Posts Tagged ‘growing organic vegetables’

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.

Organic fertilizers

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Once in a while even the sturdiest of plants in the garden appreciate a little boost. Liquid fertilizers are a lot of fun to make, they are just about free, fruit and vegetable trimmings are recycled, and I find the results amazing.

Stinging Nettle brew

My very favorite fertilizer is a brew made with stinging nettles. It is really easy to prepare, all you need is

  • a plastic or wooden container (because metal has a tendency to react during the fermentation process),
  • a bunch of nettles, try to harvest them before they have gone to seed,
  • rain water if available, or tap water drawn the day before,
  • plastic gloves to remove the ouch factor when you touch the nettles

cut the nettles into pieces, fill the bucket with water but make sure to leave some room on top because the liquid will foam as it starts to ferment. Place the container in a sunny location, then all you have to do is wait until the color of the brew is a nice dark brown and you notice its ‘fragrance’ as you walk by. Stir the mix a couple of times during the day to let air circulate.  I use a long wooden stick for that because you really don’t want to get the mix on your hands (see comment above  about its ‘fragrance’). The time it takes until your fertilizer is ready to use depends on the temperature, but a good guideline is a dark color of the liquid and no more foam. I find that when the days are warm and sunny the mix can be used in about 1 week.

Before applying this nourishing soup to your plants you will want to dilute it until the color is no darker than weak tea.  It is better to work with a weaker solution and repeat the application after a few days than to harm your plants. I never pour any of this on the leaves so as not to burn them but apply it to the soil around the plants. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash all groove on this fertilizer, but some plants (garlic, onions, beans and peas for instance) are not happy with the nettle fertilizer. For those you can prepare a fertilizer from a mix of herbs.

A word of caution: pumpkins seem to respond overly enthusiastic to the nettle fertilizer. My 3 plants are threatening to take over not only the vegetable garden but have already sent out their feelers underneath the fence and are now headed into the street.

Liquid herbal manure

can be prepared in a similar fashion, but instead of nettles use whatever herbs are available. Lately I have also experimented with a mix of raw fruit and vegetable trimmings. Works just as well, right now I have a bucket filled with onion and garlic peels,  trimmings from leeks, carrots, lettuce, parsely, red beet skins etc. It is quite aromatic already, the bigger pieces have dissolved, and it should be ready to dilute and use in a day or so.

Hello Friends!

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

I really couldn’t tell you what possessed me to start growing our own vegetables. After all, for years we have been quite happy buying whatever food we needed at local supermarkets where the selection can make your mouth water and the seasons never end. Cherries for dessert on Christmas day, asparagus in February, oranges in June, is everybody happy? Yes! Yes! Yes!

It had occurred to me that I might be turning the clock back a number of years to a time when my mother and grandmother had taken turns tending to the rows of lettuce, onions, carrots, potatoes, beans, peas, tomatoes, and I am sure there must have been more that I cannot remember anymore, that occupied most of the space that is now given over to grass.

But let me start at the beginning …

If you have ever had any work done in or around your house this might sound familiar and you have my full and heartfelt sympathy. I had the first niggling feeling that we might be in for more than we bargained for the day a bulldozer sat in the middle of what used to be our living room and started belching smoke and moving earth back and forth. Next came the bathroom, then the kitchen. You have not been in touch with nature until you have had to take your shower outdoors, rain or shine, no matter what the temperature. In our defense I have to say that we did have the foresight to plan this for the summer months. In retrospect I have to say that I feel very lucky that our marriage survived it all ;)

It could have been as simple as the empty plot behind the house, where the tires of numerous machines had left deep gouges before departing not a day too soon, sending out accusing vibes every time I passed it by, not a blade of grass in sight, just a big empty, ugly plot of earth. In early spring, as the first sparse green blades started to poke out of the barely thawed uneven soil I had to come to a decision. Either plant grass (another area to mow? nope!), plant a big flower bed (a lot of effort where I already had more than enough blooming plants tucked into various corners of the garden), or maybe, for the heck of it, turn that area into something useful. Like a vegetable patch. Hm! Maybe! YES!