Archive for October, 2007

A T-post Post

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

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T-posts are everywhere in my garden. They are indispensable fixtures in the system I’ve developed. They hold up my tomato cages. I make a little corral with T-posts and jute to keep the corn from blowing over. In the north beds where I have a permanent planting of asparagus, a T-post corral keeps the fronds from falling into the paths. I trellis melons and peas with T-posts and fencing.

For the last three years I’ve put a fence around the entire south garden to keep the deer out. When we had dogs outside, deer were not an issue, but without a dog on patrol, Bambi gets brash. The fence is 6 1/2 feet tall and it works.

I use 90 inch-posts for everything. Next season I’m thinking of getting some shorter posts for the tomato beds, The 90 inch posts are overkill there. Then again, that would be another inventory item, so maybe not. I get my posts from a local (Madison, WI) store called Blain’s Farm & Fleet. They sell good quality posts, unlike some of the flimsier ones I’ve seen at their local big box competitors. Good T-posts are close to indestructible and cost almost no more than the cheap ones. It irritates me that a store would even sell inferior grades.

Yesterday, I finished taking down the fence around the south garden. A T-post puller makes removing the posts easy work. As you might be able to see in the picture, the garden is a weedy mess. I’ve spent too much time on the road and galinsoga, foxtail, dandelion, tansy, chickweed and a dozen other weeds have carpeted much of wherever there was not a crop growing.

I’ve started scuffling off the paths with my CobraHead Long Handle. I’m pretty sure I can get back on top of the weed situation during the month of November. Last year I had my garden close to weed free and covered under a mulch of leaves by the first week of December. That will be a goal for the coming month.

Garlic Under Straw

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

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I got my garlic in yesterday. I’m happy when I get my garlic planted in October. Some years that doesn’t happen. I’ve planted garlic in April and still had a nice harvest, but the bulbs were smaller. One year I planted in December. I had to break through frosted ground to get the cloves in. They produced very well. But when I get them planted in October, the garlic starts sprouting over the winter and I almost always get a good harvest. I also feel that getting the garlic set in October is a measure of a good start on getting the beds ready for winter.

The top photo shows the bed ready to be planted. I use the CobraHead Long Handle to soften the soil of an already prepared bed. I use a square concrete trowel and steel tined rake to make the three peaks, and two valleys out of a regular bed. After the bed is planted, it is covered with straw to give the garlic a warm blanket to insulate it from the hard winter freeze.

I learned this method from my son Geoff who learned it from a professional gardener named Bruce Blevins. I plant the cloves on 6″ centers. The three rows of this approximately 20 x 3 foot bed hold just over one hundred cloves. I’ll pull the straw away from the soil once or twice during the winter to help keep it dryer. Unless it gets snow covered or frozen in.

In the spring I’ll start peeling back the straw as things thaw out to let the beds warm up. The slopes and valleys between and outside the garlic will be planted with greens such as spinach, lettuce and cilantro.

Martha's Gravatar I’m surprised that you put straw on your garlic before a freeze
in Northern California.
Here we put the straw on after a freeze and it only
stopped being 80-degrees two weeks ago!
Martha in Muskogee OK zone 7a
# Posted By Martha | 11/5/07 4:56 PM
Noel's Gravatar Martha, thanks for the comment. However, we aren’t in northern CA, we’re in southern WI. It hailed today, low tonight of 30 and we’ve had a few hard frosts already. Definitely cold enough to put the garlic under wraps.
# Posted By Noel | 11/5/07 5:14 PM

CobraHead Cleans Up at Rotary Gardens!

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

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“Hi Noel, Hope all is well. I saw you up in Eau Claire a couple weeks ago but didn’t get a chance to say ‘hi’. See enclosed photo (use it if you like) of our volunteer with a CobraHead. We used them to clear out old sand between our bluestone patios so we could replace with fresh stuff. Worked great! Take care! Sincerely, Mark Dwyer”

We got the above photo and message this morning from Mark Dwyer, the Director of Horticulture at Rotary Gardens in nearby Janesville, Wisconsin. Mark is a CobraHead fan, for which we are very grateful.

If you are not familiar with Rotary Gardens, it is an excellent example of turning a wasteland into something beautiful. The gardens operate on a very small budget and use lots of volunteers. They offer visitors a beautiful and tranquil experience.

One of the ways Rotary Gardens raises money is to rent out the grounds and main hall for weddings and other functions. It was for a wedding, that of my daughter’s best friend Kelly, that I first saw Rotary Gardens.

It’s definitely worth a visit.

If anyone out there has unique or interesting uses for the CobraHead, we’d love to hear from you.

Small Changes Can Help Make a Big Difference

Monday, October 15th, 2007

I travel quite a bit for work. It can get pretty tiring, but most of the time I really enjoy it. Drinking a lot of tea is one of the ways I try to keep from getting too worn down.

I learned fairly quickly that there’s no guarantee that the airport, hotel and convention center coffee bars will have decent tea (if they have it at all), so I started bringing my own tea when I travel. Usually I go for oolong and green teas, but I also try to have various herbal blends so I don’t get too wired later in the day. Another thing I started bringing with me was a nice travel mug. I had wanted one of my own for quite some time (the rest of the travel mugs in my house taste like coffee). What really sealed the deal for me was when someone tried to serve me a nice chamomile tea in a big ol’ styrofoam cup. Yep, there are places out there that still use styrofoam. I’d rather have no tea at all than drink it out of styrofoam, so it was shortly after that I found a nice stainless steel travel mug that seals and won’t spill when I close it.

A few months later I started getting pretty fed up with all the bottled water I was consuming while traveling. First of all, it’s way overpriced. Three dollars for a pint of water?! Also, I kept hearing more and more negative things about bottled water. In most cases, it’s not any cleaner or safer for you than regular tap water. In some cases, it is just regular tap water. Plus, there is quite a bit of evidence out there that drinking from a plastic container is not good for your health. Harmful chemicals like phthalates can leach out of the plastic and into liquids. And to top everything off, plastic bottles are not as recyclable as people may think. Many of them still end up in landfills. When you think of all the energy that went into making that bottle only to see it used once and discarded, it’s pretty disheartening. An alternative I found is the Kleen Kanteen. It’s a stainless steel reusable water bottle that won’t leach harmful chemicals. I got mine from, a great website featuring organic and all natural pet toys, treats and accessories.

Now when I travel, I keep single-use cups and bottles to an absolute minimum. I fill my water bottle at drinking fountains (bubblers if you’re from Wisconsin), and I make sure to use my own mug for tea whenever possible. It may seem like a small thing in the scary world of global warming and big polluters, but imagine if everyone stopped using single-use items like paper cups, plastic bottles and other plastic foodware. Imagine all the energy that would be saved and all the landfill space that would be spared.

Bloggers Unite – Blog Action Day

Anyone for Squash?

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Our gardens are suffering some neglect as we’ve all been doing a lot of time on the road. After almost a week at the Garden Writers Conference in Oklahoma City, we came back to find several yellow summer squash a little past their best picking date, but still quite edible.

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The red kuri and the huge sweet dumplings came from seed saved from store bought squash. The rest were from packaged seed. In addition to the winter squash shown in the picture, we have three decent sized Hubbards still growing in the garden along with a couple of Waltham butternuts, including one huge butternut that I hope will prove to be as good as it looks.

I’ve had my share of problems with squash. Squash vine borers and squash bugs have taken hours of my time in trying killing them and hilling up the vines damaged by borers so the weakened plants can re-root.

This year the squash was very low maintenance. We started it pretty late and put it in a north bed that had been fallow for a couple years. Luckily the warm fall allowed all the squash to mature despite the late start and we were rewarded with an extremely healthy and nearly pest free crop.

Winter squash stores nicely and is among the most healthful foods out there, so we can expect to be eating home grown fiber, vitamin A, and beta-carotene well into spring.

Upcoming Events

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

This weekend (October 6 & 7) Geoff and I will be in Washington D.C. for the Washington DC Green Festival. If you’re able to make it, please stop by booth 1034 in the Washington D.C. Convention center and say hello! The Green Festival is a fun and inspiring event sponsored by Co-op America. The festival will feature organic, fair trade, socially responsible and recycled products, as well as live music, visionary speakers and “green” films. This will be my first visit back to DC since my 8th grade field trip, so I’m pretty excited to be going.

On October 15, we will be participating in Blog Action Day. Thousands of blogs and websites will unite and post about the environment in their own way. Being that our blog is about gardening, an inherently environmental topic, it was only natural that we would join the discussion.

Bloggers Unite – Blog Action Day