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?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Searching for a better seedling growing method

Last year I went on a search for a better plant growing system.

Over the years I have used a variety of planters and peat products to start my seedlings. I used recycled yogurt tubs, those small six pack planters, then I used the small 2 1/2" square planters, since most plants outgrew them to fast and I constantly had to replant the seedlings I went to the larger and deeper planters. These at least I did not have to re-pot as quick the drawback to all these little planters, to use them you have to wash them and sterilize in bleach water. Since I have to do it in my kitchen-sink and I don't like to clean dirty pots in the kitchen-sink I later might want to wash my lettuce in and it is quite a bit of work many times I just would use the dirty pots and sometimes my plants would damp off. Not sure if it was the dirty pots fault or just by chance but dirty pots can carry pathogens from last years crop.

Then I used the 'APS' (Accelerated Propagation System) Styrofoam seedling trays from the Gardener Supply company, they work with capillary mats. These worked nicely for growing plants since the ground is always nicely moist, just perfect for little seeds to sprout and grow and you did not have to water so often. Since they come in different sizes I was able to grow most of the plants without having to re- pot them, at least not as often. Their drawback was the cleaning part. Since they are Styrofoam trying to clean the dirt off them was somewhat a struggle. Dirt likes to stick to Styrofoam, a lot. And trying to clean them without breaking them, was almost impossible. Styrofoam in most regions of the US is not recycled and in the end I decided if I have to throw them away after a couple of seasons and buy new they do not fit into my picture of sustainability and not wasting resources.

Last year I came across the 'Compact Plant Trainer System' made in Sweden by 'Agralan' in the Jung Seed catalog. They looked real sturdy and you can wash the trays in the dishwasher. Reusable without breaking easily and being able to not have to hand wash sounded really good.

 Those also were supposed to have a capillary action, drawing the water to the roots from a bottom tray. I only used them for one planting last year, since I got them toward the end of my indoor seeding season. I had a bit of a struggle last year to get the seedlings out of them without disturbing the roots much. The bottom tray has these pegs which you use to push the seed plugs out when you are ready to transplant, the problem was it did not push them out far enough and since the tray is rather small and the seed plugs are close together it was difficult to grab the plugs without breaking stems of seedlings. The dirt did not hold tight enough and so I ended up with a huge mess, many broken stems and disturbed roots. I also thought the capillary action could have been better. The bottom of the root plug was too wet but then the top level, where the seeds need the moisture was to dry and I constantly had to be on the watch to moisten the top. Last year I thought maybe my potting seedling mix was not a good fit for the trays, too loose maybe. So this year I added a bit more compost and garden soil for it too be able to suck more water up, but still I had the same problem. Too wet on the bottom, to dry on the top. Many of the seedlings had trouble sprouting and again I lost too many seedlings by crushing them trying to get them out of the tray.

So now I came back to my old friend I had for a long time. I don't know why I neglected him so much in the last years since he is sustainable, lasts a life time, I never have to clean him, and there is nothing to clean up after. My dear old 'Newspaper pot maker'

It is so easy to use and by cutting wider newspaper strips you can make deeper pots. So this year I am growing almost all my seedlings in newspaper pots. My plants are growing so nicely and when I transplant them into the garden. I can plant them pot and all.
My first pots I made this year, seemed to disintegrate quicker then I remembered from a few years ago, when I used it heavily and I think that maybe the newspaper paper used today must be thinner then back then.
So my second batch I used my newspaper double and this seems to work much better.
I have been collecting the lettuce plastic bins, they sell the mixed, washed lettuce in the grocery store in, I put the dirt filled, seeded paper pots in these bins and with the lid on it made perfect little green houses. The taller pots I put into some old refrigerator door bins I kept, the lettuce bins fit perfectly on top.
Everything stayed nicely moist in the bins, I hardly had to water and with the help of my home made warming trays it all stayed toasty for the seeds to sprout.

When I had to re-pot my tomatoes I just made some higher pots by cutting wider strips of paper and I think I might not have to re-pot them again before transplanting them out.

All in all my good old Newspaper pot is coming out to be my best system to grow my plants with. Sometimes the simplest thing is all one needs. To top it off it is easy to use, costs very little money, recycles my newspaper and therefore fits in with trying to be more sustainable.

Paper pot Wins!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Which plant is that?

Last spring I went out in my garden, just to check if there is something blooming already. It was still a bit early for most of my plants but as I walked around I noticed the interesting early growth of some of the plants. There was a certain beauty in the way the plants, after a long winter push through the dirt like they are fighting their way out. So I went inside, got my camera and took pictures of these plants and budding trees in  my garden.

I wonder if you can tell what plants these are.

 1) what plant is that? Hints: it flowers early in the spring. The flowers remind me of little hearts. It comes in red and white varieties. Your grandma probably grew it in her garden.

2) This plants comes in many colors of pink to red, yellow to orange and white. It blooms in May, comes
from Japan but there are also varieties native to European lands. You mainly find in the the Northern Hemisphere. The European varieties bloom much earlier, around mid March. One of them is called 'Schl├╝sselblume' in Germany, where you can find it blooming wild in open Forest land and is the most common variety you find in Gardens. It bloom yellow and it's flower head has many little flowers hanging like little bells from a straight single stalk.

 3) This one comes in many different shapes and colors. It loves to hybridize all by itself so if you have a few different kind, with time you will find new plants in your garden. There are varieties of this growing almost all over the world. in the Northern hemisphere. There are quite a few native species to the US, mostly red and yellow and blue and white/pinkish. They belong to the Buttercup family. The flowers are bell shaped , spurred and pendulous.

Can you identify these plants? Leave me a comment if you wish.