Friday, April 29, 2011

it's payback time...

Remember this?  That was back when I had paying clients, who wanted me to design their gardens, or wanted me to design their gardens so they could tell me I was doing it all wrong.  The truth is, after 3 years of going to horticulture school to study design, I really didn't like it all that much.  For me, it's all about the plants.  Show me a new and exciting cultivar, and  I'm in heaven.  Propagation in my own garden, it's my nirvana (you can only guess the number of times I've told my husband I'm having a baby, and the sheer look of relief when he is realizes I'm talking about a plant baby).

Flash forward a few years, and I'm living on 3 acres and unable to care for all of it on my own (except for some of my precious perennials, no one is ever touching those, ditto for my veg garden)  so I've had to hire a landscaping company to handle some projects for me.  Now I'm someone's nightmare client - a lot of knowledge and not enough physical strength to make it all happen - oh, and I'm opinionated.  They hate me already.

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

procrastination central

Not really, just on the blogging front.  I've started about 6 different blog posts in the last week, and haven't finished a single one.

Last week the kids were on school vacation, (hello, no time for myself) and it was also the Passover holiday (lots of crumbs, trust me.)  The aforementioned left very little time for blogging, much less time for a coherent sentence to formulate in my brain.

Then Sunday, the weather took a drastic turn, it's finally feeling a little bit like spring.  With the long range forecast having night time temperatures no where near freezing (not that it couldn't still happen, fyi) it's time  to start direct sowing a whole bunch of stuff that should have been in weeks ago, swiss chard, beets (two of my favorites) dill, head lettuces, carrots, cilantro etc.  I'm also moving some of my transplants, from the basement into the light of day.

Oh and there was a little incident in my garden this past weekend that involved this guy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

spreading the love

I'm not usually one to shill for other websites (particularly one with big corporate money behind it) but I've come across two relatively new websites this week that I think are pretty awesome.

Home Farming by Triscuit (which means Nabisco/Kraft) is a great, starter website for anyone who is venturing into the world of vegetable growing, whether you are trying tomatoes in pots for the first time, or ripping up your whole yard (not advised, for the newbie).  They keep it simple, and are trying to build a community of "home farmers".  I've never thought of myself as such, and I worry that this term, which is at the moment cool and trendy, might be overdoing it a bit.  However, if it encourages people to grow their own, I'm all for it. I am also mindful though about what my friend and neighbor Sherri Vinton (author of Put 'Em Up) has to say about all this trendiness.

For the serious home growing, canning addict there is Homegrown.  Put together by the folks at Farm Aid, this is a no messing around website for people that are urban homesteading, running community gardens, and making major life commitments to growing.  It's not for everyone, but it's pretty cool to see real people, taking real risks to help better our planet.

All the cool kids are doing it... you know you want to!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

what's an organic mom to do?

So we had 2 tick incidents this past week in our house.  The first was last Monday, my son had a very engorged, and very stuck tick on the back of his neck, just under the hairline.  I figured, it happens, pediatrician said watch for symptoms, but otherwise let's just do a blood test in 4 weeks to be sure no lyme, etc.  Okay, no biggie.  Then two days later, when I was standing in the driveway talking to my neighbor, I noticed a very small (and only noticeable because I was wearing khaki pants) tick climbing up my leg.  I hadn't worked outside at all, had only come out of the house at all to walk down the driveway to the bus stop.  All of about 10 paces were not on a paved surface, yet somehow the tick had found me.  Two in one week, I (admittedly) started to panic a little bit.  Two in one week felt like one too many to me, when we still have a very long season to go and my family spends almost every good weather moment outside.

After making a few phone calls it seemed like I had a few options.  One, do nothing, be vigilant about checking and pray that no one get's Lyme disease.  Two, spray an organic approved botanical pyrethroid which is an insecticide (it will be killing many bugs, not just ticks) or three, spray a synthetic pyrethroid with the same killing effects.  Here is where the labeling and science get a little tricky and confusing, the two pyrethroids are essentially the same. One is made from an extract of chrysanthemums, so it's "natural"  it's OMRI listed which means it can be used on certified organic farms.  The other was created in a lab, but the way it behaves when applied is identical.  For the sake of clarity, pyrethroids in general are known throughout the industry as the least "toxic" of insecticides and are not in the same class or type as much better known insecticides like DDT, Diazanon or Imidacloprid (which is one of the suspected factors in colony collapse disorder, but is still widely used by many tick spray companies).  So would selecting the botanical pyrethroid be just a cop out to make myself or make others feel better?  Does choosing to spray go against everything I believe in?

The jury's still out, I've not made a decision yet.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011


If you live in the Northeast or many other parts of the country, you may like me, be battling white tailed deer.  Especially if you have a beautiful garden, they tend to like those best!  They take one or two bites every day, with the potential to defoliate an entire shrub, perennial, etc. over the course of a few days to weeks.  I've been battling the deer for years, and think I've gotten pretty good at it (see here).

So last summer we moved to a new house.  We live in a semi-rural area, with woods on two sides of us.  I know there are deer.  I've seen them on the mornings when I'm awake at some ridiculously earlier hour.  In the last few months or so I'm starting to find deer droppings in the back yard (which is completely fenced in to a height of 6 feet).  Here is the thing that most perplexes me though - there is not one shred of evidence that the deer have eaten a single thing.  Just to confirm, there are plenty of things they would like to eat in the backyard, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, etc. yet they haven't taken a single bite.  I have not taken any of my normal precautions (repellants, underplanting) because I haven't seen any evidence of need.  So why is it that they seem to just be "passing through" and not stopping to nibble - that is completely against their nature. Deer also tend to walk the same pattern every single day, but I'd bet they are only showing up here once in awhile, based on the infrequency of which I have to clean up after them.  My husband suggested that they somehow "know" that a serious gardener lives here, and might be waiting outside with a shotgun (just kidding bambi, I've been a vegetarian for 22 years, I don't intentionally kill animals).  I'm perplexed for the moment - although with all the edibles going in, I've already put in some calls to get some quotes to enhance our existing fence.  Do I take the plunge on a higher fence, as a precaution or wait it out?

UPDATE - Picked up deer droppings every day for the last 5, guess it's fence time!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

first in a very, very long list

With the sudden (thank goodness) change in the weather, I've got a ridiculous list of weather-related damage issues to deal with.  First on the list is attempting to save the dwarf Japanese Maple that is next to the pool.  So many people have these tiny trees - and they could not handle the amount of snow we got this winter.  The weight of 3-4 ft. of snow piled on them for months caused many to have breaks on major limbs.  While they are common, and easy to replace, they are also very expensive.  There are many plants that I can't save (remember this) but I think I might be able to work a little magic on this one.

All varieties of maple trees run sap in the spring, not just sugar maples.  So I'm going to attempt to have this tree "glue" it's limb back on. Utilizing the sticky sap that the plant makes when it converts starches stored in it's limbs over the winter into sugar.  It's going to need a little help though...

Using green nutscene twine I pulled the branch back into place.  It's not pretty looking, but once the tree leafs out, you won't see it at all.  Of course in the process of tying it up, I realized there was actually a second, smaller break on another limb, ugh.  So keep your fingers crossed that my wacky plan works!!

break #2

Sunday, April 3, 2011

pre-season round up

It's funny, every year I get the same questions (very often from the same people!)  Since there seems to be an upswing in my readership lately, thought I'd regroup on some much older posts.

Upside down tomato planters still seem to be all the rage - this is what I had to say about them in 2009.

Contemplating composting again this year?  See here for any easy way to get started.

Dealing with deer? Me too.  Here is what I do about it.

Heading out to plant some peas and leaf lettuces in a few minutes - yay!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Excuse the list format - but I've spent the last hour trying to figure out to get a really cool looking graphic of the weather forecast into my post.  My HTML challenged brain is just not having it.  There is a reason I'm really happy this morning, and this is it...

10-Day Forecast:
Mostly Sunny. 54 / 36F. Precip 20%%

Sunny. 56 / 40F. Precip 0%%

Rain / Thunder. 51 / 48F. Precip 80%%

T-Showers. 51 / 40F. Precip 50%%

Partly Cloudy. 50 / 37F. Precip 20%%

Partly Cloudy. 54 / 38F. Precip 20%%

Showers. 49 / 36F. Precip 40%%

Sunny. 52 / 40F. Precip 10%%

Mostly Cloudy. 54 / 42F. Precip 20%%

Mostly Cloudy. 57 / 40F. Precip 20%%

Updated: 4/2/11 6:09 AM EDT

Planting time (for cool weather crops) is finally here!!!!  I should clarify, planting time is here if you live in zone 6 in the Northeast.  If you don't know what zone you are in, check this out!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's Day

We were spared the worst joke of all, and the predicted snow did not happen.  Looking promising for some planting this weekend of peas, and salad greens.  Keep your fingers crossed.  In the meantime, transplants that were started last week are coming up nicely in the basement under the ugly florescent grow lights.

I hate having to do this part inside, but it's too cold even in the garage - my fingers were getting numb.
Who needs covers when you have saran wrap?
Lettuce in the rear, Romanesco in the middle and Swiss Chard in the foreground.

This is a horrible picture (damn that macro lens and florescent lights don't want to get along) but you can see on this heirloom swiss chard the beginnings of the different color stems and veins. 

Tomato seedlings should be started next week, but I'm going to take a gamble and wait a little longer.  The way this winter has been, I'm not convinced that we're done with the cold weather yet.  Ugh!

P.S.  Nobody tell my husband, but it was decided today (between me and a landscape architect friend) that we're going to add apple trees to our yard this year.  Four trees to be exact, two espalier, and two dwarf trees.  I'm practically giddy at the thought.  Hurry up and warm things up mother nature!