Monday, March 28, 2011

Yikes! I saw this coming.....


I know I didn't mention all the many problems there are with bad purchased compost.  They are the thing of nightmares.  Well here it is our biggest nightmare.  

I read this in Mother Earth News April/May 2011

Killer Compost

that's the headline, YIKES

So the deal is herbicides usually have a half life in the soil
composting if done properly will loose the herbicides most in 6 month some in a year.

ENTER Aminopyralid herbicide, Milestone
Now being highly used and it doesn't brake down.  
Not fast enough for compost.  
Yet it is being sprayed on animal pastures, and hayfields.

Gardeners who get some of this in their purchased compost will see a slow death to their veggie plants.  Even just 10 parts per billion will kill your plants.


Well I am but read on........

Many states have been hit with this, Whatcom country had massive community gardens lost and several organic farms.  We can't even guess at the number of little family gardens who lost their veggies last year and thought it was the weather. 
The plants do die a very slow death. 

My biggest worry is this can stay in the soil of your garden, your home for far too long. We are talking years and years.  It is a threat to native plants also. This is no small thing.

Dow got everything approved in 2005.

We will be soon seeing more and more issues caused by these chemicals called Pyralids. The article lists all the names they are sold under. 

If you want this stopped you can contact the EPA below.  Express your concern and ask for them to take immediate action.  

Dan Kenny  EPA technical review branch
703-305-7546 or

Are you ready for a posting on doing your own compost now?   
When did life get so complex?   

Saturday, March 26, 2011

how to feed your garden

What a great turn out at our meeting today.
Really nice to see some of last years gardeners return.  

We talked about how bad the compost is becoming.  It's hard to say why, more people gardening and higher demand? Or is it a monetary need that makes the companies package this compost before it's really composted? We will cover compost in another posting.

Lets talk about this issue of growing healthy crops a bit. 
It wasn't always the big conglomerate farms that produced our food.  Our country was once filled with family farms passed from generation to generation.  I remember the things that went into my grandmothers garden to keep it healthy, it wasn't chemical.  My grandmothers and my dad kept good gardening practice's and it protected the current and future crops.  This is what I would hope for your gardens, healthy gardening processes.

Here are some of the things I watch for in my garden before I act on a problem

Has it been too cool for the plant in trouble?

Has it been too hot?
I remember having to wait for spring planted beans until it cooled in the late summer, I nearly pulled the beans out when they didn't produce and as it turned out I got a bumper late summer crop.

When did I put the plant/seed out in my garden?
A seed sitting wet, or cold too long can produce a poor plant
A plant put out early without protection can be stalled in it's growth
Timing can make a difference. 

Are the tips yellow, did a branch start to die, or the whole plant?
If a cut worm gets a plant the plant starts to die off a bit at a time
a bit of yellow or off color on the ends of a plant can be uneven watering 
or lack of good food.  If a branch is dieing did we treat it poorly and brake it,
or the cat maybe. There is a thought process and a studying of all the factors, a great mystery to solve with each garden problem.

Are the blooms dropping, no fruiting bodies forming etc? 
This can be a lack of bees, or temperatures not allowing male and female plants to bloom together, dropping blooms can be lack of calcium in the soil.  The more I learn the more I have to compare my problems to solutions.

Do I see bite marks, tunnels between the layers of the leaves, eggs on the underside of leaves, or rotting centers, maybe white mold, etc?
Yes this can all be the act of other living animals and organisms.  It really helps to know when the bugs, butterflies, molds, worms and other things, that share our garden with us, are in their different life cycles.  I can reschedule when I plant their favorite treats for when they are in a different form that works better with my gardening goals.


This is just a start of how you need to look at the issues in your garden.

1. compost is our first and best way to feed our plants.  Remember mel says use as many different sources as you can for compost so that you get a nice balance for the plants.  If the plants looks like the compost didn't do the job and nothing else can explain the reason then acting quickly with fertilizers really help us out.

2. Soil amendments are used to improve the soil for growing.  You may be improving the pH or drainage or air pockets in your soil. This is an on going process if you are using your own soil.  With Mel's mix it is very easy because you start with a great soil combination and it only gets off if we do too much to it.

3. Fertilizers feed plants.  They can be Organic or Chemical.  They can be quick release or slow release.   I find it best to use organic as much as possible and there by keeping with a slow release.  Fast release can throw off the soils ability to have nutrition for the plants.  

How do we know what we are adding to our plants?  Learn the key nutrients first

These three letters are the key
The elements they stand for never change location in this order.


 click to enlarge these photos so you can see the numbers

 This box of kelp meal is 1-0.1-2

That means that this 3 pound box has
1 percent nitrogen-0.1 percent Phosphorous-2 percent potassium

 Try this cottonseed meal
Which is the higher presence in this 4 pound box?

Did you say Nitrogen for the last one?
How about this Greensand.


Everything we put on our garden will most likely have a three part number on it.  If you don't see it on the front of the package it will be on the back.  This is for organic items as above or chemicals.

When you add something what is it doing?
Nitrogen (N)=strong leaf growth, dark color and BIG, growing big
Phosphorous (P)=Root growth, early plant growth and good seed formation
Potassium (K) =plant vigor, disease and stress resistance, good flavor and color.

Just because you can grow a plant it doesn't mean it grew with the healthy vitamins and minerals you need to eat.
  So feed your plants and you will feed yourself. 

Secondary Nutrients include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur
Then there are trace elements and the list is long. 


First we give the soil compost, anything else you do to the soil can cause that 'reaction equal to your action' let's hope it's a good action

Next and most important I think is Foliar feeding. This doesn't change the soil but gives the food right to the plant in the best way.  So get a sprayer and make some teas and know that your plant is getting what it needs! 

My ears were under pressure from some pollen allergies I have and today I could not say Foliar at all!  Now I laugh I could barely hear myself. 

Compost the soil and Feed the leaves

If you think about your plant and the phase it is at and think about what part of the plant you will eat then you will know if your plant needs N-P-or K.  My advice is use a balanced fertilizer and all will work out.  Bloom drop is often a calcium issue and we know that garlic needs lots of N at this time of year.  

Heavy feeders: cabbage, beets (P), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery, corn (very), cucumbers, eggplant, kale, collards, Leek (+N), melon, potato, peppers, 
Tomato (-N +P,K), Asian vegetables

Light feeders: Carrots (-N)  Peas (P-K) Swiss chard, squash (-N), Lettuce, turnips, carrots, onions (-N +P,K) 

The plus sign means this plant likes it
The minus sign means this plant doesn't like it

Don't panic about any of this, if your garden grew last year then you are fine.  Only add extra if there is a clear need. 

Note: A big congratulations to the Myrups who built a salad table!  
I love mine most of all.  Hints to come.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Don't miss it next meeting is Friday 9am

I hope you got your peas planted
we will cover all the other seeds you can plant right now
Plants need protection if you want to put them in now....too much cold and wind.  

What I'm covering this meeting:

Feeding plants start to finish
  How compost works
What to feed and what NOT to feed
cooking with Chard

When you arrive I'll be cooking Chard,
see those pink, white, orange and yellow stems above?
When you arrive put your questions
on paper found in my basket
and join us in the kitchen
.  If I can't answer your question during our meeting I'll answer here on the blog. 

See you then.....Friday at 9 am...(who's idea was this?  yikes)

PS  I have the onions, they arrived early, pick them up any time.
I'll bring them Friday also

If you don't remember if you ordered onions just give me a call. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Seed is in your hands. NOW What?

It was a busy meeting today.  Seed to check and get to all the different gardeners.
Also lots of very good questions.  We didn't even get them all answered.  Here is a little taste of what was covered:

If something didn't grow last year, or was eaten by bugs do I have to not grow it this year?  NO learn about each issue, correct what you can and give it another try.  Hopefully we will have much better growing weather this year.   Last year was not good!

Is it too late to plant garlic?   Depends.  If your soil is workable and not too cold you can plant it in the spring and hope we don't get our heat too soon.  What garlic needs is to have enough time to get lots of green and a foundation root.  When the temperatures warm to 80 degrees, in several days garlic will begin to make the bulb.  By planting in early fall the garlic can put plenty of root in before our cold winters and when spring arrives all it has to do is grow lots of greens!  You can encourage this at the spring by feeding fish or seaweed emulsion, or nitrogen rich ingredients every ten days or so. Stop when summer heat arrives. 

Onions we plant starts in the spring.  They will be here next month and will need to go into the ground quickly.  Potatoes will soon follow.  If you ordered these I have a list and will contact you the day they arrive.

Now for information about the seeds.

I did buy hybrid seed.  You can not save seed from these plants

You may have recieved several different kinds of seed for one type of veggie.
I like to have plants that ripen at different times, plants that can resist different problems we encounter in the PNW, and I love a lot of different colors in my food.  I hope you will try this idea of using different plants to extend and enhance your season.

If you ordered beans and peas I tried to give you both bush and pole.  I plant them at the same time.  I put the bush peas in between my pole peas.  They produce first and they are just a little bush in the front of the pole peas squares.  
The pole beans fill the square they are in (I have verticals at the back of the squares for them to grow up.  I use a different square or two, put a tomato basket in the square and plant 9 or 10 different colored bush beans around and in the basket.  As they grow the wire basket supports them and they produce way before the pole beans and I love to have a lot of different colors to make meals from.  I hope you will enjoy the mix of seeds we gave you in peas and bush beans.

Your lettuce orders were a surprise to meIf it is salad you grow lettuce for you have so many choices.  I add mustard and collards and beet greens and little kale and nasturtium and many other greens to my salad.  Keep in mind you will get better flavor and taste harvesting when plants are smaller.  You do not need to wait for lettuce to be grocery store size, just cut off a couple of leaves on a plant and gather as much variety as you can .  I hope if you just ordered roman or green or red leaf lettuce you will come buy a package or two of something fun and different and let us teach you how to grow great lettuce.  It is one thing we excel at here in the PNW.  My lettuce is NEVER bitter, always tender and tasty.  I plant in cool weather, keep the lettuce in the shade if the weather gets warm and I eat it when the leaves are about 5" big. 

Our next meeting is March 25 at 9 am.  We will cover the compost issues and how to feed our soil in our garden.  This is a complex subject but I will help you get started and give you come basic recipes to start with.  

There will be a short cooking lesson on all the things chard can do....I'll pick some up at the market.  

I would also like to address your seed from last year and what you can do with it and how to save what you have left over this year.  

We'd like to stay at an hour so please arrive on time, if you want to buy seed please do so at the end of the meeting.  

See you in a couple of weeks!