Archive for August, 2009

Update on floating row cover

August 31, 2009

Here is an important lesson I learned about using floating row cover with raised beds. DON’T SKIMP! You have to have floating row cover that is wide enough to cover the width of the bed so that it can reach 3-4′ high and still have enough left so that you can anchor the sides to the ground (mine is 10′ wide and my beds are 4′ wide so this works). Then you have to cut it long enough so that you can gather the ends and weight them down. You do not want any gaps. So you would do at least 24′ for a 16′ long bed.

The problem is that on the one hand you don’t want to waste expensive row cover, even if you buy it in the more cost-effective commercial quantities. But, if you skimp and insects get under the cover, they are in heaven while you are assuming that your plants are safe. When you take off the row cover, you will be in for a rude awakening.

So … do not be penny wise and a pound foolish … use enough to do it right. I learned the hard way.


Penultimate planting

August 31, 2009

Yesterday I put in the next to the last seeds of the year. The last will be my wintering-over spinach that will go in as soon as I take out some cooking onions.

My planting yesterday consisted of a 4′ by 4′ section that has a row of radish (French Breakfast), a row of fenugreek (“Methi” as it is called when it is a green) and two rows of mustard (a yellow and red, both of which have very finely cut leaves). It is a good time to plant mustard as it will not bolt and can stand cold. Remember that Italian rapa is a mustard so you could do that too … I was out of seed.

Manure and compost

August 28, 2009

This from

humanure1 I may have pointed out in a previous post that we compost cat manure. We do so separate from composting the cat litter in our regular compost. We use the cat manure in our flower gardens. However, when I cleaned out the tumbler composter last week the cat manure compost looked really good … good enough for any use. Now I know that I can’t see microbes but I was just judging it based on the quality of the composting that took place. Now, I need to read this to see what it has to say about composting human waste (beyond a composting toilet) as a way to understand more about composting cat and dog waste.

Go to the site and download the pdf of the entire book.

Thai Hot peppers (dried chilies)

August 28, 2009

Thai hotsEvery year I grow a few Thai Hot pepper plants for my year’s worth of dried hot peppers. I have been using my own seeds for several years now. If I had no seeds, I would just go to an Asian market and buy a bag of dried chilies (most are Thai Hots or very similar) and take seeds from them. Dried hot peppers are an easy source of seeds and they are the ultimate open pollinated fruit.

Most of you know that you are not supposed to grow hot peppers near sweet peppers since the cross-pollination will heat up the sweet peppers. Given this advice and given that hot peppers want as full of sun as they can get, I usually do my Thai Hots as container plants. As container plants I can place them where I want to get the very best sun and to keep them away from my sweet peppers. Moreover, for the containers I have found that nothing beats, chimney liners and chimney thimbles. I am using thimbles now. Thimbles are the part that goes from the chimney into the house. They are 10″ round in cross-section, about 16-18 inches long and made of 1-1.5″ thick clay. Think of them as the heaviest clay flowerpot but without a bottom to the pot. They hold moisture well and the thick clay keeps the roots from overheating.

I set mine on the sunniest part of the driveway. I fill them with compost and put in plants that I have started before hand. They initially grow too much green growth because of all of the rich compost but soon the limited size of the container slows down the top growth and fruiting takes over. I get great production. In a good year, a few (3-4) plants will provide me with dried chilies for more than the year. They are also lovely ornamentals as are most very hot peppers.

When the peppers are all red and/or frost approaches, pull the plants, knock the dirt from the rootball and hang the plants upside down in a warm dry place (the garage?). When the leaves have all fallen off of the plants you can hang them in your pantry along with your herbs and braids of garlic, onions and wild mushrooms (what better way to convince your friends that you are the real deal) or just clip the fruit from the plants and store the dried chilies in bags or containers. When dried they will store in normal cabinets for years. The seed is best if reused in a year.

I get chimney liners and thimbles at a real builder’s supply … not Home Depot or Lowes. Go where they sell bricks and blocks for housing construction. Ask for a deal on ones that are slightly chipped or otherwise imperfect.

Trellis Tomato

August 28, 2009

sweet mill trellisEach year I do one ‘cherry” type tomato plant on an 8′ trellis that is attached to the railing of our small deck. It gets sun most of the day after it gets to be about 18″ tall. Until then it struggles since the deck itself shades it out most of the day. My goal has always been to get this plant up to the 8’ mark by Labor Day. Each year I do something close to a Sweet 100. This year I did a Sweet Million (don’t blame me, I don’t name them). It turned out to be one of the very best I have ever grown.

sweet millionsAs you can see from the pictures it has huge tomato panicles with 30-40 fruits per panicle which ripen over a very long period. In addition, the fruit are terrific … sweet but fleshy. Unlike most cherry types, they are slow to split after rains.

I plant these in a LOT of compost and, since they are right near the deck, they get regular waterings. I built the Trellis out of wood used for lattice and just keep it painted each spring with a quick coating of white primer. I attach the trellis to the deck with velcro garden tape … the inside of the tape velcro-sticks to the outside.

BTW … this particular tomato is exceptionally good for a classic Italian roasted cherry tomato pasta sauce.