Thursday, August 17, 2017

Are All Weeds Evil?

Last week I was having a discussion with a new gardener and the topic of composting came up. My response was, why compost? Since she has only kitchen garbage, why not simply dig it into her garden soil? My advice...skip the compost pile. But this led to other questions. Doesn't she need to compost the seeds when she deadheads allysium? My you enjoy having allysium blooming I your garden? "Yes", she said, " But it's coming up in my rows of corn." And she added that she has to weed it out. My response...why? The corn can grow perfectly fine with allysium at its feet. Besides, it helps shade the soil and thus retain moisture by preventing the sun from baking the soil and the wind from sucking it dry. Besides, it's pretty. The allysium is fairly noncompetative with the corn crop. Yes, heavy populations of other kinds of weeds can adversely affect corn, but not the allysium. 

For some reason we have been trained to eliminate 100% of weeds. Gardeners don't seem happy if the garden isn't pristine weed-free. They spend back breaking hours pulling weeds, buy expensive special hoes to get the job done quicker, maybe even spend more bucks on a mechanized cultivator. While I understand the need to keep most weeds down in population, I don't see the sense in being fanatical about it. Harmless weeds can actually be beneficial, helping to retain moisture and more importantly, providing habitat for garden friendly insects. 

Personally, I see weeds as a resource. I harvest the majority of weeds for compost material. Some I simply flip into the soil as biomaterial. Others I chop & drop for mulch. I leave some simply because I'm not going to kill myself trying to get every last one. And I swear that a low population of assorted weeds is actually beneficial. And the shallow rooted weed types don't seem to interfere much with most  veggies anyway. 

The only weed that I serious battle is the Bermuda grass. It is aggressive, spreading quickly and forming a dense mass of underground stolens. It definitely impacts the garden plants, out competing them for root space, sunlight, and water. Other than this, I simply just keep the weed population low so as not to adversely impact my crops. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Unexpected Visitors

Came home the other day to find some unexpected visitors walking up the driveway. At first I couldn't tell what they were at that distance. Getting closer, I was quite surprised to see that they were peacocks. Wow! 

Two female peahens, to be precise. Not sure where they came from. But it turns out that they were only passing through. Don't know where they were heading. But it was nice to catch a glimpse of them. 

One never knows what one will see out in the countryside. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Eggplant Success - I Should Be Jealous

Another local home gardener proudly sent me a picture of her eggplant. I have to admit that I'm duly impressed. 

"J" is doing alright, you agree? Now don't get overly picky. Yes, I see that the Chinese rose beetles have been nibbling. And that eggplant on the lower left might be indicative of thrips. But am I doing any better? No way. In fact, I haven't had particular success growing this type of eggplant, so I give "J" a gold star. A big gold star! 

Now, what's for dinner "J"? Baba ganoush and chips? Eggplant parmigiana? Grilled eggplant and meat sauce? 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Container Beans by "L"

Gardening on one's lanai (aka- porch) is catching on. Super! Glad to see that some people are discovering that they don't have black thumbs afterall, and that growing fresh veggies can be fairly fun and easy. Oh, not that they are growing all their own food, but those few weekly additions of freshly picked veggies that you grew yourself can make all the difference in enjoying not only eating, but one's general happiness overall. There's just something innately satisfying in eating something grown or foraged yourself. 

Garden containers don't have to be expensive or fancy. Yes, I've seen some pretty spiffy & pricy container gardens, but cobbled together containers out of recycled materials work just as fine. As in the photo above, "L" is successfully growing green beans in a low cost homemade table top garden. Yes, it works! "L" claims to be one of those "black thumb" people, but her little container gardens are proving otherwise. I give "L" a hearty applause!!! 

On my farm I use a variety of gardening methods, including container gardening. I simply do what works for me in a particular situation. I'm not a diehard follower of just one gardening method. But when it comes to container gardening, I give it a strong thumbs up. Plus I'm big on making containers via recycling/repurposing. Besides being effective and economical, it's down right fun! 

Sunday, August 13, 2017


This year was my first experiment growing cardoon. As you gather by now, I love experimenting. I had never heard about cardoon, never eaten it, never heard of anyone who had eaten it, so this a totally new one on me. But I was game to give it a go. 

Starting the seed was simple. I grew it like just about any other veggie seed. Started it in a flat, transplanted the tiny seedlings to pots, then when two sets of true leaves appeared and the seedlings were good sized, they went out into the garden. 

Now, I did read that cardoon gets to be a really big plant, so I spaced them about 3 foot apart, which sounded fairly close. Geez, lots of empty space around those small seedlings. So I planted radishes around them to use the space while the cardoon grew. That worked out just fine. Once the radishes were harvested, I dug in some compost around the growing cardoon then mulched the area. And I had dug in manure & compost prior to setting the seedlings out. So far, so good. 

As the months progressed, the cardoon plants filled up the space. Boy, I think they're pretty! Large dramatic toothed leaves. Impressive plants. After a while they produced those light grey-green hearts that I see in the Internet photos, so perhaps it was time to harvest some for a try. 

One of the brave community gardeners took the first harvested plant home to try. Report -- inviting flavor but bitter as all get-out. She followed the preparation directions on the Internet and it was still a big failure. 

Ok. First attempt = fail. But I plan the give it a few more tries. 

#1- try blanching the current plants for several weeks and see if that makes a difference.....

#2- try watering frequently. 
#3- try using manure tea on some of the plants.
#4- try digging in manure around the base of some plants. 
#5- try digging in compost around the base of some plants. 

The idea is to try encouraging some rapid growth plus exclude sunlight to the edible parts. On most of the plants I'll leave the outer leaves exposed to the sun but blanch the hearts. A few plants I'll try blanching the entire thing. 

Another thing, I'll try timing their growing period so that they are ready to harvest around December. The idea being to get the plants to "mature" because it's winter. I'll see if that makes a difference. 

Here's a closer look at how the gardeners are trying blanching....

I like the way it is being done. And I hope it helps eliminate the bitterness. Time will tell. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Farmers' Market Etiquette

Just recently a few people emailed me an article they saw about the proper etiquette at a farmers market. My first reaction was, "Geez Louise, now the Internet has to tell people how to act when they buy food?" But I did go ahead and read the article. Humph. I'm not sure that I totally agree with the advice, or should I say more correctly, the instructions. 

#1- "Do: Take as many free samples as you damn want."
I disagree. While a farmer or vendor may offer free samples, they weren't free for the farmer/vendor. It costs them money. So taking one sample is fine, but making the sample bowls your lunch menu for the day is simply wrong. I've seen people do it. They just keep coming back for handfuls. For real! 

#2- "Do: Feel free to haggle" 
I partially disagree. Haggling when one wants to buy in bulk is fine (20 papayas; 10 lbs of tomatoes; an entire stalk of bananas). But I've recently watched people trying to haggle over one carrot, one bunch of beets, one bag of coffee. Perhaps they read the article too? I don't believe in haggling on small items. The farmer/vendor has a perishable product that costs them money and labor. Haggling over one carrot is not only an insult, it's discouraging to the seller. 

#3- "Do: Buy the bad-for-you pastries."
I disagree. Now mind you, I buy "bad for me" chocolate cake on a regular basis. But instructing folks to buy pastries is simply wrong. Each person needs to evaluate their own health and situation and not be urged to purchase forbidden foods. 

#4- "Do: Flirt with the staff."
Totally disagree! My first reaction was "what the hell?" I quickly checked the name of the author. Katie, I assume female. But she's interviewing Chris. Male? Female? Humph. Flirting - no. Friendly chitchat - ok as long as the seller isn't busy or there are no other customers at the booth waiting their turn. Flirting? No way! Most vendors are too busy and serious about selling to put up with the hassle of flirting. 

#5- "Do: Return stuff if you hate it."
Agree and disagree. While I wouldn't return a food item myself (I simply wouldn't buy it again), I can understand where a person wants to get their money back on a bad product. Take one bite out of a mochi bar and hate it? Ok. Eat one dried banana chip and spit it out? Ok. But returns can be abused. I've seen people bring back limp old veggies and try to claim it was the farmer's fault. Oh, really? I've also has a person bring back a half eaten piece of pie claiming it was terrible and wanted their money back. Sorry Jack, you ate 5 spoonfuls before you noticed that you didn't like it? No refund just because you are sated. One of the coffee growers said that she has had tourists bring back a half used bag of coffee and expect a refund on the "terrible coffee". Seems that their week long vacation was up and they were trying to get a full refund on their unfinished coffee. Nice try - go home. 

#6- "
Don’t: Bother asking before taking a sample of something that’s not labeled as a sample."
Disagree!!! What? Just pick up a lychee and start munching? Grab a carrot and give it a taste? Egads, where's your manners and sensibilities? I'm my book, unless you end up paying for it, it's stealing. 

#7- "
Don’t: Feel obligated to purchase just because you’ve accepted samples."
Agreed. Samples are to introduce you to a product and entice you to buy. But there is no obligation to buy. 

#8- "Don’t: Be afraid to use large bills."
Disagree. Most of our vendors start out with about $20 cash on hand. Some have a bit more. When I ran a farmers market, vendors had to run to me to break those $100 bills into smaller stuff. So I had to keep several hundreds in change to meet the demand, which came primarily from tourists driving through. I guess they used the market as a bank to get smaller bills, since our local bank won't break a bill if you don't have an account there. I've seen many a tourist buy a $1 cup of coffee with a $100 bill. Please people, don't do it! 

#9- "Don’t: Jump other customers in line."
Agreed. Some cultures don't seem to understand the idea of waiting in a line. But most people do. 

So the tally is in.......I generally don't agree with the instructions. It's scary to think that there will be a lot of people following these "rules". 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hottest 24 Hours So Far

Yesterday I recorded a high of 84° and a low of 68°. This is the highest readings I've had since I started keeping records in the beginning of 2005. 

I have one of those high-low thermometers that I keep in a shaded spot under a lanai roof. I've never moved it from that spot. Each morning at 7 I record the low for that morning and the high of the day before. I reset the thermometer about 9 a.m. after I come in from morning chores. I attempt to keep everything consistent. 

Although I've been keeping my own records for years now, recently I've been posting the data on a website called ..........
The sight is designed for rain data, but by using the daily comments/reports, I can also keep records of daily temps. Because of my nasty habit of misplacing past calendars (where I used to keep daily records), I pleased to be able to use the Cocorahs instead. 

If you happen to visit the website, you may find the "maps" feature interesting. And of course there is the "view data" function. By the way, my station is hi-hi-12

Consider joining the group. It's pretty neat to see what the weather is like in your own area.