Frozen French Fries

17 02 2014

Potato sprouts, standing at attention for the sun

Potato sprouts, standing at attention for the sun

Mr Potato Head

Mr Potato Head sprouting? Plant him! (And don’t ask him where he is sprouting… That is too much information…)

Another winter update… Look at my poor potato plants. They want to burst out of their container, they are growing so much. Look at them standing up straight, reaching for the sun. They want to get outdoors and play. Sadly, the cold piles of snow are keeping them indoors…

Random punchline- “A dictator”

Ron White, AKA "Tater Salad"

Ron White, AKA “Tater Salad” – if he drank potato vodka instead of Scotch, it would be the circle of life (I guess he would need to crap potatoes too… bad analogy)

You may be asking, “Why the hell did you plant them in the first place, Dave?” Good question… Why did I plant them? It’s not like a shovel could even penetrate the frozen tundra outside. Perhaps you should have spoken to the potatoes before they started their sprouting. Then again, some things have a mind of their own. You just have to be adaptable and bury them in a warm, moist environment they’ll enjoy until they can be transplanted outdoors.

Random punchline- “Dude, the potato goes in the front!”

By the way, the huge snowstorm that hit the Northeast is probably my fault. My seeds were delivered a few hours before the snow began.

Random punchline- “No, they’re just that dirty.”

If everybody sends some warmth my way, these potatoes can be transplanted outdoors.

Oh, and send me a message if you want the inappropriate potato jokes that go with the posted punchlines.

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Overwintering Peppers Part 2- The Musical

5 01 2013

I’m crazy for this little lady I’m freaking for my little baby ‘Cause she makes me feel good She’s so fine

She’s a lady. Whoa, whoa, whoa. She’s a lady. Talkin’ about that little lady, and the lady is mine.

Lenny Kravitz? Tom Jones? Am I turning into a living karaoke machine? Let’s hope not. The last time I sang karaoke was after drinking several mugs of “liquid stupid”. It wasn’t pretty. Have you ever heard the song The Mighty Quinn? This performance was back before smart phones and pocket video cameras were widely available. It’s a good thing there was no video taken. It would have gone viral. By viral I mean it would have made millions of people violently ill. Anyway, we’re getting a little off topic.

Oops. Looks like somebody heard my singing

Oops. Looks like somebody heard my singing

But first, special thanks goes out to cmmarcum for the tip of using a hair dryer to remove aphids. I was getting ready to swipe borrow my wife’s hair dryer when I saw a sweet young thing in the kitchen. Dressed in red. Crawling on the ceiling.

That’s right folks, it’s that time of winter when ladybugs start to appear in the house. Remember option number 4 to eliminate aphids? I don’t want my house to be infested of course, but if I have a choice between banishing a ladybug or using it as a convenient aphid assassin, let the slaughter begin.

The ladybug is blurry but beautiful

The ladybug is blurry but beautiful

I wanna take you home I won’t do you no harm, no You’ve got to be all mine, all mine Ooh, foxy lady

Time to play some Jimi Hendrix while watching the ladybug go to town on the garden pests. Let’s come up with a name for our little friend. First question: Is our guest a boy or a girl? That’s a very good question. Despite the name, ladybugs are not unisex. Apparently you need a microscope and a PhD to tell the difference. Either that or get a bunch of ladybugs in the room, set up your own ladybug pickup joint, and catch the couples in the act. I’m no insect voyeur, so let’s just say our critter’s gender is undetermined.

Another lady joins the party

Another lady joins the party

How about the name Lola, L-O-L-A Lola, Lo lo lo lo lola.

This insect sure has me singing. (For bonus points, name the group that sang the above lyrics)

For added excitement, I found three more in the house. There’s a full garden party taking place on the peppers. After giving them a few days to feast, it appears that the aphids have disappeared. Here’s hoping that they will remain gone.

Quick edit: I had a fever when writing this post, and now I’m returning to view what I actually wrote. Two things of note. First, fevers must make me musical. Second, and more importantly, is to keep an eye on any ladybugs you place on your plants. Some critters in the ladybug family, or that look like they belong to the ladybug family, may actually be other insects that will snack on your plants. Now back to my karaoke, I mean, my beer; er, I mean, wholesome gardening.

 





Overwintering Peppers and Tactical Nukes

16 12 2012

It’s been a while since I updated the blog, but strap yourselves in because this one’s a doozie.

Our story starts with my obsession with growing warm weather crops year round in a climate that freezes over the winter. That, and my frustration that my pepper plants didn’t really start producing this year until late September, early October. Can I keep the peppers going throughout the winter? Yes and no. Yes if I move a few garden zones closer to the equator. While we’re at it, get me a frosty beverage while I lay by the pool in my tropical paradise. I open the bottle… young models in bikinis carrying even more beer walk out of the pool as Van Halen music starts to play. This post is starting to sound like a beer commercial. Anyway, peppers will do fine during a hot, hot summer. Winter in my back yard, probably not.

I read some articles about hot peppers being perennials in hot climates and decided that at the very least, we’ll keep some hot pepper plants indoors and alive this winter. That will give us an early start in the spring/summer next year. There was no mention of overwintering sweet peppers though. Why not? It seems as though nobody tried. Is this information being suppressed? I smell a conspiracy…

([start dream sequence] Secret meeting of Thurston Burpee, Montgomery Parks, and Johnny Moneybags from their respective seed companies. While we’re at it, let’s include George Soros, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates at the meeting to make the conspiracy complete. [dreamus interruptus]

As an aside, are you angry at that big bad 1 percent? Do you have the average US household income? If so, you are the 1 percent. You have the top 1 percent of income in the world. Minimum wage? Top 13 percent of household income in the world. Don’t have the new iPhone? Neither do I. Your computer is soooo slowwwww that your Facebook status updates are taking 2 whole minutes? Half the planet is spending their day searching for food and drinkable water. You have First World problems? Here’s a straw, suck it up. Enough of my rant… I’m just grateful for what I have. Time to put the tin foil hat back on…

[return to dream sequence] They are in the back room smoking cigars, drinking scotch and wearing their top hats and monocles. — “Why yes, let’s make them grow new plants every year. Then we can sell them seeds every year. The idea is so evil, it’s brilliant! Bwahahahaha!”) [end dream sequence]

Peppers in the basement

Peppers in the basement

In an effort to discover the truth about keeping peppers over the winter, I dug up some sweet peppers and some hot peppers just before the frost hit in October, planted them in large pots, and moved them to the basement under grow lamps. By large pots, I mean I went with 10 inch terracotta pots. Try to keep the roots intact when you dig them up. Prune back a lot of the growth; you don’t want the plant expending extra energy to support excess branches and leaves. The plan is to get new ones to grow in the Spring. It’s a good idea to skip the garden soil, and go with some bagged potting mix. I went with some peat moss, some bagged compost, and since I was running low, some soil from the garden and the yard. More on this later.

The plants seemed to survive the shock of the move. Then all the leaves fell off. What’s the deal with that? Too much testosterone? Needing some plant Propecia? Doubtful. Imminent plant death? I sure hope not. Maybe the plants aren’t dead. Maybe they’re “just sleeping.” Actually, it’s not all doom and gloom. The stem remained green, and within a week I noticed some new green things on the plant. Could it be… leaves? Why yes, patience my boy. The plant was getting back to growing. All was well in the plant kingdom. Now that we’re gently lulled into a false sense of confidence, it’s time for the excrement to hit the air conditioning.

The hot peppers are taking their time growing new leaves but the sweet peppers are having a great time with their new sprouts and leaves. Another 2 weeks and what do I see? Even more green. The green is moving. That’s right, it’s moving. Leaves do not move of their own volition. What the <bleep> is going on here?!? These peppers are being invaded by a town of aphids. It’s like they’re having a party. Do I see a teeny tiny swimming pool? And do I hear Van Halen playing out of some teeny tiny speakers? Great, we’re in an aphid beer commercial. And here I was thinking this was pure, clean garden soil.

What does ivory snow and my soil have in common? More than you would expect.

What does ivory snow and my soil have in common? More than you would expect.

Off topic- Have you ever heard of Marilyn Chambers? She was the young lady on the cover of the Ivory Snow soap boxes in the early 1970s. Her bright smile and wholesome good looks were used to advertise the purity of the product– 99 and 44/100% pure. Unfortunately for Proctor and Gamble, she decided to become a porn star, making some of the filthiest films of the time. So that lawn and garden soil that I thought was so pure was more of a Marilyn Chambers kind of 99 and 44/100% pure.

There are two types of bugs that feed on garden plants. They are chewing bugs and sucking bugs. Aphids are sucking bugs, not only because it sucks so much having them on your plants. Aphids treat the plant like their own giant Slurpee, pushing their mouths into the leaf to suck out the juices. This weakens the plant, and if you’re really unlucky they’ll transmit fun plant diseases in the process. If little miss aphid had gotten around a little more, a trip to the clinic wouldn’t save the plants. They would be goners. In this case we were fortunate, and no disease appeared on the plants.

But how do you get rid of these pests indoors without killing yourself, the wife, the kids, and the neighbor’s dog? Here are a few options:

  1. Spray them off with a strong stream of water; they won’t be able to find their way back to the plant. Two problems with this approach. First, I am not going to spray a strong stream of water in my basement. Second, these plants are the only game in town. The bugs will find their way back
  2. Squash them; this will serve as a repellent. Two problems with this approach. First, I’m not going to get them all. Second, these plants are the only game in town. The bugs will stay. Not to say I didn’t try. The aphids hide in plant crevices. Hurt the aphids and you take out part of the plant.
  3. Insecticidal soap- What’s this? A product that’s safe for people, safe for pets, and will help control the little buggers. It will dry up and kill the invaders. Let’s give it a try…The insecticidal soap works like a charm. For a day. If that long. Unfortunately, the label states that it is only effective with direct contact. You miss one side of one leaf where they are hanging out, and they’ll be back in business quickly. I pull out the magnifying glass. Are they wearing shower caps? What does it look like when a bug is smiling, flipping you the bird? Time for another approach.
  4. Beneficial insects- Don’t get me wrong. I love the ladies. Ladybugs, that is. But I don’t love the idea of replacing one infestation for another.Aliensaphids
  5. I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure…
    But it will vaporize the plants, the family, the house and the neighbor’s dog.
    Give me a few minutes while I put myself in a fetal position and suck my thumb in the corner.
    INTERMISSION
    .
    intermission
    .
    END INTERMISSION

  6. Neem oil- what is neem oil? It’s oil extracted from the neem tree. Obviously. It is used as an organic insecticide. I bought Garden Safe brand. I think their products are called Garden Safe because that is where they store all the Garden Money I have been paying them. At this point I am willing to try anything. Disclaimer. I did not buy the neem oil extract. Rather I bought an organic fungicide/insecticide that contains neem oil. May as well protect the plants against other damp basement threats while I’m at it.
    Anyway, time to start the treatment. Bombs away! I love the smell of neem oil in the morning. Wait a day, and what do I see? No aphids! Wait 3 weeks and what do I see? Plenty of aphids! Maybe next time I will finish reading the instructions. You need to follow up every 7 days for effective treatment. Let’s see what happens after treating every 5 days. I will let you know.




Garden on Rye, Hold the Mayo

29 10 2012

“Hay, hay, hay!!”

“Hay is for horses!”

“And for gardens…”

You may be wondering what the heck this guy is talking about. Well, since you asked, I decided to continue my gardening through the winter by growing some green manure. Green manure? What are you doing with that crap?

Well, technically green manure isn’t “crap”. It is a cover crop that establishes itself in the Fall , overwinters, and will continue to grow through the Spring if you let it. For my garden beds, I chose Winter Rye.

Winter rye getting a start in the garden

What are the advantages to a cover crop?

  • Helps prevent both wind and water erosion- especially if your garden lies on a hill, grow a cover crop to keep your soil from washing away or blowing away during the winter
  • Increases organic matter in the soil- when you till the cover crop into the soil in the Spring
  • Increases plant yield- shown by studies conducted on experimental farms
  • Helps control weeds- just like in a lawn, established plants reduce the likelihood of weed growth
  • Improves soil moisture- Plant coverings retain more moisture than bare soil
  • Homesteader/farmer bonus- Your cows, sheep, goats can graze on the plants

Growing winter rye

To start, I planted the rye in October. This being my first time planting my seed, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Everything was so dirty- my boots, my gloves, the rake… Note I’m sowing winter rye, not sowing my wild oats, so we’ll keep the commentary from getting too out of hand.

Sprouts are starting to turn green.

Anyway, the first week of October gave the plants plenty of time to establish themselves. Apparently, the seed will germinate even with nighttime temperatures approaching freezing. Gently cover the seed and let it grow. I am looking forward to seeing green in the garden beds this winter. Note that you may need to mow down the plants before tilling into the soil. Did you plant in an area where you will not garden next year? Then let the crop grow. Winter rye can grow up to 4 feet tall depending on variety, and you can harvest the plants for animal food or for mulch.

I hope you have fun with cover crops this Winter. Enjoy.