Archive for the ‘organic gardening’ Category

Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree …

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Shopping for apples in a supermarket you are likely to find just a handful of names. Red or Golden Delicious – a misleading name if there ever was one because as hard as I try I can find nothing the least bit delicious about them – then there is Jonathan, Granny Smith, McIntosh, and just a few more. As far as I am concerned not a one among them to get excited about.

Out of the thousands of varieties of apples why do we only find a handful in the stores? Because in order for apples to be of use to the professional grower they must have certain characteristics;  being tough enough to transport is probably number one on the list, resistance to certain diseases is another, closely followed by how long the fruit will keep nice and crisp looking, and then of course the trees have to produce reliably year after year.

If you were to look at the apple trees in our garden right now, their branches so heavy with fruit they in places touch the ground, you might be tempted to conclude that these varieties would be in the list of must haves.  Their skins so beautiful they appear as if someone had taken a paint brush to them, a taste that must be experienced, sweet and juicy and tart at the same time. Most of the trees have been around so long that generations of wood-peckers have been raised in the holes in their branches. They look like the old warriors they are, gnarled and bent, yet still they produce an abundance of delicious fruit. Every other year that is. This year we don’t know what to do with the harvest, next year we might, if we are really, really lucky, get a dozen apples from five big trees.

In another week or so we will start picking, but since everything in our garden is allowed to grow naturally without pesticides or chemical feritlizers, there is a bit of windfall. And this is where the title of this post comes into play – do not venture under the apple tree on a breezy day, unless you are equipped with a footbal helmet that is ;)

The federal vegetable patch

Friday, March 20th, 2009

With the days getting a little bit warmer and fewer reminders of winter out there, my mind has been going round and round about what to plant this spring in my vegetable garden. Apparently this condition is not unique to me. It seems also the case in Washington. I just found out that the First Lady, Michelle Obama, is also planning a vegetable garden on the south lawn of the White House where she intends to grow healthy, organically grown foods. Sure sounds to me like the petitions many of us signed had an effect.


Thursday, December 11th, 2008

“We, the people, respectfully request that an organic farm be planted on the grounds of The White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC.”

Thus starts the petition to president-elect Barack Obama. What a simple yet innovative idea!

Can you imagine corn and lettuce and tomatoes growing on the White House grounds? Well, some people with vision have not only thought about it, they have grafted a petition to do away with some of the manicured lawns and replace them with vegetables. The benefits? Fresh vegetables for the table of not only the occupants of the White House and their guests, but also for public school programs and food pantries in Washington, DC. The cost of this plan should be lower than the care and maintenance of the current lawn. The plan is for volunteers on bicycles or on foot to deliver the food. To get all the information about this project visit their site, and maybe sign the petition.

Apparently it is also possible to grow vegetable on top of an old school bus. Not the easiest way to do that I think, but it is certainly an attention getter ;)

You may also want to check out the article “Foodies Petition Obama” on La Vida Locavore‘s site.

Beets – a superfood

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

some foods seem destined to wind up on our ‘do I really have to eat this’ list. Spinach seems to be high on that list, but so are beets. And they do have a grungy kind of appearance. But the taste – heavenly, if you ask me. This bunch I brought in just before last night’s rain turned to snow. They are the last of the season and not prime examples but they will taste just as sweet as their predecessors did which were pulled up during the summer months. Beets are quite versatile – eat them raw with a little vinegar and oil, or cook them with cumin seeds, tomatoes, garlic and onions; the leaves make a fine salad, and that is just for starters. A juice made with beets and carrots is naturally sweet. And so healthy!

If you still aren’t convinced that you like to see beets on your dinner table look up the health benefits of beets and get convinced ;)

Wild lettuce

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

this afternoon, as I was preparing to lay the ground work for another section of path around the rose beds I discovered lettuce! A few years ago I put some seed down, we had some delectable salads that first year, and ever since then the harvest has been a pretty steady one even though the exact location of the plants has been somewhat unpredictable. Apparently the birds scatter the seeds, and so I have wild lettuce appear in the middle of a path, between the roses, and – I know this is hard to believe – sometimes even in the vegetable garden ;)

So tonight’s dinner will center around a nice salad, the herbs are still producing nicely and will be mixed in, possibly one of the last hurrays of the season. There is some frosty weather in the forecast ;(

You might know this type of lettuce as corn salad or lamb’s lettuce. No matter what you call it, it is a real taste treat, far better than the stuff one can buy in the market.

Declaring war on weeds

Monday, November 17th, 2008

now that things have quieted down in the garden and the vegetable patch is resting cosily under a blanket of mulch is an excellent time to get a head start on fighting next year’s weeds. Take the paths along the two rosebeds in front of the house. Very pretty, but they forever need my attention during the growing season. There seems no end to the work involved in keeping these paths presentable during the summer months. So I decided to try something I read about not too long ago. It is a fairly simple approach. First you cover the area with cardboard, no need to skimp here, then add a layer of bark chips to cover the whole mess. The cardboard acts as a barrier. While it does allow moisture to get through it will keep the light from getting to any seeds that might start to sprout underneath it and they will die.  Just make sure that the bark chips have not been treated with pesticides. I have tried this procedure underneath my berry bushes and it seeems to work quite nicely in supressing weeds. An added benefit is that earth worms seem to love the moist layers of paper, and we know how beneficial they are to the soil. After a while the paper will rot away, but I feel it is a simple task to push the chips aside and place new cardboard underneath when that happens.

I am about halfway there, let’s hope the weather stays mild for another few days ;)

Gene manipulation? No thanks? You think!

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

isn’t anything safe anymore? Bad enough that GM food quietly finds its way onto our supermarket shelves. Now we can also worry about seed contamination. If you want to read how our current government is looking out for us, and if you think that growing your own takes care of your worries, think again. You might want to take a look at this article. Scary in so many ways.

the things we give away – just a thought

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

This morning I was awakened by the garbage truck that came thundering down the street, making quite a racket and spewing smelly exhaust. The truck comes by the house every 2 weeks to take away the leaves, the grass clippings, the basic ‘stuff’ that collects in the kitchen. Half awake it dawned on me that many of us give away for free the very things that every gardener can and should use to improve the quality of the soil, the things that should go on a mulch pile and not in a plastic can to be carted off.

I am not a convert to organic gardening. As far back as I can remember never was chemical fertilizer used in our garden. While there were no grass clippings when I was growing up – every inch of the garden was used to grow food – there were plenty of leaves from the fruit trees in the fall, the neighboring farm had cows and we could have all the manure, hay and straw that we wanted for free; we had an organic garden and weren’t even aware of it. So when I started to grow things it seemed only natural to me to continue in a similar way. Now, as I refer to the many books that I am starting to collect on the matter, I read a chapter and nod my head, thinking yes, of course, I knew that ;)

So as I lay listening to the truck picking up the good stuff that gets taken away I wondered whether I could make a trade with my neighbors, they can have all the zucchini, cukes and tomatoes in the summer months for a year-round supply of their organic refuse. Hm! Just a tought.

Italian food, lasagna and much more

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Italian food – ideal for a cold fall evening. Just breathe in that lovely tomato-garlicky aroma! This summer I discovered a recipe that is  a very light version of eggplant parmigiana that is made by layering vegetables, eggplant, peppers, carrots, mushrooms etc., and without the cheese. Come to think of it, it is time to give it another try. Don’t let the preparation discourage you, the dish freezes quite well. So make a big batch and enjoy, and don’t worry about the calories!

So much for food. Recently I came upon a post that talks about “Lasagna Gardening“. Sounds different enough to get my attention! A promise to cut back on weeds and give the old vegetable patch an energy boost in one easy step? It sounded so good that I grabbed all the newspapers I could find and went out on this foggy, drizzly morning to get started. Huge potential there!

Taking care of our garden helpers

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Fall has undeniably arrived with the first frost of the season that gave the leaves stupendous colors, caused many flowers to wilt, a season that makes us huddle around a warm fire. This is also a time to remember the many little creatures that were such a big help during the growing season; the spiders, ladybugs, bees, butterflies, hedgehogs, etc.

For many of them winter can mean certain death, but with just a little care we can make the difference between these helpers seeing another season or not. What can we do? With very little time and at almost no cost we can provide winter shelters.

Bugs, bees, ladybugs and such can find shelter from the worst cold in flower pots that are stuffed with wooden sticks, straw, sawdust, even small stones can be used. You can simply turn the flower pots on their side and leave them in a protected spot in the garden, or you can hang them from branches with rope wrapped around a wooden stick that you insert into the drainage hole of the pot.

This year I also used a branch from an old apple tree that broke off because it had one too many holes made by woodpeckers. Same procedure, stuff any cavity with straw, wood shavings, stones, or such, and leave it on the ground.

Hedgehogs are some of my favorite helpers in the summer. Did you know that they feast on slugs? They also like to eat cat food, so if you want to make sure they get a good start into the winter you might want to consider that and leave a bowl out for them once in a while. Of course you might also find some very well fed cats in your neighborhood ;)

Providing a winter home for your hedgehogs might involve not much more than not being a neatnik in the garden. Making sure there are plenty of leaves left after the fall cleanup, and not removing every branch is a great way to encourage these prickly friends to stay around for a while. I have seen plans for wooden hedgehog houses but personally I refuse to go that far. Stack some dead wood in such a way that there is room inside to build a snug little home, leave piles of leaves in the area, and a hedgehog family might find it attractive enough to spend the cold months in your garden.