Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tomato germination

Annndddd, they're off! We've got tomato germination, friends.

Last year, I started seeds at the very end of January. This year, I held off till February 2. A friend who lives "in the valley" made me wonder if I'm behind...she started hers the 2nd week of January! The only varieties that haven't germinated yet are Sungold F3 and Paul Robeson. I actually talked to them last night, in an effort to persuade them to sprout. It's a scientifically valid method, especially as I am female, or so I hear.

I'm planning on growing 18 plants, but I started 24. Six are alternates. In case one of my "first string" plants has a problem/injury, I'll put in alternate who is sitting "on the bench".

Here is a list of my varieties for this year. If I'm growing > 1, there will be a number in parenthesis:

amish gold (4)
black cherry
black zebra
camp joy
costoluto genovese
green zebra
japanese black triefle
lahman pink
paul robeson (2)
poland II (2)
principe borghese
sungold F3 (2)


Image courtesy of Todd434 on Flicker

There's a perplexing story on the USA today website. The title is "Could chicken manure help curb climate change?" Here's the gist: A farmer is able to turn chicken manure into "...a charcoal-like substance known as "biochar" — which is not only an excellent fertilizer, but also helps keep carbon in the soil instead of letting it escape into the atmosphere..." Well, that sounds great!

Digging a little deeper reveals some contradictory info:
"Because biochar contains high levels of carbon, the element contained in all living things, it often serves as a very effective organic fertilizer..." BUT "the carbon in biochar is particularly resistant to that conversion, so it stays "locked into" the soil much longer than other, unprocessed substances — as long as 1,000 years in some cases." Fertilizer that doesn't break down?! How is that fertilizer? Maybe I'm missing something here?

I just hope that farmer (who paid $1 million for his biochar machine) can make some money from this venture...or at least break even.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I need help. Badly. You see, it's the lettuce. It' s growing really well, and I've just harvested a bowl full. What's the problem with that, you say?! Well, it's the washing of the lettuce. I've never really had to think about it before, because I've never been successful with lettuce until now. Either I've tried to grow it on too little water in weather that's too warm. Or I've grown it with proper cool temperatures and enough water, but it was infested with caterpillars. (Not just a couple that I could pick off, I'm talking about an all-out invasion.) That's why I've never gotten to this point of lettuce-washing-indecision before. And ok, I'll go ahead and admit it, I'm a bit of a germ-o-phob. (Anybody seen the Seinfeld episode with Putty and Elaine's co-worker? Well, I'm at Putty's level.) It's true that I've become a little bit more relaxed about "germs" over the last few years. And it's not like there's chemicals on the leaves. But still. It's dirt.

For some reason, I find it easy to trust the package of lettuce from the grocery store or the head of lettuce from the farmer's market. But my own lettuce does not come in a plastic package or from a "real" farmer. And with all of the rain we've received lately, a lot of dirt has splashed up onto the leaves. So I thought about carefully washing each individual leaf. Is this crazy? Is it even enough to get the dirt off? I have a salad spinner, so I could just soak and spin the leaves in it... Is just cold water enough? What about possible bird poo and the neighborhood cats that may have visited? Oh, no, germ-o-phobia is rising! Please help!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fungal Action

Inspired by Curbstone Valley Farm's in-depth look at the "Toothed Jelly Fungus", I decided to take a look around my garden. But I'll go ahead and tell you that I have no idea what species, genus or any other type of classification these individuals fall into. Anybody who can answer that would be my personal hero. For real.

So, up first, we have the "orange splatter fungus":

Next, the "bowl of pebbles" fungus:

Third, the "simple brown" fungus from the front yard:

(Yes, my neighbors think I'm crazy for crawling around on the ground with my camera.)

And finally, my favorite. The "warty in a good way" fungus:

It's really fun to get down on the mushroom level. It opens up a whole new perspective.