Mid October is Garlic Planting Time in Ohio

October is the time to plant garlic in Ohio, so the Snarky Gardener has written a little ditty to help you out.  Just don’t ask him to sing it.

Early Italian Softneck Garlic from Burbee. Click here to purchase

Sang to the tune of “Closing Time” by Semisonic


Garlic time
Open up the ground and break up all the clumpy dirt.

Garlic time
Turn all of the garlic into separate cloves for sowing

Garlic time
One last call for October so finish your planting dear

Garlic time
You do have to plant it but you must not fear.

I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
Garlic cloves

Garlic Time
Time for you to plant cloves with the points up and butts down.

Garlic Time
This time will be open for your hardneck and softneck bulbs.
So gather up your leaves, and pile them up the rows
I hope you have mulched a bunch.

Garlic Time
Every garlic season comes from some other garlic season’s end.

Yeah, I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
Garlic cloves

Garlic Time
Time for you to plant cloves with the points up and butts down.

I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
Garlic cloves

I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
I know what I want to plant this fall.
Garlic cloves

Garlic Time
Every garlic season comes from some other garlic season’s end.

Purple Glazer Hardneck Garlic from the Cook’s Garden. Click here to purchase.

Note: the Snarky Gardener participates in a few affiliate programs, so if you purchase your garlic through the above links, we get a small percentage of the sale to help us out with overhead costs (like earplugs for those who had to hear all the bad singing).

A M Leonard Soil Knife Review

The Snarky Gardener loves his new soil knife so much that now he thinks he’s the Snarky Pirate. Please enjoy this “Talk Like A Pirate” day review of the A.M. Leonard Deluxe Soil Knife and Sheath Combo

A M Leonard Soil Knife and Sheath. Click Here to Purchase.

Ahoy mateys!  ‘Tis wintertide me ponied up some plundered booty to procure me a dirt cutlass for the lubber grub plot.

Hello fellow gardeners, this winter I bought a “A.M. Leonard Deluxe Soil Knife and Sheath Combo” for my food garden.

If ye scallywag be hornswaggling me, the bilge rat will walk the plank

If I was sold a low quality knife, I would have been very disappointed.

This morn me pulled out me knife from me duffle, slapped ye on me britches, and moved smartly to me patch

This morning I pulled out my soil knife, attached it to my pants via the silver clip, and went out to the garden.  It clips and unclips very quick and easy.

Shiver me timbers – ye blade slices through the toughest sea weed and barnicles.

I was shocked how well the serrated blade slices through turf grass, tough roots and thick clay without issue

Arrr – cut me arm.  Must be how Cap’n Hook really lost ye hand.

Be careful using this knife.  I cut my hand twice during the first week or two I owned it.

Thar she blows!  The orange dungbie be easy to spot .

The orange handle was easy to find amongst the garden foliage.

Avast matey!  Me twine not be cut even with a good heave ho

The twine cutting notch didn’t cut my leftover baling twine well (though the serrated blade worked just fine).

Use ye gold doubloons to acquire ‘tis beauty before Davy Jones’ Locker gets you.

Buy theA.M. Leonard Deluxe Soil Knife and Sheath Combo” today before it’s too late.  If you click through these links, the Snarky Gardener will receive a small percentage of your purchase, thank you very much.

Hide in ye crow’s nest, fill ye black jack with rum and avoid swabbing the poopdeck.

Sit back, relax, and have a good weekend you landlubbers.

Ready for action, pirate or otherwise

The Seed Library of the Kent Free Library

The Kent (Ohio) Free Library is starting a seed library and the Snarky Gardener is helping out!


As the founder of Kent Ohio Food Not Lawns, I’ve been giving gardening talks at our local library – the Kent Free Library. My last presentation covered seed saving including the why’s and how to’s of saving seeds from one’s garden. I used several of my previous blog posts to develop my content, including tomatoes, peppers, mustard/kale/turnips, and beans, as I’m nothing if not lazy. For me, seed saving is a very important cause as it’s one of our most basic rights as human beings. Seeds have been saved and exchanged by individuals for thousands of years (no, they haven’t always been sold at big box stores or online). Seeds saved from your garden have been selected just by the very fact they survived and thrived at your location with your soil and environment. Add choosing the best specimens year after year (for taste or drought tolerance or color), and it turns the backyard gardener into a local plant breeder. Pretty cool and powerful stuff if you think about it.

A blurry picture of the Snarky Gardener giving his seed saving talk. Trust me – it’s really him.  Or maybe Bigfoot.

Over this summer, the Snarky Girlfriend and I have been working with the KFL to start up a seed library. In a nutshell, a seed library is a central location for seed storage that allows community members to “check out” seeds. These usually come from donations, either from professional seed companies (like Johnny’s Selected Seeds), seed non-profits (like Seed Savers Exchange or the Cleveland Seed Bank), or preferably local amateur seed savers. Borrowers are encouraged (but not required) to return twice as much seed as they borrow, thus increasing the seed library’s inventory. Kent Ohio Food Not Lawns (KOFNL) has made a commitment to assist the library in maintaining the Seed Library and offering advice to gardeners who plan to save donated seeds. We held several seed repackaging parties this year to help KOFNL break down donated seed into business card size packets for distribution during our presentation events. I got the idea of seed packaging parties from my time spent with the Akron Seed Library earlier this year. The Seed Library of the Kent Free Library currently has a call out for seed donations and we should start organizing some repackaging parties this fall and winter. If you have donations (especially ones saved from your own garden) or want to participate in our “parties”, please send me an email at don@kofnl.org.

Here’s the official Kent Free Library seed library launch annoucement:  http://kentfreelibrary.org/2015/07/library-start-seed-library/.

Northeastern Ohio Edible Garden Weeds

Just because you haven’t started your garden yet doesn’t mean it isn’t producing.

Looking at my garden, one would think I don’t do enough weeding.  That’s on purpose as my weeds are edible (not to mention beneficial to my garden’s productivity and soil quality).  Many of the plants others call “weeds” were brought to Northeastern Ohio via Europe or Asia as culinary herbs or vegetables.  I also admire these plants for their ability to survive the most harsh conditions (including human poisons).  I wish my regular garden plants had the same resilience.  Below is a list (in order of deliciousness) of some plants that will turn your weeding chores into simply picking dinner!

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)


One of my favorite weeds in my backyard, garlic mustard comes up early in spring and is ready to eat by Earth Day (April 22nd).   The scourge of environmentalists and naturalists as an invasive species, this plant is actually a culinary herb.  Garlic Mustard is a not related to garlic but instead is a mustard variety that just tastes like garlic.  It originally comes from Europe and has no natural predators in North America (except for the Snarky Gardener).

Best way to eat Garlic Mustard:  Garlic Mustard Pesto with pasta and cheese.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Portulaca oleracea.JPG
Purslane via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portulaca_oleracea

Purslane is one of those weeds that doesn’t really look like anything else in your garden.  It grows best on warm, dry, barren soil (like corn or squash mounds) once the heat of summer really hits.  A few years ago when we were going through a drought, this was my only produce from the garden until July and August.  Purslane is a succulent (reminds me of tiny little non-spiny cactuses cacti) so it tolerates low water when other plants in your garden are wilting.  As for eating, it’s not bad with a slightly sour and salty taste, though can be somewhat slimy.  Little known fact:  purslane contains more omega-3s than any other leafy vegetable source.

Best way to eat purslane:  in salads or pickled.

Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)


Lamb’s quarters are in the same family as spinach and beets and is closely related to quinoa.  I found this in my yard last year and actually saved some seeds and through them into my garden.  The plants I found almost didn’t make it as the friendly neighborhood groundhog seemed to prefer it over other things in the backyard.

Best way to eat lamb’s quarters:  same as spinach

Violet (Viola sororia)


Violets (a perennial) not only show up in my garden, they are also spread throughout my yard.  I didn’t know until last year that they are edible but have been eating them ever since.  The leaves are pleasant and remind me of spinach.  Like many leafy greens, the earlier in the season the better.

Best way to eat violets:  leaves and flowers in salads

Plantain (Plantago major)


Also known as white man’s foot, plantain is a yard and garden staple.  It loves compacted soil, so you’ll notice it growing near where there is a lot of foot traffic.  The leaves are full of nutrients with a spinach like taste.  Plantain can be used medicinally for bug bites and scrapes.

Best way to eat plantain:  same as spinach

Dandelion (Taraxacum)


We all know the good old dandelion.  I laugh when people talk about eradicating them from their yards.  Not only can it be eaten, but it helps in other ways.  The yellow flowers give bees pollen early in the season when they need it the most.  Its long tap root brings up minerals and nutrients that are then utilized by your garden plants.  Just hoe the plant down and use the leaves as mulch around your veggies.  Don’t worry – the tap root stores plenty of energy and will help the plant grow back in no time.

Best way to eat dandelions:  young leaves in salads, flowers in fritters, and roots in beer or wine

Quickweed (Galinsoga parviflora)

Galinsoga parviflora bluete.jpeg

This weed took me three years to identify as it’s not common enough to show up online easily.  One season back a few years, after my last full tilling, this plant bolted like a banshee (is that a phrase people use?) and took over my garden (thus the quickweed name).  Wished I would have known it was usefulness in salads back then.  Would have had a delicious summer instead an endless weed battle that I eventually lost.

Best way to eat quickweed:  in salads

Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)


Hairy bittercress is a bitter herb in the mustard family.  It’s winter hardy and will survive under snow and ice.  It’s pretty small but can be used in salads or as an herb.

Best way to eat hairy bittercress:  in salads before the plant goes to seed

Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)


In the mint family. purple dead nettle is a bee favorite.  It comes up early and often on bare ground in gardens.  As a salad addition, the taste isn’t the greatest but a few flowers at a time doesn’t hurt too bad.

Best way to eat purple dead nettle:  just a few flowers in salads

Ground Ivy/Creeping Charlie) (Glechoma hederacea)


Ground Ivy or Creeping Charlie is a ground cover in the mint family.  It’s not my favorite food but the bees seem to love it.  Ground Ivy’s little purple flowers give plenty of nector to small native insects.  It’s strong mint-like flavor makes ground ivy a good companion plant and natural mulch.

Best way to eat creeping charlie:  it’s too strong for my taste 

See the Snarky Gardener Live

The Snarky Gardener (of Kent Ohio Food Not Lawns) will be presenting “Easy Lazy Food Gardening” at the Kent Free Library on April 22nd at 7 PM.


The Kent Free Library begins a series of monthly programs focusing on backyard gardening with a presentation by Don Abbott of Kent Food Not Lawns on Wednesday, April 22 at 7:00 pm.

Abbott, a gardener, educator, and blogger, says that the biggest complaint most people have about gardening is that it’s too much work. He will suggest useful strategies you can start using this summer to have a productive food garden without all the hassle year after year.

All participants will receive free seed packets. Please contact the Information Desk at 330.673.4414 to register. Visit Upcoming Events for information about future gardening programs.

Registration is requested and is underway. Please visit or contact the Information Desk (330.673.4414) to register.



How To Avoid Weeds In Your Garden

The Snarky Gardener tells you how to avoid weeds in your garden so you can do less work and produce more food.
Several of the Snarky Gardener’s weed avoiding techniques are shown in this picture.

People and weeds have been enemies since the beginning of time. You plant the things you want and other plants have the audacity to grow instead.  Ever wonder why this is the case? Are there techniques you can use to lower or even eliminate the problem?  Of course there are – why else would I be writing this article?  (OK, maybe just to hear myself type, as my ego does take over at times).

Let’s start by understanding what weeds are.  In nature (and yes, your garden is in nature, despite what you try to do
to make it not so), weeds are used to cover and repair disturbances – fires, landslides, tree uprootings, volcanoes, sharknadoes, etc.  Bare soil is bad as the sun will damage it and water will wash it away.  Weed seeds are designed to sit in the soil for years and decades, just waiting for such an event.  Then they spring to action, coming up fast and producing lots and lots and lots of seeds.  After a year or two of this, other bigger species come in to take over (brambles, bushes, small trees, and eventually a whole forest).

When we till the soil, we are causing a giant disturbance.  It helps to cause this explosion of activity which our annual garden vegetables like, especially the cabbages (aka brassicas – kale, mustard, turnips, collards, broccoli).  Yes, I just called the vegetables we love to eat “weeds”.  Several years ago was my worst season for weeds.  It was also the last time I tilled my entire garden space.  Coincidence?  I think not.  So what can we smarter gardeners do about the weeds?

Weed avoidance strategies

1.  Don’t Till Very Much

Tilling should be kept to a minimum in your garden.  If you are converting lawn or have some really compacted soil, then till away.  I gave up my tiller a few years back and now use a broadfork instead.  It’s still technically tilling but it’s gentler (especially to the worms) and you can only do so much damage by hand (pant, pant, pant).  And to keep the soil from getting compacted in the first place, don’t step on the places where you want to grow stuff. Plan out your garden so it flows naturally, and then create permanent beds and paths.

Using my broadfork Big Blue

2.  Use Mulch

Mulch is one of nature’s greatest inventions against weeds.  Weed seeds need light to grow and mulch keeps the sun away from them (be it leaves, straw, hay, food scraps, wood chips, newspaper, cardboard, or even man-made materials like plastic).  Plus organic mulch will break down and become more soil, helping your plants in the future.  Also, mulch not only your planting beds but your paths too.  Stomping on weeds keeps them at bay, but some actually prefer compacted soil.

Great way to collect free mulch.


3.  Grow Cover Crops

Cover crops, like clover or mustard, will cover the ground and compete with weeds while making your soil better.

Covering the soil, fixing nitrogen, and beautiful too! Also, the seedy looking plants behind the clover are corn salad going to seed, which is making an on purpose weed.


4.  Identify and Utilize Your Current Weeds

Have you ever looked up your garden weeds to see if they are edible or have other uses?  There are plant identification groups on the Internet (Facebook, etc) that will help you to figure out what your weeds are.  For example, I had one particularly obnoxious weed that would grow before anything else and would compete with my veggies.  Took me 2 years to ID it, but I finally confirmed that it was Quick Weed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galinsoga_parviflora), an edible plant.  Now I just eat it.


Lambs Quarters – a great wild edible “weed”

5.  Make Your Own Weeds

If you let your plants go to seed, especially the leafy green ones, you can establish your own edible ‘weeds”.  I currently have oregano, lemon balm, corn salad, turnips, mustard, and several others that just come up all over the garden.  Some are the first to be eaten in the spring before other less evolved gardeners are even planning their spring tilling.  Some people see these plants as “invasive”, but I just think of them as perennial annuals.

Lots of “weedy” corn salad (aka mache)

Happy Gardening!

How to Grow Microgreens

The Snarky Gardener grew some microgreens this winter so he could get some fresh nutritious greens while the snow fell outside
Started with a Container Herb Mix of parsley, borage, catgrass, and watercress tangy


Took me a while to figure out that the fuzzy leaves are borage

I read a blog post last summer that made me rethink my winter gardening. Normally I just grow herbs (and sometimes cherry tomatoes and jalapeno peppers) in my AeroGardens while I wait until it’s time (after March 1 here at Snarky Acres) to start my plants for the coming summer garden. For some reason, it never occurred to me to just fill some pots and plant trays with soil and seeds.  Using an old AeroGarden and a sun lamp for light, I started with a Container Herb Mix from Burpee (parsley, borage, catgrass, basil, and watercress tangy) as it sounded perfect for indoor growing.  The room I started them in is somewhat unheated (averages around 50 degrees F), so the basil never took off, but as you can see by the above pictures, everything else did very well.

A few weeks later I decided to fill a seed starting flat with organic soil (though seed starting mix would probably be better) and spinach seeds.  Again, being a cooler room, the spinach sprouted within a week.  About a month after that, the baby spinach was ready for dinner, though I ate some during this time as I thinned.  The most difficult part of growing these is to remember to water every other day or so.  I also used a spray bottle to mist them from time to time.  I was hoping they would grow faster but I think the combination of chilly air and irregular watering have slowed them down.  Then again, I might just be too impatient.

Microgreens are leafy greens grown just to the first true leaves. According to the USDA, they are several times more nutritionally packed than their full grown versions.  So don’t be too worried about the their size (or lack there of).  Just add them to your salads for a winter time boost of vitamins and minerals.

Spinach coming up on Jan 12, 2015


First leaves on January 21, 2015


Yummy spinach on 2/13/2015




Kent Ohio Food Not Lawns 1st Annual Seed Swap


1st Annual Seed Swap

Kent Free Library
312 West Main Street
Kent, OH 44240
Upstairs Meeting Room

March 7, 2015 – 11 AM to 2 PM

Bring your saved and leftover purchased seeds to trade with others

Come meet other gardeners in the community and make some new gardening friends.

Donated seed will be available for those without seeds to trade.

Please bring a potluck dish to share.

Email don@kofnl.org with any questions

Akron’s Seed Sharing Library

The Snarky Gardener spent an evening with the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Seed Sharing Library


On a random visit to the the Akron-Summit County Public Library, I discovered that they have a seed library in their Science and Technology Division at their Main Branch in downtown Akron. A seed library is a collection of packaged seeds that can be “checked out” by community members.  Up to six packets of seeds a month may be checked out. Borrowers are encouraged to return seed saved out of their gardens at the end of the season but it’s not required.  Some plants that are straight forward to save seeds from, like tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans, and peas, are marked as “easy to save”.

With my Kent Ohio Food Not Lawns involvement, I have done research on seed libraries with thoughts of possibly starting one here in Kent. Currently there are efforts by state departments of agriculture to close down such libraries as they violate laws that were written for large scale seed producers.  The issue seems to be not the lending but the receiving of seeds back.  The concern is that the seeds of noxious or poisonous plants will be slipped into the system by unscrupulous people and that all seeds need to be professionally tested.  At this writing, there have been cases in at least 3 states – Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Maryland. In the Pennsylvania case, the library compromised with the Department of Agriculture by agreeing to host several seed swaps a year instead.


A few weeks after my initial visit, I returned to the Seed Sharing Library, this time as a volunteer helping to split out donated seed into smaller packets. Most commercial packets have many seasons of seeds and can be divided into 4 or 5 packets without issue. Six of us spent 3 hours splitting out just a third of the donated and purchased seed. It became very tedious by the time we finished up. Nonetheless, if they have another packing event, I’ll be there with some of my Kent Food Not Lawns members. I’ll also be donating some of my own saved seed, including turnips, beans, tomatoes, and peppers.


To find out more about the Seed Sharing Library please visit http://ascplst.akronlibrary.org/seed-sharing-library/

The Snarky Gardener’s Expansion Plans for 2015

The Snarky Gardener is expanding his food production area in 2015.
The Snarky Gardener will be a broadforking fool in 2015

The Snarky Gardener is expanding his growing space by 100% in 2015. He has plenty of room east of his current fenced in primary 50 ft X 30 ft garden. The new area will be approximately 60 ft X 20 ft (1,200 square feet). It won’t be fenced in but instead will be planted with vegetables that groundhogs and rabbits find less desirable (see Groundhog Love for the complete list).  Garlic was already planted outside this fence during the fall.   The Snarky Gardener doesn’t usually believe in rototilling as it damages the soil so he will be strategically broadforking just what he needs and when he needs it.  He might also schedule a “broadforking class” a la Tom Sawyer through Kent Food Not Lawns or the Kent Community Time Bank to get additional assistance.

Unfenced Backyard Garden plan for 2015. The trees are actually pine trees.

Potatoes will be planted next to the garlic in April or so. Since potatoes are in the nightshade family, animals normally leave them alone (unless they are really hungry deer). Tomatoes will be planted along 2 fences (50 foot long and 5 foot tall) running east to west.  These steel fences will be reused to fence in and protect other crops in future seasons. Added in between these tomato rows will be onions, leeks, peppers, and bush zucchini. Members of the Allium family (onions, garlic, chives, leeks) are generally avoided by animals, especially deer and rabbits. Some gardeners will specifically plant garlic around areas they want protected from unauthorized munching. The bush zucchini will be protected with fencing and/or cover until big enough to have protective spines. Years of groundhog intrusions (and watching the neighbor’s unprotected garden) have taught the Snarky Gardener that they won’t seem to mess with the spinier vegetables. Turnips, mustard, and clover will cover any other bare soil as living mulch. Turnips and mustard have been outside the fence for the years now at Snarky Acres without so much as a bite. Clover could be eaten by herbivores, but there’s plenty already out in the yard, so the SG is not concerned.

Steel fencing used as tomato cages


The Snarky Gardener will also be adding more hugelkultur mounds to his property. Last fall, there were 4 raised beds built with much sweat and cursing. At least two more will added to the south of these in the spring. The six plus will be filled with plenty of annuals, including tomatoes, peppers, beans, and greens. There are additional plans to build hugelkultur beds north of the garden where big, giant pine logs (2 feet in diameter) have been attracting groundhogs, poison ivy, and brambles. These logs will be cut up and used to create perennial herb, onion, turnip, and rhubarb beds. All these can handle a little shade as this area is in the 4 to 6 hour daily sunlight realm and should be left alone by the aforementioned plant-eating wild animals.

Those logs are where the new hugelkultur beds are going in
Fenced Backyard Garden plan for 2015. The brown rectangles indicate the raised hugelkultur beds.

One more thing: the Snarky Gardener may be adding second-hand vegetables (aka livestock) to Snarky Acres in 2015 and will be writing about it in the spring.

Let's Grow Some Veggies!