Call me the Indiana Jones of gardening, but I wanted some adventure from my summer garden. I wanted to discover something “new” that was old (I hear that line from the movie ringing in my head, “It belongs in a museum!”). Among our adventures were the following:
The Heirloom Sweet Chocolate Pepper. This is a brown-skinned pepper at maturity, which starts out green, and is supposedly red fleshed on the inside (kind of like those glowing stones from the “Temple of Doom”). It is said to taste sweeter than the average bell pepper. Of course, it’ll add color to any salad and one review I read said it freezes well for winter use. You’ll see a picture of my plant below of a mature brown one and a “newbie” green one behind it.
The Psidium 'Lemon Yellow', or Lemon Guava was another adventure. Maybe you’ve heard of the Strawberry Guava Tree, well here is its cousin. Like Indiana in “The Last Crusade” looking for a golden statue, these yellow treasures make their trip from South America too. The little fruits are prolific on it, and I think we were just waiting for a bit more sun and warm weather to ripen them up so we’ll be able to reap our golden reward. We have it in a container and everything I’ve read says it’ll be fine there for quite a while.
Another veggie that I discovered was Black Spanish Radish. I found the seed packet hidden in a huge seed display at a local discount store. As you’ll see by the picture these didn’t get too big. The packet didn’t exactly “map out” any details, so I planted them like any other radish. As I’ve recently found out though, they are a winter variety and that could attribute to them not reaching their potential. They are definitely black though. That isn’t mud you’re seeing, that is the skin color! Well, the only “Jones” reference here is that apparently, they have been used medicinally by other cultures for thousands of years, and we all know Indiana was always eating or drinking some kind of concoction to cure something or protect him from something. I don’t know what they’d cure, but the ones that came from our garden sure have a “bite” to them! They start out with a regular radish flavor, and the heat builds from there.
So join me on an adventure in the garden this summer. It might be a little more relaxed than running from gigantic boulders or dodging poison-tipped arrows, but at least we get to wear cool hats!
- Author: Edward Walbolt
Chicken manure compost is an environmentally friendly and effective organic garden fertilizer. I use chicken manure to amend my soil and add usable nutrients to it at the start of the planting season. As a vegetable gardener, I treat my soil with plenty of chicken manure compost before I plant my crop in order to help provide a good start to the garden. I turn lots of chicken manure into the soil before I place my starters. After I have all the plants in the ground I add a thin layer of chicken manure to top my soil as well. I notice that applying in this fashion allows for extended release of the nutrients. In comparison with chemical fertilizers, manure is more cost effective and can be purchased inexpensively almost everywhere. Chicken manure is most preferred over steer or rabbit manure for its well rounded nutrient spectrum after it has composted and been prepared for garden use. Chicken manure is the richest variety containing the highest N-P-K ratios in comparison with other farm animal manures. Chicken manure subjectively seems to have the least amount of “odor” when compared to the other varieties making it more desirable to work with, if you will. An important tip, gardeners should only use manure that has already been composted for garden use. If the manure is not broken down and composted before use there is a very strong nitrogen content that will “burn” and can potentially damage or destroy your plants. Garden variety chicken manure is sold at all the home improvement retailers and has been composted and is ready for you to use immediately. Chicken manure will be the reason you are almost certain to have someone caught noticing your well-grown garden while asking you, “do you smell that?”
Who doesn’t love cartoons and educational ones that aren’t boring are even better. So imagine my joy when I happened upon the PBS Kids series Wild Kratts! This show not only teaches about ecology, it is a lot of fun! There are imaginative inventions, good story lines and so far, always happy endings!
The show starts with a brief live action portion with the Kratt Brothers, Chris and Martin, and turns animated as they head out on various adventures. They can be rescuing Polar Bears or saving a shark from a dastardly chef villain who aims to make shark fin soup. It’s fast-paced enough to keep a smaller child’s attention, funny enough to make bigger kids laugh, and educational enough to teach even a Master Gardener a thing or two!
So why am I talking about a cartoon this episode, I mean blog? And seemingly one that has more to do with animals? Well, let me tell you they have an awesome episode about Pollinators.
One of the brothers gets miniaturized in order to get “up-close” film footage of bees at work and inadvertently ends up stuck to the bee and lost in the rainforest moving from plant to plant by different pollinators. I always thought a Pikachu was a type of Pokémon! Turns out they are cute little animals that live in the rainforest and they are also pollinators. I also had never heard of a Fig Bee (or Fig Wasp). Search Fig Wasp at the UCANR.org website.
The Kratt Brothers can also put on creature suits that enable them with a type of creature power that mimics an attribute of the featured creature. There is danger and suspense in many of the episodes, often in the form of the brothers needing to find something that their new animal friend is needing.
For instance, one of the full episodes that is available on the web at www.pbskids.org/wildkratts is the Mystery of the Squirmy Wormy. Why worms come to the surface when it rains. In it there is a short time where “Wormy” is in danger of drying out. It covers the answer to that question and some worm biology. Also, at the end in the live action sequence shows a quick description of worm composting. Can it get any better!?
Yes, yes it can. If you follow the links on their site, which is also filled with games and other educational fun, you’ll find tools for educators and parents that almost make one wish you were back in a classroom. But I think I like watching cartoons too much!
As if gardening isn’t enough fun there are actually people out there that have made computer games for us to play too! I’ve been playing a couple that I thought you might be interested in trying yourself. You can download them to your desktop or laptop, I have them on my iPad, and they have Smartphone versions too. These review are my own opinion and do not reflect the views or policies of the UC System or Master Gardeners (even if I am an Aggie).
The first one and my personal favorite is called Gardenscapes. It’s put out by a company called Playrix. It is a no pressure game (unless you set it to timed mode). The story goes that you’ve inherited a mansion from your late uncle and want to rejuvenate the gardens to their once former glory. In order to do so, you must find things within the house to sell and earn enough money to upgrade the garden. You are given choices of what to buy, and there is pressure from the garden club to update it in order to become a member. The musical score in the garden is peaceful and relaxing and the butler that comes with the property keeps you on track. I opted to upgrade to the paid version for this one.
The second one is called GardenDash. Made by the same folks, Playfirst, that makes the now infamous DinerDash. This one is a lot of fun, but make sure you’ve had your dose of caffeine for the day! In this one, you play “Barbara” who has been told she needs to take a vacation and de-stress. To make a long story short, Barb begins a business and you have to plant the plants, water, prune, harvest and fill the customer’s orders. You earn money selling your produce and can buy things to fix up your garden or things to help Barbara get things done more effectively. I’ve only been playing the free version, but I have plans to shell out the 1.99 for the full version.
The last one I’ve been working at conquering is Garden Panic! This one you are in charge of a patch of strawberries and Sgt. Strawberry walks you through how to defend it by planting cornstalks that shoot kernels and tomatoes that through grenades. There are various attackers. Grubs, ants and caterpillars come at a regular rate and the more you shoot the more sun ray energy you get to power you up. The graphics on this one are really nice, but the print that you have to read to get the instructions is small and I wasn’t able to enlarge it on my iPad. It’s also a bit difficult to figure out, and even though you get more lives at the push of a button it’s probably not one I’ll be upgrading to the paid version.
So gardeners, treat yourself. Try one or try them all. It’s just fun to find out that gardening has hit the gaming world. Just look out for those bugs and worms.
- Author: Cheryl A Potts
I absolutely love having a winter vegetable garden--wonderfully easy to grow greens such a great variety of lettuces, kale, cabbage, and broccoli. I and my new puppy, Katie, go out early each morning and pick fresh veggies for my husband's green smoothie, as well as clipped leaves for his take-to-work salad. I greet the day, she attacks the borecole (kale) with delightful vigor, and my husband eats very well.
I start my plants from seed inside the garage in the fall under a grow light using small pots. These same seeds could be started indoors under a window that gets bright sun most of the day. When the plants are 4-5 inches tall, I begin to harden them off (leaving them outside for several hours each day for about a week, enabling them to adjust to the outdoors). Then out into my raised beds they go. As the plants are young and fresh, I make sure I use snail bait*, as I am not willing to share.
One of the primary benefits I have always touted is the absents of needing to water a winter garden. We can actually go away in our RV and not worry about the soil drying out and the garden dying--UNTIL THIS YEAR! Oh my, where is winter? I just does not seem fair. Mother Nature does not play by the rules. She makes them up as she goes along. Therefore, Katie and I now need to spend time watering instead of chasing balls and we have had to postpone her first RV trip. Additionally I must remember to cover the raised beds at night when temperatures are predicted to drop below freezing. Old sheets work well for this task.
The weather report seems to never change, and I have found myself cringing when I hear someone talk about what a beautiful day it is today-- again. Winter! Please get here before spring.
*note: use the snail bait with Iron Phosphate as the active ingredient as it is safe around pets and children. Baits with Metaldehyde are very poisonous and should be avoided!