Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oh, the weather...

I spoke with a friend in Blowing Rock, NC Tuesday morning.  She said they only had about 6 inches of snow.  Later in the day Julie Morgan sent me a picture that her daughter in Banner Elk had sent her.  Banner Elk is about 20 miles from Blowing Rock.  Looks like the BE side of the mountains got slammed!

Stop the Snow!

My husband's partners on the New Jersey and Maryland coast sent these photos.

Anthony's street on the coast of New Jersey

Pat's back yard on Chesapeake Bay

I hated to tell my friend that our day here was a perfect autumn day!  We should count our blessings.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tiffany Inspirations

Yesterday evening MAMG collaborated with Brooks Museum of Art in a wreath-making workshop.  Twenty-five wonderfully creative folks gathered to make wreaths inspired by Tiffany lamps.  We started with champagne, fruit and cheese, and conversation, then got to work!

Everyone used a design by Jean Ward-Jones and Martha Montesi as a starting point...

...but every wreath created last night was unique.

We even had one guy!

Henry & Amanda Gotten
Daughter Emily Percer & mother Susan Greenberg (sorry for the bad photo!)
We all had a great time!  Thank you, Brooks, for letting us do this with you!  And thank you to the Master Gardeners who participated:  Jean Ward-Jones, Anne Krekelberg, Julie Morgan, Genie Ashworth, and Suzanne Allen.  Dina Martin provided lots of magnolia leaves and buds, thanks to her and to her boys!  Martha Montesi and Donna Olswing provided additional design consultation.

Be sure to visit the Brooks and see The Brilliance of Tiffany:  Lamps from the Neustadt Collection.  It's stunning.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We Already Knew That, Dude


This Sunday's New York Times had an interesting article by Mark Bittman.  A Simple Fix for Farming reports the results of a study begun in 2003 on 22 acres owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm.  The researchers set up three plots:  one alternated between corn and soybeans; one was  planted on a three-year cycle that included oats; one was one a four-year cycle that included alfalfa.  The longer cycles integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer.  In Mr. Bittman's words:

The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.

As always, there are two sides to story, though.  Read the comments that accompany the article.  What do you think?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Moon & Stars Watermelon

Cooking Light magazine is celebrating 25 years with the Nov 2012 issue and it's chock full of their best recipes and interesting facts.  One thing that I didn't know:  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, where we purchased our seeds for Long of Naples squash, was started in 1998 by a 17 year old, Jere Gettle.  Dang, 17 years old!  I won't tell you what I was doing at age 17...

But the article was really talking about the upsurge in heirloom seeds and seed-saving in general.  Baker Creek now mails more than 300,000 spring catalogs!  The Seed Savers Exchange has brought many, many old fruits and vegetables back from near extinction, including the Moon & Stars Watermelon, snatched from limbo in the backyard garden of a Missouri farmer in 1980.

Isn't this so cool?  The skin has little yellow speckles plus one larger yellow dot - and so does the foliage!

I wish I could link you to the Cooking Light article, but I couldn't find a link.  You'll just have to go buy the issue!  Another incentive:  I made the Loaded Potato Soup for dinner last night and it was super fast, super easy, and super good!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dianne Shows Us How - Part III

Part III of Dianne's demonstration to a group of friends about how she gardens.  Find Part I and Part II. You can follow all of Dianne's stories by searching "Dianne's Journey" in the blog search box to the right.

Dianne made bookmarks for everyone!
I wanted us to harvest some things and then cut the okra and plant some lettuce. But since we got rained out, I did it later. Below are pictures of the harvest and the lettuce planting….and the first snow pea blossom. Now that the okra is out, the snow peas and peppers won't be so stifled. I only planted 5 lettuce today because I wasn't sure if the pill bugs were done munching. I haven't seen as many since it turned colder. In the words of Gilda Radner…."it's always something!"

The harvest

Lettuce peeping up

First snow pea blossom!
Another thing about squirrels I forgot to mention. I've been picking the tomatoes when they first start to turn red and let them ripen on the counter. I figure if the squirrels don't see nice red tomatoes, they won't be tempted. No critter seems to like the peppers, so I let them get red on the vine.

Here's picture of the pesto we made.  Find the recipe here.

Pesto, pesto, pesto!

Okay, I guess that's it. I really enjoyed our time together and hope we can do it again.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dianne Shows Us How - Part II

Continuing our recap of Dianne's demonstration to a group of friends about how she gardens.  Find Part I here.  Part III to come...

I heard about Square Foot Gardening and thought I'd try it.  I use twine to mark off squares of one foot in the beds.

Note the twine
I sort of like the measurements, but a lot of time the twine just gets in the way. I'm leaving it there though, as it may be deterring the squirrels. I guess I could try not putting twine on the new one and see if it matters.

I made up this grid that I use for planning and recording what I do in each bed.  I note what I planted and when and then try to keep notes about production and problems.  This one is titled "Spring," but you can make up your own for each season.

You should follow directions on the seed packet (or research on the Web) about how to plant your seeds.  Or if you're planting starter plants, in general plant them at the same depth as they are in the cell pack.  The exception would be tomatoes, which you plant deeper so that part of the stem is underground.  If you've followed the instructions about how to set up your raised bed, there's no need to add additional fertilizers at this time.  Having said that, it's always a good idea to do a soil test, just in case.  It's easy to do.  There are kits at local garden stores, or you can send a sample to the UT Agricultural Extension Office.  Instructions for the latter are here.

After planting, just wait and watch.  When you have a garden, it's good to check it every day.  That way you can nip problems in the bud, so to speak(!), before they have a chance to take over.  Things are going to happen that you have no idea what they are or how to treat them. Believe me.  So go to your trusty computer and do some research.  Take a picture and post it on the MAMG Facebook page and ask for help.  Call the MAMG hotline at 901-752-1207 and ask a Master Gardener for help.

Here's my recipe for an organic insect/disease killer:

     1 Tablespoon Neem
     1 Tablespoon bt (the brand I use is Thuricide by Hi-Yield)
     1 Tablespoon liquid seaweed

Mix above in one gallon of water and spray on plants.  You'll want to spray again after a rain.

This brings up a salient point:  watering.  It's best to have a drip irrigation system that delivers water to the base of the plants.  Wetting the foliage just brings on lots of problems.  How often do you water?  Great question!  You have to weigh a lot of factors.  Temperature, amount and timing of sunlight, rainfall - these all must be taken into consideration when deciding on your watering schedule.  It's more art than science and you'll have to experiment.

A great book
I don't think I mentioned before that I have found this book to be a great resource.  The Tennessee Fruit and Vegetable Book by Felder Rushing and Walter Reeves is out of print now, but you can probably find it at Amazon or eBay.  Suzanne found a copy on the Barnes and Noble site for about $13.  I got mine at a garage sale (for much less!)


Monday, October 15, 2012

Dianne Shows us How - Part I

Gardening in pots
On a recent Saturday, Dianne gathered a group of friends and neighbors to demonstrate how she constructs a raised bed and how she starts and nurtures her garden. Today's post will show how to build the bed itself.  Later this week we'll cover planting and caring for the plants.  

Hi everyone, it was a great time today. I'm still thinking of things I should have said, but I guess everything I've been learning for the past almost 2 years can't all be passed on in 2 hours!!

Here is a link to the raised bed instructions.  I appreciate everyone's help with my new one!  Suzanne photographed us as we went about putting it together.  

An overview

Placing cardboard beneath the frame

Cardboard complete

Layering bagged topsoil, shredded leaves, shredded newspaper

Always end with topsoil

Cover with bird netting to keep squirrels from burying nuts which they will later come to dig up!

Just keep adding layers throughout the fall and winter.  As the materials decompose, the level in the bed will sink and you'll have plenty of room.  I also threw in some alfalfa pellets, but that's not really necessary.  By early next spring you'll be ready to plant!

But if  you want to start gardening this fall, start with just some pots.  I use this recipe for my potting soil:

        2 parts soil conditioner
        1 part builders' sand (I'm going to use less next time)
        1 part Perlite
        1 part Black Kow

Go ahead and try some lettuce. Cover it over when you are going to get some damaging frost, but you can just keep cutting and it will grow back. Don't have to worry about bugs or disease in the cool weather. Go ahead and plant some cilantro. It should go all winter--die back when it gets real cold, but then spring back when the weather warms a little. It will go to seed around May or June, and then come back in the fall if seeds are allowed to germinate where they drop. Don't forget the garlic. Put it in your flowerbed if you have some space. It doesn't take a lot of room. The problem is where to get lettuce and cilantro seeds this time of year. You might try the seed stores or places like Stewart's or Germantown Hardware. Whole Foods usually has seeds all the time, although it tends to get picked over by this time. Also mail order, but that gets kind of costly for just a pack or two with shipping and all. The two seed stores in Collierville are Russell's and Hall's. Check them out. It's fun just wandering around and looking at the stuff.

Prolific peppers
I have my trusted web sites.  Cornell has a lot of good info, and the UT site may not have as much, but is specific to this region.  Use the search boxes on these links for topics of interest, or just search for 'vegetables.'  Weekend Gardener is one I just found, and has a lot of good info. Gardening is all over the Internet. Check out some You Tube videos that show you how to do almost anything. You can kind of tell the people who know what they are doing…but there is also some not so good info out there.  When in doubt, consult a university source.

And, don't forget the Memphis Area Master Gardeners website…Like MAMG on Facebook too.

Remember, start small and keep it manageable.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Even I would like to live in this chicken coop!

Everyone knows I love chickens and I want some soooo bad!  Unfortunately, I'll need a new house for myself before I can have a hen house like this one in the Neiman Marcus 2012 gift guide.  Boo hoo.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Eagle Scout Project at PAR Davies

Digging the trench
Andrew Bryant is an Eagle Scout candidate from Scout Troop 358, sponsored by Farmington Presbyterian Church.  He and his fellow Scouts have been working at PAR Davies recently doing much-needed upgrade projects:  extending the drip irrigation system and replacing the wood in several beds with concrete blocks.  Andrew did all the project planning: logistics, cost analysis, safety and hazard considerations, scheduling, and step-by-step work processes.  He led his hard-working teams during installation over several days.  

We should also mention that this Scout troop has volunteered in the garden often, doing heavy lifting that is certainly beyond me, at least.

What a pleasure to work with such good young men!  Thank you so, so much!  

More pictures...

More digging

Burying the pipe

Transporting concrete blocks

Don't the new beds look great?

And I can't resist pictures of the fall garden!

Monday, October 8, 2012

PAR Davies Update 10/4/12

The experimental garden - all coming in!
Radishes with tiny kohlrabi between the rows

Another great morning in the garden this Thursday. It is so encouraging to see how great everything is doing. The team this morning was Bob, Jamie, Don, Cathy and myself. There was a harvest of 70.3 lbs, mostly greens. We also picked pole beans, basil and peppers. Don came prepared to deliver the produce, but I felt it would be better to have Cathy take it rather than a man. But it was nice of him to offer. 

Greens, green, and more greens!
The area where the okra and peppers were pulled up is waiting to be transformed into the cement block beds. Do we want to plant some more greens is this area when it is ready….mustard, kale or lettuce? Or do you all think it is too late? We could for sure get a crop of radishes yet. I just hate to see it sit there when it could be growing something.

Our new strawberry bed

I added a bag of Black Kow to the small bed in the corner,   and then transplanted all the strawberry plants. I will add the straw mulch next week once they are settled in. They have lots of runners and new little plants. I thought since we don't have plans for expanding the strawberry bed, we could pot up the little plants next spring for handouts. I planted all the empty pots with mustard greens.

The guys hauled some of the compost to amend the in-ground bed.
Dark, rich compost
Next week I think we will be able to harvest the butter beans, lettuce, radishes, more pole beans and greens.

Onions and Dixie Speckled Butter Beans

One of the cabbage beds

I am starting the herb bed (the square foot area). I have some chives that need to be divided, so I will bring a clump. If anyone has any perennial herbs they want to share, feel free.


Friday, October 5, 2012

The best red maple for fall color

Acer rubrum Red Sunset®

The oaks and hickories that dominate the tree canopy in West Tennessee provide various shades of yellow and rich browns in autumn. Species with orange and red fall foliage offer striking accents to this color palette. 

According to Michael Dirr, Acer rubrum Red Sunset ®, is one of the best species for “orange to red fall color.”  The glossy green summer foliage begins to turn to brilliant red by mid-October. Throughout the year this tree is a landscape asset. As it ages, the smooth gray bark becomes darker and develops ridges. In the spring the samaras are a favorite of birds and squirrels.  The University of Florida Extension recommends it as “well suited for the south.”

The Acer rubrum Red Sunset® is a fast growing pyramidal to oval shaped tree that can reach 40-50 ft. with a 30-40 ft. spread. This low maintenance tree well suited to parks and makes an excellent specimen tree for lawns. Since it prefers moist sites, both UT and Missouri Botanical Garden endorse Acer rubrum Red Sunset® for rain gardens and bioswales.

--Jan Castillo

(Note:  the photo was taken at Memphis Botanic Garden, northwest of the parking area.)