My Gardening Journals

How to tell if your dog is involved in a sex scandel

How to tell if your dog is involved in a sex scandel

Capture 1

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24 th of August and I just picked our 3rd and 4th tomato

24 th of August and I just picked our 3rd and 4th tomato. Every thing else did great but we had several days in the 90s and the tomatoes did not set blossoms until late. The first photo is what I am use to and the second is what I got this year. We still have a way to go though but who knows what will happen next maybe a early Fall.tomato


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Butterbush squash

These squash are supposed to be Burpee’s “Butterbush” and the squash I can see around the edges are smallish and the correct shape. The raised beds are 20” high but the vines in front of the beds are maintaining the same height as the ones in the bed. We have had a lot of rain this year and the last year that we had so much, the squash did not keep well. I will post the other beds tomorrow.


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Journal Hosting

As of April 05 2013 I will be leaving Bluehost Web hosting and my Journal will be unavailable there. They want $192 for 24 mounts. Between now and then I will be looking at my options.   John

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Hey, I’m published !!!!

To all my blogging friends and followers my winter project was publishing my journal on Kindle. It required a little effort but enjoyable. You should give it a try.   John


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Don't fence me in

give me land lots of land

Oh, give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above. I have converted my garden to an accessible garden. I had to make room in my paths to turn my scooter around which resulted in a reduction of growing space. In an effort to reclaim some space I plan to use a dryer drum to plant my zucchini in. The first photo is the corner space I can use and the second photo shows my irrigation system for that drum.



In this photo the bed to the left is for winter squash and in the back, right hand corner, I plan to put in a second drum for rhubarb. I also plan to put a drum in the upper garden for cherry tomatoes. John 
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Keep your eyes open for……..

I took a load of trash to the city’s recycling site today. While I was there I spotted two beautiful ferns that someone had thrown out. There were some nice  perennials and shrubs but the root balls were too small. It’s a good time of the year to pick up bales of straw, corn stalks and pumpkins all god composting material.

The two ferns are in the center of the photo. They are about 30″ in diameter.

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Double Stuffed Peppers


Here’s an experiment my wife is working on….double stuffed peppers.  The outside pepper is a Kapia, (very sweet).  The inside was a sweet Hungarian, but she’s also done some hot Hungarians and Poblanos.    The cheese is cheddar/colby.



Categories: My Gardening Journals, Stuffed Peppers | Tags: | 4 Comments

Paper Mache soil blocks are bummers

Four of the eight blocks planted germinated in three days. Today the ninth day there has been no further germination. I removed the dome for a closer look and a very offensive sour order came out and reached the up stairs of the house. I don’t know if the gas was methane or CO2 or a combination of the two but they are wrapped in plastic and in the trash.

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Paper Mache soil blocks

I thought about this early winter but got side tracked.  I will try Iceberg lettuce and Black beauty eggplant. It won’t be a big deal if it doesn’t workout because my son started plants for me and there are big box stores and lawn and garden centers near by.

I shredded 5 pages double page width of newspaper and folded them to fit in the shredder opening.


The shredded newspaper was covered with water and left to set over night.


The next morning I put the paper through a blender and strainer and I had my paper Mache slurry.


I was able to make eight blocks out of this batch of slurry and will plant Iceberg lettuce in these. My next batch, I want to make extra slurry to have blocks to dry out and test them for rehydration.


Categories: Accessible gardening, My Gardening Journals, soil blocks, Square Foot Gardening | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Looked the grim reaper right in the eye and won.

[audio:|titles=The Devil Went Down To Georgia]

My son John submitted this as a comment in another post. I think it deserves its own post.  Its about two months later and I just got home and I’m so weak I couldn’t pull a sick ho off a pi$$ pot. At this stage I don’t know if I will get in the garden or not, but I will be trying. 

To All folks who follow Johns Journal, Dad is in the hospital, St. Margarets in Pittsburgh.

I wish I could say he’s doing better. He had a major surgery (part of aorta replaced) on Tuesday, he seemed to be doing pretty well on Wednesday, then took a bad
turn. He’s in a fight for his life. I’m fairly sure he won’t be back on his website for at least a good week or so. It’s probably going to take a good 6 weeks of healing, and though Dad’s fairly tough minded, some support sure can’t hurt, so, if anyone would care to send a card to him at the hospital, I reckon the nurses would get it to him. IF he’s going to get through this, it’s because he’s in the right frame of mind. I know his interactions with you folks are important to him.

Regards All,
John (John’s oldest Son)

Categories: My Gardening Journals | 10 Comments

We are smokin now

The Platters – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes [Single Version]

Yesterday I smoked a 5 pound Duck. It is only about half done in the photo. It looks like Zorro was here but I just sliced the skin all over to let the fat render out. The taste was something like a chicken but different and the texture was different and it was still too fat for me. From now on it will be more sausage and less duck.

Did somebody say sausage? This morning I got up early and smoked 15+ pounds of venison hot Italian sausage. The flavor was different/better than I had expected. They will probably be eaten like summer sausage.

Off topic. This bugger has been hanging around since late summer. I don’t know what species he/she is but it is about 24 inches form head to tail. No birds or squirrels in sight.

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The new garden is nearly complete

My oldest son John came in from PSU yesterday and built the first half of my accessible garden. Just finished the first box in the first photo and a final inspection in the second photo. The third photo he is building the top half of the second box and you can see some of the remnants of the old garden to his back. The fourth photo just finishing the third and forth boxes. And the last photo is an overall view of the garden. In case you are wondering what my job was , it was staying the He** out of the way, sit in the shade and drink beer. So I did and a good job also. There will be more to come.   John M.





Categories: Accessible gardening, Square Foot Gardening | 4 Comments

Grape arbor

I had rail road tie stepped flower beds and a wooden hand rail that mother nature was reclaiming. I purchased the garden dry wall block and the people that mow the grass built the beds at a very reasonable cost. The total cost was about $2000 including the block.


As you can see I have some paving brick work to do but that is on the back burner. For now how do you attach a hand rail to garden dry wall blocks? I always wanted a grape arbor and I figured I would kill two birds with one stone. $150 later and two recycled hand rails I have my arbor.


Categories: Accessible gardening, Arbor, Grape, My Gardening Journals, vegetables and fruits | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Planned garden modifications

My planned modifications will not be made until after the current season. This is a sketch up of the garden as it is today except for the weather buffer room on the end of the GH..


This is a sketch up of the intended  modified garden. Eight beds will be reduced to three beds app. 16 1/2″ deep/tall.

Garden Mod

This part of the garden is some 30′ away from the above garden and will be treated the same way.

Garden 2

The beds in the center that form the figure E will be removed to form a figure C.

Garden 2 mod

The remaining beds will also be app. 16 1/2″ deep/tall. There are several photos of the current garden through out my journal and I will post a follow up with photos of the modified garden.

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Modular Raised Bed Prototype

It’s been my goal to tidy up the garden and eventually move to a raided bed system.   I’d independently slated a deck for demolition, and put two and two together.  The main problems which I’ve tackled are, forst, the pressure treated wood from the deck is not to be used without a little research and planning.  It contains ‘CCA’, which is Copper Chromate Arsenic.   The second aspect of this raised bed design was to come up with something that was flexible enough to let my garden continue to evolve.  By that, I mean the garden is forever changing, and I wanted a raised bed system that gives me options.

First, on that CCA issue, and whether I should even go ahead with the pressure treated lumber.  This link was probably the most cautionary.  She has some other good ‘horticultural myths’ sorts of information, here:

Some other sites mentioned that diffusion of the CCA goes mostly straight down, not lateral across the bed, and that most of the free CCA will come out in the first year.  Without getting into the details you can read at the site, I am going ahead with using the pressure treated lumber with the following precautions:

  • Wood stain on the inside, and/or heavy plastic.
  • No cabbage family, as they concentrate arsenic,
  • no root crops within 6″ or so from the edge,
  • No tilling after initial planting, till only in fall.

My research was not comprehensive, and I welcome comments and new information, but I did not find an overwhelming amount of ‘negative’ data on the topic, so I’m going ahead thinking it’s not completely safe, but manageable.  Certainly, I’m glad the timber I have is from a 20 year old porch that should be somewhat leached out.

Well, on to the second aspect of this, the design of the prototype.  Here’s a picture of the deck in dissassembly to show what I’m working with:

Above I’m just tearing up the old deck surface, and removing the nails.  Still have to fabricate the building blocks.

Below, I’ve built two pieces, the first two, in order to se how it works.

The base unit is 12′ 1″ long, and 4′ wide.  The top unit, sitting at the back there with the little pink flag,  is 4′ square.  In the corners, I nailed (ring nails using a framing nailer) a block 5 1/2″ long, which is the same height as the 2×6’s on the frame.  The trick is the corner blocks are secured 1 1/2″ lower than the frame, so they form little guides that sit into the frame below.

With this system, I can stack the 4′ squares on the base frame and increase the height of the frame as compost is added, or as I switch from one crop to the next.  For instance, I have onions in the lower 8′ x 4′ long section of the 12′ bed.  The upper section, contains lettuce, which is a bit of a waste, as I have a foot of soil below the lettuce.  But, that part of the frame would work very nicely for carrots or some other root crop.

With the base frame at 12′ 1″, I can stack 3 sets of the 4′ squares, one set might be two high, for a total of 18″.  If I put another 4′ section on, it goes to 24″ of height.  I reckon in the fall, if I want to pull a top frame off, and refresh a bed, I can do so and not have to dig down in alongside the frame.

I ‘secured’ the 12′ base frame with a couple bits of re-bar along the side, and at the lower end, I used some PT lumber to keep the soil in the frame.  Those I call ‘dirt skirts, and they also help hold the base frame level, (at least till the frost?).

My plan is to build more of the 4′ frames and have them at the ready as new crops go in, and to install more of the 12’ 1″ ‘base frames’.  I might put those base frames at various angles to the first one to make the garden interesting, and I might make some really long ones, perhaps 16′ 2″ or thereabouts.  The extra 1″ and 2″ is so I can have a little wiggle room to stack either 3 or 4 of the 4′ frames along the length of a longer ‘base frame’, and not have them fail to seat properly due to small inaccuracies in my framing, or the squaring of the base frames.

I hope the pictures post OK…..I’ll take a detailed construction picture next weekend.   Happy gardening all.

Categories: Square Foot Gardening, vegetables and fruits | Tags: , | 3 Comments

After laying on my back in the horsepiddle for a week, I’m back on the smoker.

After waiting for a break in the weather to try it out I decided to keep it in the shop year round. I installed a range hood directly above the smoker and vented it through the wall. This way I can smoke and not have to depend on the weather.

Country ribs were my first smoke. I made the mistake of either using TQ or to much TQ it was a surprise to have a mouth full of great tasting tender ham. I have to do more reading before the next go around. This photo is after one hour @ 260 deg.


This photo is after three hours @ 260 deg. At this point I mopped on the bbq sauce and bumped up the temp. to 300 deg for 30 minutes.


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Adding an offset fire box to a vertical smoker.

I used a “smoky Mountain” vertical smoker and a “Brinkman” off set fire box. I thought this would be a long and detailed post but the big time consuming part was assembling the smoker and fire box. The tools you would need to join the two are a Phillips screw driver, crescent wrench, drill/w 1/4” drill bit and a saber saw with a metal cutting blade.  I put the two on a work table for a more comfortable working height.

I positioned the two where they would be located. I was surprised that the fire box had a large elliptical shaped hole for heat/smoke transfer. I traced the ellipse and bolt holes with a pencil then cut the ellipse and drilled the bolt holes.

Man that looks like a big hole but every thing lined up nice.


Brinkman includes the parts necessary to use the fire box as a stand alone grill, a larger elliptical plate with draft control. I decided to use them to reduce the heat/smoke to the smoker. If the reduction is to much I will cut a 4” diameter hole through the ellipse. If the reduction is still to much I will just eliminate the ellipse. As soon as the weather breaks I plan to build a fire in the fire box and burn off any manufacturing residue and see what kind of temperature range I will have.



Categories: My Gardening Journals, Smoking, vegetables and fruits | Tags: | 7 Comments


Dolly Parton – Applejack

I decided to make some applejack and searched the Web for recipes. As it turns out anything you can mix can be called Applejack as long as it has apples in it (being facieses here). I am sure the pioneers did not have additives they call for today, I also do not think they would be extravagant with there sugar to raise the alcohol content. I believe the pioneers would simply let there hard cider freeze and remove some ice to increase the alcohol. If my logic is correct my differences are, I added enough sugar to the cider to get an SG reading of 1.09 which should yield about 12 1/2 % alcohol and I will not bother with the freezing.  John

Categories: Home Made Wine, My Gardening Journals | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Only 14 DEG F outside so……..

Merle Haggard & George Jones – Yesterday’s Wine

I decided to keep my butt inside and bottle some wine. This is the white Grape and Peach wine in the previous post. It has a pleasing aroma and taste very good but you can tell it needs to age awhile. The second photo is a close up of the label. This leaves me with one empty container and several empty bottles with a long winter to go. Hmmmmm what should I try next?

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Wine update (short post)

The wine on the left is the Peach and White Grape and has been fermenting for 13 days. The wine has turned out crystal clear with no additives (you can see the bottles through the wine), 10% alcohol predicted. In the middle is the Pomegranate and Blueberry. It was started about 5 days ago and is percolating away, 12% alcohol predicted. My good friend Dan suggested making Apple Cider. I had been thinking about it and Dan got me off the pot. It was also started about 5 days ago and is percolating away, 12% alcohol predicted. At this point I don’t know if I will bottle it at the Hard Cider state or go one step further and make Apple Jack.

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My wine galleria


 It is made up of primarily Riesling and Merlot with a few odds and ends of previous adventures. I have always used wine kits and they have turned out great with the exception of the “Island Mist” kits. The wine is much too light for me and has a very low alcohol content. They are like a wine cooler without the CO2.

I have always used a six gallon carboy for making my wine but I am going to try some of the more exotic recipes and I don’t want to end up with six gallons of bad wine. The container on the left will be used for primary fermentation and the one on the right for secondary fermentation. These are one gallon food containers with a wide opening and the lids modified for using air-locks.

My first batch will be made from Welch’s white grape and peach frozen concentrate. The only additives will be water, sugar and Lalvin EC-1118 yeast.

I added sugar until the hydrometer read 1.06 SG which should produce app. 9% alcohol. A coffee filter fit over the top and I will let it there for app. Five days and then install the air lock.

Categories: Home Made Wine, My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 4 Comments

Winter garden update.

The radishes are doing well and starting to swell and I need to get the second planting started. The Habaneras are doing great with many small ones near the top of the plant.


PB150002-1024x1365The carrots look like they are doing well but I really can’t tell. The same with the Parsnips but I have to get in there and thin them out. The Lettuce is near ready to start eating and have to start the second planting also.The Tomatoes (bottom left in the photo) are a little slow but once they reach the upper part of the GH I thing they will do better.


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening, My Gardening Journals | Tags: , | 2 Comments

October wine making time

I am only a year late on this task but its on the way. Last fall I bought two wine kits one was Black Berry Merlot and Green Apple Riesling. I made the Merlot last fall and it turned out great like looking into a ruby and great taste but low in alcohol. I raised the alcohol to about 7 1/2% in the Riesling and it is in the primary fermentation stage. In about five days I will rack it into another carboy to finish fermenting for about another 10 days. I will add a clearing agent and after 3-4 days it will be ready for bottling. It should be like looking into a yellow diamond.  John

Categories: Home Made Wine, My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 2 Comments

Reputedly a sweet Habanero Pepper

My son a pepperhead acquired some pepper seeds from another pepperhead  and among the seeds there was a container marked Sweet Habanero Peppers. After hearing the background of the source of the seeds, there is reason to believe that is what they are. My son planted a few seeds in his garden and the photo below is of one of those plants transplanted into my GH last week end. I ate one of the green peppers and it was not as hot as some radishes. It will be interesting to see if they ever hit the market.  John



Closeup of some peppers.


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Worlds largest compost operation (at one time)

The photo is from Google Earth and it is of the composting area of the Creek Side Mushroom Co. now defunct. The company was started by the Butler County Mushroom Farms in 1937 and provided 90% of the worlds mushrooms. You probably have seen them on the grocers shelves under the Moonlight Mushrooms brand. The mushroom growing area used 150 miles of abandoned limestone tunnels encompassing 800 acres beneath the surface with production capability of 60 million pounds annually. Creek Side Mushroom Co. downsized the operation and recently closed its doors.

What looks like two sets  of tire marks are the remains of the last four compost piles. They measure 330’ long and were 16’ wide and 16’ high. At the peak of business there were 8-10 rows of compost on that pad.

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2010/11 winter garden and 2011 summer garden

I am only a Month late but that was unavoidable. Every thing is planted except two tomatoes that I am waiting for the second set of leaves. There is a total of 18.7 sq ft under irrigation with an automatic fertilizer injector. The injector is set for a weak solution of 20-20-20 every time the system comes on which is one min every two days.

The container closest to the camera has Romaine lettuce planted. The second container has Iceberg lettuce Planted. And the third and fourth containers will be used for the second planting. Later the first and second container will be used for the third planting and so on until the end of season.


The first and second from the left are carrots, the third is celery and the fourth is parsnips. I have never grown these in the GH before so this is pretty much an experiment but I hope they do well.

PA080003-1024x768The container closest to the camera is red radishes.  The second container is white radishes. The third container is basil and the fourth is dill. The buckets on the floor are for the tomatoes.


I guess this is the start of my 2011 garden. In total there are 70 cloves of garlic planted. The ones in front of the telephone pole are soft neck and the ones behind the pole are stiff neck. I was a little concerned about the continuous open space on the outside row but the cloves are well rooted and the sprout is about to break through the surface.


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2010 sweet potatoes & winter squash harvest

The temps are supposed to be in the mid 30s this week end so its time to get the SP and SQ into the storage bins.

The squash are Burpee’s  hybrid Butter Bush. They have nearly if not the same flavor and texture as the Butternut squash. We prefer the Butter bush for its smaller size and it has been a constant producer. This years harvest is about 55 lbs.



The sweet potatoes are Vardaman and did well for the slips that survived. I bought a pack of 25 slips for about $13 and planted the best 20 slips. Of the 20 slips planted only 12 survived. This problem will be solved by next planting season. I have planted two small potatoes in pots and will take vine terminal cuttings this winter and determine which rooting techniques work best for me.


This the largest sweet potato harvested at 2#.

These came from one plant at 3.5#.



And this is the total harvest from 12 plants At app. 22#. I will let them cure here before  putting them in the bin.


Categories: My Gardening Journals, sweet potatoes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Future Gardener

This is my great grand daughter Macey Monroe. I think she is hooked already. John

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I am out of my league and need help

The area in my landscaping that needs the most attention is under two large maple trees. They are in competition for the moisture and create the dense shade. They both have surface roots, so I plan to raise  the bed 12”-16” with tapered sides. Now what do I plant there? The plants must survive zone 5b in dense shade, compete with roots from large trees and a direct SW winter wind. Any and all suggestions are appreciated.  John



Categories: My Gardening Journals, Uncategorized | Tags: | 6 Comments

First day of fall coming soon

September 22nd and it will be Fall. I want to get my garlic in before that and soon after clean all the warm weather crops off the garden. I won’t dig sweet potatoes or gather winter squash until first frost warning. The Yukon gold and Kennebec potatoes will be dug as needed until the soil begins to freeze deeply.

This was the fourth year in a row for a poor garden. The last three years we had spring weather all summer and last year I was able to grow lettuce all summer and the warm weather crops did poorly. This year it got too hot too fast and the cool weather crops did poorly. We usually have 2-3 days in the 90s and this year we had about 14 days in the 90s and many in the high 80s. Crops like peppers, eggplant, sweet potatoes and winter squash did well. The regular potatoes from what I have seen so far will be nothing to brag about.

The sweet potatoes look like they will produce well. These we will have for dinner tonight.


The winter squash did very well And I may have to shoot one of my wife’s pet deer to get us through winter.


The asparagus looks like it did fantastic for the first year’s growth for planted 2yr crowns.


This is how many asparagus sprouts I got from one crown. Can’t wait for next spring.

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Help I am getting lethargic

Lately I have been neglecting my garden, my journal and the forums. Its not depression because I can set and look at the things I should/can be doing and be happy as a pig in sh|*. I may snap out of it or it may get worse who knows. Have any of you experienced this and if so what did you do or are you still as happy as that old pig.


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Torre Melanzana

This is from my son John.

I think I get more enjoyment out of my garden than most people.  This is because my wife makes things like this: torre melanzana (eggplant tower). 
Some people think eggplant is bitter, and it is, if you don’t know how to prepare it.  There are two ways to remove the bitter juices, depending what is being made.  This dish is sliced eggplant, egg battered and simmered in oil.  Alternate layers of eggplant and mozzarella (fresh or otherwise) are stacked then baked.  On top is fresh bruschetta made from fresh tomatoes,  red peppers pickled from last year, chopped garlic, olive oil, and fresh basil. 
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A vacation in the hospital

What caused my trip to the hospital were heart arrhythmias. The symptoms can be a fluttering in your chest, a racing heartbeat, a slow heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting or near fainting and I have every damn one of them. Along with heart arrhythmias comes an increased chance of blood clots so the Doc put me on Coumadin (rat poison). As a result of that most of my other meds have to be changed and fine tuned which requires weekly blood tests, med adjustment and retesting. I feel like a porcupine turned inside out. I have to eat the same amount of vitamin K every day as it affects the Coumadin and could have very bad results. The table below shows various vegetable and the vitamin K they contain. Keeping track of my diet past and planning future diets for the amounts of vitamin K would be a hassle so I plan to avoid vegetables with high levels of vitamin K. As a result I will be giving many veggies away this year.


I have started planning next year’s garden as to what to plant where and the spacing and nutrient requirements.




Vitamin K





7 spears


Green beans

3/4 cup


Lima beans

1/2 cup



1/2 cup



1/2 cup


Brussels sprouts



White cabbage

2/3 cup



1/2 cup



1/2 cup



2 1/2 ribs


Swiss chard

1/2 cup cooked



2 cups chopped


Collard greens

1/2 cup



6 cups



2/3 cup kernels


Cucumber (remove peel)

1 cup slices



1 cup diced



2 cups



1/2 cup



1 cup chopped


Bibb lettuce

1 cup chopped


Red leaf lettuce

1 cup chopped


Iceberg lettuce

1/2 cup


Mustard greens

1 1/2 cups


Shiitake mushrooms

5 mushrooms


Button mushrooms

1 cup



1/2 cup


Green onion

2/3 cup


White or yellow onion

2/3 cup



1 1/2 cup



2 parsnips


Green pepper

1/2 pepper



1 medium



1 cup sliced



1/2 cup cooked


Yellow squash

1/2 cup slices


Acorn squash

1/2 cup


Sweet potato

1 cup


Tomato sauce (bottled)

1/2 cup






4 ounces


Turnip greens

1 1/2 cups



3 cups


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening, My Gardening Journals, Square Foot Gardening, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 12 Comments

I think this qualifies for intensive gardening.

On the far left are 24 Jersey Giant asparagus plants, left of center are 26 Yukon Gold potatoes, right of center are 26 Kennebec potatoes and far right are 12 Butter Bush winter squash.


These are 20 Nemagold Sweet potatoes.


Here are 12 Endive, 6 per row. Lettuce has been harvested from front and back.


Between the SPs and Endive and on the fence is a Gardeners Delight cherry tomato.


To the left of the Endive and against the fence is a Fourth of July tomato.


These are my peppers, in front are two rows of three Big Dippers, in the back row there is one Sweet Banana, one Picante and one Red Bell.


Here are 6 Black Beauty eggplants.


In the foreground are 5 Little Cloud cauliflowers. Lost one to a wind storm. In the background are 5 Green Goliath broccolis. Lost one of these in the same storm.


Garlic, onions, spinach and lettuce were harvested form the bed in the foreground and is now ready for fall planting. The bed in the background has one Zucchini plant on the right and two Brandy Boy tomatoes on the left. The two tomato plants are over four ft tall and only have 4-6 tomatoes on each. That rate had better pickup or this year will be the last for Brandy Boys.


Categories: Composting, My Gardening Journals, Potato, Square Foot Gardening, sweet potatoes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Soil test is in and I think I will have a BM

After I seen the third year core sample of the raised bed, I just had to get a soil test to see what was going on. I have always known that garden worms were beneficial to the garden. But I did not know just how much work they did.

Unless you follow my Journal there are three Posts that you should read to get the background on the raised bed soil.

Penn State claims a 4-5 day turn around on soil samples. I sent the sample in on Tuesday and received an eMail copy today and a hard copy will be sent via snail mail. I requested the standard test($9) and % organic matter($5) and eMail data($1) for a sum of $15.

I was interested in the PH and Fertility of the soil but I was curious as how much organic material was present since the only thing deposited in the beds was organic but the soil did not seem as it was only humus. As it turns out at 25% organic material, I have just been feeding the worms and they have been building up the soil. John



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Another trick the worms do

 Often noticed but seldom seen are the little clusters of maple seeds. These are under some very large maple trees where the grass is very thin and they are easily noticed. After passing by I remembered seeing piles of worm casing under the same maple trees so I returned to investigate.


Here there are three or four seeds that the winged part of the seed is completely buried in worm casing.

I gently removed the seeds and uncovered two worm holes.

In this photo I had uncovered the third hole. The casing is better defined and there are maple seeds with the winged portion and skin that I assume were eaten off. Any thoughts as to how worms can harvest maple seeds without opposing thumbs? John

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Three years of core samples

Four years ago I filled my new raised beds with composted lawn and garden debris rich with horse bedding. My gardening style with these beds has been no till and I top dress the beds each fall with composted horse bedding. As the red worms bring bottom soil and casings in to the beds I have to top dress less and less. The next three photos are of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year core samples in that order. In the first photo you can see what looks like soil and/or worm casing on the bottom and many recognizable wood chips and pine needles on the top. The core sample in the second photo fell apart when trying to remove it from the mold. It may have been drier or smaller particle size that caused it to fall apart. There was a good bit more material that looked like soil/casing and just a few recognizable wood chips and no pine needles. The core sample in the third photo looked homogeneous from top to bottom with no recognizable material. It fell apart easier than the second core sample and I am more convinced it has to do with particle size and moisture. When this sample dries out (to save on postage) I will send it to Penn State University for analysis. One of there tests is percentage organic material. Since the only thing I have put in the beds was organic, I think I can assume that anything that is not organic is either soil or worm casing. John


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An easy way to plant tomatoes

This is my grand daughter Jessie, she planted a 4th of July tomato and is just finished planting a Gardeners Delight cherry tomato. I suspect that these will get a little extra care this summer. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Zone 5 and I have to get pro active

Its going down to 34 tonight and 33 tomorrow night but it looks safe after that. The potatoes have been planted, the spinach is up and looking good, onions, asparagus and garlic are also looking good. Come Monday I will plant lettuce, endive and more spinach and onions. On Tuesday I will plant four tomato plants and keep the hot caps handy. Toward the end of the Month, I will plant the peppers and eggplant. Still to come are broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, beets and several herbs. After the garden is planted I will re mulch the path ways, plant posies and re mulch the posy beds. In the mean time the grass is growing like a wild fire and there is about two years worth of fire wood piled in front of my compost bins. 

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Never kill a black snake

This was sent to me by a friend. I don’t know if he originated it or just passing it on but I thought it was worth posting here. John

All my life I’ve been told not to kill black snakes because they kill poisonous snakes, But this is the first time I’ve actually seen proof….! The guy who snapped these photos said the rattler was still rattling all the way down!!!


Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 4 Comments

Boy did I screw up

I had fantastic results sprouting seeds this year. I used soil blocks and planted two seeds in each. Every seed sprouted, yep 100% germination. That’s the good news.

Once again too many irons in the fire. As a result I did not have time to make my own potting soil. I went to Wally World and bought four cubic feet of their cheapest potting soil. It was less than half the price of MG. The plants look healthy but have not grown ¼” since pot-up and that has been about three weeks. I know that eggplant like a slow steady growth and not to be shocked. At this point I don’t know weather to trash them and buy my eggplant or go ahead and plant them out.     John

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Here today gone tomorrow

My wife nor I can get these suckers to grow vertically. I swear they can throw there thorns, quills, needles, 2 ft or more. I always where thick leather gloves but they still manage to get into my fingers. The blooms are beautiful but last only two days. I think they would make good compost but the wife keeps shaking her head no. John

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Just in time for Easter

 A few of the early spring blooms, few commentaries mostly photos.

This time of the year, these guys show up again. I have fired them several times but they keep coming back. I think this guy is drunk all the time.

And this guy stands around with his pruners but you never see anything pruned???

And this guy is always craping. Maybe that is why every thing is so green.

What kind of caracter would be cutting Christmas trees now? Maybe he is planning on Christmas in July?



This one is always looking fore something to cut down.


Now this one, I have seen him move between his food bowl and bed but I am not sure what velue he has for the garden.   John









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What a delightful surprise seeing this young lady

The photo was taken through three panes of glass on a rainy day and about 70 ft away. She is cleaning up the corn that the deer missed. Pheasants used to be very common in my area but for the last 30 yrs they are almost nonexistent. John

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100% germination of the peppers in 14 Days

The seeds were planted on March 15 and today the last Red Bell poked through the surface. From left to right there are; 6 Picante, 3 Sweet Banana, 3 Poblano, 12 Red bell and 12 Big Dipper. The first to sprout were the Poblano about 8 days ago. The humidity domes were not removed for ventilation and there is no sign of damp off or fungi of any kind. The containers in the back are Eggplants and Tomatoes. The Romas began sprouting about 4 days ago.          John



Categories: My Gardening Journals, soil blocks | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

I have been taking to much credit for my garden

As it turns out I have had a lot of help through the years, like 24/7/365. The photo is of an area under huge maple trees and the grass is very sparse because the trees are taking all the water and sun from the grass. I chose this area because the worm casing showed up in the photo very nicely. The photo is about 5-6 sqft but representative of the hole yard and garden. From late summer into winter, there is no sign of worms. They are somewhere between here and China. But as soon as the snow pack melts the casings are everywhere they must move up to just under the freeze line or snow and are active all winter. John

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My 2010 gardening year has started

Today is the last rain day of a series so I was able to plant the peppers. For the soil mix I have several containers of various materials sitting around that I would like to get rid of. My first batch will be; 2 parts(plastic shoe box) composted horse bedding, 1 part(plastic shoe box) coco coir, 1 part(plastic shoe box) medium vermiculite. To this I will add ¼ cup Osmocote and 2 tbs Epson Salts. Just prior to making my soil blocks I will saturate the concoctions with Ferti-Lome 5-59-8. When I use up the coco coir and vermiculite, I will be using just composted horse bedding with the Osmocote, Epson salts and Ferti-Lome. The soil blocks were easily picked up and moved around. In the container on the left are 12 Red Bell peppers, in the container in the center are 12 Big Dipper peppers and the first 6 soil blocks in the right container are Picante peppers the next 3 are Sweet Banana peppers and the next 3 are Poblano peppers. The air temperature in the chamber is about 60 deg and the sand bed is 75 deg the temperature in the domes will be somewhere in between the two. The lights are on 24/7 until the chamber is shut down. Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer with lots of sunshine so I will be back on the apple trees. The next rain day I will be planting the tomatoes and eggplant. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals, soil blocks | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spring is springing in SW PA

 The crocus are blooming, and its amazing how a little bit of color goes a long way to making you feel better.

The daffodils are up and will be blooming soon if the warm spell holds up.

The hyacinths are just poking there nose through the soil.

The tulips are up also and it won’t be long now. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 3 Comments

Cleaning out the Green House

I have to make room for my spring plants so this will be the last harvest of lettuce, endive and onions. It is well worth the effort but this winter it was difficult because of all the snow and ice.


There are four pepper plants, two sweet banana and two red bell. They will be transferred into the garden. I am not sure if they will be transplanted or left in the containers.


There were two early girl tomatoes but there is only one now. The one with the most/nicest tomatoes will be moved to the garden in its container. It is about four ft tall and lots of nice tomatoes, I will need help in moving it.  I have harvested 20-30 tomatoes since the 1st of January. They were not as good as garden tomatoes but a lot better than store bought. John



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All this for a salad

 All this for a salad it but it was worth the effort.

After I got inside the GH this is what I harvested. It will be served with stuffed eggplant from this summers garden.

While I was there I looked around to see how everything was doing. The peppers are doing fine but it will probably be time to plant them outside before I get any.

The tomatoes are doing great and there are two plants with many green toms.

I should have a steady supply. Sure beats store bought. John


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Another one of those storms

Thursday I was planning on pruning my apple trees soon.

Later that day, the National Weather Service was predicting a winter storm from Friday noon till Saturday noon with an culmination of 6”+. Later they changed it to 8”+ and later yet they changed it to 8”-12”. At that point I went to bed and this is what I woke up to.


Fortunately Number 3 son showed up to do some snow plowing. I panicked when I seen the GH roof the center looked like it caved in but it was fine and all the plants inside were as snug as a bug in a GH.


Well everything is cleared and we can get out easily but there is nowhere to go. Oh well I think I will wash wine bottles tomorrow. As usual all comments are welcome. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Today I started making my seed starting/potting soil

Today I started making my seed starting/potting soil. I have several containers of various materials sitting around that I would like to get rid of. My first batch will be; 2 parts(plastic shoe box) composted horse bedding, 1 part(plastic shoe box) coco coir, 1 part(plastic shoe box) medium vermiculite. To this I will add ¼ cup Osmocote and 2 tbs Epson Salts. Just prior to making my soil blocks I will saturate the concoctions with Ferti-Lome 5-59-8. When I use up the coco coir and vermiculite, I will be using just composted horse bedding with the Osmocote, Epson salts and Ferti-Lome. John

Categories: Composting, soil blocks | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Next year’s firewood.

This is at my son’s house and he had several huge trees that were dying and had large limbs that were dangerously dropping to the ground. The tree in the first two photos was leaning toward some telephone and power lines and had to have guide lines and come a long’s attached to straighten it up. The video is of the tree coming down.



This photo is of the tree that was just fallen. The cut sections are about 16”-18” long and there is probably close to a full cord of wood in this one tree.


There are three other trees in the pile in the background of the previous photo that are almost as big as the first tree. The next two photos will give you some idea of the volume of firewood that has to be cut and split. John



Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 1 Comment

How I heat my GH

This morning the temps were 28F and I noticed the snow on the roof. I thought I had better check the heater to make sure it was working. The GH is a Rion model GH44 and is 8 ½’ X 8 ½’. The glassing is double thickness polycarb panels which sit in groves in the frame like glass in a wood sash. The glassing is also weather stripped with neoprene.

The heater is a 10K BTU Glo-Warm non vented heater. There is a control knob on top that is variable from pilot to high(10K) with four positions. I set it on position one unless the temps are going down to zero or less, then I will set it on position two. The burner is about six ins long and about one ins wide.


As soon as I entered the GH, I knew everything was ok. The temps were at 54F and the RH at 64%.


The Polycarb panels, PVC frame and Neoprene weather striping are doing there job. The tomatoes are growing up against the roof with no ill effects.   John


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening | Tags: | 3 Comments

Winter gardening activities

All the raised beds have been top dressed with composted HM and dusted with lime except the potato beds and they were dusted with garden sulfur. As soon as it warms up a mite, I will dust them with some 5-10-10. The porcelain German garlic is finally poking its nose through the surface and was rudely greeted by a dusting of snow.
 We have had some pretty hard freezes but the outside endive and lettuce are doing great.

All the GH veggies are growing in 100% composted HM. Inside the GH the tomatoes are coming along fine. I have a small fan running for germination and it looks like its doing the job.


The inside lettuce and endive will be ready soon but the outside stuff is too good to pass up.


The onions are ready and as one is picked a set will be put in its place.


I think the peppers would like more sun and heat than they have been getting.


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2009 winter garden update 11/24

47 days after planting, almost everything is looking good. The tomato blossoms look healthy and not dropping off. No green tomatoes yet though. The onions lettuce and endive look good also. The spinach is a little leggy, I think it would like it a little cooler. The peppers are slow and I think they would like it a little warmer. I am still hoping for something editable by Christmas. John



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My next chore completed

After taking 12 truck loads of shredded leaves to city hall, this is what I have to look at untill spring.:-(   Now I have to truck in 5 yds of composted HM to be ready for spring.8-)   John


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2009 Winter garden update

The photo in the previous post about the 2009 garden was taken on Oct 8th.   The plants on the top left shelf toward the end are tomato and pepper plants. They are hard to make out but they are about 4 weeks old. Every thing else was seeded just before I snapped the photo not counting the fern or poinsettias.

This photo was taken 29 days later. Every thing is growing in compost rich in HM.


 The tomatoes are in blossom and I will have to get the Qtips out. The toms are Early Girls and I hope to have fresh ones by Christmas.   John


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening, Uncategorized | Tags: | 6 Comments

A year of promise and disappointment revisited for 2009 and a Rant.

I had a page on my Journal for the 2009 harvest. This spring I thought it was going to be a great year for the garden. As it turns out it is a 50/50 combined effort between Mother Nature and us. I think I did my part but MN let me down. We had a beautiful spring but the weather never changed, it was the coldest/wettest summer that I can remember in 52yrs of gardening. A year like this makes me think about the settlers and early pioneers and how they were at the mercy of MN. We can always run to the store and pickup this or that but they could not.

Now comes the rant. Thank heavens the promoters like AG of “Global Warming” are still alive to get some feedback about there ridicules claims. Can you imagine all the instrumentation around the world and the work force to collect the data and get an average to make such claims? Maybe it would be possible today but how about 20-50 years ago let alone 200-500 years ago. Now I fell better getting that off my chest and maybe I can start planning next year’s garden. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | 3 Comments

Well this is my next chore.

The red arrow points to the roof peak of a 2-story house. The house sits in the middle of the trees so it does not appear smaller than it is. The canapé is roughly 80’ high, 160’ wide and 60’ deep. I have decided to hire someone to collect and dispose of the leaves and curtail my composting activities. The city will accept all yard and garden debris except grass and that is what I plan to do. My compost requirements will be supplied by a local horse boarding stables where I can get all the composted HM in all stages of decomposition that I need an no cost and they load the trailer. It’s hell when you have to govern you activities because of age.     John


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The winter garden is on its way

It is not a RB or a SFG, it is a RCCAWG (raised container, controlled atmosphere winter garden). The surface area of the containers is almost exactly 16 sq ft. The four containers on the left will be onions and spinach. The four in the center will be peppers, Big Dipper, Sweet Banana, Red Bell and ???. The four on the right will be Red Top and Bibb lettuce and Endive. The two 5 gal buckets will be Early Girl tomatoes. I have grown every thing except the tomatoes and peppers in the GH before with very good results. I think the peppers will do well with smaller fruits though, the tomatoes will depend on the number of sun hours. I should at least get an early spring crop of tomatoes.        John


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Second year RB/SFG core sample

This year’s core sample was taken adjacent to last year’s sample. There was only about an inch of recognizable compost on top and it spilled out onto the floor when I tilted the tube to remove the sample. When I removed the sample, it just fell apart. The bed is about 88% full of what looks like plain old garden soil thanks to the many worms. At the end of next growing season I expect the beds to be nearly 100% filled with soil/worm casing. Then it will be interesting how the moisture retention will be and how the plants perform.


A close-up photo of the core sample.


This is a photo of semi-finished compost that the beds were top dressed with this spring. As usual all comments are welcome.    John


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One comparison between RB/SFG and conventional gardening

Last years squash bed was planted in hills. When looking down from above, it would look like double fives on a pair of dice. After the plants emerged the bed was heavily mulched with leaf mold and compost. The harvest was typical of my squash beds at 39-41 squash (depending how many times I count them).


This is the same area converted to raised beds filled with 100% compost. This is the first year for the raised beds in this area. Last years squash bed was 90” wide and this years RB for squash is 40” wide, less that 45% of last years bed. The number of squash in the RB 29 a substantial increase per sq/ft production. As usual all comments are welcome. John



Categories: My Gardening Journals, Square Foot Gardening | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

My follies with trellising squash

I have been planting Burpee’s hybrid zucchini and butterbush squash for years. This year I decided to trellis the squash to conserve space. The zucchini was easy to tie up to the trellis when the vine was small but as the vine grew wider and stiffer it became more difficult. We had a relatively mild summer storm and this photo is of the top of one vine that had broken off of one of the plants. What broke off was about 1 ½” of the tip of the vine with about 2-3 small leaves and blossoms. I had hoped the plant would start a new branch but it eventually died.

Both zucchini plants had a problem with the leaves in back buckling and falling forward over the tip of the vine and damaging the new blossoms. I had to be vigilant at removing them from that area.


The clincher is, the plants were growing approximately the same place as last years non trellised squash. Last year the squash grew across the pathway and up against the next bed. This year the trellised squash leaves grew with in 3-4” of the adjoining bed, so I only saved 3-4” of space.


The Butterbush squash were planted about 10” in front of the trellis and a dowel rod placed from the plant base to the trellis. It was easy to tie the vines to the dowels.


It became obvious that the vines did not want to grow north although there was plenty of sun. In this photo you can see about four times the growth toward the south as there is to the north. I decided to let them go where they wanted and sacrificed the onions planted to the south of them.


The vines are dieing back and the squash are ripening. There will be about 25 squash, enough for my wife and me but not very many to give away. This is the same area that the squash grew in last year in a conventional hill planting and I will be doing a comparison post about last years yield to this years SFG style of gardening. As usual, all comments are welcome. John


Categories: Square Foot Gardening | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Storage for potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, winter squash and such.

I have been increasingly dissatisfied with the storage of root crops in the fruit cellar. It is just a little to dry and warm for storage.  I end up storing stuff under the benches that I no longer use. Well I pitched it all and built a 22” X 22” X 8’ storage bin for roots and tubers in the GH. The side facing the camera is insulated with 1 ½’ of polystyrene and the two ends and backside are outside walls. The backside and right end are under ground.


 Here you can see the insulated front side and a wooden slat floor for air circulation. The lids are hinged at the back and the middle so they fold under the shelves of the GH.



Categories: Greenhouse Gardening, My Gardening Journals, Potato | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Coco Coir, gardening consumer hype???????

I have read so much information on Coco Coir I thought I would try it. It is not available locally and the cheapest I could find it on the net was eBay. A10# block cost $12 plus $10 shipping. It was a little pricey but I figured part of the cost would go to education. I have not used any yet but my parliamentary thoughts now are a good bit of that $22 will go toward education. This photo is the 10# block in the recommended 4 gallon of water in a storage tote.


After 12 hrs of scratching the wet surface with a hand cultivator I had the 6” x 12” x 12” block broken into eqq size chunks. Some smaller and some larger.


The chunks sat in the water over night and the next morning with less than ¼” of water penetration in to the surface. After an additional hour, I had the chunks rubbed through ½”hardware cloth.


I ended up with less than two cubic feet of nice looking sphagnum moss substitute after $22 and 21 hours of time invested. I will not be buying any additional Coco Coir in the future. As usual, all comments are welcome.   John


Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

A remarkable potato.

After the garden had been planted, I had a volunteer potato sprout. I soon pulled it out, after a few days, another sprout appeared, and I removed it. Eventually two more sprouts appeared from under the frame of the RB/SFG. I thought if that potato wants to grow that much I will let it go and see what happens. Well I needed to access the backside of the pepper and eggplant beds to harvest and the potato plant had to go.


I found a pile of potatoes on top of the path and a couple under the edge of the bed. That crazy potato had raised the bed from 3” to 4”. There is about 2” to 3” of wood chip mulch on the path.


That one potato plant produced 31/2 lb of potatoes not counting the many small ones. The scale looks like crap but weighs very accurately. The basket weighs exactly one lb. Make sure to read the rest of the post after this next photo as this potato also raised some interesting questions.


The next series of photos are of a portion of the stalk that I cut off that shows various views of potatoes that were growing totally off the ground and potato stolons above leaf branches. In addition, these are Yukon Gold potatoes that are not supposed to do well in a tower, now I am wondering why. Maybe another experiment is coming next spring. As usual, all comments are welcome.   John






Categories: My Gardening Journals, Potato, Potato Tower, Square Foot Gardening | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

There’s trouble in River City

Late blight on tomatoes and maybe on potatoes. Well until last week, I did not know what I had. I knew that I was having some sort of problem with the tomatoes what I did not know was that it could also affect the potatoes. What a bummer. It is the same blight that struck Ireland in the 1840s

 This is what the tomatoes looked like the middle of July.


This is what they looked like a few days later I knew it was not blossom end rot.


It was clear that every thing had to go.

The next two photos are of the same spot before and after the blight. There were between 30 and 40 tomatoes on each plant.





The vent to the GH is right behind the tomato plants. Now do I have to fumigate the GH or what????


 As usual, all comments are welcom.         John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

I do grow veggies other than potatoes

I have been posting about potatoes so often I thought I should show you my other veggies. This is my asparagus bed. I planted two-year-old crowns and supposedly, I can make limited cuttings next spring. They look so spindly I sort of dough it.


The bell peppers are Big Dippers and are loaded with blossoms.

Bell Peppers

The Bibb lettuce is fantastic and will be my annual lettuce. It also did very well in the GH last winter.

Bib Lettuce

The broccoli looks good and is about to develop heads. The three plants in front are purple cabbage.


I have not grown Brussels sprouts for a while and will not be able to predict outcome until late summer. And another three purple cabbage in front.

Brussels Sprouts

The Butterbush winter squash have sprouted and have to grow about 10” North to reach the trellis. I will tie them to the sticks to get them off the soil as soon as possible to help me combat the squash bugs.


Cauliflower is not showing any sign of heads yet but it usually takes longer than the broccoli.


The eggplant is chucking full of blossoms and looking great.


I free sowed the endive and thin it as we eat. As soon as I thin it, it fills back in.


Onion plants are just taking root and hard to see. I also planted 12 Alisa Craig onions that can get up to five pounds each.


Cannot say much about the tomatoes except they are on there way to higher places.


The Zucchini are on there way to the first rung of the ladder. I will see how this goes.


The sweet potatoes are growing slowly, the weather has been very cool but I hope the roots are developing well.

Sweet Potatoes

Ok, I have to say something about the potatoes. The ones in the foreground are the Kennebec and the ones in the background are the Yukon Gold. The fence to the right is four ft tall. As usual, all comments are welcome.


Categories: My Gardening Journals, Potato, Square Foot Gardening | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Some think there is no intrigue in gardening



Today, I was filling a compost bin from a pile of kitchen, lawn and garden debris that had accumulated from late winter/early spring. While doing so, I noticed a particularly long sprout. Upon investigation, it turned out to be a potato sprout about 16” to 18” long. There were several small sprouts along the length of the main sprout (see red arrows, there are several on the underneath side you cannot see). Are they lateral stem sprouts or stolons?



The next two photos are enlargements of the areas of the red arrows. The plot thickens and what timing for my experiments in my journal with potato towers. Stay tuned for further developments. As usual, all comments are welcome.   John




Categories: My Gardening Journals, Potato | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

I dig potatoes



While not yet, but I am looking forward in anticipation. The Yukon Gold potatoes are growing gangbusters.



They were planted 8”deep 16 days ago and are now 16+” tall.



I do not remember what day I planted the Kennebec potatoes but they broke through the surface about 4-5 days ago.



Which brings me to the potato tower; I planted one Kennebec spud in the tower 8” deep the same time as the other Kennebec spuds.



It broke through the surface the same day as the first Kennebec spud in the beds and I quickly put the first tier in place.



This is a close-up of the previous photo.



The next morning I filled the tier about half way and placed some compost up against the plant to the leaves.



This is a close-up of how I covered the plant. It is about 2-3” below the surface of the compost.



By the next morning, it had grown another couple of inches and I pulled some compost into the hole covering the stem.



I repeated this for two more days and the tier was full.



I added the second and last tier and will repeat the process until it is full. The tower is 20 ½” tall and that should be enough to show if the process works for me or not. As usual, all comments are welcome.    John


Categories: My Gardening Journals, Potato, Potato Tower, Square Foot Gardening | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

One thing leads to another



The trellis in yesterday’s post is 15’ long and I used 16’ hog panels which gave me two12” pieces of scrap panel. I wanted to try growing summer squash vertically and needed to come up with a trellis to grow two summer squash plants on. I had some old fence posts on hand and some outdoor electrical cable ties and the two scrap panels was all I needed. Now if I can encourage the Zucchini to grow up the trellis, I will be in Hog Heaven.



Tonight will be the second night in a row with freezing or below freezing temperatures. I gathered up enough containers to cover the veggie plants but the apples are in jeopardy. All I can do now is to hope for the best. As usual, all comments are welcome.   John 


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A trellis for winter squash


I was calling my trellis the ‘Mother of all trellises” but that was being a little presumptuous. The cyclone fence around the garden was four feet tall and I thought that would be a little small for summer squash. My DW and I love the Butterbush squash and it vines about five or six feet so I wanted to increase the height of the existing fence to six feet high. The problem was the fence producers do not make couplers to extend the height of the corner or line post. I knew there had to be something out there I could use.



What I found was automotive tail pipe couplers and since line/corner post came at a minimum of six-foot lengths and I would be scraping two feet, so I also used two-foot lengths of tail pipe.


 I reinstalled the original top rail on top of the extensions.



The trellis will be holding about 110 to 120 pound of squash so I added a line post in the center of the span.


I added cross members also to tie in the seams of the panels.


 I checked Tractor Supply’s web site and they claimed to have cattle panel on stock. After driving 20 miles I found out they only had hog panel. The hog panel is made using the same gage steel and the same size, 36” X 16’ so that is what I used. I wish I had taken a photo before I unloaded the truck. Can you imagine hauling 16’ long panels in a Ranger with a 6” bed? You can see at the far end of the trellis where I added a diagonal support to the corner post. When I finish the fence and gates at the open end, I will also add diagonals at the corner and on the line post. We get some strong summer storms with high winds so a little support will not hurt. As usual, all comments are welcome.    john




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While sitting on the porch having a BM


While sitting on the back porch having a BM and waiting for my butt to catch up with me, I was recapping my accomplishments of the day. I mowed the lawn, planted the sweet potatoes, Peppers, eggplant and ran some errands. I started to plant with the sweet potatoes; I remembered a post by Granny about using vinyl floor tile for a template to space plants in a RB/SFG bed. Ok I made my template, now what do you do with a floor tile with a 2 ¼” hole in the middle and a 2” auger? You plant plants of course.sp1


I cannot believe the condition of the sweet potato slips when you receive them. It is amazing that they survive the ordeal. Next spring I will be saving some of the smaller tubers and try to root them in time for planting. I need some information on how and when to try it though.sp2


Last year a pesky wabbit wiped out the sweet potatoes after it was too late to buy replacements. As a result, a fence was installed until they are big enough not to be destroyed by the wabbit.sp3


The eggplant came next; they are planted at one plant per 2.7 squares.e1


Then came the peppers also at one plant per 2.7 squares. Tomorrow I will plant the Cole crops. That will leave only the squash and the continuing planting of the salad bed. As usual, all comments are welcome.   Johnp1


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Sometimes your mind is changed for you

While cleaning up the shop, I checked the potato chitting progress. To my surprise, some of the sprouts were turning black near the very tip. I do not know if it was the low humidity or the temperature variation but it never happened when they sprouted in the fruit cellar. I decided to plant them as soon as possible.p50802252 


My potato beds are 2’ wide and I use a folding rule as a guide to plant location. I will start 6” form the end of the bed with the first row and 12” from the end of the bed with the second row which stagers the plants from row to row. A bulb planter works nice in compost to produce a 2” hole 5” deep which is perfect for the small seed potatoes.p5100228 


Here you can see the full bulb planter and the hole I just made with the spud in place. I use the small end of a dial rod to poke the compost out of the planter and back into the hole. The pieces of mini-blind slats are used to mark the location of the last spud in a row. If I have to leave for some reason, it can be difficult to see where I stopped.p5100229


After all seed potatoes are planted, I top-dressed the beds another 3” bringing the depth of the seed potatoes to 8”.p5100230


I also planted the potato tower and top-dressed it. All potatoes that were planted today were Kennebec and were planted in the same fashion.p5100227 


I could not help noticing how the Yukon Gold potatoes were growing. They were planted two weeks to the day before this photo. If the Kennebec potato in the tower grows this fast, it will require daily attention and early in the morning before the sun hits the plant stem. I think I understand why some people say they got additional potatoes but it was not worth the effort. Nevertheless, I am going to try to do it correctly and we will see what happens. As usual, all comments are welcome.   Johnp5100231 

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The Tomatoes are planted. (both of them)

We are supposed to have a day and one half with out rain and the grass is too wet to mow so I planted my tomatoes. Another attribute of gardening in a soil less mix is you can plant right after a rain and not ruin the soil. In this photo, I have dug a trench about 6” deep and about 10” long. I add about a hand full of garden tone and a tablespoon of Epson salts and mix them into the soil. Then I will trim the bottom leaves off for about 8” above the root ball and lay the plant horizontally in the trench. p5060222


I temporarily tie the plant to a stake until it grows upright on its own. Then I will install the tomato cages after any danger of frost is past.p5060223


As usual, all comments are welcome.    John

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Chitting Potatoes among other things

About twelve days ago, I removed the Kennebec seed potatoes from the fridge and placed them in a standard nursery flat and covered them with another flat upside down. p4220171 


This photo taken yesterday shows the sprouts starting to grow.p5020854 


As you can see, the spuds are forming many sprouts. After all the sprouts are formed, I will remove all but the two nicest ones in an effort to reduce the number of small potatoes. It is claimed that this will increase the size of the remaining potatoes, we shall see.potato3


Speaking of potatoes, I added four inches to the top of my sweet potato bed, bringing the depth to twelve inches (11”).p5020853 


Some of the plants are on the way to there new home. I have several to get rid of yet and mine will be planted this week or next. The GH will then be closed down until mid to late August when I will start the winter garden.p5040219 


As usual all comments are welcome.     John

Categories: Greenhouse Gardening, My Gardening Journals, soil blocks, Square Foot Gardening, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

I am not very good at this


I am not good at receiving or giving awards. I read Cheryl’s blog early this morning and thought about what to say all day. If you read my journal, you know I am not a wordsmith. I try to use as few words possible while telling my story with photographs. Therefore, Cheryl, I very humbly accept the award.


I did a Google search on the Bloggers Award and did not find where a blogger could not receive more than one award or you could give an award to only five recipients.  If there were one blogger that stood out from the pack, I could not point him/her out to the others that were trying. So I am passing my award on to all the bloggers that I follow, Annie’s Kitchen Garden, Blunders with shoots, blossoms ‘n roots, Cheryl’s Garden Goodies, Gamine’s Garden, Luke’s Square Foot Victory Garden, Engineeredgarden, Sinfonian’s Square Foot Garden, Tales of a Transplanted Gardener, The Corner Yard and  Urban Veggie Garden Blog



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Yesterday was a beautiful day

While yesterday was a beautiful day, I cut grass and got some planting done. The SFG/RB accessories worked great and I could have planted all day. I used scallions and radishes to make my grid, which should/could have been planted earlier. Oh well it will be there for the second planting. 


I planted two types of lettuce, Bibb and Little Gem along with direct sowing spinach and endive. The tomato plant is an Early Girl and should give me some toms very early. J



The winter onions look great but I only use these for onion sets that I grow all winter in the GH.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 


My hardiness zone has changed form 5 to 5B. The minimum temps. and frost dates have not changed so the USDA has confused me again. I am going to take a chance on an early spring though with the planting but keep some buckets and hot caps handy in case of frost/freeze. So here is to a fantastic 2009 gardening season. As usual all comments are welcome.     John 


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New Asparagus Bed

The asparagus crowns arrived yesterday. My goal today was to get them planted before the roots dried out.  I dug two trenches about 16ins apart and will place the crowns about 16ins apart in the rows.



The light colored material you see is wood ashes. They have been there for 3-4mo and should be well leached out. The crowns are planted about 5ins deep and as soon as the shoots appear, I will top-dress the beds another 2-3ins.



All the crowns are in place and all I have to do now is to water them good.




If the weather holds out long enough tomorrow, I will plant my Yukon Gold potatoes in the first two boxes. As usual, all comments are welcome.   John



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A case for saving my own seeds

I planted sixty tomato seeds this year. Today when checking there condition, there was one and only one out of sixty that had potato shaped leaves. Something similar happened to Granny this year. The tomato seeds were from the big “B” seed company and cost about $0.10 per seed, which is ridicules. If it is a Brandywine Pink, I think I would keep it but it may be a German Johnson, which I did not like. Maybe my daughter who has a large garden will grow it and I can keep some seeds if it is a BP. Some if not all of the big seed companies are having there seeds packaged over seas and I am afraid this will be a common occurrence. Next year, I will be buying very few if any seeds.



As usual, all comments are welcome.    John

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Seedling Update

It has been about four and a half weeks since sprouting for the tomatoes and peppers and five days since repotting. One thing I learned today was you have to be aware of when the auto misters are due to come on. Fortunately, I was using my kick-about camera and not my good one it is waterproof. I am keeping the GH cool and will only turn the heater on when the temperatures go below freezing. I do not want the plants to get leggy before planting in the garden about five weeks from now.


The eggplants did not sprout until about March 20th but they will be fine come planting time.


The Early Girls behind the poinsettia will stay in containers in the garden. However, as soon as the Big Beef toms start to produce the EGs will become compost.



As usual, all comments are welcome.   John

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Inclement weather potting bench

When the weather is bad I move into the GH. I use a shelf extension with a pull out basket attached holding a container to catch the potting soil that I miss getting into the pot. When it’s not needed it is pushed back under the main shelf.

All comments are welcome.       John

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Seedlings Transfered

Well everything planted so far is transferred to the GH to make room for the next go around in the chamber. My assessment so far is; I like the soil blocks and will probably pitch the seed tapes/squares I have made and go with the all soil blocks. I think that I did make a mistake by adding just dries blood though. I was thinking only of the adhesion properties of the DB and not the ‘N’ value. The tomatoes and peppers did not seem to mind but the Cole seedlings went crazy. The Brussels sprouts germinated the second day and by the end of the third day, they were more than an inch tall. I quickly transferred them to the GH and they seemed to cool down. Today, I gave everything a drink of 9-59-8, which should help. I plan to reseed the Brussels but before I do, tomorrow I will make one block out of 100% compost and one out of 100% compost plus wheat flour to see if they hold together. If one or the other is satisfactory, I will go with it. If not I will use the DB and add enough P+K to balance it out.


 The plants in front are the Brussels.



The peppers germinated great and are getting there true leaves. The only ones that did not germinate were “free Midway reds”, which I have had for about three years.


 The tomatoes all sprouted but four or five succumbed to damp off. The rest are doing fine and most are developing there true leaves.


The eggplants are very small yet because I had to remove that flat/Brussels from the heat bed so quickly.



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Composting 2009

I was not planning on Bloging about this today but decided it would be of interest to composters and soon to be composters. I finished shredding yesterday, last falls garden debris along with grass clippings, a few leaves, all the annual flowers, 11 hanging baskets, about 15 rotting pumpkins and 4 bundles of corn with ear corn attached. I thought I would have enough shredded material to fill one of my 3 X 3 X 3 bins and was planning to add some urea to get it to heat up. This morning, about 36-38 HRS after I started shredding, I was going to build my compost pile. To my surprise there was steam vapor coming off like crazy. I think I was grinning from ear to ear. Now I am planning on letting it set until it cools to about 120 DEG then add some urea and fill my bin.


I inserted my compost thermometer and sure enough, it was at 150 deg. I am hoping that, adding the urea and the aeration from filling my bin, it will reach or exceed 165 deg to kill any weed seeds that may be present.


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Baby worms in my soil blocks—-Reprint

Baby worms in my soil blocks is reprinted here with the permission of the author applestar. The post appears in the Composting section of The Helpful Gardener Forum.




Applestar’s post

Early this month, we had daytime high of mid-20’s and enough snow for the schools to close and for my kids to go sledding 3 days after the fall. So when I collected some sifted compost to make seed starting mix, I was just happy the compost pile wasn’t frozen.

About a week ago, I started noticing holes in the side of the soil blocks. Not a whole lot, just one here, one there. This being my first experiment with soil blocks, I didn’t know what to make of it. Then one day, I was re-arranging the soil blocks (yep, my soil blocks are passing the “can you pick it up?” test using a plastic fork to loosen it where it was stuck to the bottom of the tray, and (I must have accidentally stabbed it:roll:  a baby worm wriggled out! 

Like I said, I sifted the compost so I know it wasn’t there before. There must be worm eggs hatching in the warmth of the seed starting area. I’ve found 4 more since then.  Aside from the holes that potentially weaken the blocks, I don’t think they’re doing any harm, and now that I’m looking for them, I’m finding castings among the blocks, so I figure I’m spared the trouble of giving fertilizer to the transplants as they grow. 

BTW, it’s also my first year making home-made seed starting mix with unsterilized compost mix, and so far, it’s working wonderfully. No damping off, no damaged transplants (except those very first trial of 3 brassica seedlings that got eaten by something) It hasn’t happened since. I’m thinking it might have been a mouse in the garage, but I haven’t had any more trouble … possibly because I had my kitties thoroughly explore the garage several times….

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Soil Test

Since I had the core sample, I decided to do a soil test. The test chambers on the left side of the containers are lighter in the photos than they were with the negated eye. I think the light averaging of the camera screwed it up. The Nitrogen test was between N1 and N2, the Phosphorus test was between F2 and F3 and the Potash test was between K0 and K1. I think I will add some 10-10-10 sparingly this year.


The pH test indicated between 6.5 and 7. I also had some pH test paper and it indicated between 6 and 7. I will not do anything for the pH this year.


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SFG core sample

While I could not take, it anymore and just had to see what is going on down there so I took a core sample today. The SFG bed is 8” deep so I cut a piece of 3” drainpipe 8” long and drove it into the bed. I then sliced the drainpipe length wise to free the core. I was not surprised when the top portion just fell apart. I was surprised though when the bottom portion had a smeared surface. It had a good percentage of organic material but there seemed to be a material that was like plain old garden soil. Could it be worm casings?



I broke up part of the bottom portion just to look-see. There were several wormholes that did not show up on photos but they were active. I still cannot believe that they could make that much casing in a year’s time.


 This is a close up of the bottom portion of the core and it almost looks like soil blocks. Does that mean that through time the beds will fill up with worm casings? As usual, all comments are welcome.




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Got Peppers

All of the garden seeds are planted and all of the heated sand bed is occupied. Next will be the posies which I dislike planting because they are so tiny. They are like dust and you cannot plant just one.


About 15 peppers stuck there heads out this morning and when they are all sprouted and develop there second set of leaves, they will be moved to the greenhouse. They have been under the humidity domes for 10 days and you can see they are still very damp.



For seedlings, I like using misters. They do not beat the seedlings down and each mister cover’s app. 24”dia. I have a mister every 12” of shelf length so the coverage overlaps and insured good coverage. After about 2-3 weeks in the greenhouse, I will transplant them in to 4” pots.


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Mother Nature finally relented

Well maybe not with aging but the weather was beautiful. Sixty-five deg f and partly sunny. I was able to get the rest of my apple trees pruned and I am hoping to get them sprayed twice with oil spray before they blossom. She (MN) has not been very kind since early fall, I am hoping she will have a conscience and give us a nice growing season.


 While I was pruning the apple trees, the UPS truck showed up with my block of coco coir and new burners for the BBQ grill. Both will require there own entry for the journal. 


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When I was a cool dude.

Back in 1956, I had just graduated from New Kensington High School. I landed a good high paying job and I bought a brand new Ford Fairlane convertible with a Police Interceptor engine. Man, I was cool. All us cool guys had flattops with a ducktail haircut, wore our collars turned up, wore pegged pants and listened to Elvis. Back then, we walked with a strut not a shuffle. Our pastime consisted of waxing the cars including the engine, drag racing and cruising the local Big Boy hamburger shop looking for quail (chicks). When somebody says remember the good old days, my mind flashes back to this period of time, I wonder why. I was fulfilling my military obligation during the Cuban crises and after that; I spent five years in night school. I looked up one day and I had a wife and four children, driving a station wagon and building a house. What the hell happened? Just recently, I looked up and it happened again, I have a lovely second wife, ten grand children counting step grand children and soon to be a great grandfather. I now drive a pickup truck so I can haul horseshit for the garden. Oh boy, remember the good old days?


My first car


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Hooray hooray—-they are sprouting!! Yipee

I wonder if I could sell these to GNC???



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Happy New Gardening Year

After watching, Granny, EG and Safonian and eating my heart out, it is finally time for me to start my plants. Today I started my peppers:

Ten Big Dipper

Ten Red Bell

Ten Poblano

Five Picante

Five Sweet Bananas

Five Midway Red


The first photo shows the pepper seeds in the little divots. I placed two seeds in each divot, with this being my first time trying soil blocks, I wanted a little safety factor for success.


 The brass acorn nut makes a divot close to ¼” deep, which for most of my plants will be ideal. I filled the divots with fine grind vermiculite.


  I placed the seed flat on a heated bed of sand @ about 80 deg f and placed a humidity dome over it. The air temperature inside of the cabinet ranges from 60-65 deg f during the day and 50-55 deg f at night. Which I think is ideal.

Just a few minutes later, you can see the condensation collecting on the inside of the chamber. It seams that everything is working the way it should. Any way the 2009 growing season is underway and I feel like celebrating.


The humidity dome app. 24 hours later.


If you snap your finger on the dome, the condensation runs down the sides and you can see what is going on inside without opening the dome.



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This is my seed germinating station

This is my seed germinating station. I have room for five standard trays and two half trays. On occasion, I have been known to place two flats on top of the florescent lights also.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe three and one half trays in the center are setting on three ins. of heated sand at 75 DEG F. Once a flat is fully germinated, it will be moved to the GH and one from the right or left will be moved into its place. When all veggies are germinated, then I will start on the wife’s posies.



All flats are empty except for the one on the left setting on the heated sand.


I pored about a quarter cup of water on the bottom for demonstration purposes. The thermometer shows 73 and ½ DEG F and 100% humidity. You can see the condensation draining from the sides back into the bottom of the flat. I do not think I will have to add water until I remove the humidity domes. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

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One down and four to go

One tree is completed but at 34 DEG this morning, I got a late start.  By the end of this week I should be more than half way done. Every thing is on schedule. I am feeling good about this years growing season, And if mother nature coroperates, It should be a very good year.


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Apple Blossum Time

My friend EG reminded me with his journal post yesterday, that I had a lot of work to do before spring gets here. People think that willow trees grow fast, well my apple trees grow many shoots from 6ft to 7ft long every year and they all have to come off. They along with any branches that are crisscrossed or growing back toward the center of the tree will fill my 4ft X 8ft utility trailer twice. The last few years it is a three-day job for me. What is holding me back now is, this morning when I got up, it was eight DEG outside. It is supposed to be in the 40s in a couple of days so I will get a good start on them. I would like to spray them twice with dormant oil spray before green tip. 


This year will be my third year with orchard bees for pollinating. There pollinating activity is like a honeybee on steroids. The second bundle of tubes from the right are completely filled with bees and the first bundle on the right are partially filled tubes. They both went into the fridge yesterday. I will not put them outside until the blossoms show white tip.


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I could not resist posting this

And my wife thinks I get goofy ideas. Actually, they could be some of my relatives. I will let the video speak for it self.


Comments are always welcome.   John

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Gardening Survey


I screwed up and broke the link between the survey and the database located on the host. If I try to reconnect, I may lose all the data. I only received a hand full of votes in as many days out of 165 votes, so I will just let it end here.





What style of garden do you have?

The Traditional row garden replies surprised me; I thought they would be a large majority. In addition, I should have supplied more answers like Wide Row, Lasagna, and container.




Traditional row garden



Raised bed with sides



Square foot garden



None of the above





How long have you been using your current style?

The last answer on this question should have been, More than 10 years.




1 year



2 – 5 years



5 – 10 years



None of the above





What type on media do you use for plant growth?

I think the none of the above replies on this one probably uses lasagna style or a commercial media of some kind.




Traditional garden soil



SFG recommended mix



Modified SFG recommended mix



100% compost



None of the above





How do you prepare the bed for planting?

Some people that responded as none of the above did not think that spading by hand was tilling.




No till just plant



Till in the spring



Till in the spring and fall



None of the above





How do you amend your soil?

The number of organic replies surprised me; also, some do not think fertilizer as being an amendment. I think anything added to anything, is an amendment. 










Combination organic/synthetic



None of the above





 How do you irrigate your garden?

I just asked this one out of curiosity.










I do not irrigate



None of the above





What best describes your over all yield?

I think I asked this one out of devilment since there is no standard to judge by. Data that you can find is usually geared toward the commercial farmer and is very conservative.  




Below average






Above average



None of the above




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Top dressing a raised bed

Having no formal education in gardening I am always questioning what I do. Recently there was a discussion on one of the forums about vermiculite. I do not remember the specifics about the discussion but it led me to this inquiry.

I had sent this email to the Schundler Co. the largest vermiculite/pearlite producer on the east coast.

Hi my name is John and I have used vermiculite extensively in the garden and a hobby greenhouse. I have read that vermiculite does not breakdown do they mean chemically or structurally? After about three years I cannot find any of it. Should I be replacing it after so many years?

This is their response.

It is a “soft” rock which is to say it may have just been crushed to the point that you don’t recognize it.  For aeration and water retention you should replenish it.

Now I get in trouble it got me to thinking. I have put literally tons upon tons of compost on my garden every year for 36 years. After all that time and compost the height of my garden has not changed. This leads me to believe that when compost is totally decomposed it must be about as thick as a layer of dust. Also I have learned that it takes a very long time for peat moss to decompose. Some of my friends from the forums are SFG purest and justly so they use the recommended mix of 1/3 peat 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost with very excellent results. Can I assume if I had a 6” raised bed and filled it with the recommended mix and did not top dress it for 3 to 4 years I would end up with about 2” of peat with just a residue of compost and vermiculite?  If this is true then shouldn’t you top-dress with a mixture of 50% compost and 50% vermiculite and blend/till it with the remaining mix from the previous year to maintain the integrity of the SFG?

Any comments to set my thinking straight would be appreciated


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My largest project this year

My largest project for the year was converting my garden to raised beds. It was time consuming and a good deal of work. About half of the project was completed during the 2007-2008 winter months and the second half after the 2008 growing season. While converting the garden, I was thinking SFGing but have concluded that my garden does not qualify for a SFG since I do not use Mel’s mix, the grid system, companion planting or the plant spacing. What I have is raised beds in a box.

People that say that you cannot grow vegetables in 100% compost have never tried it. I have always used more compost in my gardens than what is recommended but this is the first year for 100% compost. After the growing season, I dug into the beds and the red worms are very active. This photo is during the mid growing season.


In my opinion, Mel’s suggested plant spacing is too congested. A plant’s roots will usually extend in all directions as far as the foliage. If a plant’s foliage is competing for space, then the roots from both plants are competing for the same nutrients. In addition, nobody told the plants, they were supposed to stay inside the box. This photo was also taken during the mid growing season.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cabbage and eggplant were planted one plant per 1.5 squares. Harvest was ½ size compared to my conventional garden. Also with abundant rain every cabbage split, I had this problem before but not to this extent and not with heads this small. The eggplants were 1/2 size and only two eggplants per plant.


Cucumbers did fantastic with conventional spacing exceeding 10# per plant. Photo taken early in the growing season


Zucchini is doing even better; I have picked about 35# per plant at one plant per five squares. Tomatoes have patches of beautiful fruits scattered thought the vines. The Supersteak seems to be more sensitive to the night temperature and we have had some chilly spills off and on thought the summer. Spacing was at five squares per plant. Photo taken mid season


 Potatoes did very well exceeding 1.5# per plant at one plant per square. Next spring I am going to chit my seed spuds so there are only two plants per spud. I hope to get fewer small potatoes and more larger ones. Photos taken early season and after harvest.


Bell Peppers did ok with less than 1# per plant, at one plant per 1-1/3 square. Photo taken early in the season.


Cantaloupe is too early to tell but some nice fruits on the vines. Spacing is one plant per four squares. Harvest was one lope per vine. A waist of time and space. Photo taken early in the season


Salad greens did only average. Photo taken early in season.


Weeds were virtually nonexistent. I pulled less than a coffee can full all year, previously it would have been several 5 Gal. buckets. My biggest contribution to the garden this year was installing an irrigation system.

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We had about 15 – 20 acres of pine trees that the CC boys had planted during the great depression. In addition, because of blight in the NE part of the country, they had to be harvested. Several of them had died already and as a result, we decided to clear-cut the area. Because of the blight, there is so much pine available that the only market is pulpwood for paper products. The good news is since the clear cutting, the area is covered with volunteer Black Cherry and Maple.




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Propagation chamber for Violets


I used two plastic containers that you buy strawberries in. I cut the tops off and hold them together with rubber bands and paper clips. The ventilation slots permit watering from the bottom.


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Compost VS Peat

I have allways started my seeds in a 50/50 mix of vermiculite and peat. This year I had many extra tomatoe seeds and planted them in a flat of 50/50 vermiculite/compost. Next year I will be planting all my seeds in the compost mix.



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Almost finished composting for 2008

About the middle of June, I had one bin full of composted grass and 2007 leaves and the semi-finished compost in two bins on either side. The material in the foreground is wood chip mulch that is going in the first bin on the left. This material along with two loads of composted HM and composted leaves from 2007 went in to my new SFG boxes.


The second bin from the right, is annuals, canna lilies, dahlias, potted plants and of coarse HM.


This is my third load of HM and it is fresh, right out of the horse’s dupa. It will be used for my fall composting. The third bin back, contains the early crops from the garden and the pile of debris in front of the bins is essentially my 2008 garden.


 I shred everything that goes into the compost bin. This debris along with about ½ yd of HM filled the first bin.


 After about three weeks, the three bins had reduced in volume to where I could put the contents of the three bins into two bins. The debris in the foreground is some fall leaves, grass clippings, more cannas, hanging baskets and mums.


At the time of this photo, it was 45 deg and you could see some vapor coming from the piles after composting for three weeks.



Categories: Composting | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My favorite hobby

Gardening has always been my favorite hobby. It was those pesky ancestors that got me started in the first place. I have enjoyed gardening and the thoughts of those ancestors all my adult life. It was gardening that got me browsing the internet for information, where I have met many people and I consider most of them my friends. However, as usual I get too many irons in the fire, epically in the spring and fall of the year. Lately I have been thinking why I started this damn journal in the first place. Well I came up with several answers, to further communicate with my friends, collect all my posts in one location, to get more information and most important ( forgive me friends) to give my grandchildren some insight in to there Pap. Three of four children are gardeners, and I think the fourth will be when he gets his landscaping finished. One of ten grandchildren is married and is a gardener. The rest of the grandchildren are ether too young or single yet and not ready for the domestic life. I am very proud of all of them and the number of gardeners. I hope that one of my descendants will print and save my journal for there descendants to read, although they will probably think, what kind of fruitcake was he? I hope that this winter and next summer, I can devote more time to the journal and not let it become stagnant also in the spring and fall to keep it more current. Thanks for reading.   John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Equipment needed for a meaningful garden ????

Assumptions that I will make are:

(1)   You are a family of four, husband, wife and two children.

(2)   You and/or your wife are employed full time.

(3)   Gardening is a therapy, but you enjoy the benefits of growing your own produce, financially and quality.

(4)   You have space available for gardening activities, including composting.


In my opinion, what you will need is:

(1)   You will need approximately a 20 cubic ft freezer or equivalent Ball/Mason jars and associated equipment.

(2)    I assume that you have two vehicles. One should be a pick-up truck or at least one should be equipped for towing a utility trailer. To be used for transporting,  free compost, manures (horse boarding, racetrack or zoos, to name a few?) or removing unwanted debris (should be minimal).

(3)    My boss when I was employed once asked me, when vegetables were so cheap, why did I bother gardening? My reply was, every time I pulled a weed, I thought of him (he did not know it at the time, but I was being truthful).  If you use the price/lb for any vegetable at the produce dept, I would save enough from the harvest from one vegetable to pay for the seeds and fertilizer for the entire garden. In addition, mine looked better and had much better taste.

(4)   In my opinion, If you use SFGing style, you will need app. an area about 20’ X  70’ for a family of four for a full years worth of vegetables. Also an area about 10’X 50’ for composting, based on a ½ acre lot with an average amount of garden, landscaping and trees. This area could very greatly based on the vegetables you decide to grow.


A few people tend to over complicate gardening. In addition, I think that many of them never did any gardening they just read textbooks. They are probably turning many young people off from gardening by there implied complexity. I strongly believe in NIKE’S slogan “Just Do It” and any corrections should be small. Also, keep checking the many gardening forums for help.


Any comments, additions or corrections, positive or negative will be appreciated.


Thanks, John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , | 11 Comments

2008 a Year full of promise and disappointment for gardening.

By early spring, the first stage of converting my conventional garden to SFG was complete. The orchard bees are doing a fantastic job at pollinating the apple blossoms, the cool season crops have been planted, nice warm spring, perfect rains and no late frost, wow what a year it is going to be. By mid May, still have perfect gardening weather all crops are planted and growing gangbusters, harvesting some salad greens and spending early mornings, sitting on the back porch, drinking coffee and admiring my handy work. From the beginning of June until mid July, the weather is unseasonably cool and way too much rain but the garden seems to be doing well, lots of blossoms and young veggies. From mid July until now Sept 09, it has been hot and windy with two drizzles, less than 0.1ins. I have an irrigation system in place but only to supplement Mother Nature not to replace her. My sewage bill is tied to my water bill and the cost is prohibitive. No new blossoms or young veggies and harvest has been average at best and almost all apples have dropped. Oh well I will get an early start at composting and converting the rest of my garden to SFG. Gee I can’t wait for spring.