Succulent wreath

on Saturday, February 19, 2011

Not everything at today's gardening symposium was us sitting and learning... we had some interactive time where we got to play in the dirt, aaand play with pantyhose!

Now we wait and see if the succulent wreaths we made take off and fill out more. If all goes well, they should be looking great by summer!
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Look what I got at the gardening symposium Mary and I were at all day today. From everything I've been reading, or hearing in podcasts, it sounds like kelp is GREAT for plants. I guess they love the micronutrients available in the kelp?
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What every gardener needs in February?

on Sunday, February 13, 2011

That small bag on top is just one of two 40lb bags of "manure and compost"....hopefully all well composted!

And the two bottom bags are 3.8 cu ft bails, and trust me, they're heeeeavy. I'll be mixing this stuff together shortly in the hopes of making an idea soil-block-making mix - the mix has to have just the right consistency to hold itself together, retain moisture, breathe well, and yet not compress into a solid block of concrete. Oh, and the plant roots have to like it too!

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Who wants fresh veggies!??!

on Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ok, maybe that's a bit of a cruel teaser, especially since it's bitter cold out there right now. ;-)

My point is, it's time to register if you're interested in joining the Fresh is Best CSA in 2011! The brochure/registration form is available online, and last year's members have already had a copy emailed to them. Woo hoo - can't you practically taste those sun-ripened tomatoes and fresh salad greens now?

Ok, maybe this is a bit of a cruel teaser, but technically not just anyone can sign up at this point. Up though Wednesday, February 16th, we're only accepting registrations from last year's members. We want to give the people who were members last year a fair chance to stay members...but don't worry, based on feedback and changing how we handle the CSA this year, I'm pretty sure we'll have at least a couple extra slots available when we open up the registration to people who weren't members last year.

To read what we're all about, and decide if you're interested in signing up with us, I'm making the brochure and registration form available online now. Former members already know how Fresh is Best works, and I figure it's only fair to give potential new members ample time to read up and see if they're interested in signing up.

Please feel free to contact myself and/or Mary if you have any questions - just leave your comments/questions here. Now we are planning to only have the one pick up location/time - that's behind the Kent State University Library, in the parking lot, at 9:00am Thursday mornings. Again, if you have any questions about this, let us know...

Let me know if you have any trouble accessing the PDF'd brochure - I'm trying MediaFire, an online file hosting service with free options for the first time, so we'll see how that goes... When you click on the link to get the PDF'd brochure and registration form, you'll see a page that looks something like the image below. It's ad-based, so you'll probably have a quick ad pop up on the screen. Just close that (look for the "close" option in the upper right corner), and then click "Click here to Download" - I've got red arrows pointing to it in the screenshot below.

I think maybe I'll go look through some more seed catalogs and pretend it's 80 degrees and sunny outside!

When is it time to plant my veggies?

on Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's that time of year where we gardeners who start many of our plants from seeds (as opposed to buying already started plants at the garden centers, hardware stores, etc) need to start paying more attention to the date. Once you know your average last frost date, you can backtrack when to start the seeds for each variety of plant. You have to take into consideration whether or not you're direct seeding into the soil outside, or if you're starting your seeds indoors so that you are transplanting the seedlings (small plants) into your garden after they've already had some development time.I've had a Google Calendar set up for a few years now with my countdown of "how many weeks til last frost" (which is telling me we're about 15 wks as of yesterday), but I do double check with data each year...just to make sure I haven't goofed my future listings of the countdown somehow. And then, based on that info, I also have reminders in a different Google Calendar for what needs to be sown each week. You can see an example of that, for what things will look like April 9th, here:

(I made sure to pick a busier day a few months down the road - there's not much showing on the calendar right now!)

So how do you figure all this out?
Well, first you need to figure out what your average last frost date is. There's a number of places you can find that info online (just Google "last frost date " + whatever your zip code is. Dave's Garden provides a super informative version - check this out!

Yeah, that's a lot more info than I need to know, but it includes the basics, and let's me know I've got some wiggle room. It doesn't, however, tell me when to start each variety of plant I'm working with. Don't worry - there's resources for that too!

Just hop on over to Johnny's Selected Seeds for one of my favorite plant starting calculators!

(You can click each of these images to view them full size)

You'll notice in the screenshot from the Dave's Garden frost calculator I highlighted my "almost guaranteed" last frost date - May 10, 2011. Then I plugged that date into Johnny's calculator to figure out when I'll want to start my seeds. There's a lot of stuff on the list I know I won't be growing (like melons and mustard)....and with some of the other things, I know I'll scrap the info they provide because I've picked up other techniques over the years. Like they're suggesting starting tomatoes between March 22 and April 12. My dad taught me years ago to get started way earlier than that. You know those large tomato plants you buy at the garden center to put in your garden? Yeah, those aren't just 6-8 weeks old. Those were started during winter, and then potted up a time or two. And that's what I do. Warning - using this technique with your tomatoes (and peppers, and eggplants) DOES start to take up a lot more space in your house!

Hm, looks like my Google Calendar says April 9 for starting eggplants indoors, while Johnny's calculator suggests that's too late. Yup, need to update my calendar!

Oh, and my leeks? Yup, I started those earlier than recommended in this calculator - but I've learned a technique where you "drill" a hole (about an inch across) about 8-10" deep for each leek plant in your garden bed, and drop in a roughly 10" tall leek that you started in the middle of winter. DON'T fill in the soil. DO water the leeks gently, and that'll cause a little soil to wash into the bottom of that hole. And when you do future waterings, and when it rains, or the wind blows strongly, that'll knock a little more soil into the hole, SLOWLY filling it. In the meantime, that leek's taken root at the bottom of that hole, settled in, and started growing up out of the hole even more. This is a GREAT way to get the really long white shaft you want on high quality leeks. Whatever's buried is going to be "blanched" - meaning it remains tender and white - the part above ground is tougher and is what recipes usually tell you not to use. (Just don't pitch the tough green part - bag it, freeze it, and use it in stocks later!) So that's why I start my leeks extra early - I don't want to plant out super tiny wispy "hairs" and then have to keep hilling up the soil around them - that's alot of work. I plant out more mature plants, and just plant them deep.

Here's a teaser image of leeks from a previous season. Right now the only leeks we're enjoying are some from this past summer that I washed, chopped, blanched and froze. They contributed to an EXCELLENT potato leek soup yesterday!

Anyhow, as you can see from Johnny's calculator, you want to start celery indoors around this area on February 22. I'm not growing true celery like you'd get in the grocery store, but I will be growing a similar plant called cutting celery, so I'll start it then. Looks like I'll be wanting to start parsley (and probably some other herbs) in the next week or so as well!

And if so many things are so far off with when I really have to kick into gear with my indoor seed starting, why am I already worrying about the dates? Welllll....I'll get back to that with another post soon! I found another neat tool online, and I need all the seed starting data to help me with it!

The garden season - it is rapidly approaching!

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Worm Tubes!

Here's DEFINITELY something I'll be trying in the garden this year - worm tubes! So if you happen to come out to the garden this year and see tubes sticking up out of the beds, don't be too'll know exactly what's going on.

Sure, I already have a compost tumbler, AND I have worm composting going on in the basement year round, but it looks like this will help lure in worms to the raised bed veggie gardens, and that's good news because they'll tunnel in and out of the tubes to get the contents I put in there, leaving tunnels every where they go, and leaving "worm droppings", which provide nutrients for plants.

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Progress check

on Saturday, February 5, 2011

Remember I got the first of the seed starting going two weeks ago? Well, here's how things are looking now...

In the foreground are a mix of lettuce, komatsuna, tatsoi, and mizuna, and in the background tray are leeks. There's more leeks not shown in the picture. I'm definitely gonna need to get those shelves for the greenhouse started soon!

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Growing a Greener World covers CSAs!

I used to love watching "Fresh from the Garden" with Joe Lamp'l, and then followed Joe on to his Joe Gardener projects and podcast. These days he's teamed up with Patti Moreno and Chef Nathan Lyon to produce Growing a Greener World, with a weekly show on PBS! Don't sit around to watch shows on TV often, or, like us, don't get the show on your local PBS channel? You can still watch Growing a Greener World at their web site (yay!). And I see that they recently had an episode covering CSAs. They cover all the good (and some of the risks) of being a member of a CSA...check it out:

Cucumber beetle from via WikipediaBy now those of you who were our customers in 2010 know all about the whole "you take the good, you take the bad" pros and cons of being a CSA member - you don't know if something will have a crop failure, you don't know if the cucumber beetles are going to infect and kill all the cucumbers, you don't know if you really like swiss chard or kale, and you sure don't know what you're going to do with that glut of tomatoes at the end of the season, week after week!

But you also know about all the good things that come with being a member - all the fresh herbs and veggies harvested within 24 hrs of you getting to eat them, and being exposed to stuff you've never tried before.

IMG_0677Image by jephremley via FlickrMary and I are starting to gear up for the 2011 season. I should have this year's brochure/registration ready real soon (it'll include some changes in how we're classifying "a share"). We've got feedback from some of you on 2010's season thanks to the survey you've filled out. I've already got leeks and some experimental Asian greens growing in the basement. I've got worms composting our kitchen scraps in the basement, making wonderful worm castings that'll get worked into the garden beds to improve the soil's nutritional value (this doesn't mean I'm recommending eating the soil!). Before too long I'll be building shelves to put in the small 6'x8' greenhouse purchased with income from last year's CSA (thank you!). Mary and I have already attended one garden lecture this winter, and we have a few more garden talks we'll be attending over the next couple of months. And Mary and I have tons of seeds that we're itching to plant.

If you forgot to fill out the survey and are still interested, please feel free to do so...your input is greatly appreciated!

Wanna check out Growing a Greener World, where they're always covering interesting topics in gardening, sustainability, and stewardship?

And hey, if there's anything you feel we could be doing to improve our CSA service, or even how we communicate with you guys, please let us know with your comments. I've started wondering - should we set up a Fresh is Best Facebook page??

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