Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving and Reflections of the Previous Season

...and of course the season coming up.

It snowed up here in Maine the day before Thanksgiving and now, 2 days later, I sit with time on my hands. This is a very unfamiliar feeling. So I come back here to reflect and write those reflections.

Reflection #1) Buy a few Elderberry bushes and plant out back. Take a look at this page and you will see the motivation behind my wanting to plant some more bushes. I have one next to our pool. It has grown OK for years but the past two years it has gone steadily downhill. I don't know why. I finally give in to the need to get new bushes and plant somewhere else. Earlier this fall I had a flu followed by bronchitis which was then followed by a sinus infection. I haven't been that sick in over 15 years. During that time I thought about elderberry and for good reason. Elderberry is said to be very helpful for flu and cold. Make a hot toddy (hot water, juice of a lemon, honey to taste and then some, and a dash of elder berry syrup). Sip throughout your illness. To help you sleep, add a jigger of whiskey to the hot toddy before returning to bed. Sleep and sweat you will!

Reflection #2) Take more time in the planning and designing stage of the garden. Last year and to be honest, every year, I just plant until I run out of room. How silly of me. A veteran gardener and I still make that #1 mistake. I had plants in my garden that my family doesn't even like. I was just curious about these heirlooms that I planted them. And they took up a lot of precious space. So, to cure this yearly problem I will get out the graph paper and ruler and plan my garden. I'll begin before I order seeds and I will take into account what I can logically harvest, preserve, and share. I'm actually looking forward to mapping next years garden. First I need to make a map of this past seasons so I can be sure to rotate. I usually do map out my garden beds as I'm planting but didn't even do that last year. I'll let you know how this preplanning and designing goes. Watch for a spring time post.

Reflection #3) Preserve more herbs. I let a lot of herbs go by last summer. I used them daily in my cooking but never seemed to take the time to put some by. I now regret that.

Reflection #4) Buy a freezer - There is so much that comes from the garden that can be frozen. Yet due to lack of freezer space I let a lot go by. While we eat a lot and I give a lot away there is still more that can be put up. While I like to can and I do, a freezer would allow me to put up so much more. From summer squash, to green beans that don't make it into my dilly beans, to all the water that is left over from sautéing or steaming veggies, to tomatoes, to fruit....all lovely candidates for the freezer. Buy a freezer.

Reflection #4) Try something new. Last year I tried 2 new varieties of tomatoes, a Russian black tomato and an Italian Heirloom tomato. Both were amazing and will now be staple tomatoes I plant. I also planted some Italian broccoli that I didn't get anything from and the plants were so big! Not sure if it was just the variety or if I somehow managed to have too much nitrogen in my soil (which I highly doubt).

Reflection #5) Plant more onions.

Reflection #6) Try, try, and try again to grow lettuce, spinach, and onion tops throughout the winter months. Figure out the coldframe! The coldframe was great for hardening off plants in the early spring but I really want to figure out how to use it to grow greens throughout the winter months.

Reflection #6) Plant more blueberries.

So that's it for my reflections and goals as of now. I'm sure they will change once I get that map and design going.

Enjoy your garden planning this winter!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

First Tomato of the Season

Sun Gold Tomatoes around a rain barrel

Sun Gold are the BEST cherry tomatoes ever! These particular ones are a bit small. Just an experiment really. Started them from seed with my 4th graders and they grew on a classroom window sill. Now they receive only a few hours of sun a day but yet...tomatoes!

In the garden Glacier tomatoes are the first to be ripe and picked and they were delicious. A bit small but so good. I love these too because they are the perfect size for a single portion of bruchetta or in a salad or whatever. But not big enough for a tomato sandwich really. To make the BEST tomato sandwich you need a Jersey tomato. I'm not kidding! But if you can't get a fresh, ripe Jersey tomato then we'll just have to settle for whatever tomato varieties are in our garden or at our local farmer's market. They will be delicious! May not quite be a Jersey tomato but delicious just the same.

Dug my first potatoes today. Yukon Golds were a good size, the Rose fingerlings were small. Onions and shallots are starting to flop over. We've been eating the onions for a while. Garlic is harvested. Bottom leaves were turning yellow and brown. Have had a few eggplants and they've been delicious and lots of zucchini and yellow squashes. Basil is finally looking and tasting good. It took a while for those plants to come back. They were looking so awful for so long!

Fall plantings of greens and some root veggies are in about 2 weeks now and some are doing great. I lightly covered them with a straw mulch and have been watering them. I covered the lettuce seedlings with a shade cloth as well as the mulch and they look great too. Radishes as always are struggling. Flea beetles and slugs. Same problems as in spring. Cukes are coming finally! It's the 4th try and putting them under row cover seems to have helped. Some pumpkins look great some have been hit with something. I'm assuming it's from those dang cucumber beetles. That bacteria wilt. Scallions, lettuce, beets, chard, kale, lettuce, carrots, herbs, zucchini, yellow squash, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant...all have been wonderful. Beans are almost in flower. I planted them late. Peas, asparagus, radishes, and spinach have come and gone. Peas were delicious. Corn and pumpkins are growing.

Gardens are nice. They are nice to putter in. They are nice to look at. And they are nice to eat delicious food from. As the saying goes, "Gardens make the world fresh and clean." AHS

May your August garden be as good as or better than your July garden,

Saturday, July 30, 2011

When to Plant to Outsmart Pests

A great planter that I saw at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay, Maine in the children's garden area. What a LOVELY place to visit.

This great link below is a bit late for this year but a must to try next year!! It has a few great tips on when to plant crops such as potatoes, corn, and brassicas to outsmart the pests that harm them most. I was about two weeks late planting my potatoes this year and I nearly didn't plant them. I usually plant when the dandelions bloom and I usually have to hand pick and squish potato beetles which is one of the grossest things to have to do. Talk about how to ruin a relaxed evening in the garden. Anway, this year I haven't (knock on wood) seen one! And others are dealing with them like crazy. Coincidence? I don't know. But when I found this article I began to wonder. Next year I will plant late again and I will also start my corn indoors! I hate those darn cornworms.,1&cm_mmc=OGNews-_-646366-_-07272011-_-time_your_planting_to_avoid_pests

I just harvested all my garlic and picked my first tomatoes...yum! Cukes are still struggling and I found my first hornworm on a tomato plant. I know they are destructive but I hate killing them because they are the coolest looking bugs. I just love to look at them.

It's a beautiful evening. Cool breeze, temp in the high 70's (F) and the sun is setting. I just came in from the garden and had a nice swim. I'm admitting that I just haven't written in this blog as much as I'd like to. But the garden is big this year and it's keeping me really busy. And I'm afraid it isn't going to get better because now the harvests really begin and with that comes cooking with this delicious food as well as canning. So far I was able to put up some strawberry jam and raspberry jam. I've frozen raspberries and strawberries as well. But once tomatoes come that's when things really speed up.

Hope your garden is going well and you are able to enjoy your time in it. There really is nothing like it.
And....Gardens make the world fresh and clean...AHS

Sunday, July 17, 2011


A Beautiful Female Zucchini Flower. See the fruit beginning to form at the base of the flower? It will be my first zucchini of the year.
This year I want to try frying zucchini flowers. Here's a blog with a recipe for this. Just scroll down to the fried squash blossom post. I also put this link over there on the right.

What a year for squashes! Most of them are doing great! My pumpkins, yellow squash, and zucchini are doing great. But it hasn't been without a lot of work in the form of diligent cucumber beetle squishing. Here's what this destructive pest looks like:
I've struggled with cucumber beetles for years. But this year they are just brutal. I have found that evening is the best time to monitor (aka squish the bugs) the plants for these destructive pests. Not only do they nibble on the plants but they nibble on the roots. That is not good as they can chew the roots right off and kill the plants. AND when they nibble on the plants they transmit a virus called, bacterial wilt,that kills the plants. The cucumber beetle is a "vector" of this virus. A "vector" is a carrier. So the beetle carries this virus and when it chews the plant it transmits the virus to the plant. As you can see, keeping on top of this is essential. I don't normally spray but I just couldn't keep up with this. I'd spend an hour killing these bugs and have clear plants and the next night I'd go back out and check and see that leaves with dozens of bugs on them. And they were doing a number on my plants. So I bought some NEEM which is an organic spray and used it. (Here's a link to info on how NEEM oil works: It seemed to work for a little while. But the bugs are back but according to the information I just read that's OK. It doesn't mean it's not working. See the link for full information on how this oil works. Anytime I have resorted to using an organic spray, especially when plants are in flower, I worry about the bees. I don't want to harm bees. And my squashes are in flower so I didn't spray the plants in flower even though it says this oil only harms bitting/chewing insects so it supposedly doesn't harm beneficial insects such as bees.

Because of something eating cucumbers as soon as they come up I've replanted cucumbers 3 times already. I'm wondering if it's cutworm. I'm not sure. This last time I've put them under row cover. We'll see if that makes a difference although if it's cutworm my guess is it won't. I did buy some pickling cukes from the local farmers market (Barrels) and made some counter top pickles.
I have to confess that this is a photo from last year but since it looks the same, hey why not use an old photo! To make these all you do is put some dill, garlic, 1 hot pepper and small cukes in a quart jar. 1/2 fill with white vinegar and fill the other 1/2 with water. Add about 1 tsp of kosher salt and let it sit on your counter with lid ajar for 3-7 days and then enjoy!

As for my cantaloupes and watermelon, they are under row covers too. But I did that to provide warmth. First I put black plastic down and got the soil nice and warm. Then I transplanted seedlings that I started inside in compost pots into the warmed soil. These plants don't like their roots disturbed so these are good pots to use as you plant the pot and all. They are a wonderful alternative to peat pots. More on why we shouldn't use peat in a future post. Looks like the row cover provides an insect barrier too. Now it's time to take the row covers off though because the plants are in flower and they need to be pollinated. Tough for bees to pollinate if there's a barrier still up. Here's a pic of my row covered plants. See some pumpkins in the background.

Here's a squash plant that came up in my compost pile. We'll see what it is although I suspect a pumpkin.

Well, time to get outside! Hope you are enjoying your gardens and your squashes!
Gardens make the world fresh and clean - AHS

PS - I just reread this post and wow; it's a bit all over the place. I apologize. I just flew into Jersey City for a week long science/math teachers conference and am a bit tired. It's beautiful outside but hot so I came in to nap and can't fall asleep so thought I'd post. Maybe I should have napped instead! So I apologize for this wild post! Here's a photo of what I see from our hotel

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer Ramblings - Part 2

To me nothing says summer more than Day Lilies! I just love them. I have them lining the barn and walkway to our kitchen door. I also have them lining our pool fence. Today they were in full bloom and so now it feels like summer, really like summer. Ahhhhh...

Today Kyle helped me mulch the middle vegetable garden. It was a big chore that took us a while. Am I glad it's done and I am glad he helped me. It was wonderful to work in the garden together. It's been a while since he's shown interest in that. The weeds were really looking awful and making the garden totally uninviting. I've been avoiding that section for two weeks. Tonight I spent two hours in that garden and enjoyed every minute of it. Not only do weeds rob nutrients and water from our garden plants they rob us of the enjoyment we get while working in our gardens. Weeds are terrible things to have in the garden. No weeds allowed! Now that the entire veggie garden is mulched I was able to begin watering the plants with a lovely tonic that I made. It is a combination of rain water, worm composting liquid, liquid seaweed, and liquid fish emulsion. I made the "tea" light, about the same color as a weak tea. And as I was watering I was able to continue my battle with cucumber beetles. Those bloody little flying buggers! Something I noticed, that you may already be totally aware of, is that if you wait until dawn or dusk to go out looking for them to squish it's a heck of a lot easier than in the middle of a hot day! I tried mid day and couldn't get them no matter how hard I tried. They were so fast and they can fly. But as the air cooled they appeared to slow down and settle in on their squash leaves and the task was much more successful.They also like to hide on the underside of the leaves. Just yuck. These bugs done a number on my pumpkin plants and my zucchini plants as well. They haven't much touched the yellow squash plants. Interesting. I also found some very large squash bugs that experienced the insides of two large flat rocks. I just can't bring myself to squish them. Wimp, I know! I also found egg clusters on the bottom side of the squash leaves and squished them between rocks too. No potato beetles yet though. Now I just jinxed it didn't I?

I tied up the tomato plants for the second time. I've got tomatoes growing! Here's a link to a great tutorial explaining and demonstrating one way of staking tomato plants. This is how I did it this year.

While we're on links to great webpages I'd like to share this blog on putting food up that I just love: I've gone into the archives and what a treasure trove. I particularly liked the "From nose to tail" posting. If you look under "categories" down on the right bar on this Well Preserved blog page you'll find a lot of categories to look through.

And another link on canning I like too: I learned why my canned fruit float! And steps to take to prevent it in future cannings.

Now that I've got the garden mulched and fertilizer feeding 1/2 way done I can begin to focus on the lower garden, what I like to call my spring garden. This is the first garden plot. It's fenced in and it's where I grow all the cool season crops like lettuce, radishes, greens, beets, peas, etc. As I went down to look it over to begin to think about what I want to yank and what I want to replant I thought I'd grabs some lettuce, greens, and carrots. And sure enough carrots were ready for thinning.
First carrot thinnings of the summer! Yummmmm
This garden is a mess. The old strawberry bed needs to be put under plastic and killed off :( The radishes and greens have all gone to flower. While bees love them I figure they've had them for about two weeks now. I'm yanking them and taking the space back. Will replant with some root veggies (lots more carrots), greens, and beans.

I finally gave up on cucumbers in the gardens. Something keeps eating them as soon as those two little cotyledon appear! Ugh! I've replanted three times. I give up. So I got a long planter from the garage. Filled it with soil, planted some cucumber seeds and put it by the pool. That better work. I'm just bummed because all my pickling cukes didn't make it. BUMMER! Oh well.

Tomorrow I will make the last of garlic scape pesto and begin picking raspberries! I love when the raspberries come in.

Hope your gardening is going well and that you are enjoying your time in your garden.
Gardens make the world fresh and clean - AHS

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy 4th of July Ramblings from a Rambling Gardener

Snap Peas on a new trellis
A goal every year for me is to have peas by the Fourth of July. That usually happens, but barely. This year I've been eating peas for two weeks already. It may be due to the fact that I planted bush shell peas rather than trellis shell peas. I did this to see if this would be a good choice for our school garden. It is. And these were delicious.

It's been a while since I've posted. Finishing up school and getting the gardens rolling takes up a lot of time! Leaving no time for blogging. But here I am on a glorious day doing this instead of being outdoors where I belong. As the title says this will just be some rambling thoughts. That's how I'm a rambling gardener. Balancing so many different garden tasks. Should I mulch and stake those tomoatoes or should I make pesto with the garlic scapes? Well we all know I need to do both. During the spring planting season it's easier to stay focused on planting. But once the harvesting starts the dance gets a little trickier because the garden still needs tending but now it's also time to can/freeze/dry produce that's coming in. I picked about 16 quarts of strawberries at a U-Pick place and spent an afternoon canning strawberry jam. My strawberry bed bit the dust. Year five and it is just so loaded with weeds. It's a mess. (Note later in the day...I went out to pick any strawberries that I could find and I picked over 4 quarts of delicious red strawberries. Was I surprised. I learned not to give up on a strawberry bed too soon and I learned it's not fun picking strawberries in a weed infested bed!) So I'm still going to cover it with black plastic and kill it off and replant it with something different next spring. I did start a new strawberry bed this year. Wish I started it last year. So this year I picked all the flowers off to encourage strong root growth and better berries for next year. I think from now on I'll expect 3 years from a strawberry bed. Year 1 pick off flowers, year 2 enjoy!, year three start another bed and enjoy this bed for the last season.

Before I ramble on even more, because this really is just a silly post of ramblings, I want to share a website/podcast/blog that I LOVE. The Alternative Kitchen Garden: I've been listening to Emma's podcast for years and I absolutely love her and her podcasts! She also has a blog and a new book! I will definitely add her book, The Alternative Kitchen Garden, to my garden books wish list, along with Elliot Coleman's A The Winter Harvest Handbook. Here's info from his website:

Back to Emma's podcast...she has a post on Peat. I'm sooo glad someone is finally discussing the environmental costs of peat. Peat comes from bogs. Bogs are really special places, as you know if you've ever been lucky enough to visit one. Dredging bogs for peat for gardening just doesn't seem like the right thing to do. And now a brave gardener discusses the impacts of this. Yeah Emma! Here's a website that discusses and explains the beauty and importance of peat bogs;
Another gardener writes about peat, bogs, and organic peat alternatives for your garden -

On Emma's blog/website there is a search tool, just like I have here! If you search "fertilizer" you will be brought to a page listing all her WONDERFUL blog posts/podcasts on the many organic fertilizer choices. My favorite all around organic fertilizer post of hers is here:

Another posting on organic fertilizers came from The Smiling Gardener, Phil. He researched organic products available at Amazon. Interesting. Here's a link to his information: He said his #1 fertilizer is this product: Interesting.

Back to ramblings....another goal is for corn to be knee high. Yeah right! My corn isn't even close to knee high. Maybe knee high for a gnome. My son works for a family that grows and sells wonderful perennial plants wholesale. I must say the perennials that do best in my garden come from them!! Zone 4 Perennials. If you are ever at a garden center in Maine and notice Zone 4 on the tag you know you're getting a good plant. Request them next time you are at a garden center! Anyway, they also have a kitchen garden and they start their corn indoors! I have never heard of that until this year. At first when I heard that I thought it sounded kind of nuts. But now I'm totally rethinking that idea. I bet his corn is knee high. Well I guess we are seeing who has the last laugh here, and it ain't me!

Cut lettuce under shade
Lettuce is doing very well. This shade set up works pretty good. The only problem I have with my lettuce, and it's been one I've dealt with for a few years now, is slugs. They love lettuce. So every time I harvest lettuce I have to wash them off. Gross. I guess I could try beer bait where you put out shallow saucers of beer and the slugs will go in and drown. I guess slugs like beer.

Well enough rambling for now. It's past time to go outside and mulch, mulch, and mulch some more. Make compost and worm casting tea, stake tomatoes, foliar feel flowering plants (broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes) with liquid seaweed, squish potato bug eggs yuck!, pull out spent radishes and spinach and replant with lettuce and more radishes, and pick herbs to make herb butter and cilantro pesto.

Have a great Fourth of July! And be sure to grill some veggies while you are grilling.
"Gardens make the world clean and fresh" AHS

Friday, June 24, 2011

Garlic Scapes...again!

I LOVE when I see those curly Q garlic scapes!

It's the first day of summer vacation! I can feel my body relax already. As I sit here enjoying Jackson Brown singing Take it Easy and my first spinach/scape egg omelet I can't help but smile with the satisfaction of ending another successful year teaching a bunch of energetic 10 year olds.

Rather than go on and on...again about garlic scapes I'm just going to give you a link to my post from last year. I just reread it and thinks it's worth reposting. Why mess with a good thing!?

This link will also take you to a link from the previous year's posting on garlic scapes. This is like a geologic time scale...just go down further and you get to older information. And we all know sometimes there's gems hidden in older digs :)

And now that summer is finally here let's remember that gardening makes the world fresh and clean (AHS)
Enjoy your harvests!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Straw Bale Gardening 1

Day 1 of Straw Bale Gardening - Watered well

Well I'm going to give straw bale gardening a try. Above is a picture of the two bales I'm starting with. I read to set bales with the strings wrapping horizontally and the straws set vertically which supposedly allows better root penetration.

Day 1 is May 29th. I watered well in the AM and will water well again in the evening. I guess I do this for 3 days. Then add the nitrogen to it for a few days. Says blood meal will work so that's what I'll use. This speeds up the decomposition process. While this water/nitrogen thing is going on the bales heat up as they decompose. We need to wait for this initial decomposition/heating process to end before planting.

Here's a link from the blog that I'm following:
and more here: Directions say to scroll down to the bottom to see the oldest post and work your way up to "today". I love the idea of planting in the side of the bale!! Will definitely try that as well.

I'll keep you posted on how this works out. I'm thinking I'll plant a pumpkin plant and maybe a few popcorn plants. Would like to add a few flowers like zinnias and nasturtiums or a licorice basil. We'll see. I don't want to over plant.

Hope you're enjoying planting in your garden,

Lilies of the Valley and Mulching

Lilies of the Valley under the maple tree

What would the beginning of the summer be without the fragrance and beauty of Lilies of the Valley? My absolute favorite early summer flower.

Once I had my luscious smell of these flowers I was ready to hit the garden. I didn't plan to mulch the beds today but we had a fantastic rain storm last night. Complete with wake you up thunder and lightning. To me, being directly under thunder and lightning is kind of like riding a roller coaster. Deep inside scary but thrilling at the same time. As I was closing windows I realized that my day of transplanting and fence construction might be replaced with mulching. I was right.
Newly mulched spinach row
I spent the morning mulching the seedling beds with straw. And since water moves from moist to dry I hooked up the hoses to water the newly mulched beds. Wouldn't want the moist beds to suffer from the straw wicking that lovely moisture that was delivered by last night's rain away from the seedlings. I also used the hose out opportunity to move a water barrel over into the garden and fill it with compost and water. It's a rain barrel but I fill it with water from a hose when it's empty. Having that barrel available in the garden just makes watering so much easier. And here we are back to the topic of water again.

I have to admit that I use to just put the sprinkler on in the middle of the garden and once a week let it run full blast for an hour or so. Wow! I can't even imagine doing that now unless we suffered from an extensive dry spell that hand watering became just to intense to manage. Water. We really do find ourselves dealing with the realities of water in all our daily doings. Feel free to search my blog for my many posts that address the need to use water with the utmost respect.

Now back out to the garden to fill in empty spots with some pepper seedlings.
Hope you're enjoying your day!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Planting, Rhubarb, and Radish Sandwiches

You know summer is here when you bite into your first radish sandwich.

Have a four day weekend and boy do I need it! It's the perfect thing to gear up for a high octane end of another school year. And what a weekend it is! It's really warm, in the mid 80's. Perfect for that traditional Memorial Day weekend of garden work. Because of this heat I've decided to take the remay covering off of the bed of radishes and greens.
This picture was taken about a month ago. This is one of the tunnels I took down today. This remay is a bit heavier than what I've used in the past and I was told it can cause what's underneath to heat up which I don't want since I have cool season greens under it. I put it up as a flea beetle barrier. It didn't protect from flea beetles perfectly but the radishes that grew under the remay, while full of little holes from those dang flea beetles, don't look half as bad as those not grown under the remay. Since the leaves of the unprotected radishes are almost totally eaten I can only guess that flea beetles love the first "leaves" aka the cotyledon. These are not true leaves but are "seed leaves" or structures that house lots of nutrients to get the plants going. So losing them is never a good thing. In the row of radishes not covered by the remay the leaves are almost totally gone. I doubt they will make it. I just need to figure how to keep the flea beetles out next year. I think I'll try moving the radishes and kale to the extreme other end of the garden. The kale under the remay and the kale outside the remay all look the same; horrible! It appears flea beetles love kale as much if not more than they do radishes and pak choy!
The photo above shows new radishes coming up. You can see the massive flea beetle damage. These seedlings were planted 2-3 weeks after the ones below. The ones below were also covered with the remay hoop:

The radishes were so thick that I had to thin them. I got enough radishes for a few sandwiches for lunch :) I snipped a few herbs that are growing such as sage, thyme, chervil, chives, garlic chives, spearmint, and oregano to mince up and mix with some local butter. A thin layer of herb butter on some good bread along with a thick layer of sliced radishes and you have the very best first garden sandwich of the season.
Now put the two pieces of bread together and voila! Radish sandwich:

Last night I made a rhubarb strawberry crisp. I had 1 bag of frozen strawberries left from last summer and freshly picked rhubarb from the garden. It came out great. Here's the recipe:
This came from
3 cups strawberries, halved
3 cups rhubarb, chopped
½ cup honey (I also added a bit of maple syrup)
Mix together thoroughly and place in an 8”x8” ungreased pan

½ cup flour
½ cup rolled oats (I also added about 1/3 cup chopped pecans)
½ cup brown sugar (or a bit more, to taste)
¾ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
1/3 cup butter
Mix until crumbly, sprinkle over fruit mixture and bake at 350° for 40 to 50
minutes, until golden.
Opt- serve warm with vanilla ice cream
PS - This didn't even last 24 hours in my house :)

After the heat of the day I went out and planted pumpkins, summer squashes, and cucumbers. The mosquitoes which were the size of pterodactyls and with appetites to match chased me inside. That is a first! And I won't even discuss the number of ticks my very loving husband has pulled off of me this year; another first. But no...we aren't experiencing the effects of climate change. But don't get me going on that topic!!

That's it for now. Hope you are enjoying your Memorial Day weekend.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mulching and Asparagus

Laying down newspaper and straw for pathway mulching.

Mulching the paths of the garden is not my favorite garden chore but it's one that makes me feel really good when I'm done because it makes the garden look so nice. When The paths are finished being mulched you see a path of straw. You don't see the newspaper (for the most part). The newspaper is to kill out any weeds that are there by cutting of the source off their food supply...aka sunlight. The main purpose of mulching the rows is to keep weeds down. As the plants get larger inside the beds I will mulch them too with a combination of compost and straw. I don't ever use hay! Hay is full of perennial grass seed. Straw is full of seed as well but it's annual seed. So as the season progresses I'll see grass (oats) coming up but I'll yank them. And if I miss some it's no big deal; they will die back over the winter.

I say never yet last year I did use hay for the paths. A friend gave me about 10 bales of really old hay so I used it. It wasn't old enough! Weeds from the hay were already beginning to take hold big time. After a week of rain the rain barrels are full and the weeds are really visible.

Last year I didn't mulch the strawberry bed because the runners had taken root all over the bed. We had great strawberries but this year, the 5th year of the bed, the old strawberry bed is beyond hope. As I tried to free it today from the witch's grass I found myself pulling up as many strawberry plants as I did weeds. So that didn't go so well. Good thing I planted a new bed this year. But I can tell it's going to be too small. Only 30 plants. I will dig up runners from the old plants and replant them next weekend. Next weekend is a 4 day Memorial Day weekend!! I can't wait!

I LOVE Sweet Woodruff during the weeks of late May/Early June

Cutting Asparagus

This is the first year I've been able to cut the asparagus. It's the third season of this bed. I had another bed for a few years but it was in too much shade so I started this three years ago. To be honest I'm surprised by the purple color. We are eating these tomorrow for dinner so we'll see how they taste. One thing I noticed was that the taller asparagus that got by me were tough to cut but the ones that were just 5 or 6 inches tall were so tender. I bet these will taste great.

A few herbs that we've been enjoying are chives and chervil. YUM!! I love them both on eggs in the morning. I also made a sorrel soup that was pretty good. I'll post that recipe later.

This week we are suppose to have another week of unsettled weather. In between showers I'm hoping to get under the remay hoops and look at the radishes and kale. Each time I've peeked I've seen a ton of flea beetles. That's disappointing as the reason I put them up was to provide a barrier against flea beetles! They do such a number on my radishes and kale. I'm beginning to think the flea beetles emerge from the soil. If that's the case then why would these remay row covers be recommended to provide a barrier against flea beetles? I'll have to check into this some more.

Well, that's it for now. Happy late spring gardening!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Got Rain? Save it in a Rain Barrel

The most important design part of your rain barrel. The site linked below explains a few great reasons to build a rain barrel and gives directions for building one. Also tips on how to connect rain barrels. Excellent design.

I thought this was a a good time to post this since it's raining here and it's suppose to rain all week. We just want to collect all this water to use later on when it's gets dry. Here's a great video clip on why and how to build your own rain barrels. Give it a try.

Building a rain barrel

Also here's an older post from June 24th that goes into more details about rain barrels:
Since it's a bit wet outside it's the perfect time to spend indoors building your very own rain barrel(s).

For those of you in areas of the country that need the water, enjoy the rain. (although I know some parts of the country have had way too much)

PS - Since we're on water; look at this site from the National Gardening Association that has some great and simple things we can do to conserve water while gardening:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mid May and Loving My Cold Frame

Lilacs are in full bud.

I woke up this morning feeling quite funky. Didn't really want to do a darn thing. I forced myself to go out to the garden and it's just amazing how much better I felt! The garden is really a magical place. It works for funky moods every time. What would we do without our gardens?!

Besides lilac blooms, dandelions and plum tree are also blooming. Daffodils have been gorgeous for a few weeks, tulips are beginning to open, blood root flowers have come and gone, violets everywhere, chives are ready to open up, and lavender is coming back. I list these observations because if my timing with the cold frame goes well I want to make note for future years.

I moved the cool season plants out of the cold frame and took some seedlings from under my grow lights that are a bit more tender and put them in the cold frame. Out went the broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, parsley, pak choy, Chinese cabbage, and kale. Here's a pic of what came out:
Days have been in the 50's-low 70's with eve's in the 40's so I've been opening the frame each day and closing it each eve. I planned on having this be the first eve these plants are out all night but to be honest I'm rethinking this plan due to purplish leaves on my broccoli and predicted cool eve temps. This isn't the first time I've seen purplish leaves on my broccoli. Actually just about every year my broccoli gets purplish leaves. I just saw on one internet site that cool evening temps can cause this. But I've also read that purple leaves usually mean P and/or K deficiency. But just in case it's the cold I'm thinking I'll put them back into the cold frame the next few nights as night temps will remain in the 40's. Well that's a pain. Maybe I'm jumping the gun a bit? I haven't moved tomatoes out yet or peppers. Although I did take one pack of tomatoes out just to see how they do. But I have to say this cold frame has been a wonderful way to harden these plants off and one of the best investments we've made (second to our garden cart). Having the cold frame sure beats carrying plants outside and back inside each day in an effort to harden them off. This is also the first year I've started plants under grow lights and these plants look as good as anything you'd get at a greenhouse.

Here's what I moved into the cold frame today, nasturtium, leeks, Mexican sunflower, a few basil and tomatoes and some spearmint I bought at a greenhouse:

Now I'v got more room under the grow lights for the seeds I planted last week for FEDCO. Basically some peppers and broccoli. Here's the peppers:

My tomatoes are so big I'm actually concerned because they are beginning to look leggy. I had to take them out from under the lights because they were just too tall. I did notice that when I took them out from under the lights they quickly became leggy. I pinched the tops off today. Took about 6" off the top of each one. I'm hoping they will get a little bushier. Here's a picture after my pinching:

I spent the day digging up my perennial garden. This is the second day I've spent doing this. I've moved all the non-edible flowers that I love and can't part with into one bed and now have 2 beds that will basically be devoted to edible herbs and flowers. In one bed I transplanted chives, garlic chives, oregano, french tarragon, chervil, and thyme and seeded some cilantro. I moved all my sage plants to the border of the cold frame. And now have one bed clear and ready for annual edible herbs and flowers such as basil, dill, calendula, nasturtiums, more cilantro, and parsley. I need to decide what to do with all the lemon balm I moved out. It was taking over an entire bed. I use a lot of lemon balm and spearmint all summer for herb teas so I do need it. I may dig up my bed of black raspberries that I don't like and put the lemon balm there. Here's a picture of chives. Love chives!

The rain has come. We need it. The gardens are dry, the rain barrel is empty, and I'm sick of carting water up to the new strawberry bed I put in.

Enjoy your spring gardening season. There really is nothing quite like it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May Day Brings Spring, Finally

This weekend was the first real "spring" weekend. Temps in the 50's and 60's. A glorious weekend. Began the weekend at the FEDCO Annual Tree Sale. Picked up my potatoes and onion bulbs that I ordered a few months back. This year I'm going to be field testing some peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower for FEDCO. I'm pretty excited about this. A brand new experience for me. They've all been planted and are sitting indoors as they prepare to sprout. While at FEDCO I also got a peach tree, some more horseradish root, and a bunch of strawberries. I've got a strawberry bed that has been producing delicious strawberries for 3 years now. Last year I noticed the berries getting quite a bit smaller and also weeds trying to take over the bed and this year the weeds appear to be winning. Rather than fight it all I will plant a new strawberry bed in the upper garden. I'll pick off the flowers this year as that's what you do in the first year of strawberries (it sends energy back down to the roots making the plants stronger). We'll pick from the old patch one more summer while the new patch settles in and then we'll till the old patch under next year.

Two weeks ago when I put in the greens, roots crops, and peas I put some hoops of floating row covering cloth over the greens and roots that flea beetles love, namely radishes, kale, and pac choy. One concern I have is that they will make it too hot under them. Those are cool season plants. I'm willing to give this a try as those darned flea beetles do a number on my plants every year. I have more trouble with them than any other bug...well maybe not stink bugs. Here's a photo of one hoop. You can see the weed infested strawberry bed in the background.

Last weekend I also began to clean up in the flower/herb garden near the house. I'm slowly going to replace quite a bit of the ornamental flowers with herbs for cooking and dyeing fiber. I'm hoping to sell herbs this summer. We'll see. Of course there are some flowers that just have to stay. Such as my roses, dianthus, butterfly bush..and I'm sure there are others that haven't even come up yet. I set up my cold frame near the house and have decided that this will be a permanent spot. I will just have to get another one built for the veggie garden. It's working beautifully! As my seedlings I've started indoors get bigger and need more room I take the cool season seedlings and move them into the cold frame. Working like a charm and giving me more room under the lights for the tomatoes, peppers, basil and such. Here's a picture of the cold frame with things like spinach, lettuce, kale in it.
These cool season crops have also been directly sown in the main garden. We'll see which do better. I don't know about you but for me the direct seeded stuff always seems to do best. But maybe this cold frame will change that.

Garlic is up; easily 2 inches tall. Peas, lettuce, radishes, and spinach are just pushing up through the soil.

That's all for now. No real topic to discuss just a quick update. But I do feel a "sludge compost" posting coming soon.

Happy Spring and Have Fun Planting!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

8 Short Films About 8 Maine Farms

Watching these short films about 8 very different Maine farms drives home the message of the importance of supporting our local farms. The films are beautiful! You can even watch the films at the website below and for free!!! Whether from Maine or from away they are a visual treat.
Now go out and support your local farmers. Buy local produce, milk, and meat products.

Enjoy nutritious, delicious, local, organic food,

Why I Love our Local Cooperative Seed Company, FEDCO

One Aisle in the Seed Section of FEDCO Seeds in Waterville Maine

I finally went to FEDCO to get the seed I ordered online a while ago. I should have gotten it a month ago but never seemed able to make it there early enough. I could have paid the shipping but I LOVE going to FEDCO. It's just the best little seed company ever. I love everything about it. First of all it's a seed cooperative. Just look at this motto on their "about us" page - "The cooperative ethic recognizes that we are all in this together. What is good for our managers should be good for our workers and good for our customers and vice versa." How can you go wrong with thinking like that? There is no one owner. Actually the consumers and worker members are the owners. I believe FEDCO began around 1978.

FEDCO specializes in cold hearty seed that will grow healthy plants in our cold climate. Their selection never fails me. I have luck with all their seed year after gardening year. While I've used seed from other organic companies I keep coming back to FEDCO. The seed, prices, and customer service can't be beat. I know several folks who work at FEDCO and I'm sure that's part of what I like about visiting. I love my annual trek to visit them. Look at this note on my seed order!
LOVE it!

If you've never had the pleasure of reading through one of their catalogs (they have catalogs for seed, trees, tubers, bulbs, and organic supplies) during a cold wintery snowstorm you just must order their catalogs and give them a try. You'll be in for a treat. The humor throughout the catalogs is sure to cause you a few chuckles.

You can visit their website by going to: or just go to their seed page here:

Time to start some of the seeds I just brought home. I'm calling it close!
Happy planting!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

First Peas and Spinach Are In AND Dino Kale

These lovely little yellow flowers were covered with tiny honey bees all afternoon

Beautiful day today in the mid 50's. Sleet and freezing rain predicted for tomorrow.

The saying goes, "Peas in on Patriots Day." That's what MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) says. Planted peas and spinach today so I'm a day late. But figuring we had a garden covered in snow just a week ago I figure we're doing OK. Last year and the year before the peas were popping up through the soil right about now. So it feels late even though it's really not. I'll wait another week or so and get a second planting in. This weekend I'm going to plant a first planting of radishes, carrots, beets, chard, and lettuce as well as some more spinach and who knows what else.

Tomatoes, basil, peppers, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, dill, cilantro, cabbage, brussel sprouts seedlings are all doing well indoors. The only thing that didn't come up was the swiss chard. The spinach, broccoli, and lettuce in the cold frame are not looking great but they're still alive. The broccoli and cabbage look better than the spinach and lettuce.

Going to FEDCO to finally pick up my seed order. Note to self; pay the shipping next year. I'm also going to get some hoop wires and floating row cover material so I can put the plants that flea beetles love under it. In particular the radishes, pack choy, and the new "dinosaur" kale (Lacinato Kale - Brassica oleracea) seed I bought. I hear that flea beetles love that stuff. Who knows I may just put all the greens under the hoop. I also learned that greens grown under a hoop or in a hoop house are very tender and delicious if cut and eaten young. I did not know that! We had a taste testing at my school the other day. Barrels Community Market sponsored a greens taste testing. They brought in that dino kale, beet greens, and swiss chard. Each kid got a nice leaf or two of each and then voted on their favorite. Can you believe a bunch of 10 and 11 year olds were eagerly eating greens with nothing on them!? I was very pleasantly surprised. Beet greens won hands down in 4th grade and the dino kale won the taste test in the 5th grade. I must say they were the best beet greens I ever ate. And I loved the dino kale. They were the most tender greens I've ever eaten. All grown locally, organically, and in a hoop house. Hoop convert!

One more thing...garlic. As always I planted garlic in the fall. Covered the bed with a good layer of straw. Now I see some garlic spikes coming up through the mulch and I can't remember if I'm suppose to remove the mulch or keep it there. I read through my organic gardening book and no guidelines there. I also have some old articles from MOFGA newsletter and nothing about mulch there either. Then I checked online and found that leaving the mulch is recommended unless the mulch is getting in the way of the garlic spears from poking through. If that happens move the mulch away from each garlic plant a little so they can shoot up. But mulch will help keep weeds down (good thing since garlic hates weeds) and moisture in. So I'll double check my garlic and be sure they are all coming up. I will leave the mulch in place.
Happy "real" spring! Be sure to plant a new variety of greens and enjoy!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's All About the Soil

Great stuff BUT not for seed starting. I notice that the top appears moist even mossy looking when in fact it is bone dry. Spoke with Coast of Maine folks and they said this is a great potting soil but due to the compost content it can be a bit too heavy for seed starting. Also due to compost ingredients it isn't sterile. So you'd need to be careful if using it for seed starting.

If ya want great plants ya gotta have great soil. Simple as that. If it was only that simple! We can make this idea, that it's all about the soil, as complicated as we want or as simple as we want. There are people who spend their whole careers studying soil and compost, many of them farmers and gardeners. I know I don't understand all there is to know about soil and all its components but I do understand that soil is one of the most important factors to healthy plants and thus gardens. If we want good soil then we want soil that is full of compost aka: gardeners' gold. Compost is everything! If you remember that and you keep adding compost to your soil you will have a great garden. I promise. Well, you have to have water and sunshine too!

To see how easy or difficult it is to find out what some of the benefits of compost are I Googled "the benefits of compost". Wow, quite a number of sites dedicated to just this topic. Just on the first site I found that compost helps plants retain water while at the same time allow water to drain. Compost has many beneficial microorganisms (and we LOVE soil microbes!). Compost adds nutrients plants need, it improves aeration of soil so roots can grow and breath, and using compost means less or no need for chemical fertilizers. I've been gardening for over 30 years and have never used a chemical fertilizer or herbicide or pesticide. It can be done and is way better for you, your family, your soil, and the environment in general.

When we first moved into our home 11 years ago there was a garden way out back. The previous owner had gardened there for 40 years. I tried with all my might to garden there and couldn't. Nothing would grow. There was not an earthworm in sight! I poured truck loads of compost on that soil and nothing. This info isn't to contradict all I just said but rather to support the notion that if you pour chemicals all over your soil - good luck getting the soil back. I'm sure it can be done but it would have taken me a lot more of everything. I instead moved my garden spot. The idea of eating anything from that soil ... well let's just say I felt it was not a good idea.

I moved the garden to a new spot. The very first year I had a garden. A wonderful, productive garden. And this was done with about a 2-3" layer of compost and composted manure. Earthworms galore!

Lucky for me I found the product shown in the photo above to use with my seedlings. It's a great organic and local mix. There are quite a few mixes that are made by this Maine company. To learn more about this mix and others from Coast of Maine compost products go to:

Transplanted most of my seedlings which seem to be doing fine with the above mix. But I do notice I have to watch them closly.
Spinach and lettuce. I have 2 of those pots for each. One of each will go out into my small cold frame today. We'll see how that goes. The other will stay in my sunny window.

I save these milk jugs for tomato transplants. We want lots of roots and as much of the stem into the soil so the stem can also develop more roots. Roots baby!

Cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts. I HATE brussel sprouts but my daughter loves them. These are for you Erin! I also have an extra pot of these for the cold frame. Again, we'll see.

These peppers and basil haven't been transplanted yet. No "true" leaves yet. These "leaves" are what are called cotyledon. They act kind of like the yolk of an egg, providing the nutrients until the true leaves appear. You can see the true leaves of the seedlings in the other pictures. Those leaves look like what you visualize when you think of that specific plant. (There's also some dill over on the right and spinach way in the back)

Hope you've started at least one plant from seed so you can experience the absolute fun of watching an organism grow from such a tiny spec.

Happy Spring!
PS - Great post from Renee's Garden Blog on soil - the April 4th post-

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sprouts Are Up

Just a few pics of some seedlings that have sprouted.

Our rigged grow lab.



Tomatoes are up too.

I want to put some of the spinach and lettuce out in the cold frame when it gets just a little warmer. Just to see how it goes.

That's it for now. Sure is cold and windy! And this follows of week of snow on Monday and little squalls and showers on Friday.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy First Day of Spring '11 and First Seedlings Planted

First things first...Happy Spring!! The first day of spring in Maine is always so welcome. This year is no different.

Today though is just a quick journal post. As we enter the middle of maple syrup season I got around to seeding some seeds. A list:
To go into the cold frame as soon as all the snow melts:
Buttercrunch lettuce, Typee Spinach, Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Italian Parsley,

Then for the garden,
Early Jersey Cabbage, Calabrese Broccoli, Broccoli Romanesco (although I may put one of each of these broccoli into the cold frame too), Brussel Sprouts (yuck! I hate brussel sprouts...these are for my daughter), sweet basil, dill, peppers: 2 kinds of sweet and one hot - Sweet Chervena Chushka Bulgarian Peppers, and Jimmy Nardello's Sweet Peppers. Czech Black Hot Peppers) and some tomatoes: Federle Paste Tomatoes Black Krim Russian Tomatoes, Mark Twain Tomatoes, Italian Heirloom tomatoes, Garden Peach Tomatoes, and for cherries: Sun Gold (YUM!) and SuperSweet 100's.

I forgot to plant the Kale. I will get to it this week.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Late Spring and Online Garden Design and Planning

Patiently Waiting for Garden Season to Begin

As I sit watching a late spring snow and prepare to collect sap from some maple sap buckets I find myself, like many other gardeners, counting down the days to spring planting. Many of us have already ordered seed from wonderful seed companies. Others wait to go to the local Agway or such to get seeds. My absolute favorite seed and garden supply company is a small homegrown company right here in Waterville Maine. FEDCO Seeds, Trees, Tubers, Bulbs, Organic Garden Supply. If you haven't checked them!! You can find them at: They have the best seeds (and more) for the best prices. Early May is their annual tree sale which is a must not miss event. It's usually the first week in May.

Here's a fun site to explore. It has a fun to use garden design/layout template. As you move veggies,herbs,flowers into your garden the planting and care information is listed below.

And this gives last and first frost information for each state: Says for my area May 12th is our estimated last frost date. I haven't started any seeds yet but plan to start a few things for the cold frame soon. I got a small cold frame last year and want to see if I can get a jump start with some cool season/cool weather loving greens such as lettuce and spinach. I'm thinking of some cilantro too since that's a cool loving herb. I know some folks begin gardening during the winter months or garden under hoop houses all winter but I've never done that so this is new for me. I'll start small and see how it goes for me. Isn't gardening great!? Always new things to try.

Fun stuff!! So check it out and have fun with your garden plan and seed/supply choosing and purchasing.