Sunday, August 21, 2011

What to plant now

The following inquiry merits more than a private response.
"What sort of vegetables/fruits I can plant right now so that I would be able to enjoy them till the light frost or even during the winter?"

It is always time to plant lettuce. I sowed some this week, hoping that humans will be able to eat it. Arugula is similar.

I also planted bush green beans (Roma) this week. The books say it is a good time to plant peas, but I've not had good success with a fall crop. Perhaps a bush pea would work. Hmmm... I should try that next year. I gave away my extra bush pea seeds after sowing what I needed this spring. I guess I won't be so generous next year!

I plant to sow Chinese cabbage seeds for winter tomorrow. For years I have successfully harvested Burpees two-season Chinese cabbage all winter long from my cold frame, but this year's catalog doesn't offer it. I bought a similar seed from Fedco, and will try both in the cold frame this winter and see how it goes. We had fresh stir-fries twice a week all winter LAST winter. (!!!)

Pac choi would also probably be a good planting now outdoors. I suspect that it isn't too late for collards. I have some promising-looking plants now, but youngish collards usually survive the winter under floating cover and can be harvested in March.

The arugula and turnips that I sowed three weeks ago seem to be thriving. A generous neighbor delivered some fresh grass clippings today, and I mulched them carefully along with my carrots and parsnips.

I will soon start parsley and basil to harvest from my kitchen greenhouse window all winter long.

It's a fine time for planning for the future. As always?


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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Surprises after two weeks away

We had two delightful weeks visiting friends and relatives and enjoying MathFest in Lexington, KY. Last evening we returned home, and I quickly surveyed the surprises awaiting me in the garden. There are always surprises, but what they are is always a surprise.

Perhaps the nicest this time was the size of the eggplants. I raised them from seed, radichio from FEDCO. The first I saw and picked was 10" long and 4" in diameter! We had a couple of eggplant parmesan dinners before we left, but those eggplants were nothing like this. Today I saw some that were even larger in the thicket. They freeze well after I dip them in an egg-milk mixture and then flavored bread crumbs and pan-fry them in preparation for eggplant parmesan; that promises to take lots of time in the next week.

The most unhappy discovery was the lack of small ripe tomatoes on thriving bushes. My neighbor who I gave permission to harvest them while I was gone said there were many a few days after I left, and then none. My daughter-in-law said she saw chipmunks climbing up their supporters and eating them. Does anyone know how to control chipmunks? I never worried about them before. Today another friend in Montclair said she saw birds eating her small tomatoes from the tops of bushes. I remembered the tape that presumably keeps birds from my peas by its vibrations, and put some on the tomato cages this afternoon. Then it occurred to me I might think
of something similar to protect raspberries from birds. Hmm.. Lots of work in prospect.

That there was no lettuce was hardly a surprise. The woodchuck(s) had invaded the inner garden and done its thing. The arugula and turnips I sowed three weeks ago are doing fine, but the beets are not visible, and there is only one 1" lettuce plant from that sowing. The beans I sowed between the apple and peach trees grew nicely but are mostly nibbled to the stem.

One of you wrote that she read that pinwheels discourage woodchucks. Have any of you experience with this? Does anyone know where pinwheels can be purchased locally?

Our basil is proliferating more than ever. We had pesto last evening and will many more times in the next nine months, as my time permits. It appears there is an endless amount of basil, but that appearance is deceiving, of course. I know I don't have an endless amount of time.

I discovered that this year's peppers when red enough fall off the vine and rot on the ground. This didn't happen before, probably because I have picked all peppers as soon as they turned red. I picked both red and green yesterday and today, so our salads are not bad, despite the lack of lettuce and tomatoes. We have some cucumbers, and lots of carrots.

Carrots? Early in the evening before we left a neighbor brought us a barrel of excellent grass clippings. I mulched carefully the young beets, turnips, and arugula, and then painstakingly mulched and thinned the carrot patch. This requires GOOD grass clippings. I had about a 9" diameter bundle of carrot "thinnings" when I was finished. Carrots substitute for fresh tomatoes in the winter, and I guess they can in August.

Oh! Another surprise was six small yellow tomatoes on the vine that volunteered in the compost heap, to which I had magnanimously given a cage. Hardly any sun, but very good soil seems to produce tomatoes. Actually, the good soil isn't really needed either, judging by the vines in front of my house. Maybe I will be Harvesting tomatoes again from the main source if I can figure out how to deter my competition.

One more surprise: I harvested my first supersteak tomato today and it was 6" across. It is now cooking down for sauce in this evening's eggplant parmesan.

It's a wildly growing year. I hope your growth compensates for the thievery in your garden. I think mine almost does, but still I would be glad for less thievery!


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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Water, germination, stealing, raspberries

Fred says my watering over the weekend brought on the rain of yesterday and the day before. I think he is overly complimentary, but he helps me from kicking myself about all that unnecessary work. Yesterday I even used the watering can on the newly planted places in the evening, and then... What wind and rain! It even knocked over a tomato cage I thought was stable. I have tied them together now, so they are less likely to lose their moorings in the next wild wind.

The beets I sowed on Saturday have germinated abundantly! That's a surprise. The arugula, turnips, and lettuce are more leisurely, as I expected.

A lot of thievery has been going on in the garden, and yesterday I actually saw a woodchuck in the back of the yard. (A neighbor did the day before.) Then today as I was working around carefully, I'm sure I touched the electric fence. Nothing! Oops. Maybe that's my problem. Stephane had warned me that plants could short the fence, and Fred assures me that wet plants are fine electricity conductors. The weeds on the neighbor's side of the garden had gotten out of hand, and may be the troublemaker. It's not easy to weed between our fence and theirs, but today the weeds are so big that I was able to pull out most from the top. I have some more to remove, but I think I can... I think I can... I think I can.

Yesterday's promising raspberries were mostly gone this morning. The plant had bent low, and I suspect the woodchuck. Last year I saw one nibbling on raspberries, but that was when I had lots on top and didn't mind.

I haven't seen any catbirds since I came home, so here's hoping there will be good raspberry picking on Sept. 17, the next open garden. Trina and Una still plan to have a butterfly tent in the front yard, although the monarchs are having a bad year. They have friends who may help them have enough for folks to enjoy in the tent. My garden will be open only from 2-4 PM with nobody allowed in the back yard after that, but the
butterfly tent MAY still be around in the front yard if they haven't opened the door to allow the inhabitants to fly south.

Happy summer eating! I hope you are harvesting some yummies despite the competition.


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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Watering, catbirds, raspberries, woodchucks, harvests, sowing

I watered my garden yesterday and today! I oppose watering with a hose on lawns (mine looks no worse than most now), but when I came home yesterday after five days in the North to see a celery plant turned brown, I decided it was time for artificial help for my plants. It's the second time in four years.

Someone asked for advice on catbirds. I too am interested, but empty-handed. Mine may have flown away while I was gone. If so, I'm grateful. The second crop of raspberries is looking more promising than the first ever did. Maybe I will have lots to share at the open garden 2-4 on Saturday, Sept. 17! I'm cautiously optimistic.

What is certain is that it is time to cut away the dead wood of the raspberries, a major job. As I finish, I put lots of dead leaves to nourish the young 'uns, the only fertilizer my raspberries get. This is a major reason that Fred brings me a ton of leaves each fall. Raspberry bushes live only slightly over a year, and then humans must remove the dead ones on residential properties to make room for the next crop.

When I came home yesterday, I discovered that someone had eaten almost all my plentiful lettuce. I wonder if my woodchuck has decided, as I have, that an occasional shock from the electric fence is acceptable. He also apparently nibbled on collards and zucchini leaves (what mammal would want THEM!), but it wasn't as devastating as the lettuce.

We'll have our first fresh eggplant parmesan tomorrow for dinner. We had our first 2011 fresh pepper last evening. Yum! The cucumbers also seemed to want water, but the Marketmores have bravely continued to bear. Basil is doing okay, but it too politely asked for water. The pak choi is falling over, so we had it this evening for dinner, and will eat it up before long. Zucchini remains delicious.

I had prepared soil before I left and last evening after I returned I sowed beats, arugula, small turnips and summer lettuce. These will need to be watered frequently with a watering can until they are established, which is why I didn't sow them last week.

Tomatoes these days are abundant and delicious. July is nice... although this one is a bit hotter than optimum.


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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Corn, zucchini, aphids

Win some, lose some. It appears I won't have any corn this year. The one ear that rises confidently above my bush beans doesn't have enough grains on it to qualify. I didn't fertilize it when it needed it, but why it is alone is beyond me. Most years I have at least a half a dozen ears for three delicious July meals.

Gordon Keil, however, has corn to admire in Montclair. I noticed it from the street next to the first building next to Bloomfield Avenue on the east side of South Willow Street. (My husband's favorite repair shop, Mac's Automotive, is in that building, so I'm there occasionally.) He has a truly amazing set of corn stalks rising up on the south side of the building. He tells me that a closer look reveals Sunflowers, tomatoes and miniature pumpkins there too, but I didn't get that close. You can see a lot from the sidewalk any time you like. Perhaps nobody would object if you slipped into Mac's parking lot on the south side of Gordon's garden.

Back in my own garden, I'm enjoying plentiful zucchini at last. Yum! I forget how much I enjoy fresh zucchini, having decided that frozen isn't worth the effort. Better than that, several seeds sprouted in the garden for a fall crop (after the current one succumbs to the bugs in August). The surprise is that NONE from the same package sprouted in the greenhouse window. Why would they prefer the garden to the window, which is warm and always moist?

I have at least one extra zucchini seedling nicely potted for the first person who tells me when they want it. Less desirable are some VERY little eggplant, pepper, and supersteak tomatoes that I've been speaking to nicely in the greenhouse window. I guess there is something there that isn't properly nourishing. Anyway, if anyone wants one or more of these for potential harvest LATE in the season, let me know. They all expect lots of sunlight and reasonably good soil.

In the front yard someone pointed out that some of my milkweed plants have a yellow covering. "Aphids!" was the response at the Cornucopia meeting when I told about this. Trina says she cuts off such stems and drowns the aphids in water. "They grow back," she observed. I have begun doing that. Another gardening project! Removing weeds around the yard seems to be a bigger project this year than most. Lots of growth!

In the garden I have several peppers that are almost achieving a diameter of one inch. One of the eggplant plants that I bought at the spring Master Gardeners' sale now has SIX little eggplants on it (!), one of which is two inches long. (Thank you, MGs!) I'm harvesting cucumbers and lettuce in abundance now. The supersteak tomato plants have tomatoes of respectable size, but they need to become oversized before they get red. Meanwhile, we're enjoying plenty of the little tomatoes.

It always makes me sad to take out the sugar snap peas in mid-July. I have plenty of other fresh things to eat, so I know I shouldn't be sad. Perhaps my conscience is pricking because I didn't sow them early enough. But the snow was there! And I had to prune the fruit trees in March instead of February because there was too much snow in February. Anyway, I think I've learned that sugar snap peas much be sowed in early March to get a good crop before the plants turn brown. I did freeze some this year and ate plenty.

A garden is surely a source of pleasure.


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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Harvests 7/7/11

It is indeed harvest time for garlic. Their tops are falling over, which means it's time to pull them and hang them up to dry. A friend told me last year the tricks for preparing them easily. Hit a bulb hard on the top and all the cloves fall apart. Hit a clove (this is harder) and the skin falls off. I use a rubber mallet since my hands aren't strong. Don't cut it into very small pieces. I've enjoyed garlic more since I learned this, and am savoring all I can grow. Long ago I bought ONE bulb, and I still eat its progeny, having given many away.

We had our first zucchini dinner last evening. Yum! It's late for zucchini, but very welcome for all that -- or especially?

I just picked our first cucumber, a Marketmore. The past couple years I've raised only the big ones, which are great for showing off, but they don't yield as early or last as late. I have other ways of showing off.

I picked enough basil for our first fresh pesto dinner of the year this evening. It's amazing how a LARGE container (6 quarts?) of fresh picked leaves presses into two cups when the stems are taken off and the air pressed out. I still have some frozen pesto from last year and have eaten it about once a week throughout the spring. Nice!

Fred just left for Toni's Kitchen with our first 2011 donation. At the end of March I despaired of having any extras this year, but gardens surprise one. This week has shown amazing growth. He took collards, pak choi, and lettuce. The chief chef always gives our fresh produce a warm welcome.

Toni's Kitchen is located in St. Luke's Episcopal Church on the corner of South Fullerton and Union Street in Montclair. They accept fresh donations 9-11 AM on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. They start serving at 11:30. Enter through the parking lot on Union Street, a good place to park. Once I met a woman on Bloomfield Avenue who said she lived in the homeless shelter in East Orange and walked to Montclair for her only meal of the day at Toni's Kitchen. If you have garden left-overs, this is a good destination.

It's also planting season. I planted summer spinach in the space I showed the tour guests last Saturday. I had cleared it from the first crop of lettuce and put some compost there from my pile. I then dig in the compost, rake it smooth, scatted seeds, rake it again, and water with a watering can. This time I'm watering several times a day. I like lettuce!

At another place where I've removed that abundant first crop of lettuce, I have planted some zucchini seeds. Typically, the first crop dies in early August, and I need a second crop to keep eating it. This year the seeds I sowed in my greenhouse window in mid-June didn't germinate... yet. The early ones took a long, long time to germinate too, but the fruit is just as good, if a bit late.

Soon I will sow more Roma bush beans under my peach tree. They seem to grow there in the shade better than anything else, and I like to have them when the crop next to the house wanes. It's still going fairly strong.

These days I garden only in the early morning and after dinner. The crops seem to like the hot sun more than most humans do.


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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lawn Care: Whimsical

I received six responses to my posting about lawn care that seem worth passing along. The first five are practical, and in the previous post. While I'm at it, I'm passing along an old chestnut that has been gracing the web for over a decade but some of you may not have yet read. It presents some interesting ideas in a whimsical way.


Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

Yes, Sir.

These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

And where do they get this mulch?

They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....

Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

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Lawn Care: Practical

I received six responses to my posting about lawn care that seem worth passing along. The first five offer advice that may be useful to some. The sixth is in the next post.


You can get a sharpener fron Planet Natural and sharpen your reel mower. I tried it and it was pretty easy: It's sharpens a lot of brands-reel mowers, but not all. Take care! I also used a Great
States non-power mower for years, and never had the blades sharpened, though it probably would have worked better if I did. Once or twice, over a dozen years or so, I got around to squirting some WD40 or oil on the moving parts. I'm pretty sure mine cost about $85 dollars, either Home Depot or American Hardware (the one on Watchung Plaza). I still remember at Home Depot how they had to lead me to the back, behind all the many power machines in front, for the non-polluting device that cost a fraction, the one I bought. There were two to choose from, both under $100, while there were at least 15 or 20 of the gigantic, gas-powered models that cost much more.
And there is definitely no time benefit to the gas-guzzlers. A neighbor with a same-size lawn used to mow when I did. Aside from having to listen to his machine, and breathe the poisonous vapors it was spewing, I noted time and again that he saved no time, and worked much harder shoving around this noisy behemoth, with its trail of
dangerous fumes.
I would add to this that the newest generation of reel mowers have blades that don't ever need to be sharpened. They are also so light that it feels like pushing one
of those old Bissell carpet sweepers. I have a Brill reel mower and it is MUCH easier than the gas mower and cuts really nicely (with a satisfying "swish swish" as the grass gets trimmed). My only complaint is that the highest setting provides a closer crop than I would normally want. But other models (this was a gift) probably have higher settings.
I've been using a reel or non-power mower for the last four years. Did a lot of research and settled on a Brill Razorcut 38, made in Germany. It's a bit on the expensive since ($209) but well worth considering it only weight 17 lbs whereas the typical reel mower you find locally weigh in 30-40 lbs. The light weight lets me finish my lawn quicker than what my neighbor can do with his self propelled gas mower in a similar sized property. A lot easier to carry in-out of the garage also.

Here's a good website - People Powered Machines - that compares reel mowers, this is also where I purchased mine.
When I was in Cuba in the 90s I was horrified at the state of homes and lawns as well as public gardens and surprised at the teams of men with scythes making hotel gardens meticulous, giving a whole new meaning to hammer and sickle. lol

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Non-Power Lawn Mowers: Buying and Sharpening

I've had enough questions recently about the acquisition, care, and feeding of non-mower lawn mowers that it is worth a general email.

I use a Great States mower that Fred bought umpteen years ago. He thinks he paid about $80, but neither of us trusts that memory. It is MUCH lighter than the antique in the garage when we bought the house in 1975 with which I struggled until it died. I like my Great States mower.

However, even more recent info about non-power lawn mowers are in the emails I compiled below from entries to the Montclair Watercooler three years ago. (Incidentally, the current phrase for non-power mower is "reel mower," developed to distinguish it from the "push mowers" that can now be powered and distinguishes them from sit-down mowers. I resort to "non-power.")

The only care needed for a non-power mower (unlike those hungry ones that need to be fed) is a sharpening at least once a year. We've been taking ours to a place where they keep it for a week, so I was glad to copy this paragraph from the Watercooler this past spring:
"I had a reg lawn mower blade sharpned at schneider hardware on main stwest orange while i waited. Most other places send them out and you have to get up to a week later but gerald schneider sharpens himself. He has a sign in the shop that says we sharpen evrything from Axes to Zissors. He also has a lawn mower repair shop. I'm pretty sure he canhelp you out."

Today my long-term lawn mower dream came true when Fred noticed a sharpener truck on our block. I ran out and had my paring knife and lawn mower sharpened. I also got the card of Visidor DeCarlo, whose father was a sharpener before him. His rates are amazingly low. His telephone number is 201-936-5705, and his email is He tells me he comes to people who ask for his services. If you ask him to come, it might be nice to tell your neighbors about his availability.

Middle class lawns have only been around since the 1840's when lawn mowers were invented. Before that you had to have a team with scythes to cut your lawn, so only the very wealthy had lawns. By my childhood a century later, lawn mowing time was a child's time to be with her daddy. We loved to play around him and talk with him at that time.

Some people have decided that lawns are unneeded and find either more fruitful (or vegetable-full) ways to use their property or an approach with lower maintenance. When my mother saw my lawn disappearing, she plead with me to save some for children to play on. When the kids grew up, I needed other justifications for a lawn. The front yard is useful for my environmental "fairs" when I'm having an open garden in the back, and the way back is good for parties and for conversations amid the garden tours.

Still, I do not want to be perceived as advocating a lawn. IF you want a lawn, however, I advocate a non-power mower.

Happy Independence Day (from power companies)!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 20 Sep 2008 15:24:36 -0400 (EDT)
From: Pat Kenschaft
Subject: lawn mowers

We bought a human push power mower at the local hardware store ACE in Hawthorne NJ. Husband has had good luck with it so far. I think it was American brand made in China!
I bought a push mower from Sears, a while ago, maybe five or six years ago. I love it. It cuts very well. Don't know if they are still selling it, but it's worth an inquiry.
FYI, In 1999, we bought a push mower from Home Depot. It was a Great Eastern brand. It worked okay, though it needs sharpening every few years. It's a lot of work to push it over the grass multiple times so sometimes I use a scythe that I bought mail order from a company in Maryland. That takes some technique.
I've bought a number of manual lawn mowers over the years to take care of various properties I've owned, and my favorite model is the Sears Craftsman. I think it's actually made by Great States Mowers (just as Sears' "Kenmore" appliances are made by Whirlpool or GE) but the Craftsman model lawn mower I bought at Sears was nicer than the Great States I had bought a few years earlier at Home Depot. It has a wider track and an extra set of small wheels on it that seems to improve traction and cutting ability.

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Yesterday's Open Garden

Yesterday's was my least attended summer open garden (at least for a long time), but was as delightful as all the others. The weather was warm but not oppressive and the people who come to these affairs always raise my hope for the human race.

"Does the electric fence work?"
"Well, maybe. The collards and pac choi have been left alone since it was there. Only one small part of the sugar snap peas were damaged from the inside. But the broccoli is taken, so something is getting inside. Yesterday Fred was coming around toward the back door from the driveway, and he met a woodchuck. It charged at him! He jumped aside. We aren't free of woodchucks, but except for broccoli, we are getting good harvests."

"I have holes in the ground in my garden."
"That's skunks. Bob McClean told me I should be grateful for them because they dig for slugs, which gardeners don't want. They are considerate in that they dig BETWEEN the plants, and rarely damage anything I care about. They do their digging at night, so it doesn't worry me directly." Occasionally, I smell signs of their wanderings, but we haven't had any skunk dramas in our yard.

"How do you fertilize the zucchini?"
This was in response to my reporting that I had fertilized my first female yesterday, which is VERY late for zucchini. Until last year I harvested my first zucchini on June 26; it was the most prompt crop in the garden. Last year it was very early, and this year it is very late -- more like a normal crop!
After hesitating with this question, I was taught the proper zucchini words. "I pick off a male flower, eat the petals, and put the pistol into the stamen of a female flower."

People told me they are having trouble with Malabar spinach this year. "You too?"
They always take a long time to germinate, but this year not as many germinated, either in my greenhouse window or volunteered in the garden. I will have a crop. I showed off my Malabar spinach plants, but people looked almost in distain at their small size. "That's all?" Others told me they had tried without success to germinate seeds, either those they took from me last year or those they had gleaned from their own plants.

Many years recently I've given away Malabar volunteer seedlings, but not this year. They are all salvaged for my own garden! There aren't many.

I've given away over 200 tomato plants (not quite the same!) and there are still some on the front steps if you want to come to 56 Gordonhurst to get them.

One family who had been here before in July agreed with me that raspberries are VERY different this year. There were some, but not many. "The other time we were here they were all over the bushes!"

All the volunteer misplaced raspberry plants were taken to welcoming homes.

Not all the oregano plants had such luck. If you are interested in oregano, let me know.

Life is humbling. If yours isn't enough so, just start a garden. For years I've said you can't pick raspberries before they are ripe, as I do strawberries, but in desperation, I picked some this year. Lo and behold! They are ripening on my counter! And they are quite good afterward. Apologies. If your catbirds or purple grackles are taking your red raspberries (as mine are this year), try picking them as soon as you can persuade them to leave their home. What's to lose? I apologize
for misleading you before.

One sad aspect of yesterday's event was the number of people who came JUST before the tour was ending. Poor Trina had the job of shooing the downcast eyes out of my back yard while I went in to rest. My body doesn't have the energy it did 35 years ago, with both the challenges of myasthenia gravis and old age. My doctor said if I don't slow down, I will die sooner than I need to. I really want to live (my life is so enjoyable now!), but I'm much more scared by my grandmother's example. She ignored her doctor's similar advice, despite the begging of my parents and others who cared about her, and she had a stroke that resulting her last 15 years being unable to walk or talk. Not walking is a big nuisance but not being able to talk is a great tragedy for someone with her personality or mine.

So my gardens will be open only two hours at a time EARLY in the tour period. Next time will be Saturday, Sept. 17, from 2-4 PM and there will be a butterfly tent in the front year. See you then!


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Friday, July 1, 2011

Weed-wacker recommendation and rant against other power machinery

One of you asked last month what week-wacker I recommended some time ago, and I just unearthed that email with help from my daughter-in-law. It is forwarded below.

Weed wackers, also called edgers, are defensible in that they do save time over hand tools. The only question is whether the process is worth the effort. I intend to trim the grass in my front yard this afternoon in preparation for the open garden tomorrow (9:00 to 11:00), but when I was raising children, such time-wasters didn't seem justifiable.

One of you asked this spring what I have against neatness. Nothing. However, there are other values that I cherish much more -- love, peace, learning, human happiness, and preserving the earth are five. If neatness makes you happy, I have nothing against it. If you want to use a weed wacker, I recommend Turnado.

I am much more strongly opposed to power lawn mowers. I'm not convinced they save time. One woman borrowed mine a couple of years ago and claimed it took LESS time to mow her lawn than the power mower because it is easier to go around the edges when YOU have total control. Another wrote and said that with her MS she isn't strong enough to handle a power mower, but can mow with a non-power mower. I've never tried a power mower so I don't know whether I could use one. I don't intend to find out.

Also, they make much louder noise than a non-power mower. They cause global warming and consume non-renewable resources. (Exception: Jose uses a solar powered mower, which doesn't have this problem.) One can argue they cause countries to get involved in wars to acquire energy; war is not healthy for children and other living things.

I feel MUCH more passionately against leaf blowers and strongly believe they should be totally illegal. They have all the disadvantages of power lawn mowers, but they also damage the soil by blowing hard on it, and they scatter pollen, dust, and feces in the air. My husband's allergies are kicked up by them, and at least one Montclair child has had near-fatal respiratory attacks when leaf blowers are in the neighborhood.
They are much louder than power lawn mowers and a terrible public hazard.

The idea that they save time strikes me as another corporate advertising myth. As an elderly myasthenic woman, I routinely rake leaves faster than young men can clear a comparable property with leaf blowers.

Jose has found that his team of three takes about the same time to clear an Upper Mountain Avenue property as a team of three with leaf blowers on a nearby comparable property. I really want Fred (and others) to live a long and healthy life. For his sake and that of other humans, leaf blowers should be banned.

Cheerily yours,


---------- Forwarded message -------------
When I was visiting my son, his neighbor came out with an edger, and I ran. I was startled when it began at how quiet it was. I now have the catalog; it is advertised as "pollution free" and "whisper quiet." The latter is an exaggeration, of course, but the noise doesn't bother Pat Kenschaft, which is remarkable. Unlike power lawn mowers and leaf blowers, I am willing to admit that edgers save time. If people would use Turnado edgers, I would omit them from my anti-power-machinery campaign (at least for quality-of-life issues).

It is item number F5-57337 from or 1-800-229-2901
and costs $39.99, including a battery recharger. It runs 40 minutes per charge.

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Garden tour, oregano, vinca, raspberries

This Saturday is the garden tour. I'm appreciating today the phrase "as welcome as a summer breeze" that is common in so much classical literature. Before air conditioning arrived, those summer breezes would have been even more welcome than they are today as I enjoy making my yard more suburban for visitors this Saturday, 9:00 -- 11:00 AM.

The jungle in the middle is receding, revealing a lot of wandering oregano plants. I hope many of you want to take one home on Saturday! I bought ONE at the Crane House long ago, and now I have... we won't guess how many. It's taken many years, so they aren't frightening if you keep after them. Alas, I haven't since the Virginia creeper has been confusing the issue. Now, THAT is invasive.

I also have plenty of vinca (aka. myrtle, periwinkle) for folks to take from my lawn. I can provide trowels and a shovel, but I'd appreciate your bringing a container. Or you can take one that others have left for me.

I do hope the invasive raspberry plants also find a good new home.
It's a year of tremendous weed growth. I was appalled to read a story of one of you who talked with someone who felt driven to buy five gallons of roundup for his property to destroy all the growth there. Our poor planet! We need to be more accepting of growth clutter. But meanwhile I will use what time I have to demonstrate that a yard can be presentable with NO poisons or power machinery. It's a lovely day for pursuing that goal.

Have a good holiday weekend... here or wherever you are!


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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Triumphs and Disappointments

Like most aspects of life, gardening provides its triumphs and its disappointments. This week I'm feeling the stark contrast more than usual.

Collards and pac choi are major triumphs now. Both have huge leaves that seem to thrive inside my electric fence, in great contrast to the disaster of March 20. I'm enjoying them very much!

Sugar snap peas are wonderful too, in great contrast to two years ago. Both the electric fence and the tomato plants seem to protect them from the woodchucks, and I'm harvesting more than we eat these days. Freezing for winter has not become overwhelming, but I've begun. They surely are yummy! There are a few questionable happenings with the pea vines, but I can tolerate that.

Broccoli was again a great disappointment this week. I thought we had recovered from the thievery of four weekends ago and it looked like two of the smaller plants were about to form heads. Then Thursday I came out and some thief had again removed that hope and lots of other flowerets. One of you raised a question about whether this is really woodchucks. No, I've not seen them inside the electric fence, and the lettuce is, I think, not bothered. (It's hard to tell what is my own doing and the competition's when it comes to lettuce, but the important thing is that humans have had a good serving.) What can be eating my broccoli? It may be happening at night. Do raccoons like broccoli?

Yesterday at the Gordonhurst Avenue block party someone told me she had harvested a big head of broccoli, expecting me to rejoice with her. Alas, she quickly detected my irrepressible envy. Why her -- so close by -- and not me?

My raspberry's slowness has me apprehensive. Others are harvesting, and mine just sit there looking May-like. Occasionally, I think one is reddening, but then it disappears. Sander thinks it may be a visiting catbird. I know a flock of purple grackles can end all hope of humans eating raspberries while they linger. So I console myself with enjoying Janit London's blueberries, presumably picked organically in south Jersey.

A milder disappointment is the invasion of little Dutch iris plants on my back lawn where people worked so hard in early May to rid my lawn of them. Anyone want some juvenile Dutch iris? They bloom the week after Siberian iris, and are pretty, purple, and smaller.

The growth seems unprecedented this year, and I pull, pull, pull the invaders in my spare spots and driveway. A heavy grass mulch keeps the garden weeds at bay.

I would like my plot to look properly suburban by July 2, the date of the next Open Garden tour. Mine will be open from 9-11 AM, and there will be at least SEVEN other organic vegetable gardens open from 9:00 AM to noon. The following OG will be the
afternoon of Sept. 17, with a butterfly tent. If you want to show your organic vegetable garden either date, let me know.


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Monday, June 13, 2011

Cultivating carrots

Saturday was a great day for thinning and mulching carrots. A neighbor brought me a half barrel of high-quality fresh grass clippings Friday evening. By noon Saturday they had all be carefully distributed in my carrot patch. The promise of next winter's carrots is good now, but one never knows.

"Thinning" a crop means taking out extras so that the plot looks "thinner" than it did. Saturday I thinned to one inch, which means that the individual plants were a minimum of one inch from each of their nearest neighbors. Some of the thinnings (the plants taken out), were good enough to eat, although not exactly delicious.

Last month I tried to thin to a half inch, but it was an overwhelming job at a very busy gardening time, and the job was not accomplished completely. So I had some carrots that were side by side in the soil. Saturday's juicy soil meant that I could pull up the extras and hold down the ones I wanted to survive, apparently successfully.

Better yet, the soil was so juicy (in the drizzle!) that I could punch a hole in the soil and insert the carrot transplant with apparent success. Today the plot looks promising. There are plants every two inches with no gaping holes.

Next month I will thin to two inches, and eat the delicious "finger carrots", small ones the size in a super market bag, that are the thinnings. Each time I thin the lot, I mulch between the plants with the best grass clippings I can get.

This has worked for decades to produce excellent, large carrots all winter -- including this past winter until April! I cover the plants in late December with plastic bags of leaves that keeps the ground below from freezing. Then I shovel the snow off a bag, pick it up, pull a week's worth of carrots, and replace the bag. This past winter there was the extra job of finding the bags, but this April I placed the carrots where
they will be easy to access next winter.

Carrots may be the hardest vegetable to grow. I do not advocate trying to grow carrots for your first years of gardening. They need a friable, organic-rich soil, and that doesn't come naturally in this eco-system!


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Friday, June 10, 2011

Pac choi, basil, pesto recipe, lettuce

One of you responded to yesterday's email by asking, "I grew pak choi for the first time this year. Can I harvest the outer leaves and let the inner still grow or should I harvest the whole plant?"

Outer leaves only, please! A pac choi plant will yield for months if you just take the outer leaves and allow the plant to regenerate. This technique is basic to my year-round harvests. I use it with Chinese cabbage, collards, lettuce, celery, and parsley, among other crops. Never take more than you will eat today! (I've read that half of the food purchased in this country is thrown away, but gardeners don't throw away their yield lightly.)

another asked about raising basil. I raised enough in my kitchen greenhouse window this spring for salads, but have dozens of plants outdoors with which I make pesto. We enjoy it in the summertime and it freezes well for easy winter dinners. She then asked for the recipe. I gave it some other year (last?), and quite a bit of discussion was generated about adaptations and similar recipes, but I'll give mine again.

In a food processor, whiz together 2 cups of carefully washed basil, 2 tbls pine nuts, and 1/2 cup good quality olive oil. When thoroughly mixed, add 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese and whiz again. Serve over pasta.

She also asked whether I raise beets. I bought seeds, and she reminds me that I haven't planted them yet. It's been a frantic year for gardening! Beets don't thrill me as carrots and parsnips do, but they do do well in this climate and I often raise them. I wonder if they would survive frost under plastic bags of leaves. Has anyone tried that?

This morning I sowed my fourth crop of lettuce outdoors this year, the first crop of "summer lettuce." I transplanted and thinned the third crop earlier this week with fingers crossed, but it really liked last evening's rain and looks very happy this morning. Aren't we all relieved about today's weather?


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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Zucchini, Malabar, Pac Choi

I sowed more zucchini seeds yesterday in the greenhouse window, after planting out the first crop where the early peas (Sugar Anns) had been ripped out. Until last year zucchini was the most punctual plant in the yard: first harvest on June 26 and sudden death on August 8. Last year I harvested earlier and death didn't occur till mid-August, but still it behooves me to sow more seeds now for a successor crop. Some people make great efforts to thwart the zucchini borer from killing the first crop, but their suggestions have never worked for me. It's easier to start new ones now.

Life is endlessly surprising... and humbling. I thought I knew plenty about Malabar spinach, and have raved about it for years. Last year and the year before I gave away many volunteer seedlings. This year they were so scarce that, apparently, I thought some imposters must be Malabar. I was sufficiently skeptical not to pot them up and offer them to you. Now I can see only two certainly Malabar seedlings offering to climb up the fence after the sugar snap pea plants die in mid-July. Amid them, carefully placed by me last month, are some very happy weeds. I've removed all those that are competitive and allowed a few to remain in case they are a new version of Malabar. (Hope springs eternal. Or should I say that denial is not just a river in Egypt?) Meanwhile, yesterday I also sowed more Malabar seeds in my kitchen window. Malabar spinach vines are surely pretty climbing the fence where the sugar snap peas have died. Also, the leaves are good eating in the fall and freeze well. They are also the first crop to be killed by frost, with basil a close second. Last year the Malabar went black a week before basil; we had an unusually gradual cooling in 2010.

I harvested my first pac choi of the spring today. These I sowed after the March 20 woodchuck disaster, and they seem to be doing well. (Pac choi survives the winter under floating cover.) The verdict on the electric fence is still out; something has attacked my broccoli, but everything else seems to be growing well, perhaps except for a few tolerable nibbles here and there.

This hot, sticky weather is good for staying inside except in the EARLY morning and just before sunset. Fortunately, my garden is ready to take care of itself for a few days.


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Monday, June 6, 2011

Pea transition, growth

Last evening I returned home from three days and three nights at my wonderful 50th college reunion. At the Friday morning buffet I handed around a container of fresh strawberries and another of fresh Sugar Ann peas while doing my gardening evangelist thing. Last evening there were plenty of strawberries ready for today's breakfast, but the Sugar Anns have about gone, as I anticipated Thursday they would have.

This morning I tore out the vines, salvaging some hidden peas, and prepared the soil for the zucchini seedlings, which are bursting their pots in the greenhouse window. They need to go out this afternoon if I am to harvest a zucchini on June 26 on schedule. I was delighted to have a visit from a young neighbor this morning on his way to school asking if I wanted grass clippings. Just what the zucchini needs! I eagerly await his Dad's return home, when the clippings are promised.

More good news is that tomorrow I will harvest the first of the Sugar Snap peas and that the supersteak tomato plants about doubled in size while I was gone, both the little ones I put out last week and the significant earlier ones. It almost seemed that the green beans doubled their height and I am now sure some corn plants are emerging from amid them. It was nice to see how far the lettuce I sowed last week had come in the hot, rainless weather.

The electric fence seems to be working. It has protected the collards, of which we will have a huge dinner this evening. It's good to be back to locally grown food again!


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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fruit, Seedlings

We ate an abundance of strawberries on our breakfast this morning! It's been over a week now that I've been harvesting. Before we left for VA last Friday, I picked three. On Monday I cut the senior just-ripened one in thirds. "Yum!" said my son with gratifying enthusiasm. "Yum!" responded his wife and son when I fed them theirs, not to be outdone in appreciation for a third of one strawberry.

I've had MUCH more abundant crops since I began mulching them each winter with straw. That English name, centuries old by now, is well chosen. Since suburban people began putting straw on the curb after Halloween, it's easy to get straw in Montclair.

Then there is the goal of preserving the strawberries for human consumption. I'm a speciesist when it comes to my garden. I've discovered that if I pick them when they first turn a rosy color and put them on my kitchen counter, they taste much better than anything in the stores within a day or three. And humans get to eat them!

My red delicious apple tree has a surfeit of baby apples. The late John Lohman, who once had a tree farm at 222 Grove Street, Montclair, told me that if you don't thin apples and pears to 6" when they are small, the tree will rebel and not bear any the following year. I've found this to be true, and explains why some people think apple trees bear only every other year. So I conscientiously edited my red delicious tree this spring.

I thought the Macintosh was taking its year off, but then I discovered some on the opposite wide from its colleague -- the north side! My Bartlett pears have not been nearly as prolific since the tree was struck by lightning, but it is still setting forth some every year.

Does anyone know if similar thinning is need for peach trees? If so, I'd better get to it! After years of mildew, I used copper spray several times this year. Wow, do I have promising peaches! How many dare I hope to harvest? Advice welcome on thinning. (Last year I checked with both the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Organic Consumers' Association and they both said copper spray is organic.)

The raspberries are "setting" and look like they will come about as the strawberries end. It's nice to eat fruit from one's yard, but it's a lot more work than vegetables (except raspberries).

The growth this year is unprecedented, but I hope soon to plant the entire garden and show that lawn where it belongs. A neighbor has brought me wonderful grass clippings that facilitate this.

Yesterday I gave up on enough eggplant and pepper seeds germinating (after 3 months of waiting!) and went to Bartlett's and bought some seedlings. Mr. Bartlett told me that with this warm weather, they will begin. This morning I had three new tiny pepper seedlings and four new eggplants! It's about time, but...

Life is endlessly surprising, and somewhat humiliating too. However, those strawberries, peas, and lettuce are delicious!


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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Harvests, big mistake

I had a delightful long weekend in VA with family, and was delighted to find a full-grown broccoli head when I first got up yesterday morning, the first in three years. Bless that electric fence! I picked two of the outer flowerlets for dinner (one for Fred and one for me) last evening, but served collards, which are flourishing. I try to serve us one fresh vitamin-packed leafy dinner every three days year round, the winter crop being the Chinese cabbage from the cold frame.

Maintaining my fetish to have vegetables as fresh as possible, I waited until late this afternoon to pick the broccoli. Bad move. Actually, the really bad move probably was leaving the electric fence off while I wasn't in the yard. I need to turn it off when I'm working near it, but that isn't long. I had developed a habit of saving the energy
while I'm in the yard, but that was silly yesterday and today. How could I? It's hard to remember to turn it on when I leave. I'm always thinking of the next project, not the last, which has its merits, but... I guess I can't trust myself to do this, so I'll have to risk touching it occasionally. The punishment is not terrible, but I wince every time I think of those boys who liked to annoy their mother by touching Their electric fence in her presence.

The good news is that the collards and lettuce are still thriving, and the damage to pea vines was minimal. I can't see any other damage.

I picked my first Sugar Ann pea yesterday, and shared it with Fred for dinner. We eat the entire pod, of course. Dividing a pea seed would be challenging indeed! Today I picked seven pods, for a more substantial flavoring for our salad. The lettuce is abundant, and the arugula is fine too. So harvest time is here!

Life is good in the spring. Isn't this weather delightful? Time for daily baths again! Isn't modern plumbing nice?


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I do not advise trying carrots until your third year of digging the soil loose, but I've had good success with them for many years. THIS winter Fred and I had carrots for every home dinner from January into April! I dig them weekly, which this year was more of a project than before.

Each spring I scatter seeds on a sizable part of my garden and then cover them with floating cover so birds and bugs don't eat them. This year, for the first time, wild winds tore up the FC. I replaced it, but soon noticed that weeds were growing abundantly under it. It's not easy to replace, so I ignored the problem until after Saturday's open garden. On Sunday I saw not only lots of weeds, but 2" carrot seedlings in tight bunches. Apparently the carrot seeds blew around too, along with the weed seeds. I started taking out the weeds and started transplanting the seedlings into the many large empty spots.

It seems to be working! Transplanted carrots have never grown well before, but this weather is ideal. They get plenty of moisture! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll have the usual abundant carrot harvest this winter.


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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yesterday's Open Garden 5/15/11

I had a great time, as usual, at yesterday's open garden. There were fewer people here than expected, but that meant I could spend more time per person, which was satisfying. Collectively, they took only three of the five available 4-packs of tomatoes. In recent years I've given away close to 100 tomato plants. I have lots volunteering in the garden now. Is anyone else interested in picking up some free tomato plants from the steps of 56 Gordonhurst Avenue? I can't guarantee what kind they are, but I suspect they are sweet-100, small red tomatoes. I can easily compost them if nobody is interested. If folks express interest, I will keep them on the right side of the steps for a while, replenishing as needed.

My visitors asked many questions, some for the first time that I can remember.

"What do you recommend beginners start with?"

"Tomatoes! They grow almost anywhere and taste great. Woodchucks don't like tomato plants, although they will take a bite out of a handy large tomato. I think my small tomatoes are beneath their dignity, but if they are taking them, I don't notice because I have so many.
"Woodchucks don't eat garlic. Some people say garlic keeps them away, but it hasn't worked for me.
"Beans and peas are easy to grow, and taste good, but woodchucks can be a problem. It's less of a problem for low plants than the climbing ones, which the woodchucks tear down. It's too late to plant peas, but you can plant bush green beans any time from April through August. I like Roma beans.
"Leaf lettuce needs only six inches of good soil, and is satisfying to grow unless woodchucks eat it."

I'm a bit neurotic about woodchucks this year after my March 20 disaster, but the electric fence seems to be working. We had our first collards meal this evening, and it tasted wonderful to me. I noticed today that the second broccoli is heading.

"What do you do about skunks?"
"Bob McLean, who died this year but began gardening in 1930, said I should be grateful for them. They dig holes in the garden (and sometimes the lawn) at night and eat grubs. Bob said this is helpful. They are remarkably considerate. They dig BETWEEN the plants in the garden.
"This reminds me. Someone asked me at the April open garden what I do about grubs, and I said I don't notice any. I did spread around milky spore disease maybe 20 years ago, and the skunks seem to control the rest. I just put new mulch over the holes."

"How big must the plants be before you mulch them?"
"Look at this pepper that someone gave me! It's hardly more than an inch high. Grass clippings are not very thick. I'm careful to always have the major part of the garden plant showing above the mulch."
"I know some books recommend four inches of mulch, and as the season goes on, I try for that, but now the important thing is to protect the soil from weed seeds and keep in the moisture.

"Why do you have big brown spots in your garden?"
"I haven't gotten around to planting there yet. My peppers and eggplants are late germinating this year. Maybe it's the cold spring. We never heat our house at night, except when people are visiting. I've bought some seedlings for early eating, but I'm waiting for my own for inexpensive freezing, and there are more urgent things to do than prepare the soil where nothing nutritious is growing."

"Do you save water?"
"No, I'm not against it, but I don't feel any need to do it. I have used a hose only once in the past four years. If you keep a good grass mulch on the garden, you don't need to water much. I never water my lawn. Not watering is the easiest way to improve your lawn."

"Do you know anything about growing lentils?"
"I put some from a grocery store in my soil, and it grew a foot in a week. Now I'm wondering what to do with them." Any suggestions?
She also said the tomato plants I started in January and gave to her are now three feet high. Oh, my! I was feeling proud that one of mine is two feet high. Both of us have flowers. Hers have been growing in a bay window indoors, and mine grew in a wall-of-water, which is cooler.

"If you didn't have woodchucks when you started gardening, why are they here now?" Wow! I didn't know anyone thought I had that kind of knowledge. How flattering!
"They never told me. It may be that life is no longer so easy where they were. Or maybe it was very easy and there are too many of them now for that habitat. Anyway, it surely makes gardening much harder. When I was raising children and working full-time, I allowed myself a half hour a day for gardening. But now it takes more time, because of the woodchucks." Maybe the electric fence will change that.

"Do you notice any signs of climate change?"
"Oh, my yes! Anyone who claims the climate isn't changing isn't a gardener. The official frost-free day was May 15 when I started gardening in 1978. [One of you doubts the validity of this memory, and I acknowledge that human memory is fallible, definitely including mine.] This year and last our last frost was on March 26. The previous three years it was early April, but I think there were a couple before that when it was in March."
I don't have a written record, and I'm not even sure about this year, so one can legitimately be skeptical about my numbers, but the change is certain, as is the increased amount of rain (and snow) in recent years.

Still, I enjoy gardening VERY much, and I also enjoy having folks come, see, and listen. Happy planting!


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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Open Garden Sat., freebees, update

My garden will be open from 2:00 to 4:00 this Saturday as part of the organic vegetable garden tour sponsored by the Cornucopia Network of New Jersey. All are welcome who can restrict their movements to the green grass, the cement, and the gravel driveway. There will be displays in the front yard, and two other gardens open within American walking distance. Three others will require moving your car.

I'm having fun getting my garden ready and I think it will be quite presentable by Saturday. My eggplants and peppers have JUST germinated, so I went to Bartlett's today and bought some to provide good eating early this summer. I can wait longer for the large quantities I will freeze in the fall. I also planted out some basil, but I discovered lastyear that the plants I kept inside grew much faster than those I put out
early. This may not be "early," but my basil too germinated late this year. However, dozens of basil plants have germinated, and I will have plenty to put around the tomatoes to protect them and to make into pesto, a favorite winter dinner and the easiest item to take to potlucks.

Please don't walk between the sidewalk and the street. I have planted out zinnias and transplanted some Echinacea from a more shady place in the back, and they are vulnerable. Two of the cuttings of my great-grandfather's primrose are also there, and the plants my cousin gave to me three years ago still has impressive red blooms in front of the holly tree. Malabar spinach and tomatoes (that I assume will bear small
fruit, either sweet 100 or sun gold) are sprouting wildly, and I am beginning to pot them up for you to take. We'll see how much time allows.

I've had tremendously helpful guests this week who have neatened up my yard and take home lots of plants. The only thing remaining from last week's list still available is lots of myrtle (aka vinca, periwinkle) that would like to take over the back of my yard. Please bring containers and take as much as you like, trying to even out the lawn!

I will dig grass that is invading my garden to fill in the spaces where my helpers have already dug out other plants, as much as time and energy allow.

Also, I now have allysm sprouting all over. If you want to take that, please do. Leave me a little, but I have far more than I need now.

See you Saturday!


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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Getting the Soil Started

Yesterday I received the following message. I decided that thinking about it over night and sharing my reflections was worth the time. I suspect there are many of you who are in some sense starting a garden about now. It's a good time -- except that it would have been best to have been making compost all winter long.

"....last year I experimented with planting my herbs and vegetables directly in the soil. That turned out to be unsuccessful so this year I would like to build a bed. I've been reading various books and even looking at various online sources about constructing a raised bed. My confusion arises from this issue: I currently have grass on the spot where I would like to build the bed. Some sources recommend that a raised bed depth should be 8 to 12 inches. Is it recommended then that I remove the grass and then dig about 8 to 12 inches deep? I was planning on installing wire mesh on the bottom of the bed to prevent any grass or weed from invading into the raised bed soil but now I'm uncertain of what to do."

One doesn't make an experienced garden in one year without a lot of resources that most people don't have. Northern NJ 21st century clay soil is NOT good gardening soil. It must be improved, and that takes time both short-term and long-term.

"Raised beds" are not the point. Getting organic-rich gardening soil is. The deeper the good soil, the better, but six inches is enough for lettuce and some other small greens. Beans and peas are much more tolerant (and giving) than peppers and eggplants.

When I started gardening, the jargon was "intensive gardening." I read about "double digging" in "How to Raise More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine" by John Jeavons. It took me a full half hour, the limits of my strength, to double dig one patch 2' x 2'. "Double digging" means you go down two shovel lengths. The actual depth will grow each time you do it if that's your goal.

Yes, I remove the grass before I start and shake off as much soil as I can easily. Then I compost the rest.

Now I start digging. Take the top layer, whatever depth is convenient, of a small patch (I first used about 1' x 1') and put it aside, in those days I put it on a used plastic bag. Then dig the next layer to make it loose. Then put some organic matter in there. Compost is ideal, but at first I compromised with dead leaves, which the books discourage. Then go to the next small place, put its topsoil on the empty spot, dig below, and add organic matter. (My uncle used to dig in his kitchen garbage each day.) Go around in a "circle" until you are next to where you began. Take the topsoil you set aside and put it where you now have an empty spot.

Now improve the topsoil. Compost is pretty essential now. Dig it into the topsoil, and rake it to look like a garden.

Now you have broken soil down two shovel depths (whatever that is). The roots of your plants don't have to work so hard to find nourishment, nor do the worms have to work so hard to help. The more organic material you have introduced the better.

I did this spring and fall for my first three years of gardening, and then the soil was the black, friable stuff I now have. Each time you can go a little deeper. Jeavons advocates 2' as your goal, but I think I settled for 18", which is enough. But don't expect to do it in one year!

Tomatoes, lettuce, beans, and many greens will thrive your first year. It's a bit late to start peas, but I'm told they are good too.

Wooden enclosures have become fashionable in the past decade or two. They keep people from getting too ambitious and encourage concentrating efforts where they can matter, but I think they are unnecessary and a nuisance. They do keep grass from invading the garden, which is good. On the other hand, they make it hard for the gardener and the sunlight to get right up to the edges, they cost money, and they insist upon neatness, not one of my higher values. Judy Hinds has used them wonderfully, and you can see her garden in Nutley on May 14 for a "square-foot" approach to organic, abundant gardening.

There are many viable approaches and your goal is to find one you like. They all, however, insist on richer soil than you will find in a typical yard in or near Montclair.


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Friday, April 29, 2011

Update, Cornucopia Newsletter

The Cornucopia newsletter is now online, announcing our tour of six organic vegetable gardens on May 14 beginning at 2:00 PM. You can read it at

Spring even SEEMS to be here this week! I went to the plant sale this afternoon of the Master Gardeners at Edgemont Park. My eggplant and peppers have not germinated after two months of encouragement, so I bought some there today and brought them home in the basket of my bike. Their eggplant plants are almost 9" high! How can that be on April 29? In the past I've sometimes persuaded Bartlett's, the garden center on Grove Street between Montclair and Route 3, to give me eggplant plants earlier than usual and I repot them and have them bigger than I otherwise could. Incidentally two other garden centers are Ploch's on Broad Street, Bloomfield, and one on Center Street Nutley. I have bought at all of them happily, but try to raise as many of my own seedlings as I can. The weather seems fine for planting out, so I now have peppers and eggplants in my garden.

The collards started growing rapidly on Tuesday, and it looks like Fred and I will not have a hiatus from fresh greens, as I had feared we might in a couple weeks for the first time in years. (The cold frame provides them all winter, including this one. We're still eating the yield from there that I picked before sowing green beans and corn in its place.) I can see some tiny strawberries. Happy discovery! Also, I actually have some flowers on my tomato plants. I've taken some of the WOWs off them, but want to leave a few for showing off for a while. They seem to be thriving both in and outside the WOWs now. It's always time to plant lettuce seeds, and now is a good time for outdoors. My outdoor lettuce plants are about 2" high, so I sowed another plot this week. If you want greens, it's fine to sow seeds outdoors.
I've sown summer veggies and flowers in my greenhouse window, but I suspect you can also safely do that outdoors.


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Monday, April 18, 2011

Yesterday's Open Garden

As usual, I had a delightful time hosting several groups of delightful people yesterday.

The nicest thing that I learned was that the flowers of Chinese cabbage taste good. I don't usually have said flowers, but this past March 20 a woodchuck ate Chinese cabbage in my cold frame for the first time, so I closed the lid to keep them out. That made it too hot for the plants, and the healthier ones shot up and flowered. The others died. In either case I didn't have nice plants to give to Toni's Kitchen, as I usually do in April. So I kept the cold frame there for yesterday's tour since I've had lots of questions about it.

"What do you do with the flowers?" asked one guest.
"Compost them," I said, wondering what the right answer was and sensing this was not it.
"They taste very good," she said. I handed her one. "Uhm...!"
I tried another. Yes! Then I handed around Chinese cabbage flowers to all venturesome people present, and there didn't seem to be any disapproval as they sampled them.

Another new feature of this open garden was a gardener from Europe with an immigrant daughter serving as translator. She spotted my tiny sprouting sugar snap peas faster than anyone else and exclaimed about them.

My 2-3 inch Sugar Ann peas are dense now and promising a good yield in late May, one of the few impressive things in my woodchuck-invaded garden yesterday. "Will you thin them?" one visitor asked. "No, I plant them pea by pea at two-inch spacing. That's the most tedious job in my gardening, but I usually do it in March when planting anything is exciting. After they are eaten, I will use that space for zucchini." It's near the house, which is why the snow disappeared there for early pea planting.

Much interest was expressed in my wall-of-waters around the tomatoes surrounding the fence where I will plant sugar snaps in late April, the latest that peas are supposed to be planted. By then the tomato plants should be tall enough to protect them from woodchucks. Some are over a foot high already.

The most common question this time was, "What do you do instead of using a commercial fertilizer? Just compost?"
"And a mulch of other people's grass on all the bare spots in the garden." I should have added that I plant winter rye over the winter and when I have them, I add wood ashes to cut the acidity of NJ soil.

One man came at the beginning and wanted to know what I do for grubs. I insisted I don't have any, so he decided to leave without seeing the garden. Fred told me that Nancy said he should use milky spore disease. Oh, my! Yes, the fifth neighbor back on my east side and I shared the price of the smallest purchaseable quantity of milky spore disease and we spread it around both properties. Before that I did have grubs. Poor man! It's hard to remember everything, so I'm glad Nancy remembered. It appears to be a long-term remedy.

Several people asked about what I do for squirrels, and my answer wasn't very satisfactory there either. The woodchucks have made them seem unimportant recently, especially since hawks are now seen picking them up to feed hawk young. May the hawk population thrive!

Questions about rabbits are easier: they can't get over a one-foot fence, and humans easily can.

Today I took the cold frame apart and put it in the garage. Now I'm picking the remaining Chinese cabbage for domestic consumption, and soon I will plant green beans and corn there.

Happy spring planting!


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Monday, April 11, 2011

What to see and dig on Sunday

When my garden at 56 Gordonhurst, Montclair, is open to the public this Sunday, April 17, the viewings won't be too impressive, but I do have seven varieties of plants that you can dig and take home if your bring your own bag. Extra trowels will help, but I will have some around for the trowelless. I will not have time to distribute bags that busy afternoon.

Actually, right now there is a lilac plant on the right of my steps and two pots of columbine on the left (alphabetical order). The big pot has a columbine I dug from the compost heap, and the small one has two small plants that thought they might invade my vegetable garden. No, no! First come, first take.

For Sunday I have lots of minarda, also called "bee balm" because of the way it attracts bees (and hummingbirds), that I hope people will dig out between the street and sidewalk. It does well in the shade and has nice magenta flowers. I've enjoyed it and its visitors for years next to the north-facing house. When I made the street garden, I thought a little there might be nice. Bad idea. It behaves itself in front of the house, but thinks it wants to take over my front garden. If visitors would dig it all up and put it in tidy shady spots, I would be grateful. Warning: you don't want too much for yourself because it does spread.

Down the neighbor's driveway both chrysanthemums and strawberries are invading my lawn. I'd like that edge straightened to match the line nearer the house. Both will spread. The chrysanthemums are yellow, and their ancestor was given to me by Fred's parents after their 50th anniversary celebration in 1985. They like my front yard, and I like them, but I have some to share.

There are also strawberry plants in the back yard to be dug to straighten the edges of the lawn.

Both in the front and back Dutch iris needs to be trimmed. These have smaller light purple flowers that bloom the week after the Siberian iris. They were given to me by Mrs. Stroili down the street when I moved here in 1975. She brought them when she immigrated from Holland and told me as she delivered them, "They are guaranteed. If they die, they will be replaced." I didn't need to cash in on the guarantee and now have some to share. They aren't terribly invasive, but they've had plenty of time.
Years ago I bought one oregano plant at a Crane's House sale, and its progeny need to be curbed from the back lawn. I'd also like less under the kiwi arbor.

The myrtle (also called vinca or periwinkle) was at the back of the yard when I moved in, but it's moving toward my garden and I have plenty for folks who want to help me retrieve my lawn and take some home.

The garden itself won't be nearly as impressive. You can see tomato plants in WOWs and garlic looking good. I'm not going to invite visitors into the inner garden this time because I don't want to risk damage to the electric fence and you can see fine from the grass now. It's far from the jungle I anticipate in the July and Sept. Open Gardens.

You can see over the fence that the low peas are nicely up. I'm planting out lots of broccoli INSIDE the fence, hoping for a crop for the first time in three years. I'm feeling seriously broccoli-deprived, and there is nothing you can buy that tastes anything like garden broccoli. You will also be able to see the pathetic collards plants that I started from seed in February. Or was it March? Usually I'm eating fresh collards in March, but this year it will be well into April if I'm lucky.

I will leave up my cold frame, partly to show it off, but partly because this year's garden crises mean our eating patterns are different from other years, when by now I have planted that spot to beans and corn. Next week will have to do this year.

With decent eyesight, you will also be able to see my lettuce, pac choi, arugula, and Tokyo Cross turnips, tiny seedlings sowed directly in the garden.

So I expect a respectable show. Right now the flowers are lovely, and I hope that lasts five more days. This year's problems have given this gardener a slight spasm of stage fright, but I think I will have recuperated my composure (and my garden's) by Sunday. See you then!


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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Woodchuck fence

Stephane Mortier, part-time handyman and part-time computer whiz,, responded to my appeal for a 12-guage wire saying he had some, and offering to help me install my electric fence. I immediately hired him, and on Saturday he installed it. We bought it from Harbor Freight Tools at 441 Market Street in Saddlebrook, but Fred tells me that is a national chain, so you may find a source nearer to you. We did need the fence wire and holders, but had some left from our previous electric fence ages ago. When that battery wore out, we couldn't find a replacement. This unit is solar powered with a back-up rechargeable battery, so it's more promising. It cost $75 including a 3-year guarantee of replacement if anything goes wrong.

It needs to sit in the sun for 8 hours before it functions, so Stephane offered to come back Sunday and see if it is working. I wondered how he would do so. He touched it, shivered, and jumped, and decreed it functional. What courage! I touched my previous one just once accidentally and would not consider doing it intentionally.

No wonder woodchucks stay away! However, I also noticed where mine had been living, and Stephane also fenced that off on Saturday. I haven't seen any sign of a woodchuck or woodchuck damage since. I planted out small broccoli plants as a test. It doesn't like this cold weather, but it is getting no outside assault. It's time to plant out the collard seedlings I've been raising in my greenhouse window.

Meanwhile, the electric fence forced me to reconfigure my inner garden, since we needed to have more-or-less straight line borders, outside which the electric fence is strung. I noticed that a garden path in the new arrangement went right through my milkweed plant, which attracts butterflies. Trina said I could transplant it or pot it up to give away. When I attempted to transplant it, it fell apart. Apparently, it should have been separated long ago. I transplanted the largest piece, and put six more on the right side of my front steps for anyone who wants to take a milkweed plant. It's slightly different from Trina's, but she says it does do what monarch butterflies need.

Nobody picked up ANY celery or pak choi (L-R) Sunday or Monday, and I thought maybe I was going to soon commit mass seedlingcide, especially since the celery seedlings are beginning to look vaguely like celery plants, and won't be able to stay in their cradle for much longer. Someone did arrive yesterday, and I replaced these offerings. They hadn't done well with the lack of water and frozen soil, but those there now look inviting.

My Heritage raspberries are budding! So it's time to prune off the dead remainders of last fall's crop. This makes it much easier to go through the raspberry patch without losing my hat.

When I realized this, my internal Guilt Monster (surely some of you have one too) said to me, "If you had pruned two weeks ago, your life would have been much easier."
"But I couldn't see until now WHERE to prune." I now preserve all parts with buds and cut away the tops, which look convincingly dead. Anyway, the plants are healthy, and I should have a nice crop to share in a July Open Garden.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011


Happy spring to all! (My daughter in MA was startled yesterday to hear I had been shoveling snow.) I was happy this morning after I went out first thing to peer into the wall-of-waters at my babies. The tomatoes are fine! Even the ones covered with snow inside an open WOW seemed to be basically happy.

Meanwhile, the pac choi has germinated with wild abundance. I don't seem to be able to practice moderation in scattering seeds. I expect there to be a continuing supply of 3-packs of pac choi on the right side of my steps until they are too big to transplant. Having given away 27 celery seedlings from indoors, I still have an uncountable number of celery seedlings. They grow very slowly, so I will continue to put out 3-packs of them for a long time on the left side. Notice they are in alphabetical order: celery on the left, pac choi on the right. You are welcome to both, but might like to know what you are raising!

Meanwhile, not ALL is well in the garden. I had a wonderful day Sunday socially and physically, but I didn't go out to the garden until dinner time to make preparations for the precipitation predicted the next day. Oh, my! My collards were nipped to the stem. I should be enjoying collards this week! WHAHH!!!

The kale was also gone except for the stems, but I have great lettuce inside, so that's only slightly sad. The lettuce, which had miraculously survived all winter under floating cover, was gone, but that had been an unexpected treat anyway.

Most surprising, "someone" had chewed away at the Chinese cabbage in my cold frame, the first time that has ever happened. I closed the frame, of course, which is fine in this weather. There is probably enough there for us, but what should have been our major annual donation to Toni's Kitchen was eaten by a non-human on Sunday. (Do I hear you calling me a "speciest?" I plead guilty.)

I saw a woodchuck crossing my back yard last week. When I mentioned this to a neighbor, he said he had seen it too.
"Very thin."
I nodded.
"Very hungry," he added

Fred, bless him, spent lots of time on Monday on google, and located Harbor Freight Time at 441 Market Street in Saddlebrook. He went there Tuesday and bought a solar-powered generator for a electric fence with a back-up rechargeable battery. If we can get this to work, it will last! Better yet, it has a three-year returnable guarantee.

Not all is solved. HFT does not sell the needed wire for the fence itself or the holders of the wire. With lots of searching our house and our memories, we found these left over from the time we had the other electric fence over ten years ago. When he read the directions in detail, Fred found that some 12-guage wire is also needed for connections. If you see this around a local hardware store, let us know. Meanwhile, we will continue to search for that, and Fred's electrical skills may enable us to keep out woodchucks from our inner garden. That would allow us to raise collards, broccoli and lettuce there. Here's hoping!

Meanwhile, I also unearthed our woodchuck cage and put it out, but without bait (everything having been eaten) or a convenient location, I'm not too optimistic about that.

Here's still hoping. Happy shoveling! (I did more this morning.)


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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fruit tree spraying

"Do you spray the whole tree?" asked a friend last week.
"Yes, and it takes a lot of time." I think I saw a rolling of eyes.

For this reason, I would not advocate fruit TREES for people with young children or others who are very busy. Raising vegetables and berries takes much less time per calorie yielded.

These days I am spraying and pruning to an extent that I never remember doing before. It is partly that I usually do this in February, and now I want to be enjoying the garden. It also is due to the enormous growth last year of my fruit trees. When I complained to this to Dr. Jim, he said it indicates that the trees are very healthy. That helps me to stop my internal complaining!

I never had a pruning mentor, so I know only what I've read in books and pamphlets. They say to eliminate branches that cross with another and those that go directly upward. I also cut a lot of downward branches from my peach tree to clear the walk to the back of the yard. I feel the tree complaining, "I can't win. I go up and you cut, and I go down and you cut." Perhaps that reflects my experience as a teacher and/or parent.

I am uncomfortable with the sun in my eyes, so I've discovered that it's best to stand on the east side of a tree in the morning and the west side in the afternoon.

I spray my peach, apple, and pear trees with dormant oil spray, using one of Fred's discarded "Fantastic" bottles from his car cleaning. He bought a nice bottle of concentrated "Spray Oil" locally that makes it easy to measure the one tablespoon that is needed to mix with a quart of water.

I am, thankfully, finally finished with the aforementioned trees and the grape vine, and need only put copper spray on the peach tree to try to keep down the mould. Now I embark on the kiwi vine, which is much easier, and the plum trees, which I care about less.

Do plant raspberries! They are easy to care for needing only to have their obviously dead vines removed in midsummer.


P.S. I ran this by Dr. Jim Conroy, and he says it's okay. His doctorate is in plant pathology from Purdue University. He adds the following. Not spraying would certainly save lots of time.

"I have clients with kids. They don't spray their fruit. Just peel off the skin, mold and all. Then can the apples, pears, or crabapples in Ball jars. It is good!!"

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

More to plant now and clearing misunderstandings

Necole tells me she is now sowing arugula outside. Good idea! My seeds are ready. Arugula has the advantage over lettuce that of lasting MUCH longer, but it is not as universally liked. It would be ready now well before the end of the school year and still available in September. Jose has started arugula and Swiss chard, among other items. Both will be available this spring.

I simply forgot to mention radishes. In recent years I've been raising Hakurei turnips as a preferable substitute, but it wasn't available this year and the Johnny Seeds rep suggested Tokyo Cross turnips instead. I will soon sow that outside. All three are ready to harvest before summer if started now outside.

No, one does not sow pepper or eggplant seeds outside now! I start them usually in April in the greenhouse window, but late March might be reasonable. Some you use grow lights, which use artificial energy. A majority of NJ's electricity comes from nuclear power, and I am glad I need none for my garden -- especially today with the news from Japan.

I allow my own grass clippings to stay on my lawn, but some neighbors kindly bag up theirs, and we grab them from the curb before Montclair has to pay to have them removed. Sometimes neighbors even kindly bring their grass clippings to me!

Ludwig writes, "I planted scallions three weeks ago--in my "window garden"--and they are ready for harvesting. But I did not use seeds. I planted lower parts of stalks (with roots) from the consumed supermarket scallions. Sun was usually shining for about three hours, each afternoon. The soil in the pot was watered each evening."


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What to Plant Now? 3/12/11

An elementary school teacher asked me what can be raised on school grounds that can be harvested during the school year, and I thought my reflections would be of interest to others.

A blend of leaf lettuce, available from every seed supply company, is always plantable. It takes roughly six weeks from sowing to harvest, and each harvest lasts several weeks of pick-and-renew before it turns bitter. So I sow lettuce seeds about every three weeks almost year round. There is plenty of time now to enjoy the harvest before the end of the school year. If enough is sown, a class could go out and each student pick one leaf of the best lettuce she or he has ever eaten -- good motivation to go home and help start a family garden!

Pac choi can be sown now to expect a harvest before the school year ends. This isn't as pleasant for a variety of people to nibble as lettuce. I much prefer it cooked, and that means much of it "disappears."

I'm sowing Sugar Ann seeds now, for harvest in late May or early June. Sugar Spring will also do. Neither needs any staking and both are good for beginning gardeners. Peas and beans add nitrogen to the soil, which is good for a crop that might be planted later in the same place after the pea plants die (which is in plenty of time for a successor crop for peas the same year).

Broccoli is harvested before the school year ends IF it is grown successfully. The past two years woodchucks have eaten mine, but today I'm going to pick up human hair from the shop where my hair is cut. They seem happy to help me, and it has kept the critters off the crop in the past. The problems are two-fold: it must be replaced after every rain, and it looks -- well -- unsightly.

Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant started now should still be available when school starts in September if they are well mulched for the summer. I mulch with grass clippings and practically never need to water my garden in recent years. Throughout my decades of gardening, I was free to leave the state for three weeks and experience little damage when I returned. Small tomatoes are great for kids (of all ages) to nibble; my favorites are Sweet 100 and sun gold. Peppers can be cut up and handed around raw. Eggplants are very pretty, but I haven't heard of anyone eating them raw, although I don't remember a health prohibition for doing so. I suggest that someone should visit such a garden at least once a month during the summer to renew the grass clippings.

People not on school grounds are welcome to use these ideas too! Some people vacation for the summer and may find them useful. If you go for more than a month, put down a very heavy mulch before you leave and see if you can get a neighbor to mulch occasionally for the reward of picking ripe veggies.

At least two Montclair schools are hoping to set up community gardens on their grounds this year; if you are interesting in participating, let me know, and I'll give your email address to the teacher-organizers.


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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sowing, clearing, pruning

I had a lovely day today. It would have been lovelier if the predicted sun had shone, but no rain or scheduled events made it a lovely gardening day anyway. I dug a plot for pac choi, scattered seeds, and raked them in. The plot is not far from where I did a similar job with lettuce on Monday, and I was amused at how much satisfaction I had from those two bare one-yard-square pieces of soil. Only I know the secret they hide, although anyone can see how much more neat they are than most of the garden.

I also sowed one squat-worth of peas again today. Squatting for a long time is not comfortable and probably not health-building, so I space my pea sowing over much of March. It's the most tedious job in the garden. Poke one hole, drop in one pea, and move on two inches. Again. And again. Until one squat-worth of time is over. I try to space them in a hexagonal pattern because you can fit the most in that way with the 2-inch spacing, but nobody could do this exactly and I don't worry about it.

Snow drops are blooming! Not far away, also between the sidewalk and street, the winter rose has bulging buds. Last year it bloomed in March, and it looks like it will do that again.

Having noticed the front yard, I also spent a fair amount of time today squatting there, pulling up the alysm that bloomed incredibly late last fall, and scattering the seeds for this year's flowers. There were also a fair number of leaves that helped fill four garden carts worth. Underneath were poor bulbs, trying to get some sun. I found myself remembering that old Sesame Street song about it's being all right to be green. They SHOULD be green, and white and yellow don't look right. Probably they will change to their proper color now that they can see the light of day.

Since that squashy time last week, I haven't walked on the lawn in the back of the yard, so emptying the garden cart was a true project in itself. I get to the compost heap by walking through the raspberry patch, which is on higher ground. I suspect the raspberry bushes don't totally approve since they keep snatching my hat and throwing it on the ground. I'm learning to outwit them as I carry bucket after bucket of goodies to
the compost heap.

I pruned some more trees today, but it's a long, long project. Not having given gardeners a useful February, Nature seems to be going full-speed ahead with March. So I'm trying to do two month's activities in one. Good thing I'm "retired!"

I like spring, and even March!


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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pruning revelations, preparations

What a lovely day! The robins were busily assuring me it was March.

Soil! I can now see most of the garden. The two kale plants that survived the insect onslaught last fall are trying valiantly to stand up after being squashed for two months; I'm sure they will succeed. The collards under the floating cover are also working hard to revive, having been similarly squashed. Floating cover doesn't provide protection from the weight of snow. More amazing, some lettuce seems to have survived under floating cover and snow!

Meanwhile, February slipped by without my usual chore of pruning being done at all. When I snipped some unruly peach branches two weeks ago, the juicy ground soon discouraged me. Before that there was too much snow to think of venturing to the fruit trees.

Knowing that I usually sow Sugar Ann peas the first week of March next to the house (and the cold frame), and enjoying the slight rise of the ground next to the house that causes more solid ground, I decided to prepare by pruning the grape vine next to the house. What a surprise! It grew last year unlike any other. I trimmed and trimmed; it took me several days of outside gardening. I finished that job today, and decided to take the yield to the wood compost heap. Slosh, slosh! I hope the lawn will forgive me and that I haven't ruined it. Anyway, I don't think I will go there again for a while.

So I deposited the rest of the grapevine branches (I had four loads!!) at the brink of the lawn in the back of the yard on the left, where they won't get in the way of my trips to the compost heap when I think I can venture there again. This motivated me to cut some of the peach tree that you may remember was getting in the way. This is a much bigger job than the grapevine.

For all the trees (and the kiwi vine) that I prune in February I also spray with dormant oil as I go. This keeps the baby bugs from emerging and causing trouble as adults. Last year I also sprayed the peach tree with copper oil, and I got more peaches than recent years. I could do better. I had hoped to spray both more thoroughly this year, but having lost a month on garden preparations may thwart that.

I started Green Goliath broccoli seeds ages ago, and the few seedlings are still less than an eighth of an inch high. My Bonanza Hybrid broccoli, started much later, is approaching two inches, so I thought I would throw the Green Goliath away. Then it occurred to me one of you might want free seedlings. Does anyone? They've done fine for me in other years, except for woodchuck effects recently.

Next week I'm going to get a haircut, and I'll ask them to save hair cuttings for me. They've been generous in the past, and it does keep away woodchucks. It looks awful, but just around the broccoli...

I wonder when the first deer might come. I want to put fresh Irish Spring soap around just before, which seems to keep them away.

Fedco said they would backorder both Sugar Ann (short) and Sugar Snap (higher, later, and sweeter) peas, and the accompanying explanation didn't sound reassuring to me. So finally Thursday I ordered them from Johnny Seeds. Yesterday they both came. ("Oh, ye, of little faith!") So I have twice as many pea seeds as I need in fresh new packets. What should I do with them?

I may sow my first Sugar Ann seeds tomorrow. And maybe I'll also sow some lettuce seeds outside. What exciting thoughts!


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