Friday, October 29, 2010

Could Mother Nature please knock it off?

The sudden warm temperatures earlier this week have sort of put a damper on my planting plans.  Or rather it just screwed me up entirely.  The raspberry bushes are in and even pushing out a few last pieces of fruit.  I decided not to plant any arugula and spinach, because I was feeling too lazy to have to go and cover them up every night when the temperatures were quite low in mid-October.  Plus you know there would've been a night that I forgot and had to go outside in pajamas at midnight to cover them up (who am I kidding, I would've made my husband do it, he's from Wisconsin, he likes the cold).  Then this week, we had crazy warm temperatures - if I had planted the darn leaf lettuces a few weeks ago we would've been halfway to harvest rarely ever having to cover them. ugh.

Then the garlic became an issue too.  Garlic is planted in the Northeast in the fall, just like tulips, daffodils and other bulbs.  The sudden warmth and warming of the soil this week is not good for planting garlic, because it starts putting out too much top/green growth.  Normally the last week in October is the perfect time for planting garlic in Connecticut.  This time my laziness paid off, as if I had put it in last weekend as I had intended, the garlic may have been shot.  Next week the garlic has to go in for sure.

So the lesson learned here is? Um, I'm not really sure... laziness is good some of the time?
I know what you're thinking that raspberry bush is a little scraggly.  Here is the cool thing about the newer varieties of raspberries, they get cut down every winter (more about winter pruning later, in the winter, when there is nothing else to write about) and put out fruit on all new growth in the summer, this way the plants don't get humungous and take over your whole garden. Anyone who has wild raspberries growing in their yards knows what I'm talking about.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's 6 am on a Saturday...

I'm outside with the dog when I hear rustling in the woods that is definitely made by footsteps of something large, not a squirrel or a woodchuck.  It reminded me of this.

Anyone who has ever grown zucchini knows that they can get extremely large seemingly overnight.  This is the "weapon" used in the bear attack mentioned in the article.  Good thing the homeowner hadn't made zucchini bread yet!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


When I found this news article via The Lunch Tray - I was very upset.  What is the point of having students involved with growing their own produce if they aren't actually going to be able to eat it?  Something tells me that this is not something that is unique to Chicago.

Now if Chartwells, the food supplier, made the argument that the food coming in from school gardens was inconsistent, 10 pounds of tomatoes one day, then 2 pounds of peppers the next I could maybe see their point of not being able rely on veggies grown in the school garden.  But to suggest that the school gardens are using conventional pesticides and fertilizers is insulting to every parent and teacher, many of whom do this on a voluntary basis, that help organize and run school garden programs.  Does anyone know of a school garden that is using anything but compost to fertilize?  What school garden even has the money to buy fertilizer?  Most school gardens are funded by either grants or fundraisers.  They are using the money to buy only the complete essentials.  Pesticides are definitely not on that list.

What's worse is that Chartwells is purchasing conventionally grown produce as superior to the school grown.  Conventional produce is obviously way more "sprayed" than anything the school could grow as farmers have access to pesticides and fertilizers that homeowners and schools do not.  But somehow, that's better.  Is it just me, or is this completely backwards?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

done and done

Structure is complete...

Drip lines have been run, and my last minute change of adding another spigot has been accommodated.

Raspberry bushes were purchased at the feed store (seriously) and will be planted tomorrow.  Garlic is in my garage and goes in next week. 

Oh, and I did this in between... behold my canning masterpiece!

Everything ready...
Spicy Apple Chutney in the works

and it's done!

I couldn't be more pleased with myself.  Now who will be coming over for Thanksgiving leftovers with apple chutney?  If you're interested in canning I'd suggest the book  Put 'em up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton or just ask me, because now I'm an expert! (just kidding)

Monday, October 18, 2010

weekend madness

I hate it when a whole weekend goes by without getting my hands dirty.  Especially since now it's a bit of a sprint to the finish line to move perennials, plant bulbs and new shrubs before the weather gets too cold to bear.  Plus, the whole foliage thing is starting to kick into high gear, and I find myself doing a lot of staring.

The craziest thing that happened this weekend amongst the soccer, horseback riding and birthday party craze was apple traffic.  That's right, apple traffic.  Our no traffic light town is inundated with apple pickers taking advantage of the end of the season.  I've heard that Christmas tree season is worse, better remember to leave more time when trying to get to aforementioned activities.

I managed to squeeze in some time for a canning class at Sport Hill Farm with Sherri Vinton, local author and canning expert.  I have to admit that her book has been sitting on my shelf for several months, with me, totally intimidated and afraid to give it a try.  She made it look easy and (I think) later this week I'm going to give a shot.  More to follow on this...

Oh. And this also happened this weekend.  I would've posted pictures of the eating, but that just would have embarrassed everyone involved.

Once again, demonstrating that I do not have the proper lighting to take pictures in my kitchen.  Must get on that pronto!  Or after one of the eight million other things that needs to get done around here.

Friday, October 15, 2010


It's like an addiction in this country, but not one that's bad for you.  You can't go anywhere without seeing people carrying water bottles, can't go to any sort of store, event or gas station without being able to purchase it.  And well, water is good for your right?  It's good that people are drinking more water than ever.  Isn't it?  And if tap water is good, then bottled water is somehow even better, and more pure.

It's been years since it came to light that many of the most popular and available bottled waters are simply tap water.  I actually thought this might cut down on our population's consumption, but it hasn't seemed to even make a dent.  And while millions of people on our planet are denied access to safe and clean water, our thirst for a bottle with a snow capped mountain on the label has not been quenched.

I know what your first question is, because every time I get into a (let's call it) discussion with someone about bottled water they say, "and you've never bought a bottle of water, right?"  And the answer is, of course I've bought a bottle of water before.  Of course I've been caught someplace longer than expected with whiny hot kids that want a drink.  That's it though, it's the exception not the rule.  I don't buy cases of water at Costco for every day consumption.  I don't put out bottles of water when we have a party.  I do embarrass my kids and husband by making them take reusable bottles to school and work.  Really, it's not that much of an effort to make that happen, and the kids haven't gotten beaten up yet.

The video The story of bottled water has been making it's way around the internet and Facebook for some time now.  So chances are, you've probably seen it.

For Blog Action Day 2010 I thought I'd share with you this video.  It's from a campaign early this year, but I think it does the perfect job of getting the point across!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

lots of progress

Question of the Day- Why is reclaimed wood so ridiculously expensive?
Now that it's starting to look like something, I'm getting really excited.
Chicken wire on the lower portion to keep the little critters out.

There was a lot of backlash last year about people spending a lot of money to set up gardens vs. what the actual yield from such gardens is worth.  So let me clarify, it's not necessary to do things this way. This is just the way that I want it done, which will work into a larger design plan of the entire yard. If you think you don't have the space to have a productive veg garden, check this out.

"Easy Bloom" Update

In case you are following along (or if not and you need to catch up) I wrote last week about the Black and Decker Easy Bloom now renamed Plant Smart Digital Plant Care Sensor (that's quite a mouthful).  The sometimes irreverent and always entertaining ladies of Garden Rant have tested it out and posted their review.  Guess what?  It sucks.  So just get your hands dirty and figure it out people.  Especially you people in Sweden who are driving a ton of traffic to my blog everyday.  Who are you?

This picture has nothing to do with this post at all.  I took it, and I like it, so thought I'd share.  It's a Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum I don't remember which variety) if you care.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mystery Solved!

Colony collapse disorder mystery solved!

Um... just kidding.  Is anyone surprised at all by this?

UPDATE - I (well not me personally, but bloggers in general) have been verbally spanked by Linda Chalker-Scott of the Washington State University Extension Garden Professors Blog.  I admire the writing of this blog a lot, it's definitely for the plant nerds (myself included) who read my blog, and there are a few of you I know....

and we're off...

Today is day one of my little building project.  The beds have been laid out - and some really awesome and strong guys are doing the hard parts.  I'm just supervising.

Ripping out the turf - my most hated gardening chore.

Three-foot beds around the perimeter - not too far to reach across, but wide up to have climbers growing up the fence and something else planted either in front or below.

One of the nice things about starting from scratch is being able to have things exactly how you want them (or how much your budget will allow).  One of the great things about our new property is this mostly flat and out of the way spot which happens to get full sun all day.  Okay, that's not a coincidence.   During our house hunt I rejected at least 20 gorgeous houses because the property wasn't right, yes my husband is quite patient.

I was thinking this morning about how much my vegetable gardening has changed over the years.  Back before we had this kind of land, and back before I was involved with a large community gardening project everything I grew was in pots, on the decks of various houses and condos we lived in.  It's actually quite efficient.  If you hate weeding, growing veggies in pots is the way to go.  I wish I had pictures of them all, but this is one example of the production out of a 3x3 container (and this was back when my kids actually used to help).

A few weeks later, peas, cherry tomatoes, beets, carrots and spinach all sharing space

Now that vegetable gardening has become hip (the one and only time I have been ahead of a trend) there are so many fabulous and gorgeous new options - check this out, courtesy of Gardeners Supply

Swiss Chard, basil and nasturtiums (edible flowers) growing in a self-watering pot.  And no, that doesn't mean they actually self water.  These are so nice, I think I might have to order a few during the winter sale - just in case my new vegetable garden doesn't have enough space :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is it just me?

Gardening to me, is about as low tech an activity as it gets.  Most people enjoying gardening specifically because they can unplug from their everyday chaotic lives and just dig in the dirt and be creative right?  Okay, even if your idea of gardening is just keeping the yard and lawn just neat enough for a neighborhood barbecue or touch football game are computers really necessary?  Black and Decker seems to think so...

Behold the Plant Smart Digital Plant Care Sensor
This device will tell you if your yard is sunny (in case you can't figure that out yourself) and if you need to water (here's a hint, if it hasn't rained and you haven't watered then you need to).  Their website also mentions measuring soil fertility, however does not explain how or what it measures.  Knowing what I know about agronomy (excellent soil science professor to thank for that) I'm not really sure how it's possible for a sensor to measure soil fertility, it's just not how soil testing works.  

When Black and Decker first released this product it was called the "EasyBloom" and has since been renamed and rebranded.  Half of me wonders if there were some crazy lawsuits brought by people who's gardens didn't miraculously bloom easily with the use of this product.  But what I love best about their website is the assertion that, "the EasyBloom Plant Sensor helps any ailing plant AND gets you the garden of your dreams."  Wow, I guess I've been doing it wrong this whole time.  And really, could it get less realistic looking, as if this thing is going to blend in against your plants.  That is, unless you have fake plants (you are out there and I know who you are!).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Feeling so fortunate these days

When we decided to move to our new town, we knew we had chosen a small town with a long and rich agricultural tradition.  That made me happy.  The house was found, the deal negotiated and plans were made in the late winter.  We drove by what would be the kids new school to see it's location and were impressed.  It was a new building, only a few years old, and constructed to look like an old barn to reflect the history of the town.  Impressive, but not all that surprising.  Spring turned to summer, we moved, and went to register the kids for school, and boy were we shocked.  Across the entire front lawn of the school, was planted a large corn field.  Several of the other green expanses of lawn had been tilled and planted with broccoli, cabbages and pumpkins.

An agreement had been struck between one of the local organic farms (Sport Hill Farm) and the town for a lease of what was basically unused land.  The kids helped plant in the spring, and upon the harvest a percentage of the proceeds was donated back to the school for enrichment programs.  Sounds kind of perfect, huh?

This past week my kids and I were fortunate to help out the folks from Sport Hill... and even my kids who generally do not like to help me do this kind of work (they're spoiled, they've never known any different, planting and harvesting is not a novelty to them as it is to most kids) had a lot of fun.

Broccoli growing, with the school in the distance.

Loads of pumpkins, that will be sold at Sport Hill Farm and decorate the school for fall.

Searching for corn

Time to make reservations!

Just reconfirming what all of us already know... chefs are in agreement too!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It's Complicated

Did you see last year's movie It's Complicated with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin?  In the film, Ms. Streep's character plays a pastry chef with issues in her love life - but on the side she has the most unbelievable potager kitchen garden.  Boy, if I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me, "if I had a garden like that, I could..." or "if you lived with me and took care of it I could have a garden like that."

Well here's the thing, that garden wasn't real.  You can only have a garden like that with a full time staff and a greenhouse full of extra plants on hand to swap out anything that doesn't look perfect.  Sorry to burst your bubble.  Also who gardens in clothes that need to be ironed? And who stays that clean when they are gardening, where is the mud?

However, what you can have is a dirty, authentic yet still beautiful and productive vegetable garden.  Now is the perfect time to start planning a vegetable garden for next year.  If you wait until spring, then it ends up being rushed and does not end up the way you want it to.  Been there, trust me.  The fall is the perfect time to build beds, put up fences, and most importantly prepare the soil.  Starting this week the kitchen garden at my new house is going to be installed... pictures to follow.

The before shot... goodbye ugly grass.