Friday, July 31, 2009

Web Resources....must bookmark

Here is a list of links that I think are great places to learn a lot

FoodRoutes - Where Does Your Food Come From? Good to wonder, better to know!

Eat Wild Interesting info

Composting 101 - How to Make Compost Everyone needs compost!

Search - LocalHarvest find local foods

PlantFacts Searchable database

Master Gardener GardenNotes Colorado info in pdf....a great FREE resource

univ ext pubs fruit info for Missouri

Geek Stuff:
I will be updating with more links soon. But these are worth reading. I am putting all of them in my google bookmarks! :) Looking into all that google has to offer is worthwhile. It can save much frustration, time and money....if you learn to use the tools that Google provides for free.
If you still "hate google" try learning about how to use it, first.Google Tutor: Tutorials and Tips for Google Users is a blog like page of info...
Google Shortcuts: Introduction - Google Guide And I hope that it teaches a lot of people how valuable a web tool they have invented and dominated MicroCorp with. I hope they succeed. Google has so many tools for free, it is worth checking out, despite my dogmas! ;)
Google Chrome is my browser of choice, Blogger is a Google Blog, Picasa Web Albums, for Photo Sharing (that is user friendly!) Bookmarks, Docs, Reader......etc. etc. etc. and it is all Free, all accessible from ANY computer, and easy to use and understand, for anyone...not just us geeks!
Try googling google, and see what you can read about it, or follow one of my links above to learn more, then download and install them for yourself....they are extremely handy...and being as disorganized as I am, it really helps me keep my web info where I can always find it.
Google has their own tutorials and help sections, and I will not add insult to injury by giving you that link, since it is on any google page. But I have to continue my obsession with Google, and "Chrome that never crashes", written so intuitively by geeks of my own Gen.....I always tell everyone to use Google and I also recommend Chrome (which I hear is not only a browser but an OS...) Non-geeks can take my word, it's a great browser and makes flock and mozilla look like IE.....ewwww!!!!!

So there is a current list, and there is more to come!

Garden Books

I thought it was somewhat important to list some of the gardening books that I really value.  I love reading about gardening as much as the act of gardening itself!  And I spend a good amount of time in late winter brushing up on my favorite reads.
Since I am not supremely organized, I will try my best to make it a readable list!!

Must Reads:
The book I reread every late winter is: The Vegetable Gardener's Bible By Edward Smith.  I like the way this book is written, and the approach that he takes to organic raised beds. The latter half of the book is a veggie encyclopedia that gives a lot of information in an easy to read format. (the link above has Amazon's search inside feature, which is nice to see it if you plan to buy online, you can still "thumb through" it) If I had to recommend only one book to someone about home veggies it would probably be this one, since all the basics are represented and it just gives you a really great place to start. I am confident that a beginning gardener could use this book and have a successful first harvest. I think that there is information that even seasoned and experienced growers can use, and if nothing else, entertain their thoughts on some of Mr. Smith's ideations.

Another really well-read book around here is: Fruits, Nuts and Berries for the Home Garden by Lewis Hill. This is such a great resource for me, because my real passion is in fruits....I like veggies, but I LOVE fruit. Especially strawberries, grapes and apples. This is a great book that really taught me some of the horticultural principals that I garden by. Like "little tree, big hole" and so many great tips and tricks of the trade that I learned in the introductory chapters...that this is one of my all time favorites and would replace immediately if stolen (although I refuse to loan it out!)  I had read this book at least half a dozen times before ever planting my first fruit.  I absolutely adore it!  Mr. Hill has a friendly approach to his writing style that is endearing.  His wife also has recipes at the end of the book, and her own cookbook, also published by Storey.

In that title and a few others, there is reference to Stella Otto's: The Backyard Orchardist Which  is also a good book. It is well organized and concise.  the information is a decade in a half of personal experience and is the winner of several literary awards.

If I had to chose only one fruit book, it'd be, the Lewis Hill book, and I would get some of the technical info from Otto's book online...(Google).  I like both books, but really became attached to the Lewis Hill book, as I have had it for almost 10 years and it is full of highlights and plant marker bookmarks!

Lewis Hill has another great book that I would consider super informative, it's called Secrets of Plant Propagation . It starts from seeds to grafting and even mentions tissue culture. It is a great place to start amateur plant multiplication projects. Also well written and just really like books by that Publisher. (Storey)  This is a great introduction to commercial reproduction of plants, from a more "hobbyist" perspective.  You can take the information and run with it, and possibly become a very successful beginning nursery-man or woman.

Some new additions to my library that I have really been enjoying are:

It isn't exactly and fully explanitory in every subject, but it is really well written, and gives a little bit of info on a lot of subjects, so it is, again, like the others, very useful to get you a good base of knowledge. I really enjoy the seasonal garden pictures and the authors representation of what he would do with a one acre, or five acre parcel to sustain a family. There are sections on nearly any topic from animal husbandry to wine making and beer brewing.  It covers such a vast range of interests, but at the same is well-rounded and cohesive.  It is a very useful book to anyone wishing to become more self reliant. I would also love to add his book: The New Self Sufficient Gardener to my library when I can.

The Four Season Harvest and The New organic Grower by Elliot Coleman are really informative reads, I think they are a really important addition because of the technique he employs in growing food year round. He is an inquisitive and instinctive gardener, and both books are really great.  Many people view Mr. Coleman as a leader in the Organic Market Farming world.  He is a role model for soil stewardship and eco farming practice.  Many new growers follow his advise religiously, as his successes make it invaluable to us all, the common sense practices he employs.  He has a newer release, I believe; called The Winter Harvest Handbook that I have heard many growers talk about as well.  These titles have been in the top 10 of most recommends since I began reading about the topic over a decade ago, and the titles are holding strong.  If you don't read them, you will regret it when you hear them named over and over in organic food production discussions.  Wonderful books, and he seems like such a great guy!

Encyclopedic resources:
I was given a copy of Rodales encyclopedia of organic gardening and it has a lot of good info when you just want one concise entry on a subject, or plant. It isn't something I have read cover to cover but close! I also have The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control.  This is a book I probably should have bought a long time ago, it is the handbook of what is wrong in the garden.  Organic methods of limiting pests and disease.  It is crucial to know what you may be up against.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a serious addiction to Google and Amazon.  I rely on them daily.  Most of the time excessively!  I have a super long amazon wish list, that is primarily books on a wide range of topics, including gardening and cooking.  I love that I can find information with Google and download PDF's of charts and data from my area at my university extension website and those of other states as well.  The internet, is the bane of many people's existence, but it is (sadly enough) the center of my world.  I sometimes preach to my friends and family that the internet is such a wonderful place, where every idea becomes virtual reality and that any person can become a scholar, with infinite resources of reliable knowledge if you chose to seek it out and make informed decisions about your sources.  I am happy to be of the generation that helped to make the WWW what it is, and an individual who is able to implement it for my own personal betterment.  I thing, as all things are in life, the tools you use to be who you are or are to become, can be used for good or ill, it is always your choice.  The internet has found unending possibilities in it's usefulness, and it is up to us to ensure that those uses stay within the lines of reason and good will.

Happy reading to you all, and thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Here is my yellow squash, that I thought would never flower. I have been checking on them everyday, so they don't get too big....but they are about the same! But hey, at least I know if it is a zuchinni or a squash.
Here is a few Amish Paste. I really like their tear drop shape. they aren't booming in production like last year.
This is a HUGE cluster of Romas. I didn't get this kind of production last year and this particular plant is just REFUSING to be average! There 7-8 large tomatoes and a few new flowers dropping, which means MORE on this same cluster! If they ripened at the same time you would likely get enough sauce for at least one pizza! Maybe 2!

I am still just waiting for anything to ripen. I put in a few cucumbers in the potato bed, and some mesclun lettuces. I figure I will be pulling those taters out soon enough.....
This week I also sprayed the apples, and bluberries, and I fertilized the blueberries with hollytone. I am beginning to notice that the Elliot blueberries are the ones that show the worst symptoms of Chlorosis, and they have put on the least amount of growth and shown the least amount of improvement. I am remembering that they were the last varieties we picked, they were bearing fruit in their pots and they were scraggly and stunted to begin with....HMMMMM....this could be a sign of previous neglect....they were scattered in with random plants at Lowe's.......

still thinking on that one!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

picture update 2 of 2

This is "Martina's Roma". It was a volunteer in my cold compost pile from late last season, which looked so healthy growing in my compost, I dug them up and gave them their own row. I would consider them top performers this year, because they are a rich dark green and all four plants are LOADED DOWN with these pint sized beauties. I couldn't get a great pic of the whole "future crop" but, they look very determined to set some serious fruit this year.
I didn't seed them myself because I decided I wanted all indeterminate, Larger beefsteaks...and the Roma's really got crowded out last year, they just didn't put on the show that they are now...but these sure changed my mind!
They set fruit earlier, and ripen faster and will give me an early start on harvest. I will be planting them again, next year, thanks to these volunteers!
This is "Italian heirloom". As you can see it is a MONSTER tomato. I also grew these last year and they have some of the best flavor in a tomato I have EVER tasted, not to mention they are gargantuan! I have several "pounders" last year and that was what I had hoped for this year. But the Curled leafed tomato I mentioned in previous posts was the other half of the pair, and I pulled it and put it in the burn pile. The leaves stayed curled all day and all night, regardless of heat or water conditions, and once I noticed the neighboring plants were trying to curl, I ripped it out. So this is the lone "chumba wumba" tomato this year. :(
This is the Amish Paste.....longtime favorite of pretty much anyone. You can trust the Amish when it comes to heirloom veggies. They know what they are doing! This guy tastes about as good as the "Italian Heirloom" but is much smaller and has very little waste as far as seeds and juice. They make a great sauce, if not a bit pale. I have a tendency to pick pink tomatoes! But they just always taste so good!!!! Next year, taller trellis', for sure!
These are the melons.......I know, I can't believe it either! One week ago these were babies, barely bigger than transplant size, and now they are garden monsters! They have been relatively well behaved up until now, but I noticed that it is trying to grab on to my Roma's! That is a no-no...bad melon! As you can also see in this pic, a little leaf curl on that was near to the one I had to pull that was so stunted. Uh-Oh! :(

And last but not least, my very big, very happy squash with absolutely NO Flowers, and NO fruit.......but I have confidence that I will harvest something, someday! and this is just the plant to deliver. Usually people that grow more than one squash have to leave baskets full of them on a neighbors step, ring the bell and run!!! They just put off so much in a short time. I haven't grown any for several years, so I am pleased, at least, with the size of the plant, and my perfect placement for optimal growth! ;)- There is just enough room, now if only the other one had sprouted!!! Ha ha, but that is what I get for using OLD SEEDS!

Well, that is it for now....I wish there was more, but there is always next year. I admit, it is mid-July and I am already planning for next year. Plus I am hoping for a bumper crop of cucumber and leafy greens that are sprouting in the flats as I write......more on that soon!

picture update 1 of 2

this is leaf chlorosis on blueberry....this worries me because I read in blueberries, that iron deficiency can cause this. What causes iron deficiency??? The PH is too high, and therefore iron is unavailable. This is an early warning sign, and that is why I am monitoring closely and adjusting as best I can! Check out these links:
Here is a PDF Pamplet on Blueberries
And The Blueberry Bulletin from Rutgers U. in NJ and some Info from Michegan State
This is an aparagus fern that has apparently gone to berry. This is common on old varieties (that are open pollinated and have both male and female plants), but I planted Jersey Knight, and they are supposed to be an all-male hybrid. You can barely see the lowest berry is turning a sort of red color. I haven't decided what, if anything, I should do. I considered trying to grow the berries to give away or plant in any gaps in my bed. We'll see! :)
OOOOOHHHHH!!!!!!!! The strawberries are flowering!!! There is only 3 flowers, but I bet that is enough for little Audrey to get excited. I am assuming they are everbearing, since they are called "eversweet".....mmmmmmmmmm yummy!
And here are my beautiful lilies. There is a belladonna lily in the background (aka: naked lady) and my double bloom on this new stargazer. I can't eat them, but they sure are pretty! And they smell like heaven! I have decided lilies are in my top 10, maybe even top 5 plants, even though they have no purpose other than making me smile!!!! These also fit into my mmmmmmm! yummy! category, because they smell so so so so so good!

Weekly Update

Well, we did in fact eat those potatoes and they did, in fact, taste very good!! I used a few in mashed potatoes one night, and criss-cross potatoes another night and they were just dandy! :)
I have to admit, I am very pleased with myself on this potato project. I assumed that I would accomplish utter failure, but instead, success!
My main issues on this year's potato growing are my lack of information when I started. I have since read much more on the whats and whys of potatoes. The hilling process and alternative methods. I decided that in Missouri, I don't like the mulch method, because it really didn't lead to more tuber development at all. It harbored slugs as well. It wasn't really enough to support the plants either. So next year, mulch will simply stay mulch and not an alternative to soil.
The quality of the potatoes surprised me. as I scrubbed them down and sliced them in half lengthwise I was taken aback by the utter lack of blemishes. Most garden veggies have SOME blemishes.....but my little taters had none. No scabs, no holes, no black hollows.....just pure white flesh.This is surprising from all that I have read of them, these plants prefer a slightly acid soil, to reduce scabbing and other diseases. I know for a fact that the majority of my garden is right at neutral, and the only sulfuring I did was dusting the cut pieces of seed potato! Maybe next year I may not be so lucky, so I will try to acidify the new plot to some extent, just in case this has all been a wonderful case of beginner's luck!
But, the few spuds that I saved for bakers were of medium size, not tiny but not especially huge. And it was just one of those moments in a budding gardener's life, where you are just plain proud. Good Job! I say, and pat myself on the back! Not too shabby! I am tempted to steal more new potatoes but I still have 5 or 6 lbs. of store bought russets in the pantry and really no need for mine.....I just really, really enjoy digging them up! And I am just happy about the results this time!
Next year, flea beetle control is going to have to be on the top of my list. I have not even attempted control outside of hosing them off, and I guess I figured that they weren't bothering the tubers, so it's no big deal.....BIG MISTAKE!!! They will multiply and travel. I have seen them on the hops, the peppers and tomatoes, and I definitely don't want them chewing my ripe fruits!!! I am thinking hot pepper spray....I will have to check into that soon.

OK, well, I have pictures on the way.....the melons are very tall now, and the tomatoes will be ripening in a week or two (I hope!) So I will update shortly on those photos. The blueberries are about ready to be un-potted and rooting, and the apples will need yet another spray to keep the CAR at bay! Wish me luck....and all the best to all of you!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How to Put in a Raised Bed for Blueberries

Today I started, and have almost finished putting together a raised bed for the blueberries we purchased months ago. They have been residing all this time in a thick bed of chopped and moistened oak leaves to keep them from drying out in their measly 1 gallon pots. I had removed each bush from their pots and loosened and moistened the potting mix, then amended it with my own mix of peat moss and fertilizer. I was hoping to counteract any raising PH level that might occur from water leaching since they were at the nursery. (I use the term Nursery VERY loosely, they were purchased in the garden center at Lowe's.....could be worse I suppose, I could have bought them at Wally-World!)
I have also sprayed them with a foliar spray of Iron. I noticed that the new growth is pale yellow-green. And I wanted to ensure that they did not have nutrient deficiencies. So I have been trying to make due, and keep them going "as is".

Today I mowed over my pile of oak leaves, bagged it up and moved it away to the compost heap (starting a new pile). Then I had to bust out the tiller. I left a layer a few inches deep of the chopped leaves and "duff" layer under the leaf bin and tilled it up. I then added my opened bag of peat moss, dusted the entire surface with sulfur and dumped a bag of soil acidifier in there. I then raked it all up to mix it in, and tilled it again. I added a full bag of peat and tilled some more. I wanted to be sure to thoroughly mix the soil with the peat and left over leaf mold.....and make sure that the amendments were thoroughly incorporated. I dug a few holes and popped the blueberries in the homes. I haven't removed their buckets yet, but only because I am letting the soil and amendments mellow and I may add compost, or other things before planting. I am trying to be patient, but I would like the job to be done! I busted my hump on this bed today. I probably put in 5 or 6 hours so far.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Garden Picture update





It grows a little every day!!!

It really seems like the broccoli grows everyday. It just keeps getting more and more Huge!

The tomato plants seem very healthy, all except one plant, that is curling it's leaves all the time, whether there is moisture or not. I am thinking about pulling it out, but I only have 8 plants and that will leave me with 7. It has a few fruits on it,but they seem to have stopped growing, they have been there a week and still are the same size. I have to admit, this plant has looked funny from the beginning. I am going to keep an eye on it a while longer, and then I may decide to pull it. We'll see.

Last night we pulled a tiny potato plant that had turned mostly brown. I think Mick was disappointed in the low volume of harvest, and the toughness of the potato. we pulled 4 decently sized spuds from one rather small plant. It gave me dreams about digging out huge potatoes and harvesting ripe tomato, but unfortunately that was just a dream!
I Know that I am supposed to allow the spuds to cure and let the skins harden for storage. I have my store bought bag of spuds on another shelf, and the home grown ones are lying on a paper towel. I have already tasted one spud from a previous plant I pulled out. It was about the size of the bottom tater above.......but I fried it and that really prevented me from tasting it's actual flavor. With these I would like to maybe just bake them, so we get the full flavor.
I am still wondering (very much) if I have made some critical mistake with fertilization if all my veggies (minus tomato) taste a bit off. Then again, I planted store-bought sprouted spuds, and that is a BIG NO-NO!

I will update, once I have tasted these little guys. I am promising myself I won't dig any more out until they are completely died back ...... and adding that soil late in the season, did nothing. Too little, too late! And I really don't quite get the whole mulch thing, spuds did not continue to grow all the way up the plant and they were always covered with straw, (if not the soil I added later). It helped to harbor slugs, and I had a hell of a time with flea beetles......hmmmmmm!!??!!
So, If I don't end up with a lot of food, I will know why.....but if I didn't have "food for thought" we would know that something went VERY, VERY wrong!

Until Next time! :)