Monday, August 23, 2010

Euphorbia available at Plochs, transplanting, finding grass clippings

Someone anonymously left a tag for what I've called an "anti-woodchuck plant" for two years, saying it is available at Plochs. Or so my mysterious visitor believes, which may well be right. They label it as a "mole plant" and say it is "euphorbia lathryis." The label says (in very small print) "The stems of the Mole Plant contain a sap which is poisonous and caustic and is said to deter moles and gophers. Grows as a single stem and bears yellow flowers in clusters. When Mole Plant is spaced forty feet apart as a border plant around flowers, herb, or vegetable gardens, it is extremely effective in deterring moles."

I have had many fewer woodchucks this year than last, and the many euphorbia around my garden may be a major reasons. I find the plants are very difficult to remove after a certain size, and have been removing them smaller. I haven't seen any flowers. They are extremely invasive and easy to remove when less than a foot high. I remove them selectively. I'm not a total believer, but I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm still experimenting.

I haven't had mole problems that I am aware of, but woodchucks have been terrible at times.

I began transplanting the lettuce I sowed last week today. It was perfect transplanting weather -- between showers! If it is indeed dry enough tomorrow morning to finish, I may have.

My own great excitement today was finding some grass clippings available on the curb after a 12-hiatus following our return from MathFest. I could understand why people weren't cutting their grass, but it sure is nice to have mulch again. It makes weeding seem like it has a promise. Actually, I have dug out some large euphorbia in recent days and some "gone" collards, so I'm making space for the seedlings to go out before the open garden on Sept. 11. IF the euphorbia are actually deterring woodchucks, they work before they are maximum size, when, I've discovered, they are hard to remove.

Happy weeding!


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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cucumbers, buying seedlings, sowing seeds, dead raspberry bushes, weeds

I officially pronounced my cucumber plants dead this afternoon. These super-long cukes from Fedco are great while they last, but I think they die out sooner than some varieties. Since I raise my own seedlings, I could raise more than one type. If you are still harvesting abundant cukes, what is the type? Is Marketmore still looking healthy? Or is it this summer's unusually hot weather and my reluctance to water the culprit?

Someone asked for local places to buy seeds and seedlings now. Once I tried to buy seeds at a Montclair outlet in early summer and was told with distain, "You must plant seeds in May!" I was speechless in disbelief at his ignorance, while he stared at me with a superior look. I've had the charity not to remember where that was, but since then I have bought abundant seeds from mail-order in the spring. If I forget something, I phone Burpees again. Fedco doesn't take orders after a Montclair-type deadline.

However, I bought seedLINGS from three garden centers early this summer: Bartlett's on Grove Street somewhat north of Montclair on the left; Ploch's, at the end of Alwood Avenue on the left side as you drive out of Montclair north on Broad Street; and that place on Center Street in nearby Nutley, on the left shortly after you turn left from the GSP (or more accurately, East Passaic Avenue).

Today I noticed that the lettuce I sowed outdoors last week has germinated. This week I sowed pak choi, kale, collards, and Burpees two-season Chinese cabbage (which will end up in my cold frame for harvests all winter) in my greenhouse window. I suspect any sunny windowsill would do nicely. I still have some fledgling eggplant seedlings in my greenhouse window to put where I will remove the cucumber plants.

Last evening I put FOUR full bags of dead raspberry bushes on the curb; they were picked up this morning. Earlier I had put three more out. Cutting them out is a huge project, and I hoped I was done, but as I began mulching today the raspberries with the leaves Fred kindly brought home last fall, I discovered some I had missed. That happens every summer as I remove last year's raspberries plants.

More seriously, I was appalled as I looked at the weeds in my front yard. I've been so busy freeing the young raspberry bushes for harvest, I had ignored the front yard. The old raspberries have savage thorns, and the young 'uns are getting quite prolific now. (If you come to the free film this evening, you might sample some.) Anyway, I hope people aren't too shocked by the growth in my front yard. I began a bit this afternoon, but it will take much more effort to get it presentable. Every experienced gardener and landscaper with whom I discussed this agrees this is a phenomenal year for weeds.

But the goodies are good too. Happy harvesting!


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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Home again! What do I plant now? Carrots, watering, eggplants

We arrived home last evening from another week away (this time visiting relatives while driving to and from MathFest in Pittsburgh), and it's always interesting to see what the garden is like after a week of neglect. The news is good this time except for the lettuce, which was chewed to the bottom.

Someone asked what I do for watering when I'm gone. Except for that time about a month ago when I confessed to you that I had watered in the extreme heat during that super-hot spell, I haven't watered the garden for three years with a hose. I'm not in principle opposed to watering a garden, as I am to watering a lawn, but it just hasn't needed it. There have been times in the past when I've gone away for three weeks (both in June and in August) and the garden was fine while I was gone. The only thing I need human help with sometimes is picking beans and zucchini so the plant doesn't think it's done its duty and die.

Speaking of beans, it's a fine time to plant them again if you now have the space.

Lettuce is also fine up until September, but it will need lots of watering with a can until the plants are a quarter inch high, and you may have the problem I did last week. (That can happen any time of year.) Soon I will start pak choi and collards plants inside to plant out this fall for fall harvest. I will also start Burpee's two-season Chinese cabbage and kale inside for winter harvests.

Last week when I was home for four days I noticed that I had one eggplant that was the usual purple color and another (on a different plant) that was green! I'd never seen anything like that before. Now I see I have one that is yellow, which I assume is the mature version of green. These must be plants I bought. (I raise most of my own, but this year supplemented eggplant, peppers, and basil with plants from garden centers.) Does anyone have experience with this? I wasn't warned by the label. Is a yellow eggplant ripe? Will it continue to grow the way purple eggplants do?
Last week I forgot to mention that with that wonderful haul of grass clippings, I thinned and mulched my carrots. Wow! The "thinnings" were the best I've ever had. One was nine inches long and a half inch in diameter. Unprecedented for early August! All plants are growing remarkably this year, both goodies and weeds.

Incidentally, I see that there are few weeds where I mulched with grass clippings. However, they have managed to fit themselves into many unprecedented spots. Perhaps it's worth mentioning that I compost all garden waste (dead goodies and weeds) except raspberry bushes. The Heritage raspberries are bearing again! I still need to remove the remaining dead plants, but I did some this evening, and will continue to chew away at that job. I have an extra incentive now because removing the oldies makes it easier to get to the new plants that are bearing. I feared Fred and I had been too raspberry-greedy at breakfast today when I went out this evening, but then I found more buried among their elders.
Soon they will be yielding lots, in time, I suspect, for the next Open Garden on Sept. 11 from 2-4 PM.
We ate well while we were away, but we both agree that garden eating is welcome again. Isn't summer nice? Well, except for the heat and humidity... The next two days are supposed to be cooler, which seems appealing.


P.S. The final honorary address was given by the leading Native American mathematician. He choose to devote much of what was expected to be a math talk to photos he had taken while hiking in the Rockies over recent decades to show how much evidence there is of climate change. The photos were beautiful but scary. Afterward he told Fred and me about a physicist at MIT (whose name, lamentably, I forget) who insists there is not convincing evidence of human implications in climate change. "He doesn't believe in statistics. He says there is an excellent correlation between the number of Republicans in Congress and the number of sun spots, and that is true." But his conclusion that the correlation between human activity and climate change does not imply we are implicated in its quick progression is not justified. "He doesn't admit he doesn't believe in statistics, but that's what his arguments imply." He and I worry about the consequences of people who should know better denying the human impact on climate change.
Let's raise vegetables locally, ride bikes whenever possible (It's fun!), and turn off your motor vehicle when it's not moving. I read recently that after 10 seconds an idling motor will hasten the demise of the engine. Such precise estimates are always subject to skepticism, but idling is hard to defend even if it's 30 seconds or a whole minute.

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Jose's Garden

Just before I left on last week's trip Jose German and I found a common time in our schedule for me to visit his garden. Wow! He has much more variety of techniques than I do. He has a commercial set of short boxes that are suitable for worm composting in the winter in kitchen and he now has outdoors. He has a contraption that makes compost tea overnight. He raises crops in all kinds of settings that suggest nobody has an excuse for not raising some.

He has more beans than you could believe could grow in a Montclair yard. He was harvesting eggplant over two weeks ago. He aspires to rid his yard of lawn before long.

He told me he has 170 native species on his property, seven trees, 14 bushes, three vines, and more than 120 flowers and other plants. Twenty-seven different flowers are blooming "now." He knows an amazing amount about property care, which makes us very lucky that he has started (If you want his landscaping or advising services, you can get in touch with him there or at 973-233-1106.) He agrees we have an inordinate amount of weeds this year, but adds he has a team of three men who can pull a thousand weeds in three hours!


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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thrills and weeding

Thursday evening Fred and I arrived home from being the only NJ participants at the first International Conference on Ethnomathematics (ICEM-4) held in the U.S., which was a WONDERFUL experience with people from 20 countries.

However, as we drove down Grove Street, I felt a thrill of how beautiful Montclair is. There was another thrill as we turned onto Gordonhurst, and, of course, several as I became reacquainted with my garden after a week away. I feel lucky to live in northern NJ for the beauty!

I had thought that my bush beans were ready to pull when I left and was contemplating what I would do with that choice spot in front of my greenhouse window. Lo and behold! When I arrived home, there were little beans on most of the plants. A whole new crop!

One more zucchini plant had bit the dust, but there are three left, and all seem to be thriving.
The small tomatoes were abundant, although one neighbor said he had picked some when we were gone, as he had permission to do. We picked and ate our first large tomato last evening. I had to take a photo of it between those activities because it was SIX INCHES across. Now, that is a big tomato!

The peppers are coming along. We are enjoying them in salads, but they aren't abundant enough yet for freezing. (I just wash them, cut them in pieces, and put them in a ziplock bag in the kitchen freezer for winter stir-fries with the fresh greens from our cold frame.)

Our first dinner back was pesto. Yum! Very little basil has died, but national warnings about basil blight make me wary. It should be eaten or frozen as it becomes available, especially this year.

I was happy to spot several eggplant flowers, and then saw my first purple eggplant. It was over an inch in diameter, not to eat this week, but full of promise. Then I couldn't find it for two days. Did I imagine it? No, this evening it was there again. This time I won't forget where my first fresh eggplant parmesan dinner of 2010 is coming from.

One of my cucumber plants has died, but the other seems to be thriving and has a couple juvenile cucumbers. I still have some in the frig from before the trip.

The second crop of raspberries is abundant, but not ripe.

Friday morning I noticed that a neighbor had left two bags of grass clippings on the curb. Big thrill! My neighbors are catching onto the fact that there are better uses for grass clippings, so finding them is always exciting these days. The weather has been delightful for mulching and weeding, and the yard certainly needed it. I've spent lots of time outside in the past three days. About sundown this evening I placed the last of those two bags.

I'm not devoted to neatness, but this year's weeds have been trying even my tolerance of mess. Furthermore, those super-hot days had me carefully rationing my outdoor time to early morning and dusk. At my age and health one doesn't want to run more risks than necessary. But the recent weather can only be good for health, don't you think? I have enjoyed watching the property become more suburban, as I weed, weed, weed, and mulch those empty spots so the weeds won't return. Maybe.


P.S. Ethnomathematics is the study of the interface between math and culture. Many people at ICEM-4 had been studying how math is used and learned in various cultures with the hope of enriches all our lives, promoting world peace, and inspiring youngsters in those cultures to learn more math. I learned about masons in Portugal, bus conductors in India who keep all the records for a day in their heads without a machine or writing, and weaving in many parts of the world with a remarkable variety of social connotations.
The most amazing report to me was a young woman in Hawaii who has learned the ancient navigation art that the Polynesians used thousands of years ago to cris-cross the Pacific Ocean. They had no written language but did sophisticated trigonometry in their heads! In our own culture people have been studying the informal math of street children. The researcher from South Africa says he is fluent in 6 of their 11 official languages, and can speak 4 of the others somewhat.


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