Completing the Cycle

Here's a site with information on composting. It's the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's page.


I'm still learning. I got a bin, free, from a free worshop at Penn State a couple of years ago. It's not an ideal bin, but there is that old saying, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." It looks much more appropriate in my plot than on my back porch (which is where it was for at least one year).

I did not, technically, compost this summer since I'm unsure if I'll have the same plot next year. I hope I do. I did compost casually by piling some plant material in the back of my plot. In addition, getting the soil in my plot ready (which is twice the square footage of my previous garden) took a lot of time. (on top of a full-time job and all.) Some of my garden plot neighbors were impressed by how well I managed a plot of the size that they thought required two people.


Bits and Pieces

I'm learning about storing veggies, or in some cases refreshing my memory. Freezing is easy. Clean the veggies, chop them, blanche and cool them, put in clean containers. Label with name and date. Use within a year. The difficulty is my small freezer.

I have tomatoes on my kitchen and livingroom windowsills, livingroom table, in my fridge. A month ago, it was yellow squash. Some of the tomatoes I'll cook with basil and other seasoning then freeze to use in soup. Some I hope to can.

I dry dill and oregano. That works really well. I couldn't find oregano at any nurseries this year, but I grew and dried enough in 2005 to carry some over.

I won't dry the chives this year; they end up being tasteless with a texture like toothpicks. I'll freeze them in icecubes. Maybe I'll use dill, chives, basil and garlic to make flavored oil and/or vinegar using a canning recipe I found in a book from the library.

Most of the basil will go into pesto. The recipe I use can be found here:


In case you're wondering, blanching is dropping a measured amount of the fresh vegetable into boiling water and leaving it boil for a prescribed amount of time, often it is four minutes. In the "wild", enzymes cause the fruit to slowly decay, drop to the ground and dry, releasing seeds for the next generation of plants. Boiling (heat) denatures the enzymes (and maybe other substances) that cause the vegetable's gradual degradation even when frozen. It doesn't cook them, unless you blanche too long. This turns them to mush (cooking), and you obviously don't want that. A site I use for information on growing, cooking and storing each vegetable is:


I didn't get photos of my lily or dahlia in time. Some of my other flowers:



White + Red = Pink?

Planting bulbs right now? If so, these guys might be very happy about it. I think the one on the left is saying, "Hmm. Nummy."

But ...

aren't they cute?

Why squirrels in my blog today?

Friends and family know of my affection for furry rodents. Plus a forecaster at work blogged about folklore involving squirrels and the upcoming winter (more below if you care).

This is the time to plant spring-blooming bulbs, which squirrels love.

'Must be all the anti-oxidants.

One source of advice:


He's not paying me for this and doesn't have to. P Allen Smith has a lot of interesting and useful stuff on his site. He's cute -- in a different way from the squirrels. Even if he wasn't, he knows his stuff.

(chitter, chitter, cheeeeep) They always sound like they're scolding a "young 'un". Or maybe their anger's directed at me. A pelting of acorns sometimes accompanies the noise. Ouch.

The site for the White Squirrel Festival, which I know you are all going to flock to, is: http://www.brevardnc.org/whitesquirrel.php

So, what does a white squirrel who mates a red squirrel give birth to?

They aren't cute, yet.

Happy autumn eve. Or if you're in a central, mountain or western time zone, happy autumn today!

******************** **************************
Today's one of the days I edit the website at work. In his blog, one of the forecasters asked for reader observations about the squirrels in their respective regions so he can decide whether observing them can actually predict how much snow we'll get. I suspect it is toungue in cheek (or nuts in cheek).

Should I send him the photo above and suggest a link between white squirrels and a snowy winter?


Plot Summary

I've been busy with the really fun part of gardening, which is harvest.

My favorite tomato is Sun Gold. One plant produces enough abundance of the small fruits for me to share. I enjoy them most after warming them on a sunny windowsill. Hmm. They make a very rich tomato soup, too. The photo shows ripe Sun Gold tomatoes.

Ernesto's windy remains knocked down my sunflowers. They had grown about 8-10 feet tall with beautiful flowers. The smaller, more delicate Lisianthus survived because I had staked them against wind earlier this summer. A lot of the sunflower blooms had this gorgeous color:

Something I still have trouble doing successfully is staking tomatoes. It's good that the plants' vigor has them spreading, but management is challenging. I'll keep trying.

My yellow butter squash is done, also due to Ernesto. They produced quite abundantly; 8-12 fruits came from each of the five plants. I gave quite a few to my parents who in turn shared some with their friends. A neighbor of theirs gave some to this mother, who served them in her restaurant in Millville.

And plenty of sweet peppers: green, orange with a little red. They were quite good. Still getting them, too.

The garlic chives, dill and basil are doing quite well. I'm always pleased with how easily most herbs grow. This year, I added purple-leaf basil alongside the sweet basil. Its pungent aroma reminds me of allspice.

Most of my lavender plants are in a container on my back porch and grew well, as usual. Dwarf lavender didn't grow well in containers (in 2005), strangely. So, I went back to a mix of "angustifolia" and "lady" this year. In-ground lavender has not thrived for me. I tested one seedling in my community plot this year, just to try it in a new place. It's not doing badly, but isn't very big.

Stevia is thriving next to my tropical houseplants in the bathroom. I had to bring it off my porch to keep aphids from eating it alive. Mint attracts aphids on my porch, too, and I didn't grow it this year.

Stevia is an import from South America and its leaves contain a substance that is used as a sweetener. I have no clue about how to use it. Wikipedia to the rescue, perhaps? If you read the wikipedia entry, you'll see that it mentions the Guarani.

As a side note, a good movie based on the interactions of 18th-century Spanish and Portugese with the Guarani is "The Mission" with Robert de Niro and Jeremy Irons. Breathtaking cinemetography. I have had a copy of it in my DVD colletion for several years.

The red onions have quite a bite to them. The Kentucky Wonder pole beans have been yummy.

I don't think I'll grow black beans again, but you never know. See, the beans are inside the pod, just like peas, and they are quite small. The pod has a tough string, which makes eating it whole undesirable, even after cooking. Shelling them is a lot like eating a small crab; a lot of work with minimal yield. It may be most beneficial as a green manure crop.

My peas did really well, too. I intend to get a fall crop of those in with some gourmet lettuce. They'll be easy to take care of and good companions for my "bright lights" Swiss Chard, which grows from frost to frost (spring to autumn). Swiss chard photo below is "Bright lights".

Trek-geek alert: I wish I could say I discovered this website, but I have to credit a coworker. It's really funny -- if you know Star Trek, especially the classic series from the '60s.