February Garden Talk – Onions Seedlings – Unconventional Tips – Planting Cole Crops Early – Discovering Easy Seed Starting and Other stuff

Planted 4 varieties of onions with  good storage potential on January 15th. Yellow Parma, Australian Brown, Stuttgarters and Mako. They’re up about 4 or 5 inches.

Onion seedlings outside in containers.  Started January 15th.


Spinach just germinated two days ago.

Friend and reader, Betty Taylor, in Tennessee grows Stuttgarters and has given excellent reviews on their keeping ability.

If you’re interested in bees you’ll want to take a look at Betty’s site.  She’s the person I’d want to talk to if I were going to raise bees.

She doesn’t post a lot. According to Betty she only posts when she “has something to say” and that may not be often. But when she does it’s worth the read. Her latest posting tells what has to be done in January and February to manage the hives.

At the last minute I found some seed for Clear Dawn, another long keeper, introduced to me by friend and reader, Jack, in New Jersey. Even though I knew I’d be late getting them started, I ordered anyway. Planted on Feb. 3. Took much longer to germinate than the ones started in January and they did so sparsely.

Strategy to Have Onions as Early as Possible

One of my onion “strategies” to insure that I have onions to eat as early in the season as possible, is to order the short day variety Texas Legend as transplants. Planted either in late February or early March, they’ll have plenty of time here in Virginia to grow enough tops to insure a good sized onion when bulbing is triggered. I’ll be eating them as spring onions and mature onions while my long day onions from seed are still growing.

Two Pieces of Conventional Advice and My Unconventional Counter.
If you’ve read anything about growing onions from seed, especially on forums where everyday gardeners chat, you’ve encountered the advice about giving your onion seedlings a “hair cut”.

Supposedly when onion seedlings get 5 or 6 inches tall you cut them back to 3 inches. According to those who promote this idea, it’s suppose to allow the bulb and top to grow thicker for transplanting.

The first year I grew onions from seed I followed that recommendation. The second year I asked myself, “Why are you doing this when the tops of the onions are needed to help the plants grow?” I stopped following that advice.

I don’t think there is any need for it. Seedlings always do great for me and once transplanted to the garden they sit up straight and keep growing.

Recently was pleased to come across an article by a Virginia market grower (I think it was Pam Dawling) who doesn’t cut her seedlings either and for the same reason that I stopped it. It was nice to know I was in such good company.

So if that’s something you do,  you might want to rethink it.

Another thing promoted as a “have-to-do” is fertilizing seedlings of vegetables. Some of the most popular gardening video folks will tell you to add this or that fertilizer to the grow mix before you plant. Some will have you mix up a spray to use every week or 10 days.

They may or may not realize it themselves, but that’s more about selling a product than giving the plant what it needs.

Everything a seedling needs for nutrition to get it started those first few weeks or a month, are contained in the seed. I’m sure you have plenty to do without adding the job of fertilizing to your list. (I cover this in my Secrets to Seed Starting Success. )

This picture was taken in April one year before transplanting to the garden. Seed was started in March. None of these had any “fertilizer”.  Just the seed in grow mix.

Planting Cole Crops in the Garden – Is It Too Early?

With gardening a lot of what we do to get that possible reward of early fresh veggies is chancy. Or as a friend puts it after she plants early, “Let the experiments begin!”

Enjoying a warm day or two in February and hearing the birds tell you that spring is here (or close by) makes it hard to resist planting something in the garden.

A friend emailed me recently and said she planted peas, beets, and carrots, turnips, parsnips, spinach and radishes directly into her garden February 17th. Made me want to run right out and do the same. (Except for peas.)

Over the years I’ve found February and even early March too cold for peas. But – as always – mother nature has the last say. If conditions stay right those peas could do great and my friend will be enjoying fresh peas while I’m still waiting for bloom.

What Might Help Should Winter Conditions Return

According to the Farmer’s Almanac winter conditions will be with us off and on through March again this year. So if you’ve planted and then see temperatures forecast much lower than what your plants would like, a 2 or 3 inch layer of straw, pine or some row cover fabric might get them through.

Have Backup Just in Case

When you’re taking a chance with the weather, plan for backup. Extra seed or extra seedlings. That way if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, you’ll get a second chance.

Seed Starting Gets a Bad Rap

In the age we live in, most of us are under the impression that we need lots of space inside and equipment to start seed. Once we know that’s not true, it’s pretty easy to figure out that all the information out there basically stems from selling seed growing equipment (that is not really necessary unless you really want it.)

The only way I found out is because I didn’t have the money for all that stuff and still had to grow from seed or not have food to eat. So I found a way.

A Gardener of 45 Years Finds Out You Don’t Need a Lot of Stuff to Grow Seed

Jim, a friend and reader from Illinois is an experienced gardener of 45 years. Over the years he has shared pictures with me and I am in awe of what he has accomplished and how beautiful his produce is!

He recently acquired my Secrets to Seed Starting Success.

He writes, “I’ve thought about seed starting for years, but always thought I’d need all this “stuff” to do it, along with a place to do it, which I don’t have. You (in Secrets to Seed Starting Success) make it do-able —

“You offer alternatives and it makes the reader relate what you say with their own home or conditions.

“Some of what you write (in the form of) directions or guidelines I find especially beneficial. I might not follow exactly, but the “list” helps me lay out a similar plan for myself. It’s kinda like you’ve done all the hard work, and you’re helping others try the same with more confidence!”

“You’re really making a difference! Thanks especially for sharing it all.”

Winter Lettuce and Mache Beds Turn to Spring Ones

My winter lettuce beds are quickly turning to spring beds. It’s growing much more quickly now and the extra seed sown with the transplants last fall has germinated. It’s so bountiful I have plenty to lift and transplant to another bed.

Good Planting Days

Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 24 and 25, 2018) are good planting days according to the Farmer’s Almanac.

I’ll be starting cabbage, Sierra Batavia lettuce, Concept lettuce, Collard greens, and Komatsuma (or Komatsuna) in containers. Also, iberis (candy tuft), more asclepias (butterfly weed), soapwort, and climbing snapdragons.

Poppies and Sweet William seed I’ll sow directly into various borders.

Final Thoughts

The season is underway.

If you’ve been following my 3 keys you’ll only have to concentrate on starting your seed and/or pulling back the straw to plant in your permanent beds that are always ready when you are.

Why not try at least one thing new so you can learn even more this year.

Expect some losses and know that some things will do better than others – through no fault of your own. That’s just how life and gardening is.

Enjoy every minute. Forty Springs (or even 70 or 80) is way too little time.

Write to me if you think I can help.
Check out Secrets to Seed Starting Success here.


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Ginger and Turmeric – Growing Your Own is Easy – A Discussion of Various Aspects

Ginger and turmeric are two of the top most beneficial herbs you can grow. They’re good for just about anything that ails you.

But it’s difficult to get quality when you’re limited to the grocery store or even health food stores. The great stuff comes from growing your own which is pretty easy to do.

Disadvantages of Store Bought Rhizomes

Most of what you find in stores has been imported and irradiated. And if it’s not organic, who knows what chemicals it’s been subjected to.

If you use it for planting to start your own you take a chance on it harboring diseases such as bacterial wilt, fusarium wilt and/or nematodes. You have no way to see those until one or more shows up in your garden. By then, it’s too late.

Are Supplements as Good as the Real Thing?

These plants have become so popular you’ll see their components such as curcumin, which is considered the active ingredient in turmeric, in supplement form. Only thing is, you’re not getting the entire package in a supplement that nature offers in the plant.

Turmeric or any other plant usually contains a lot more than just one thing. Together they can produce a combined effect greater than the separate effect of just the one compound.

Reasons to Grow

We all know that anything fresh out of your “true” organic garden packs a lot more nutritional punch than anything you get from an unknown source that was harvested weeks or months ago.

That alone is reason enough to want to grow your own ginger or turmeric. As a bonus they’re beautiful plants. Turmeric especially is a real eye catcher.

Turmeric in my border in late summer. Leaves and stalks can also be used for teas and flavoring.

And both can be grown in pots if necessary.

I may not have perfected my simple technique of growing these tropical plants yet, but I’m pleased with my progress so far. And if I can grow it with my far less than perfect conditions, I’ll bet you can too.

Not All Gingers are Edible.  There are many ornamental gingers.

Zingiber officinale is the species that produces the tradition edible ginger. It’s about 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall. And, as you may have already discovered, there are different varieties within the species.

Life Cycle

Both plants have a growing season (about 6 months) and then go dormant for the remaining 6 months.

These tropicals need warm soil temperatures to break dormancy and sprout. Unless you live in the tropics, try to pre-sprout. Pre-sprouting gives the plants a longer growing time which means more ginger or turmeric. (If you can’t pre-sprout, don’t worry, you can still grow them. We’ll get to that in a minute.)

How to Pre-sprout

Some time in February place the rhizomes flat in a pot filled with slightly moist grow mix. Cover with 1/2 to 1 inch of soil. And place the pot in a warm place (70 to 80 degrees).  They can take a while to sprout; even 4 to 6 weeks. (Ginger may take longer than your turmeric.)

Tip: Your grow mix only needs to be slightly moist. If you over do the water, the rhizome can rot.

No Place Warm Enough to Pre-Sprout?

If you’re like me and don’t have a warm place for pre-sprouting, just wait until soil temperatures reach 55 degrees and plant in the ground (or your pot). When it finally gets warm enough they’ll sprout.

Suggestion about Pre-Sprouting

Unless you just want to experiment, don’t get too caught up in all the complicated procedures you can find online about pre-sprouting ginger. You can keep it simple as I laid out above. Your ginger won’t care.

Season of Growth

Even after sprouting these two plants don’t seem in big hurry to grow. They take their time for a couple of months. As summer was nearing it’s end, my plants had more noticeable growth.

Ginger plant in my border in late summer. Leaves and stalks can also be use for teas and flavoring.

If you live in a colder climate with a shorter growing season (and still grow outside either in the ground or pots) you just won’t get as much growth as you would if you were in the tropics. But in most cases you’ll get enough for your own use.

Insure that you do by growing more than one plant. You’ll find it beneficial to be able to alternate harvest between clumps.

Growing Conditions


If you’ve followed my “3 keys” and have improved your soil and continued to add organic materials and mulch, then you already have (or are working towards) a soil in which ginger and turmeric will thrive.

No matter what you read (either complicated or simple) about fertilizing with this, that, or the other, all you really need to have great nutritious ginger or turmeric is to have great soil.

Natures principle of renewing the soil each year with a diversity of organic materials like crop residues, leaves, straw, grass clippings etc. will, in almost every case, insure that you have the balance of macro and micro nutrients you need.


Both ginger and turmeric are tropical plants. They like sun. Some of my plants get full sun all day; others have some shade in the afternoon. All are thriving.

It’s worth a mention that for the last few years, this area has not had the long lasting severe heat and drought of years gone by. If that were to return, those plants in full sun may not do as well.

As with most vegetables, heat (above 90ºF) and extreme dryness restricts (limits) growth.

Jack, (friend and reader) who inspired me to grow ginger in the first place, and Lisa (you’ll remember from this post) reports that their plants enjoy part shade.

Lisa’s potted ginger and turmeric enjoying part shade.


Both ginger and turmeric like “rain in due season”.  As with most vegetables and herbs, they don’t like water logged soils and they don’t want to be constantly wet.

Good drainage is imperative.

Again, if you’ve followed the “3 keys” your soil will in all probability retain enough (and the right amount of) moisture to keep these plants happy.

If you feel you have to water do so wisely. Don’t get carried away.

Jack’s example:

When Jack first planted ginger he kept 2 jugs of water close by the ginger for dry spells. In spite of being prepared, things got busy and he wasn’t very mindful of keeping them wet as he intended. They still did well.

Going Dormant

As temperatures start to fall again in late autumn, leaves start to yellow and die back as plants go dormant.  You’ll know this when leaves and stalks are 100% dried and no longer yellow or green.

IMPORTANT: If you water your plants, whether in the ground or in pots, stop when they show signs of going dormant. Otherwise, water may hamper the natural process. (Rain is ok.)


There are numerous approaches to harvesting ginger and turmeric depending on what you want or need to do.

Harvest after the Plant is Dormant

The traditional time to harvest is after the plant is fully dormant. Rhizomes can be harvested anytime until growth starts again, which about 6 months.

Harvest Before Dormancy

When you’re growing ginger or turmeric, especially for the first time, it’s gonna be hard not to dig around and see what’s going on under there and break a piece off.

And of course, there’s that delectable “baby ginger” and “baby turmeric” that comes earlier in the season. More tender and mild, and no need to peel as it is without the tough skin found on rhizomes harvested after the plant goes dormant.

The Advantage of Harvest After the Plant is Fully Dormant

When you allow the plant to totally die back it transfers all the energy to the roots (rhizomes). They’ll have a stronger taste and store better because of it. It gives them time to develop the tough skin that “baby” ginger and turmeric lack. That skin is what helps the rhizomes to store better.

Harvest Anytime After Growth Starts

One of the great advantages in growing numerous plants, is being able to harvest anytime after growth starts without depleting your supply.

And yes, of course, pieces will be small. But at this early stage your objective will be to get a piece of high quality, fresh, tender and delicious ginger that you can’t get any other way.

How to Preserve roots for Immediate Use

Store at Room Temperature

Fresh ginger or turmeric rhizomes (especially those from your garden) can be rinsed and dried and stored nicely at air temperature for a couple of weeks or possibly even a month before they start to shrivel and get soft.

(You can still preserve them at this point by pureeing and freezing for cooking and flavoring.)

Store in the Crisper of Refrigerator

Some folks wrap the rhizomes in a paper towel (which absorbs the moisture) and place them in plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Keeps it nice for several weeks. Eventually it starts to shrivel and soften.

How to Preserve the Roots (Rhizomes) for Planting Next Year

Plants in the Ground

Plants grown in the ground are easy to keep if you can prevent freezing with a thick layer of mulch. That’s all you need do until next growing season. You can harvest pieces anytime before the next growing season.

Plants in Pots

If you grow in pots, move them under protection when you see signs of dormancy, let them dry, and store as is in cool dry place over winter. You can harvest as needed.

Lisa’s potted ginger inverted. Plant looks as if it is going dormant.

Lisa’s ginger washed and ready for use.

Lisa and her husband have harvested from the pots of dormant plants this winter. She told me recently that they’ve really enjoyed this. Remaining rhizomes will be used to start the new season.

Plants fully dormant, Lifted, Washed, Dried and Stored ??

I’ve seen this advice in several places. I’m not sure it works. If you see it and take the advice, might be a good idea to plan for back up in case you fail.

I’m not saying you can’t be successful with this. I’m saying I’ve not experienced it yet.

Here are two examples of what didn’t work.

#1 Jack’s example
This first example involves baby ginger that has not developed the tough skin that is said to help it store. So that is obviously one reason the attempt to store it was unsuccessful.

Jack’s ginger harvest in Oct or Nov. 9 oz.

Jack sent me this picture of this beautiful 9 oz piece of baby ginger he harvested in October or November of 2013. I’ll let Jack’s words, written in April of 2014, give you the sad ending:

I tried saving an entire root (the one I sent you a picture of) down in the Crawlspace in a 4 gallon pot.  Tonight, I went down to bring it up to repot it into fresh soil, but when i dug it up, I found it shriveled up – next to nothing.  What a waste!

#2 Theresa’s example
Just before that severe cold hit in December of last year, I dug one of my most beautiful ginger plants. To attempt to keep it fresh until after the cold, I put it in the the middle of a 3 gallon pot filled with grow mix. Left it inside the garage. Dismissed it from memory.

Checked it again at the beginning of February and it had softened and started to shrivel.

Maybe my rhizomes should have air dried more and should have been stored without the grow mix in a cool dry place.

I just don’t know for sure. So if you give it a try, I’d suggest planning  for back up until you get it right.

Both of the examples above obviously show flawed procedures. (In other words – what NOT to do.)

More About Plants Wintering Over in the Ground

The weather this past December turned so quickly, I literally had only one day to prepare for the unexpected cold. (If you’re a regular reader you know that I move like turtle, so nothing is done quickly around here.) When I finally got the plastic on the 8 beds of lettuces it was just about dark. I was just able to haul enough straw to the ginger and turmeric plants to top them with a foot or more.

Before writing this post, I checked several plants to see how they’d fared during the uncommonly cold temperatures we had back in December and January. I didn’t uncover much.  Just enough to feel and make sure the rhizomes were still hard, which they were. It seems the mulch was enough to do the job.

About Dividing

When I see sprouts from the plants, which more than likely will be in late May or the first of June, I’ll dig some of the bigger plants to divide and replant. Looking forward to this as it will be a first for me.

If I had a place warm enough to pre-sprout, I could dig some now, divide, and pre-sprout in pots.

Without reading one word about it, anyone can look at ginger and see the “natural” breaks. In almost every case, each of those piece will have one or more growing buds. Growing buds should be obvious once the plant has sprouted.

With turmeric it’s also easy. Just break off little fingers of turmeric to replant.

Lisa’s potted Turmeric unearthed for fresh eating rather than planting.


Push into the soil 1/2 to 1 inch. Then mulch.

Soil can be moist, but (if you’re a waterer) don’t do any additional watering (except rainfall) until they get going.  (That’s a precaution to prevent rot.)

Where to Get Starts – My Experiences

Many have written to me asking where to get starts. Here’s my reply.

*I’ve already mentioned my reasons for not wanting store bought ginger or turmeric root for starts.

*Also, I’ve ordered ginger from no less than Baker Creek which is a great company for most seeds. I was surprised at what I received. Small ginger pieces had been placed in two small pots. They never sprouted even when the weather warmed.

Cheaper cost but in the long run more expensive. Two puny pieces that didn’t do anything for $10.

The good stuff is anywhere from $16 to $19 a pound and worth it if you can fit it into the budget.

*Finding (They’re certified organic.)

Hugh Johnson (aka Biker Dude, the founder) has been growing organic ginger for export since 1992 – longer than any other grower out there according to the website.

They seem to sell out quickly every year. Up until this year their minimum was 5 pounds. A lot for an average gardener. When I visited the site this year, I noticed they’ve changed to a one pound minimum. But add $20 for small box shipping.

At this point in time you  have to make reservations for ginger (instructions on their site) and they’ll let you know in late March if they can fill your order. They still had enough turmeric when I visited last, to give you a firm commitment right away.

The advantage of buying their ginger is that they start with tissue culture material which is free from pathogens.

After learning about this type of pathogen free start for commercial growers of potatoes from Jim Gerritsen, one of the foremost potato growers in the US, this was an appealing benefit.

It takes 5 years from tissue culture material to get the seed-quality rhizomes HawaiinOrganicGinger sells as seed. It’s beautiful stuff .

It was a little disappointing to learn that although they grow outside, they grow in large beds well above ground with new growing media every year. They’re not specific about their fertilizers but it smacks at hydroponics.

I don’t know enough to be sure. But in the long run that won’t matter because I used theirs to grow mine which will be “real” organic and filled with nutrients. See my post here for more information on this.

Even though I had to order too much, it was worth it. Made a huge difference in plant performance over what I had previously.

How I Preserved my Excess from

I minced the excess ginger and then turmeric. Put each in  a sterile glass quart jar. Poured organic vinegar containing the “mother” over each to the brim. Replaced the tops and refrigerated. Lasts at least a year. Great for daily use and saves me time especially since its already chopped.

I also froze some pieces. Grated frozen pieces taste close to fresh.  Then I rewrap and return to the freezer.

*I’ve recently come across Windcrest Farm ( I couldn’t determine from the website exactly how it’s raised but I don’t think they use tissue culture to insure pathogen free. However, it looked good. And ordering shouldn’t be a hassle.

I emailed them because I couldn’t find what I needed on the site. Mary Roberts, the owner, responded the next day with the information I wanted.

They’re in the process of updating their website. You may want to email Mary at and ask her for the links to order ginger and turmeric seed.

Please mention that you got her name from “Theresa Martz who writes a gardening blog.” I didn’t mention TMG to her when I first corresponded with her, but I’d like for her to know that’s where you heard of her.

Final Thoughts

A special thank you to Jack and Lisa and her husband for taking pictures and allowing me to share with you.

Hope this discussion answers a lot of your questions.

If you’re not already growing ginger or turmeric, why not give it a try.


Related posts:

Three Keys – More Proof They Work

At Last you can Order

Information to think on before your purchase —hydroponics, etc.

Garlic and Mulch – A Readers Experience

Potatoes – Green Sprouting Advice from a Leading US Grower


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Cutting the Mountain in Half — Even When You’re No Longer 20

Some very meaningful comments were made on the last post. This will serve as an answer to the folks who took the time to voice their feelings and the many who didn’t, but have similar concerns.

You’ll recall last year I cut up the 35 foot tree that fell on my property. I’m only this year getting to move the logs.

Since they were too heavy for me to lift, I tied a rope to each log and pulled it from the wooded area adjoining the back of our property to our carry-all trailer where I put limbs.

I’d pull, go forward a few inches, pull again, and then continue the process until I got it to the trailer. Each log took about 20 minutes because it was so heavy.

The entire time I was doing this I was thinking about how fortunate I was to be able to do it. It was very invigorating and exciting because I’m finding a way to do things that I thought I might not be able to do.

Addressing Reader’s Concerns

Patricia (one of two readers with the same name who left comments) wrote , “At 71, I realize all too quickly I am not 20 and indestructible anymore.”

At almost 75, I feel that age is a definite advantage. Hopefully, we’re much more wise than at 20 and more knowledgeable as well. If we’re living a healthy lifestyle and keeping active both mentally and physically we should be able to do a lot.

Betty said she tries “to slow down and enjoy the process of ‘washing the dishes’ or whatever else I’m doing–as if doing it were the whole point and not the having it done.”

She knows this secret to enjoying life. If we can enjoy the small things of life, then we can be “happy” even during the difficult times.

As Pat brought out, there will always be repetitive tasks as long as we’re alive.

Gail said, “inspiring and a great reminder on being in the now, and as Betty said, actually enjoying the washing!”

Tammy has just bought a homestead that they’ve wanted for many years. The work involved in that can definitely be overwhelming. And Tammy, I’m in hopes that the information on TMG will help you stay out of overwhelm and enjoy every minute of the process.

Kay wrote, “At 74, I seem to always be in overwhelm!! my thoughts now are should I deal with starting seedlings or just buy them from the High School vocational group.”

Kay, why not make a plan to allow yourself to buy a few plants from the High School group when the time comes.  In the meantime, start a few seeds on your own. If you have my book Secrets to Seed Starting Success, you know how easy it can be.

By allowing yourself the backup plan of buying plants, it takes all the pressure off of your seed starting. Try not to take things so seriously.

Kay also said, “and I look at all the work outside that I will have to tackle in a couple of months!!
Along this same line Steve said, when we finally “peep out of our holes — we find what we left clean is messy and what we left messy is worse.

Strategy for Cutting the Mountain in Half

If we don’t take on more than we can handle (too big a garden, too many borders) and if we work consistently little by little when the weather allows through fall and winter, that should take care of the problem Kay and Steve and many others face.

If you’re using many of the ideas I’ve suggest in the more than 600 posts on TMG, you won’t have to till the soil, your beds will already be prepared and ready for planting, your flower beds will also be ready and things will look pretty much in order by March.

You’ll still have plenty to do, but it should be handleable.

In the past when I’ve mentioned to various people that I work outside a little each day through the winter (as long as there is no snow on the ground) they can’t understand what there is to do.

Here are some examples of what can be done right now:

  • Look for vole holes and trap. Now’s the perfect time while garden beds are easier to see.
  • Transplanting — plants, bushes, and shrubs are dormant now, so it’s the perfect time to transplant
  • Take cuttings of shrubs or bushes that you need more of and stick them in the ground to root
  • Prune rosebushes and anything else that needs pruning
  • Cut last years dead blackberry canes out
  • Edge borders and mulch the edges heavily. (This will really help with those spring weeds that pop up.)
  • Mulch blueberries after a nice rain.
  • Cut back dead vegetation in your borders and leave it in place.
  • Thin perennials that need thinning for a more robust performance this year. (large clump of daylilies, mums, asters, rudbeckias, ground covers, etc.)
  • Move straw or other mulch to the garden and pile it up in various spots, so it will be easily accessible when you need it in the spring.
  • Plan where you’re going to plant your onions and spring lettuces.
  • Haul away limbs and logs that you don’t have the equipment to “grind” for mulch.

(I’ve seen people pile up limbs in huge piles. This is a real welcome sign for snakes and some other undesirables. Years ago, I knew a fellow who did that. The next year he set the pile on fire and dozens and dozens of snakes went in every direction.)

  • Cut ornamental grasses (If you feel that you’ll still have severe cold in February and March and need the tops to protect it’s base, wait until the end of March to cut.
  • If you have a fence around your garden, work to get out the wire grass that intertwines with the fence. Try to dig out phlox, chives or anything else growing into the fence. (Do the best you can with this.   It’s hard to get it all.)
  • Check your garden and know what’s there while you can see everything. That way you can avoid “surprises” later in the season. (Groundhog holes — that kind of thing.)

Final Thoughts

I hope you’ve found this post helpful in cutting down the mountain of work you felt was ahead of you.

Gardens give us the opportunity to enjoy life even more. And to provide healthful food for ourselves and our families.

It’s important to try to enjoy every minute of what we do.

And we don’t have to be 20 to cut the mountain in half. 🙂

Gardening and Life in General – One Step (Dish) at a Time

If you’re a long time reader you already know my thoughts on never underestimating the power of a little.

In spite of that, I still need to refresh that concept in my mind when I’m close to being rendered incapable of doing anything by the thoughts of all that has to be done.

Well known by all of us as overwhelm.

Since Bill died, there has been so much for me to do that I stay on the precipice of overwhelm almost all the time. For the sake of survival and most especially for the sake of making myself a better, stronger person — I do everything I can to prevent the fall into that pit.

Drawing from Various Sources

To accomplish that I draw from a variety of sources. Usually articles by others who have or had an awareness of life. And the ability to express what they learned and felt in order that others may benefit from their experiences.

One Unlikely Source

I enjoy the sometimes humorous perspective of Bill Bonner on world finances and events and enjoy subscribing to his “Diary”.

One popped up in my inbox the other day with an article written by one of his associates, Chris Mayer, a financial analyst.

(I wasn’t kidding when I said in a previous post that I draw help and inspiration from the most unlikely sources. And yes, sometimes it’s over my head, but most of the time there’s one simple and meaningful take-away that adds value to my life.)

Mr. Mayer begins the article by telling us that he had been reading a book by Alan Watts.

Rather embarrassed that I didn’t already know who Alan Watts was, I Googled.

  • In brief, Watts (1915-1973) was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker. You can check out his living online library and museum of his works at

Anyway – on with my story –

I was delighted to see that Alan Watts had also written a story about the power of a little.

It was just too good not to share. So here it is as quoted by Mr. Mayer along with his introductory words to the quote .

A Mountain of Dishes

“Watts writes about the frustration or dread you may feel upon realizing you have a large or repetitive task ahead of you. He likens it to having a pile of dishes to clean.”

Here are Watts’ — words, from Eastern Wisdom, Modern Life:

“You begin to think as you wash them that you’ve washed dishes for years, and you’re probably going to have to wash dishes for the rest of your life, and then in your mind’s eye you see this prodigious pile of dishes piling up as high as the Empire State Building… and you are appalled and oppressed.

But dispelling this dread isn’t a matter of trying to forget about washing dishes, it is realizing in actual fact you have only one dish to wash, ever: this one; only one step to take, ever: this one.”

Final Thoughts

Soon-coming spring will bring most of us another mountain of dishes.

No matter how long our list,  one step or dish at a time will be how we get the job done.

I’m always thinking of you.


Related Posts:

Never Underestimate the Power of a Little

A Principle for Insurmountable Tasks


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Onions – Helping A Reader – Should She Plant According to Directions on the Package?

I received an email today from long time friend and reader, Toni, from Oregon.

She writes:

I’m looking on my onion seed packets. These are seeds grown for companies locally. They all say to plant the seeds directly into the garden from April to mid-July. This is really confusing me. Do you think I should try doing that?

Because of your direction in blog posts on growing onions I first attempted to grow them. Now I LOVE growing onions.

The reason the information confused me is because I have a very significant number of onions bolt and I wonder if transplanting them is causing them to bolt?

I can understand why these instructions would be confusing.

It’s almost a guarantee — especially knowing that seeds are grown specifically for that area — 95% (or more) of gardeners will take the instructions to heart and sow directly into the garden anytime from April to mid-July. Large, wonderful onions that will cure and store for winter will be what they’ll expect as results. More than likely they’ll be disappointed.

Onions Take Growing Time Before Bulbing is Triggered

In order to get mature onions that can be cured and stored, they have to be in the garden long enough to grow large roots and tops before daylight hours and warm temperatures trigger bulbing.

Toni’s location is far enough north (Latitude 45.356507º N) that long day onions are the only ones that will do well there.

Long day onions take 14 to 16 hours of daylight (coupled with warmer temperatures) to trigger the bulbing process.

14 hours of daylight will start in her garden on the 25th of April, 2018 and gradually increase to 15 hours (her maximum amount of daylight hours) on May 18th.

Since we don’t know the variety’s exact number of hours needed to trigger bulbing , let’s assume that it’s a minimum of 14 hours which starts April 25th. If temperatures are warm enough (at least 60 to 70 degrees) bulbing will be triggered on that date.

That means the onions already need to be up and growing at least 13 weeks prior to that for the largest possible onion.

If Toni starts her onions now, her seedlings can be transplanted to the garden 6 to 8 weeks prior to the last frost date. Since that’s April 1 for her location, she’d be transplanting the seedlings February 1 to 15 for best results.

Less Leaves (Tops) When Bulbing is Triggered Means Small Onions

Following the instructions on the package and sowing directly into the garden in April will probably get good germination. But the seedlings would have less than 25 days to grow before bulbing is triggered at 14 hours of daylight on April 25th.

Even if it’s 15 hours (May 18th) that triggers that variety, seedlings would only have about 40 odd days to grow. That’s no where near enough. Bulbs would probably be dime size.

Does Transplanting Onion Seedlings Cause Bolting?

No. Transplanting seedlings does NOT cause bolting.

The normal life cycle of an onion is to grow, come to maturity, go dormant and after a period of cold resume growth and send up a seed stalk (bolting).

In short, bolting is caused by severe temperature swings that cause the onion to go dormant when it’s not suppose to.  That makes it prone to bolting.

Final Thoughts

The book I’m writing on onions will go into much more detail. It’s been slow going for lots of reasons, but I think it’ll be an even better book because of it. (And, yes, I know — it seems to be taking forever!)

I want to help you as much as I can. So, if you have problems with onions, let me know what they are.


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Best Dates to Plant – How Can You Know?

I started onion seed the 15th of this month, which according to the Farmer’s Almanac was one of the two best days to plant root crops.

All 10 jugs are on my washing machine on the porch. Day time temperatures there are about 55 degrees and sometimes when it’s sunny — 60º F. That’s about perfect for quick germination.

Starting Friday the 10 day forecast is for temperatures close to 50 in the day and at nights from 29 to 44. That’ll be perfect for those then germinated onion seedlings to go outside under the protection of my little cold frame. I may even add an extra layer of protection over the seedlings until they get stronger.

(To learn how to start seed without buying indoor lighting or a lot of other stuff preview my Secrets to Seed Starting Success here.)

The Southeast is suppose to have more bad weather the first of February and March. I won’t like the job of bringing the seedlings back inside, but I may not have much choice if temperatures get severe and stay there for a while.

That’s where I stand with onions at the moment.

Have you planted your onions yet (assuming you’re starting from seed)?

Do you take advantage of planting on days that will give you the best results?

How to Tell Which Days Are Best for Planting

Years ago, I remember talking about this with a good friend (and reader). She asked me about it and I said it’s called gardening by the moon.

Instantly she exclaimed, “I’m not into dancing around naked in the garden by the light of the moon!”

I was surprised, but I couldn’t help but laugh.

Fortunately, for us all (and maybe our neighbors), moon gardening has nothing to do with gardening by the moon at night — either with or without clothes.

It’s about doing various gardening duties to correspond with the phases of the moon that give the best results. It’s a practice that’s been around ever since people have been growing food.

It’s a very easy way to increase your success in the garden.

Especially easy since you need do nothing, but look at the Farmer’s Almanac to know when the best times are. It shows two months for free online.  And it applies to anywhere in the world. Just copy and paste this url into your browser.

Another Way to Get the Information:

You can buy a moon calendar.

Most of them are for specific years, so you’ll have to buy again for future years.

There’s one that’s perpetual and with a little care you’ll have it forever. It’s a few dollars more than some others, but you save a bundle in the long run.

Using it’s easy. “Align the new moon symbol on the rotating wheel with the date of the new moon each month & follow the recommended activities each day—“.

You can find the date for the new moon each month by copying and pasting this url into your browser:

A Little About the Science-based Principles of Gardening by the Moon

Any of us who have lived or spent time on or near rivers or the ocean know that the moon affects the tides. The closer to the earth the moon is, the more pull it has on the tides.

This pull also has an effect on moisture in the soil and in plants.

When the moon is in position to pull the water in the soil higher, it helps seeds to absorb water and germinate more quickly. It also encourages growth of roots and leaves.

You’ll find that your seedlings and plants in the garden grow more vigorously from a new moon to the full moon.

While the moon is “increasing” plant things that provide fruits that are above ground. (peas, greens, tomatoes, berries, flowers, etc.)

As the moon decreases (from full moon to the next new moon) plant juices and other moisture goes to the roots. This waning (decreasing) moon is better for planting things that have their edible parts below the soil surface. (beets, onions, potatoes, carrots, radishes, etc.)

Those who are well versed in moon gardening, recommend that no planting work be done on the days of the new moon or the full moon.

Suppose Nature’s Best Time is Not Your Best Time

It can happen that the weather might not be suitable for planting. Obviously you can’t plant during a hurricane, blizzard, or other severe weather.

And what if your schedule won’t allow you to plant on the best days?

Then plant when you can. Better to plant than not plant.

It just gives you that extra edge if you’re able to plant at the “best” times.

Final Thoughts

If you’re into working with nature, planting by the moon is an excellent strategy to have.

The closer you get to following her lead, the more successful you’ll be.

The Best Gift You Can Give

Gift giving can be a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s more fun for the giver than the receiver.

Remembering the first Christmas I spent with Bill 53 years ago, I can still feel the excitement of his opening my gifts. None of them even made it to Christmas day or even Christmas Eve. Every time I’d buy something, I’d get so excited that I’d end up giving it to him that evening – after urging him to try to guess what it was.

All his life he kept that child-like enthusiasm when given a gift.  Made it so much fun!

The Cold Hard Facts of Credit

Problem was, those gifts were charged and I really couldn’t afford them. We had to go through some rough times before I finally “got it” that if you don’t have the money you don’t buy! You do without.

I consider myself very fortunate to have learned that lesson (even if it was the hard way) since for the past 30 years we’ve lived in this “age of credit” and money printed by the government with nothing to back it up. Especially those who have grown up in these years, think it’s normal  and “that’s just the way things are done now”.

Unfortunately, individuals and/or societies can’t break universal laws (agriculture is another example) without paying the price sooner or later. It’s just the way the universe works.

Stopped Gift Giving on Holidays

It didn’t take many years for Bill and I to stop gift giving on worldly holidays. Lots of things accounted for that, but it worked out great.

There’s a freedom that comes with not feeling like you “have to” give a gift just because it’s expected. And a real freedom too in feeling good (rather than sad) about not buying what you can’t afford.

When we did give each other something, it was always a lot of fun and nothing to do with any holiday.

In spite of material gifts being so much fun, they can’t compete with the best gifts. The best gifts can’t be bought with money.

What Sustains Me Through Grief

My greatest gift in life was being married to Bill Martz. His example throughout our life together, his attitude, and his unconditional love for me worked together to create the environment I needed to build the inner resources that sustain me now.

There was never a time that he was too busy to stop and give me his undivided attention when I really needed it.

Undivided attention (when it’s needed) is one of the most priceless gifts we can give to our mates, our children, and our friends.

It’s the kind of attention that really “hears” what they have to say. It tells them they’re important to us and that we value their thoughts.

It’s the kind that you can’t fake – especially with kids.  They see your heart and will see right through pretense.

Final Thought

Wishing you every joy and happiness and all the best gifts.



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Could You Survive? Giving It Thought Now Might Make All the Difference for You and Your Family

Friend and reader, Julie, sent me an email the first part of September saying that she and her husband had evacuated their home because of fires.

They live in the mountains and are surrounded by forest. Coupled with the hottest summer on record, fire spread quickly when a power pole fell and caught the hillside on fire.

Miraculously, their home was spared. You’ll see why I say miraculously when you look at the pictures below of the home directly behind Julie’s home and then another neighbor’s home already burned to the ground.

The home behind Julie’s

Another neighbor’s home burned to the ground.

Disaster events like this are hard even for those who are well prepared. Not being prepared can be a matter of life or death.

Best Time to Prepare for Any Disaster

Julie lives in Utah, the state of emergency preparedness. When she and her husband moved there, neighbors came over and took them out to buy food supplies and gave them books and pamphlets on preparedness.   Folks in her neighborhood are prepared to evacuate at a moments notice.

And of course, that’s the best time to get prepared: when things are going well and there’s no perceived urgency.

That’s why many articles show up right after disasters to encourage preparedness for the future.

If You Know What to Do Things Can Seem a Bit Easier

Years ago when we were living in the old house I told you about here , I’d see various articles listing supplies folks might need in the next hurricane, etc.  Being totally without funds in those days made it impossible to get much. But we did what we were able.

Oddly enough the one advantage we had over most of our neighbors was the fact that we knew how to survive in conditions well below those most Americans live in. We knew how to do without just about everything when we had to. And Bill, in spite of the fact that he was an artist, had an engineer’s mental ability and could come up with a solution to almost any problem we encountered.

One year there was a snow storm, the likes of which are seldom seen here in Virginia. Snow was 3 feet deep and no one could get out with a vehicle unless it was a large tractor. Power was out for almost two weeks.

Because of what we had learned by having to do without, Bill and I were able to show our neighbors how to get by without power. They were encouraged by the small things we showed them which helped make the situation more bearable.

Suppose You Can’t Evacuate?

Remembering back some 30years ago, a bad hurricane was expected. Officials were going door to door telling people to get ready for possible evacuation.

Bill and I knew right then and there that we were not going any place no matter the consequences. First of all, where in the world would we go? We had no money for gas and no money to provide for ourselves once we left the house. Even if a public shelter were available and we had been able to get there, they would not allow animals. And I had no intention of leaving Samuel (our black lab) behind.

We figured we were better off staying put and we did. We felt the house move in the worst of it, but fortunately we came out it ok.

Questions to Ask Yourself

It’s wise to give some thought to being prepared for an emergency situation. Even if you’re busy with the “fun” of Christmas it might be a good time to think about getting some emergency supplies that could save the life of you and your family when things get bad.

Suppose there were power outages all over the country that lasted indefinitely? How would you heat your home; or keep yourself warm? What would you eat? How could you cook? How would you get clean water to drink? How would you protect yourself from marauders?

These are basic questions that all of us need to address so we can survive when things take a turn for the worst.

It also helps to know up front that “government” will not protect you in times of crisis. It will be up to you to protect you and yours. That might scare you, but knowing it upfront could save your life.

A Few Suggestions

Although I couldn’t be called a “prepper”, I do believe in being prepared to the best of my ability.

Here are a few things that you might consider getting right away if you don’t already have them.

A GOOD Flashlight

A flashlight is a necessity even for everyday living. And a good one, rather than a cheap one that doesn’t last. (I should be an expert on those, because we sure had enough of them over the years.)

After reading a lot of reviews I settled on two Fenix flashlights.

  • The LD 22 which is great for every day use.
  • And the TK35 which I save for emergencies OR when it’s pitch black outside and I want to light up as much area in front of me as I can with a still affordable flash light.

Batteries for the Flashlights

I read a lot of mixed information about batteries.  The best thing I did was to call Battery Junction and ask lots of questions.  The lady I spoke to was very knowledgeable and spent time with me explaining what I needed to know.

Especially helpful was learning that rechargeable batteries continually loose their charge whether they’re in use or not. You have to remember to charge them every 6 weeks.  Thus, for the TK35 I ordered a dozen CR123A batteries since they don’t lose their charge and keep for 7 to 10 years in a cool dry place.

If you use the TK35 on the brightest setting you’ll use up the batteries more quickly, so it’s good to have a dozen on hand.

For the smaller flashlight (LD22) I ordered a package of 24 AA batteries.

Water Filter

From everything I was able to find, Berkey filters seem to be the best and remove the most pollutants. And they work on gravity, so you don’t need electricity.

From reading the reviews, I learned you need to prime the filters right away and make sure they work correctly.  You only have 30 days to return them if something is wrong.

Kerosene Heater

Fortunately, we’ve never had to use our kerosene heater since we’ve been at our current residence.  But I have it ready to go in case of a power outage in cold weather.  I think I could at least keep my pipes and me from freezing.

With the kerosene heater you’ll need some stored kerosene.   Usually the owner’s manual to the heater will tell you how many hours it’ll run per gallon of kerosene. You can plan from there.

Things You Can Eat Without Cooking

Here are a few things I keep on hand:

  • Greens from the garden in all seasons.
  • Organic dried raisins.  I think Thompson’s are the best.
  • Organic rolled oats.  You can soak 1/2 cup of rolled oats in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water for 20 minutes.  Add raisins and/or honey or maple syrup and you have a satisfying meal.
  • If you make your own bread, bake thin slices in the oven at 200º F until hard and dry.  Stores in an air tight container for weeks. Delicious with cheeses.  Great for traveling too.

Gun and Ammunition

After Bill died I learned how to shoot.  I was always afraid to handle a gun prior to that, but now I feel comfortable about shooting the gun if I have to.

It would be good to have as much ammunition as you can on hand. If things really got bad, more than likely ammunition would be in high demand and you’d not be able to get it at the last minute.


If you’ve tried to buy gas or food when the power is out, you already know you can’t buy anything with credit.  And that’s just a taste of what can happen in a crisis.

Have cash on hand for emergencies even if the power stays on. Otherwise, you might not be able to buy anything.

Final Thoughts

Although this is not a comprehensive list of every concern in a crisis situation, it’s a start.

I’m hoping you’ll give it some thought even during the holidays and see what you can do to help insure that you and your family can survive whatever comes.


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Information to Think On Before You Purchase Food – Hydroponics, AFO/CAFO Meats, Vitamins, and Grain for Your Animals You Might Think is Organic

Most in our society have lost track of the fact that good health comes from real food. Real food is from healthy soil and is packed with nutrients and free from poisons and other chemicals.

Unfortunately some of the biggest companies that control our food
(directly or indirectly) are interested only in making a profit rather than also offering healthful food.

They have the money to hire the best lobbyists to influence law making; and the means to form the beliefs of the masses via promotion and marketing.

They’re also able to infiltrate any organic programs that exist and – given enough time — can determine the laws and guidelines being set for organic. (Which they have already done.)

This is by far one of the greatest detriments to our health.

It’s all very subtle and unless we question and are aware, we’ll fall right into line and believe exactly what they want us to believe; thus, increasing their profit and decreasing our health.

Organic farming and gardening has always been based on “feed the soil and the soil will feed and take care of the plants”.

Modern industrial agriculture is based on “feed the plants and never mind the soil”.  Hydroponics has even done away with the soil.

Corporate Influence Takes Over the National Organic Program

In the past decade it’s become obvious that organic farming is more than a passing fad and that there’s money to be made. Thus, it’s attracted corporate attention.

Unfortunately, many of these businesses are only interested in following enough of the rules to gain organic certification. Better yet, they would much prefer to change the law (regarding organic) to go along with how they already do things.

They’ve already done that to a great degree.

One example is the recent vote  (November 1, 2017) by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to allow hydroponic productions to be eligible for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certification.


The bottom line behind hydroponic is making more money. It’s popular because it’s easier than in-soil growing and there’s more money to be made.

Hydroponic vegetables and fruits are grown in containers filled with coco coir or rockwool or peat rather than soil. (Coco coir is popular now because it’s more resistant to breaking down and can be used over and over.)

Liquid fertilizer is then pumped into the containers to feed the plants.

Some produce is even grown without sunlight under artificial lights.

Seemingly, it would be impossible for hydroponics to be eligible for organic certification,  because to grow real organic requires soil.  And there is no soil in hydroponics.

So how did they do it?

They changed the definition of organic (took the soil part out) so they wouldn’t have to change how they do things to qualify for organic certification.

This will have far reaching affects. And will influence the standards for the rest of the world.

Changing the Definition Doesn’t Change Facts

Dave Chapman has farmed organically for 37 years (Long Wind Farm in Vermont) and served a year on the USDA hydroponic task force.

He had this to say about changing the definition for organic:

“The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) has the legal right to define organic in keeping with OFPA (Organic Foods Production Act). But it has never been given permission to reinvent organic in order to serve the market needs of favored enterprises.

The NOP (National Organic Program) was created to serve and protect, not to reinvent. Hard-won trust in the organic seal is being destroyed, and it will not be easily won back.

—When organic certification is reduced to a marketing strategy that misleads consumers, it loses its soul, and it will soon lose its followers as well.”

Another Example of How Corporate Take-Over Happens

It was disappointing to many to see the Organic Trade Association lobby in favor of the NOSB change to include hydroponics in organic certification.

Businesses in the organic community can join the Organic Trade Association (OTA) by paying a membership fee (dues). Dues, which are based on the company’s organic sales, range from a low of $50 to $47,300.00 for sales over two billion. An additional $5,000 in dues is added for each billion in sales over the two billion mark.

Driscalls, the world’s largest distributor of conventionally grown and supposedly “organically” grown berries, is in this last category and is a core member of OTA.

Over 1,000 acres of their organic berries are hydroponic.  All grown in a bucket filled with coconut husks with feed coming in by dripper.

Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that OTA lobbied in favor of the change to include hydroponics in organic certification.

It must have been upsetting for members of OTA who grow “real” organic food and had no say in this.

How Can You Tell If Produce is Hydroponic?

In most cases, you can’t.

In spite of the fact that more than 35% of the organic tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in grocery stores are hydroponically produced they are not labeled. And no one says they have to be.

The Miracle of Soil

In the last decade science has learned so much about the miracles of the soil, and they’re just scratching the surface.

Eliot Coleman, pioneer organic farmer and author, put it simply and well:

“There is no way that an artificial system can duplicate what is going on in the soil.”

Still Believe the Popular Idea That Chemicals (often referred to as “science”) Can Duplicate What Nature Offers?

At the end of this section I’ll give the web address to a video that’s a great place to start your education about why and how that idea is incorrect.

This 48 minute video is well worth your time! Dr. Schultz (a pioneer in herbal medicine) can be very entertaining and that’s a bonus. So this is NOT a stuffy, boring video.

In explaining why ascorbic acid is NOT vitamin C, he makes the point of the folly of trying to outdo nature.

For example: Vitamin C from food is composed of over 5,000 compounds that scientist have found thus far.

Synthetic Vitamin C is one chemical: ascorbic acid.

At the end of the video Schultz speaks about chemical synthetics not being the same as the real thing.

Synthetic “anything” is created in the first place because it’s cheaper to make than from the real thing. In this case he’s talking about vitamins, but the same concept applies to other things like vegetables. (Hydroponics for example.)

If you’re interested in learning and pulling out of the programming that most of us have been subjected to, I encourage you to watch this video as soon as possible. And remember to bookmark it, because it’s one that you’ll want to watch more than once in order to absorb every piece of  information given.

To watch, cut and paste this url into your browser:

Board Member Lays Out the Facts for Public Record in Farewell Address

Francis Thicke has been an organic farmer for more than 30 years. He’s been active in many organic and environmental organizations and served as a National Program Leader for Soil Science at the USDA Extension Service.

Dr. Thicke, a scientist specializing in soil fertility with working knowledge of agricultural and food chemistry, served as a member of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) for 5 years.

At the NOSB meeting in November his term on the Board ended and he gave his farewell address which is now public record.

This was important because Dr. Thicke was very specific in pointing out how organic principles had not been adhered to and showed the lack of integrity in the National Organic Program.

#1 – Almost immediately he mentioned that the industry has a “growing influence on the US Dept. of Agriculture and on appointments to the National Organic Standards Board compared to the influence of organic farmers who started the organic farming movement.”

#2 – “We now have ‘organic’ chicken CAFOs with 200,000 birds crammed into a building with no real access to the outdoors, —

#3 – “We have ‘organic’ dairy CAFOs with 15,000 cows in a feedlot in a desert, — — when USDA does its obligatory “investigation,” instead of a surprise visit to the facility, USDA gives them a heads up by making an appointment, so the CAFO can move cows from feedlots to pasture on the day of inspection.”

What is AFO? What is CAFO?

The Natural Resources Conservation Service/US Department of Agriculture website defines AFOs and CAFOs as follows:

  • AFOs are “ agricultural enterprises where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on range land.”


  • “A CAFO is an AFO with more than 1000 animal units (an animal unit is defined as an animal equivalent of 1000 pounds live weight and equates to 1000 head of beef cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2500 swine weighing more than 55 lbs, 125 thousand broiler chickens, or 82 thousand laying hens or pullets) confined on site for more than 45 days during the year.  Any size AFO that discharges manure or wastewater into a natural or man-made ditch, stream or other waterway is defined as a CAFO, regardless of size. “

(The main difference is AFOs are smaller than CAFOs.)

#4 – He spoke of the large grain shipments from eastern Europe that are raised conventionally and relabeled as organic before they reach the United States.

(I believe Peter Whoriskey, a Washington Post reporter, was the first to bring this story to light. You can read it here:

Thicke also pointed out that “The USDA has been slow to take action to stop this, and organic crop farmers in the US are suffering financially as a result.”

Our farmers find it difficult to get a fair price for their organic grains because the larger end users will buy the cheaper imported grains.

#5 – “— a rapidly growing percentage of the organic fruits and vegetables on grocery store shelves (are) being produced hydroponically, without soil, and mostly in huge industrial-scale facilities.”

#6 – “— we have a hydroponics industry that has deceptively renamed ‘hydroponic’ production—even with 100% liquid feeding—as ‘container’ production.

(Container grown vegetables that use soil can qualify for organic certification.)

#7 – Nearing the end, he expressed his hope of years back that through continuous improvement the USDA organic label would be the gold standard.

Dr. Thicke then states, “Now I can see that the influence of big business is not going to let that happen. The USDA is increasingly exerting control over the NOSB, and big business is tightening its grip on the USDA and Congress. Recently industry representatives have publicly called on the US Senate to weaken the NOSB and give industry a stronger role in the National Organic Program.”

#8 – He suggested an “add-on organic label that will enable real organic farmers and discerning organic consumers to support one another through a label that represents real organic food.”

Is This the Downfall of the National Organic Program?

In closing his remarks Dr. Thicke stated, “Either we can continue to allow industry interests to bend and dilute the organic rules to their benefit, or organic farmers—working with organic consumers–can step up and take action to ensure organic integrity into the future.”

​Final Thoughts

As consumers, we have to stay informed enough to enable us to protect ourselves and our families. None of us can know it all or keep up with it all.  And most of the time we don’t have to. Sometimes just reading headlines will alert you to what’s happening. You may not need more details until some time in the future.

Hopefully this post will arm you with the overall information you need to make wise decisions about what you’re going to do.

One suggestion – grow as much of your own food as you can. If you need help, I’m here.


Related Posts and Suggested Reading

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

Has the National Organic Program Already Been Destroyed?  (I wrote this in 2014)

If you’d like to read Dr. Thicke’s address in its entirety cut and paste this url into your browser:

On that same page you can click to watch a video with Dave Chapman and Eliot Coleman.


All content including photos is copyrighted by  All Rights Reserved.

Are You Still Harvesting Peppers After the Freeze? You Could Be.

Peppers are one of the strongest plants in the garden. They want to survive and produce. And they do.

Two inch seedlings can sit and wait two months for the right conditions to grow. Then they quickly grow into bushy 3 to 6 feet plants depending on the variety.

Even seedlings planted in the “not-so-great” parts of the garden, give it their all and produce fruit.

If conditions are not right for producing fruit, they’ll keep growing until conditions ARE right. When that happens they produce dozens of peppers so heavy they’d break the plant apart without stakes for support.

These peppers were produced in only one month. Seven stakes give support. Click picture to enlarge.

Finally, what I wait for all season: red peppers!

Sweet red peppers can last for weeks if held in a cool spot. Above, the smaller deep red peppers are Stocky Red Roasters. (They’re the sweetest this year.).The larger ones that haven’t completely finished turning red are Corno di Toro or Marconi.

When frost is expected I’ll harvest almost all that are beginning to turn red and a few large green peppers for good measure. Then I’ll cover plants with row cover cloth to extend the season.

Usually we’ll have nice weather for another month, with an occasional night at 30 to 32 degrees.

This year rather than a first frost, we had a 28 degree freeze. Of course that wilted the leaves and plants no longer looked beautiful.

The amazing thing is the peppers are always fine. They stay firm and crisp AND they continue to mature to red peppers for weeks until another severe freeze finishes them.

Peppers still firm and crisp days even weeks after the freeze.  Click picture to enlarge.


This red pepper turned red almost a week after the freeze. It was perfect. Marconi is the variety.

Final Thoughts

Imagine a plant maturing dozens of quality fruits even when the vegetation is wilted from a freeze.

I should be eating sweet red peppers into December and nothing makes me happier.

Sweet red peppers. Typical bell shaped peppers are Buran. The smaller ones are Stocky Red Roasters.


Related Posts:

Peppers – Eating Fresh from the Garden Through December

Peppers – It Ain’t Necessarily So

Peppers – Lush Growth – No Fruit and Other Problems

Growing Peppers – Ideas to Consider for This Season


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