outside in the garden

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Astragene, with thanks to Garden web

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Seedling pots
Buying seed starter pots or other containers for you seeds every year can get expensive. I was interested in The wooden thingie you use to create biodegradable pots from newspaper. This typically sells for about $20; I used to own one, but it got lost in my last move, before I ever made many pots from it.
It turns out you can just use a household glass or a soda can to form it. Or you can do it origami style as demonstrated in this video.
Or, you could fill with potting soil a half egg shell (see the Mr. Brown Thumb page, further down), or section of toilet paper tube. I kind of like the egg shell idea!

Picture, if you will, an egg carton, filled with a dozen half eggshells -- planted with eggplant seedlings! A possible Easter gift??

Good seed catalogs
Not February quite yet -- but it's time to think SEEDS!

For those who could use a list of reliable suppliers to the home garden, here's a list of ones that sell tried and true seeds and decline to sell anything that has been genetically modified.

The manual genetic modification technology has yet to be thoroughly tested by the USDA and found safe for consumption.

Nevertheless, Monsanto and one or two other giant chemical companies are forging ahead. Monsanto owns come companies that own some seed distributors that own some seed companies; I urge people not to buy from those companies. It's not always easy to tell, but one clue is to look at the bottom of their website and see who owns the copyright, then look up that company (if it's different).

Here are some of the good ones:

Park Seed
Park Seed has always been committed to offering only untreated, non-genetically-modified seed, and now we are proud to be a source of professionally-grown Certified Organic seed.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Your source for 1400 heirloom seeds. We only offer open-pollinated seeds: pure, natural & non-GMO!

Fedco Seeds
The company was founded in 1978 as a cooperative and caters mainly to home growers and market gardeners in the Northeast. Much of the seed offered is certified organic. The company maintains high standards, tests for genetically modified contamination, and offers excellent customer service.
I can order Fedco seeds through my local Food Coop, which gets the volume discount by placing bulk orders for its members.

Seed Savers Exchange
Seed Savers Exchange,Inc., is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to conserving and promoting heirloom vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs.
Non-members can buy from the Seedsavers catalog, but members have access to a gret many more varieties of seeds, many brought here by immigrants and handed down through families

Johnnys Selected Seeds A seed cooperative in Maine.
...recognizing the precious genetic heritage in heirloom seeds, he offered numerous vintage varieties, whose seed, unlike hybrids, does not break down after one generation. And, although operating a business dependent upon seed sales, he wrote a book to help gardeners save their own vegetable seeds, called “Growing Garden Seeds”.

High Mowing Seeds
The Safe-Seed Pledge
Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants.
The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities

For more catalog information, check out The Vegetable Gardener blog
For an explanation of what's wrong with genetically modified organisms, take a look at Say No to GMOs, a website with links to many informative articles.
To read what Monsanto has to say for itself, look at their website. They argue that to keep up with population growth, the world will need genetically modified plants. (I wonder how they feel about birth control?)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bird's nest compost pile
Deb Martin in eastern Pennsylvania practices and writes about composting, and while cleaning up a winters worth of sticks and debris last year came up with Bird's nest composting. I like it for its simplicity:
... to create creating a passive, no-turn compost project, a base layer of sticks makes a fine starting point. You can imagine you’re building a really big bird’s nest as you pile up the twigs in a rough circle or in the bottom of your open bin or pen. When you have other ingredients, start layering them inside the frame made of sticks and random prunings. The twiggy base will let air flow up and under the pile, reducing the need for turning to get air into the heap.
Read the rest, and more innovative ideas at Compost Gardening

I have a triad of metal wire bins; and just now, two are nearly empty and one is filled to overflowing with dry leaves. I had nowhere to put my food scraps, so I plan to construct a small bird's nest right next to the bin of leaves so every time I dump I'll have ready cover.

Quick and easy! perfect.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The traveling gardener
There will be all sorts of events coming up that appeal to the gardener. For instance, organic gardener and teacher Linda Turner of Bozrah, CT, has scheduled a trip to the NY Botanical Garden in mid April. I found the link to her site "Plantasia," at Nancy DeBrule's Natureworks email update.
First Tour of 2009!
Looks like the first tour will be in late April to the New York Botanical Garden. I'm looking at Saturday, April 18, so as soon as the bus is confirmed, I'll have the sign up sheet online and you can register. New York is about 3 weeks ahead of us as far as temperature etc, so there will be plenty of blooming bulbs, and maybe cherries and dogwood and spring blooming perennials. There's always the awesome exhibits in the conservatory if it's a little chilly out and the gift shop is great. They have a wonderful restaurant there, too. Other tours in process are to the Wildflower Society's Garden in the Woods and maybe their new education center at Nasami Farm, Tower Hill Botanic, and possibly one in New York State (that one may be an overnight!) If there is interest in some local spots, I will be planning some casual group events at Connecticut College and Harkness.

This could be a lovely way to spend an April Saturday!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Burpee meets Martha Stewart Living
I looked up George Ball Jr., the current head of the Burpee Seed Co.I was trying to find out if the company is now owned by the chemical company, Monsanto, which does own a number of seed companies.
I havent yet discovered what I went for, but did find some pleasant writing by Mr. Ball on the occasion of his visit to Martha Stewart at her Westport, CT home about 16 years ago.He found her likable, shy and attractive.
...Basically, what you see on TV is what Martha truly is. She gardens like a professional - I was very impressed. We visited the henhouses with their little Martha-like designer hens. She showed me their "Martha" eggs -- dappled and speckled in rich colors and shades. Amazing! I immediately fantasized that I'd try to breed and sell baby chicks again, like the original Mr. Burpee back in 1876. I told Martha about how we'd developed many of the strains of poultry she was raising. After I returned home to Warminster and reviewed the costs that would be involved, I abandoned the dream. Martha is a fantasy merchant; she creates wonderful worlds of make-believe and invites her audience to inhabit them for a very pleasant half-hour. It is not unlike the pleasure our customers get when they curl up with the Burpee catalogue or visit our Web site.

When Martha Stewart in turn paid a visit to the Fordhook, PA Burpee farms she picked a verbascum as one of two favorites of the new varieties they were testing that year. Ball remarked that the plant made the test gardens look more natural, less like, well, test gardens.

Traditional perennial borders are tricky to design. One slip of the palette and the result is pure mediocrity with the usual suspects lined up alongside one another, giving the effect of predictability and boredom. Where's the surprise? "Seen one, seen 'em all."
Gardeners should experiment, talk back, disobey an order. Maybe even go AWOL. Anything but the dull "English perennial border" designs that have little or no relationship to the actual site, much less to our North American climate. For beginning gardeners it is especially important to play around and have fun, like a child learning to draw. Establish the ground rules, learn the basics well, and then exercise the imagination. Plant what you like. Let the pundits and snobs lecture on their "rules". Who cares? Discover the flexibility of rules and learn the nuances of your garden as you go along. But "let yourself go." This is the lesson of modernism and it applies to garden design every bit as much as painting, music, or architecture.

To read more of Ball, see a report of conversation at Bard College with an English professor Robert Kelly, under whom he studied while at Bard in the early 1970s.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Weather report
It's been raining for a few days -- nice soft rain followed by more rain; but not the pounding sort of rain that dislodges young plants and batters down those in bloom. We had a number of quite warm days, so I finally had to dig around through some storage piles to see what I did with my summer clothes. I am still quite disorganized after our move of over a year ago.

My first summer in this house, I plunked down some anuals in the little front beds and put a few containers of annuals on the porch -- nust so people would know someone was living here, after the house had been vacant for months.

Since then, I have been trying to build compost, a slow business in that my only material was a superabundance of dry maaple leaves. This summer, I will have lots of green garden waste to add. The wild fall asters that are about 2 feet tall with a lot of rather coarse leaves and tiny flowers (aka weeds) and the buttercups and violets need to be cut back. I love the violets, but they cover most of the yard and are tall enough to give nice cover to a snake. I've seen one snake about 2.5 feet long and the cat has found a couple of shorter ones. I like them, and would not like to setp on onelurking in the grass. My plan is to leave swaths of the violets as ground cover, but to cut pathways through them from the compost and brush pile area to the bird feeder area, for instance.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

More tips...

166. You can use coffee grounds as a mulch around acid-loving plants such as blueberries, azaleas, and dogwoods.

Organic Garden Tips
66. Certain kinds of leaves contain substances that can be harmful to plants, and should not be used for mulching with composting them first. These include: acacia, California bay, camphor, cypress, eucalyptus, madrone, oak, pine, pittosporum, red cedar, and walnut.
Great tips and ideas at this website.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It's been raining every day for 10 days or so (I dont keep as close a watch on the weather as I ought, for a would-be gardener). Reports indicate that there is flooding everywhere - but not here.

I'm still in the "we really need it" mode. Last summer it was very dry; water seemed to disappear soon after it touched the powdery earth. And, being new here and somewhat strapped for cash, I didnt have enough mulch to hold in the little we had. I am busily creating leaf mould to use as compost or mulch. There has been very little green to add to my compost piles until this rain hit. Now, of course, it's too wet to mow. Although it hasn't been raining constantly, it has not dried up at all between rainfalls.

A map at the Accu Weather Community Weather Blog shows that my part of Connecticut had 3-5 inches of rain last week. That's a lot of rain for one week. In the Boston and southeastern corner of New Hamshire, they had up to 12 inches!

I usually rely on the federal NOAA reports for my weekly weather forecasts, as they can be localized quite well -- just type in your zip code. But they do not provide one thing I've been looking for: a nice, easy to read series of charts showing rainfall and temperature history.

Well one good thing about this rain: my peas have finally begun to grow. For some time, they just sat there in the ground, occasionally rising up out of it to look around. It's nearly time to place a support for them -- but it's raining to much! Hm, may have to work put there in the rain!

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Rosa rugosa

Rugosa, I guess, is the "wild" rose you see along the coast. The online Rose Magazine has quite a bit of information on this plant- more than the seed catalogs that offer them for sale.
For a first time Rugosa grower, I would recommend Hansa (picture above), a 1905 introduction which produces brilliant red-purple, extremely fragrant blooms. It is comparatively small growing (4 - 5ft./1.2-1.5 m). In fall, it produces red-orange hips suitable for making rosehip jams or jellies that is, if you can get to them before the birds do.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Tinker's Gardens — Vegetable Gardening - Crop Rotation
Crop Rotation
Failure to rotate crops annually will result in increased soil borne disease, nematodes, soil insects, imbalance of essential mineral elements, and a dramatic decline in productivity. Crop rotation is the most economical ways to aid in prevention and control of insects and disease. Vegetables in the same family grouping are likely to be susceptible to the same diseases and organisms. Rotate these groups so vegetables from one group are not planted in the same location more than once every 3 to 5 years.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Amazing hills
Additional Detail for untitled-28.jpg see image of many steep little hills in China

Yum,dinner - China dog
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I'm in a new place, with a nearly entire garden to create. This will take several years, I imagine.