Sunday, October 17, 2010

Questions and frost preparations

One of you asked why the compost and soil are baked. I found out emphatically when I brought in a nasturtium plant, leaving it in the garden soil in which it had grown, and put the pot in the tray from which I bottom water my greenhouse plants. Soon I saw little things swimming around in the water, about a quarter inch long and very thin. Next thing we knew our kitchen was infested with mosquitoes! So you don't want to use unbaked garden soil any more than you must because don't want mosquitoes in your house either.

Another of you asked how to prevent troubles from bringing in garden soil. Obviously, I don't have definitive answers for this, but I will never put a pot from the garden in water again for the first month after it is in my house. I brought an impatiens plant in yesterday and put it NEXT to the tray. I should have watered it more than I did, and I'm not sure it will survive, but perhaps I can do better next time.

Frost wisdom: Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants survive after their plants turn black, I discovered last year. I picked them AFTER frost killed their plants and they tasted fine, fresh or frozen (no difference there!). Basil and Malabar spinach, of course, are completely lost as soon as the first light frost hits them, because we eat the most vulnerable parts of the plant. So given a choice, pick your spinach and basil aggressively when the FIRST frost warning is given. Please email me before you go to pick so I can tell others and then pick too. Picking by flashlight is possible, although not ideal.

You can read my potting recipe in the "basic skills" section of this blog. I have not bought any potting soil this year or last, and things seem to grow fine. Last year's tomato blight was blamed by many on some infected potting soil that was widely used for tomato seedlings, mass raised and shipped to many garden center outlets nationwide. Since both sand and vermiculite are sterile, I had no trouble. It's MUCH cheaper than commercial mix, of course. I've used commercial seedlings mixes before for starting spring seeds, but I tried using my own for about half this past spring with no obvious failures.

I greatly enjoy having flowers to stare at and give away all winter long. I don't feel evangelistic about this as I do about home vegetable gardening and abstaining from power machinery, but flowers bring me innocent pleasure, as they have for many people over human history (and probably before). Innocent pleasures are not something to be taken lightly in this troubled world.

Happy potting!


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