Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Soil, Dirt, Compost and Friends

We have had a few questions about the difference between dirt, soil, compost and other amendments.

Here are a few tips for new gardeners and veteran gardeners alike.  These are abbreviated notes from the talk, Gia Parsons will give on Sat March 3 10 am-11:30 am at the new LWIT, Redmond location.

-There are 70,000 types of soil in the U.S. alone
-Soil is made up of 4 main things:
     Rock-there are minerals in rock
     Organic Matter-all dead things
     Air-many kinds of gasses

-Ideal soil contains 45 percent rock particles, 5 percent organic matter, and 25 percent water and 25 percent air in the spaces between particles

-Compost is decomposed plant matter like kitchen waste and rotting plants. It also includes dead shrubs, tree branches, and basically, anything living thing can turn into compost.

-Too much compost can cause problems including excess nutrient levels (too much potassium (straw), primarily nitrogen and phosphorous, high soluble salts (steer manure), and excessive levels of organic matter. (Levels of organic matter above 5% to 8% by weight are too high.)

Organic Amendments:
Peat or Sphagnum moss-acidifying
Pine needles-acidifying
Leaf mold
Wood chips
Seaweed and kelp meal
Coffee grounds
Wood Ash-highly alkaline

Inorganic Amendments:
Perlite-a volcanic rock
Vermiculite-a heated mineral
Dolomite lime-a rock (for raising the ph)
Rock Dust
Azomite-minerals and trace elements
Sulfur-an element (for reducing ph)

Take Home Message:

With new gardens, better start with a soil test
Soil tests at King Conservation District
Established gardens, test the soil if you have not done so in a while
Add a variety of things to your garden but always in small amounts at first
Observe your results and make notes for the coming years.

If there are no issues, don’t make new ones!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Busy, Buzzy Bees

Bees are vitally important pollinators.  They are imported in droves to pollinate blueberries, almonds and other tree nuts as well as many types of the produce we eat every day.  Here are some fun facts about bees to tickle your thinking caps.

1. Bees evolved from the wasps of the family crabronidae.

2. Bees can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

3. Bees are great dancers, check out the difference between honey bees’ waggle dance and their round dance?

When a food source is very close to the hive (less than 50 meters), a forager performs a round dance. She does so by running around in narrow circles, suddenly reversing direction to her original  course.

A round dance, therefore, communicates distance (“close to the hive,” in this example), but not direction.

The waggle dance (Figure 2), or wag-tail dance, is performed by bees foraging at food sources that are more than 150 meters from the hive. This dance, unlike the round dance, communicates both distance and direction.

4. Honey bees can be trained to detect explosives.

5. 70% of the top 100 human foods, which supply about 90% of the world’s nutrition, are reliant on insect pollination?
6. Alexander the Great, the famous king who ruled the ancient world’s largest Western empire and had his corpse mellified, preserved in honey.

7.  Bumblebee colonies are often placed in greenhouse tomato production, because the frequency of buzzing that a bumblebee exhibits effectively releases tomato pollen.

8.  Apiphobia is the extreme and irrational fear of bees or bee stings.

9.  Swarming is the honey bee’s method of colony reproduction. The old queen and about half of the worker bees leave their former nest and seek a new home.

10.  Propolis or bee glue is a  sticky, resinous mixture that honey bees from trees. It is used as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive. Propolis is also used in wood finishes, and is thought to give a Stradivarius violin its unique red color.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tomato Profile: Indigo Rose

When I first saw this tomato, I was immediately intrigued by its color. The purple-ish, black pigment is due to a naturally occurring color compound called anthocyanin.  The anthocyanins in the purple skin boast high levels of disease-fighting compounds that help fight cancer, reduce inflammation, and slow the aging process. The purple coloring occurs on the portion of the fruit that is exposed to light, while the shaded portion starts out green and turns deep red when mature. Allow fruits to mature completely for best flavor. Bred at Oregon State University. Heavy yielder. Plants are resistant to early blight.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Pepper Profile: Holy Mole

This amazing pepper is perfect for mole sauce making. Similar to pasilla peppers these gourmet quality, chocolate brown fruits are bright green at early maturity, then darken to warm brown over the next 2 weeks. These long and thin peppers can reach 7 to 9" in length and 1-1/2" in width. Sturdy 3 ft. plants produce multiple harvests. Early crops are most often sliced for toppings and baking, while the dark brown, fully mature fruits can be dried and ground. I am eating these peppers fresh in salads and I do not think I am using them to their full potential. I don't know how to make mole, I guess I better start learning.

Pepper Profile: Hungarian Hot Wax

Hungarian hot wax may look like a mild banana pepper, but really it has a lot more bite. In terms of spiciness, this is supposed to be a bit spicier than a jalapeno but the ones we picked were not very spicy at all.  My 9-year-old son took a bite and shrugged it off.  Maybe the cool spring led to the sub-par heat levels.

In any case, this was a beautiful pepper plant. Compact with little foliage and lot and lots of peppers.  I had to stake this plant since the peppers were so heavy on it. The range of colors of this pepper was beautiful, from a light yellow to a beautiful tangerine orange.This is a great chili for all sorts of cooking, roasting or grilling and a popular one to top off a salad with or to pickle.

Tomato Profile: Chocolate Cherry

70 days. These tomatoes have an attractive port wine colored flesh and skin. The color is a cross between chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon.  I adore the color but I find it is difficult to figure out when it is fully ripe. I personally give them a little squeeze, to check for ripeness. The super productive, indeterminate plants produce trusses of 1 inch round fruit. This plant produces fruit that are a little bigger than the average cherry tomato, here they are next to Sunold and Sweet Million.  Chocolate Cherry is much larger and just as delicious, I would label it a tangy tomato, I did not find it as sweet as Sweet Million but it was fleshy enough to make a delicious and tangy tomato sauce.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Pepper Profile: Italian Roaster

I love trying out new varieties of veggies to grow and rotate my cultivars yearly. This pepper is totally new to me but looked gorgeous on the plant tag.  Even though we had a late start to the season, my chilis have done well. 

This chile plant produces good yields of 6" to 8" long by 1½" wide hot peppers. Peppers are said to be very mild, just a little heat, but I found them to be medium spicy.  I took bites from the pepper when I ate my meals and loved the herbaceous flavor and crunch.  The heat dissipates quickly so it won't burn for long.

The peppers turn from green to red when mature but can be picked and eaten at any time. The plant has green stems, green leaves, and white flowers. Excellent for salads, pizza, and grilling.