Wednesday, May 26, 2010

25 Recommended local businesses

It's the time of year when I advertise Bartlett's as a good source of seedlings. They are just north of Montclair on Grove Street on your left. You can see the greenhouses from the road. I've always been pleased with their seedlings. I have nothing against the other nearby garden centers.

My (environmentally aware) bike is serviced by Brookdale Cycle just on the other side of the park at 1292 Broad Street. Mark is the third generation to do this work, and I delight in his service. There are two bike stores in Montclair, but he is closest to me.

The Bread Company at 113 Walnut Street is another family-owned business. It provides fresh-baked baked goods with the best of ingredients - and taste. I make most of my own bread with my bread machine, but when we want a treat, we run to them. They take orders for special occasions, but when you just go in, the choice is wonderful.

Terra Tea Shop at 10 Church Street provides simple meals and a good conversation setting. It also sells a variety of fair trade products.

Go Lightly around the corner at 4 South Fullerton sells environmentally sensitive items.

Milk Money at 76 Church Street is a consignment shop for children's clothing and toys. This helps prevent waste ("There is no 'away.'") and surely saves money. My grandson's presents come from there.

Jose German started Green Harmony Now last year and now has 5 employees! He provides sustainable gardening and landscaping services and advice. greenharmonynow@ 973-233-1106

Lullaby Lawn Service is a group of enterprising high school students that provide responsible inexpensive landscaping service with no power machinery. Lullabylawns 973-716-1216

This is fun. Aren't we fortunate to have so many fine services nearby? I was unhappy to hear the president of Bolivia say last week both in public at the people's conference on climate change and then to an interviewer that democracy and capitalism are incompatible. I agree with him that trans-national corporations have done a lot of harm and need to be curbed. Indeed, corporations that are too big lose touch with the people they serve need to be made smaller, I think.

However, real capitalism, people helping others and getting paid for it, is certainly compatible with democracy and maybe essential to it. Small business run by people who want to help the people who pay them are healthy and a joy to do business with. Thus, in this season when there is a movement to ban banks with assets of more than $100 billion (hardly small, but dwarfed by some current banks), I hereby want to add to the list of small locally-owned businesses that Fred and I recommend.

Brantley's at 91 Maple Avenue sells used tires. This is really important for the environment (there is absolutely no "away" for old tires!), and we buy all our tires there. It's at least a second generation business in that location.

Mac Automotive at 7 South Willow Street is Fred's auto repair shop.

Tony's Autobody at 126 Washington Street in Nutley is his choice for reliable body work on his cars.

Saunder's Hardware at 627 Valley Road is under new management, but I find them as reliable as the earlier owners.

Aspen East is an exercise center at the end of the parking lot in Watchung Center (122). I prefer less formal forms of exercise, but I am very grateful to their friendly staff for providing a place for my tai chi group to meet when it's too cold in Edgemont Park.

"I've got a notion" is a sewing store with wonderful fabrics along with notions, just to the right of Aspen East (also listed at 122 Watchung).

Watchung Booksellers on Fairfield Street is where I buy books.

Keil's Contractors, led by Gordon Keil (973-746-0603) did a fine job replacing our garage floor last summer.

Joe the Plumber (973-226-6607) is local enough to come to our home -- not the famous one from the campaign!

Stephane Mortier is a fine handyman. (973) 873-4330

Years ago I started going to "Mario's" at 213 Bellevue Avenue for my shoe repair. One time I was startled that Mario had turned Korean and had Korean talk radio on. The service continued to be excellent. Recently it changed its name to Montclair Shoe Repair. It's between Valley Road and Norwood on the north side in the middle of a group of stores.

A massage therapist is not exactly a business, but they do support themselves without being attached to big business. I am extremely happy with mine, who keeps me in good health. Marie-Christine Lochot practices at 88 Park Street. Her telephone number is 973-746-7476 and her email is massageappt @

Since I raise my own vegetables, I'm not as plugged into sources as I might be. The only CSA that I know still has a few memberships available is Genesis Farm. To contact the Community Supported Garden (CSG) at Genesis Farm, call 908 362-7486. The membership form for the CSG is at www/

The Montclair Farmers' market officially opens on Saturday, June 5. It is held every Saturday through November in the Walnut Street Train Station parking lot, from 8:00 am - 2:00 pm, running all summer and fall into November. A few vendors are there already on Saturday mornings from 8:00am - noon.

Janit London sent me the following: Purple Dragon Co-op provides local organic fruits and vegetables year round supplemented by produce from outside the region, Florida and farther away when necessary. Five types of NJ honey, Blue Earth Local Natural Foods NJ organic blueberry butter, heirloom tomato sauce, heirloom tomato garlic ketchup, NY eco apple butter, organic sunset salsa and salsa verde concentrate, local eggs, meats and cheese, regionally roasted coffee, grains, nuts, beans, vitamins, natural cosmetics, veggie brushes. Janit London at (973) 429-0391 9 am-7 pm or

Jane Califf writes, "I just had a few things dry cleaned the other day in an "organic dry cleaning" business: Brookdale Cleaners, 1294 Broad St., which is near Brookdale Shoprite in the north end of Bloomfield and next to a post office. It was amazing to go into such a store and smell no chemicals. My clothes were cleaned well, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that there are no dangerous chemical residues on my clothes. Their phone number is: 973-338-7900.

Aren't we lucky to have 25 local, family-owned businesses to enjoy!


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Monday, May 24, 2010

Open Garden Report

What a lovely Saturday morning! Both the weather and the guests were delightful. The Open Garden was a success for me in the (usual) sense that it made me feel both happy and useful. There were, as usual, a variety of questions.

"How do you pinch the tomato plants?"
"I don't."
"But they say you should pinch them."
"It takes time, and I don't see any reason for it."
"I'm with you!"

"How do you turn your compost heap?"
"I don't. I tried at first, but it's a lot of work, and doesn't seem to be worth the trouble. I layer green and brown at about four inches, but it doesn't have to be at all exact. That seems to mix it enough for composting to happen in a couple months in the summer."

"What is that pile?"
"That's wood. It takes about a decade to compost, so I keep it
separate from the regular compost pile. Every decade or so, I take the top off, put it somewhere else, and take the good compost from the bottom. The regular compost heap takes less than a year, so I don't want the slow-composting sticks in it."

"Do you put weeds in the compost?"
"But then don't you have weed seeds in the compost?"
"No, it heats up to about 160 degrees, and that kills the weeds."

"That's nightshade," pointing to the wood pile. "I've been told
it is poisonous."
"Is it? It's not poisonous to the touch," I said, stroking it.
"I pull it out occasionally. I wouldn't eat it."

"Why do you have soap around?"
"Irish Spring Soap keeps away deer. I had one visit from deer
last year, and it was disastrous. I haven't had any more since I put the
soap around." It's wedged in various fencing and tomato cages.

"Shouldn't you take the flowers off the greens to make them last
"I've noticed that when flowers come, the plants are nearing the
end. I don't worry about them too much, except to remove them to get to
the leaves."

The group seemed tolerant of the fact that I have not planted out peppers and eggplant yet, for the first time in a May open garden. "It was below 50 degrees this week!" The group nodded. I've been cleaning out the mess (dominated by pretty white alyssum) where some of them will go, and discovered in the wilderness a remarkable number of tomato seedlings. Their location and appearance make me suspect they are children of last year's Burpees hybrid supersteak tomatoes. One never knows, of course, what children hybrids will have. However, I've potted up some and put them on the right side of my steps at 56 Gordonhurst Avenue.

I gave the last 3-pack of Saturday's Malabar spinach to a late leaver at the end, but since Saturday, seedlings have been proliferating in my garden. I potted up some today, which are on the left side of the aforementioned steps (alphabetic order). Help yourselves. I will try to keep up a supply in the next few days. Warning: Malabar needs to climb either a trellis or a fence. It tastes much like regular spinach, but is beautiful and last from mid-summer until frosty temperatures.

Today far too many arugula plants germinated. At least, I think they are arugula. The last packet turned out to be Chinese cabbage, but that's nice too. Management error, apparently - I save arugula seed. Are these worth potting up? I won't do it unless there are requests.

Happy gardening!


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Friday, May 21, 2010

Malabar spinach and other things to see

The Malabar spinach is up! Its usual abundance reminds me to pot up 3-packs, which are now on the left of the front steps at 56 Gordonhurst Avenue. There are more of them than tomatoes on the right. If you planted some last year, inspect your garden before you take mine.

Malabar spinach tastes very much like regular spinach, but it is a climbing plant, so you will need a fence or trellis if you are going to raise it successfully. It begins in mid-summer, so is a fine replacement for sugar snap peas, with the added advantage that woodchucks (aka groundhogs) don't like it. I froze lots of it last summer, but that takes discipline since it SEEMS to last forever, unlike most things I freeze, which if I don't do it "soon," will no longer be fit for picking. The "seem" is deceiving because it and basil are the first to be killed by the cold in the fall, before eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes, which go with the first "hard" frost.

I also have my first snap pea today! I am courageously not picking it until after the open garden tomorrow (from 9:00 - 11:00 AM) for some mixed motives of an urge to educate and to show off. I hope it's still there tomorrow. Something is nibbling my pea plants, but it isn't disaster yet.

I also have some green tomatoes about a half inch in diameter, which is early.
I'm delaying planting out most of my eggplant and peppers because the cold is intermittent. We haven't had a frost since March 26, but it was in the 40s this week. My basil plants provide a dramatic display of how much they prefer to stay inside.

I've left up one cold frame to protect the abundant lettuce within from rabbits. It also has the last of the winter Chinese cabbage, and you can see as well pak choi, collards, parsley strawberries, and Hakurei turnips that I am harvesting this week, along with promising bean, corn, celery, broccoli, cucumber, garlic, and zucchini plants.

Oh, yes, last evening's film "Dirt" reminds me that you can also run your fingers through good garden soil (not like Montclair's native clay) and compost.


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Monday, May 17, 2010

Mammals, weeds, strawberries here!

The capacity of the human mind to forget is amazing. All teachers can tell stories of their pearls just disappearing into the wind. Last week, as I lamented the gradual (not dramatic, so it couldn't be woodchucks) disappearance of my broccoli leaves, it suddenly occurred to me that I used to close the garden entrance with a one-foot chicken-wire fence because, as I have often said, "Rabbits can't get over a one-foot fence."

And this year I forgot! I did have it still in the garage after last year's great clean-up, so I humbly put it in place last Thursday afternoon. That seems to have ended the minor nibbling on my broccoli plants. How could I have forgotten?

Then I went inside for a while. When I came out, a woodchuck scampered across my garden! Oh, dear! How minor is rabbit damage! Just by luck, Stephane came by that evening. He blocked the new hole under the house, and I haven't seen any woodchuck damage since.

Maybe. We were away for the weekend and I came back full of garden anxiety. The pea plants have been nibbled. Nothing disastrous. Is this routine? I don't think I've studied my growing pea plants like this for many a year. My paranoia's worst fears have not been fulfilled, and I do have two small peas almost an inch long. Long live those peas!

Are other people finding weeds more prevalent this year than many? I keep weeding and weeding, and don't remember them being as persistent in earlier times.

The good news is that we are harvesting strawberries (early) and have some 1/2" tomatoes on the vine. So there will be things to see at the Open Garden this Saturday. About this time before each open garden I have those misgivings about whether it will be worth coming to. With luck, it will be.


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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Houseplants, floating cover, and raspberries

One of you asked when compost is ready to be used. That's negotiable. I have so much now that is so far gone that I don't have to worry. However, a general rule is that when it smells good and feels nice to your fingers, it is fine. This can be long before it is truly "mature." My uncle used to bury his garbage every evening in the garden paths, and that seemed to nourish his excellent garden, so I guess composting itself is negotiable. The books say that you shouldn't put fresh garbage or weeds in the soil because they will steal nitrogen from it. I don't understand the chemistry of that, but I do know my uncle's garden was wonderful. Most of us don't want to dig every evening; composting is far more convenient. Remember the t-shirt, "Compost Happens."

Another asked if I put floating cover over all my spring plant-outs. Certainly not! I don't want them to burn. Once I didn't take the FC off the carrots soon enough, and the tops were badly singed. This year I'm a bit neurotic about the pests, so I've used more FC than most years, but each spring and fall, I "wing it."

I had an amazing experience this morning. My best friend from seventh grade visited! I was heartbroken when she moved away in eighth grade, and we corresponded into our college days. We actually spoke for the first time this week in over fifty years. Much of our deep sharing is not appropriate for an email list, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind my telling you that she freezes her extra raspberries on a sheet and then puts them, individually frozen, in a ziplock bag. In the winter she pours out just as many as she will use because raspberries don't refreeze. I didn't know until today that they freeze well, but she says she enjoys them in winter.


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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Plant-outs, bugs, and weeds

What a glorious day! May is here indeed. Today I planted out two cucumber plants, two broccolis, two zucchini, one tomato, and 12 impatiens. It was a heart-warming way to celebrate the warm weather.

Also, I can report that my green beans, sown over two weeks ago in the hope of showing them off at last week's open garden, germinated late this week. The corn is beginning to appear among them. I don't remember them taking so long before, but then I haven't had many April open gardens. Carrots have germinated in only one week, but they are hardly noticeable compared to the sturdy bean plants! The winds this week have been very inconsiderate with their floating cover. I don't remember this problem before, but floating cover has floated entirely too much in this week's winds.

It's time to take off excess small apples from your apple tree. If you don't thin them to about 6", leaving at most one in each cluster, your apple tree will strike next year. Mine did last year, and I miss the apples on the off years. I'm trying to edit them appropriately, but it's a tedious job, and the pay-off is 16 months away. Lots of practice in delayed gratification there! I'd rather plant out tomatoes.

The sad news there is that at least one (and probably two) of my tomato plants died in the past week. It can't be the cold because most are fine. The Grim Reaper strikes oddly.

One of you asked about what to do about specific bugs. My basic answer is that I ignore them. I have been known to spray harshly water on aphids, but I prefer lady bugs. Oh! I did buy lady bugs once, mail order, and their descendants seem to be still around. I also bought praying mantis and I still occasionally see them.

Weeds are another matter. They sit still and wait to be pulled. I can see them, and I can get rid of them, trying not to think of Albert Schweitzer's admonition, "Reverence for Life." I've read that he carefully walked around ants in his African mission so he didn't kill any. I'm not THAT reverent toward life, but its miracle does seem amazing to me today.

Still, does anyone else think we have more dandelions than usual this year? They and the trees are the most urgent weeds to pull. If you don't pull the trees while they are tiny, they become much more difficult to remove, in contrast, say, to onion grass, which sits there patiently waiting to be pulled at my leisure. I like dandelions, but I know that if I am to tout a model organic lawn, I mustn't have them. So I pull them as soon as I notice something yellow so that they will not promulgate.

I left some perennial flowers on my front walk with invitations to take them, but nobody did except one family that I personally invited to. At this point there is one pot of Dutch iris (shorter and later than Siberian iris), one of chrysanthemum, and one of swan's neck. I hope they find a new home, but if not, the compost heap will take them cheerfully.


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