Rainy days and Sundays always get me down when I can not garden!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Creek after Sandy!

Garlic Shoots

The first green shoots from the garlic that I planted a few weeks ago.  Once we get a hard freeze, these will die off.  They will re-appear in the spring. I will mulch around them for now, then completely cover the bed after the killing frost. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

MUMS, perennial or annual?

A  chrysanthemum (from the Greek words, chrysos [gold] and anthemon [flower]) is a perennial that is often treated like an annual.  To some extent, this may be true!
If planted in the fall, the roots have less time to establish, often limiting their chance for survival.  However, if planted in the spring, there is a good chance they will overwinter and re bloom the following year.
Mums prefer well drained, composted soil with 6+ hours of sun per day.  In the fall, pinch back the dead blooms and cover the mums with 4" of shredded leaves or other mulch.  Uncover in the spring to reveal new shoots.  To keep the plants compacted (vs leggy stems), cut the plants back several times in the spring/summer, stopping around July 4th.
Mums are a inexpensive flowing plant to accentuate any fall landscape.

A mum at its peak.

7 year old mums.

A variety of colors and shapes.

Purchase mums that are mostly in the bud stage.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pickled or Fried?

What to do with all those green tomatoes at the end of the summer?

We are still a week or two away from the first fall frost (@10/28).  But my tomato plants are kaput.  I salvaged what I could and composted the rest.

There are several methods of ripening green tomatoes.  You can pull the entire plant out of the ground, shake off the excess dirt, tie a string or rope around the base and hang it upside down in the basement, garage or barn.  The tomatoes will ripen "on the vine".  Great if you have the space or do not mind a little dirt.

Since light is not needed to ripen green tomatoes, it is not necessary to place your tomatoes on a windowsill. Place a single layer of tomatoes in a box and cover with several sheets of newspaper.  Place in a cool area, such as a basement.  Check back on a regular basis.  You can also wrap each tomato in a sheet of newspaper and place in a box or bag.  However, I find this method to time consuming.  If your basement or garage is on the cooler side (50-60 F), it may take up to four weeks for the tomatoes to ripen.

To hasten the ripening process, a banana, pear or apple (or a ripe tomato) can be added to the box or bag.  The fruit releases ethylene gas, the "ripening hormone".  (If you use plastic bags, glass jars or other containers, keep an eye out for mold, due to moisture and warmth.)  Also, by placing your tomatoes in a warmer area of your house (65-75 F) you will accelerate ripening by about two weeks.

There are many uses for green tomatoes.  Besides frying or pickling, they can be used in salsa, chutney, and relish.  You can make green tomato bread, green tomato pie, or green tomato jam.  I also know a few individuals who eat raw green tomatoes!

What do you do with your green tomatoes?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Garlic Planting Time

I begin to plant garlic around Columbus day (the unofficial start date).  I try to have all the garlic planted by Halloween (the unofficial end date).  However, I have planted garlic into early November with no problems. I have heard of planting garlic in the spring, but I have never done this myself.  
Garlic is insanely easy to grow.  It can be planted in a variety of soil conditions, but does best in rich, loamy, weed free beds with 6+ hours of  daily sun. 
 I plan to grow both the hardneck and softneck varieties that I purchased, plus the basic "German White' from the local produce store.  I am also planting two bulbs from the past years harvest.  
Separate the individual cloves from the bulbs when time to plant.  To protect from fungal disease, the cloves can be soaked in water with 1 T of baking soda plus 1 T of liquid seaweed.  Keep the larger cloves for planting and save the smaller ones for cooking etc. 
 I use a hand bulb planter to dig to a depth of 2".  Space the cloves 4-6 inches apart.  Shoots will appear in the fall and will die back during the winter.  Mulch the garlic with several inches of leaves, straw, etc when the ground starts to freeze to help prevent heaving.  (Remove the mulch from the plants in the spring when new growth appears.)
Remember that garlic does not get harvested until June or July of the following year.  Keep this in mind when planning out your next years garden!
The end results is great tasting garlic!

Hardneck and softneck varieties.

Amend soil with organic matter.

You can also add a general purpose fertilizer since garlic is a heavy feeder

Work or turn the soil to a depth of 6+ inches

Separate cloves shortly before planting leaving the papery skin .

Plant cloves pointed side up, 2" deep.

Space cloves 4 to 6 inches apart.

If short on space, plant the garlic around the perimeters  of your beds.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October Tomatoes and Diseased plants!

Today's pick

Late blight

Time to destroy the plants in the garden that have succumb to fungal disease.  You can see the difference between the tomato plants being grown in the raised bed vs the ones being grown directly in the ground.  The later are on the side of the house, receive less lite and are getting to much water from a leaky hose.  Do not put diseased plants in your compost pile.  Throw them in the garbage (or,  in our case, I throw them down by the creek for the deer to finish off).  In order to "starve" the pathogens that are living in the soil, avoid growing any nightshade plants (tomato, eggplant, potato, and peppers)  in this area for the next 3 years. (I think I will turn this space into a garlic bed).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Norristown Farm Park

"A wide range of passive recreational activities are available: walking, hiking, jogging, running, biking, roller skating, skateboarding, dog walking (on leash), fishing (stocked trout stream), birding and other wildlife viewing, nature photography and picnicking."

690 acres with 8 miles of paved pathways

2 branches of the Stony Creek

Stocked trout stream

15 historical structures (earliest dating to 1764)

Nature photography (71 species of wildlife)

216 species of wildflowers

Nature trails (89 species of tress)

Trout nursery

bird watching (173 species of birds)

A working farm since colonial times

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sunday Field Trip

I visited The Longview Center for Agriculture, located in Collegeville, Pa this past Sunday.  120 acres of organic farmland, utilizing sustainable farming techniques to produce healthy food.  Click on the link below to learn more about this neat place!