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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I'm Dreaming of......the Average Date of the Last Spring Frost!

Gardening is dictated by the weather.  The weather tells us when and how to prepare the soil, when to start seeds indoors, or to direct sow in the ground.  It tells us when to protect our plants from in climatic weather and even when to harvest.  We have learned how to "fool" the weather by extending the growing seasons with the use of low and high tunnels or hoop houses, cold frames, frost and shade cloth, and cloches. However, what is probably most important is the average date of the first and last frost.  Of course, this will vary depending on where you live, not only in the country, but also in a region or even by area code.  But, it is this information that will help to create a timeline for your gardening activities.

In the are in which I live (19033), the average date of the last spring frost is April 23.  The average date of the first fall frost is October 15.  However, actual frost dates can vary by 1- 2 weeks.  So it may be possible to plant as early as April 17 and harvest as late as November 1st.  Keep in mind that the average frost date has a 50/50 chance of being correct.  Average does not mean last and there are other factors such as local micro-climates that will play a role in your gardening decisions.

Sweet dreams.........

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Growing a Community

Opened in the Spring of 2011 on the lawn of the Ames True Temper plant in Camp Hill Pa.   There are 150 raised beds in 3 sizes, 6x9, 8x18, and 16x18.  There is a stocked tool shed plus access to water through hoses that reach out to every bed.  There is a larger fence plus a second, smaller rabbit fence.  The best part is that there is no fee!  
I grew up in this area and this is where my love for gardening began.  I was lucky enough to have a big backyard in a sunny spot to grow a garden.  But for those who do not, a community  garden is a way to grow!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I turned a couple of tomato cages into a Christmas Tree!

I started with 2 round wire tomato cages.....

...and a pot wide enough to support the base of the "tree".

Place the tomato cages upside down in the pot.  Slip the second cage over the first and stagger the vertical post.  This will help keep the shape of the tree rounded. Gather the "top" of the tree and tie into a point.  

You will need to anchor the tomato cages to the pot (otherwise you may be running after it on a blustery winter night.)  I drilled holes just under the rim and secured the cages with tie wraps.  

I used 3 packs of 33 feet each green wire pine garland to cover the tomato cages.  I began at the base and worked my way to the top.  (I got a little dizzy with this part.)  

All wrapped and topped off.

I then added some lights and a bow.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

What's eating you?

Call me naive but when I came across an article on "food fraud",  I was dumbfounded.  Some 7% of our food supply in the US is adulterated and/or mislabeled, involving growers, importers and distributors.  This problem spans international boarders, is difficult to uncover, is worth billions of dollars a year, and is no match for a strapped FDA.

At stake, besides not getting what you paid for, is a health risk to an unknowing public, often with long term consequences.  From carcinogenic additives to lead contamination, dangerous pathogens, toxic ingredients and chemical residues, banned antibiotic use and unsuspected allergens, the problem is enormous.  In most cases the consumer has no idea that they have been ripped off, unable to detect that the food as been adulterated.  Food fraud is an economic problem, but it also a public health issue, especially if the food is potentially harmful.

Some of the most adulterated foods are listed below.  But be aware, almost any food can be adulterated.  

Olive oil-One of the most adulterated foods on the market.  Often times regular olive oil is sold as extra virgin.  Cheaper oils are colored to look like olive oil, or used to dilute the oil to increase profits.  In 1981, over 600 people died in Spain from consuming rapeseed oil (a non-food grade industrial lubricant) sold as olive oil.

Milk-The second most adulterated food on the market.  Watered down, reconstituted milk powder, cut with detergents, caustic soda, sugars, salts, urea, and laced with melamine to cover up the dilution and increase the protein content.  300,000 consumers were made sick, and 6 infants died from the 2008 Chinese milk scandal.  

Honey- Honey that does not contain pollen can not be called honey.  Removing the pollen makes it impossible to trace the honey to its source, or to determine its authenticity.  1/3 of the honey imported from Asia was found to be contaminated with lead and antibiotics.  Honey is also cut with sugar and corn syrups.

OJ and Apple Juice are cut with water or other cheaper juices diluting the product.

Spices-Almost all our spices are imported.  Lead coal tar dyes, tartrazine (yellow dye believed to cause hyperactivity in children), and borax are just a few additives that have been found in spices.  Be careful of buying spices from unmarked bins and markets. without knowing their source of origin.

Fish-A type of bate and switch, farm raised fish will be sold as wild.  Also, one type of fish is sold as another.  Buying fish whole makes it more difficult to misrepresent it.

Coffee-Selling a cheaper variety as a gourmet brand.  Instant coffee being sold as brewed.  Adding barley, chicory, caramel, malt, figs etc. 

Even garden variety tomatoes being sold as heirlooms!

So how do we go about not falling victim to fake food?  For starters, if it seems to good to be true,  most likely it is.  I am not saying that you have to buy the most expensive items on the shelf, but be wary of hard to beat deals.  Once my husband bought extra-virgin olive oil at an unbelievable price, from a brand we never heard of.  It was the worst olive oil ever!  So much for saving some money, but could we have been a victim of adulterated food?

Look for lot numbers, seals, stamps, a/o certification from reputable sources.  Often times, this shows that some sort of quality control is taking place and that the food is going through proper channels.  

Buy brands that you are familiar with, including store and generic name brands.  They have a vested interest and depend on their reputation.  

When you buy local you have heave a better understanding of how your food is grown a/o raised.  You can choose organic farms with grass fed/free range, humane practices.