Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My pumpkins's new friends

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to my newest ‘friend’:

Public this is pickleworm - Pickleworm, this is public

According to the University of Maryland Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), this pest, a member of the Lepidoptera family, immigrates from the south to Maryland every summer to lay eggs on your favorite cucurbit cultivars: cucumber and summer squash. They also like, to different tastes, watermelon, muskmelon, cantaloupe, winter squash, pumpkin, and gourd. No cultivar is resistant but the damage will vary dependent on the variety. Also, the damage is not limited to the fruit but to the flowers and vines as well.

Fun fact: at this year’s Alaska state fair, a 1700lb Cucurbita maxima - a variety of giant pumpkin - was disqualified because of a tiny hole on the bottom of the pumpkin. :(

In our garden, pickleworms attacked the pumpkins, but not the squash, zucchini, cantaloupe or watermelons. We suspect the pickleworms destroyed the female pumpkin flowers.

As opposed to the cucumber and summer squash, where if you find a hole you must discard the fruit, a pumpkin - according to the HGIC - can be saved if the fruit has not rotted.

Let the fun begin!

At first look, these pumpkins look good except for some 1/8” holes.

But not all holes lead to a tunnel.

But sometimes, yes. Ewww!

and look who’s here! A squash vine borer ! Re-Ewww!

Once a pumpkin is cut open, you can see where the damage is.

But then once cleaned, it looks like nothing happened.

One last question rests on suspense: What to do with the pumpkins?
Answer: Pumpkin bread!

(Thanks to my wife, Donna, for making such a lovely loaf, or two, or four…)

Beans, apples, grass: Washington Post gardening articles

Heirloom snap beans, 10 apple varieties, goose grass—here are links to three recent Washington Post articles about gardening:

For Barbara Damrosch’s “A Cook’s Garden” column about Italian heirloom snap beans, such as Garrafal Oro, Yellow Anellino, and Anellino di Trento, CLICK HERE.

For Tony Rosenfeld’s article about apples, “What’s to be done with you, Elstar and Matsu?” which includes a sidebar with photos of 10 “new” varieties with short descriptions of tastes, uses, and seasons, CLICK HERE.

For Patterson Clark’s “Urban Jungle” column on goose grass, the tough weed we love to hate but in a pinch could eat its seeds, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You know it's too wet when...

... you have mushrooms in the salad table.  I'm sorry, but - mushrooms.  In my salad table.  At least they're small.

No, I am not going to put them in my salad.

Aside from that, the fall salad table is doing nicely with a successful crop of lettuce and arugula.

I could wish (as could many of you, I'm sure) that the year's rainfall had evened itself out a little, but at least what's still alive is growing, and we've been made aware of any drainage issues we might need to deal with.  Every cloud has a lining that's all shiny with knowledge and learning, hm?

*mutters* Mushrooms... hmph.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The failure of one thing

Hyacinth beans at Monticello
Last Saturday, I had a wonderful time attending the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, where along with enjoying the food and vendors and music, I took two fabulous tours of the vegetable garden, the first, with a seed-saving theme, given by Pat Brodowski, the head vegetable gardener, who is full of useful knowledge and happy to share it, and the second led by Peter Hatch, director of gardens and grounds at Monticello.  Hatch's new book, Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden, will be out in the spring, and his tour was a rehearsal for a new special tour based on the book (you can go and take the tour next year!  It was great!).

Hatch can quote Jefferson's Garden Book sideways and upside down, and one point he brought out that I really appreciated after this rather disappointing gardening year was that failure is inevitable in gardening, and that Jefferson failed perhaps more often than the average gardener, or at least unflinchingly recorded his disasters in more detail.  He wrote "The failure of one thing is repaired by the success of another" -- we always do seem to get balance in the end, or enough successes to want to keep going, and we can always learn from our failures and turn them into successes in the long run.

Failures in the garden, to me, seem to come in two categories, which I will ineloquently call the "oopsies" and the "oh wells."  The oopsies are actual mistakes, that might have been avoided with better research or just remembering that you knew better, e.g. putting the tomatoes too close together, thereby inviting lack of air circulation, disease, and handy pathways for stink bugs.  The oopsies are what I'm going to work hard on repairing next year in the demo garden: lots of trials of options and techniques for common plants like beans and squash and cucumbers, none of which I had much luck with this year.

The "oh wells" are things you can't help, mostly having to do with weather or, to a lesser extent (this is the oopsy-oh well gray area), pests.  We had our share of both this year, from voracious rabbits and bugs to horrible heat and torrential rain.  Remember my last post about the cucuzzi gourds and what Hurricane Irene did to them?  Well, straightening up the arbor didn't actually help, and after Tropical Storm Lee's week of rain, this is what the cucuzzis looked like:

It was, I admit, less of an "oh well" and more of a "oh %&$!!" - I was really looking forward to showing off those huge gourds at the Harvest Festival next weekend (October 1, 11-6, hope to see you there!).  But weather happens, and things do fall over and die sometimes.  Alas.

I'm reluctant to trumpet our successes in the next week for fear of tempting fate, but we do have them!  And we learn from successes as well, even if it's sometimes along the lines of "wow, I didn't expect that to work."  One of the great things about Jefferson as gardener was that he wasn't afraid to try new things; some of them worked in his Virginia climate and some didn't, but they all added to our knowledge.  And one of the great things about YOU as gardener is that you can do that too, even without a place like Monticello (or the much smaller and less efficient Derwood Demo Garden) to experiment upon.  Successes, admittedly, are usually tastier than failures, but both can be valuable, and you shouldn't be afraid of either.

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tomato Patch: Beginning of an early end?

Tomato Patch 2011: An early end?
Sometimes the Tomato Patch gets too much of a good thing—rain.

Early in the season I searched the sky for signs of rain clouds as I filed my drip-irrigation buckets.  In the last month we’ve had abundant rain, and then some, from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.    Weather data for nearby BWI Marshall Airport reports seven inches of precipitation above normal to date for September and more than 12 inches above normal for the year.

The effects of all the extra moisture are evident in the Tomato Patch.  Many of the plants are dying from early blight and from a variety of leaf-spot diseases.  Such plant dieback is pretty much an annual event—but one that usually concerns me in October, not September.

Now chilling out in our freezer
Realizing that Tomato Patch 2011 is ending early, I picked about 20 Celebrity tomatoes at breaker stage on Sunday and took them into the garage to fully ripen and picked nearly two colanders of paste-type tomatoes—Super Marzano, Big Mama, and Juliet—and then made 16 cups of sauce, which are now in our freezer.  Tuesday, as a heavy drizzle began what the forecast calls another damp week, I removed the 10 drip-irrigation buckets from the Tomato Patch and hosed them clean inside and out.

What’s left in the Tomato Patch?  Not much—a few Celebrities that I’ll pick and move into the garage when they show a bit of color—and a handful or two, perhaps, of smaller varieties—Sungolds and Juliets.

And I’ve had a strange thought for September—that I should start thinking about shutting down the Tomato Patch.  Some of my tomato-growing friends have told me they’ve already done that.  But somehow shutting down the Tomato Patch and pulling up the spent vines is something I should do in October, not September.

Maybe I’ll think about that drastic step for 10 days.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reminder - This Saturday September 24, Carroll County Sweetpotato Expo

Saturday, September 24, 2011 2-4PM

UMC Core Center Demonstration Food Garden(Behind Shipley Arena at Carroll Agriculture Center)

Come out & meet our own Mr. Sweetpotato

Activities include Games; Contests

Be sure to bring your biggest Sweetpotato

Bring your Best Sweetpotato Pie

Wear your Best Sweetpotato Hat

- Most original

- Funniest

- Looks most like a sweetpotato

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tomato Patch: Is it "mealy, mushy" time?

Celebrity tomatoes (and a stink bug)
when the temperature was under 50 this morning
The thermometer got me to thinking this morning.  It was 43.7°F just before sunrise, the lowest temperature in the Tomato Patch since I set out the plants in May.

Most veggie gardeners know tomatoes are “warm weather” plants, not “cool weather” plants such as chard, turnips, broccoli, and cauliflower.  Many articles about tomatoes warn not to put them into your refrigerator because the 40°F temperature there will turn them “mealy” or “mushy.”

That was my concern this morning I read the outdoor temperature on our digital thermometer.  Will my “big reds” turn mealy at that temperature?  I vaguely remembered a Washington Post article I had read on the subject years ago, and after some searching on the Internet I found it.

The article is “Chilling Thoughts,” by Robert L. Wolke, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh when he wrote this article at the beginning of the tomato season in 2005.  Here’s the question he addressed:  “Why is it that people say it ruins a tomato to put it in the refrigerator?  How can this be?”

I’ll skip his comment about flavor chemicals, which he says do not decompose at cold temperatures.  He then addresses “texture,” which gets us to “mealy” or “mushy.”  Here’s the key part of Wolke’s answer:  “Tomatoes can suffer … ‘chilling injury’ if held at temperatures below about 50 degrees….  The nature and extent of the injury—which mostly involves changes in the tomato’s texture rather than its flavor—depends not only on the temperature and duration of chilling but also on the fruit’s ripeness.  That’s why no simple generalization can be made about the effect of refrigeration on tomatoes.”

The important factors: temperature + duration + ripeness.  Temperature factor is any temperature below 50°.  For duration, long-term chilling is worse than short-term.  On ripeness, Wolke explains that chilling tomatoes not fully ripe stops the ripening process and prevents development of full flavor and color.

How do I apply Wolke’s refrigerator principles to what’s happening in the Tomato Patch? Nighttime temperatures are starting to dip below 50°.  A few dips probably won’t do much damage to taste or texture, especially to fully ripe fruit, but as the weeks pass and low temperatures increase in length, damage potential increases, especially on tomatoes not fully ripe—the kind still growing in the Tomato Patch.

I plan to keep an eye on my tomatoes—the ones the stink bugs didn’t pinprick beyond edibility or the rains of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee didn’t split—and at some point start picking and moving the best looking ones into the garage as protection both from late-season stink bugs and frigid nighttime temperatures.

I don’t plan to start moving them this week.  I’ll monitor local weather forecasts and the condition of remaining tomatoes.  If we have especially cold nights in late September or early October, perhaps I’ll some top-quality breaker-stage tomatoes into the garage.  If the nights stay relatively warm, perhaps I’ll move none.

Alas, fall is coming.  A killing frost will visit many of our gardens within the next month or so.  The end of Tomato Patch 2011 is a sad thought, but then in a few weeks the seed catalogs will begin arriving to jump start our fantasies about Tomato Patch 2012.

If you’re a genuine tomato freak and wish to read Wolke’s Post column, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

White Hats and Black Hats

by: Dale Johnson

As a child in the early 60’s, I would turn the black and white TV on and more often than not, there would be a western on. I instantly knew who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, and Jared & Heath Barkley wore white hats and the bad guys all wore black hats (Nick Barkley was kind of a jerk). Nowadays things aren’t so clear. In movies you don’t know who the good guys are or who the bad guys are until the end of the show. In the garden, you may or may not be able to tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. For example, in the following photo, it is easy to tell who the good guys are because they are wearing white hats.

This is a horn worm that has been eating my tomatoes – a real bad guy! The white hats are eggs implanted by a parasitic wasp. The larvae from these eggs will kill this horn worm. GO! GO! GO! The Lone Ranger rides again! And there are a whole bunch of Lone Rangers!

Now, check out this guy! Is he a good guy or a bad guy?

Obviously he is a bad guy because he has spines on his back and he had been eating my raspberry plant with that mean looking mouth. Not so! He is a good guy – an assassin bug. Look what he is doing in this photo.

He is sucking the guts out of a stink bug that has been eating my raspberries. GO! GO! GO! I feel like I am watching the Roy Rogers rolling around in the dirt with a bad guy, knowing in advance who is going to win the fight. This one of the funnest parts of gardening, watching the good guys battle it out to save my garden from the bad guys and knowing who is going to win.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My stink-bug trap experiment

When it came to natural disasters, stink bugs were worse than Hurricane Irene for many of our vegetable gardens this summer, and we all are asking, “What can we do?”  One possibility is to use commercially available stink bug traps.  I’ve just posted a report about my two-week experiment with one such trap.  If you’re interested, CLICK HERE.

And if you didn’t read Erica Smith’s posting about stink bugs here on the Grow It Eat It blog yesterday, take a few minutes and check it out and follow the great links she’s included.  I especially enjoyed Mike Raupp’s video about how to keep the stink bugs out of your home and his “Bug of the Week” report, which includes a short video of a praying mantis eating a stink bug.

Go Mantis!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

To eat a stink bug

I just wanted to call your attention to two encouraging posts/videos on Mike Raupp's Bug of the Week blog:

Chinese praying mantis eats brown marmorated stink bug

Black and yellow garden spider captures stink bug


I for one am seeing many fewer bmsbs in the garden these days and more in my house: the nights are getting colder.  But please encourage the praying mantises and spiders, for next year!

Here's another video: Keeping Stinkbugs Out of Your House.  Good timing!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Frugal Gardener: My $13.67 greenhouseperhaps

My $13.67 greenhouseperhaps
Finally one of my dreams has come true: I have a greenhouseperhaps.  I bought it for $13.67 at Wal-Mart Saturday night.  I prepared it for installation in less than an hour using one tool, a carpet knife.  Installation in our garden took five minutes.

I’ve oohed and aahed at greenhouses through the years as I’ve leafed through gardening catalogs.  Greenhouse kits for “serious home gardeners” range upward from about $700.  But, really, I’ve told myself, a greenhouse doesn’t fit well on our hillside lot.  And, Frugal Me, I’ve often thought that buying a greenhouse just isn’t too practical for someone who probably won’t be doing “a lot” of gardening 10 years from now.  But, yes, I still pause and fantasize when I see a greenhouse in a catalog. 

Recently I thought that maybe I should “think small.” Why not “build” a very small greenhouse to see how long I can get lettuce to grow in our garden as winter approaches.  I’d call it my greenhouseperhaps until I see if it really works.

I decided to buy a large, translucent, plastic storage container to serve as my greenhouseperhaps.  I’d cut out the bottom, and I could use the top to protect plants growing inside from downpours or even light frosts or snow flurries. 

I cut out the center of the bottom
At Wal-Mart I surveyed available clear or translucent storage containers of varying sizes.  I paid particular attention to heights (so the plants have room to grow) and bottoms (to be cut out so I can plant directly into the garden soil).  I chose a Sterilite 105-quart box that is 13 ¾” high by 19 ¾” wide by 83 1/8” long.  Price: $13.67.

I bought the Sterilite box because I thought the bottom was more soft than rigid so would surrender quickly to my knife.  When I began to cut I discovered the going slow because the sides are molded thicker where they meet, though the center rectangle of the bottom is thinner than its edges.  I used the carpet knife to cut along the line where the thicker edges met the center of the bottom.  This “five-minute job” took nearly 45.  The bottom edges that remain will help anchor the greenhouseperhaps.

My new greenhouseperhaps is now installed in the garden.  I’ve planted three-week young Simpsons Curled and Red Sails lettuce seedlings in one row and Red Sails seeds in another.  About six hours after I planted the lettuce, dark clouds ushered in a 20-minute downpour and I rushed to put on the lid to protect the transplants.  I think the “click handles” will keep the lid in place during fairly strong wind gusts.

Ready for frosty weather?
Will my greenhouseperhaps work?  I’ll let you know in a month or two.  If it works this fall, I think it should work next spring to grow an extra-early crop of lettuce.

I hope my greenhouseperhaps turns into just a plain greenhouse.

And to think it cost only $13.67.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A pomegranate is born

After five years, the weather this year must have been perfect because, voila...tasted great too, but got only one fruit...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Deer Country: Pawpaw, a native, deer-resistant fruit tree

Would your landscape benefit from a native, nearly pest-free, fruit tree that deer don’t eat and which produces delectable, custardy fruit and grows well in relatively small, shaded  spaces—but stinks?

In her “A Cook’s Garden” column, “Return of the native? Papaws’ proponents,” in the Washington Post, Barbara Damrosch recommends the native pawpaw (Asimina trilobia) tree, which is spelled “papaw” in the story but appears in other sources as “paw paw” and “paw-paw,” in addition to “pawpaw.”

Damrosch’s suggestion sounded interesting so I surfed to Wikipedia, which supplied additional information: This native of eastern North America produces large, edible fruit that tastes something like banana custard.  In addition, deer, rabbits, goats, and most insects avoid its “disagreeable smelling” leaves, twigs, and bark, which also contain a natural insect repellant.  In his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Michael Dirr says the stems have “fetid odor when broken.”

Disagreeable smelling leaves and branches?  What about its flowers?  Wikipedia describes their “odor” as similar to that of “rotting meat.”  

Dirr points out that pawpaw fruit attracts animals, especially raccoons.   Wikipedia adds foxes, opossums, squirrels, and black bears.  Wikipedia adds that the larvae of the zebra swallowtail butterfly eat the tree’s leaves, which give the butterfly lifelong protection from birds and other predators.

Perhaps the reason pawpaws grow mostly in the wild is their odor potential, but apparently the problem isn’t insurmountable because Damrosch’s article lists nurseries that sell young trees.

If you’re interested in this native, deer- and insect-resistant fruit tree, be fully informed before you invest.  Read the Damrosch and Wikipedia articles, which contain photographs, and do additional research.  For  Damrosch, CLICK HERE.  For Wikipedia, CLICK HERE

Apples !!!!

To start, we needed some apples from the tree behind the house. In fact, these apples are just a part of what we used.

Next, the apples needed some preparation such as peeling/coring/slicing and removing the stink bug damage. From there, everything is possible with the apple slices.

Et voilà !! Just 9 hours later we have 13 quarts of sauce and 7 quarts of slices. The Grimes Golden apple on the right is a nice 12 ounce specimen for 3.5 inches in diameter; supposedly a normal size for this apple.

Next week-end, it will be time for a more serious business : pie making.

The Dirty Life....

Hello garden gals and guys! My blog is about all things farming, so I thought I'd share a book that I read today. It's called The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball.

Now before you decide not read it, let me tell you that this is one woman's account of how she fell into farming--literally--and the ups and downs that she and her husband faced as they started their new farm.

I read the book in about three days but could have easily read it in one weekend! It was entertaining, educational and just downright funny in some spots. If you've ever thought about having a farm, this book gives you an eye-opening look at what it really takes to run one. Give it a read! There should be a copy at your local library.

Well, that's all for now garden gals and guys! Until next time.....

happy garden thoughts!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tomato Patch: Ginny's thick & quick tomato sauce

Ready to make sauce
My tomato sauces for years were, well, unremarkable.  To be honest, sometimes I thought they were more like tomato juice than sauce.  I read magazine and newspaper articles and answers to Frequently Asked Questions in my quest for recipes and how-to-do-it tips that would give me a reasonable amount of thick sauce in a reasonable amount of time.

I blanched and peeled and cooked.  I put raw tomatoes in the blender and then tried to separate thick from thin.  I cooked tomatoes and put them through our food mill and then cooked them some more.  The result usually was a sauce so thin that it barely stained the pasta through which it ran to the plate.  Saucy friends winked and told us how to resolve this dilemma: add a can of store-bought tomato paste to thicken the thin when we used it.

This year, I vowed to “get it right.”  I cooked, milled, cooked, and simmered two batches for more than three hours last month.  One batch yielded three cups and the other four of thin sauce.  I shook my head and said to myself, “They’re still too juicy.  I should have simmered them another hour or two.”

Enough of this culinary futility, I thought.  Five hours of work that yields four cups of thin sauce isn’t reasonable.   The greater bargains in time, effort, and thickness seemed to sit in bottles on shelves of the pasta aisle of our local Giant Food store.

Tomato pieces ready to start simmering
So I surrendered, and when friends visited last weekend, I gave a whole bucket plus a plastic grocery-store bag of paste tomatoes to Ginny B., who said she wanted to make sauce.  A day or so later she called to thank me for the tomatoes.

“How many cups did you get?”  I asked, thinking she might have gotten ten or twelve.

“Twenty-nine,” she replied, “and they’re all in the freezer.”

“Twenty-nine?” I couldn’t believe it.  “Were they juicy like the sauce I make?”

“No, it was thick.”

“What’s your secret?”

Ginny told me how she makes her thick and quick tomato sauce, and I’ve now made three batches.  I have to admit that I’m back in the tomato sauce business again.  I worked on the third batch on Labor Day morning.  Here’s how I did it:

This made the difference
I started with about a half bucket of large paste tomatoes—Big Mamas and Super Marzanos—and a quarter colander of Juliets, a small paste- or Roma-type tomato usually used for snacking.  I washed them, cored them, gouged out the gel and seeds with my thumb, cut off any damaged or otherwise objectionable parts, cut the good stuff into chunks, and filled a six-quart pan nearly to the top.  I brought the tomatoes to slow boil and then simmered them for about 50 minutes.  Then I used a measuring cup to put two-cup batches into our blender and pressed “blend” to break down all the remaining tomato parts.  The measuring cup helped keep things fairly neat and gave me an idea of how much sauce I’d made.

While I was blending the tomatoes, I sautéed an onion and four or five garlic cloves in olive oil in another large pan.  As I finished blending each small batch of tomatoes, I added them to the simmering onion-garlic mix.  When I had all the tomatoes in the second pot, I added some salt and simmered the sauce for another 20 minutes.  Just three or four minutes from the end of the cooking time, I added a handful of thinly sliced basil from our garden.

The sauce was beautiful, thick, and delicious.  It filled three three-cup freezer containers.  I spent about an hour preparing the tomatoes and another hour for the cooking.  Bottom line: I had doubled the amount of thick sauce in less than half the time. 

Beautiful, thick, delicious
All things considered, I think I’ll call this sauce recipe “Ginny’s Thick & Quick Tomato Sauce.”  Thank you, Ginny.  I’ve adapted the procedure from Ginny’s explanation, and if you try to make sauce this way, adapt my outline to your taste and the way you think you want your sauce to taste.

Ginny, for example, doesn’t remove all the seeds from the tomatoes.  She sautés onion and garlic at the beginning and then adds the fresh tomatoes for cooking.  She adds leaves from a couple of sprigs of thyme for additional herbal kick.  She adds fresh basil at the very end, just as she removes turns off the heat.

What tips do you suggest to make this thick-and-quick tomato sauce even better?

Grow It.  Eat It.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sweet shop for wasps?

The Red Noodle yardlong beans at the demo garden didn't get picked this week - here's why:

If you can't see well enough, click to enlarge; it was hard to get a good photo, but those are wasps on the stems, just below flower and/or pod.  The whole bed of long beans was humming with many different species of wasps, from yellow jackets to European hornets, every size and color.

I was a little nervous about getting stung, so I didn't harvest, though I probably didn't need to worry.  I also wondered why they were there!  Apparently (I found after doing some searching on the 'net) this is a pretty common phenomenon with Vigna unguiculata varietes (our cowpeas were buzzing too, though not as much).  The insects are not in the flowers, looking for nectar and pollen; they are likely sucking up something sweet exuded by the plant stems.  It is possible (this has been documented in other plant species) that the plant is doing this "on purpose" in order to attract the wasps.  Why, if they are not helping with pollination?  Long beans attract aphids and several kinds of caterpillars, which can be destructive.  Some types of wasps prey on aphids and caterpillars, usually carrying them off to feed to their young.  Having wasps visit might be helping the plants survive attacks.

All I can say is, the last time I grew long beans they were covered with aphids, and this year I've had no problems.  I'm happy to keep the wasps happy, because they do a lot of good in the garden generally.

Will the wasps sting me if I try to pick the beans?  Probably not:  they looked pretty mellow, like most stinging insects when engaged in feeding.  Grabbing the stems to pull the beans off might not be a good plan, so I'll use pruners to clip the beans off.  I'll keep an eye out for any wasps acting aggressively, as that means their nest might be nearby.  Otherwise, we can share the space - and the beans!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tomato Patch: Do They Have More Fun in Spain?

Tired of weeding your Tomato Patch?  Tired of fighting the stink bugs?  Tired of uprighting tomato cages tilted by a passing hurricane?  Maybe you’re itching for a good tomato fight.

When I was a teenager in New Jersey and picked tomatoes, it was a big no-no to throw tomatoes at another picker, however inviting on occasion that might have been.  But revelers in Buñol, Spain, during the last 70 years or so have perfected the art of throwing tomatoes at each other during their annual “Tomatina.”

The juice and—dare I call it—sauce sometimes get deep enough for body surfing. Really—I kid you not. 

To see photos from this year’s “Tomatina,” CLICK HERE.  And don’t those red projectiles appear to be Romas or a similar paste-type variety?

Smile.  And, please, no throwing tomatoes in your garden. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Balloons in the demo garden

The challenge: MG Barbara Dunn needed to update portions of her map of the Derwood Demo Garden.  She often uses publicly available images such as satellite photos to aid in mapping, but wanted a closer view: aerial photos from perhaps 15-20 feet up.

What we all got to watch on Tuesday:  Barbara launching a camera with a timer, attached to a bunch of helium balloons.
Bracing strings tried to keep the balloons steady in the air, but even the small camera turned out to be too much weight, and the lift wasn't great enough.
Solution: more balloons!  (This is always a good solution as far as I'm concerned.)
That gave the camera more launch, but still not enough to counteract the breeze.
A steadying influence was needed, and we happened to have a lot of extra bamboo poles lying around.  However, the straight-up-in-the-air method produced a photo of the pole with Barbara looking at up it.  Whoops!
Another pole was taped on, and the camera was steady if not quite as high as originally desired.

Okay, so she was photographing the vegetable garden, but otherwise this is not a very Grow-It-Eat-It post (I feel rather hungry for birthday cake, however).  But in case you ever find yourself needing to take an aerial photo of your garden, this is one method.  (With the poles, the balloons may not be strictly necessary, but probably they save a little muscle work.  And they certainly look cheerful.)  Barbara is interested in trying another technique involving kites...