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

Monday, October 19, 2015


Tomato plants do not like it when the temperatures start to drop below 55 degrees. (They like it even less if there is a frost).  The ideal growing temperatures for tomatoes are between 60 and 90 degrees.  When temperature drops below 60 or rise above 90, the vines start to suffer from stress.  This causes the blossoms to drop off (blossom drop) with out developing into fruit.  
Tomatoes are a subtropical plant.  Even a light frost can damage or kill the vines.  When temperatures drop near freezing, condensation forms on the plants, resulting in frost bite. In addition, the fruit on the plants may be damaged as well.  

My cherry tomatoes were prolific this year!

I decided to pickle them.

Sanitizing the lids......

....and the jars.

Fresh Dill from the garden.

Also, jalapeno's and garlic (from the garden), along with pickling vinegar and salt, mustard seed, and peppercorns for the brine.

Fill clean sterile jars and add the brine, leaving 1/2 inch  of head space.   Check for air bubbles and wipe off  the rims.  Center lids on jars and tighten , using the "3 finger" tightening method.  

Place the jars in the water bath, making sure the jars are not touching and there is 1-2 inches of water covering the tops.  Bring to a boil and process according to instructions (I did 15 minutes).

After the appropriate amount of time, remove the jars from the bath and place on a towel (listen for the pop).  Allow the jars to "rest" for 12-24 hours, after which, you can check the seals.  Wait a week before eating, giving the flavor a chance to settle.   Label and store remaining jars in a cool, dark place (like the basement) for up to a year.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


 I thought I was being clever when I decided to grow cucumbers and herbs in the same pots.  BAD IDEA!!!!   For starters, my pots were to small to accommodate both a herb and cucumber plant.  (To add insult to injury, I threw in a few zinnia seeds!)  In addition the watering needs varied between the herbs and the cucumbers.  I struggled to keep the basil/cucumber combo well watered. However, the oregano/cucumber combo was to wet for this herb.   But more important, I never checked to see if herbs and cucumbers make for good companion planting (plants grown near each other to attract beneficial insects, deter pest, and provide support, shade, nutrients etc.).  They do not!  Cucumbers do not do well with herbs that have a strong aroma!

A pot that is about 12"-16" inches deep or about 24" in diameter can can grow 2-3 cucumber plants.  . (5 gallon buckets also work well and hold 3 plants.)  Cucumbers have deep roots and need a steady or constant amount of water. 

Herbs on the other hand have either shallow (oregano) , medium (parsley) or deep or long roots (basil).  A 14" diameter pot works well for most herbs. Basil and parsley needs lots of water, where as oregano doesn't.

Cucumbers rely on insects/bees for pollination.  A cucumber flower remains open for one day and pollination must take place in that day.  It takes about 9 visits per a single flower to adequately pollinate/transfer pollen.  Low yields and misshapen cucumbers are often the result of poor pollination.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Did you know that PESTICIDES & SPRAYS that harm or kill ANTS also harm BEES?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


What does scallions, green onions, spring onions and onions have in common?  They are all part of the Allium (Latin for garlic) family along with garlic, leeks, shallots, chives  etc.  Allium are edible perennial plants. Although it is unclear how many species exist, the average is about 750 (250 on the low end to 900 on the high end).  About a dozen are of importance to the gardener or farmer.  Others are important for their ornamental value.

To me, scallions are just underdeveloped onions, sort off.  Very young onions are scallions in which the white root part has not developed into a bulb.  Green or spring onions are slightly more rounded then scallions and are on their way to maturing into fully grown onions.

All can be eaten raw or cooked (leaves to root), however, there are differences in taste ranging from strong to week.  Scallions are milder then onions, but stronger in flavor then chives.  Green onions take on the flavor of their fully grown counterpart.

 Never feed dogs or cats Alliums due to its potential for toxicity!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Turnip Cabbage, German Turnip...

Also known as kohlrabi, it is a  member of the cabbage family.  With a look of a turnip (growing above ground), the spherical shape bulbs are actually swollen stems. Both the bulb and leaves are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked.   Although there is debate about its origins, the name comes from the German "Kohl" (cabbage) and Latin "Rapa" (turnip), and is a staple in German speaking countries.  Kohlrabi is low in calories, a good source of fiber, calcium and potassium, and a anti-oxidant, with Vitamins A & C.  

When the bulbs reach about 3" in diameter, it is time to start harvesting your Kohlrabi.  They can be cut about an inch below the bulb or pulled.  Remove the leaves (to be used later) and any remaining root.  Peel back the outer, fibrous layer before eating or cooking.  (Unpeeled bulbs can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 weeks).  

I find the vegetable easy to grow and does well in early spring and in the fall.  Although is can be started indoors and transplanted into the garden, I have good success with direct sowing in a sunny location.  Floating row covers can be used for pest management, if needed.  

The biggest problem I find with growing Kohlrabi is that the groundhogs love it!!!  Luckily, some of the leaves can actually be removed prior to harvesting the bulbs for sauteing etc.  So, although the damaged looked bad, the actual veggie was fine. 

Caught in the act!


The "damage"

Ready for harvesting.

Root and leaved removed.

Peel to reveal a crisp fleshy 

I decided to eat them raw!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


and the BUTTERFLY'S, BIRDS, BAT'S and other INSECTS!!!!

In 2006, the U.S. Senate declared a week in JUNE as "National Pollinator week".  Now celebrated internationally, it addresses the declining population of these pollinators.

About 85% of the worlds flowing plants, along with 2/3rd of the worlds crops rely on pollinators.  In the U.S. alone, there are roughly 100 different plants that need to be pollinated by these pollinators.  Without them, a majority of our fruits and vegetables,  seed crops, and alfalfa would be greatly diminished or lost. A decline in alfalfa would impact the dairy and beef industry, increasing prices and deceasing supply of milk, cheese, ice cream, meats etc.   Almond orchards will produce less then 1/6 of their normal harvest. Imagine a world with out chocolate (apples, strawberries, peaches, figs, blueberries, melons, pumpkins, and tomatoes)!!!  How different the supermarkets would look?  Not to mention the economic impact!!!

The use and misuse of pesticides, insecticides and weed killers, loss of habitats and natural vegetation, and the desire for a perfect manicured lawn are all contributing factors to pollinator loss.

Please join me in stopping the use of these chemicals, providing gardens and green spaces for native, nectar producing flowers, trees for birds, bats, and bees, and realizing that there is more to a yard then green grass!  These pollinators are vital to our delicate ecosystem and to our lives.

Friday, May 22, 2015


Radishes are one of the earliest veggies to come out of your spring garden.  The seeds can be sown as soon as the ground can be worked.  They germinate and grow quickly and tolerate cold weather.  Radishes come in a number of varieties, sizes, colors and flavors, and are a good source of water, fiber and vitamin C.  And after a long, cold winter, I love to see those beautiful green leaves atop a lovely round, red (white, purple, or black) radish pushing its way up out of the ground!  

The radish itself is crunchy, with a flavor that ranges from mild to hot.  But, did you know that the greens are edible?   The leaves are a bit tangy, somewhat pungent, and prickly.  They can be sauteed, stir-fried, used in soups, salads or smoothies, or eaten raw.  

(Other edible greens include beets, carrots, turnips, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower.) 

Every radish I ever pulled up seemed to have a mortgage attached to it.
Ed Wynn

Monday, March 9, 2015


Seeds remain dormant until suitable conditions come together and trigger them to start growing.  This germination is based on both the internal physiology of the seeds along with external or environmental conditions.  Internal triggers are the age of the seed, it's food storage, health, seed condition, etc.  But more important may be the external conditions........

1.  WATER- Dormant seeds are dry seeds.  They require a significant amount of water to soften the seeds and expose the embryos to moisture.  As the seeds absorb the water they swell and break their seed coats.  Food reserve in the seeds are activated by the water and provide nourishment for the seedlings.

2.  OXYGEN (respiration)-Oxygen is needed for metabolism and energy.  Seeds that are buried to deep, are planted in heavily compacted, or overly wet soil,  will be oxygen deprived.

3.  TEMPERATURE- The temperature of the soil at which seeds germinate can range from the low 20's to high 80's.  If the soil temperature is to hot or to cold, then the seeds will have a lower success rate, a longer germination period or not germinate at all.  Some seeds need to go through a cold snap or even the heat of a fire before they will germinate!

4.  STRATIFICATION (preconditioning)- Altering the seed coat to make it permeable to water.  This can be done by roughing up seeds or soaking them in water prior to planting.  The seed coat is weakened making germination easier.

5.  LIGHT-Most seeds will germinate in the dark.  Some seeds need to be exposed to light for a length of time before they will start to germinate.  There are some seeds that will germinate in both. Check your seed packet for light requirements and planting depth.   Seeds that need light can be placed on top of the dirt.  Seeds that need darkness should be planted 2 to 3 times their diameter, placed in darkness, or covered to block out the light (until germination starts).

There is nothing more exciting then seeing the seeds you have planted start to grow!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


I love how the full moon reflects off the creek in our backyard.  February's moon is called the "Snow Moon" due to the large amount of snow that falls during the month.  This made hunting difficult, so it was also known as the "Hunger Moon" or "Bone Moon".  (Due to the lack of food, Native Americans would eat and make soup from bones.)

"They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon"
                                                                          - Edward Lear


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year. For gardening begins in January with the dream. ~Josephine Nuese

I don't know about you but I am counting down to the first day of spring, March 20!  Regardless if the groundhog sees his shadow (6 more weeks of winter) or not on February 2, we are more then half way through winter!

This is a good time to inventory your seeds and seed starting supplies.  Look through seed catalogs and decide what it is you want to grow.  Order your seeds now so you have them in time for indoor starts and direct sowing come spring/summer!

 How old are your seeds from previous years?  Most seed packets have a "packed for" date stamped on them.  Beets and peppers have a "shelf life" of about 2 years.  Beans, peas, and tomatoes are good for about 3 years, while some greens, squash, and cabbages are good for 4 years.  Then there are seeds like onions and celery that you may wish to start fresh each year.  Keep in mind that the quality of your seeds and how they have been handled and stored will also impact their viability from year to year.  If in doubt, test your seeds.  Wet a sheet of paper towel.  Take 10 seeds from the seed packet and place them in the center of the towel.  Fold the towel into quarters and place it inside a plastic bag.  Knot the open end and set the bag next to a sunny/warm window.  After 10 days remove the paper towel from the bag and check for sprouting.  If more then half of the seeds have sprouted, the seeds are good. Less then half you may want to purchase new seeds (or take a chance).  

Do you have everything you need to start seeds indoors?   Most important is your growing medium.  You will need either seed starting mix, grow pellets, or make your own with sphagnum peat moss and vermiculite.  Almost any type of container works.  I have used yogurt cups, take out containers, egg cartons,  made my own paper pots, and bought commercial seed starting products as well. Your seeds will germinate best in a warm location (70-80 degrees), or use germination heat mats.  Once your seeds start to sprout you will need a good light source. This can be a window or under a light (cool white fluorescent) suspended 3 to 4 inches above the seedlings.  (Poor lighting will result in leggy plants.)

The average last frost date (LFD) in my area is between April 7 (50% chance of a frost) and April 23.  If the ground can be worked, cold hardy plants can be set outside 3-6 weeks before the LFD.  It is also possible to direct sow spinach, peas, beets, kale, and radishes at this time.  (Unless using cold frames or hoop houses etc., all other starts and seeds go in the ground on or after the LFD.)

Sow enjoy the spirit of gardening in January while dreaming of spring!


 "There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter.  One is the January thaw.  The other is the seed catalogues."
-  Hal Borland