Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Garden Helpers

There are often unexpected critters helping us in the garden by eating pests. Here are some photos of a green cabbage looper being consumed by a paper wasp. The female will kill them and carry them to the nest and feed the young.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


This is a long video. I've only watched the 1st 30 minutes so far and it has SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME!! Stop eating anything with soy products in it immediately!

Monday, May 25, 2009


Robin and I had a very rare day off together today. She spent most of the day outside pulling weeds. She likes to pull weeds. She doesn't get much time to work on the garden so she was very happy to be able to do so today. I piddled around outside some. Mostly I was harvesting assorted things for the all day feast we had. While I have nothing against grilling, we chose not to contribute to the huge amount of particulate pollution generated on a national day of grilling out. Instead we focused on preparing and eating a series of courses of local food most of which we grew ourselves. We started with a lunch of Georgia shrimp scampi. It was deeelllliiiisssshhhhuuusss!
Next we had roasted baby yellow squash, english peas cooked with our own kifir and garlic chives, garnished with lemon juice, smoked black salt, pickled radish, and borage flowers. Beautiful and satisfying.
Following that we had refried beans with beech mushrooms and leek flower buds, topped with zucchini blossoms stuffed with a mixture of neufchatel cheese mixed with parsley, lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper which we coated in tempura batter and fried in canola oil. This dish was garnished with chopped cilantro and leek flower buds. Leek flowers are a very pretty purple hue. I'll post a photo soon. This was Robin's favorite dish.
Soon we will end our feast with a dessert of chocolate shortbread cookies in made this morning, topped with strawberry jam Robin made, sliced fresh strawberries the chipmunks left for us and a dusting of powdered sugar. Eating chocolate this late in the evening usually keeps awake late but it will be worth it.
A deeellliiisssshhhhuuusssssss day!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Last fall we planted a cover crop of winter rye and red clover (inoculated with rhizobium bacteria for nitrogen fixation) in the lower field. We wanted to try out organic no-till to build organic content in the soil and suppress weeds while avoiding disturbing the soil food web as a result of tillage. We got a good stand through the winter. The winter before we had a large crop of winter weeds in that field, chickweed and henbit primarily. The cover crop totally suppressed the winter weeds. Great!
The technique is to cut the cover crop when it is flowering. Because they are annuals, if cut at the right time, they will not have enough reserves in their roots to re-grow during the flowering stage so they will die off. We don't want them to go to seed so we don't have new plants germinating which will compete with our crop. The cut foliage is left on the beds and paths to act as a mulch suppressing summer weeds and retaining moisture in the soil. Since there is no tilling, weed seeds are not brought to the surface to germinate. The roots are broken down by the organisms in the soil food web to provide nutrients for the crop.
We will wait a couple of weeks to see if we cut at the right time to avoid re-growth. If not the worst that can happen is that we'll have to cut it again. We hope to plant corn and beans through the mulch really soon.
It looks like this could work!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Not Tilapia No Sireee!

Did you know you need a license to grow tilapia in Georgia? Neither did I. We now have 5 fish in our aquaponics system and they are NOT tilapia. It will take a month for them to grow and poop enough to produce enough nutrients to support plant growth in the plant raceway. In the mean time we have started a variety of plants to grow. Asian greens, basil, onions, lettuce and turnips. This will be a trial run to see what grows best so we can refine our choices when we build the larger system in the earth-sheltered, passive solar greenhouse later this year. The not-tilapia ;-) ;-) are doing well. At least the ones that decided to remain in the pool instead of leaping out the other night like the frisky big one did. By the time we found it it was ready to become food for corn and beans.
It was not tilapia no sireee!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tis the Season

We have been very busy this past month planting, harvesting, composting, fighting weeds, all that stuff that gardeners do in the spring. We have been eating broccoli, welsh onions, arugula, collards, lots of herbs. we started our yellow squash and zucchini in pots so we could get them in the ground as soon as we were sure there would be no frost. That was 2 weeks ago. We are trying to get ahead of the dreaded squash borers. I planted zinnias between the squash hoping that might confuse the borer adults a little. We already have a couple of baby squashes growing happily.
We opened up a new garden space during the workshop I teach. In those beds we planted red deer tongue lettuce, collards, cabbage and , just last week zucchini. The plants are growing well. Collards and lettuce are ready to harvest. As we expected there are lots of weeds in these beds but by regularly working them with the stirrup hoe we are about to get them under control.
I have never been very successful growing peas here in Georgia. I think my timing has been off. This year i planted the english pea variety Alaska which produces pretty quickly. Looks like we will get peas pretty soon.
On the back side of the pea supports i planted cucumber seeds a couple of days ago. They just started to germinate today. By the time they are starting to climb the support the peas will be done. If i am not able to remove the pea vines, no big deal. I'll just let the die off as the cucumbers climb over them.
We planted our first of many green beans this week. This one if the bush bean Provider a very tasty and prolific variety. We will follow the other row of peas with white half runners which do require some support. Later we'll put up the 6' fences and grow Fortex pole beans. Those beans are about 8-10" long, tender and delicious. We will have plenty of beans to can this year so we can have green beans all winter long. I love canned green beans.