26 December, 2010

Looking Back To Move Ahead

The 2010 garden season ended several months ago and the calendar 2010 is ending as well. It is now a good time to look ahead to the next garden year and look back on the current one. Another example that gardening should not be a mad dash in April and May is the fact that the garden year ends quietly and starts later than the calendar year in these parts. What other clue could anyone want that gardening is a fun PASSIVE activity. In fact gardening is the number one outdoor activity in America followed by bird feeding and bird watching. One can combine these two in one massive........passive activity and get the best of both worlds. Color from flowers and sound and color from attractive songbirds.
First a review of the garden season that was 2010. Tomato blight that devastated the 2009 season was almost extinct this year. A few cases did show up in the Hudson Valley but remained isolated. Another sign that buying local is better than buying from a huge provider located in another state. It was still a strange year for tomatoes however. I had no tomatoes at all for the second year in a row. Neighbors just a few mile away had hundreds. I am beginning to think they stole mine and tied them to their the plants in their garden. I will try many methods of growing them this year to discover the secret. None will be in raised beds. They will all go into containers enriched with my secret blend of compost, weird strains of bacteria, humates, endo and ecto things that I am told will not only grow really good crops but may glow in the dark. I will settle for a tomato that glows in the day time at this rate.
Peppers did incredibly well last year. Helped by the warm weather, unpredictable rain and a new plot to grow them in. Chiles did well especially in my outdoor hydroponics pots. I will use the same esoteric strains of soil" amendments" to grow more chiles in  for 2011. And maybe just maybe et to sell something at a farmers market come summer. My favorite pepper this year was the marconi Italian frying pepper. Long and beefy is the best way to describe what is looks like. About as long as a good bell pepper is tall but not fat. Maybe 4-5 inches across. Marconis are great to stuff with cheese, sun dried tomatoes in oil, sausage, and even eggs. Cook the eggs and sausage before hand to make sure they are cooked through. Then stuff the peppers to the gills and slow roast them on hardwood charcoal using the indirect method. My recipe is called "sausage IN Pepeprs" instead sausage and peppers. This way you can skip the carbs on the hard roll and enjoy slicing a pepper and munching on the goodies inside.
Broccoli and cauliflower went bust in my yard this year. After growing broccoli and cauliflower the size of basket basketballs in '09 I was excited to see what would happen this year. Nada, no, nothing. Small florets that blasted way to soon even when it was cool outside. I think the tomatoes and cauliflower were in a scheme to deny me a salad this year.
As always I am planning on a bigger garden for next year. I planned on that for this year too. Did not happen. Don't know if it will in 2011 either. But at least I am admitting that early and not getting my hopes up. I really have no excuses though. Plenty of compost is ready and more is being placed in the bin though frozen solid toil spring.
As for 2011 here is what I see happening as I not only read the tea leaves but drink them as well. Homemade herbal tea of course. I have no idea what the exact ingredients are as to the proportion but suffice to say not enough lemony stuff as the tea is more like a grog or potion than tea. But that is how I like it. I just do not think a nice tasting blend of lemony stuff fights colds and flus like a bitter tea. We'll see. So far no bronchitis like I always get! Thank you horehound!
Urban farming will continue to grow, pardon the pun. the only thing standing in the way of more urban farms in inner city areas are the city officials themselves. Now that folks have found uses for empty lots the powers that be feel the need to impose regulations upon lettuce farmers. Even worse in some cases community gardens are being run by what I call "Garden Owner Associations" akin to home owner associations in condo and vacation communities. GOA's have gone so far as to tell plot renters what to grow and what they cannot grow.
Urban farming involves small farm animals like chickens and rabbits. after all it is farming. As long as the powers that be understand this urban farming will bring healthy food to inner city areas that have little access to fresh veggies. It is less expensive to allow urban farming than to coax supermarkets to downtown with hefty tax breaks.
Organic gardening will continue but has reached a sustainable pace. So to say the band wagon has become mainstream and sensible. In fact we are already moving to the next more mature stage of organic gardening and replaced it with the buzzword sustainable. What that means to gardeners is there are times when organic growing is more detrimental to the overall environ men than some traditional methods. It may not seem so when looking at the crop one  is trying to grow but presents itself readily when considering the overall footprint, carbon or otherwise, an organic method leaves behind. If you add up the total "cost", again economically and environmentally, there are times when the natural methods incur more costs than non standard ones do. For instance in the case of a sudden huge infestation of pests. I will use Japanese beetles for example. There just is not a quick effective natural control for them. By the time you add up the cost of materials, packaging, shipping, manufacturing costs and water to mix a natural spray that cost is much higher than a quick effective standard pesticide.  
Vertical gardening will be everywhere roof gardens and rain gardens will not. Vertical gardening on walls, in homemade PC pipes, and commercial devices will be everywhere. Vertical gardening works as a space saving logical way to grow more stuff in smaller places. It works because folks are moving in to retirement communities with small yards but plenty of wall space. It works because you do not have spend all day bent over weeding. It works because you can see the garden easier in a vertical planter than an in ground bed. I will also add elevated garden bed contraptions to the list. Picture a 3x5 wood garden bed supported by three or four foot tall legs that a wheel chair can pull up to! No bending, plenty of room to grow real gardens. You cannot grow real gardens in an average size window box.
Rain gardens came about as a secondary trend in 2010. the idea behind a rain garden was to create a garden at your downspout that would filter out contaminants before the water entered storm drains or percolated back into the water table. Nice idea but not reasonable or productive. They are not cheap to build and only work when it rains. In order for them to survive they need a lot of water to maintain the wetlands environment during dry spells. So in the end the amount of water needed to maintain an artificial wetland may outweigh the amount of filtered rainwater. If you have clay soil that can hold plenty of moisture during dry spells a rain garden makes sense. Also if you have a sump pump like I do and clay soil better yet. The cool thing here is my "rain garden" has been in existence since my home was built 25 years ago. Water being pumped out of my basement and deposited outside has created an environment on it's own. Cat tails, iris and other wetland plants started growing there because of the ample supply of moisture. My point. If you have an area that is subject to constant runoff leave it alone. In time if there is enough moisture running through it a natural "rain garden" formerly called bogs will develop on its' own.
Micro farms will continue to replace large farms and diversify the agricultural treasures of the region. While large dairy farms are going away smaller specialty dairy farms are thriving. They supply natural hormone, BVG and steroid  free milk to producers of speciality diary producers that make products from ice cream to cheese.
Indoor gardening will explode with the advent of indoor growing systems that no longer look like laboratories but resemble fine pieces on furniture. Smaller more energy efficient LED lights are already hitting stores. Check out the cool new trend called window farming. Homemade systems that "hang" in windows to grow greens and herbs all winter long. Often these hanging gardens are made from two liter soda bottles.
So there you have my look back while looking forward to the next gardening season. I feel a cold coming on so enough reading the tea leaves...it's time to drink them!

10 December, 2010

garden aticle

The sun is now setting at the earliest hours of the year for a while. I find the weeks immediately after the New Year the most depressing. After all the holiday season is over the college football season done and the Super Bowl is still a month away. I mean what is there to do when the ground is frozen, it's dark and little to do? The biggest tease to me is that during the first weeks of January the days are getting longer. But still it is dark before 5 PM. The joke gets worse later in the month when the sun is just above the horizon when I pull in the driveway. Then I get out of the car and BLAST! Cold winds being thrown down from the Catskills on us poor souls in the valley between the mountains and the river. I guess the "beings" in the mountains are getting us back or sharing with us the colder weather and shorter seasons they have. Small price to pay I say for the better view of the horizons east and west they have than we do.
There is a small glimmer of hope this time of year in the garden world. Your local greenhouse. The inside of you car is a nice warm place on a sunny day in January even without the blower scalding your knees or knuckles with the same scorched air from your indoor furnace. The difference is that in a greenhouse you do not need your seat belt and an air bag will not go off if you bump your shopping cart into a table of plants at 2 MPH. Insurance on shopping carts is also cheaper since they do not go as fast and you don't really own them but rent them from the shop owner. I say rent because when you buy a tropical plant part of the price goes to pay for the shopping cart you just rammed into the plant display. I am not sure how the damage to the display table gets paid for.  
Another advantage, the best of all, is the humid lung repairing air in a greenhouse in the winter. Cold winter air just hurts when you inhale deeply. Scorched air from a car heater or furnace also hurts when taken in deeply. There us just something calming about a tropical greenhouse in the winter. Whether it's the longing for return of summer weather or just a respite, however brief, from Old Man Winter, humid warm greenhouse air has a healing affect on me and others. Add to that a fountain or pond filled with swimming fish and it is irresistible. Madison Avenue could not come up with a better marketing plan than a greenhouse in January.
While not possible without large wads of cash and even bigger oil tanks to recreate the entire experience at home we can create a  small piece of a tropical garden in a room in our home. Most plants end up in living rooms. Not a bad place. But is the living room a place we spend a lot of time in in the winter? How long do you stay in bed in cold weather? Have you ever thought of taking the private sanctuary of your bedroom to the next level? A tropical paradise perhaps even with a table top fountain or at least a nature CD of waves, birds and moving water. 
You already have part of the equipment for complete relaxation away from the TV. A bed, huge comforters and if like me several pillows. Also nearby is a lamp to read by and a small bookcase complete with 6-10 books I am in the middle of reading. Most master bedrooms have at least some windows. These windows have at least a 50% chance of facing the right direction to support life (plant life).
Should you not have windows facing the right direction there are plenty of light fixtures that fit neatly onto bakers racks that can hold many plants all in one tidy garden space. Plants clean our air by filtering out toxins like formaldehyde. They also provide oxygen. No amount of houseplants will provide enough oxygen for our needs but they will give you fresh air like never before. Plants by their very nature have a calming and nurturing effect on people. Any doubters of this fact just need to visit a greenhouse on a sunny day in winter.
Smiles abound people slow down and enjoy the experience.
A simple primer on light for indoor plants. During the winter the sun is low enough in the sky so most any plant can handle direct sun. The best light for most of the year is called bright indirect light. This simply means as much light as possible without getting any direct sun. This is generally just to the side of south facing glass or 6-8 feet across the room from such facings of glass. The same quality light can be gotten directly in an easterly window or a western window that gets early evening sun.  
Medium light comes from  sitting directly in a northerly facing window. No room for error here. Moving to any side out of the northern exposure and you end up in the dark in most cases. Very few plants grown in dark areas.
Room color plays a huge role in lighting for plants. Brightly painted rooms scatter light all around offering up larger canvasses of bright light and limiting areas of medium or low light. On the other hand dark colored rooms limit dramatically the bright light areas as the darker colors soak up rather than spread light around.
And last and most important for "planting up" a master garden suite, always by the plant for the lighting you have or will provide. Do not buy a bright multi-colored Croton if you have dark walls and no plans on running plant lights 8 hours a day. Plant care tags should have the lighting and care instructions right in place sight. Often the light needs are color coded. Yellow usually means bright light and purple or dark colors indicate plants that will take lower light conditions.
So there you have it...........a remedy for the winter doldrums and a healthy start to the New Year.

26 November, 2010

garden article

Hopefully by now the triptofan has worn off and we have all made it back across the river from Grandma's house. Our gardens and many furry creatures that habitate near our gardens have all but gone to sleep for the winter. The closest we get to enjoying the winter off is the afternoon nap after getting filled up on turkey. Another close call is so called elusive long winters' nap. I never get the long winters' nap probably because I would look kind of foolish putting on a cap before going to bed. Probably would not sleep well either as the brim of said cap would always be in the way or I would fumble around looking for it after it fell off somewhere between the good dream and the nightmare.

Which brings us to the subject of long winters. Any season the precludes gardeners from playing in the dirt is a long one. Winter for gardeners starts with the last bulb planted or garlic harvested and ends with the last mud pit drying up. Mud pits in my back yard clay can last until May in a rainy season. So what to get the gardener on your shopping list this holiday season? I know that gardeners get itchy when the seed catalogs come in which would make buying a garden gadget for a gardener seem more like punishment than a present of good thought.  Fact is though we like getting seed catalogs. I spend my lunch hours in January at the local book store looking through all the new garden magazines, catalogs disguised as magazines and garden books looking for what is new. Fact is I already what is new having seen many new items at all the trade and garden shows I attended the previous fall, eleven to be exact. What is refreshing to see is the items I chose made the cut and appear in the magazines in January. One of the pit falls of being responsible for purchasing items for sale is visiting the bone yard, the corner of the warehouse, where items that seemed like a good idea end up when they turn out not to be good idea.

First and foremost every gardener needs a good pair or two of pruners. If the gardener on your list has a lot of cut flowers on the table from their garden they need a pair of bypass pruners. These work like a pair of scissors with two moving blades that are sharp enough to cut through tender foliage without crushing tender stems. Anvil pruners, the ones with a fat blade on the bottom are not the kind to buy the cut flower gardener or someone who like me does a  lot of soft stem cuttings to make new plants. The gardener who has a lot of woody trees, shrubs and other such ornamentals can certainly benefit from the anvil style of pruners. A flat blade on the bottom holds the stem in place so the the cutting blade coming down from the top can get through the thicker and often dead branch being removed. Trying to prune pencil thick or fatter dead or woody plant tissue with bypass pruners will damage the pruner and the plant. Just like trying to cut through to many pieces of paper with scissors the blades will separate and become useless. The pages will shred and so will plant tissue  causing acute and chronic damage to the plant.

Gardeners love to dig. A round point shovel is the worst digging tool ever used in a garden. The end result is a bowl shaped hole that is narrow on the bottom and wide on the top. Plants come in containers with straight sides and need holes the same shape. Gardeners who like to dig to plant also like to dig things up as well. A round point shovel used to transplant spreading perennials or herbs cuts off a majority of the important feeder roots. No feeder roots on transplanted material stunts and can kill the plant. The proper digging tool for gardeners is spade, basically a shovel with straight sides. Much more root structure is dug up with a spade making the transplant success rate much higher. Spades also dig holes that look like the pots plants come in, straight sides.

Any gardener would love to garden all year. These days we can at least pretend we are in a greenhouse with the slew of new grow lights on the market. Gone, or at least on the way out are older style tube lights. They are being replaced by smaller tube lights called T5s. They put out twice as much light and use 40% less energy. Being smaller they easier to ship and put less strain on landfills when the burn out, in 125,00 hours or so. The fixtures are much more attractive and come in blue spectrum for seedling or foliage growth and red spectrum for flowering/fruiting plants. Next on the horizon are LED grow lights. They use even less energy than T5s and are even more compact. A really cool unit I have seen lets you change the blend of red and blue lights according the stage of growth your plant is in.

And of course for really high tech indoor gardeners hydroponics continues to head towards mainstream acceptance. With the right set up it is possible to grow tomatoes and herbs year round on a window sill or a full fledged grow room. HID, high intensity discharge lighting systems, up to 1,000 watts can light up a 10 x 10 room with sunlight quality light for all one's growing needs. The mixture of nutrients and measuring devices, meters and pumps and stuff will make any smart phone groupie want to grow something not just know something.

Last but not least remembers gardeners are a hearty but sensitive bunch. We will get over the winter blues quicker than golfers and baseball fans who cannot wait for the grapefruit leagues to start.

13 November, 2010

Water Worries in Pottery Land

Pretty pots can enhance the look of a plant in the indoor or outdoor environment. It is well understood that the black plastic or green containers plants are purchased in are utilitarian and not really attractive at all. The first decorative, rather functional, pots are basic terra cotta. The value to the plant placed in a clay pot is that the earthen material from which the pot is made breathes. This breathing allows for a somewhat limited exchange of oxygen and transpires excess water to the atmosphere around the plant. This benefits the grower and the plant since 80% of all plants die due to over watering.
Even with breathable clay that lightens when dry we still over water our herbaceous friends. Over watering leads to water draining out the bottom of the pot onto the surface the pot is sitting on. This could be a family heirloom table, an Antique Road Show first prize Louis The XIV original or even the hardwood floor in the living room. Water dripping or flowing onto such surfaces leaves water stains that often cannot be fixed easily. Water can ruin the value of such tables, desks and floors making them unworthy of appraisal on  prime time PBS.
To combat water running onto the floor decorative clay was glazed then painted. The result was a planter even more suitable to the environment in which it was placed. The result for the plant in such containers, often with no drainage holes, was death from.....you guessed it, over watering. Except in this case, drowning.
Logic has told indoor gardeners to combat the lack of drainage holes in such pots place a layer of stone at the bottom of the planter. This is supposed to create a pace for the water to collect and save the the roots by leaving them out of harms way. This is one of the oldest Old Wives' Tales in my Directory of Old Wives' Garden Tales. If this OWT were an old coin or piece of paper currency it would be worthy of incredible value just due to the low serial number alone. Drainage stone in pot bottoms to alleviate water damage to roots is cataloged as OWT #00001.1 . No subsection letter or number as my other OWTs warrant.
Drainage stone placed at the bottom of plant containers DOES NOT STAVE OFF DROWNING. In fact it could make it more likely to happen. This fact was discovered and written on way back in the 1930's in college level soil science texts. Here is why drainage stones in plants, no matter how well intentioned, is not doing anything except hurting your back with the extra gravitational pull of heavy rocks.
Water moves down in soil by gravitational pull for the most part. It is more complicated by simplicity in the garden rules in my yard. So if water is pulled down through soil by gravity what then makes soil go up, both into plant systems and evaporation? 
Capillary action. The same way that our circulatory system works. Except in the plant world no pump, aka heart, is forcing the issue. Water is very cohesive meaning it stays together and generally where it is put. That is why sucking through a straw idseasier with liquid then a slurry of solids like mud. While soil does not really have vessels to create a physical capillary network what is does have is air space between every particle of soil. Water flows through the air space not through the soil particle. So in essence there exists in soil a vast network of capillaries in the form of air.
The continuity of these air pockets determines how far and how fast water moves any direction up or down in the soil strata. As long as the air pockets are of a similar size moisture flowing through this virtual capillary network is even and predictable. But....break that network open by changing the size of air space abruptly and the flow of moisture is interrupted drastically. This radical change in air space, drainage stones under a layer of fine soil, breaks the cohesion factor of water almost stopping the push me pull you flow action. Basically the moisture becomes confused, scared and stops moving.
Studies have shown, with dramatic photographic evidence (NSFW for faint office environs) that the soil in contact with drainage stones and immediate above it is saturated, has low oxygen content and is often anaerobic in content causing roots to rot.  Think of it this way. Spill some water on the floor. Attempt to soak it up with "The Quicker Picker Upper" except that the Quicker Picker Upper" is fused on the upper  half with a towel of poorer quality, like larger weave brown industrial paper towels,  and you will see the water will not continue its'  upward capillary action
into the cheaper "Slower Picker Nothing Upper."
Solution to the no drainage but the pot is pretty anyway? Careful watering using a moisture probe all the way to the bottom of the pot to ensure no swamp is being created. In addition frequently lifting the plant out of that Ming Dynasty Vase to check the health of the roots. If the roots are whitish to whitish yellow and you don't drop the antique you are fine. If the roots are brown, smelly and putrid looking choose the Ming or the Marigold but you can't have both. 

25 October, 2010

Grow Lights Keeping the Grass Green for Green Bay Packers

I have always wondered how turf professionals repair sod at stadiums after football games. It could be a very expensive process to replace sod every week. In fact sod would root in one week before the next battle. Consider as well team practices during game week preclude the thought of replacing sod anytime during the playing season.
Well now high tech comes to cold tech. Lambugh filed often called the tundra is famous for games played in the snow let alone the cold.
Stadium Grow Lights to the rescue! This European firm has used outdoor grow lights at more then 60 soccer fields to date. They are now experimenting with these lights at Lambeau Field.

15 October, 2010

Garden Trends for 2011

I would like to beat the other forecasters to the punch with predictions for 2011. I realize it is only the middle of October but for gardening the year is just about over. To affirm that fact in less than three weeks radio stations start playing Christmas music! I do not like the sound of that either but fact here is an interesting  fact. I am in the radio industry as well as gardening. I am co-host of the number one morning radio show in Ulster County. A little tid bit I found about radio ratings goes completely against what listeners say about hearing holiday music the first week of November. The radio station that starts playing Christmas music first by far wins the ratings for the fourth quarter. So while we say we do not like hearing holiday tunes so early we end up listening any way.
Organic is now passe'. Not going away but evolving into something more meaningful. In addition to more meaningful the evolution of organic into the next phase is also more durable, longer lasting and better for natural resources as well. We are beginning to hear more often the term sustainability. Sustainability is the new relevant term or re branding of organic. It is now not good enough to be organic in the market place. You now must be sustainable. There is quite a difference between the two. In many cases sustainable is not organic but leaves a smaller total footprint from raw ingredient to finished product. For example it is more sustainable for Great Britain to import sheep and sheep products from New Zealand than to raise sheep and produce products from them in England. First thought would cause one to think this can't be true because England and New Zealand are so far away. Well china is far away from most western markets yet look how much we import from them. When the climate is factored in New Zealand is just a far more productive place to raise sheep than England. I am not sure of the exact details but the "total footprint" is smaller even though a toe or two, air freight or shipping from NZ to England, may be larger.
However all is not what it seems with sustainable either. There has yet to be shake out of fact from marketing. A very strong under current amongst the green set is taking aim at certain garden practices relating to "sustainability." For instance lawns are not considered sustainable even though the functions they serve far surpass just a green carpet or status symbol in the neighborhood.  In fact the "Great Campus Lawns" on universities are under attack as well. These vast open areas are gathering places for conversation, places of study, places to pass the time between classes, read a book or enjoy the sunny spring and fall days. Yes they must be mowed, sometimes watered, sometimes fertilized. And yes these practices are questionable under sustainability. But what about the social benefits and sense of community and gathering they provide. The pluses could indeed out weight the minuses.
Growing annuals, and  therefore vegetables, is not considered by some to be sustainable. This claim comes from the amount of energy it takes to grow, ship, feed and water annuals every year. At first again it sounds plausible. But a look beneath the surface reveals the following. While it does take energy to grow, water and transport annuals the entire package and product is 100% recyclable. The soil, plant, remaining fertilizer can easily be composted and very seldom end up in the waste stream. The pot even if it is plastic is recyclable or at least re useable. Plastic flower pots are may times more sustainable then pots made from fiber, rice or other biodegradable products simply because they last longer. Biodegradable pots usually last two seasons. While they breakdown outdoors they must be manufactured more often than a pot lasting 10 years. This means 5 times more energy to ship and deliver them alone. Then one needs to add the energy to make them as well. Sustainability is not going away. Sustainability is to me the biggest trend in gardening for 2011 and the next several years from annuals, lawn care, vegetable and herb gardening. But since it is likely to become a run away train when it hits main stream a little forethought is in line before coupling up to this train.
In terms of real gardening trends for the future vertical gardening is hot. Container gardening, hydroponics, vertical gardening, and indoor gardening are on a collision course. It will be exciting to see what the category morphs into. I foresee a day when Grandma purchases a garden appliance/machine that can be wheeled indoors and out as the seasons change. This appliance will have a large area for storing tools, fertilizers and, growing medium underneath. A large reservoir resembling an aquarium, perhaps even containing fish, will sit below  shallow trays where plants will grow. Water will circulate from the reservoir, via a timed pump, several times a day depending on the growing medium, to the plants and back to the reservoir. Now if fish are in the reservoir they will feed off plant roots. The plants will feed off the fish waste.  There is no need to buy fish food or fertilizer in this set up. In fact on larger scale the fish could be harvested for food along with the spinach or herbs growing up top.
Above the plant tray an LED light system, capable of switching from red to blue color spectrum depending on growth phase, Will be automatically lowered up or down depending on plant height. This light will also be on a timer like the pump. All these things are already on the market place. What has to be done is for some product engineer to put them altogether in a neat well marketed package that the consumer will accept. Grandma will buy this "product" and not even know she is into hydroponics!
Still on the growth track: herbs, vegetable gardening, container gardening, composting, indoor gardening and hydroponics, healthier soil, canning
Slowing down: lawns (smaller but still important), Topsy Turvy, xeriscaping, drip irrigation, tick and mosquito control,
Never took off but needs to: soil fertility tests, mulching, moisture meters, ph tests, proper watering practices
Never really understood why in the first place: gazing balls, bio-dynamic gardening, organic grass seed, square foot gardening, hedge shears

14 October, 2010

Checkout this Art Show When in Kingston

Hudson Valley Seed Library Art Pack Show Opening
Kingston Museum of Contemporary Art, 103 Abeel Street, Kingston, NY 12401
Saturday November 6

Terrariums! Coming Back Again

Stonecrop gardes is giving this workshop on a re-emerging garden trend whic has always been a favorite of mine.
81 Stonecrop La, Cold Spring, NY 10516
Saturday October 16 at 9:00AM - 12:00AM

11 October, 2010

Longer Garden Season??????

In the Adirondacks the garden season has been extended by late frost!  At my home we had forst on October 9th......6 days early:
But don't move North just yet......................

From North Country Public Radio (www.ncpr.org) my favorite radio station
"It's late in the season for North Country gardeners. And late frost has given vegetables and flowers a reprieve in many areas. Cornell Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy tells Martha Foley what perennials are still colorful, and what the top priorities are for the last days of her flower garden"

10 October, 2010

Cannot Get More Local Than This

Interesting story on NPR about restaurants growing their own food in their own gardens at the restaurant

08 October, 2010

Local Canning Blog on Hudson Valley Food Network.......................................

Hey it's still canning season. so why not learn from a local canner to put up local produce for the winter?
Great ideas and great groups to join on Hudson Valley Food Network.
Happy Columbus Day

04 October, 2010

Gardening Goes Vertical

Vertical gardening, gardening on walls or on poles, is a new area of excitement in horticulture, is much more than hanging a tomato in an upside down planter. Part of this trend is a natural outgrowth of roof top gardening or actual green roofs. If one can grow plants on a roof then it sure makes sense to try and grow them on a wall as well. There are a number of great vertical planters coming to market next year. I have chosen two models to bring into the Hudson Valley. They both offer outstanding opportunities to grow vertically in areas where space is at a premium, for privacy or just something new and different.
First is the Living Wall from Bright Green USA www.brightgreenusa.com   this unique planter consists of a single polymer unit available in three sizes: 20x20x2½, 10x20x4, and 8x18x4. The back is lined with a moisture mat that enables the plants in all 8 pockets to get the same amount of water. To provide long lasting water and to end over watering a really cool water box sits atop the planter and slowly drips water onto the moisture mat. The Living Wall planter is ideal for succulents but I like it for herbs. 8 pockets provide room enough to grow an entire herb garden on wall or mounted to a 4x4 post. Imagine living in a second floor town home and wanting fresh herbs. The Living Wall can be mounted easily to the wall right outside the kitchen or on a deck rail. Fresh herbs are right at the door. Even more convenient than going out to the garden. The Living Wall also means less bending over than with containers sitting on the floor or ground. Several Living Walls can be hung next to each other to make an actual living wall, hence the name. They function equally well indoors or out and make a bif statement if not an piece of art.
The biggest success story in container garden systems, Earth Box, introduces it's own vertical planter as well. Their's is so new that there are no photos online yet. The Earth Box vertical garden is a modular stacking unit that can be stacked up to 36 inches tall without needing support. If you want to go higher just mount the plant to a rear support like a fence rail or deck rail. Water is applied through a drip emitter system that waters from the top. Roots are in pockets that jut out in cups to keep water from being placed directly onto the root ball. This unit comes in two colors, white and terra cotta and should sell for around $45.  Very easy to plant and use with many different patterns available as to layout and height of the product. Again due to the compact nature of the unit it is ideal for herbs and small vegetables as well as flowers.
What may seem like hocus pocus at first is a whole slew of "nutritional supplements" for gardens. The packaging is beautiful and their claims are much more muted than supplements aimed at people. Thrive is not a fertilizer but best described as an innoculant like product kind of like a compost tea. However Thrive contains not only bacteria similar to that in compost tea but mychorrizae as well. Many garden products contain mychorrizae these days. Best described as a symbiotic relationship it is thought that mychhhorizae work but colonizing on root zones of plants to give a spider web like structure to the root structure. what the claim is that because the roots now resemble a spider web there is a much larger surface area plants have to take up water and nutrients.
Mychorrizae do colonize on root structures. this has been know for decades. problem always was there was no way to harvest mychorrizae and package it for sale. Seems the mychorizae always dies in the process. Several new ways have been found to make the product marketable. I have always thought liquid was the best way to apply organics. Turns out to be the same with mychorrizae. Dry forms have a limited shelf life and often must be placed in contact with the root mass in order to work properly. Thrive, being in liquid form already does not need to be applied directly to the roots.
Another great home grown food trend is window farming. Google window farming and learn how to make a window garden out of used 2 liter soda bottles and grow food all winter long. Again best used for greens and herbs.
The world of gardening continues to evolve with a lot of really cool products that while at first seem like snake oil or hocus pocus do work after all. This is a great benefit of organic gardening and sustainability going mainstream. The plethora of products may be fewer because the ones that work fit into survival of the fittest and make the cut.

17 September, 2010

Garlic and Vampires in The Garden

There will be no vampires in Saugerties next weekend! Vampire movies, novels and TV shows are all over the place these days. However one place there will be no vampires, no matter dark the night sky, next weekend is Saugerties. The ever popular Garlic Festival arrives the 25th and 26th of September. Already? You mean September is over and Christmas music hits the airwaves in six weeks? Indeed. Which is one reason I think fall festivals have gained so much popularity lately. Before you know it Summer is  gone and fall is already leaving before it gets here. So what to do? Cram in as many nice weekend events as you can. Car shows, farmers markets, harvest fests........hurry up winter is almost here.
The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival is one of the biggest in the nation. And  to think it started on a small farm on a small barely drivable dirt road many years ago. The festival is held at Cantine Field on the north side of town. However due to the fact that 50,000 people show up do not plan on parking anywhere near the site. There are several outlying parking areas well serviced by trolleys and buses to get you to and from the festival. Tickets are available in advance for $7, kids under 12 are free. Seniors tix are $3 in advance. There are no discounted tix available at the gate where prices will be $10. This is the only drawback. $10 to me is a little steep to bring a family of teenagers, especially if the promoters expect to have attendees purchase from the myriad of vendors inside the festival.
That aside there will be dozens of food vendors who must use garlic on their preparations! Garlic ice cream anyone. I purchased some garlic horseradish preserves at the Catskill Farmers Market awhile back. Outstanding for any garlic/horseradish lover. Almost ate the whole jar without putting it on anything! Since the festival is all about garlic it makes sense you can buy dozens of varieties of garlic for planting as well. Fall is the perfect time to plant garlic. In fact hard neck varieties must be planted now for best results.
planting in late September gives the roots time to set up for winter. Garlic is outstandingly hardy for this region as well as points north.
Break the bulb into individual cloves. Bigger cloves result in bigger bulbs come harvest time. use the small ones to keep vampires away after the festival is over with. Plant the cloves 1 inch deep in the valley 4-6 inches deep in those outlying frost pockets. Soft pliable soil is a must. My heavy clay, PlayDoh raw material, needs tons of compost added to loosen up the tight grip of compact clay platelets. Compost also does an excellent job at repelling vampires, ghosts, ghouls but not zombies. Zombies? Yes, that is what everyone who tries my home gown chile peppers looks like. The only connection I can conjure up is the compost!
Remove the stalks from hard neck varieties when it reaches 9 inches tall the following spring. This will concentrate energy into the underground bulbs instead of the ones that would normally form on the top of the stem Harvest times comes when the leaves begin to brown but there should still be a half dozen or so green ones left. Examine the bulbs by gently lifting one from the ground. If skins, the onion like slivery covering, have formed around the clove they are ready for harvest. Provide good air circulation for a few weeks as the bulbs cure. Remember for free garlic re-plant half of what you harvest each fall until your garlic bed is as large as you want and your vampire loving friends threaten to un-friend you online.
Another favorite event I attend is Tropic-Al's end of Summer Beach Party. Held the last  day of summer, this banana republic in the Catskills throws one last Beach Bum Bash. Pirates show up to play shipwreck games take part in treasure hunts and more. This year's plans include a huge bonfire in the new fire pit to roast coconuts,  bananas and shell fish. For more information log on to www.tropicalsbbqreview.blogspot.com . Yes these natives are restless when the leaves start changing colors.
Speaking of changing......I have changed my thoughts on farmers markets this year after attending several. I am appalled the prices many of these places charge. Several in the northern parts of the region I will not go to anymore. Without naming names I have seen the following. Uncertified "organic" mesculin mix 4 oz bag $5. That is $20 lb for salad greens!
A basket of 5 small peaches for $4. I equated that to be $8-$12 per pound.  Other price gouging includes $1 for 1 zucchini, $2 for a single tomato, Swiss chard in small six stem bunches at the equivalent of $10+ per pound. I actually looked forward to going each week to get fresh produce even though I grow the same stuff in my yard.
The Catskill Farmers Market, many reasonably priced products, is being sued by several businesses on Main Street in the Village of Catskill. The market moved from the river front where it was held in a beautiful old brick shipping warehouse, to Main Street in the village. Each Saturday morning a two to three block area is cordoned off to allow for the market to be held. A nearby barber shop took issue saying his business has suffered because of the street being closed down. I saw this scenario coming but from a different angle. Many thought farmers market visitors would then shop the local store fronts. Apparently they have not. I wondered why the market moved from its' covered but open location on a beautiful waterfront to the drab uptown look of Catskill. To this day the Hudson river is our greatest but most often ignored resource.
Some of this years' notable garden trends: garden sheds go upscale. I think this came out of the Man Cave phenomenon. The basic guys hangout in the garage went hi-tech uber decorative so why not garden sheds. Berkshire Botanical Gardens has several tricked out sheds on display through September.
Container and urban gardening are sizzling. he by-far best garden magazine on the planet Urban Gardener has staked out this trend as its' own. Filled with not just the pretty pictures but data and information to back it up. If you want to see it and do it this magazine is the only one to read on the subjects of indoor gardening container gardening, hydroponics and urban farming.
Community gardening has cooled off after the O'Bamas did not make a big deal of it this year like last year. I Think the topic is alive and well though.
And in the dept of strange gardening news: the Institute for Advanced Conservative Gardening has merged with the Society of Conservative Herbalists

10 September, 2010

Start a Home Food Biz...Saturday Columbia Greene CC

Start and Run a Home-Based Food Business

Do you love to bake or cook? Would you like to create an income doing what you love, making these foods at home? Whether you're interested in a part-time or full-time business, this course will guide you step-by-step through the entire process. Course seating is limited, register now.

Time: September 11, 2010 from 8:30am to 4:30pm
Location: SUNY Columbia-Greene
Website or Map:
Phone: (518) 828-4181 x3342
Event Type: class

08 September, 2010

Which Bulb With Which Perennial?

Another thought to ponder: since a rose is a rose is a rose, to what should I plant next to my tulip? Goodness knows!
Cornell has ventured into taking  the guess work out of bulb/perennial combos. Talk about relevance, fall bulb planting time perennial dividing time.
Good idea or just something else to complicate gardening?

Autumn a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing in the Garden This Year

Drought damage to your garden happens faster now than mid summer. The end of summer and the arrival of fall, my favorite season, gives a false sense of security to gardeners when rain fall has dropped off. This fall will be a perfect example since we are on average about 5 inches below normal rainfall.

One would think that hot dry summers are the main culprit in drought damage. They certainly do contrbute. But summer has a built in drought defense system in the northeast: humidity. The relationship between temperature and humidity is a complex one but has a drastic effect on how much water plants transpire into the atmosphere.

To put it simply, as simply as complicated relational analysis can be, air like most matter expands when it warms. A larger volume of air can hold more water than the cooler air. This is irregardless to humidity level. Therefore an 80* summer day with 80% humidity has much more moisture in it than a 50* day with the same 80% humidity.

So how does fall weather with inherent lower temperatures hasten drought damage?
Humidity is the answer. Fall temaperatures are also accompanied by very low humidity levels. While fall days may be only ten degrees cooler in mid September than mid August humidity levels plummet by a much larger percantage. Fall humidity levels often drop to 40% or lower meaning there is much more room for moisture to enter the atmosphere as a percentage of volume even with lower temperatures.

Think of 80*/80% humidity like a fuel tank. Let's say an 80 gallon fuel tank is 80% full. That means that there a 64 gallons of fuel in the tank with room for 16 gallons more.
That leaves little room for more fuel entering the tank. (Or in the atmosphere little room for moisture from plants to transpire into the atmosphere so plant "breathing" slows down).

Now look at a 70 gallon tank that is 20% full. There are 14 gallons in the tank and room for 56 more. In the atmosphere a lot of room for plants to transpire moisture into the air so there breathing rates increase rapidly.

While there is no correlation between the weather with the following example it speaks volumes about the subject: 80x80=6400 whereas 70X20 only equal 1400. That illustrates in graphic detail the difference between 80*/80% humidity and 70*/20% humidity.

Here we have a small drop of ten degrees in temperature but a corresponding drop in humidity of a much larger percentage. Result: even with a lower temperature plants transpire much more moisture into the atmosphere beacuse of low humidity.

With normal rain fall this difference is not a matter. But with the lack of rainfall we have experienced this year it matters a lot

07 September, 2010

Organic Food Now Mainstream in Hudson Valley Region

Today's Times Hear ld Record reports on the growing acceptance of organic food products.  There is one caveat in this seemingly positive story. 50% of organic food is now sold by supermarkets, aka, Wal-Mart. This is part of the problem. Huge retailers dictate to vendors what they will buy and what they want to product to be right down to how it is manufactured; in this case grown. Since when does a buyer sitting in Bentonville AR know anything about health food?
Anther issue with things going mainstream cause a reactionary from those who have been "in the know" in the early days. They often become angry at the newbies stepping on their turf. Kind of like when I have tried to volunteer for many organizations who say they have only a small number of people doing the grunt work. Just try to join them and you get an attitude as if you are stepping on their right to martyr themselves for the cause.
Unscrupulous manufacturers jump in on the band wagon as well. I mean organic garlic from China? Gimme a break!
What usually happens after the mainstream hype is over is logic and reason settles back in. The last groupies of the trend  lose interest and go away. The devious producers usually follow suit. The original groupies realize the trend is good as the hype levels off and join back in wiser for the move.
There will not be as many involved as during the hyper days of organic euphoria but the remaining crowd is much larger and healthier (pardon the pun) and the industry is better off in the long run.  

05 September, 2010

Still HAve Green Tomatos?

Green Tomato Marmalade
makes 2 pints

2 quarts small green tomatoes, sliced
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
4 organic lemons, washed, peeled, sliced, seeds removed (reserve the rind)
rind from 4 lemons, fine chop
4 cups sugar

1. Place sliced tomatoes in a stainless steel stockpot.  Add salt.
2. Add the chopped lemon rind to the pot. Cover with water and boil 10 minutes. Drain well and return to pot.
3. Add lemon slices, juice and sugar to the tomato mixture.
4. Cook tomato mixture over moderate heat, stirring constantly until sugar melts.
5. Now bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thick, about 45 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
6. Ladle marmalade into sterile jars while mixture is hot.
Marmalade keeps for weeks refrigerated.
For delicious, quick hors d'oeuvres, lightly toast 1-inch squares of thin-sliced whole wheat bread. Let cool. Spread a thin layer of reduced-fat cream cheese onto the toast and top with a dollop of marmalade.

01 September, 2010

Just as the Heat Wave Ends....Ducth Bulbs Arrive!

Just walked into Adams Kingston location, where my office is, after four days of beach bum-ing. It is 95* today and Thursday but the weather is supposed to break Friday. While Labor Day weekend may have weather more like Memorial Day this year all is not lost. Dutch bulbs have arrived!  Thousands of tulips, daffodils, iris and hyacinths all ready for planting into your gardens during the next six weeks of fall weather.
What a way to break a heat wave,  better timing could not be predicted. 

31 August, 2010

Hudson Valley Green Festival Saturday in Staatsburgh

A one-day music, alternative energy, food and beverage festival at Staatsburgh State Historic Site in Staatsburg, NY.

Musical Acts include:
Blues Traveler
Donna the Buffalo
Amos Lee
BeauSoleil Band
John Brown's Body
The Duke and the King
and more! See the entire line up here!

15 National, Regional and Local Musical Artists on two stages
Alternative Sustainable Energy Pavilion
Food by Terrapin Catering & Local Beer Pavilion
Farmer's Market of Hudson Vally Products
Over twenty on-site vendors
Green Beans Kids Tent

For tickets and more info please visit

27 August, 2010

Homemade Herbal Medicine Workshop in New Paltz Sept 21!

The jury is still out as to what herb concoctions actually work. Fact is herbs are a food and should be treated like food. In the same way carrots assist with eye sight herbs should be included in the same realm and no longer thought of as mysterious of weird.
That in mind here is info from Hudson Valley Food Network's events calendar about a basic herbal medicine workshop I think is worthwhile. Take from it what you will. My herbal concoction for bronchitis, horehound, sage,basil and dried habanero tea worked wonders. It did not however get mixed during a full moon or some other so called magical evening!
Time: September 21, 2010 from 6pm to 7:30pm
Location: Phillies Bridge Farm Project
Street: 45 Phillies Bridge Rd.
City/Town: New Paltz
Website or Map: http://www.philliesbridge.org…
Phone: 845-256-9108
Event Type: workshop
Organized By: Phillies Bridge Farm Project
Workshop Description
In Basic Herbal Medicine Making Ashley Sapir Lathrop will teach participants how easy and fun it can be to make herbal preparations from plants from our own gardens or even the "weeds" in our yards. In this class she will demonstrate how to make herbal infusions, decoctions and how to create tinctures made from alcohol or vinegar. Ashley will talk about which of these preparations work best for particular situations and common health concerns. Everyone will create their own 2 oz. tincture to bring home.

Ashley Sapir Lathrop is an herbalist who lives in Gardiner. She grows or  gathers the herbs she uses to support her family's health throughout the seasons. She has studied with 7-Song, Matthew Wood and currently with Dina Falconi. Ashley teaches classes locally with the goal of empowering people to take charge of their own health using plants as their allies. The plant world offers abundant gifts and Ashley believes that by just learning a few local plants and their uses a person can improve and maintain a healthy body, mind and spirit.

Workshop Fees:
$20 for members/$25 for non-members
Pre-registration required!

24 August, 2010

Join Me in Bringing a New Slow Food Chapter to the area

I know you like to garden because you read my little blog. I know you like to eat for the same reasons as well. Well how about going a step further and bring the ulimate foodie/locavore project a little closer to home?
Do you like, no love: fresh food, healthy food, homegrown food, sharing your love of same?
Read on then:

As I wrote a few days ago, I was very impressed by the the talk of slow Food USA's Joshua Viertel talk at the IGC in Chicago last week. Currently there is a chapter for the lower Hudson Valley, Saratoga and western Catskills but nothing for the always overlooked area of the upper Hudson Valley Greene/Columbia counties. I would add Northern Ulster, Northern Dutchess as well as southern Albany and Rennsalaer counties as well.
I am testing the waters to see if there is any interest in forming a chapter for this region. Several unique traits to the region:
1) A lot of poor rural and inner city (Hudson, Catskill) residents that could benefit from the slow food idea
2) Substantial number of  second home owners who seek fine local food at restaurants,  
3) Large talent base of professionals who live in the area to provide pool of talent to head up a chapter.
4) Greene/Columbia counties often overlooked as to being "members of the Hudson Valley or Capital Region
5) Large tracts of operating farmland to draw from
6) Potential huge win/win for the local grower and the local eater 
I am committed to do doing this over the next fewl months.
If you are interested please contact me a gsdraiss@aol.com

Organic Fertilzer on Track to Be Outlawed in New York

Yes indeed. The ever thinking thought provoking government in Albany has outlawed fertilizers coning phosphorous in fertilizers exceeding .5% in content. Phosphorous is deemed responsible for algae blooms in major water bodies. Many soils are already sufficient in phosphorous for necessary plant growth so the elimination of the element in chemical fertilizers is no big deal. However it will deal a death blow to organic fertilizers. Even compost has some phosphorous in it. Does this mean your backyard compost pile is at risk? Could be under give an inch take a foot process. It is very easy to rid a box of Miracle Gro of phosphorous. But to rid a glorious bag of organic plant food or bird guano of phosphorous is preposterous. Here is a comment from the state senator who voted in favor of this nonsense:
Especially take note of this line:Violators of the new law would receive a written warning and educational materials
Buffalo, NY – New York State Senator Antoine Thompson (D-parts of Erie & Niagara Counties) changes the Environmental Conservation Law regarding the amount of phosphorus used in household products.  

Senate bill S3780, sponsored by Thompson prohibits the sale or distribution of dish washing detergent containing more than 0.5% of phosphorus.  The bill, signed into law by Governor David Paterson on July 15th, also prohibits the application of phosphorus fertilizer on lawn or non-agricultural turf.
Studies show that one pound of phosphorus can produce 500 to 700 pounds of algae, which reduces oxygen in water, causing fish and shellfish to die.

Thompson calls excessive phosphorus a growing threat to our environment.   "By reducing levels of phosphorus entering the environment, communities could save significant cost, because they would not be required to install as much storm water treatment systems in impaired watersheds."

The amendment to the Environmental Conservation Law goes into effect January 2013.  Violators of the new law would receive a written warning and educational materials for the first violation. However, repeat offenders could be fined up to $250.00.

04 August, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Festival August 22th

Rogowski's Farm  Orange County, NY will be hosting their 6th annual heirloom tomato festival on Sunday, August 22nd from 11-6. Cool thing is the admission is affordable at only $3 per person and kids under 15 FREE!!!!! That leaves a little bread in the wallet to splurge on some of dem cool d'maters. Another thing I like about this festival is the hours. For once someone gets it. I do not attend events that are heavily advertised and crowded that only run four hours.  (I was once saw a very popular church supper that advertised hours from 4:30-6PM, 1.5 hours to eat besides 10's of others? NO WAY)
This one runs most of the day giving crowded schedules a chance to break free and enjoy some locally grown produce.

My Garden How To Videos Now Online

Hello gardeners: Just as I picked my first tomatoes of the season I found out my How To Videos are finally up on the web site at Adams. 
Though late blight seems to be held at bay this season early blight has hit my tomato patch. I will control it with a sulphur or neem oil spray for now.
Time to start hanging up those bunches of herbs in the garage to dry. Tie them tightly as the stems will shrink when they lose all that water content. It is easy to do and well worth the effort. Just look at the price of dried herbs in the markets. Basil especially can run $16 to $20 per pound alone. I do not believe what I read when it comes to what herbs do not dry well. many say cilantro is best fresh. I like it dry as well since it seems less potent.
I plan on bunching herbs by their intended use. For instance for my annual bought of bronchitis I am combining basil, horehound, lemon balm, and gray sage in one batch. when dry I will crush up the leaves and place them into a jar labeled cold and flu. For winter Italian cooking: parsley, oregano, basil, marjoram, chives etc.
Bunching herbs by use makes it easy in the winter to just grab the jar and shake. What a hassle going through the cabinets looking over thirty or more jars of herbs just to find 5-6 you need. Remember gardening should be fun not just THYME consuming.

29 July, 2010

Garden Expo 2010 at Adams Kingston Saturday!

Join us for our second annual garden expo at Adams Fairacre Farms Kingston location this Saturday. Cooking demos, lectures and product demonstrations from 10AM -5PM. I will be speaking on Bugs, Slugs and Other Thugs at 10AM. There will also be a talk on ponds at noon and Mark Adams will speak on fall garden vegetables. Vendors on hand as well to answer your questions!

Late Blight Hits Chenango County in New York

Here we go again! Watch out for your Damaters and Taters! Story below click the link

28 July, 2010

My Extra Garden Harvest going to Queens Galley Soup Kitchen in Kingston, N

Although my family of five eats a lot of the veggies from our garden I have bushels of extras. I hate throwing it all in the compost pile. Instead, Queens Galley in Kingston is getting all of my extra garden fresh crops. In addition I will be working with them to establish a "soup garden' and attempt to grow greens indoors in my hydroponics grow room, spinach etc, to supply them with fresh greens all winter. If the greens work out, spinach very easy and a fast turn over, I will try other crops like herbs, and root crops as well.
Stay tuned for photos and information on my agricultural expansion!
I am told the only way they get fresh produce on the table is through donations. So Instead of planting an extra row for the hungry. I will be enlarging my garden for the hungry.

Queens Galley accepts no government funds and served more than 7,000 meals last month.
For more info www.queensgalley.org

22 July, 2010

Now They Want to Get Rid of Lawns at College Campuses

Eco warriors are attacking homeowners rights to have a nice green lawn. They claim that the noise from mowers, water and nutritional needs are polluting the environment. Originally it was a move to reduce lawns. But as this crowd knows they can get their way through incrementalism- aka give them an inch and they will take a foot.
Now the crusade has gone on to college campuses, those lawns where students, faculty and often the public gather to "sit under the old oak tree". This time though they may have bit off more than they cam MOW.
Check out the post on Garden Rant

06 July, 2010

Controversy Over "Free Range" Definition hits Austrailia

It would seem that the United States is inwardly focused on self preservation through organics and environmental practices these days. "Green Washing" a term coined to define products that claim to be green but may only be on a limited level. Now that "Organic" has federal guidelines before being applied to many products the race is on to define "Natural" in the same way. Rest assured that the predicament is not just in the U.S. but down under as well. Free Range Chickens may get a new definition allowing an increase in the number of chickens per ,ot by ten fold and also allow for de-beaking.

Plans by the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd to review the standards of free range egg production have caused a schism in the industry, with free-range producers refusing to agree to changes that could see the maximum number of 'free range' birds per hectare increase from 1500 to as many as 20 000, and allow de-beaking.
Small farmers, free range producers and animal welfare groups are outraged over the proposed changes, saying that they are a concession to the AECL's main members - larger cage and barn producers.

Industry players got away with labelling their eggs 'free range' simply by putting doors in the sides of their 30 000-bird sheds, but kept all food and water inside.
Phil Westwood said that the AECL could avoid the watering down of the 'free range' label by introducing more specific labels, such as 'semi-intensive' (as used by the EU) or 'cage-free'.

The above is from the publication Australia Food News. Click for more information on the story.

The next time yo see a biodegradable flower pot, a bird feeder made from recycled milk bottles think twice. What good is a biodegradable flower pot if you have to buy another one in two years? How much energy goes into manufacturing, shipping, and distribution of that flower pot. A "normal" plastic pot lasts for decades.

In theory just going organic is passe'. Think about the total "footprint" a product or practice makes. Footprints are important not only if you are green conscious footprints also equate to dollars. The larger the footprint the more dollars it costs you in the end. And who said greens and capitalists could no co-exist?

26 June, 2010

Downy Mildew a Permanent on Basil?

It looks like something in nature has a thing about pesto and salad. Last year tomatoes were ruined in the east by late blight. Late blight turned up already this year in Louisiana and parts of Maryland. Growers had 1,000s of acres wiped out by the disease. Now the main component in  pesto, basil, is under attack by a grayish fungus called downy mildew. Downy mildew often attacks squash and cucumbers along with many ornamentals. Now it has begun an assault on basil the mainstay of summer gardens around the U.S.

First signs of affliction include a band of yellow haze on the upper surface followed by small grayish black spores on the under side of the leaves. While not toxic to humans the mold is quite unsightly. Removing leaves infected in the home garden is the only well suited control. However on commercial farms this labor heavy activity is not practical.

The disease is currently spreading through New Jersey. Unfortunately sweet large leaf basil, the most popular variety, is most susceptible. Lesser known varieties like lime and lemon are not easily affected by the disease.

More information in the Washington Post

10 June, 2010

Japanese Beetles Ready to Attack

Sooner or later we knew it would happen. Summer is just a week away even though we have had glimpses of hot humid weather now and then since April. Plants got ahead of themselves by several weeks at the onset of April only to be put back in check by a hard dose of normal reality, a hard freeze. By the time May came to town the whole weather scenario seemed to even itself out. The early blooming in April did not extend into May. Finally what was supposed to bloom in May bloomed in May and the final frost date of May 15th came and went without cause. And now it is already the second week of June. I always thought time went faster as one got older for the simple reason that each passing year represents a smaller percentage of your total life. For a five year old one years is a whopping twenty percent of their existence. But at twenty years of age that percentage drops to five. For us midlife crisis sufferers? A year dwindles to a measly two percent of our existence when you hit fifty! But just ask a high school kid and they too are seeing time fly by.
Back to gardening, my intended topic. Mid June also announces the arrival of bug season. We see the crowds drift back to the bug juice section of our stores this month. May is spent in the plant departments. June is remedy month.  Time to fix problems hitting the plants placed in the ground in April and May. The problems run the gamut of mildews, weeds, slugs, bugs and other thugs that can ravage a garden if left unchecked. Though the trend is towards organic and natural controls these products are still pesticides and deserve respect from the applicator. We in the garden industry cannot say it enough, "Always read and follow label instructions". I have been in the garden business for thirty years and I always read the application rates on the label for the simple reason that one label looks like every other after.
Of all the pests we will see this month the one with the most voracious appetite is the Japanese beetle. About the size of a dime and the color of a shiny copper penny, these beetles launch their attack on almost everything in the garden in mid June. The calling card of a Japanese beetle is a leaf surface decimated leaving only the skeletal appearance of its' veins behind. Preferring to munch in the sun beetles devour cannas, basil, birch trees, egg plant, potatoes and dozens of other ornamental species. Not to eat and run beetles lay eggs in our lawns by mid July that when hatched become those little milky white grubs that destroy lawn roots as fast as their parents ate your snapdragon leaves!
Controls for Japanese beetles that work well and quickly are few with organic controls being even fewer. Sevin, the maligned but effective, insecticide is still my first choice when beetles strike. Sevin kills beetles on contact and leaves behind a decent amount of residual control beetles that are sure to come around later.  I have no problem hitting my tomato and pepper crop with Sevin for beetles. These are long term crops that are nowhere near ready for harvest in June. Basil, other herbs and leaf crops such as spinach and chard are a different matter.  Sevin is not a good choice for these crops because they are ready to eat just as the beetles attack. The best mode of attack on these tender leaf crops is a combination of hand picking the bugs off and botanical sprays like pyrethrins and other plant made oils. Botanical controls like pyrethrins can be applied up to one day before harvest.
One way to prevent Japanese beetles from attacking in the first place is to apply Milky Spore to your lawn areas. Milky spore is Bacillus thuringensis, a natural pesticide, and stops grubs from maturing into adult beetles. When the grubs ingest Bt they stop eating and die within a few hours.
Milky Spore is best applied in a powder form. It takes two to three years to spread throughout the lawn but will remain effective for 15-20 years. Although the initial outlay is more than the cost of using Merit the long term cost is much lower.

09 June, 2010

Farmers Market in Philmont Opens Sunday June 13th

What a great thing. farmers Market in Hudson on Saturday and another in nearby Phimont on Sunday. Philmont is an old mill town undergoing somewhat of a rebirth. Excellent irish pub in town as well as  farm to table Restaurant Locall 111

Burpee Giving Out Free Veggies

To promote their new line of quality veggie plants Burpee recently gave out free seedlings to commuters in Chicago. Here is the story from Garden Center News

04 June, 2010

Conard Pyle Ceasing Most Operations Effective September 30

Conard Pyle a PA. nursery long known for quality plant material has announced it will cease most operations in early fall. Famous for Star Roses and ornamental shrubs under the Star name, Conard will keep only its' rose division. Most of it's sales force will be terminated as well.
Their web site reads: 
"Since our founding in 1897, The Conard-Pyle Co. has evolved from a retail mail order firm specializing in roses, to a wholesale container nursery. Today, we grow an extensive range of perennials, ground covers, grasses, woody ornamental plants and roses".
There is no information on their web site or in the media as of this morning regarding this news. 


Organic Gardeners Now Exceed 10 Million According to Survey

The green movement has hit mainstream with the number of gardeners exclusively using natural products in their gardens new exceeds 10 million. In fact the number has more than doubled since 2005. The article appears on the National Gardening Association web site.
What this means may not all be good news. It seems whenever a trend goes mainstream the knowledge base diminishes. I mean the more regular gardeners get GREEN the less the garden public collectively really knows or understands what they are doing. The lemming effect is what I call it. In theory there is not a major issue when millions are gardening naturally and not knowing why.
The problem comes in when marketers get hold of it,as they already have, and label everything remotely green as being green. The practice is called GREEN WASHING and is alive in many industries not just gardening..............................................
For more information read the article here: http://www.gardenresearch.com/index.php?q=show&id=2896

Albany Farmers Connected With Consumers Online in Albany County

Farming goes hi tech....kind of. This is kind of a double edge sword. Farmers markets popping up all over are said to be bringing back the feeling of community. And they  do that function well.  Well now enter the digital age to the farm market scenario. Consumers in Albany County searching for fresh eggs, greens, corn etc can now, instead of searching out famers markets, log on to a new web site that connects farmers and consumers. Good idea......or a blow to the new weekly community gathering place.
This story is in the Albany TImes Union Friday June 4th:
No more standing in lines on sticky summer mornings at the farmers market just to get some local berries.
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An Albany woman will bring the finest farm offerings from the Hilltowns to customers' laptops, so they can order honey, eggs, grass-fed beef, pork, poultry, seasonal produce and other products and have it delivered to their homes. Consider it the Amazon.com of local agriculture.
The Heldeberg Market opens its virtual doors today, with the first deliveries going out June 10, says Sarah Avery Gordon, the owner of the market who also runs an environmental consulting business in Albany.
"I've seen so many of the farms up in the Hilltowns shut down because they haven't had enough local sales and enough profits to keep their farms going, and it's really heartbreaking to see because some of these people have had these farms in their family for generations," said Gordon, who helped her father move sales of the grass-fed beef he produces at Gordon Farms in Berne online early this year with much success. "They're producing fresh, local, healthy food, and I want to see them be able to make a livelihood off of that."

Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=937641#ixzz0psewAEMx

02 June, 2010

Late Blight Moving Into Maryland

First Louisiana and now Maryland gardens and greenhouses:
From industry trade publication Garden Center Magazine

Tomato plants in a St. Mary's County, Md., greenhouse found to be infected with late blight caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans have been destroyed. Some of the plants which had been planted in Charles County have also been destroyed.
Univ. of Md. extension plant pathologist Kate Everts reported that the grower who had the original outbreak did keep some high tunnel tomato production. Plants were found to have active sporulation on May 13 despite two fungicide applications.
Extension personnel have extensively monitored neighboring growing operations for additional infected sites and found none. The disease pathogen favors cool wet weather so the concern remains that it might spread to surrounding growing operations.
Commercial tomato growers in St. Mary's and Charles counties and in nearby counties are being advised to apply a protectant fungicide such as chlorothalonil, Gavel or mancozeb. Growers should also scout aggressively looking for late blight symptoms. Growers should submit samples of suspect plants to a university or commercial diagnostic lab.
Univ. of Md. pathologists are conducting studies to try to determine where the disease originated and how it was introduced into the grower's operation. The grower did not have any live plants that could have allowed the pathogen to overwinter. Officials are hoping that genotype information will provide some clues. 

Heirloom Tomatoes at Adams Kingston New Arrivals

Just received the following varieties of heirloom tomatoes at Adams Kingston location!
Park's Whopper:  4 inch fruit earlier than regular whopper, 65 days to maturity long harvest up until frost
Consuluto Fiorentino: Italian beefsteak type from Florence 12-16 oz. fruits good for fast sauces 75 days to maturity
Pantano: Italian type 12 oz or more fruit, beefsteak type 80 days to maturity, sweet juicy
Japanese Black trifele: potato like leaves, burgundy fruit 74 days to maturity
Mortgage Lifter: from the 1930's, a classic tasty tomato that paid off M.C. Byles mortgage! 8 oz 85 days to maturity


01 June, 2010

Garden Expo at Adams Kingston Store

Join me Saturday July 31st for a Garden Expo day at Adams Fairacre Farms Kingston store. I will be speaking on Slugs Bugs and Other (Garden) Thugs.
This is the second Garden Expo at adams Kingston. Take a break from the summer heat and enjoy demonstrations from Scotts, Mark Adams Greenhouse and other garden industry experts