belieben ueber die Plaumen gestreut werden, die Orangenschale darueber gestreut und die Butter in Floeckchen auf diePflaumen gesetzt

Preheat Oven to 350° F  or if convection to 325° F and put the baking form with the plums inside while it preheats. Let it bake for 20 minutes
-Ofen zu 180° C vorheizen, oder bei Convection Ofen auf 170° C und die Auflaufform mit den Pflaumen in den Ofen tun waehrend der Ofen vorheizt. Backe die Pflaumen vor, fuer ungefaehr 20 minuten.

In the meantime measure your flour, baking powder, sugar and mix altogether in a mixing bowl. Add the Butter pieces and work the butter with your fingers in until it looks like fine Bread crumbs.
-In der Zwischenzeit wiege das Mehl, Backpulver, Zucker ab und misch es miteinander in einer Ruehrschuessel. Gebe die Butterstueckchen dazu und arbeite die Butter mit den Fingern ein bis es wie feine Brotkruemel aussieht.

Make a indention in the flour mix and with a knife, mix in the lightly beaten egg and just enough milk so it makes a soft dough.
-In die Mitte der Mehlmischung eine Mulde druecken. Mit einem Messer das leicht geschlagene Ei und soviel Milch einruehren, dass eine weiche Masse entsteht.

Spread the dough in spoonfuls all over the Plums, until it is all  covered. Then sprinkle the Turbinado sugar all over it and put back in Oven. Bake for 30 more minutes or until it is golden brown and baked through.
-Teig loeffelweise auf der Oberflaeche verteilen, bis sie vollstaendig bedeckt ist. Mit dem Turbinado Zucker bestreuen und zurueck in den Backofen geben. 30 Minuten mehr backen bis alles gold braun gebacken ist und durchgebacken ist. Mit staebchenprobe testen.

Best served while still warm. You can serve whipped cream, Vanilla ice cream or Egg cream with it. I just like it as is
-Am besten serviert wenn es noch warm ist. Man kann den Cobbler mit Schlagsahne, Vanilleeis oder Eiercreme servieren. Ich mag es einfach nur so, pur.

Nutrition (calculated from recipe ingredients)----------------------------------------------
Calories: 345 Calories   From Fat: 112   Total Fat: 12.7g   Cholesterol: 63.8mg   Sodium: 80.4mg   Potassium: 546.1mg
Carbohydrates: 57g   Fiber: 6.3g   Sugar: 37.7g   Protein: 6g

Cooking Tip: This is really very versatile. Use any fruit you like, mix the fruit. Use different spicing, flavorings. Cinnamon is good in it, or Coriander, Cardamom, Lemon, Vanilla. Just experiment. Don't reduce the sugar or butter in the dough or it will not come out properly, But you always can reduce the sugar, butter or even omit them on the fruit if you like less sugar. Most fruits are sweet enough you don't need it.
-Das ist ein sehr leicht veraenderbares Rezept. Benutze was immer eine Frucht du hast, mische verschiedene Fruechte miteinander. Benutze andere Gewuerze, Aromas. Zimt ist sehr gut, oder Koriander, Kardamom,Zitrone, Vanille. Experiment damit. Tu nicht den Zucker oder die Butter imTeig verringern oder es wird nicht richtig herauskommen. Aber du kannst immer den Zucker, die Butter auf der Frucht verringern oder sogar weglassen. Die meisten Fruechte sind suess genug, dass man es nicht braucht.


disclaimer: Not to be shared with the Dervaes Family of Path to Freedom Website. Thank You 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Growing troubles

In the last two years I slowly changed my vegetable garden into a raised bed garden. The first few beds I had enough garden compost and 'garden rich planting soil' I got from our local commercial composting business, which was sitting in a pile for more then a year. Everything seemed to grow nicely that year. 

Last year I added a few more beds, last year I also had trouble growing some vegetables. Even I fertilized everything frequently with Steve Solomon's Fertilizer mix, in the new beds the plants seemed to grow really slow, didn't thrive and did not produce as well. The top surface would constantly dry out to the point that seeds, especially the small, fine seeds wouldn't sprout. Even with my drip irrigation the top 2 inches were always dry. I blamed it on the weather, we had a few more warmer days and cool nights last year. I kept playing with my irrigation, 'maybe I am not watering enough' I was thinking, but nothing I did improved anything.

This spring I added more raised garden beds, but I didn't have enough soil to fill everything, I also needed to fill some of the last years beds more up, since I didn't have enough dirt to fill them to the top last year. So we got some more 'Garden Rich planting soil' plus some mint straw and garden compost, which now included chicken manure, you would think everything is growing great with this. 
Unfortunately I have a real bad garden season so far. Partly it is the weather, many hot days, while the nights are too cool for the warm season vegetables, then it still rained in June this year, a lot, enough that my first plantings of beans, Squash and Cucumbers just rotted in the dirt and I had to replant seeds a few times. There were also a lot of slugs and snails eating everything in site. 
But I think the major reason for my growing pains is this 'Rich garden planting soil'. Which I now think is anything but rich.

My self seeding Lettuce and Arugula grew great, they come up all over my garden paths all I do is dig the small plants up and move them to a raised bed. The cool season vegetables seemed to thrive, but everything I planted later is struggling. I only realized later, everything which was growing nice, I had planted in the beds I filled a season or two ago, the ones I only added some garden compost to, the newly filled beds, the ones I had to top up with the planting soil, those were the ones which were struggling. Those beds also couldn't hold the moisture very well, even with my drip irrigation all the water just seemed to run out on the bottom, did not wet the whole area of the beds, like it was going straight down from the dripper to the bottom and then leaking out. All my water was running down the hill, making my paths in the vegetable garden like sponges, but starving my vegetables from moisture.

I think the planting soil they sell at this place has too much wood pulp in it, when you stick your hand in the dirt you can feel tiny slivers all over your hand . That would explain the fertility issues since I seem to have a bad nutrient imbalance and also that it can not hold water. It is not composted completely and it is to fine, maybe to much sand in it. We live in a wood producing state, so logically the composting facilities get a lot of wood. They are also in the business of selling, so it makes sense that they don't take the time to let everything compost until it is perfect. They rush it through to make more sales. At least that's my theory.
Unfortunate to the unsuspecting customer.

I tried to deal with the drainage issue by having my irrigation set to water for shorter amounts 3 times in a row, about 20 minutes apart, so the water might be able to soak in rather just drain, everything just looked like not getting enough water. I probably made the situation worse, by encouraging the Tomatoes to grow shallow roots, instead of going into the lower garden soil and also leaching out more nutrients.
For the first time since I garden my Tomatoes are having Blossom End Rot issues and some Phosphorus deficiency, they have been growing very slowly and not setting fruits very well. They look dry all the time. My peppers are doing a bit better but still show distress and not setting fruit. My Summer squashes, even though it got started a bit late in the season, due to the rain in June, should be producing lot's of Zucchini by now, but the plants are still a bit small and are growing slow, although they look otherwise healthy I think I should be eating Zucchini right now, lot's of them. Same with the cucumbers, I have not harvested one so far. 
I have been feeding everything with Fish fertilizer a few times, some kelp meal and a little bone meal to the tomatoes, I hope at least it will stop the issue with the rot. 
Unless I get a soil test done, I don't really know what is going on fertility wise, not knowing I could inadvertently make it worse by giving the wrong fertilizer or adding to much of one thing. I will have to wait with the soil test until I have my beds cleared of vegetables, but plan to get one in fall.
I definitely think I need to add some moisture holding capacity to my raised beds, more fertile compost. 

So as the season ends I am planning to just get some nice loam and some Rabbit manure or goat manure, growing some cover crops of Field peas also should help add fertile, moisture holding matter to my soil. 
I have never had that many fertility issues in any of my former vegetable gardens. These gardens I used the soil which was there and amended it with compost and horse manure, I hardly ever fertilized after planting. These were very productive gardens and aside having to deal with the disease issues for the tomatoes which came with living in the South we didn't have a lot of bug and deficiency problems. 

I was a big mistake to use this 'Ready made planting soil' as the main ingredient for my beds.  I sure won't make that mistake again. Whatever you do, you are much better off to start out with some loam, or good topsoil and amend it with the good stuff like Compost, Manure, cover crops and let the soil improve over time.
I am lucky to have grown a wide variety of vegetables, so even my main crop is doing poorly we still have been eating Lettuce, Chard, Cabbage, Kale and other Greens, Radishes and Peas for a long season.

Hopefully the next season will be a better growing season. Hopefully we will be eating lot's of Tomatoes and Zucchini in September and October.
If not, my new Lettuce is growing already, my fall and winter garden is planted, ready to grow and to feed us.

     Hope you are having a better growing season, if not there is always another season coming.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Federal District Judge revoked USDA approval of GMO Sugar Beets-for time being

 A very small Victory in the fight against GMO-Franken foods!

Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco revoked the 5 year old USDA approved beets, which carry an Round-up resistance gene, until the Department of Agriculture finishes a environmental impact assessment. According to the Center for Food Safety, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit the USDA claims this could take until April 2012. After this years harvest no GMO Sugar Beets are allowed to be planted until this impact assessment is completed, effectively banning the planting of the genetically modified sugar beets which already make up about 95 percent of the yearly Sugar Beet crop and about half the produced sugar in the United States, the other half coming from Sugar Cane.

In September 2009, Judge Jeffrey White determined that the USDA had not adequately considered the Genetically Modified Beets potential effects on the environment, including the danger of the genetically engineered traits spreading to other sugar beets or to related crops of table beets and Swiss chard
On Friday he then followed through with a ban on the crop for the time being, a move which comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision earlier this year concerning GMO-Alfalfa.
Even the Judge granted the plaintiffs request to formally vacate the approval of the beets, which now disallows farmers growing them outside of field trials, he denied the plaintiffs request for a permanent injunction which also would have banned the growing of this crop saying it was not necessary as long it wasn't approved for commercial plantings.

That's why this makes it only a small victory. It is not a total ban, we still will have GMO sugar in our sugar supply for now.

Some of the Agricultural Departments and GMO industry promoters arguments give me the creeps.
They argued in the hearing which was held in Judge White's courtroom earlier Friday that the "approval should not be revoked because their department's mistakes were not all that serious" and hey! "that crop will be approved down the line anyway" and they asked the judge to at least give them a 9 month delay to give them time to put temporary measures in place. Luckily the Judge disagreed with them saying in his opinion their errors "were not minor or insignificant and they had already more then enough time to put interim measures into place" since his first ruling in September. He also said that no matter if he could legally consider the economic consequences of revoking the approval the USDA had not adequately demonstrated a severe economic impact.
Some Sugar Beet farmers said they are not sure how much conventional seed is still available these days for next years planting. According to Monsanto, who developed the crop, revoking approval of the seed could cost them and their customers $ 2 Billion in 2011 and 2012.
They 'Monsanto' did not talk about the economic impact their GMO Sugar Beets would have on Organic Seed growers like Frank Morton who grows organic Beet and Chard seeds or others like him or the impact this GMO crop would have on the potential crippling loss of genetic diversity, which goes above and beyond the damage that simple monoculture has already inflicted on the US agriculture.
With the lack of conventional seeds for Sugar Beets it just proves the point, doesn't it?
They also did not talk about the impact it could have on us, humans. Health wise. Because they don't know the impact it might have on humans, they don't know it won't have an impact on our health either.
We are just a bunch of large guinea pigs!

We are in danger of loosing our seed heritage, our food to provide for us.
We need diversity not mono culture. Just think about the impact if we loose the diversity of seeds, all it takes is that the one seed left, the GMO seed, fails to provide for us, what are we going to do then?
Once it is in the environment there is no going back.
Once our seeds are gone, they are gone.
I don't know about you, but to me it is a scary thought having to rely on only one variety of seed to feed me and not knowing what is in my food.
But this is were we are headed.
Now is the time to stop it, we still have a chance to reverse this dangerous trend.

Shop consciously, don't buy knowingly or unknowingly GMO products.

Vote with your cash! Vote the Politicians in Bed with Monsanto and Co out of Office.

Don't sit back and watch it unfold, help unfold!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Protecting our seed supply

One of my favorite online television series and blog, based in around Portland-Oregon is called Cooking up a Story which deals with the culture of food we are eating, the farming of our food, it's production and the politics and science which are surrounding our food nowadays. 
I love the eye opening stories they bring on their website about people involved with food, the food we eat and about living sustainable, showing us what is happening in the world of food, what is done to it and what we can do to save one of the most important assets we humans have.

One issue which is very important to me and probably should be important to anyone who likes to eat good, healthy, nourishing food is the problem with our seed supply dwindling more and more as there are less and less independent seed companies which don't belong or are connected to the large corporate companies like Monsanto. The majority of our seed supply is now in the hands of only 10 corporate seed companies and of those 44% are in the US. This is very concerning.
Cooking up a Story also is concerned about this issue and so I like to share a video from their
 website with Frank Morton, who is an organic seed breeder from Philomath in Oregon explaining the structure of the gloabal commercial seed industry we have today. It is part of an ongoing series called
'Seeds of Life'

                    Video thumbnail. Click to play                   
                    Click to play                   

We all should be very concerned about the future of our Seed supply. Without seeds there will be no food and with our seed supply the corporations are calling the shots in what we get to eat and if we get to eat.
We all need to speak up and vote with our money. We all need to start buying open pollinated and heirloom seeds, seeds which are not connected to these companies and then save and protect our own seed supply.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Strawberry towers

This is just a funny garden year. There it is was mid June and still rainy outside. I looked at my weather report every day, hoping for this 5 day forecast of sun, just to be cheated over and over again.
I found myself planning my schedules by the dry and sunny days. Going shopping only happens on the rainiest days, forget going to town if it is sunny outside. I needed that day to catch up in my yard. 
But finally we got some nice Summer-like weather, I just hope it will last.
The weeds really seemed to like this wet weather, they are growing just like weeds. Or maybe it is just that I couldn't weed all the time and so there will be now weeds all summer. Since our summer arrived I have been outside almost all day, trying to catch up. This i one of the reasons I have been neglecting my blog for a while. I am just so busy outside I hardly have time to do anything else.
So I was really behind planting my Peppers and Eggplants, which I just managed to plant two weeks ago. But even they had been in the small pots for a long time, they are growing so nicely and are already setting peppers. I think using the home-made warming tray has really helped growing healthy and strong plants. Usually I was lucky to get a few peppers late season.
They do say that if you stunt the growth of the heat loving plants like Peppers, Eggplants and Tomatoes they sometimes never catch up anymore and greatly reduce production. My sun-room is just too cold in February to grow anything, having the warming tray is making a big difference.

My first Strawberries, even they were slowly getting ripe, were getting all mushed out by the rain. It wasn't too big of a loss since they didn't really taste all that good anyway. The rain washed all the sweet, strawberry flavor out of them.
But now the weather is perfect strawberry weather and I am picking a large bowl of Strawberries every other day and they are sweet and juicy. Since I am so busy weeding and catching up in my yard I mainly made some of my quick Strawberry Tart and some Ice cream with them. Luckily I only grow Ever-bearing Strawberries so I will have a long harvest and hopefully will be able to make some strawberry jam later in the season.

Strawberries use a lot of yard, especially if you grow enough to make jam and freeze. The area my strawberries are growing in right now will be my new flower and shrub garden, it is our second lot and eventually we'll built a smaller house there. Lucky me, I get to start some of my new garden before there is a house.

This way at least some of it will be established and I get to move my favorite plants from my old garden to the new. I already got started on some of the new garden, but the strawberries are in the way and need to get moved.

 I wanted to move them to my Kitchen-garden, which is fenced in. Already I grow all my other berries in the lower part of this garden, but there just isn't enough room for that many strawberries. To have strawberries down there I needed to go vertical.

For two years I have been looking at the strawberry towers at the Raintree Nurseries website, thinking I like to make my own, but I have been trying to find bigger diameter tubes then the ones they usually have at the Home depot, but never found anything larger then 4" or 8" which I think is not wide enough to grow them successfully. I know from searching online many people make them with the smaller sized tubes, but I just felt there wasn't enough room for the roots and enough dirt to sustain the roots in there.
I also think plastic just gets too hot for the berries and thinking of all the chemicals in the plastic I am not sure I even wanted plastic tubes for growing strawberries.

So one day I saw these strawberry towers in the  Stark Brothers Catalog, which consisted of a small wire cage and coconut fiber mats you can fill with dirt and then plant with your berries. It was a bit small but I liked the idea that the plants had more dirt around their roots and no plastic involved.
So I got the idea of making something similar out of sturdy fencing, some fence posts and coconut fiber mats.

I just cut the fencing into 6 feet high x 35 inch wide sections, rolled them into a tube 33 inch diameter, wiring the length sides together, overlapping just 2 inches to make it sturdier. Then I cut the coconut fiber mat into the same size, rolled it into a tube and inserting it in the wire tower. Now all I had to do fill it up with some good soil mix, watering it well and plant the strawberries. Since my new mail-ordered strawberries were already waiting for me, I had to plant them right away. To plant I just cut some holes into the coconut fiber mat, poked a hole into the dirt and carefully inserted the strawberries. It is a bit tricky to do without hurting the plants. Then I watered it again, to wash the dirt well around the roots. One thing I would do different next time is to let the dirt filled tower sit for a few days before planting the strawberries in it. After a week the dirt had settled a bit and pulled some of the berries down into the wire a bit. I pulled them back up, but my suggestion is wait a week, water it daily and let it settle before planting.

I added a mini bubbler-dripper on top of each tower and connected it to my timed irrigation, the towers will dry out a bit quicker then on flat ground and the berries need a good amount of water to produce berries.
They are growing for about a month in there now and even I lost a few plants, the remaining plants are growing nicely and starting to set some fruit. As the berries produce some runners I will be pinning the new plants into new holes and by next year maybe have all of the tower filled with plants.

Growing them vertical will be not just a space saver I think it will keep them cleaner and more disease free.
And I get to use their old space for my new flower garden.

disclaimer: Not to be shared with the Dervaes Family of Path to Freedom Website. Thank You 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Growing Cauliflower

It has been a funny spring so far this year. Usually it seems to be pretty much dry once May hits but this year there has been a lot of rain late spring. It also is a lot cooler then I have experienced since living in Oregon. We even had another freeze after our official last freeze date and the nights still have been so cool I haven't even planted my Tomatoes out yet. I was hoping to get them in the ground this weekend, but the weather forecast is not convincing me. I hope I get enough Tomatoes this year if I get them in the ground so late.

Anything bad for my warm weather crops though is a good thing for my cool season crops.

My lettuce is growing beautifully and my Endive is even holding out. The flowers you see here belong to my Corn Salad (Feld Salat) which I let seed out and collect seeds from. The same reason you see lettuce pop up all over my garden area, tucked into corners. I let it seed out and then replant the seedlings or just let them grow. It gives me a long supply of lettuce, early in the year because a lot of it sprouts early February in my garden.
Most years by mid May my Endive has bolted, not this year.
Endive is always a welcome early Salad crop for me. This I also let just seed out and collect seeds from.

  Everything looks lush and green. My peas after emerging a bit slow at first the last week or two have made a lot of growth. And my garlic is starting to get growing tall early.

My Radishes are doing well and all my Cole crops are growing beautifully.

I even managed to harvest some 'Rapini A Foglia D'olive', which is hard to grow as a spring crop here, I have been eating a lot of Greens harvested from my garden under other 'Red Russian Kale', Broccoli Rabe 'Quarantina', Arugula 'Ortolani' and some Spinach 'Lorelay'.

I think this year I might even succeed in growing my Cauliflower, I have been reading up over the winter on how to grow this Brassica and getting a better Cauliflower harvest, since mine never seemes to make a head in Oregon.

Here is what I learned about 'How to grow Cauliflower':

Cauliflower a cool season crop, closely related to broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips and
mustard can be abundantly produced in the Northwest from from April until early December.
It is more specific in its climatic requirements than most other crops in the Brassica family.
It grows best in a cooler temperature with a good supply of water. One thing I learned new, that there are actually different Cauliflowers bred for different seasons 'Early Season (before it gets too hot), Autumn, Winter and Overwintering' kinds to head up in Spring. If you grow the wrong one at the wrong season it might not head up properly, probably one of the reasons I have not been successful with mine.

Since they have a weak root system and are heavy feeders they need a deep, humusy, rich soil so if your soil is heavy it should be well amended with organic matter. A high soil pH of 6.5 +  is also important for best development. With Cauliflower you only get high quality heads if it grows rapid continously, so you need to give it the soil conditions it needs and fertilize frequently.

Having chickens helps for growing Cauliflower, since they love the nutrients the chicken manure provides, especially the Nitrogen. Rabbit manure is also a good one to use. Cow manure can be used but it is a bit strong and can be easy overdone which could cause salt built up. I prefer not to use it.
Whatever manure you use it should be aged before adding to the garden, fresh manure can burn your plants.
It was suggested to add these organic matter such as compost, bark, and manure a few weeks before you plant out at the site you plan to grow them.

Cauliflower for planting out in Spring are best started indoors, since these Brassicas do not like uneven temperatures. You can start them indoors 4-6 weeks before last frost, I start mine toward end of February with a last frost date of April 15-24 and plan to plant them out around April 9th to latest April 24th depending on the weather. Cauliflower will tolerate some light frost but since it's ideal growing soil temperatures are around 60-75° F, if the weather is still somewhat unpredictable or fluctuates a lot, it is better to wait even it means you might have to re-pot them again.
If you start your seedlings in flats you should move the seedlings to 2" containers as soon they can be handled.
For overwintering Cauliflower if you grow transplants, setting them out to the garden is best done by the end of the first week in September.

Direct seeding is possible, especially for the fall crop. Late summer and Autumn cauliflower can be planted by seeding directly in the field from mid April  to mid May, Overwintering varieties between early July to early August and thinned to the desired in-row spacing when the plants have 3 to 4 true leaves.
Use a soluble fertilizer, as water and fertilizer are required frequently for them to grow well. Outdoor seeded Cauliflower requires about 8 to 10 weeks from seed to plants for the spring crop and about 4 to 5 weeks for the fall crop.

If you are growing your own transplants for spring plantings, give them sufficient cold to harden off, but be ready to protect them from temperatures below freezing. Cauliflower is extremely sensitive to temperature fluctuations.

They do not like to be crowded, so don't plant them too close to each other, mine are about 14" apart, but I read anywhere from 15 to 24 inches apart in various literature.

 If your ph is below 6.5,  it is a good idea to add a little lime at planting. Since they are heavy feeders, and since they need to grow rapidly, even if you amended their soil with lot's of organic matter you need a good amount of 5-10-10 fertilizer, about a 1/2 cup, worked into the soil when you plant.
At the same time it is recommended to add a teaspoon of Bone-meal for each plant into the planting hole for strong roots and stems, this gives it extra phosphorous which Cauliflower needs, especially in our rainy NW climate which leaches this nutrient. This vegetable needs boron and magnesium, or you could get hollow stems with internal brown discoloration, for the home gardener it is easiest to just add 2 level Tablespoons of Borax to 5quart of fertilizer (for a 100 feet row) and fertilize with that. Dolomite Lime will sweeten the soil and give you magnesium. I usually use the Fertilizer mix from Steve Solomon's Book which already has the Dolomite Lime in it, but I did give my Cauliflower the extra Bone meal boost.
The transplants should be watered right after planting to prevent wilting. Severe shock to plants at transplanting time often causes poor head development. It is helpful to water with a starter solution.

Recipe for Starter solution:  Add one cup of 5-10-10 fertilizer to 12 quarts of water. Stir and  let set for a few hours or more. Use one cup of this solution around the roots when you set out plants.

Care during growth:

Side dress in about three to four weeks after transplanting, when the plants have become
established by working about a quart of fresh chicken manure into the soil around each plant or with one teaspoon of bloodmeal sprinkled around the base of each plant this should induce maximum growth. Do this  every three or four weeks until the point of production. Then feed them with a good water-soluble fertilizer until harvest time. Always keep the soil moist.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kitchen-garden planning?

I have been so busy the last few week working in the garden, getting my beds ready for this season, organizing what goes where and what to plant I hardly have had time to share with you what I been up to in my endeavor of growing my Kitchen garden.

I am trying to be more organized this year. I know, it will be quite a task.

I want to do more of an organized crop rotation rather then this
haphazardly rotation I normally am doing. Most years I just watch out where I planted my Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants, Cabbages, Broccoli and Cauliflower, Squash, Melons and Cucumbers, those I always rotate to a new bed each year, where none of their sisters have been growing. The rest of the smaller vegetables I normally just tuck somewhere, wherever I have a place for it. I have been known to loose a few vegetables because I could not remember where I tucked them in and my label got lost. And all of a sudden I see something shooting up, bolting and go to flower.
'Oh, there it is!' unfortunately it is to late to eat it now.

I have been using my garden software 'IG pro Garden' to get organized. I got all my numbered, raised garden-beds entered in there, all my vegetables, grouped by their Vegetable name and each one designated a rotating group.

group A - Cucumber/Squash Family
group B - Legumes
group C - Solanum (Peppers, Eggplants, Tomatoes, Potatoes...)
group D - Roots and Onion
group E - Brassica (Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli...)
group F - Greens and Lettuce

since some vegetables like to grow together, but they are not necessarily in the same family and some even they are in the same family don't like to live with each other, and some can be almost grown with any other vegetable I also added these to different groups.
One example is Radish. Radish really goes along with almost anything and as long the soil drains well, is light and it has water it grows almost anywhere. So I added it to Group A, Group D, and Group F. Lettuce, Arugula, Beets, Carrots, Endive, Chicory, Corn Salad, Onion family are in Group D and F, Kale is also in this group but also in E. Basil, Parsley in Group C and F.
There are others I added to multiple groups which I am not mentioning now.
It makes the rotation a bit more complicated but since I grow such a large variety of vegetables it helps me to spread the crops a bit more around. I came up with this rotation after working through the book 'The Kitchen Garden Grower's Guide The Kitchen Garden Grower's Guide: A practical vegetable and herb garden encyclopedia'. This book is really nice to use if you just need the facts for each vegetables. I used the book to add the most important growing info into my garden software for each vegetable. The book showed which vegetables grow well together and what combination to avoid and the rotation for each plant.
To plan the placements of the vegetables I made a document with my numbered beds, each bed has a square foot garden grid to help visualize the area I have available. I wrote all the names of the vegetables in the proper space on that paper and then made several copies.

The IG Pro garden software lets me input tasks with a date attached. So I can make a task for example called  'indoor seeding' for a specific vegetable, add the varieties to the task and set up a date and when I open my program I open the task program of IG Pro and then I can look either at the task by culture type 'indoor seeding', 'outdoor seeding', 'transplant', 'fertilize' or by date, that needs to be done this month. So far I mainly input the seeding and planting/transplanting tasks for most of my vegetable crops but already it's making a big difference especially in my sucession sowing. I can print out a list with all the vegetables which need care for that month, listing every seeding date I planned or I can select a specific vegetable and then print out an report giving me a choice of all it's succession seeding dates or only the one I choose and also some growing notes for that specific plant.
Now I can print out a seeding and planting report from the  task program of the IG Pro Garden program take it and a copy of the garden bed document with me out to the garden and I know exactly where to plant my seed.
Next year I can see exactly where I had my plants. It will make my rotations much more easy to organize.
Already it is helping me quite a bit with my succession sowing and so far I have been keeping up with starting my plants at the proper dates.
Once I have all  my data input into the program I will be so organized.
If I only now could have a program to keep track of my tools I frequently loose in my large garden.........

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Slow Food Nation: An Evening With Carlo Petrini

Carlo Petrini the founder of Slow Food Nation organization based in Italy speaks about food, food-politics, and the American culture and the changes needed to become a sustainable food nation.
If you are interested in a more sustainable food culture, improving our outlook on food and changing the politics which are promoting the opposite of a sustainable food culture you will enjoy what Carlo Petrini has to say.
The speech is cut into 6 segments, so make sure you watch them all.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wild flower walks

We are lucky to live in a community which puts aside much wild land for the population to enjoy. We live just minutes away from a forest with many trails in different directions going for miles. One could get lost in there for hours. I take my dog for walks in there. There are some areas with old growth forest which have magnificent trees and many wild flowers.
I found some nice varieties up there, some are even considered rare.
Once spring hits I try to hit he trails frequently to look what is blooming and I often take pictures.

Let me share some of our beautiful Oregon Wildflowers with you.

                 Columbia Windflower - Anemone deltoidea

                    Red Columbine - Aquilegia formosa

                      Hairy Rockcress - Arabis hirsuta

                      Elegant Cat's Ear - Calochortus elegans

                         Fairyslipper Orchid - Calypso bulbosa

                Pacific Bleeding Heart - Dicentra formosa

                  Rattlesnake orchid - Goodyera oblongifolia

                      Orange Honeysuckle - Lonicera ciliosa

                      Yellow leaf Iris - Iris chrysophylla

                                     Toughleaf Iris - Iris tenax

                   Nine-leaf Lomatium - Lomatium triternatum
                    Nutall's Larkspur - Delphinium Nuttallii

                  maybe: Longleaf Phlox - Phlox longifolia

                            Nuttalli dogwood - Cornus nuttallii

                  Oregon Fawn Lili - Erythronium oregonum

                      Tall Oregon Grape - Mahonia aquifolium

                    Pink Fawn Lili - Erythronium revolutum

                           Common Camash - Camassia quamash

                      Leafybract Aster - Aster foliaceus

                       Queen's Cup Lili - Clintonia uniflora

              Oregon Checker Mallow - Sidalcea oregana

         Western Starflower - Trientalis borealis subsp. latifolia

          I hope you enjoyed walking through my woods with
          me enjoying our beautiful wild flowers?