This week's 'dig'
Kate at High Altitude Gardening reports a neat thing happening in SLC, UT


You know you're a gardener when...
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Blunders with Shoots, Blossoms 'n Roots
Where things either live or die!

Sep 29, 2009

Basil- The Jury’s Back

 

Not too long ago, I did a post about our basil and the best way to dry it. I wasn’t very happy with the results of drying it on my new soil sifter (thanks dad!;), and it was in the heat of summer that I tried it that way even though it was in dappled shade. I decided to dry my basil 3 different ways (thanks to hubby) to really get an idea of how best to go about it. I want my dried basil to end up with good flavor, and be fragrant too- unlike store bought, dried basil.

So, the results are in. I tried drying it on the soil sifter, as you remember. Then I tried it in the dehydrator, and the third choice was to hang it in a cool, dark place in a mesh-type bag. I chose to use the little bags lemons come in. To start off, I was so unimpressed with the basil I dried outside on the soil sifter, I tossed it. Now maybe if the heat hadn’t been so high that week, I might have had a different outcome- something to think about for next year, maybe.

The basil dried with the dehydrator left me a little disenchanted as well, but for comparison sake I didn’t toss it. I then grabbed some fresh from the garden and put it in a bag (lemon bag) and hung it in a cool, dark spot that doesn’t get disturbed much. I also left the dehydrated batch on a plate in the same location. You can see a picture of the sad outside, heat dried basil here, and read the previous post.

 

 

On the left is the dehydrator dried basil, the right is the air dried basil. I can say, without a doubt, that the air dried basil has a heavenly scent that causes my mouth to water! The color is a little brighter green, which is hard to see in this shot, but the scent is really strong compared to the other- which is almost void of any scent at all. The flavor is far superior as well...and just in time for some fall/winter dishes- Yum!

Now maybe I shouldn’t have dried the first batch during a really hot week outside. And maybe I over dried the second batch in the dehydrator- I think it was Daphne at Daphne’s Dandelions that warned me of the dehydrator being a tricky way to do it- maybe take a look at her comment on the previous basil post. All I know is that the 3rd batch that was dried in a cool, dark, indoor spot ended up the best- and that is how I’ve always done it, just with much smaller bunches. Next year, I plan on drying some in a dark, cooler area outdoors (a shed maybe?) and we’ll see what happens- this is all assuming I can grow it next year!

I hope you are all enjoying the days heading into fall- our sun is gone now and it looks like our typical, cloudy, dreary days are now upon us- and will be for quite a long time. Goodbye sun, it was nice knowing you.

Happy Gardening,

Tessa

Sep 23, 2009

Is it any wonder...

 

Why fall is my favorite time of year? Yes, it means winter is right around the corner. Winter carrots taste like candy, thankfully. Each season brings great things, if you live in an area that has 4 distinct seasons- (which is not here).

Here in Portland, fall can signal that a long, grueling, depressing, gray sky is soon to follow. If we’re lucky, we get some snow to brighten up the landscape! Although, most don’t agree that snow brightens their day :). September, however, is one of the most lovely months here- just take a look at this forecast and see if you agree.

                                                Portland, OR fall (week 1) forecast 

I apologize for the clipping, hopefully you can see the temperatures! Today- 95 degrees! A very pleasant first week of fall. And look at the lows. I have to admit, if you compare the lows this time of year to Bend or Redmond lows, Portland wins- about a 10 degree difference that will require some adjustments as far as my fall/winter crops go.

 

                                               Redmond, OR fall (week 1) forecast

It is looking like a wonderful fall so far. Last year I did a tribute to Portland falls because I love them so much and I will miss them. It’s hard to believe we’ve been wanting to move away from Portland for so long. Then again, a year can go by in a blink of an eye. A move is looking more and more likely and it looks as though it will be time to put our garden to bed- but it is still not for sure, the wait and see game is brutal! When we do leave, I can only hope that the next family that buys our home will have a love of gardening too. I look forward to the journey ahead, and hope that you will all stick around to follow the progress, however it may play out.

I have taken down Peetree’s feeder and I worry that Portland will see another winter like last year and we won’t be here to help him get through. If you remember last year I did quite a bit of research on the hummingbirds in our area and weather we should be feeding them in winter. After lots of reading and talking to local experts, I learned that they stay for the winter anyway and that it is best to give them a helping hand if you have them in your yard and you’ve been feeding them.

Peetree has been around somewhat- they leave for a while in summer, it seems, and then they return late summer/early fall. Now that I’ve taken down his feeder, he will search out another one while he takes full advantage of all the bugs and other foods that are abundant and available this time of year. I will miss him too.

I plan to get out there a little this week- slowly and in spurts :). After all, I can’t possibly miss this beautiful first week of my favorite season, now can I? I may have to put on my blinders, however, as I imagine that there is a TON that needs to be done!

I hope you are all enjoying your September weather, wherever you hang your hat!

Happy gardening,

Tessa

Sep 16, 2009

A Garden Doesn’t Wait

 

 

 

Amazingly, even with all the neglect, the garden still produces! A short walk in the garden may have been exhausting, but well worth it- Pole Beans, Swiss Chard, ‘New Girl’ Tomatoes, Eggplant and some Zinnias!

 

Happy Gardening,

Tessa

Sep 14, 2009

Helpful Tool


After seeing the link for GrowVeg numerous times on quite a few blogs out there, I felt it was time to take a look at this popular tool. I unfortunately started my subscription not long before going in for surgery thinking that it would give me something other than some books to read while recovering- my road to recovery has been a bit off (a long story), not to mention it’s a little hard to do things on Darvocet :), so I only managed to get in a few sessions before my 30 day trial was up- sad but true. I do think, however, that 30 days is plenty of time to check it out and I did get some plans drawn up of my next garden!
To start off I’d like to say that it is very user friendly. I made my way around how to do things very easily. I also would recommend going through the tutorials because there were some tips in there that were useful (and probably would have saved me some time, if I’d watched them first- duh!).
Planning next year’s crops (or next garden, which I also played around with designing ;) is a snap. Planning the garden size, bed size, and what plants will go in which beds was very fun! The crop list was quite large and arranged with the alphabet above the icon for switching quickly, but if there is a crop you don’t see, the creators have added a basic crop icon in I believe 3 sizes for those really exotic crops you choose to grow. You’ll know how many plants can fit in whatever bed size you have planned out and printing out your plan or crop list is easy as well (with planting distance and I believe when to plant info too). I really like how you can put in your frost dates, which is how it calculates when to plant everything you plan to grow- nice.
Here is a list of features I snagged from their site and a screen shot as well-
  • Create Plans: Quickly produce garden plans, add plants and change the layout. Either metric units or feet and inches are supported.
  • Growing information: Just click for full details of how to grow each plant, where to position them etc
  • Spacing and Crop Families: Clearly shown by the colored area around each vegetable
  • Personalized Planting Chart: Print a chart showing how many of each plant you require and when to sow, plant out and harvest them. Our advanced system works out the dates for your own area.
  • Reminder Emails: Reminds you what needs sowing and planting out in your garden (optional)
  • Easy Crop Rotation: Plan next year’s garden and it shows you where to avoid planting each vegetable
garden-planning-toolUS
One really helpful feature in GrowVeg is in crop rotation- upon planning your next year’s crops, you can start the plan with the previous year’s plan and when putting in the crops, if you happen to choose to put a crop in a place it was grown the year before the crop will highlight red alerting you of this- very useful! The crops are color coded to crop families too- again, nice!
There were a couple things I wish it had. There is pretty good info on each crop, but one thing that it’s missing is the ability to customize that info, making it fit how you grow them. For example, I start my beans (as of this year ;) in long paper pots to give them a good start and an advantage over pests- I would want to include how I start my crops, i.e direct sow, mini soil blocks, paper pots, 6 pack, etc. The other thing is I’d like to be able to include succession sowing info. I did ask them about adding the ability to customize crop info and this is something they plan to work on.
I was able to make some non-standard beds, like a keyhole bed, but it was a little challenging- I’m sure with practice it would get better. I also planned out my next greenhouse and adding the finer details like the location of water sources, bird baths, ponds, bug hotels and more was really a lot of fun!- it leaves a lot of room for your creativity and imagination!
Customer service was speedy and very friendly. The author saw I was from OR and sent me a very useful link to a site called Portland Bright Neighbor, which is a social network in Portland that helps to safely introduce Portland neighbors to one another- lots of good stuff and happenings info on this site even though I’m off subject here.
Bottom line, I like the tool and although I’m not crazy about a subscription fee of $20/yr. (although reasonable) because I try hard to keep the cost of gardening down, I think it would pay off in the long run because you could be more exact with how many plants you’d need- And for me, who uses graph paper quite a bit, it would cut down on wasteful paper use (helping trees). I’ll no doubt think about this next time I’m aiming my next scrapped plan for the recycling can! For now, it will go on my wish list :).
So go check it out and take advantage of their 30 day trial and decide for yourself! Have fun :)

Happy Gardening,
Tessa
Note: Like other links and reviews on my blog, I put them here because I’ve used/tried them and like them. I get no payment, except the satisfaction of passing on great finds! Enjoy!
(See note at the bottom of my blog, which includes other companies I like)

Sep 11, 2009

Remember Today

 

9-11-011                                

Happy Gardening,

Tessa

Sep 8, 2009

I Love it- Smart Chickens!

 

With the real possibility of getting some chickens in our near future (Yes, chickens- I can hear you!) I’ve been reading up on them to educate myself. It seems to be a general consensus that they aren’t that smart- well, they’re smarter than 'they'You know, the 'experts' that think GMO foods are okay! are. With all the information we read about concerning GMOs, I think it’s time to just admit they just might not be good for us- ya think? What are 'you'experts that think GMOs are okay.  chicken? I guess not! As the old saying goes ‘You can’t fool Mother Nature!’ Or is it ‘It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature!’

 

                                 

Chickens not liking GMOs might just be the least of our worries!

 

Check out the story below-Thanks for sending this, Mom!

Chickens Not Fooled by GM Crops

images

Happy Gardening,

Tessa

Sep 7, 2009

Great Find! Great Resource!

 

I don’t know about everyone else, but I am a bookworm when it comes to gardening books . I’ll go to great lengths to search and hopefully find books, including ones out of print. There are a few places online that have helped when searching for out of print books for home schooling, when the kids were young. One of which is Project Gutenberg the very first and largest, single collection of eBooks.  Today, when I was searching for a book I’ve read about in other books, PG was the first place I looked when I discovered it was out of print. When I didn’t find it there, I went on a hunt. Within 5 minutes, I found it and found a goldmine too!

For those of you that love to read older, out of print, garden books and papers that many current authors (such as Coleman) refer to- this site is for you! The Soil and Health Library has great books in eBook form for free (more about the free part later)! And to top it off (and this really blew me away,) it’s run by Steve Solomon previous owner of Territorial Seeds and author of one of my favorite gardening books Growing Vegetable West of the Cascades ; he now resides in Tasmania, Australia.  Of  course, I’m assuming this is the same Steve Solomon- it might not be! If I hadn’t read all his books I wouldn’t have known that he lives there now, and I wouldn’t have made the possible connection- you can bet I’ll be sure to find out if it’s him (more on that later).

Just so you know, I was after a book called Weeds: Guardians of the Soil by Joseph Cocannouer that is listed in the bibliography section in Gaia’s Garden A guide to Home-Scale Permaculture 2nd edition. This is the second or third time I’ve read about this book about weeds and a search at my library came up empty. I’ve been after a good weed book that not only identifies weeds, but more importantly, reveals how to use them to judge the condition of soil- might come in handy for someone starting a new garden food forest, in a new location/climate :).

Now, if  you go to the home page of Soil and Health Library, you’ll read all about how it works- but there is one thing I want to encourage here that I feel is important. You can get the books listed in their library for free. You have a choice, however, to donate a small amount that helps pay for this unique resource-and it’s a lifetime, one time fee. The choice is yours, of course, but consider what you’d be getting for such a small price :) not to mention the satisfaction of contributing in a small way. And with a librarian like Steve Solomon you really can’t go wrong- but wait there’s more! (me sounding like a infomercial) You can have an opportunity to chat with Steve himself on the subjects in the books! What more could you ask for?

I hope you enjoy this great find!

Happy Gardening,

Tessa

Sep 5, 2009

A Ha! Permaculture!

 

Warning: For those of you that only look at my pictures (you know who you are ;), you will be disappointed, sorry :)

In all my gardening years (just over 10 I think), I’ve always done one thing every year and that’s experiment. I’m always looking for a better, faster, more economical, more low maintenance way of doing everything all the time. I also have had it in my mind that when I build or add something to my garden, it should have more than one purpose. I’ve leaned toward working with nature instead of against it (yes, it’s because it’s less work). After all why dig down when going up is easier and better for the soil structure (lasagna beds opposed to double digging!). Why are forests so lush, green, and teaming with life and diseases are kept in check when there is no one coming in to turn the soil (a no-no in my book), fertilize, mulch, or even water? Every time I’d learn about a new idea, or get one myself, I’d ask myself  WWND (what would nature do)?

So, can someone please tell me why I’m just now learning about Permaculturea system of cultivation intended to maintain permanent agriculture or horticulture by relying on renewable resources and a self-sustaining ecosystem..? I read garden books sometimes 3 at a time! My shelves are full of books, highlighted and falling apart! I’ve know about  sustainability and have worked hard on growing my own compost supplies to work towards that end, etc., but Permaculture has opened my eyes to a much bigger picture. And I even live in the hairy armpitaka hippie haven, tree hugger city, etc. capitol of the world! From keyhole and Mandala beds, to building swales and berms that collect and store water in the soil in addition to rain barrels- I’m hooked! What better place to store water than in the soil- assuming the soil is humus rich, of course. The beginning of this video explains what a swale is-

 

                                 

 

Permaculture...where have you been my whole gardening life!

Of course there is so much more to it that just these things I’ve mentioned, so if you’re wondering what I’m babbling about, go to your library or local Barnes and Noble and get a book called Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture 2nd edition. I’m flying through this book and had a need to grab my highlighter very early on, but couldn’t because it’s a library book! By the way, if anyone knows of even better books, websites, etc. about this subject please email me!

I’m so excited about this it is unreal. With the very real possibility of moving in our future (and to a sunnier, high desert area possibly), I’ve been mulling over some ideas of what my new garden would look like. I started drawing up some ideas on graph paper and had some really nice ideas and then I found this book! Some of my ideas fit right into Permaculture, I’m happy to say!  Forget ‘garden’. Forget straight rows in boxes (except my Coleman 30” wide beds in the greenhouse;). The only reason we garden that way is because that’s how ‘they’ve’ done it in the past, and because it made sense with farming equipment. These straight rows have never sat well with me- there’s no flow. If you go back a little farther past industrial farms, you’ll find that some ancient cultures had much better ideas- and prettier too. Go ahead, do a search on keyhole or herb spirals (Thanks Stuart at Gardening Tips ‘n’ Ideas).  Or even better, Mandala beds! They have more square footage as well- I know, surprising.  I think you’ll be as inspired as I have been!

Okay, I feel better now that I’ve shared my new and exciting love with you all. My next garden  food forest (or the current one, if we stay a bit longer) will be so much fun to put together! I’ll be sure to put up some of my plans, as soon as I figure out a way to do that!

Happy gardening,

Tessa

Sep 4, 2009

Last time I saw it...it was alive!

 

 

I wanted to do a quick tomato bag update and review. To start, it was easy to work with when planting the tomato starts (plugs). It looked nice hanging there...if watered ;). I would definitely use a cherry tomato and no bigger if I tried it again. The type of soil used is very important and I chose to use Black Gold Coco Blend, which was a good choice because it retains water well. I also hung the bag in a part sun (dappled) area and one that was more shaded in the afternoon- that helped. The constant watering was still a problem and the design had everything to do with it.

The way it hangs, because of where the cords are located, the holes the plants are in are facing forward and downward. This means that when you water in the top, the water runs out the holes instead of saturating the soil. And if you’re watering it up high the water will trickle down your arm and into your shirt, and finally into your armpit! I learned the bag needs to be lowered- duh :). I put it on a bungee cord and that helped (I could then pull it down easily), but I had to be careful because the bag is long and could hit the ground and what is the sense of it doing that if it’s a ‘hanging’ plant?  All this didn’t help the fact that the holes faced forward and down and the water still came right out the holes. I then tried holding up the end, which meant that now it wasn’t just my armpit getting soaked :). In the end, I had to put the darn thing horizontally and soak it.

I did a search for these things on the internet and found similar ones that come with a cone attachment for a soda bottle. You put these in the top of the bag and they’re watered by drip. I’m not sure that would be good enough, but I plan on trying this next year with similar attachments I already have on hand (why I didn’t think of it is beyond me;)  I can’t remember the site I found them on, but here is a DIY for making them.  If I have the same troubles, I’ll have to say it’s a bad design and scrap the idea of at least hanging it- with some creativity, I’m sure I can find another use for it.

With travel, surgery, and life in general there was bound to be a causality. I’m afraid any potted plant was the first to be at risk. We did get a lot of tomatoes before it bit the dust though and I must say that ‘Gold Nugget’ will be added to my ‘must-have’ list! They were stocky, delicious, sweet, and the skins were thin!

So to all of you that had a need to know...now you know.  If anyone still wants to try these next year be sure to let me know- I still have a couple more bags, just don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

 

 

Happy Gardening,

Tessa

Sep 2, 2009

Mini Eggplant

 

Yummy! Eggplant Parmesan!

with garden fresh basil, of course :)

 

Happy harvesting,

Tessa