Monday, December 27, 2010
This imprisoned compost is my part of the Compost in a Box project where I am transforming a field into a garden bed by filling boxes with winter compostable waste set side by side. In the spring, I will layer on some more stuff and plant compost loving plants on top like squsah. I'll keep you updated to see if it works.
Everything you wanted to know about Compost but were afraid to ask*
Ah compost, much like making babies, the science of nourishing soil can be so easy you do it by accident or as difficult as a finely tuned experiment. Essentially compost is the byproduct of the breakdown of organic matter by a host of critters to produce the lightly textured, water retentive plant and soil fortifier that is humus.
My little compost in the city
As I am a busy homeschooling mom who works causally as a landscaper and all around Jill of the garden, I tend to prefer the methods with the least amount of input for the highest quality output which makes me favour lump it and leave it composting techniques. In my urban home, I dumped all vegetable scraps, and safe plant waste into a big enclosed pile at the far corner of my yard. By safe, I mean plant waste that was not diseased, and did not contain other spready seeds, roots or other propagating plant parts. I only had room to hide one pile of rotting vegetation so it was used continually all year round. If the pile started to smell, I would shovel on some dirt or add loosely packed dry material. It (almost) never dries out in our climate so that wasn't a problem. In late fall, I would push aside the uncomposted top layer and shovel out the composted bottom half. Some of it was usually half finished in that there were some recognizable remains. This would be used to topdress intensively cultivated areas, or to level off areas where plants were dug out.
Oak Leaves cuddling up to late fall brassicas.
Fall leaves I would leave where they lay on the gardens and collect up with my lawn mower if they fell on my shrinking lawn. They were then used to mulch my garden bed. This is probably close to the laziest way you can compost with the exception of tossing vegetable scraps out the window into the yard.
Compost In Place
However, even the compost pile is optional. Organic matter can be used to help build new garden beds in the topdressing style made popular by folks such as Patricia Lanza of Lasagna Gardening or her predecessor Ruth Stout's straw heavy 'No work, Garden Book.' Generally these gardens are topped with something that can act as a mulch. I've read of several sources than add continually to the garden by tucking vegetable scraps under the mulch. If you have a light fluffy top layer like straw I could see this working.
The Complete Compost gardening guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin opens up in situ rotting by describing methods of pit composting. Creating an accessible underground pit solves lots of problems for urban composters such as moderating the temperature and moisture, cutting back on smells, frustrating some pests and hiding the pile from view. They also write about planting around buried compost which acts as a reserve for moisture and nutritients. Concentrating your organic resources is by no means a new idea as putting the good stuff where you want to grow more good stuff is a time honoured tradition. Steve Solomon in his book Gardening When it Counts suggests if you have few resources but a urgent need to convert sod into a garden then dig and bury compostables just where you are going to plant. I have used this technique with success many times when I had plants to put in a new bed that was not yet prepared. Planting in half finished compost is another commonly recommended technique. More than one person has seen the benefit of growing squash or potatoes in the pile by accident.
Finally you can trench compostables by digging them in a 'shallow grave.' Just before moving, the city forgot my overly full green bin so instead of leaving it for the new people to deal with, I just dug it into the ground. Great way of getting rid of smelly waste.
Composting serious style
For some compost is an art. They have three (or more) bins side by side and store browns separately to combine with their greens in just the right balance for problem-free breakdown. Once a pile is built, it must be kept aerated by mixing, tumbling, piping or some other technique and properly watered which may mean exclusion of water as much as it might mean watering the pile. Some of these artists have a hot pile that can make sweet compost in a matter of weeks. It is argued, that to properly kill disease organisms and weed seeds that you want a compost that steams. True, true but if you don't have the energy, time or interest in becoming a dirt artisan, don't despair as cold compost is lovely too. In fact, most humus is produced from mellow rot that isn't so hot. Imagine walking along the forest floor if leaf litter sizzled.
Organic matter is made up of the so called CHON(SP) formula of life: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen with lesser amounts of Sulfur, Phosphorous, along with various odds and end atoms. For the purpose of understanding compost, we focus in on carbon and nitrogen at a ratio 30:1 which produces a quick, smell free buffet for aerobic microrganisms and friends. Nitrogen is what proteins are made of so you won't be surprised to hear that it is higher in things like meat, bloodmeal, and fresh greens. However, too much of it can make an ammonia scented, slimy mess. You have to cut it with carbon. As students of organic chemistry and Trekkers will tell you - life on earth is carbon based, and so are the sugars that fuel that life. Here enter the browns such as dried plant matter like straw, fall leaves and tree based materials like sawdust or paper. Being too heavy handed with carbon though can significantly slow down decomposition. Just out of interest, did you know that purslane contains a C:N ratio of 8:1? That's pretty high when you compare it to blood which is 3:1. In contrast, cardboard has a ratio of approximately 450:1.**
If you manage to achieve the golden ratio of 30:1, have adequate aeration and moisture then you could have quite the party of critters squeezing the goodness out of your scraps, along with all the critters consuming them. This will create the kind of heat that causes my friend in Northern Europe to joke about going out on snowy winter evenings to walk barefoot on top of his cozy compost pile.
Much is said about the biological progression from microbes that live in moderate temps to thermophiles that work in the middle of the action to the return of the temperate folk as the pile mellows. You might even hear about the difference between aerobic composting - that's in the prescence of oxygen and generally doesn't smell and anerobic decomposition - think swamp. When oxygen is not available, rot can still go on, but the class of creatures that do the job release stinkier byproducts so most composters avoid this situation. I have encountered an anerobic layer at the bottom of the compost pile which is soggy, slimy and smelly. Oft quoted is the fact that anerobs require less nitrogen to do their buisiness so the qualities of the produced compost is caused by the excess of N.
Anerobic composting generally takes place in sealed compost systems or in still water such as when making compost tea either on purpose or by accident as my mother does whenever her roof collecting water cistern also collects leaves. Great for the plants, she tells me, but smells terrible. By the way, some people will say that proper compost tea is made using aeration and some other stuff like molasses which cuts down on the aroma.
What we don't tend to read too much about are all the other organisms that reside in your pile from invertebrates like millipedes to earthworms, fungi of all sorts, plants that make it through the trial by fire and the odd mammal or two that's usually just passing through. No one wants to pass up on this bonaza.
This brings me back. Here's a picture from my old gardening blog from my old compost bin of old compost that has long since turned into humus.
Feeding the Beast
In order to properly explore what goes into compost, another post is needed but the most conservative rules are: raw vegetable matter that is not diseased, water, air and whatever enters on its own. That's all.
Actually anything that was once alive has a good chance of becoming humus given the right conditions from paper to pee which brings us to Part III - Will it Rot the Right Way?
Part I - Baby flies
* It's true, I didn't really answer every question about compost. Perhaps a better title would have been Holy crap, there's a lot written about decay! but it wasn't as catchy.
** Numbers from the Humanure Handbook
*** The middle section feels like it lacks sufficient internet induced referencing. These are when you swipe someone's idea, quote someone or otherwise feel karma compelled to refer to their website/book. In this case, I was mostly dusting off the part of my brain that remembers things but similar information can be found in another good book: The Real Dirt by Mark Cullen and Lorraine Johnson.
A lot of other home scale composting styles in no particular order:
Vermicomposting - using worms
1. Manual from the Organic Agricultural Centre of Canada
2. The Worm Factory - local supplier of red wrigglers
Bokashi composting - kind of like sourdough bread but not.
Make your own bokashi starter or Extreme Bokashi
Hugelkultur - wood berms based beds. Lots especially useful if you live in a wooded area with shallow/poor soil. Permaculture Forum talks wood based dirt
Compost Tea - brewing your compost, sometimes tisanes of particular leaf crops are used like comfrey, yarrow or nettle for a nutrient boast or foliar spray. Definitions seem to differ in exactly what should be called compost tea and what should be called stinky greens or smelly brown goo juice. I suppose this is rather like composting itself with the sophisticated aerated, molasses added method and the more basic sticking organic stuff in a bucket of water and straining.
Leaf Mold - What forests (and you can) make.
Scotch bonnet saved from grocery store seed. This is its second winter in the house.
You can see the last year's large, lush leaves are drooping and will probably drop though I am getting a new crop of leaves budding. I harvested most of the rest of the peppers today to pickle and dry.
Yummy but a bit much for one meal - this calls for preserving measures.
Aphids are plaguing this plant as they did last year but this year, I have some volunteers keeping their population down.
Rural properties have a lot of (lady)bugs apparently. Not that I'm complaining.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Thank you to Colin Purrington on Creative Commons for this lovely shot.
Part 1 - Baby Flies
I have always been an avid composter - the kind that offers to mow neighbours fall lawns if I can take home the rich mix of grass clippings and shredded tree leaves in trade. Despite approving of the city's green waste recycling program, I didn't actually add much to it as I needed my compost for my own garden. That said, as we were preparing the house for moving, I did start to use it so that our composter wouldn't be too full for the new owners. And on several occasions I noticed a mass exodus of adorable fat, baby flies. Apparently, the appearance of these young insects has caused some of my friends to quit the green bin program because they were too grossed out. Signs have gone up around the city of a little child's hands holding some dirt and a seedling to encourage participation.
I think we can all agree that we love the Earth. Right? There are only a few that are craving its wanton destruction, the rest of us have converted to latter day hippies. Who among us has not felt shame when they have to apologetically ask for plastic bags at the checkout counter because they left their reusuable ones at home? Unfortunately, too many of us have been taught to step on ants, and feel faint at the smell of manure. We clutch our hand santizers and avoid thoughts of death.
The thing is that the wonderful biological film covering our planet is a dynamic system with parts growing and others dying and being recycled. We are all part of this green program. The man that eats the steak and defecates what his body does not need. The sewage bacteria that turn this 'waste' into fuel. The fungi that live in symbiosis with the forest and equally consume its dead limbs. The plants that thrive on the lightly textured, water retentive soil rich in humus. The person that eats a salad made from those plants and well...
Insects of all sorts are involved in consumption of dead organic matter - both of the square and round cell type (plant and animal). Of course, we associate maggots with bloated dead bodies which is just freaky so when we see our green bins crawling with fat little grubs, some of us feel a bit woozy. The usual fix is to put your waste meat in the freezer until collection day. However, I have to disappoint people by pointing out that I have seen maggots on entirely vegan fair - my lawn mower blades got clogged with rotting grass and grew a fine crop of baby flies. Fruit fly maggots are just as
I might be unpopular here.
But, the visceral reaction to seeing these harbringers of death can be changed into a wonder how Earth herself wastes not. Just keep telling yourself "Awe, baby flies. How sweet. Look at them," as you gag and quickly turn around.
Other methods include:
1. Add dry material
2. Freeze your compost
3. Make your kids empty the compost in the bin
4. Wear rose coloured glasses and sing an earth loving folk song
5. Pressure wash your bin once in a while*
And my no. 1 tip: Ignore them. Really, they will either die of dehydration on your driveway, get eaten by something else or pupate into flies. Assuming you are like most North Americans and have both screened windows and air conditioning, you probably aren't too bothered by flies inside the house. Outside, the sky is big enough to share.
* It won't really help either but your bin will be sparkling for a whole half a day. Cuts down on that hard to scrape crust of goodness too.
** Only 1 picture? Yes, I apologize but I was too captivated by the beauty of nature to remember to take pictures of the maggots that have graced my garden.
What other people say:
cbc story about squirmy people and pressure washers
Ottawa Citizen's working mom encounters the adorable fly babies
Stay tuned for: Part 2 - Binning the green bin compost style
Sunday, December 5, 2010
The problem with privacy is you have a looong driveway. The 600ft treed lane that leads to our new rural house.
Around these parts, winter is clearcut: when there is white, there is winter. The white falls, the wind howls and several months pass before the sun rises higher and the freeze is shredded by golden rays creating the rivlets, puddles and streams of the springtime melt. I have lived in climates where winter is dominated by cold, cranky rain or where the minimal snow shifts like sand in the frigid temperatures or where winter never quite takes hold and 20 centimetres of snow is followed by a week above zero. Though we do get our mid-winter thaw, this is really just a little bounce up from the normal minus double digits. It often happens as the path of the sun gets high enough to start the ice sweating even in subzero weather - sometime around winterlude.
A comforter for plants
A father of a friend of mine apparently managed to overwinter globe artichokes near Montreal. The region he lived used to get early, consistent, heavy snow fall. This same person moved somewhere with slightly less snow cover and now can't even get parsley to overwinter which amazes me because my parsley seems to be able to withstand sitting in a block of ice. A nursery man, also near Montreal, gets peaches to produce by cutting them close to the ground. This protects the flowerbuds produced on first year wood from the ravages of winter and the fluctuating temperatures of early spring. Various favourite members of the prunus family can be root hardy but suffer from blossom / bud kill in late spring when the temps decide to freefall for a couple of days. This is the reason why some people suggest planting early blooming fruit trees midway on a north facing slopes that warm more slowly in the spring or even planting them on a buried rock.
My own experience is that I have often gotten zone 6 plants to grow well in my urban zone 5a home but not every zone 6 plant will survive. Bronze fennel is a total bust for me but cabbage often overwinters. Of course, whether or not a plant will be vigorous in your garden depends on many factors such as soil type, heat, humidity, rainfall, pH, day length to name a few. Hardy kiwi, often rated to Z. 3 may not fruit because the growing season is not long enough.
The choices would be more limited though if it wasn't for all that shovelling we have to do. So in between the curses as you get on your winter tires, remember to thank the snow.
Monday, November 22, 2010
On first inspection, not very promising - a bed of dead horseradish leaves.
The experts on wiki tell me that:
"Where the English name horseradish comes from is not certain. It may derive by misinterpretation of the German name Meerrettich ("sea radish") as Mährrettich ("mare radish"). Some think it is because of the coarseness of the root. In Europe the common version is that it refers to the old method of processing the root called "hoofing." Horses were used to stamp the root tender before grating it."
It is an exceptionally hardy member of the Brassicacaea family, considered if not invasive, then at least persistant. The roots, early shoots, and seeds can be used according to Plants for a Future. However, they are normally propagated vegetatively so you'll probably have to look elsewhere to seed your mustard mix.
Digging in the soil reveals roots and shoots.
Best known of its traditional uses is when the macerated root is mixed with vinegar to produce the piquant sauce bearing its name. I like horseradish sauce but don't use a whole lot of it so I thought I would follow up on advice given to me in several sources to boil the roots. This destroys the volatile 'mustard' oils producing a rather bland root vegetable. I'll let you know next time what it tasted like.
I love the soft focus of this picture - must have been steam forming on the lens after being outside in the ch-ch-chilly fall.
Despite its invasive nature, I tend to plant it In The Perennial Garden because I like the look of its large, coarse leaves. There is also a variegated variety sometimes available (you'll note most comments on the link are about locating it). These can provide a dramatic contrast with finer textured plants.
Picture of horseradish in flower with daylily in front if I remember correctly from my old garden.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Massive 3 pie butternuts, organic (spotty) apples, potatoes and a few of the many, many Fatali that the two year old plant produced.
Digging in the old vegetable garden unearthed a good helping of potatoes. And the owners were kind to leave us with a surplus of apples and giant winter squash. I'll cook some of these apples up with Fatali habanero that are finally ripe - not your kid's apple sauce.
Greens in the low, winter sunlight.
Not too much still growing in the garden (we'll change that for next year) but I did harvest some parsley, sorrel, dill and violets for a green sauce.
Okay, break's over, back to work.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Kale with red oak leaves: Red Ursa is a beautiful, dependable, tender and tasty kale, originally from Wild Garden Seeds. I also quite like Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch - a frilly green variety. I don't typically grow taller types like palm/lacinato (B. oleracea) as I imagine they'd be more prone to die back above the snowline though I have not tried them so this is only a guess.
The kale that grows itself in my garden is Red Ursa - Brassica napus. I started these some years back and the winter survivors became the seed parents to a plentiful crop ever after. As vegetables go, and brassicas in particular, it is a easy, versatile plant. Hardy, they provide a three season harvest, even four during the milder winter months. Besides their leaves, you can eat the flowerheads like broccolini, the immature seedpods like rattail radish and the seeds as mustard or sprouted as microgreens.
Like the rest of the vegetable brassica tribe, they are also darn good for you. Doesn't the word kale just reek of nutrition? Doesn't the five year old in year wish for cookies instead?
Actually, I ♥ kale.
Perennial kale variety Daubenton growing near its so-called biennial cousin. This is a huge plant taking up a 3x4x3 foot space approximately in its second year but really can you have too much kale? It's much more strongly flavoured than the other kales I grow in the garden.
Also, it is beautiful in the garden. In the spring, transplant or seed a purple or blue toned variety near your asters or chrysanthemums. When the temperatures dip, they will take on vibrant cool tones that act as a fabulous foil for late season flowers. Their coarse textured leaves contrast nicely with grasses too.
Whattabout the chard? Oh yes, also harvesting greens like docks, chard, onions & roots like Jeruselum Artichokes, crosnes and salsify & various herbs
Didn't get your fill of kale? Here's a good article: The Best Kales by Mother Earth News
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The process of fermentation of tomato seeds leads to a gross slick of mold* on top of the liquid. This is supposed to remove the germination inhibiting gel cap around the seed and eliminate some pathogens. It's cool. It's gross. It's sick - I guess.
When you see free tomato seeds sunk to the bottom of your science experiment and blech on the top, you can rinse your seed, using a bleach wash if you want.
* What the heck is that stuff? Googling reveals that it is known as 'white mold,' 'good mold,' and other descriptive names like 'foamy' mold. Along with the pale mold, I sometimes see a greenish growth like you see on bread. If you know the name of a common mold enlisted in this fermentation process, please let me know.
We have been busy beavers around here as in two weeks we will be saying goodbye to one trusty garden friend and restarting operations at our new garden which will hopefully serve our family just as faithfully. In the meantime, I may be a bit slow on the posts.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Young magenta spreen, Chenopodium gigantium.
I noticed that small birds like sparrow and chickadee were plucking at the Magenta Spreen so I figured that they must be ripe. It is a gigantic relative of lamb's quarters with a striking fushia centres in early growth. Here is when I get experimental.
Mature plants have sturdy stems up around 6-8 feet tall in my garden. As the season nears its end, they regain their brilliant colouration resembling fall leaves.
Early, I had cut some mature seedheads for indoor drying because the weather is attempting to break another record making this an exceptionally rainy September.
I rubbed off the seeds with chaff into a bowl and discarded the stems. Since I'm a lazy gardener, I normally stop here but for the sake of public knowledge dissemination, I thought I'd try and clean the chaff from the seed this time.
The seeds are enveloped in chaff coats that resemble tiny stars when rubbed off. The seeds are round and black.
First I rubbed the seeds gently against a screen but that didn't seem particularly more effective them rubbing them with my hands and I didn't want to scratch them too much so I went back to rubbing them between my fingers.
I tried rubbing across a screen but something about me just likes to get my hands in. It took me forever to start wearing gloves when gardening because I loved to feel the dirt. Only my hands didn't cope well with the drying and abrasive affect of the soil.
To separate the chaff that I had loosened from the small, black seeds, I poured them from one bowl to another - a version of winnowing. Result: fail.
Winnowing in this way is a highly effective technique for separating many seeds from chaff if the chaff is easily blown away by the wind and the seeds are comparitively heavier. This didn't seem to work with these seeds. At least not with today's weather.
Then I chatted with a seed saving friend and he said, why don't you try water separation?
I said, "Indeed why not?"
Still plenty of greenish coloured chaff.
I poured the mess into water. The seeds didn't wet easily so I had to give it a stir and let the seeds settle out for a minute or two.
You can see the good seed at the bottom of the bowl.
The chaff, some seeds - yes, some are lost but we are talking a seed generous Chenopodium here, were poured off the top, leaving the dark clump of nearly pure seed to be strained from the bottom. I did this twice to get the most seeds and the least chaff.
Bye, bye chaff.
The seeds were plopped onto some paper towels then squeezed a bit drier. The fact that water didn't seem to adhere easily made them easy to dry and easy to dump off onto more dry paper towel for final drying. This needs to be done fast so they don't sprout or spoil.
Clean magenta spreen seed.
Would you like some magenta spreen seeds? Well you are in luck. I have many more seeds heads to process now that I know what to do. Send me an email - right hand side - and I'll send you seeds.
Monday, September 27, 2010
The cross over harvest of both warm and cool crops.
Some of my tomatoes have burst in the irregular fall rains but the plants are still pumping out fruit. I have only now started to see signs of tomato chickenpox though I am not which spotty disease they have.
First Frost Watch 2010
Cloudy skies and wet weather has kept the white death off the tender plants. So far the longterm forecast is calling for more of the same, but any day now, the skies could open and the cold could settle. Some factiods follow:
Average First Frost for Ottawa - often quoted - October 5th
Farmzone - Weather Network - claims that the records for today were -2C and 28C. Last year, we had a frost skimming minimum of 4C
Predictions are for a La Nina winter and to quote wiki "In Canada, La Niña will generally cause a cooler, snowier winter, such as the near record-breaking amounts of snow recorded in the La Niña winter of 2007/2008 in Eastern Canada" According to NAOO, it is not clear how strong it will be. Oh goody.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Seed from Tomatillos
(and Eggplants/Aubergines)- The Fast Way?
Though you can just crush these paper encased balls of goodness with your hands, add liberal water and let gravity do the sorting, a sped up version is using a food processor so I thought I'd try it out.
Here are some nice ripe* tomatillos, past la salsa verde stage. I plopped them in a food processor with lots of water. Mine were cut in half.
They were then poured into my gravity driven settling tank.
Hour an hour later, I scooped of the light floaty stuff which is mostly flesh and nonviable seed then poured the top layer of liquid off.
I added more clean water and removed the the last bits of debris ...
... then strained through a seive.
The cleaned seeds were spread on a couple layers of paper towel though paper plates are better.
Was that easier than squishing it up in my hands? It was faster, cleaner and the whizzing part was lots of fun.
* One of these tomatillos that I was eating was filled with teeny baby plants that had germinated inside the fruit. I noticed this right away as it tasted bitter, a consequence of alkoloids inside the green cotyledons I'm sure. I have heard of this a couple times with tomatoes and is a counter argument against letting the fruit get ripe on the edge of rotting before processing for seed in plants that show this tendency. All I can figure is that for some genetic or environmental reason, they lack sufficient germination inhibitors around their seed coat to prevent this.
Cucumbers and eggplants will be well beyond the eating stage when they are ripe enough to save seed from.
Wet Processing - common plants
Squishy nightshades - tomatoes - Though you can simply remove the tomato seeds and rub off the gel capsules around them then dry and save, it is advised that they go through a period of fermentation to remove germination inhibitors and pathogens that remain on the seed coat. Some people just wash their tomato seeds with bleach - picture essay at Wintersown - and others like at Tatianna's Tomatobase combine the two methods.
Simply put, you squish out the tomato seeds and surrounding juice or scoop out depending on your tomato into a container. Add water if the flesh is very dry. Leave somewhere warm and sheltered (such as inside) for the fermentation process to begin. This can be a stinky process though I am not that nauseated by it. When a lovely whitish film has grown across the top - usually after a couple of days, pour off the gross stuff and save the heavy seeds at the bottom. Dry well!!
Sunberries are also squishy but I have to admit that I have never tried fermenting them. Anyone?
Dense nightshades - eggplants, tomatillos - Add the dense flesh into a bowl with water and then squish or mash it up until the seeds are released and fall to the bottom. Let this settle then scoop off the junk and pour off the water. Dry your seeds well! A quicker process, featured above, is scooping the seedy flesh into a food processor. Add lots of water. Whiz this all up a bit and pour into a container for settling. Pour off the stuff on top and save the good seeds that will have settled into the bottom.
Cucumbers - Scoop out seeds into a container with water. Let this stew for a couple of days to remove the germination inhibiting gel that surrounds the seeds. It may undergo a fermentation process similiar to tomatoes removing pathogens on the seed coat. Don't forget to have very dry seeds before putting away (yes I plan on repeating this with every item). Fellow Canadian Garden blogger in Toronto at the Urban Veggie Garden Blog demonstrates with suitably disgusting fermentation picture.
Melons, Pumpkins and the like - Really this is a method of seed sorting. Scrape the seeds into a large container and add water. Rub the guk between your hands until the seeds are free. Let it settle - this will take an hour or so. The 'bad' seeds and debris should float. Scoop this off the top then pour off the water. The good seeds will sink. Dry those thoroughly and save.
I've also seen people place the seeds in a strainer and run water over it, rubbing the seeds against the strainer to remove the stringy bits, such as at the blog My Life as Chuys.
Incidentally, rose seeds and others that are surrounded by wet goop are often processed in the similar ways.
Wet-cleaning from ohioseed - they are much smarter than me when it comes to drying seed.
Monday, September 20, 2010
-- Your caption here -- This carrot must have gotten a bit too much nitrogen which I don't supplmentally provide so unless it was extra rich compost or a variety that is just prone to branching, I have to wonder what protein rich source stewed here... ew.
We are in the transition time where tenders like tomatoes and beans are still filling baskets but fall crops like kale and carrots are plumping up. In a couple of weeks, fresh harvest will transform from gazpachos and french cut beans to frosty green salads and hardy root stews. But I can't help but sampling a few roots now.
The crosnes are plumping up.
Talk about weird looking veg, here are some Stachys affinis
The greens and roots of self seeded salsify, black skinned scorzonera (both called oyster root) and even dandelion are edible - though I don't plan on eating the dandelion roots, just their greens. Roots will improve in flavour as starch is converted to sugar to act as an antifreeze after the first couple frosts but I'm willing to give them a taste test now.
Salad and main course.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
It was a dark and stormy day when Canadian Organic Growers set up for their annual Feast of Fields.
Apparently I am to send this to several (many) bloggers that I have recently discovered. Hooboy, what with buying a property and all the stuff that goes with that, and carschooling (that's homeschooling with a lot of car time to different events), volunteering etc..., I got to admit that I have not been playing blog bounce much recently but I'll do my best. I am also supposed to tell you 7 things about myself. Given that I am being time squeezed - imagine me passing through life's narrow corridors with big probjects - I will be interspering this with photos of the fantastic Feast of Fields held by the Canadian Organic Growers of Ottawa of which I am a proud member. Fact #1
Fact # 2 I was born in what I thought was spring in February in Victoria on the fair ile of Vancouver. Then I moved East and realized it was one of the coldest, darkest days of the year.
Fact # 3 I majored in geology with a minor in philosophy. They go together like a balanced meal and have given me fuel for further investigations which rarely have anything directly to do with rocks or D.W.G.s.
Fact # 4 I like alliteration too much.
Chefs and farmers formed formadible food teams crafting incredible concoctions.
Fact # 5 I am a compulsive seed saver and sower - wait you probably already realized that.
Fact # 6 My first name is the contraction of two verbs for vocalizations and is Thibetan, either a surname or a man's first name. Actually, I suspect that the story about why I have such an unusual name is fabricated but it's nice to have good stories in our lives, right? What is it? If you request free seed or trade seed with me, I write it on the envelope. :)
The people came with china plates extended in hand to receive organic, local goodness. It rained but they stayed to sample from the dessert tent.
Fact # 7 - My eyes are a dark green with gold flecks not brown. I like brown a lot but that is not their colour. The fact that I care, and have written hazel on my passport application makes me wonder about myself. I like to say that I am sensitive to colour.
Satiated, they left to complete their Sunday rest.
Bloggers that I'd like to nominate:
1. In the Toad's Garden - I love visiting this blog. The writer comes across as inquizzitive and friendly and in love with plants. What more could you want?
2. Mas du Diable - Not a new one for me but worth a visit. Looks like the centrefold of a garden mag with lots of information.
3. Growing Oca - Everything you may need to know about this rare crop.
4. Window on the Prairie- Insight into agricultural live on the prairie in Kansas. Very slick looking and popular blog.
5. Garden Therapy - The artist comes out in the photos and the gardener comes out in the posts. Food is queen at this blog. Besides, I have to appreciate anyone who buys tomatoes for seeds...
6. Sicilian Sisters Grow Some Food - Urban. Farming. Extradonaire. I'm breaking the rules again in that she is not a blogger that I have just discovered but I have yet to give her blog a mention so thank me after you visit.
7. Shack in the Middle - A curious eye on the countryside.
That's only seven, I know, but here is number 8: Greens and Jeans - the winner of my little, make a seed bouquet contest. There are lots of other fab bloggers out there that I should post about sometime but they are not new stumbles but old faithfuls that always deliver the gardening goods.
1. Thank the person who gave you this award
2. Nominate more people - 15? (snicker, oh the chain letter effect)
3. Tell seven things about yourself
Monday, September 6, 2010
My youngest was outside playing wild animal and picking sunberry, a small solanum berry that tastes somewhat like you would expect a blue coloured berry to taste like with a twist of tomato. It can be eaten raw but is supposed to be even better cooked. This was her idea of the perfect 'pose.' The sunberry is to the right of the picture. The plant in front is dame's rocket.
Before, I run off to the celebrations, here's what I'm harvesting. Solanum fruits are still coming in strong such as tomato, perennial ground cherry and self seeded sunberry.
Self seeded Red Ursa kale and Bietina chard.
The greens haven't stopped and those biennials that were self seeded babies in the spring are really coming into their own now such as kale and chard. The annuals like magenta spreen and orach have spectacularly bolted to towers up to 8 feet tall.
Many seeds, including edibles which brings me to my latest riff - seed saving tips, and the seed bouquet contest.
Friday, September 3, 2010
The row of asparagus at the back was started from seed from a population that was somewhere else on the property originally. Isn't it gorgeous? BTW: This is a picture from our new property (assuming nothing goes awry). Notice the field of squash in front of it. That's a lot of plants. Oh and please ignore the corn chip bag. In my defence, I was in a hurry and we had to spend the day there doing inspections so my kids ate chips okay!
When saving seeds, it is almost always better to take a few seeds from lots of different plants, preferably from different populations, then a whole lot of seed from just one plant. In this way, you increase your chances of having a diverse genetic population which will help your plants adapt to your growing conditions and the various curve balls sent from nature like insect plagues, disease and adverse weather.
If collecting from wild populations, be aware of whether the plant is rare or protected. If it is dirt common - like dandelions - then there is probably no harm in collecting lots but if it is rare then you may want to skip the seed collection or take a very few and give extra care to those plants. Afterall, you will be protecting a rare species. There may be rules against any sort of collection on protected plants.
Breaking the rules on purpose
Sometimes, you'll have a plant that is very different from its neighbours and you may want to try saving seeds from just that one to see if it will produce offspring that display its special characteristics. Other times, it may just be one part of the plant that has different fruit, flower colour, leaf shape etc... Assuming that there is no pathological cause, it might be a sport. This may mean that, that particular part of the plant has a different genetic makeup than the rest of it. I have read of people saving seed separately from sports so it is worth a shot to see what happens, or you can try vegetatively propagating the sport.
Diablo Ninebark being a 'bad sport' and growing a branch that has reverted to its usual green colour. Actually I like all colours of this native shrub even the original.
Rules are for other people?
Okay, if you really only have a very small population of plant X and really want to save seeds then you need to know plant X's reproductive style. Is it an outbreeder or an inbreeder? How is it pollinated? Is it self incompatible? Peas pollinate themselves and are inbreeders so they don't suffer from inbreeding depression. So you can save from one plant and still get vigorous offspring. BUT, it is always better to save from more plants to take advantage of hidden genetic gems which would otherwise be lost.
Make a Seed Bouquet. If you do, I promise to send someone a cool gardening book of my choice once I unpack stuff at my new house OR an assortment of seeds - unlabelled, like a grab bag... alright, I'll even label them.
After receiving entries, I'll choose at random for the winner but there may be honorary prizes for people who try hard. (If you are the only entrant, you are sure to win - incentive eh?) Show your seeds!