Archive for the ‘Vegetable Growing’ Category

The Wellness Garden by Shawna Coronado

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Gardening is excellent physical and spiritual activity. Most who garden, love it and need it, but what would you do if pain or restricted movement from a debilitating disease were forcing you to give up gardening and your garden? Shawna Coronado found herself in that situation when she was diagnosed with degenerative osteoarthritis. Shawna was already an established garden writer and well-known gardening spokesperson when she came close to giving up gardening with the onset of this painful and physically limiting disease. We became friends with Shawna years ago. She is a champion of urban gardening. When first she learned of her health problems she was sure her gardening carreer was over.

But Shawna did not give up her garden. She tells the story of how she significantly relieved her pain and restored useful movement without resorting to pain-killing drugs. Through a rehabilitation program that she developed through her own research and by consulting with health professionals, Shawna found natural ways to ease the pain and improve her physical strength so she could continue her work and her love for gardening. Along the way she learned how important good food is to good health.

But the The Wellness Garden is a lot more than just Shawna’s journey back to active gardening and an active lifestyle. The book is an excellent tutorial on how to do physical work in non-stressing ways.  It’s a beautiful journey through public and private gardens around the country, with gorgeous photographs often illustrating easy to care for garden techniques.  It is a primer for low-stress exercise that can keep all of us in the garden longer.  Gardens are therapeutic and Shawna shows how to make them accessible to those with pain or limited movement. And the book is a celebration of good food and the nurturing, healing, and restorative powers of the things we grow.

I truly enjoyed reading the The Wellness Garden and I highly recommend it to all gardeners and to all those who want to know more about food and wellness.

The Wellness Garden by Shawna Coronado.  $24.99 Cool Springs Press.  Available on Amazon.

Black Friday Garlic

Friday, November 24th, 2017
Ridged Garlic Bed

Ridged Garlic Bed

I try to plant garlic by the end of October.  This year it didn’t happen.  Having great faith in climate change, I knew I would get another opportunity or several before the ground froze too hard to work easily. Today the high temperature peaked at around 66 F and it was a quite pleasant day for planting, a very good way to spend Black Friday.

I plant garlic in ridges, three per bed.  I work up the soil in a bed until it is soft. The ideal tool for this is an antique five-tined cultivating hoe. I rake up the soil into three relatively equal ridges.  A steel rake is good for this. I tamp everything down with the rake after I have my ridges shaped as I want them.

Garlic Cloves

Garlic Cloves

This year I was fortunate to meet Greg and Cathy Kosmeder. They own Copper Kettle Farm in Colgate, Wisconsin and are small-scale organic garlic growers. The Kosmeders were vendors at the Wisconsin State Master Gardener Conference as were Judy and I. I came away from the Conference with two varieties of garlic which I added to our home-grown crop of no longer known origin. I seeded the center ridge with Extra Hardy German and Georgia Crystal from the Kosmeder’s farm, and seeded the outer ridges with our home-grown seeds.

Planting Garlic

Planting Garlic

I like to use six-inch spacing for these large cloves. I lay the cloves out on top of the ridges at their six-inch intervals, then come back and insert the closes into the soil, just covering the top of the bulb.  The Original CobraHead works very well as an assist for this. I could just push the cloves into the soil, but by pushing the CobraHead blade into the soil and shoving the clove down alongside the blade it makes the process cleaner, and easier.

Garlic Bed Covered in Straw

Garlic Bed Covered in Straw

A thick covering of straw ensures the garlic will survive the hardest freezes and will be sprouting very early next spring.

Horseradish

Monday, November 13th, 2017
Horseradish

Horseradish

I prepared horseradish sauce yesterday.  I ran the horseradish twice through a food processor, first slicing, then shredding the pieces of root. As I was shredding, I added enough vinegar to keep the horseradish from drying out or heating up. The vinegar helps retain the hot flavor and allows it to keep for a while in the refrigerator. It will last a couple months.  It’s a tasty condiment and it has an impressive list of purported health benefits.

Horseradish Plants

Horseradish Plants

I grow horseradish in the herb bed, along with my plantings of perennial onions, garlic, leeks, and chives.  It is very easy to grow and quite difficult to get rid of once you have it.  I could encourage larger, cleaner, and easier to harvest roots if I grew it in softer soil, but it’s not high enough on my list of priorities to give it the treatment it deserves. I do like to have it around because the finished product is so good.

Horseradish Roots

Horseradish Roots

I dug out several plants. The ground was frozen on top but quite soft below the thin crust. I didn’t try to get out the whole plant. That would have entailed a lot of work. Pieces left in the ground will most often grow back. I brushed off as much dirt as I could. I trimmed off the crowns which I shoved back into the soil where I had harvested, just to make sure there would be some around next year. It was too cold to wash them outside so I brought them inside to do that.

Horseradish Peelings

Horseradish Peelings

I’ve read recipes suggesting not peeling the roots, but just washing them before shredding. The roots I harvest are pretty gnarly, with folds packed with dirt, bug holes, rotten spots, and other imperfections I’d rather not have in my sauce. I think peeling is in order.  The peeling process is where the vapors of mustard oil that make horseradish famous first show themselves. Strong whiffs of horseradish vapors could be likened to tear gas. Usually, it’s just some fun in the kitchen, but I think an overdose of fumes could be a real problem.

Peeled and Washed Horseradish Roots

Peeled and Washed Horseradish Roots

Horseradish: washed, trimmed and ready for the food processor.

 

 

 

T-Posts in Trellises

Friday, June 30th, 2017
T-Post Trellises

T-Post Trellises

Intensive gardening in open raised beds practically demands working with a lot of trellises.  The system of concentrated planting doesn’t lend itself to sprawl, and the solution is to grow vertically.   I stake or trellis many plants to get maximum production in limited space and to keep the aisle spaces passable.

I use T-posts as my main trellis component.  They are cheap, strong, and last forever.  And they lend themselves well to various designs. Most of my T-posts are 7’ 6” long.  I’ve found the 90” length adaptable to many trellises.  The post is tall, but not so tall I can’t work with them easily.  T-Posts normally come in lengths from about 3 feet to 12 feet.  I do have some smaller ones I use for other tasks, but I like the 90” post for most of my trellises.

Here are three different trellis structures using the same T-post for the frame.

Squash / Melon Trellis

Squash / Melon Trellis

Lacing Melon Through the Grid

Lacing Melon Through the Grid

Squash and melons:  This trellis uses concrete reinforcing grids.  The grids are 42” x 84” and are readily available at building supply stores.  I place one grid vertically between two posts and use jute twine to tie everything together.

Pea Trellis

Pea Trellis

Peas:  This trellis uses 24” landscape fence tied between posts set 3 feet apart.  The trellis makes it easy to get a lot of peas into one bed and it also puts the peas up and easy to reach from both sides of the trellis.

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis

Tomato Trellis - 2

Tomato Trellis – 2

Tying off Tomato Stems.

Tying off Tomato Stems.

Tomatoes:   T-posts provide framework for the bamboo stakes and also act as a tomato stake to the adjacent plants.

Guardian of the Garden

Guardian of the Garden

T-post trellises fill a need in my quest for both a practical and sustainable garden.

 

 

Garden Bloggers Fling – Willowsford Farm

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Hi, everyone. Anneliese here. I’m back! Did you miss me? After four years away from CobraHead, I’ve returned to the family business, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

One of my resumed responsibilities is representing CobraHead at events like the Garden Bloggers Fling. Geoff and I attended the very first Fling in Austin, TX in 2008, and I continued attending every year until 2012. The garden bloggers who attend the Fling are invariably a wonderful group of people, and I’ve maintained friendships with many of them over the years even when I wasn’t working in the gardening world. After several years away, it was a privilege both to see many old friends and to make new friends with bloggers who’ve started attending Flings in my absence.

This year’s Fling was held in the Washington, D.C. metro region, and boy, was it a good time. Probably my favorite site of the entire Fling was the very first garden we visited, and it was really more of a farm than a garden. In fact, the place was called Willowsford Farm.

Willowsford Farm

Willowsford is a relatively new residential development not far from Dulles Airport in northern Virginia. They’re committed to keeping 2,000 acres of open space, and 300 of those acres are kept for the farm. Willowsford’s Director of Farm Operations, Mike Snow, graciously led us on a tour.

Mike Snow of Willowsford Farm

Our first stop on the tour was the farm stand. Mike explained that the food produced on the farm is available to consumers in a number of different ways. They operate a CSA with members picking up their weekly produce shares, but for those who would rather not commit to a CSA share, they can always stop at the farm stand for a la carte shopping.

Produce for sale at the Willowsford Farm Stand

The farm sells some of their produce to the Willowsford Kitchen, where it’s processed into various ready-to-eat goods and then also sold at the farm stand. Some of their items are brought in from other nearby producers.

The dairy cooler at Willowsford Farm Stand

Right next to the farm stand is the “you-pick” garden, where visitors can harvest their own fruits, veggies, and flowers.

Bloggers enjoying the “you-pick” garden at Willowsford Farm

Mike then took us to the production areas of the farm. Our first stop was a corral with a chicken coop and a pair of geese. The fencing was easily movable so the animal pen could be relocated every few weeks. This way the animals could naturally fertilize different areas over time.

Movable fencing for the chickens and geese

The farm had several acres under cultivation and produces a wide variety of crops. Here Mike is explaining the fabric row covers that are used for insect damage prevention on certain crops. If I recall correctly, these were radishes or perhaps cole crops.

Crops with row covers for pest prevention

I asked Mike if they started their own plants from seed, and the answer was yes, most of the time. The farm utilized several hoop houses for both seed starts and some greenhouse growing.

Covered crops, lettuces, and hoop houses in the background

I was really interested to see that one of the hoop houses was being used to grow ginger and turmeric. These aren’t crops that are commonly grown in Wisconsin, and it’s always fun to see some of the plants that can grow in different parts of the country.

Ginger and turmeric growing inside a hoop house

 

I truly enjoyed my visit to Willowsford Farm. They’re doing great work using both traditional and innovative food production methods, and it was a perfect reintroduction to the Garden Bloggers Fling.

Cucumber and squash trellis