Bedford Ramblings
Steve Mills

It is always time to get your hands dirty, at least in dirt.

Posted Wednesday, January 21, 2015, at 7:41 PM
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  • I loved playing in the dirt as a kid, well according to my mother I not only like playing in it I was talented enough to eat it, the way she tells it...There has always been that tale of her looking for me and finding me under the trailer back then, eating handfuls of the stuff.

    I gave that art up long ago, now I've graduated to fungi as I have aged one could say, I love mushrooms, any way you wanna make them...I do wipe the peat moss off first though, Ha!

    There's great dirt I understand, that's beneficial to us, our immune system and general health use to benefit from the dirt we played in as kids. Maybe not so much in this day and time with all the chemicals that it contains now.

    I think it may have had everlasting microbes or something neat in it that made my brain want to be a gardener now that I'm older. Whatever it was it sure makes me hungry just thinking about it.

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Thu, Jan 22, 2015, at 6:52 PM
  • Good point about what the soil may have in it now. When we bought our "farm" I looked for a place whee the watershed was all from property we owned and did not run through someone else's fields.

    That cut down on the size of the watershed :), but any surface water comes from out woods and fields. We also have underground water from caves but I do not trust that unequivocally. I like it, but do not drink it.

    I used to drink from streams as a kid but now.....

    I even question the water coming straight from the mountains.

    Why? Because I found out that even water from the Rocky Mountains should be suspect because of the mining that may have taken place somewhere along the watershed. I was above 10,000 feet but warned that the water was contaminated. Yeesh!

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Jan 23, 2015, at 12:25 PM
  • I have always worried about the regular tap water we use on a daily basis...it's deemed safe for drinking after the filtering however I'm more concerned with what is added back to the water to kill further bacterias etc.

    Fluoride, for example, I wonder if the good bacteria in our intestines are affected by it...I have eaten enough processed foods and antibiotics in my life that I've had to replenish the good bacteria at times. I've even gone to the trouble of buying living probiotics and vitamins to reverse the effects of consuming the wrong foods, beverages and the water I mix with Crystal Light and Tea etc.

    I'm sure our water is safe to drink...I just worry about long term exposure to any chemicals that our bodies are really not made to consume, which, by the way, are in many processed foods. I believe if you can't pronounce it, you should not eat it.

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Fri, Jan 23, 2015, at 9:16 PM
  • I guess it comes down to what the "government" defines as safe and what our bodies can tolerate.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Jan 24, 2015, at 7:54 AM
  • One of the reasons I chose to live where I do is because when I bought this house the water was delicious and appeared to be clean. All that has changed and not only do I not drink the water but I do not start seeds with it or water my plants with it. A very sad state of affairs coming from a place that had what was considered by some to be the best water in America.......Sigh.......

    Really have to work on a rain barrel..........

    -- Posted by Palindrome on Sun, Jan 25, 2015, at 9:21 AM
  • I saw a neat rain barrel that had a planter on top. It soften the look of barrels around the outside of the house. I hate paying retail price on things so I am trying to come up with some free, or at best very cheap alternatives.

    We too had that water coming from the hills behind Wartrace but like you, choose to not water or start our plants unless we filter it or it is rain water.

    We have a well that turned sulfur 26 years ago. It may be better now, but it is about 300 yards away and 200' down a hill, then the depth of the well.

    There is an old, small pond next to the well that kept water even in our most dry summers. Maybe I will pull from that.

    I planted two bathtub gardens with short rows of carrots, kale, collards, Japanese broccoli, several types of cabbage and a few rows of garlic.

    I know, I know, kale and collards are actually late but I am not growing them for steaming or regular cooking so I don't expect them to get to full size before heat sets in. I am using them for smoothies.

    The garlic could be late but I want these for sprouts and to use like green onions so no worries there either. Besides, it is always interesting to challenge standard ideas of what and when to plant things. We learn new things from challenging.

    Then I cleaned off one garden bed and am deciding if I lightly till it with a hand-held tiller or just plant as it is. The surface is clean and a few inches of soil has been roughed up with a rake. You can probably guess the way I am leaning, just plant.

    Since beans grew here last year I am tempted to save it for a planting of corn but I promised myself I would not waste space on corn since it is so readily available. Decisions, decisions.

    I need to get a few rows of beets in, but this particular row gets a lot of water from the house. I lost some rows of garlic a few years back to soggy soil so the chances of getting too much for root crops has me scratching my head.

    Or maybe I need to take a shower after the garden and wood splitting this afternoon. :-)

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Jan 25, 2015, at 7:03 PM
  • Someone I saw here in the paper had barrels for 5 bucks I think, they may be 55gal. drums or those 35gal plastic ones...depends on what was originally in them, but I've thought several times I would get one and stick it under the downspout to catch water....If they are plastic, I have seen a spout added to the bottom with a hose leading to a garden spot...neat set-up with a little ingenuity.

    I'm finally getting around to sprouting those tomato seeds this week...I have some spaghetti squash, cushaw, and those pumpkin and banana squash...should I go ahead and get them in the ground?...will the cold get them still?...will they start to come up when they are ready too?...when they do come up should I trim all but two off the vine to concentrate on a best fruit?

    signed: Garden Novice still!

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Tue, Jan 27, 2015, at 8:52 AM
  • Chefgrape.......

    We have a lot of Winter to pass us by before tender seeds should be planted in the garden. Our frost free date is the end of April and many seeds will not do well unless the soil has warmed way beyond that.

    Winter sowing is something else....... I have done very little and have a lot to learn.

    I have not started tomatoes yet.......Only peppers....I usually start tomatoes around Valentine's day for planting out at the beginning to middle of May. The only reason I started peppers earlier than usual is because they have not been producing early enough and I am hoping to correct that. If I started tomatoes any earlier they might get too big for their pots or languish and stall their growth before I could get them into the ground at the appropriate time.....And I am sure I would run out of room indoors.....Oh, to have a greenhouse.......My dream since I was in my early twenties....

    Steve is planting seeds that need cooler temps.....You have mentioned some that are warm season crops.There are several good seed sprouting calendars available online.....

    -- Posted by Palindrome on Tue, Jan 27, 2015, at 12:43 PM
  • Thanks for the info...I'm fixing to order some pepper seeds on the 1st or there about....I'm looking at Farmers Almanac schedule, so It seems I've got answers to when to plant for best results!...

    I now have the pure wintergreen oil if you need some...I'll trade you for poblano seeds...do you have any thai chili seeds by chance?...my kitchen is calling for the ones you string up...one day I'm going to learn garlic weaving, I love things like that....thanks again Palindrome..You're The Best!

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Tue, Jan 27, 2015, at 2:32 PM
  • Ditto to what Palindrome wrote with one side thought, if you have plenty of seeds, try something different and see what happens.

    My first thought about sowing in our garden soil at this time would be that summer veggie seed might rot instead of germinate, especially the larger seed. BUT, we probably all have examples seeds in fruit we missed last year sprouting as volunteers the next spring, so......

    I personally know that Oriental summer squash called fuzzy melon have laid in the garden all winter and sprouted profusely in late Spring. Nature knew when to wake it up.

    BUT, it sprouted in well drain soil and in one case, compost. So, if you try throwing some squash seeds out, make sure they are not sitting in water during the winter left to come.

    It is better if you can let them sprout and grow without re-planting so maybe build a mound for the squash seed. After it has sprouted and the weather has warmed, mound more soil up around the original mound to make a "saucer" indentation. Now you are looking to capture water, where earlier you wanted it to drain.

    Or, consider winter sowing in plastic jugs. http://www.wintersown.org/wseo1/HOME/Winter%20Sowing%20Brochure%20with%20Milk%20... I have had medium success with this, but I know some local folks who LOVE IT!

    My failure was probably relying on them to be TOO self-sufficient. They sit outside, so when extreme cold is predicted throw some straw or even a blanket over them. When it is sunny, make sure they have some ventilation and monitor the moisture.

    I really need to try again this year. It is a great project to "scratch the itch" of growing. I have plenty of inside plants to help scratch that itch and I have overwintered peppers and eggplant, so the only thing I might try is some tomatoes or herbs this early.

    My squash would get too big for me to handle inside. Those will probably be started in early March.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Jan 27, 2015, at 4:00 PM
  • Chef......

    I do have some Thai type chilies.........

    My way of choosing vegetables is to grow unusual, beautiful and new......And of course the types I frequently use over all others...So one may never know what you will find going through my stash...

    I will probably go to Kroger tomorrow for a quick-shop.....Home the rest of the day until Thursday afternoon......

    Don't let me rush you.......HAHAHA

    I have a gift for you.......

    -- Posted by Palindrome on Tue, Jan 27, 2015, at 4:33 PM
  • Thanks again Palindrome,

    I'll be a busy guy this weekend due to the dirt and seeds...you're the best!

    I just hope I'll be able to keep Earl-cat out of them this year!...night time when I sleep, she's usually the most active and has to stick her nose in anything new around the house.

    I'm expecting great things this year in the garden department and our Weed'em and Reap Group.

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Wed, Jan 28, 2015, at 8:55 PM
  • Let's Do It !

    -- Posted by Palindrome on Thu, Jan 29, 2015, at 10:37 AM
  • While my seeds are tough and germinate in cool weather, I think tonight will be a good time to put the covers back on. We usually experience a few degrees colder than forecast so 22 or lower could be asking a little too much.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Jan 30, 2015, at 10:19 AM
  • Now I see a forecast of 20 degrees so we will probably be in the teens here on the hill. As I was covering the tubs I noticed a few tiny sprouts.

    They were in my radish row which is to be expected. Radishes sprout very quickly. We'll see how they take the cold snap. (extra cold)

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Jan 30, 2015, at 6:59 PM
  • I'll be planting some beet seeds this week in one of my pod trays...if they do sprout early, I'll be spring encouraged, to say the least...my cold feet are ready for warmer days.

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Sun, Feb 1, 2015, at 12:18 PM
  • Transplanting beets can be a delicate process. Be sure to protect the taproot.

    Conventional wisdom says you may not want to start these until you can set them out within two to three weeks before our project last frost.

    In Mid Tenn the last average frost is about Tax Day. So, if you start them that would be the last week of March. Be sure top harden them off.

    If you direct seed you could probably plant around March 15th since it will take them a little time to emerge.

    If you decide to go "unconventional" let us know how it goes. Most taproots go 8-10" deep but there might be varieties that grow shallower.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Feb 2, 2015, at 10:14 AM
  • Is it just me, or is it cold to the bone today I'm freezing!

    Thanks for the info...I'm apparently unconventional for sure, I seem to be just testing the waters with a few things to see if I can grow anything indoors to start with...I'm nowhere close to getting to involved yet. Room to grow and cat are another issue. Wouldn't a greenhouse be nice!

    I may just have to totally wait till I can actually plant it in the ground out there...my thumb has been black for indoor growing except for that aloe vera by my sink stuck in a glass of water!

    Cross your fingers and your toes for me, I'll sure need the luck...this should also allow me to know if its worth investing in starter trays in my case of novice gardening for what I'm growing besides just my tomatoes this year. I will tackle some peppers this season though, that's a must!

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Mon, Feb 2, 2015, at 2:29 PM
  • When I checked last night the temp was going to be a low of 22, then 20, but when I got up we had about 11 degrees. Ten degree difference can mean a lot to my seedlings.

    I think I will just consider the weather forecast as a suggestion, plan on the worst and watch my weather rock.

    Anyone have a favorite forecaster that is more accurate than 10 degrees?

    -- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Feb 3, 2015, at 1:00 PM
  • Catnip used to run wild around our house but last year not a sprout was seen. It did this once before and came back on its own the next year but our cats would not hear of going another year without so broke down and bought some seed.

    I have never had much luck starting it from seed but if Nature can do it with no extra care, surely I can get some started, Maybe this is a good candidate for "winter sowing" in milk jugs.

    I also got some Rosemary seed. Never tried that before since I always had cuttings but last winter cleaned me out. If all else fails I will pick up a plant of each this Spring but we'll see.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Feb 4, 2015, at 4:14 PM
  • That softer organic rosemary I got at Wal-Mart they still have, I saw some just the other day.

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Thu, Feb 5, 2015, at 10:22 AM
  • Chefgrape-I took your advice and bought one of those a couple months ago. It was great for about a month and then up and died. Maybe my window sill is too cold for it. I'll try a different variety outside this Spring.

    Steve-I have a ton of catnip growing now. That stuff just never dies at my house and I pull it like weeds in the Spring. I'm sure I can dig up a few for you if your seeds don't work.

    I think it's great everyone is starting seeds early, but I'm going to wait until after Easter this year to start mine...

    -- Posted by espoontoon on Thu, Feb 5, 2015, at 2:08 PM
  • I could have sworn that I took a few cuttings of that while I was babysitting it but I can not find them or their remnants.

    Just a guess but I think what I had was 'Arp" variety and that is what I think these seeds are as well. That is based on height parameters and the woody stem visible in pictures.

    One of two varieties I "think" you have chefgrape are either 'common' or 'Salem'. It is on the very edge of growing zones here so I would protect it if you leave it out.

    Growing height seems to be the differential between these two varieties. Salem is a lower growing plant (24"-36") and does not need as much stem strength.

    Therefore, I would guess yours is Salem because the stem seems to be tender and would not support the 48" growth potential of 'common'. The true proof will be in the growth this year.

    The other two varieties seem to be trailing or prostrate versions.

    I planned on growing one basic plant but upon research found that it might be a good companion plant for cabbage and other cole crops. Its'

    strong aroma is a deterrent to cabbage moths, so I might grow a few extras to inter-plant.

    Have you tried a little of yours in a recipe?

    -- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Feb 5, 2015, at 2:17 PM
  • Years ago my catnip was a weed as well. Maybe it interbred too much and became weakened? I expect I will have to take you up on the offer, but everyone says catnip seed is to easy so....

    Maybe I should pop the seed in the freezer for a week or so to stratify it. Or, maybe my other seeds were freebies I got from someplace and they were old. Just to see, I will split them up and freeze half.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Feb 5, 2015, at 2:22 PM
  • I ended up giving that one rosemary to Palindrone, not sure if she had any luck with it...

    My test poblano chilies have sprouted on my kitchen table, in one of those sprout trays...hope that's a good sign of things to come for this summer growing season...

    My black thumb has shown a slight change in color for indoor growing, oh yeah!

    I will be placing an order with Johnny's seeds soon. If anyone wants to save on shipping for a few things, let me know...I'll order most likely first of this coming week.

    Still searching for Fresno pepper's...someone told me where I could find them but to save my life I can't remember where...ever have that problem?

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Thu, Feb 5, 2015, at 6:18 PM
  • I have seen Fresnos in the Park Seed catalogue, Amazon and Sustainable Seeds.

    -- Posted by Palindrome on Fri, Feb 6, 2015, at 12:27 PM
  • I have not received my Baker Creek catalog yet. Has anyone? I am trying to hold off to support them if possible but the itch is getting too much!

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Feb 6, 2015, at 2:38 PM
  • Wow, glad I went to the Park Seed website, Thanks again Palindrome, they have the Fresno seeds and the Cuban oregano I've been wanting. Didn't Baker Creek send out their Rare Seeds catalog, or was that last year's edition? I think I have a copy!

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Fri, Feb 6, 2015, at 9:32 PM
  • I received my BC Catalogue...It came in the mail before the Holidays.When I called in my seed order in early January I asked if spending so much on Book, Subscription and Seeds gave me the larger catalogue and I was told no....... Yesterday I saw the Catalogue for $50 order and I reminded them that I spent more.......Haven't heard back. Guess their larger catalogues are precious......... I hate spending money to help me spend money.........

    -- Posted by Palindrome on Sun, Feb 8, 2015, at 9:19 AM
  • I had actually requested a catalogue........Oh, and the $50 offer of a Whole Seed Catalogue is available until the 12th.........

    -- Posted by Palindrome on Sun, Feb 8, 2015, at 10:25 AM
  • I'm wondering if they hold the full catalog for those who do not "seem" to have internet access, presuming folks will go to the website to see everything if they have internet?

    When you mentioned Johnny's chefgrape I decided to jump on their site since I had not been there in a while. Something that caught my eye was the vacuum seeder.

    Not that I could justify a $600 seeder but I had not seen one before and there was a good video by Cornell University demonstrating it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnNN0icBcwA

    Interesting for the seeder but they also talked about seed starting, watering and managing the seedlings. Better than what was on TV so...

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Feb 8, 2015, at 6:35 PM
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