Archive for August, 2010


Upcoming Events

August 31, 2010

A list of things to do in September is now posted under “Events.”


Vegetable Families

August 30, 2010


Below are several basic vegetable families. For best results grow and rotate each family together. They use the soil in comparable ways and share similar pests. 

Brassicas (cabbage family; sow on soil previously used for beans and peas): Broccoli | Brussels sprouts | all varieties of cabbage | kohl rabi | cauliflower | kale | mizuna | pak choi | radish | arugula | rutabaga | turnip

Legumes (bean and pea family): Snap peas | peas | bush | pole | lima | fava and dry beans

Solanaceae (potato and tomato family; grow with organic matter, as these are heavy feeders.): Eggplant | potato | tomato | peppers

Alliums (onion family; if planting in soils with lots of organic matter make sure it’s decomposed.):  Garlic, all varieties of onion, shallot, chive, leek

Umbeliferae (carrot and root family; for sweeter carrots grow during the winter then harvest in the spring.):  Celery | celeriac | cilantro | fennel | carrot | parsnip | parsley | dill

Cucurbits (squash and marrow family; heavy feeders so add organic matter to soil before planting.):  Summer and Winter squash | cucumber | melon | pumpkin 

Chenopodiaceae (beet family):  Swiss chard | spinach | beet 

Miscellaneous:  All fruit | mint | oregano | rosemary | sage| basil | lettuce | endive | cress | Jerusalem artichoke | corn | okra | corn salad | chicory Note: 

Don’t sow root vegetables in heavily fertilized soil. This will cause lush foliage and less root growth. 





Crop Rotation

August 27, 2010

Now that it’s time to plant cool-season vegetables, this is a good opportunity to start practicing crop rotation for healthy plants and soil. Let’s look at the benefits of crop rotation.

1)  Help control disease and insects. For example, if you plant zucchini (or any annual vegetable) in the same place each year and the zucchini plant becomes infected with disease-causing agents, repeatedly, it will develop in the soil. Rotating your veggies will help prevent any disease buildup. This does take some planning and basic awareness of planting/rotating vegetable families together. (Monday’s post will cover vegetable families.)

2)  Increase soil fertility and crop yield. Some plants deplete the soil while others add nutrients. Alternating plants will reduce the soil’s need for chemical fertilizers. By giving back what one plant steals from the soil your crops will receive nutrients needed to produce a good yield.

3)  Opportunity to correct mistakes. Looking closer at your layout can help reduce problems like overcrowding, or planting heavy feeders twice in the same area leaving the soil depleted of nutrients.

4)  Give your garden a new appearance. Let’s face it we all get bored. Spicing things up with creative rotation will give you a new lease on gardening.

If you’re fortunate to have a large area and/or raised beds, the ideal method is to divide your plot into four sections, A, B, C, and D. (It’s always fun to name them after your children or grandchildren.) One area or raised bed for example could contain perennial vegetables like asparagus, artichokes, and rhubarb. The other three areas would contain annual vegetable families. Every year, each vegetable family rotates together so that they’re not in the same site within a four-year period. If you don’t have perennial vegetables, let one area’s soil rest or fallow for a season or longer. If cats are a problem, cover the soil with a layer of straw.

To keep track of what you grew and where, record the information in a notepad. Recording crop rotation can be as simple or as detailed as you want. Some gardeners like to make a list of each area; others prefer to draw a diagram with detailed rows and plant names along with other details. Find a system that works for you. Once you get into the habit of this, you’ll find the planning process less time-consuming.

Whether or not you have the ideal landscape, whatever measure you are able to rotate crops it will be beneficial to them.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Budding Garden Thoughts

August 25, 2010 Registered & Protected


“God has given to me

soil and seed . . .

how could I not

plant an Eden.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Good Guys and Gals in the Garden

August 24, 2010

Read the rest of this entry ?


Jump Start your Garden with a Cold Frame

August 23, 2010 Registered & Protected

As I was thinking about different options on what to share with you today, I decided on cold frames. Since it’s time to begin fall planting, give or take a few weeks depending on where you live, this is a good alternative to indoor seed-sowing issues, like space for shelves, lighting, etc.

Cold frames are bottomless, sloped greenhouses on a much smaller scale, with four sides and a clear lid (glass, fiberglass, heavy plastic, or frost cloth) that opens for ventilation, and gardening. A typical frame is about 3 x 6 feet with an 18-inch back and a 12-inch front wall. You can purchase a kit, or make your own from scrap wood by using the instructions at,

The function of a cold frame is to protect plants against harsh weather. If you don’t have the time or means to make a four-sided cold frame, an A-frame will work. (If using old windows, as seen in the photo, be sure to safely remove all lead-base paint that could chip and peal.) Place both structures on level soil, in a raised bed or directly on the ground. To keep critters out of raised beds secure a sheet of half-inch galvanized wire on the bottom.

Because the ground is cold, it needs insulating. The easiest and most economical source is a thick layer of compacted straw under the planting soil. For extra insulation, mound straw or soil around the outside bottom edges of your cold frame. The straw will rot and can be recycled in the compost bin after use. On nights with extreme cold, cover the lid with blankets.

Whichever structure you choose, it needs six hours of sunlight to collect and retain solar heat. Although the accumulated heat protects the plants from frost damage (and promotes germination and growth), be sure to prop the lid on sunny days or the interior will get too hot beneath the solar-heated lid. The ends of a cold frame should face south and east, with the back wall standing at the northern edge. Choose a site close to the house or kitchen (you’ll appreciate this on winter days, especially if you live in snow country), with a nearby faucet for watering and power if using heating cables, mostly needed in colder regions of the country. Other cold frame uses include:

  • Growing lettuce and radishes 
  • Root cuttings of some woody plants
  • Early start for warm-season vegetables
  • Force bulbs and other flowering plants early
  • Shelters tender perennials as they “harden off”*
  • Aids early spring seedlings as they “harden off”*
  • Protects small potted plants from severe weather

Other cold frame benefits:

  • Suitable for small landscapes
  • Quick & easy weekend project
  • More economical than a greenhouse

*Gradual exposure to light and temperature changes before transplanting.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Summer to Fall: making the garden transition

August 20, 2010

Since the weather has turned cold in the evenings and early mornings, vegetable yield and maturity has slowed down. The plants have lost their healthy charm and now look frail and tired with a dying-off appearance. A new season is coming.

As I reflect on this summer’s crop I review it with disappointment. The raised bed that my husband built appeared large, and it is for a raised bed (4 x 22 feet). However, after gardening in it for the first time, I find the space insufficient for what I wanted. The melons took up half the bed and the zucchini plant covered a 6 x 8-foot area. There wasn’t room to grow carrots, radishes, Brussels sprouts, herbs, mush melons, or a succession of fresh salad greens. No space for corn and not even an inch to plug in sweet potatoes for a November harvest. (They require fours months to mature.)

Although I was hoping for more crop variety, preserving again wasn’t part of the plan, just a modest array to feed two adults with a little excess to share. There’s plenty of ground to direct grow, but I prefer the raised-bed method, and right now, I have only one. For a short period, a surplus of zucchini filled the refrigerator trays. The zucchini and three wonderful watermelons, one cantaloupe, a few green beans, cherry tomatoes, and eggplants sum up this year’s summer harvest.

There were other problems to take into account for the modest yield:  Planting a month late, and an unusual weather pattern. The lettuce crop and a tomato plant were lost to insect and disease, cantaloupe to voles, and the cucumbers to overcrowding. If a pest hasn’t wiped out a vegetable plant, critters and disease will. The odds just seemed to be against my little veggie patch this year.

Next summer will be better. A new season is coming.


Budding Garden Thoughts

August 19, 2010 Registered & Protected


“Preserve a blossom

 . . . keep a memory.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Managing Pests in the Garden

August 18, 2010

Lately, there’s been more action in and around my garden than I care to have. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy activity, positive changes, and the challenging journeys that gardening and country life sometimes take me on. It’s the damages and losses (even near losses) that I don’t cotton too. Here’s what’s been happening.

In the vegetable bed, voles have devoured two cantaloupes, one ready to harvest and the other green as grass. Voles run above ground on the paths they’ve created between holes. I placed two mousetraps and four glue traps on the running trails. If you place two traps back-to-back on the paths, you’re bound to capture one. So far, I’ve caught four. I plunked a blend of peanut butter and oatmeal on each, although a small piece of spearmint gum seems to attract them better. Ralphie, however, is also attracted to the gum, not the peanut butter, so I have to go with the latter.

The vole number is low so far. When hundreds of voles invade a garden or raised bed like my neighbor (or as I’ve experienced before), there’s not much you can do. I’m hoping this year’s vole litter in my garden isn’t a prelude to next year’s over breeding.

I’ve heard some master gardeners say pouring a mix of plaster of Paris and oatmeal down the opening works well. The voles, supposedly, eat it and die.

In addition to voles, it seems that I now have to be watchful of coyotes. Around 3:30 in the afternoon, a coyote tried to take my hens hostage. Ralphie and I just happened to be in the hammock, a few feet away, when we heard the ladies squawking frightfully. Between Ralphie’s barking and my yelling, the coyote fled silently without bloodshed, not even a nugget of country chicken. Thank heaven. (I also have to stay extra close to Ralphie now when he’s outside.)

A lot of dust and feathers flew overhead as the ladies ran for cover. I counted hens (all present, unharmed) and consoled them with a reassuring voice. The next morning, when I checked the mousetraps, one was gone. If triggered, mousetraps can fly a distance. This one, however, had vanished. I imagine it tangling on the nose of a sore loser, the coyote.

Here are some tips to help you decide who’s tunneling in your beds:

Vole:  Diet consists of vegetation, roots, and grass. Creates several open holes within a small area with above-ground trails between them.

Mole:  Diet consists mainly of earthworms and insects. Creates horseshoe-shape mound around the hole.

Gopher: Destroys roots while digging for food. Uproots and eats vegetation including tree roots, flower roots, and bulbs. Creates a round mount with hole in center.


My Experience Canning Pepper Jelly

August 17, 2010

Written by Valerie Halloran 

This year I decided to grow green peppers to make my green pepper jelly with some extra to sell at a Christmas boutique in which I participate. I planted twelve plants and they are producing well. I rounded up my mother and father’s old blue canner. Keep in mind I have not canned for about 25 years. I had given all my canning jars away thinking I would not be canning again.  

I bought small canning jars with lids, cheesecloth, and ingredients. I got up that morning and was prepared to have jars of jelly by afternoon. I had been choosing between two recipes but evidently not reading them too carefully, I might add. The one I decided to make, I now noticed, had to sit in the refrigerator all night after being pureed in my food processor and be strained the next day through cheesecloth. This would produce six
half-pint jars.

The next morning, after cutting the cheesecloth, I got the big bowl of green juice and pulp out of the fridge and, with my husband pouring, I squished it so the juice ran through the cheesecloth and into the pot. I added the rest of the ingredients. 

A new problem arose. I needed three burners and only had two. I needed one for the canner, one for the jar and lid sterilization and one for heating my pepper mixture. Two big pots do not fit well on my two burners. The front pot hangs over a bit. A lot of juggling of these three pots took place. Luckily, I had my husband to lift the heavy canner from here to there as needed. A lot of walking back and forth by me to check the recipe and the canning instructions. Which pot was to simmer and which was to boil and how long. I must have returned to the canning book four times to look at the two different pages. I was wondering about my short-term memory at that point. 

The four cups of juice took a long time to boil after the sugar was added. Contributing to that was probably the fact that a fourth of the pot was not exactly centered on the burner. The huge canner was behind it and taking up too much room. Finally, it boiled and I poured the mixture into hot jars, covered them with lids, and put them in the canner for ten minutes. If I counted the time and effort—the hours of watering the pepper plants, preparation, processing, supplies and ingredients, these small jars of pepper jelly would be invaluable. 

Green Pepper Jelly 

Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving 2010  

  • 7 sweet green peppers
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1 ½ cups cider vinegar, divided
  • 1 ½ cups apple juice
  • 1 package powdered pectin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups sugar
  • Green food coloring (optional)

To prepare juice:  Wash peppers; remove stems and seeds. Cut peppers into ½-inch pieces. Puree half the peppers and ¾-cup vinegar in a food processor or blender. Puree remaining peppers and vinegar. Combine purée and apple juice in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Strain pureed mixture through a damp jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Measure 4 cups juice. Add additional apple juice to make 4 cups, if needed. 

To make jelly:  Combine juice, powdered pectin, and salt in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Stir in a few drops of food coloring, if desired. Ladle hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. 

Recipe variation:  Substitute sweet red, orange, or yellow peppers and red, orange or yellow food coloring for sweet green peppers and green food coloring. 

Note:  When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.

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