Saturday, February 20, 2010

I'll be seed-saving this year....

Right now my raised beds are pretty much covered with snow and ice.  Under those 9 raised beds is fertile soil somewhere.
This year I plan to start saving seeds and tomatoes are one of them.  I've learned that I need to keep the plants of any one variety at least 5' away from another variety so they don't cross-pollinate and they have to be open-pollinated varietes and not hybrids.  To that end I've had to re-plan my garden.  Those tall green poles at the corners of six of the front beds are sturdy fence posts from which I will wire and twine.  I'm ordering 15 plants this year from Territorial Seed which ships PLANTS, 3 of each of only 5 varieties so I can save seed.  I will put a trio at each of the outside poled beds and the beds with poles in between will be peas.  I can put the short determinate Oregon Spring in the back of one of the back beds since they won't need the tall poles and wire and twine.
Besides the Oregon Spring, which can be planted outdoors FOUR week BEFORE last frost date (Hooray!), I plan to plant 3 main season Rutger's CS Space Select, 3 San Marzano Gigante 3 which are sauce tomatoes, 3 Brandywine heirlooms (which I hear are the tastiest) and 3 Delicious heirlooms this year.  That should give us lots of tomatoes and lots of extras for saving seeds for the next year or two.  I'll keep you posted on my progress thru my planting efforts once again this year, complete with pictures.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nothing in the garden, but fresh bread on the table...

I made a loaf of French bread in my bread machine. There's nothing like fresh bread to cut in thick slices.

One of my favorites ways to have it is to toast it on a cast iron grill pan then slather butter over it. It was....mmmmmm good!
On the gardening front.....I got word from two nurseries that they received my orders. One is shipping out today and the other, for my dwarf Fuji apple tree, will ship around May 2nd. I'm getting more excited.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I'm going to use soil block makers this year...

I plan to do some seed-starting this year. I finally got a grow light since my only windows in my daylight basement in-law apt are west facing and no help to start seedlings. I also got a heat mat. I have the small 3/4" and the 2" block makers but not the large one which is too expensive for my purse. Eliot Coleman, who created these devices, states that one can use 4" plastic pots that have slits cut in their sides to prevent roots from balling. The roots stop growing at the air vents. That's what I'll use. The pots, once the seedlings are sown in the garden, can be sterilized and used year after year. This is another thing I'll be reporting on in this blog. Everything is new to me being a new veggie gardener only last year. I've got lots to learn and will share my learning experiences as I go.

My garden is still under ice and snow...

I checked my raised beds today. I got an email from a local nursery that instructed that I could start radishes, mesclun, carrots, scallions and spinach by Feb 15th if I use a double hoop system, one inside the other. Well, I checked my beds. Under the top layer of snow is solid ice even in the ground. I think I need a few more days of over 40s temps to do any good for me here in Maine. I'll be picking up my 1 x 2s tomorrow to try my experiment with making a plastic tent, as opposed to hoops, which I don't have and can't make. I can make a tent. I plan to put a shorter tent inside the coldframe tent covered with heavy row cover and start my cool-weather crops under that. Its an experiment to see if I can get earlier crops. I hope it works. I'll be posting pictures and results as it happens.
Since I couldn't get my beds ready, I stopped at the library and picked up a book on growing herbs in pots. I'm especially interested in growing perennial herbs so I can bring them inside for the winter and keep having herbs year round. Another experiment for me. I picked up some potting soil while I was out today. I have pots that are at least 10" across so I'll be starting some garlic chives tomorrow and a pot of mesclun as well.
And to appease my disappointment at not being able to start my garden endeavors, I'm making a batch of buckeyes/peanut butter balls. Here they are ready for the fridge to chill them before dipping in chocolate. I think I have enuf to share with the family as well unless I get ultra greedy, which I hope never happens.
Stay tuned weekly to see what's happening in my organic garden of raised beds, my rose garden, and the new organic community garden we are starting in our town this spring. That's got me very excited and I'll be taking pictures of that as well. Til we meet again, enjoy those seed catalogs and dream, dream, dream.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I can't garden, so I made homemade pizza for Super Bowl Sunday for the guys...

I made pizza dough in my bread machine. When it was done at 'dough only' I tossed it onto my bread board, let it rest in a heap about 10 mins, then rolled it out in a rectangle large enuf to fit my large cookie sheet.

I browned Jimmy Dean precooked sausage patties, and a pan of ground beef. I removed the excess fat from the beef with a turkey baster.

I added my favorite tomato sauce to the ground beef only, which comes out of a bottle these days, just enuf to flavor the meat.

I sprinkled corn meal over my large cookie sheet. Placed my pizza dough over the sheet and shaped it to fit, rolling the excess edges inside around the sides of the pan.
Added my favorite pizza sauce over the dough, again from a bottle. Added my grated cheeses and then finished with half of it ground beef and the other half pork sausage. If I had some pepperoni, I would have added that as well.

I cooked it at 400* in a preheated oven, for 28 mins until the bottom was browned lightly. I usually cook pizza dough at 450* for less time, but I had preheated it to 400 by mistake so went with it.
I have another serving of pizza dough in the bread machine for later. I didn't realize the football game wasn't until later, so my son and I ate much of this for our lunch.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


When you build your own raised beds, I cannot stress enough that you must use UNTREATED lumber. You risk your health and anyone else's who shares your crops if the lumber is treated. There are chemicals in treatments that are detrimental to your health. The foods grown there will ingest the chemicals and you will ingest them from the food.
DO NOT buy treated wood.
Lumber for decking is treated with chemicals so do NOT buy that either.

Untreated cedar is the longest lasting wood, but I could not find any untreated in my area so I went to a lumber company that had spruce and fir and chose the stronger and more longer lasting spruce for my raised 4 by 4-foot beds.

Be safe and enjoy growing your own veggies this year. I'll be posting my pictures and changes for this year so watch for them.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A new method for growing Cucumbers...

This is from the book, 'Best Ideas for Organic Vegetable Growing" by the editors of Rodale Press.
A lady in Texas has bountiful cucumber harvests that I hope to achieve this year.
The articles states that she buys reinforcing wire, the kind that strengthens concrete, and forms a cylinder, wiring it together. She digs a hole in her garden and sinks a gallon can into it to which she had punched out a hole in the bottom. She fills the can with dried manure from a nursery and adds water. The cylinder is placed around the can and sunk into the ground to keep it secure. The can provides a steady supply of food and water for the cukes as they grow. Cuke seeds are planted one every 3 inches around the cylinder about 2 inches away from the base. When the cukes are about 6" tall, she removes every other plant so she has ony one plant every 6 inches. She claims she gets the largest harvests she's ever had. As you can see from the photo she supplied, it surely looks promising.
There's been some thought also that electrical currents in the air promote plant growth so maybe that helps as well.
Anyway, I'm going to try it this year. I'm in Maine, but I'm sure it can work here as well.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yippee! Our Community Garden is a fact...

This spring our town will have its first Community Garden. The organizer sent the newsletter yesterday to those of us who showed an interest a few months ago and she's already got a grant to buy seeds and supplies and till the field. The empty field beside the local library is owned by the town , who is one of our sponsors, and the CG are leasing it for a reasonable fee. I'm sooooo thrilled. I know that with the Master Gardener that will be on hand to help us get this going, I'll learn a lot about growing vegetables organically. The MG owns the adjoining property and has a greenhouse where we will be allowed to start our seed indoors, like peppers, tomatoes, etc. He will also teach us how to do it. Isn't that fabulous! I have a grow light and a heat mat here at home but I was only able to get about 9 plants started last spring. Most of my efforts never made it to the seedling stage.
I hope to get at least 3 eleven-foot long rows for my veggies. I want to grow a variety of things, even if its only a plant or two, so I can learn how to grow each of them properly in my raised beds at home. The community garden will be my learning and testing ground. The C Garden will also have several rows specifically for growing food for the local Food Pantry. I've also volunteered to help with that aspect. I think its a wonderful idea. Our local Food Pantry has had in influx of families needing help with so many layoffs and loss of jobs.
I made the list of what varieties I'd prefer, as instructed. I have the same seed catalog, Johnny's Selected Seeds, from whom the CG will order their seeds, so I knew enough to name names. I'll be buying more of my own home seeds from Johnny's as well.
I just wanted to share my happiness. It doesn't take much to make me happy. A rose bud opening, a pepper plant producing a sweet pepper, a vine of sugar snap peas ready to eat right off the vine, my corgi waiting with bright eyes to go on our walk. I'm a happy camper right now and the winter doesn't seem so tedious.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

No ground for gardening in the north country...

Over a 4-day period last weekend, we got a total of 16" in our town as you can see my by birdbath being buried with the white stuff. Such weather is not conducive to gardening, but it sure puts one in the mood to thumb thru the seed catalogs that are coming to one's mail box these days.
I've made lists from each one, but to be realistic, I will be cutting back on the dream lists drastically. I have saved seed in glass jars in the crisper of my fridge, from last year, because some seed can keep up to 4 years. I want a couple of new varietes to try and I need to get more radishes and lettuce seeds, which I used up, and parsnip seed which doesn't keep more than a few months. Unfortunately last summer I lost the whole crop of parsnips due to the over abundance of rainfall we had. Some things survived, but a few things couldn't cope with too much rain last July. I can only hope for a better summer this year. That's never happened that I can remember.
In the meantime I've started my new garden journal and made my garden plans.....over and over again. I'm sure I'll change them again before I start planting, but it's fun making plans. It gives one hope that spring is right around the least in some areas of the country.
Wishing all the gardeners out there a great spring.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My gardens are still under snow, except for houseplants...

Here's my only African violet which surprised me by being a double in one pot. Now I have two blooming violet plants. Very pretty and nice to see during this cold, white season. I'll have to re-pot them but will wait til they go into dormancy. If I do it now, I'm sure I'll lose the blooms and I'm enjoying them too much right not.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Will this snow never end this weekend....

I cleared a path to the birdfeeders, brushed off the towers of snow and refilled them. The chickadees were very grateful and waiting for me.

Here's the rose garden outside my living room windows. The snow is not yet cleared off the birdbath but I've since done so and filled it with warm water for my feathered friends.
I don't think I'll be sitting on my garden bench doing any reading today. We got about 10 inches so far and it stops in between bouts of snow. We're expecting another 6" today and maybe 2" tomorrow. We'll see if they are right. Its still too much for me but I'll be staying home, the grandkids are still on vacation so no school for them anyway, and my larder is full. In fact, I'm off to heat some chicken soup to warm up this old body after its tour outside in the wind. Have a good weekend everyone and stay warm.