Monday, December 08, 2008

Interesting Article

Scientist Says Ancient Technique Cuts Greenhouse Gas

Sounds intriguing. But what makes me wonder is how you heat up the crop biomass to make biochar? Is this some fancy smancy way of saying "gee, composting works"? (Somehow I don't think so.) Ancient technique, eh? So what is it? This article leaves more questions than answers. At first read it seems to say they burn the crop and plow it under. Sounds like a way to put lots of soot in the air. But the article says "under airtight conditions". Okay, so how does it heat up to "charcoal"? Guess it's something to hunt down more information on.

But I say, grow your own organically and compost. Easiest way to reduce your personal carbon footprint.

I should do a little research before I post. A google search on biochar rendered plenty of results.
I'm still more in favor of composting. Still looks like too much soot.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Home is where you hang your heart

Tomato: Anna Maria's Heart

Summer didn't wait for me. I have been busy with my studies and rarely spent time in the garden. But it grew quite happily. I was able to steal away with a few tomatoes, handfuls of green beans for dinner, Swiss chard and arugula into my stir frys. However, the zucchini rebelled against the automated drip sprinklers. For some reason they didn't produce much this year, except for flowers.

One of the best parts of my summer garden was the flower bouquets I would bring in for my desk. The dahlias, sunflowers and cosmos seemed to be endless.

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So last weekend I decided to remove the last of the tomato vines. I was excited to find these large ripe Anna Maria's Hearts towards the back of the bed. I hadn't noticed them until the vines had died back from the cold air. I gathered all the green tomatoes and pondered if I could let them ripen. Most of the time, I just leave the vines in the garden and pull the fruit off as they color. But I thought it's November, what's the point of tomato vines? I decided to clean up, amend the soil and add in my winter crops.

So many green tomatoes, what to do? The picture is only one-third of the green tomatoes I picked from the garden. I mentioned my dilemma to a friend and she suggested Green Tomato Mincemeat. I love mincemeat. She even stopped by last Saturday to show me how to make it, and to help process all the tomatoes. Not a huge crop, but I'm glad to have the quarts of tomato sauce and mincemeat ready for winter. And my greens are happily transplanted, ready to grow during the winter rain.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tomatoes for fog

I overheard a conversation at the Farmer's market last Saturday.
"No, I don't grow tomatoes anymore. Just not worth waiting all summer for a few lousy tomatoes."
Too bad, I thought. But everyone makes those sorts of choices when they garden. And I can honestly say it's not easy growing tomatoes here on the coast; too much cold fog for those jungle weeds. But I like the challenge.

This year, in the spring, I was trying to figure out what to do about growing tomatoes myself. February was quickly disappearing and I knew that I didn't have the time to sprout the varieties that I have learned to love and that do well here. I had resigned myself to looking for something at the garden center or maybe going to Love Apple farms and getting a few plants. I was pretty resolved not to buy an Early Girl. I don't think they have much flavor.

It always amazes me the synchronicity of the universe. Just as I was reviewing my options I received an email from this blog. A neighbor had sprouted more tomatoes than they knew what to do with and would I like some? A neighbor I had never met before. Ah, the power of the internet. Can you believe my luck? I was so excited to pick up those plants, Azoychka, Anna Maria's Heart, Yellow Zebra, Silvery Fir Tree, Nygomous, Berkeley Tie Die, Bloody Butcher, Black Cherry, Lemon Boy, Moscovich, Cosmonaut Volkov, just to name . Then another friend of mine, a true tomato fanatic emailed me to say he also had extras. Double luck!

So although I'm not out in the garden much (thanks to graduate school), it always makes me happy to know that plants grow whether you watch them or not. And the tomatoes are looking great.

I'm happy to wait for them.

Silvery Fir Tree - growing outside the greenhouse. It produced my first tomato of the year on August 20th.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Sunshine Blue

I have been having a boon year for blueberries. Last winter, while the plants were dormant, I dug them out of the half barrels I had them in and changed the potting soil. It was Ed Laivo from Dave Wilson Nursery that drove this change.

I was at a fruit tree talk and the subject of blueberries came up. He commented that they are really easy to grow, not like what some garden magazines would have you believe. I have to concur. My plants are in partial sun, just on the edge of the oak shade that predominates my yard. I grow southern highbush varieties that don't need such long chill hours. I grow Duke and Blue Ray. They do alright, but the ones that really seem to flourish are Reveille, O'Neal, Sharpblue, Misty, Sunshine Blue, and Jubilee.

He also said that they're easier to grow in containers because you can control the soil more easily. He mentioned his "magic mix" to make a fantastically acidic soil for them. That's what caught my attention. So the moment they went dormant, I went to work and changed out most of the potting soil in the half barrels. And in the spring, the change was noticeable. Many more clusters of flowers and lots of vigorous new growth. I have had the luxury of going down every Sunday morning and harvesting a basketful or more. I've had over 5 weeks of harvest. Blueberry pancakes, blueberry corn muffins, and blueberry tarts have been some of this summer's joy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Warning: Worm Bin Pictures Ahead

This isn't a post to be reading at lunch, especially if you have a weak stomach. But a co-worker of mine asked about worm bins and if there was "undigested" food in my bins, to which I would say absolutely yes. And since I fed the bins some nice corn cobs recently, the worms have been coming up through the layers just to get first dibs on the corn cobs. So you've been warned.

I put just about anything vegetarian in my bins, except dairy and anything particularly greasy. I've decided that egg shells need to be dried and then ground as they take a long time to decompose and lately there has been lots of eggshell bits in my garden beds, which I find unattractive. I also have put cotton into the bins, one, just to see what happened and two because I couldn't seem to just toss away an old cotton wash cloth that I'd had for years. I felt better knowing it wasn't going into the landfill.

Close up shot of the worms working on the corn cobs. There's even one on the side of the rubbermaid container. I have no idea why they like to hang out on the sides, in the space between the edge and the lid, and on the lid itself. But I can find loads of them there sometimes. Other times, they just mosey back into the pile. Maybe it's their idea of a little day trip.Other than grinding eggshells, I freeze banana peels just so they break down. This was upon the advice of the Master Composter who helped me start my worm bins. I now have 6 bins going and they take kitchen scraps and garden waste that isn't full of weedy seeds. Worm bins are really easy to keep and I like to give starts to friends and coworkers who decide to try vermicomposting.

I remembered when I first got started, and I called my Mother with great excitement. "Hi Mom! Guess what? I have worms!!"
After a long pause, she replied "Well, it's not exactly something I can brag about to the neighbors."

I don't know. I would.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Of all the things I've lost.....

Gardener, oh gardener
Where have you gone?
You're not weeding 'maters
or lost in the corn.

The cosmos are waving
their lazy soft heads
Spaghetti squash vines
o'er running their beds
Dahlias (planted late)
are beginning to pop
And where are you; where are you?
There are fresh beans to crop!
Walkways to mulch
and pots all awry
the sunflowers endlessly
reach for the sky.
All of this beauty and
you're not around.

(Maybe your mind
is simply not sound)

Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Red sky in the morning, Shepherd take warning.

This is a picture of the skies at dawn this morning. I'd say it's lovely but the Trabing fire is a terrible tragedy and the reason why there is a bright pink sunrise.

It was heart-rending to see. I didn't mind the hold up on the freeway. But as usual I was annoyed that other drivers weren't letting emergency vehicles pass. Since my trek home is southbound on Highway 1, I could see the fires in the groves. And I was actually watching a house burn down. My husband and I know people who live in that area, and we still haven't heard if they are okay yet. I'm sure they have other worries. I hope to hear from them soon.

We were on the road and out of town when the fire in Bonnie Doon occurred. We came home to a garden covered in ash. And of course the Summit fire in May was troubling. Again, one friend was watching his pasture burn - but the house and buildings survived. And they were able to move their pets and horses off the property.

With this heat, we're sure to have a bad fire season. I was reading a local blogger's entry recently about how lovely the sunsets were with the smoke in the air. I felt it was insensitive. Just like the people who don't get out of the way of Emergency services. Shameful......

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A story continued - after by far too much delay.

I didn't tell the end of the story of the amaryllis. Well, they didn't go to the wedding. Not a single one was in bloom on the 22nd of December. They waited until mid-January to open. I took these pictures on 1/16/08. One frustrating thing is that the colors were supposed to be "Apple Blossom" Pink and "Dazzler" white. One of the white ones bloomed pink. Most of the others were white. But if the bloom below is "Apple Blossom" - I will eat my gardening hat! (They were more salmon colored - not white with pink stripes in the trumpet).

Very disappointing. I will think twice about buying amaryllis, I would expect this sort of result from buying out of a general nursery bin. In that situation, I can understand when the colors get mixed.

I gave most of the white ones away to the Bride. She said they bloomed beautifully in early February. The rest I gave to friends as Valentine gifts. I kept a white one for myself. I ended up having about eight plants that didn't do anything. They are about to hit the compost pile tomorrow as I'm getting the greenhouse ready for tomatoes.

Yay! Tomatoes!!
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