Secrets to Seed Starting Success

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Empowering Partners

I was shocked to come round the shed on my way to the garden one day last summer to find that a huge limb had fallen.

It was not without tears that I started the clean up. I have to admit I felt a bit sorry for myself, as it was a task that I never would’ve had to do by myself if Bill were still alive. Had he been here, I would have cut the small limbs to help him and he would’ve done all the “heavy” work.

Many old saws hung in the shed, but at the time I didn’t know one from another. I hauled them out and tried them all. None of them made it easy, but I had to find way. I decided that every day before I did anything else I’d cut some on a large limb at least 30 minutes. (That would get me about 1/3 of the way through a 4 inch limb.)

Seeing Another Potential Problem

The more I worked on those big limbs, all I could think about was another big tree that seemed to be destined to fall on my garden fence when a future northeaster came. That would cause an even bigger problem for me since I wouldn’t know how to fix the fence. (I know it must sound like I don’t know how to do anything.)

Bill and I had talked about having the threatening part of that tree removed. Shortly after that, he was too sick for me to think about anything but taking care of him.

After Bill died my resources were close to nil. I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough to have the work done. The tree folks we had had come every 5 years or so, were/are excellent. But their price for the one tree was beyond my reach.

I called a couple of others. Couldn’t afford any of them.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

In desperation I asked the last guy that gave me an estimate, how much to just cut out the part I wanted down and not haul it away. I had just enough funds.

Five men came. What a mess they made.

They left me with an enormous pile of big tree trunks that was over 10 feet tall and more than 20 feet across. That was in addition to their unearthing the plants in the side border and ruining a section of ground that use to be level.

When they were gone I was overwhelmed. I went inside, laid down for 4 hours, and cried. I hate to admit that I was so wimpy, but I was.

Now the Upswing

Feeling sorry for myself wasn’t helping very much, so I got over that.

With a nice pair of loppers (that I already had) and several saws that would’ve had a hard time cutting through an apple, I finally got the job done.  It took almost a month to get everything cut down and stacked.

When a young friend showed up unexpectedly and offered to haul it away – had it been physically possible for me – I would’ve jumped up and clicked my heels together.

I wish I had pictures of the pile before I started clean up, but I don’t. These are a few of the tree limbs as I got to the bottom of the 10 foot x 25 foot pile.

A Different Strategy

We’ve had a lot of hard wind lately.  And yep, you guessed it.  A tree came down.

The 35 foot tree that was on a neighbor’s property fell onto my property. (These folks are ones who own the lot with the invasive monster trees that I’ve mentioned in prior posts.)  Since they don’t tend to anything, I knew I’d have to move the tree myself.

The first thing I determined was to do some research on a saw that would allow me to do the job much more easily.

Although I did several hours of research, it really only took about 30 minutes of looking around to learn that the Silky Pocketboy Folding Saw made in Japan was probably THE best there is.  Not that others aren’t good, but even the videos made by people who have every type saw available – say that Silky – for one reason or the other – comes out a notch above the rest.

I knew it was what I wanted.  No more lugging around those big old hand saws that don’t cut anyway.

Folded Silky Pocketboy

Choices – Blade Length and Teeth

As the name indicates, these little saws can fit in your pocket.  I carry mine in my little garden basket with my gloves and other things I might need. (They come with a nice thick carrying case, but many reviewers found it easier to just carry the saw without the case in their pocket.)

The blades are available in two lengths: 5 inch (130mm) and 6 3/4 inch (170mm).  Both lengths are available in four teeth sizes: large (coarse), medium, fine, extra fine.

The handles are color coded for the teeth:

  • red for large;
  • black for medium;
  • yellow for fine;
  • purple for extra fine.

I wasn’t sure about the blade I needed so took a guess and ordered the 5 inch blade with medium teeth.

The same day the saw arrived, a friend showed me a saw blade similar to the one I would need to cut those 6 inch diameter logs.  One look and I knew that the 5 inch saw with medium teeth that sails through the 2 1/2 inch (or less) diameter branches, would not be the best to use on the larger logs.  (Would take longer to get the job done on the 6 inch logs.)

I ordered another saw with coarse (large) teeth.  And I decided to try the longer 6 3/4 inch blade. My choice was perfect.  It took me about 10 minutes to cut through the 6 inch thick log. Quite a difference than when I used those older large handsaws last summer.

I’m confident that a stronger person would cut through it much more quickly that I.

My two Silky Pocketboy Folding Hand Saws

Blades can also be positioned and locked at this angle when need be.

How It Cuts

My research indicated that most American saws cut on the push action.  These little Japanese Silky saws cut when you pull. You don’t need to expend a lot energy on the push action – and I find the pull action is easy.

Cleaning the Blade

The wood of the fallen tree was totally dry.  Left the blade as clean as brand new!

When cutting up limbs that are “green”, sap builds up on the blade.  If you had lots to cut the sap build up would slow things down and make it harder.  I’m usually finishing up, just about the time that happens.

A brush is good for removing the wood bits from the teeth before you clean the blade.

You can buy a special solvent for cleaning, but I used kerosene (or rubbing alcohol) since that was the solvent(s) on hand.  At first I didn’t think it was working.  By chance I ran water over the blade about 5 minutes later and found that the sap instantly became removable. (Remember – I’m new to all this stuff.)

I wiped the blade clean and then coated it with a drop of honing oil Bill had.  Wiped off the excess; folded it and returned it to its case in my basket.

Do Not Sharpen

The teeth on these saws are “impulse-hardened”, a proprietary technology by Silky. This is said to allow the teeth to stay sharper about 3 times longer than non-hardened teeth.

You cannot sharpen impulse hardened teeth. But if your saw ever does become dull, you can buy new blades.   From the reviews I read, it’ll probably be a long time in the future before that happens.

An Empowering Partner

Last summer, even if I had known about these little saws I wouldn’t have been able to get one.  But by going through the situation in the worst of conditions I

  • learned that I could do the job in the worst of circumstances if I had to and
  • decided that when I finally did make enough income, I would put a tool on the priority list that would make this type of job more easily “doable” for me.

Probably sounds absurd to those who can’t relate to this story, but having these little saws in my garden basket has made me feel empowered.

I don’t particularly look forward to still cutting up fallen trees when I’m 80 and 90 years old, but with my two little empowering partners in my basket, it’s possible.


Shop Silk Saws here.


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Grow Nutrient Dense Food – with the “easiest and simplest garden out there”

When folks become aware of what’s going on in the food industry and learn the real story behind modern day agriculture, I think their thoughts probably turn to ways they can obtain food free from poisons.  Also, food that is more nutrient dense than most available in grocery stores.

Years ago, the first thought for many was to obtain organic food. (*Food raised on balanced, biologically-active soil in cooperation with nature.) That’s the food that will give the best chance for a healthy life.

Organic When Organic Wasn’t Cool

Farmers who were growing organically before it became popular and when the organic movement started, did so because they knew that the quality of food is in direction proportion to soil quality. Working in accordance with nature was part of their values.

And Then Came the Government

Long about 1990 came the National Organic Program. Organic was then officially established as a system under the federal government’s jurisdiction.

Well known organic grower, Eliot Coleman, in a speech given at the Mid-American Organic Association at the end of January 2017, notes that even back then “the USDA — tried to include irradiation, GMOs, and sewage sludge (as ok for use in organic food) but had to back off because of intense objections from the public.”

As the years have passed the  organic “cause”  has become big business. As it has, it has also degenerated.

Many companies who are certified as organic, keep only the “letter of the law”, but certainly not the “spirit” of the law necessary to produce real organic food. (*See earlier definition.)

Mr. Coleman in his speech put it this way, — the merchandisers now control organic, and — maximizing the amount of product available has become far more important than how it is produced —.

The USDA, mired in decades of chemical thinking and influenced by industrial lobbyists, has continually tried to subvert the promise of a natural, biologically based agriculture. “

He goes on to say that USDA has rewritten the definition of organic, removing any reference to the word “soil”.


Think hydroponics and read Mr. Coleman’s account in the box below.

Under the influence of immense pressure from the hydroponic industry, and a board seriously compromised by conflicts of interest, the NOSB (National Organic Standard Board) postponed a vote that would have prohibited hydroponic produce to be sold as organic. The NOP (National Organic Program) claims that the previous NOSB  prohibition of hydroponic — was “unclear.” The reason this issue came up for discussion was the recent realization that, aided by USDA (United States Dept. of Agriculture) collusion, the hydroponic industry has been surreptitiously selling their water grown produce as organic for most of the past decade with no indication of hydroponic on the label and with no customer knowledge that this was happening. By the time the issue eventually resurfaces for another vote, this faux organic produce will have become so ubiquitous that it will be impossible to stop. Any crop that can be produced hydroponically (berries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, lettuce, etc.) will continue to flood your supermarket’s organic section (pushing out real organic) and the label will not say a word about hydroponic.

Actions you can take as suggested by Mr. Coleman:

If you are a certified organic farmer one simple action you can take right now is to put economic pressure on the certifying agencies to stop certifying soil-less crops as organic. Just contact your organic certifier and demand to know if they certify hydroponic operations. If they do certify soil-less growers, tell them that you object and will plan to change your certification next year to a more principled provider unless they desist. Honestly, why would you want to pay money to an organic certifier whose practices are undermining customer faith in the integrity of the organic label?

If you are an organic eater speak to the produce manager in your local supermarket. Say that you object to hydroponic masquerading as organic and want the store to stock soil grown organic produce or you will take your business elsewhere. I can guarantee you that most produce managers have no idea that the hydroponic invasion has happened and will tell you that organic already means grown in the soil.

Maybe the Easiest Way

If you have even a small piece of land to dig in, the best and easiest way to get some health sustaining food, may well be to grow it yourself.

Objections to Gardening?

Do any of these objections to growing your own come to mind:

  • You don’t know anything about gardening and you don’t have time to learn all that stuff.
  • Gardens take too much time to weed, water, and spray.
  • I don’t have time to spend in a garden.

If so, I have some good news for you.

The Good News

The good news might be best explained in the words of my friend, reader, and long time gardener, Jim in Illinois.

Jim had an old friend and also a cousin ask him if he would consider helping them start a garden. Both men live in Wisconsin – a two hour drive from Jim. (It’s my understanding that at some point in time he will make the drive several times to help them.)

He writes:

I want to start out with buying each of them your book.” (Organic Gardening – Cutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Success.)

One of them has described a desire for a “no-till” garden and the other just wants “the easiest and simplest garden out there”, so your book absolutely fits the bill.

—Both guys are minimalist type people (especially gardening) and your approach is what will finally make their gardens happen if anything will.

Need to hear more?

If you need more testaments from folks who have already read the book and followed my recommendations you can check out the 3 posts referenced at the end. (Also, see all the comments in the column to the right of this post.)

Final Thoughts

One more recommendation – start small – but start. You might find it’s a lot easier than you think.  If you need more help, you know you can email me.


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3 Related posts with More Proof the 3 Keys Work:

A Reader Writes – If There Can Be but One – Make it Organic Gardening – Cutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Successful Gardening

A Reader Writes: “Everyone is amazed at my garden!”

3 Books That Can Change Your Garden, Your Health, and the Way You Look at Life

Voles – Trapping Tip

Happily, I’ve not had much trouble with voles wreaking havoc in my five winter lettuce beds.

But I wasn’t surprised when I noticed some damage a week or so ago when I removed the covers after several days of cold temperatures.

I set a trap right away. (Regular mouse trap with peanut butter for bait and a pot on top to cover.) Caught a large vole immediately. Reset the trap.

Found another vole hole. Set another trap within less than a foot of the other.

No activity for a while.

When next I checked, the traps were sprung and the bait was gone.

For some reason I was short on time that evening and I didn’t have time to go back to the house, get bait, and then come back again.

I learned several years ago to never let that stop me from resetting traps. And yes, you’re understanding correctly. I reset empty (unbaited) traps.

Next day when I checked, I’d caught one.

Wouldn’t you know, I had forgotten to bring the peanut butter bait with me to the garden again. I reset the traps anyway.

Bingo! Caught two more!

Final Thought

If you get caught in the garden without bait for your traps, don’t let that stop you from resetting them.

If you don’t reset, you know for sure you won’t catch anything. If you do reset, you’ve got a chance.


Related Posts:

Voles – Shrews – More About the Truth in Controlling Them in the Garden

Voles – Moles Mice – Shrews – How to Control them in the Garden

Lettuce, Cold Frames, and Voles

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Lettuce – An Oak Leaf Variety You Might Want to Try and Why

How many varieties of lettuce do you plant each year? If you’re new to gardening you might just think lettuce is lettuce so why plant more than one kind.

I have a hand full of lettuces that I consider a “must grow” each year. Some are favorites for taste, some for beauty, and some because they endure the cold (with protection). Others are grown because I know they’ll probably do well at times most varieties might not be producing bountifully. In other words, they’re my backups.

Such is an oakleaf lettuce.

I usually try a new variety of that type each year to find one I consider the best.

Some characteristic has to make it stand out to me in order for me to really want to grow it again.

With Bronze Arrow Oakleaf,  it was the beauty of the plant that made it rise above other oakleaf varieties I’d tried.

Couple of years ago I ordered Royal Oakleaf and Italienisher Oakleaf from Fedco, said to be the best of the best in Oak Leaf lettuces. I grew them both and they did what they were suppose to so I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to ’em.

And Then Fall Came.

In the fall I plant primarily for taste and dependability keeping in mind that some do better in winter than others.

On a whim I put in Italienisher Oak Leaf.  Really thought it would be one of the first to succumb to the cold even with protection.

Boy Was I Surprised!

Although our winter was not as severe as it could have been, we still had enough cold temperatures to give Italienisher an opportunity to prove itself.

Usually when I harvest lettuce I pick a few leaves from various plants, but these were so beautiful — especially before the other lettuces were not yet big enough to pick — I couldn’t resist cutting the entire head at the base. Not only did it do well, but it’s regrown small but dense and perfect heads 3 times already this winter.

The second and third head are smaller than the ones first grown but they’re dense and delicious.

Italienisher and mache and a weed or two. February 19th.

Just so you’ll know: I use row cover fabric over the concrete reinforcing wire frame for the first layer of protection when temperatures are 28º F to 32ºF. When it gets colder, one to two layers of plastic are added on top of the fabric and then secured with bricks.

Final Thought

You might want to try some Italienisher Oak Leaf this spring. And while you’re harvesting and tasting, imagine yourself having it all winter next year. 🙂

Related Posts:

Lettuce Varieties to Keep You Eating All Year – Or at Least 10 Months

Lettuce – Favorites – Tips – Several Sources


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Chard – Not grown it before? Why not give a try?

My friend and reader, Jack, and I had a brief conversation via email about chard.  I thought you might be interested in our exchange.

Jack writes, “Going to try chard of some type this year also for the first time.  Will probably just grab whatever variety is in the Burpee seed rack at the Home Depot.  But just in case they have more than 1 variety, do you have a standout variety that you prefer?”

Here are my thoughts about chard — just a bit more detailed than what I replied to Jack and with pictures which say a lot more than additional words.

I’ve only grown chard for about 4 years.  Hopefully I’ll never be without it again.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, id markers seem to disappear in my garden and I loose track of which variety is which.  I grow both smooth leaf and crinkled leaf.  The leaves of the crinkled varieties seem to get a lot larger.  I especially like that when I need a bountiful harvest to sauté.

A smooth leaf chard

How I Plant

Chard is not something I fill the entire bed with, but rather start several varieties and put them in here and there throughout the garden. (But you can certainly fill up a bed if you want. 🙂 )

It seems every garden bed has its own set of circumstances and sometimes the same type of plant will thrive in one and not in another.  And yes, sometimes they thrive in all of them  — but I like spreading them around just in case.

4 varieties of chard in the spring.

Back up for Other Greens

Chard is my backup for all my other greens. When mache is seeding, or lettuce low, or spinach bolting my focus is on the chard.  The young leaves (and even the older ones) are delicious and tender enough to use for salads or sandwiches or however you’d use the other greens.

When leaves get large (and some varieties can get huge) I think they’re particularly delicious sautéd in olive oil and garlic.  Sometimes I’ll toss some spelt or whole spaghetti with oil and vinegar, and a bit of organic grated parmesan and then top off with the sautéd chard. 

Chard produces a LONG time.  And if you don’t harvest on a regular basis it’ll wait for you.

This chard was so beautiful I couldn’t bring myself to picking any.  Finally I harvested the huge leaves after two months.  They were delicious.

In the summer when harlequin bugs turn up to deface my brassicas, the Chard can get pretty shabby.  I’ve seen it look “not worth having” and make a comeback to beauty in cooler temperatures in late summer and fall.  And even when it’s at its worst, it still produces beautiful new leaves that you can use.

More Than One

I hope Jack (and maybe you) will decide to grow more than one variety.  Each  has something just a bit different to offer regarding performance.

Final Thoughts

Having eatable leaves produced from spring through fall is not a bad deal. On a scale of 1 to 10 for plants that I want in my garden, I’ll give it a 10.


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Asparagus – A Variety to Consider – Unconventional Planting Thoughts

When I first started my asparagus bed about 18 years ago I bought 1 year plants.

The two varieties were a delicious purple hybrid and also a green variety which I think was Mary Washington. Both seem to be favorites of most suppliers along with the hybrid, Jersey Knight .

I followed traditional planting advice.

What I’d Do Today

If I were just starting a first asparagus bed today I might still choose 1 year plants rather than seed. Mainly because I’d be anxious to harvest as soon as possible and starting with 1 year plants means harvesting a year sooner.

(The harvest from roots 3 years old can be light. Year 4 should give you a full harvest.)

If I were still growing for market, one of the varieties would definitely be the purple hybrid because they’re so sweet and folks love ’em. I’ve picked samples of green and purple asparagus for guests standing in the garden only to have them go home an order the plants for purple asparagus the next day!

The sweeter asparagus would have more appeal to most even though the most nutrition comes from open pollinated varieties.

The closest I’d come to conventional planting advice when starting a “first” asparagus bed would be to choose a site that I thought would still be suitable 20 to 30 to 40 years (or more) from now. That’s how long a good asparagus bed can last.

I’d consider a good site one that is rich in organic matter with continual additions each year, full sun, and a place they’ll be free from other roots encroaching on them. If you’ve followed my 3 keys to successful gardening, you probably already have a nice bed they’d love.

The Fall of the Old – The Rise of Another

You may recall my mentioning that my first and best asparagus bed has been in decline for the last decade because of “far-from-normal” invasive tree roots from the bordering property. All those trees were not there when we moved here and we had no idea they were lurking underground — ready grow when an opportunity presented itself. Which it did — in the form of new owner who allowed it to grow up.

Fortunately for me, nature has encouraged me over the past few years by scattering some of the seed from the female plants to different locations in and outside the garden. As a result I have several large plants that are doing beautifully and gave me most of the great looking asparagus I harvested last year.

Some folks take out the female plants (they produce the seed) early on because they say they’re not as productive as the male plants. Also they drop seed that may not be wanted. (When the ferns bloom and flower, you’ll know that’s a female plant.)

I couldn’t really tell you if that’s true (about their not being as productive) since I don’t really keep a count of how many spears I harvest from each plant.

A Variety of Interest

Looking through one of the catalogs the other night the asparagus selection caught my eye. In particular, I was drawn to an open pollinated variety named Connover’s Colossal.

Various suppliers give varying origins. But most seem in agreement that these bright green spears with deep purple tips are thick chunky spears that are tender, of “sublime” flavor, and produced in abundance.

One source called it an old American asparagus variety that has almost been lost.

Another says its a popular British variety from the 1800s.

A site based in Ireland ( seemingly gave the most knowledgeable account of the variety’s origin. They stated:

“— developed by S. B. Conover, a produce commission merchant in New York’s old West Washington Market. It was introduced by the seedsman J. M. Thorburn & Company of New York in 1868, —“

They go on to say that an influential market gardener, Peter Henderson, impressed other market gardeners with the variety’s profitability in an article he wrote in an 1870 for an issue of American Agriculturist. He credited Connover’s Colossal with producing anywhere from 15 to 40 sprouts (per plant). Needless to say, its popularity soared.

For those of you who keep bees, you’ll be interested to know that this variety was recommended by the Royal Horticultural Society as an excellent attractant and nectar source for bees AND other beneficial insects. (I can’t help but wonder if this doesn’t apply to ALL asparagus — in particular the open pollinated varieties.)

Starting from Seed

Asparagus is easy to start from seed. (I just ordered a package of Connover’s Colossal.)

You can start indoors in January or February under lights if you want.

I planted some asparagus in a jug bottom a week ago, taped up the jug, and put it outside to germinate whenever the seed feels the time is right.

Or, if you have a small spot in a garden bed you can set aside, plant the seed after danger of frost is past. Just let the plants grow all year. Next year, before growth starts, transplant to their permanent location.

Transplanting Asparagus Roots

I’ll never follow traditional advice for transplanting asparagus roots again, after seeing how wonderful the plants that nature planted for me looked and produced. They were just as wonderful as anything I put in my first asparagus bed that was done according to all the instructions the “experts” give.

When they’re ready for transplanting, I’ll pull back some mulch in the chosen spot and set plants about 4 to 8 inches deep depending on the size of the plant.

None of this business about covering with two inches of soil and then filling in the “deep” trench as they grow. That always did set me crazy. Things got too busy by that time in the season to even think about following through on that instruction. Fortunately the asparagus never minded.

But there are things that need to be considered before you decide on how deep you need to plant.  I mentioned various things here.

(New gardeners/readers — please keep in mind that if your soil if deplete of organic matter and compacted you’ll have to improve it. You’ll find lots of details on this site.  If you need help, email me.)

Final Thoughts

If you already have a nice asparagus bed and wouldn’t mind having a few more, why not think about starting a new variety from seed.

If you’re planting asparagus for the first time and want to use 1 year roots to speed things up, you might want to reconsider following traditional/conventional advice about how to plant and save yourself lots of time in the process.


Related Posts:

Growing Asparagus


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Following Standard Gardening Advice / Some Examples/And Why it Might Happen

Seed starting season is here and we’ll be transplanting to our gardens before we can catch a deep breath.

onion seedlings

I hope you’re looking forward to the new season. If you’re a long time reader of TMG you’ve learned to save lots of time by not doing things that conventional wisdom dictates you “have to” do.

You already know if you work with nature you

  • don’t have to till,
  • don’t have to water,
  • don’t have to weed more than 5 or 10 minutes each day,
  • don’t have to add purchased fertilizers
  • and a lot of other stuff the “experts” say you have to do.

If you’re a new reader, you have a lot of surprises in store as you stay current with TMG and as you go back through the TMG archives and discover all the things you may have thought you had to do as a gardener, but don’t.

In going back through some files the other day I found a few articles I’d saved that reminded me again of some of the more common things you read and hear that you supposedly have to do.


I’m enjoying blueberry bars this week; made from my frozen berries. Thus, my eye quickly caught an article I had saved on blueberries. Sure glad I never paid any attention to it.

It goes like this:

Blueberries MUST have an acid soil with a pH factor of 4.5 to 50. If your soil lacks this acidity, mix in large quanties of peat moss or sulphur. Blueberries also need to be fed with an acid fertilizer, however, please note that the young plants require very little feeding and that heavy fertilization will kill the plants. They require watering on a weekly basis.”

Isn’t that interesting?

Want to hear something more interesting?

I have 8 bushes in the garden that have been there for at least 15 years. (This garden is 18 years old.) They produce an abundance of berries every year. Bill and I always ate half of each day’s harvest fresh and then I’d freeze the rest. Most years I have 3 or 4 gallons or more in the freezer.

  • Since I planted the bushes the soil has maintained a pH of 6.6 to 6.8.
  • I have never used sulphur on my soil.
  • I stated my case about peat moss here. The only time I use peat moss is to mix up a growing medium for seed in pots.
  • I don’t water my blueberries. Drought is normal in our area most years. The worst I remember was 10 weeks. My garden does fine anyway. (If I collect excess rain water in the spring that can’t fit in my two 25 gallon trash cans, I’ll sometimes empty it onto the blueberries or asparagus in the garden. Organic matter and mulch help hold it in the soil until times that it’s needed.)
  • I mulch my bushes with leaves and straw all year round. If I can get pine tags I’ll use those also. (And no – pine tags do NOT make the soil acidic. That’s a myth that seems to be promoted a lot.)
  • I have never “fertilized” my blueberries. They get all the nutrients they need from the decayed organic matter in the soil that comes from the leaves and straw.

Blueberry bushes in my garden loaded with berries.



It seems to me that most new organic gardeners come to “understand” that they absolutely have to make compost either in a “properly” made compost pile or from some purchased compost-maker gadget.

Over time, I’ve covered just about every aspect of that concept and have gone into detail about why it’s just not necessary for the average home gardener.

On the other hand, if you’re a market grower (of lettuce or whatever) and have beds in continual production and need to refurbish those beds with compost, it would pay to have a good sized compost pile(s).

Years back, a reader who had read of my easy composting method and had seen it first hand in my garden emailed me. She said her husband had purchased one of those barrel-like compost makers that one rotates ever so often. She indicated that he thought my way was not suitable because everything he read said that you need compost.

I was rather surprised that in all the information I had written that he did not understand that I was making compost – just in a much easier way. (And one that didn’t cost me a cent.)

Reasons for This Type of Response

I enjoy watching various things when I eat my meals. As you probably remember from past posts, I find encouragement and sometimes profound statements in the most
unusual places. Yesterday, I found a maxim  from Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

When the episode started this flashed across the screen:

Searching for the truth is easy; accepting the truth is hard.

Wow! They sure hit that one! But it would even be more accurate if adjusted as follows:

Searching for the truth is easy; accepting the truth can be hard.

Of course, part of the reason that’s true is there is so much out there that is either incorrect or  filled with half-truths. We read or hear it over and over and it gets programmed into our brain. Then when something comes along that’s a little different (the truth for instance or an easier way) , we reject it in favor of what we’ve heard so many times.

Another part of that is that some cannot benefit from the experience of others which could save them lots of time. They have to find out for themselves by doing it the hard way.

Many times that’s due to not knowing who to believe or trust.

And oddly enough that wisdom must often come from following bad advice enough to know the good advice when you come across it.

Related Posts:

Secrets to Seed Starting Success – A Sneak Preview

Blueberry Bushes – Growing Blueberries

Blueberries – What They Need

Growing Blueberry Bushes – Conventional vs. the TMG way

Compost – What It Is and Methods Used to Get It

Composting – The Whys and Why Nots

Soil Fertility – Without Manure or Compost

Peat Moss – Do You Need It In Your Garden?


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Dill – a Variety You Might Want to Try

Every year I grow dill and never seem to have enough fresh dill leaves to allow me to enjoy it all season.

Even when succession sowing, it seems to go from seedling to mature plant so quickly that there’s still never enough to enjoy through the summer.

I love it for potato salad made from just-dug potatoes. That’s one of the things I look forward to the most.  Nothing takes the place of fresh dill and garden potatoes. (Dried dill just doesn’t do it for me.)

Through the years, I’ve grown several varieties but never can see much difference. (Maybe it’s just me? Let me know if you’ve had a different experience.)

While looking around the High Mowing Seeds website to place an order, the description for Greensleeves Dill sounded like the dill I’ve been searching for.

Here’s what they say:

“A compact, high yielding dill for leaf production. Slow to bolt; ideal for leaf production over a long harvest window. Excellent for market growers and planting in containers. Dark green leaves are aromatic and pleasingly sweet eaten fresh or dried. 15M seeds/oz. Slow to bolt
• Good container variety”

If you’ve had the same experience I’ve had with dill, I thought you might want to try the Greensleeves dill this year too. We’ll compare notes in mid season.

Related posts:

Dill Potato Salad

Winter Gardening – Conditions That Offer the Best Protection from the Cold

Just a week ago, garden beds were extremely dry. Not a concern for most of the garden because I knew sooner or later the rains would come and all would be well. I was, however, concerned about beds planted with lettuces and other greens that have already required covering for protection from cold temperatures.

Here’s why.

If those beds remained dry and severe cold moved in, there would be a greater chance of the plants being damaged by the cold even under two layers of protection.

If I had to, I was prepared to use several 5 gallon buckets of reserved rain water. While that will help in a pinch, I know from experience it won’t help like a soaking rain with temperatures in the 40s.  Fortunately, that’s just what we’re getting here today.

(And yes, I know we can’t always have that.  But if we want the best winter garden we can have, we’ll take advantage of the opportunities when nature gives them to us.)

Best Results

You’ll get the best results from a gentle rain that totally soaks the soil accompanied by temperatures in the 40s that give the plants time to absorb the moisture before the freeze comes.  Then when temperatures drop, the water in the plants acts as an insulator against the cold.

And There’s More

Even though daytime temperatures are forecast to be mild for the next few days (45º to 55ºF), I’m gonna pull both coverings over all the frames tomorrow since the nights are forecast to be in the 20s off and on for at least the next 10 days. (I’ll harvest a good supply of lettuce before I secure the covers in place.)

This picture was taken Nov. 25 and the beds were dry. They are now totally and evenly soaked and ready to offer the best protection to my lettuces. You can see both coverings – the row cover fabric and the plastic already in position to be pulled over the wire frame.

The moisture that has been evenly distributed throughout the beds will continue to work for the plants over time. As day time temperatures and some sunshine heat up things under the covers, the moist soil will better retain that heat than dry soil would. This will serve to protect plant roots as well.

(Mulch, already in place, helps keep that much needed moisture in the soil a lot longer.)

And More

On warm days when water starts evaporating, the resulting humid air will also retain heat and form another layer of protection for the plants.

Follow Other Good Principles to Insure These Great Results

Good Drainage

To get these great results you’ll need to have been working on your soil and have great drainage. If soil doesn’t drain properly and moisture puddles and sits there, your plants will be more susceptible to damage from cold.

Air Circulation

In most areas that experience freezing and bitter cold in winter, there are times that protective  coverings have to stay in place over the plants.  That can be because of freezing temperatures and/or because ice and snow make it impossible to remove the covers.

As soon as conditions allow, open up at least enough of the covering to get the fresh air flowing around the plants. Even one day of good air flow can make a difference in preventing unhealthy conditions.

You can plan for this when you first position your coverings by securing the ends in a manner that will be easy to open.  (I use bricks that can be easily laid aside in order to loosen the ends.)

Final Thoughts

Hope you have an abundance of lettuces growing and that you’ll be able to enjoy them throughout the holidays and cold winter ahead.

Related Posts:

Winter Gardening – Making it Easier – Air Circulation – Note about Slugs


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Onions – Getting the Highest Nutrient Content, the Best Taste, and/or the Longest Storage Capacity

Onions are a super food because of their high nutrient content. Red ones are the most nutrient dense. Yellow is the 2nd runner up. White onions contain the least amount of good stuff like quercetin and other antioxidants.

Get Good Taste AND Nutrients

Indeed some of the sweet white onions with their high water content are truly delicious. BUT, you can get higher nutrient value and still have great taste with some of the early yellow onions like Texas Legend. (Dixondale offers them.) It’s a short day variety but with proper curing will last 3 to 4 months. (I’ve had it keep 5 months.)

Storage Onions

Even then, I still want home grown onions in my diet through at least the end of the year as I await the next growing season. Thus, an onion with long storage capacity is a must have for me.

For years I grew Copra as my storage onion to take me through December. Over the past few years it’s become a very popular onion and I see it offered more than any other for long term storage. That doesn’t mean that other varieties won’t store as well, it just means that it’s become popular and that’s what’s offered.

I’m trying to get away from it totally because it’s a hybrid. This year might be the year I’ve found the varieties that will replace Copra in my garden.

Why not hybrids?

Because studies show that hybrids of most any vegetable can’t hold a candle to nutrient high open pollinated varieties (grown properly).

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, most of that is due to hybrids being bred for traits like storage and increased production rather than nutrient value.

Studies also attest to a dramatic decline in nutrient content in most store bought vegetables and fruits. That can be due to the way they’re grown (soil, fertilizer, etc.). And of course, hybrids are more prevalent in commercial growing because they’re bred for traits that help the grower make more money. (They produce more and/or store better.)

As always, if we want the most nutrient dense food we can obtain, we’ll have to take responsibility and do a bit of looking around. It’s not always easy to find what we want. Thus, I thought what I found this year might also help you in your search.

Most (but not all) of the long keepers (6 to 8 months) seem to be long day onions.

In other words, those that start forming a bulb when daylight reaches 14 to 16 hours.

Not a problem for me here in zone 7, but finding a long keeper could be more difficult if you live in the south.

A quick way to find out what day length onions you can grow is to just visit the Dixondale site and check their map.  Here’s the url:

Supporting Monsanto?

The onion varieties Candy, Century, Red Zeppelin, Savannah Sweet, Sierra Blanca, and Sterling onions are owned by Seminis which is owned by Monsanto. So when you buy seed or transplants of these onions you’re supporting Monsanto since that’s where the seed comes from — no matter who you buy it from.

To check other vegetables cut and paste this url into your browser and then click on the vegetable you want to check.

A Short Day Long Keeper

Red Creole is a short day red onion (very high nutrient content) that is said to keep 6 to 7 months.  I saw it on the Dixondale site.

An Intermediate Long Keeper

Australian Brown is said to store 7 months.  I saw seed available at Sustainable Seed Co. Probably available many more places.

3 Long Day Long Keepers

Clear Dawn

My friend and reader, Jack in New Jersey, introduced me to Clear Dawn.  He sent me samples from his crop in the summer of 2015 and they were GORGEOUS!

I tried to get seed last year but was unsuccessful.

Seed for this onion will be available at Fedco after they release their 2017 catalog in December.

They describe it as being “the best open-pollinated storage onion, — slightly smaller than Copra with thicker necks, darker bronze skins and the same great storage capacity.” Jack’s was NOT smaller than Copra, but larger.

New York Early Onion

Fedco states that it is a  “superior strain of Early Yellow Globe selected for storage until early spring.”

Available also from High Mowing Seed Company.  And by the way, High Mowing has a new website and has not worked out the problems at this writing.  To get to the vegetables they offer you have to click on the small 3 bars at the top left of the page; then click vegetables and then onions.

Dakota Tears Onion

Fedco description states these onions were more than 20 years in the making.  From an early April start they’ll mature in September and can keep until the following May under good storage conditions.

Also available immediately from High Mowing Seed Company.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve found a long storage variety that you’ve had success growing please add your valuable input in the comments area.

Also, please let me know if you’ve found this post helpful.

Related Posts:

Onions – Things to Consider Before You Order

Monsanto – Don’t Entrust Your Life to Them

Garden Seed – Heirloom or Hybrid – Information to Help Make the Choice


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