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June 30, 2011

Purslane--it's annoying and it's edible


The main summer weed in my garden is purslane. It starts so innocently as a tiny purple tinted sprout and soon grows into a spreading, whorl of succulent leaves on a reddish stem and a tiny yellow flower whose seed pod soon opens to drops tiny seeds for next year. The first year I gardened, I discovered it was edible and suggested to my visiting father that we could eat it. His reaction was typical for someone raised in the depression who had to eat "weeds". We tried it pickled and as a salad green and were mostly unimpressed. A friend of mine ordered purslane seeds from a catalogue with her other garden vegetables, not realizing until it grew that she had it in abundance all over her garden.

The following years of gardening, I mostly pulled it out. You have to get it out of the garden because it lives on after being pulled from the ground and will still drop seeds for the next year for you to pull again. One plant can produce over 50,000 seeds. One gardener who should know said that it provides tons of nitrogen for the garden if you till it in and I sometimes do that also, although it is warm weather crop and the nitrogen is leached out here by the winter rains. Another article I read says that it is a good companion plant whose deep roots often break ground for crops like corn to deepen their roots. Whether or not it lives in my garden depends mostly on my energy level for weeding.

Purslane originated in India and was supposedly it was Ghandi's favorite plant. Since I have the usual abundance this year, I'm going to try it in the green bean salad. Supposedly it can be used as a substitute for spinach in lasagnas and pasta dishes. It has very high nutritional values being full or omega 3's, and very low in calories,

At Organic Golden Purslane - 500 Seeds - Veggie

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June 29, 2011

Holy Sh*t: A book about how to save money and use manures


"Common sense and just the right amount of folksy humor" make this book a pleasure to read whether or not you are currently using manures in your garden. Logsdon who grew up in Ohio, draws from his childhood experiences as well as his Amish neighbors, writes about how to recognize a manure spreader for those who don't know and the finer points of old-fashioned pitchfork tines, for readers who actually use them.

In addition to lots of clear instructions for utilizing waste, Logsdon writes a book that overcomes the yuck factor and tells how we've taken a natural, healthy, efficient system and replaced it with something expensive, toxic, and marketable - in this case, chemical fertilizers. If you're interested in using manure, even cat, dog and human, here is a book that tells you how.

At Holy Sh*t

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June 28, 2011

Summer solstice is forgotten

I like to mark the changing of the seasons and to take a moment or a day or two to contemplate my life and the changing times. Summer solstice often passes without noticing because the garden if keeping me so busy.
Summer solstice occurs when the earth's tilt is most inclined toward the sun providing abundant sunshine for the temperate north and making the day on which this maximum tilt occurs, the longest day of the year. Though hardly noticed at first, through the rest of the hot, hot summer sunshine, each day is getting a little shorter. Usually sometimes in August or September, I notice how it's getting dark at 7pm now.

Many cultures celebrate the solstice and I think it's worth taking some time on the 21st to celebrate our lives and to acknowledge their dependence on sunshine, soil, and water. The ingredients needed for all live and so obvious to the gardner.

Read More in: Garden Thoughts

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June 27, 2011

Loving care and a three tined hoe makes for garden success


That love and care can make houseplants thrive is now unquestioned, but garden plants thrive on the same love and care. I am always stunned by the response I get from row vegetables after I have gone over the row, weeding and loosening the soil around each plant. Often within a day, they are perked up and have grown! If I add some manure tea after the weeding, they soar! It's one of the things that makes gardening such a joy--seeing that response from plants you have cared for.

The weather here has been so wet and cool and cloudy that everything in my garden has been sitting there waiting out the winter. Today is the first day of full sun and warmth. It is such a good feeling to get out into the sunshine and the garden and start working. Birds are singing away. There is a Bullock's Oriole nesting nearby, and a Western Tanager as well as lots of robins, including one robin who keeps fluttering against my windows, trying to either scare or mate with his own image.

One of the tools I use to weed seedlings is a three tined hoe. It scratches the soil and tears up small weeds. You can work really close to seedlings with this hoe and also hill up the soil around the seedlings. Most plants like soil around their base. It helps support the plant and sometimes, they will make more roots higher on the stem.

At Tine Hoe

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June 24, 2011

Lobelia is lovely in a hanging planter


Lobelia is a flowering plant that lives mostly in tropical or warm temperate climates. It was used by Native Americans for respiratory problems and as a relaxant and purgative.

Lobelia erinus, a South African annual plant that includes many cultivated selections in a wide variety of colours. They are grown in beds, large pots, window boxes and in hanging baskets. The plants are most often grown away from sunny hot southern exposures (northern exposures in the southern hemisphere) in soils that are moisture retentive.

This trailing lobelia, perfect for hanging baskets, blooms blue, white, red and lilac. You can pinch back the blooms to get even busier flowers. Lobelia will bloom all sumer until a hard frost. It is easier to start the seed indoors as they are tiny and take a while to germinate, but it is not too late to get several planters going and to enjoy the cascade of color when the lobelia begins to bloom.

At Lobelia

Read More in: Container Gardens & Window Boxes

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June 23, 2011

Steer manure needs to be well composted to avoid antibiotics

We all know that on feed lots where most of the steer manure is from, the cattle are given large doses of antibiotics. These medicines are supposed to help the animals gain weight quickly. It also helps keep animals penned together closely and standing in their own feces healthy. What I never understood is that the antibiotics are then excreted in the urine and feces, contaminating the manure with antibiotics. And when you or I buy a bag of steer manure and spread it on the garden, we are giving our soil a dose of antibiotics.

These antibiotics can harm the soil by killing the microbs and soil bacteria that make for a healthy garden. That is bad enough. But I just read an article in Science Agogo by Kate Melvile which says some crops absorb the antibiotics in the manure! "The antibiotic was found in the plant leaves and concentrations in the plant tissue increased as the amount of antibiotic present in the manure increased. Worryingly, it also diffused into potato tubers, which suggests that other root crops - such as carrots and radishes - may be particularly vulnerable to antibiotic contamination." In such circumstances we could then be getting a dose of unwanted antibiotic with our vegetables!

So check your steer manure carefully to make sure it is composted. I really doubt there is much supervision over what composting is done. I am going to use only chicken manure after reading up on antibiotic cantamination. They don't feed anitbiotics to chickens.

Read More in: Industry News

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June 22, 2011

A good timer for irrigation is a great tool


It's time to get the hoses, the sprinklers and the timers out. It hasn't been terribly hot or dry, but nonetheless, summer is coming here in Northern California and with summer comes irrigation. I usually get set up with two timers in the garden plus some soaker hose on the strawberries as they are always thirsty(and hungry, but more about that later). Then I have one timer and a hose and sprinkler with each that I move around the yard to keep it nice and green.

What this means is that I have used many many timers to save myself the trouble of remembering to turn the water on, and more importantly to turn it off. I'm going to do a series on various times that I have tried, some successfully and some not. I got an Orbit Sunmate single port digital timer for review last fall, but waited until we might be using timers to review it. Digital means you can program it and single port means that it is to be used with only one hose and sprinkler.

It's supposed to be simple to program and indeed it is! You put in two AA batteries and turn a dial to clock set to put the current time in. No other buttons to push. That was a little startling. You just turn the dial to start time and set the time to begin watering. It's really simple once you realize that's all you have to do. The next dial setting how long you want the watering to be and you click in the minutes desired. Turn the dial again to say how often you want the watering. There you can choose every six hours up to seven day intervals. Then you turn the dial to Auto. I have to say this is one of the simplist timers I have ever programed. Even better, somehow I misplaced the instruction and was able to access them online and print them for myself without hours of searching and/or phone calls.

This timer has a rain delay so that you can stop the watering for a few days or less, and has a simple manual override so you can get an extra watering in when needed. I have hooked this on to the faucet and so far it has worked perfectly. All in all a smooth and very easy set up. Oh, but hey, if you're digitally challanged like me, you need to know to take the 6:00am plastic sticker off the time window before trying to set the time. I kept thinking it wasn't working, because the 6:00am didn't change as I tried to set the time. Duh! Otherwise for one port timers, this simple machine gets a 9 out of 10 for set up!

At Orbit Sunmate 91213 One-Dial One-Outlet Hose Tap Timer

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June 20, 2011

Strawberry Fields, but not forever!


I love strawberries. I have always grown enough that I could actually get my fill of eating them and then begin to freeze the extras or make jam. I remember taking strawberries to a potluck in October which wowed everyone. My memories of these good years has come to haunt me.

Even though I weed and fertilize and water, recent crops have been poor. I went out these last two days and weeded and picked berries. Most of the berries were small and not very sweet and I began to realize the bed was long overdue for replanting. Strawberries have declining yields after two years and I had conveniently forgotten how long ago I had planted the berries. So after the June harvest is over, I'm going to till the bed under and I think I will place the new bed in the perinneal garden away from the fence so that the grass from the lawn will not be a constant problem trying to creep into the stawberries. I'll use raised beds with lots of fertilizer and I bet next year I'll have bumper crop!

At Everbearing Strawberries

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June 17, 2011

Wildflowers are a great ground cover


I planted wildflowers around the new house a year ago and this spring they have self sewed and look wonderful. The poppies especially are beautiful. The clover is thick in places and really lush. I hope it is adding nitrogen to the soil and the grasses are knee high and still green.

It has been a wet and cool year so far here in Northern California. I'm going to let the wildflowers go until they make seed so that they can self sew again. There are many varieties of wildflowers, from low growing to partial shade. You can check this out at your local nursery, but Amazon has some for sale, They also have a butterfly mix and a perinneal mix.

At Wildflowers

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June 16, 2011

A tribute to the wild azaleas


I follow the scent
of air sagging
with sweetness.
I find them
In deep shadow
under the pine trees,
great mounds of them.

They blare color like trumpets--
pink, yellow and white merge
on fluted edge,
and furl outward,
opening to the
of pistil and stamen
tipped with green.

I gather masses of their savage beauty.

They refuse
to be arranged in vases

They cling to their wild intractability

The rain shadow that makes
their profusion possible
ends at my land.
Every spring I am blessed
with their untamed and
rash extravagance--

They who have never known shame.

Read More in: Garden Thoughts | Plants

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