Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Recipe For Madi

Cucumber Snack

One Cucumber, Cut Into Wedges
Juice Of 1/2 Lime
A Pinch Of Kosher Salt
Tapatillo Or Valentina Hot Sauce, To Taste

Mix All Ingredients In A Bowl And Serve!


PS. We have been growing cucumbers this summer, and they are just beautiful. They are a variety called "Armenian Burpless" and are ridged down the sides so that when you cut them, they look like flowers. Put them on your spring planting list!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall Equinox

Happy First Day Of Fall!
We just planted a bunch of garlic (ordered from The Garlic Store), onions, more beets, new rows of carrots, and new lettuces (the lettuces we planted a month ago are now about 2" tall, so it's time to do the next successive planting). The sowbug invasion seems to be minimized a bit...nonetheless I made cardboard "fences" around the little seedlings (baby potato plants, winter squash) using the collars from to-go coffee cups, and a long fence made from recycled envelope inserts down the rows of seeds. And then, for good measure, I sprinkled the old diatomaceous earth around the bottoms of the plants. Lets hope they make it. It's been a frustrating couple of months!


Sunday, September 7, 2008


Someone has been killing the sprouts from seeds that were sown directly into the garden. Rows of carrots, beets, onions - it was maddening. Not one tiny bit of green would even surface. This went on for a good 4-6 weeks. Anxiety ensued. Did I lose my green thumb? Is our garden soil poisonous? Is an old enemy from Junior High School trying to sabbotage my efforts? After much observation and detective work, the culprit was identified: the seemingly innocuous sow bug.

It seems that we were not letting our compost break down enough before adding it to the garden. Normally, sow bugs eat the rotting, dying vegetation in the compost bin. Once the compost is truly finished, they move on. Apparently, we were adding the compost to our raised beds a little too early, with an inordinate population of the little guys. For lack of enough dying matter to feed them, they turned to our seeds. I start a lot of our seeds in the kitchen window, but certain plants, like carrots, like to be sown directly into the garden, leaving them especially vulnerable. Since our garden is organic, I expect to lose a certain percentage of yield to pests, but this was too much.

I did some research, and came up with a plan that has, thus far, been extremely effective. I added Diatomaceous earth to the top of the soil, and even mixed some in, just under the surface. This chalk-like powder consists of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It works by absorbing lipids from the waxy outer layer or insects' exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. I am also putting rolled up newspaper along the edges of the raised beds. When the newspaper becomes damp, the sow bugs use it as a shelter. It can simply be picked up and thrown away.

The Diatomaceous earth will also destroy beneficial insects, so it should be used with that in mind. In humans, it can cause irritation if breathed in, so it must be added to the soil with care.

DRAMA!!!! With any luck, this will balance the scales, and this next round of seeds will not be murdered in their sleep!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Learning Curve

We have been digging up potatoes lately, and they're as delicious as can be. There are few things as fun as foraging for them. It is so gratifying to spend time rummaging around in the dirt, and out pops a beautiful yellow or purple one, and then another and another! There were not nearly as many potatoes as I'd thought there would be. I figured that out of eight plants we'd have multitudes. Some of the plants didn't really even produce any (mystery). But, we did get some, and those some wanted to make me plant more.

The biggest problem I've faced in this garden is timing...when to start new plants to supplement the ones that are going out, to leave room for them, to not have everything ready at once, and to truly figure out what it is that we eat and how much of it to grow.

I found out that we eat a lot of lettuces. We eat a lot of tomatoes. Not so much with the green beans, even though green beans are something we used to buy in the grocery store all the time. Many millions of peas (so vast was the number of peas that we consumed that the plant got completely harvested every day and none even made it into the pot!). I love to have beets on hand, and roast a bunch of them at a time and keep them in the fridge for snacks and impromptu salads with goat cheese. The onions get used and appreciated, but we're running low and don't have anything but tiny seedlings to replace them with. The garlic will run out eventually, and probably before the next garlic is ready.

Here is my new experiment. I have planted a row of lettuce, and a row of arugula. As soon as those rows get to be 2" tall, it'll time to plant another row. We'll see how that goes...

The garden is only a year old. I'm wondering how long it will really take for us to manage it to the point that we have the rhythm.