Sunday, November 4, 2012

Prepare Vegetable Gardens For Winter

Halloween is over and it is time to put our vegetable gardens to bed. This is mostly a matter of cleaning up, covering up, raking up, and gathering all of those wonderful leaves for compost. Plants that are not killed outright should be prepared for dormancy. One of the first things one must do is clear out the blackened stems and foliage of annual veggies and flowers. This prevents the possibility that disease, bugs, eggs, pathogens or icky stuff will sleep in your soil over the winter. 
Consider this a good time to make any necessary repairs to your beds and boxes. As I still live in an apartment, I do not have to worry about this too much. 
While it appears as if all activity in the garden has stopped, there's a lot going on under the soil until it freezes. Newly transplanted trees and shrubs, divisions of perennials, and hardy bulbs are all growing roots, drawing on soil nutrients and moisture around them. Earthworms and various microbes in the soil are still processing the organic material they're finding. Most likely, the organic mulch you spread to protect the soil during the summer months has substantially decomposed. It's important to spread new mulch now -- a thicker winter layer -- to protect plants and soil over the winter months. The idea is not so much to keep the soil warm as it is to keep the temperature even. Once the soil is frozen, mulch keeps it frozen. So if you have shade trees, convert the fallen leaves to mulch and use it throughout your property.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It is time to plant your garlic

home grown garlic
Hello Gardeners,

We have come upon my favorite time of year. Along with that, time to plant my favorite bulb - garlic. I love garlic and use it all the time in soups, meats and salads. Garlic is a necessity for every kitchen. Garlic requires cool weather to do well, and the most robust bulbs are produced from fall planting. Planting stock is readily available, so now is the time to go to your garden center and pick it up. Plant the garlic at least two weeks before the first frost so that the roots set. The timing of fall planting should be such that the roots have a chance to develop and the tops do not break when the ground freezes.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My poor basil plant

She commit suicide off the balcony today. It was very sad. I had to turn the remaining leaves into tomato basil soup....which turned out delicious.

It is funny, fall is here and I am already thinking about the seeds I would like to germinate this Spring. If only I had more land to work with.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pōhutukawa - New Zealand Christmas Tree

I was very lucky to find a BBC Garden of the World series on YouTube. The series is called Around the World in 80 gardens. The first episode that I watched was about South America. Did you know that in the Amazon they grow their gardens in pots on the river? I watched the episode about Indian gardens, those were just amazing. Finally, I ended with gardens of Australia and New Zealand which brings me to the topic of this blog - Pōhutukawa - New Zealand Christmas Tree. 

The brush-like blooms of pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) add brilliance to a Northland beach in summer, and signal the arrival of Christmas. Related to guavas, feijoas and eucalypts, the pōhutukawa is a familiar sight on the northern North Island coastline, which is its natural range. It was favoured by early European boat builders as the timber provides natural curves and is immune to sea worms. The trees have since been planted in coastal areas throughout the country.

This tree blooms every December (summer time ), in New Zealand . The tree grew quite large and the blossoms were beautiful. I would love to have a couple of these trees one day. I came to discover that this plant does very well in parts of California.  If you are interested in buying seeds, here is a link to a New Zealand vendor

First Cute Little Potato Harvest

potato flower means it is soon time to harvest
I planted a single seed potato in one of my ten pound green planters from Lowes. It was my first time growing potatoes. I wanted to first discuss why I chose to grow potatoes instead of any other exotic herb or vegetable. Potatoes are a staple in our diet. They feed the poorest of the poor. They are starchy, versitile, and are used in any cuisine. I cannot think of a world cuisine that does not use potatoes.

Potatoes are easy to grow and can be stored for a very long time.They prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH factor of about 6. They should be planted in early spring, and the soil should be at least 45 degrees F. They should not be grown in the same soil year after year. I grow them in pots and my soil is always new, so crop rotation is not an issue here.

One week before planting, I set my seed potato on the dry warm balcony with full light to induce sprouting. Then I chopped up the sprouts, with the eyes or ´buds´ fully intact. The seed formed a thick callous over the cut which helped prevent it from rotting once planted. This is an important step that should not be over looked.

The best way to get more potatoes is to keep covering the plant with soil. Do not bury the plant entirely with soil. Leave just enough for the plant to push through. Some people do this with tires, others build potato boxes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why do wine makers plant mustard seeds in young vineyards?

Mustard planted in vineyard
Lately I have really been into wine making.

Unfortunately I do not  have the space to start making my own wine. All I can do is read books about it, and daydream about the day that I will be able to press my own grapes. As I was looking at vineyards, I noticed that many wine makers planted mustard seeds in the vineyards. In fact, in California´s wine country, many vineyards are awash in yellow mustard flowers.

When soil temperatures reach about 60 degrees, nematodes gear up to start damaging the vines. At this moment mustard seeds destroy the nematode reproductive cycle. Crisis Averted!

 The best type of mustard plants to grow are those with high levels of Glucosinolate, or extra spicy compounds. Examples of these are black mustard, nemfix mustard, ida gold mustard, oilseed radish, diakon radish and wild radish. Mustard plants help break down the nematode population just as they gear up to damage young vines. Young vines cam be very sensitive to nematodes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Plants and Poison - Cherry Laurel Water

For the past few weeks I have been doing my family genealogy. At the same time, I have been watching a series Who Do You Think You Are, where a number of celebrities from the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom trace their ancestors. Today I watched an interesting episode about Alexander Armstrong. The episode I am referring to is featured below.

Armstrong is one of those rare people that come from an aristocratic family. One of ancestors was poisoned by something called Laurel Water. Before watching this episode I did not know what laurel water was, so I went straight to google. The Laurel plant is grown usually as a shading shrub but can be pruned into a tree. It is not uncommon for animals to die from this poison. Farmers need to be careful what kinds of plants they put on their property.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Growing 17 types of tomatoes!

I had no idea that there were so many varieties of tomatoes.

Cloning Ancient Trees

I few years ago an article was featured on Yahoo discussing a group of botanists, Archangel Project, who made it their life work to clone old growth trees. When I first learned about this project, I was amazed. I really hope others can appreciate the significance of this.

They have a presence on Facebook. There are other arborists that clone ancient trees. We can find them by conducting a quick google search. Today I learned that it is common practice to dip the cutting into rooting powder. This will stimulate root growth when the stem is planted directly into the dirt. I am very interested in cloning ancient trees.

If there is anything I would like to do before I die, that is clone African Shea Trees and make an orchard in Chihuahua Mexico.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Transplanted my Basil Plants Today

For the first time ever, I rooted Basil cuttings. My interest in rooting basil was peaked after I stumbled upon some online drama. Apparently, some guy claimed that his cutting rooted in one day. I had to find out for myself if that was possible.

This is what my basil looked like
 after a couple weeks
The rooting process is fairly simple.

1. cut off some fresh basil stems from your plant
2. put them in a cup of water
3. change the water once a week

i used two clear, empty jars of baby food to root my basil. After about two and one half weeks my cuttings finally started to root. This morning I planted them in nice, warm soil with the mother plant. This got me to thinking, how many plants are propagated by rooting, using this same process?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How to Root Pineapple

I had no idea how pineapple was planted, grown, or harvested. All I did know was that pineapple grew in Hawaii, and that the plant was engineered to fit into the Dole pineapple machines. They appear red, yellow, green and brown.

So how to propogate a pineapple plant? Go to the grocery store and buy a pineapple with healthy green leaves. Make sure that the leaves look strong and healthy. If the leaves are brown or orange, do not use it.

Grab the leaves and pull it out of the pineapple. Remove any additional flesh that comes out.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Washington State Blackberries Are Coming In

It is late July, for all of you living in Western Washington you know what that means. Blackberry season is coming! I took the boys down to the Marina yesterday with the double stroller. There are many more blackberry bushes in this area than where I lived last year. I say only five ripe berries, the rest of them were green. I would give it a few more weeks and blackberry season is here!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

jobes tomato spikes

for spikes in each pot
I purchased some tomato spike fertilizers yesterday at Fred Meyer. They were very cheap. The ingredients are...

• 1.3% Water Insoluble Nitrogen 
• 0.9% Urea Nitrogen
• Available Phosphate 24%
• Soluble Potash 8%

I can tell that my plants have a huge root system, and I need to repot them. With the babies, I do not have any time to do it. What will happen to my tomato plants if I do not get them into bigger pots? The pots currently have 3 to 4 cherry tomato plants.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weird things in the garden

Original Material was found in France and cultivated by the Dutch 
One of my Facebook friends reposted an image originally posted by Organic Green Roots. The image was of a white strawberry with red seeds. Pineberry is a South American berry that looks like a strawberry but tastes like a pineapple. Apparently it almost went extinct and was rescued by Dutch farmers.  I never heard of such a thing. How Amazing. Evolution is one of the most wonderful things.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My cherry tomatoes are starting!

I made the mistake of not planing them in a bigger pot. We will see what happens this summer. I am so proud that I grew them from seed.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Time to Harvest the Basil

It is time to make Pesto Everybody! This is one of my favorite treats. I love pesto on shrimp, chicken, pasta and appetizers. I grow my own basil. My kitchen smelt like an Italian restaurant. The best part is that after harvesting the leaves, the plants are thriving on my balcony. I am going to make pesto all summer long.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cherry Tomatoes

I have two pots of cherry tomatoes growing on my balcony. Each pot contains about three individual plants. This is a picture of me with one of my pots on the 4th of July. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Two Pots of cherry tomatoes

Several weeks ago I planted some cherry tomato seeds. I put them up on the balcony and forgot about them. One day I checked and I noticed that they grew three inches.

It was a pleasant surprise. I went to Lowes and purchases a five pound bag of organic fertilizer and transplanted the plants into two separate, larger containers. I was very careful not to damage the root system when pulling them out.

In the following weeks, these plants have sprung up even more. I am expecting a very healthy growth of cherry tomatoes this summer. I will probably just use these tomatoes on our salads. If I have any left over, I will make sun dried tomatoes and store them for other dishes.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Naomi's Pesto - Growing the Basil

One of my absolute favorite things in the world is pesto. I love pesto on pasta, chicken, salmon, shrimp and rice.
Let’s face it, pesto is not a cheap item. Tiny jars of pesto in the grocery store run $5 to $7 each. The require Sweet Basil, Olive Oil, Pine Nuts, Salt and Lemon Juice.
Last summer I decided to make my own pesto. Even making it was not cheap. It was certainly less expensive than buying in in the grocery store, but still not an inexpensive item.

Pesto is a fairly high calorie item because of the olive oil. ( There are about 120 calories in one tablespoon of olive oil) The Basil has almost no calories. The Pine nuts do have calories, but I am not sure how much would be in one tablespoon.
Pesto can go a long way. Just one tablespoon per plate is usually enough. So I estimate that it is 130-150 calories per tbs of Pesto.

This year, I decided to make and can my own pesto. It all starts with one basic ingredient – the sweet basil leaves.

I planted the basil seeds early this spring. At first they did not grow well because they were not getting enough sunlight. I moved them to the front, where they could get more light and water. The little plants started to poke through the soil. But that was not fast enough for me. Summer us here, and I need some real basil plants for my pesto. So I cheated, went to Lowes and bought a couple basil plants.
I took one plant, separated it, and put it into three separate pots. They are growing beautifully. 

The basil that I planted from seed are still also growing slowly, and nicely. Hopefully by the end of summer or early fall they can be harvested.

When I make my pesto, you can guarantee that I will be selling it.

Stay Tuned!