November 26th, 2008 by roystahl in Gardening Tips and Tricks
Like many vegetable gardeners, I have evolved, learned and grown as a gardener as time marches on. Here I thought I would share my insights into seed germination.
Listed below are the elements of seed germination in order of importance.
- Seed. I include this only because some seeds, like seed potatoes (tubers), garlic cloves and others need nothing to germinate other than the seed. With little or no encouragement they will try to grow.
- Water. The mere presents of water is next on the list because it causes seeds to crack open. It is a trigger to start growing. Even without soil, seeds will germinate if there is water.
- Light. Here you can start to argue with me if this really is next. Some seeds need light to germinate. All seeds need good light to prevent being spindly and weak. If people are planing on growing their own vegetables from seed, a good light would be the first purchase I would recommend in order to get healthier plants.
- Warmth. Critical for some seeds, not so much for others. After light, this is next on my list of elements to successful vegetable seed germination. Putting parsley seeds in warm water before putting in soil can greatly increase germination rates. After lights, a warming pad is for those serious vegetable gardeners that want to take a running start at spring.
- Soil. While most of us start with soil, it is not the most important part of the germination process. But having a good loose potting soil will certainly help your seedling get going. Cover the seed to the right depth (there is normally a bit of leeway here). Do not have garden soil that has pest in it (this has happened to me. And if it is not fertile, make sure you some gentle fertilizer once your vegetable seedling gets going.
- Room. Once your seedling gets going, make sure the roots have enough room, or transplant to a bigger pot or move outdoors.
While it is still a bit early for many vegetable gardeners in the US and Europe to start planting seeds indoors for next year, we can at least start thinking about it.
October 12th, 2008 by roystahl in Anything goes
What happens when a friend gives you a lot of really small apples?
You get creative.
That’s what happened to me a few weeks ago when a friend delivered a bunch of small apples that he didn’t know what to do with.
My first thought was fruit rollups. I had done them before with homemade apple sauce. First I peeled the apples, then I peeled some more followed my more peeling. When I was done with the first batch I had learned a few things: little apples are hard to peel and don’t leave you with much apple when you are done, also adding too much brown sugar to help them out makes them too sticky and hard to get off the tray.
Several days later I was ready to do the next batch. My fingers had healed from peeling and I was ready to try again. Since I don’t mind failure, I decided to do something different. This time I would wash and core the apples, but skip the peeling phase. No surprise that when I made apple sauce it was a bit more bland than before. So I went to the spice rack and was more generous and experimental with spices. Rather than just boring old cinnamon, I used clove and clove plus nutmeg. Clove was a big winner with my family and after Twittering about it, a suggestion of Chinese Five Spices was mentioned which I tried and liked even more than clove.
Finally on my fourth run of fruit rollups I had not only apples, but had harvested a bunch of strawberries too. Out popped the idea to release the artist in me. Below are some of the pictures taken. A few patterns were eaten before I could take a picture of them including one where I wrote my sons name in strawberry.
(Click in the image to see larger view)
October 4th, 2008 by roystahl in Compost
Status update on the hot compost pile.
It rained last night, so it is damp and cold outside, but not in the compost bin. There it is cooking away. Yesterday I threw a few figs in the center of the pile that had gone bad in there and today they were cooked. It didn’t seem to smoke as much today, but it was definately hotter. There was a little more smell of ammonia, but it was not over-powering.
I am thinking it might cool down tomorrow or the next day, but the bacteria are in charge now, so they will decided when they have had enough.
Remember there is not water added to this pile (but we have high humidity). I only turn it once per day when it is this hot and spend only 5 minutes or less on the pile. Once it cools down I may only turn it twice a week.
Day 1 of Composting
Day 2 of Composting
October 3rd, 2008 by roystahl in Compost
Day 2 at the compost bin and the temperature has climbed to 133 degrees Fahrenheit. (Click if you don’t beleive me, or even if you do)
You can also see I added some corn husks last night. Had one ear of corn that was oval in shape, but that is another story.
The temperature outside is a cold 58 degrees and in the picture above I tried to capture the steam that is rolling off the compost pile. There is a slight smell of ammonia, but it is not overpowering. Proof that hot composting like this doesn’t retain all the nitrogen in the greens. I did a quick turning of the compost with the pitch fork you see here. The turning process only took 5 minutes and that is with taking pictures. Composting doesn’t need to be a time sink and if I didn’t turn it, it would still compost. Turning just helps mix the edges that are cooler with the center that is hot. It speeds along my process.
The last picture shows the pile before I let is sit for another day. There is a slight darking of the color and it seems wetter than yesterday, but remember that I didn’t add any water. It is just the process of things breaking down. I suspect this heat will stay for a day or two and then start cooling down. The bin is closer to looking half full now as it was closer to 2/3 full yesterday. All those little bacteria sure are busy buggers.
October 2nd, 2008 by roystahl in Compost
I got a request to document my compost pile. So I decided to follow this compost from this point to finish. It will take a few months as I have a long composting process. Bacterial follow by red worms (vermicomposting).
First, this isn’t the start, but I no longer start from ground zero. Each time I move the compost bin (I have three locations in my yard where it resides) I start with a few shovel fulls of the last compost as starter. Then each Thursday the gardener that mows lawns in the neighborhood deposits about 3/4 of a garbage can of grass clippings sometimes mixed with leaves. To that I add anything from my garden that has been pulled out, egg shells and egg cartons. For extra browns I have two sources. One is a friend that gives me bedding from her sheep, the other is a local coffee roaster that gives me the hulks from coffee beans. The browns and mixing help keep the grass from matting together and making a really nasty ammonia/urine like smell. If you get this, you are loosing a lot of the nitrogen, because that is want the ammonia is rich with.
Back to this compost. Since it is the end of the year I haven’t been going out and getting browns. I had some lavender plants that I pulled up and heavy stalks of artichokes along with corn stalks and other vegetable plants that are done (yes some of these are not browns, but they do help keep the grass from matting together).
Today I started with about 1/3 of a yard or less of 1/2 done compost that was fairly dark in color, but with lots of large chunks (artichoke stems 2 to 3 inches diameter and cut to 4-8 inches long). The grass was added then I cut up some corn stalks and lavender plants (very dried up.)
Here is my compost bin. Purchased for $30 because of a city program that promotes composting. The dimensions are 3×3x3 feet or a cubic yard or cubic meter. It is now about 2/3 full and will soon be back to 1/2 full and the composting process compacts it.
You can see the duct tape on the side that helps hold it together. It has take its lumps to create good garden compost.
This picture shows the compost after a garbage can of grass was added. It was turned so the compost from the bottom was mixed with it. This does a few things. The bacteria that is already in the pile gets stirred up into the new contents speeding the process. Also the grass is now mixed with the rest of the ingredients and shouldn’t get matted up. If grass mats tightly together, no air can get in and the smell gets bad and it become harder to compost later. Once mixed the temperature will really start to climb over the net few days.
If you click on this you will see the temperature is about 84 degrees F. When I first turned the pile it was 80 degrees. The outside temp today is around 65, and most of that heat was from the old pile that was in a cooling phase.
No water was added because that could get it to heat up too fast. There is too much green material in the pile.
In the time it took to write this posting it made it up to 90 degrees, so the compost cooking has begun.
Stay tuned tomorrow for an update: ‘Bin there done that’.
September 1st, 2008 by roystahl in My vegetable garden
Even though I garden year round, I enjoy the late summer / early fall harvest of vegetables. You pick something different and fresh every day and still have some to offer friends, family, neighbors and even enemies (I am thinking about Zucchinis).
But this is also a time where I often have compost bins that have been worked over by red wriggles that need to be harvested as well. And when you harvest vermicompost you are actually getting two harvests. One is the harvest of compost that is ready to go into the garden. The other is you are seperating the worms to go back work in fresh compost.
Here you see the Red Rider wagon used as a bin to seperate worms in the full-sun.
Next you the vermicompost as the worms have moved down and the top layer is ready to be scraped off and put into the white square bucket.
Next you see the high-tech compost bin (a rubber made trash can with ‘natural’ holes in the bottom)
Finally you see a few hundred worms that were moved from the compost into a new home. I hot compost first. This time I waited for the temperature to drop to 100 and took out a small amout to start this bin. In a week or two I will add some more from that same batch of compost.
August 28th, 2008 by roystahl in My vegetable garden
I love a fresh ear of corn. It is another vegetable that just feels good harvesting it yourself and eatting it. But alas, where I live is not the best for growing corn, so a large space dedicated to corn is a waste. So each year I plant a few six foot rows of corn that also gives me several harvests of small nice meals.
But there lies my problem. small sort rows of corn that are planted at different times so there is not enough to self-polinate and the are not ready at the same time to cross pollinate (I like to grow two different types.)
If corn is not properly pollinated, you get ears that are ugly and only partically full of plump kernels. If you spend too much time on websites searching around you can get confussed or overburdened with cumbersome techniques. You ask yourself which way is the right way and do I really have to go out early in the morning with paper bags and rubberbands.
The good news is that it isn’t as complicated and difficult as some would lead you to believe. You don’t have to plant in special patterns with exact spacings (although that doesn’t hurt.) You can leave your paper bags inside. Just a little shaking and rubbing is all you need to do.
First, I will be honest that I had a few ears that where not perfect, but they where very close and no big gaps where there where no kernels.
Now the simple secret that is very little work or hassle.
- Wait for the corn to mature. The tassles on the top will open and you can see pollen sacs hanging from the corn.
- Take your hand a wrap it around the tassles and go from the bottom to the top of the tassle. This will stir up all kinds of pollen.
- Take you hand that now has pollen dust on it and go to every neighboring ear of corn with young silks hanging out and rub your hand on them. Don’t rub your hand on the one that you just got the pollen from, you will get more cross pollenating rather than self pollenating which should be better.
- Go to the next mature stalk of corn and repleat.
Since the reason that you are doing this is because you have a small crop, this should take more than a minute or two. Come back every 2-4 days and repeat.
Now if you have your own secret or don’t agree with me feel free to leave your comments. I ate all the evidence today, but I will have some more in the next for days or so I can post pictures for non-beleivers if you want.
August 18th, 2008 by roystahl in My vegetable garden
Other than the zuchinni, it is always nice to return home and harvest from the garden.
While it is not going to win any beauty contests, this Red Cloud potato tipped the scales at 1 pound 5 1/4 ounces. If I recall this plant yeilded just over 6 pounds of spuds.
The other picture here is of Brandywine tomatoes. I don’t seem to be getting the award winning taste that they are know from, but they are the biggest tomatoes that I have been able to grow in the fog with little heat. The biggest one that I got was 13 ounces. But flavor wise, the Stupice seems to be taking it to the cleaners.
The brandywine was grown in a cold frame with two plants in an area where I should have put just one and the Stupice grew outside in a wine barrel. It isn’t productive has I have seen it and the fruit seem to be smaller than normal, but oh the taste is superb. My wife says she gets a pleasant blast of lime as she bits into it. (I never thought I would be tasting tomatoes like a fine wine.)
August 1st, 2008 by roystahl in Plangarden News
It took longer than I liked, but the site has a new look and feel. Even though I added the blogs over a month ago, it was somewhat hidden, yet a few visited and one even got a post up before the whole site was revealed.
It feels good to have this out of the way and is just one part of the many puzzle pieces that is part of the grander 2.0 release that is still being completed.
I will take a week off to spend time with family on the east coast and then it will be back to coding and a few other special surprises when I get back.
For now you can enjoy the new site and let me know if you like it, hate it or don’t see much difference between the old much greener site.
July 11th, 2008 by roystahl in My vegetable garden
On July 4th we shared our first tomato. It is the first tomato of the season and I feel very fortunate. Tomatoes in Half Moon Bay are difficult to grow in the first place and hard to get to ripen.
This year I planted Stupice, Beavelodge, my own cherry and a Brandywine in a cold-frame. One Stupice plant raced to get me a tomato by the 4th. We have had a few hot spells and extra days without fog that we normally don’t get this early in the year, so I think that had something to do with it.
In a year where tomatos have been pulled out of groceries stores in the US, I feel doubly blessed and lucky. It now looks like while others are afraid to eat tomatoes, that we will have a steady supply throughout the summer. Just one more reason why I am happy to grow my own vegetables.