Top 10 Snarky Gardener Posts of 2013

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In case you missed them!

1. Growing Potatoes with Leaf Mulch
2. Steel Fence Tomato and Pea Cages
3. WinterSown.org
4. Indoor Winter Gardens using AeroGardens
5. Slow Cooker Chili with Jacob’s Cattle Beans
6. Food Not Lawns Cleveland Seed Swap – 1/26/2013
7. Sauteed Turnip Greens
8. The Great Indoor Tomato Experiment
9. Front Yard Herb Shade Garden
10. Top Ten Best Vegetable Crops to Grow in Northeastern Ohio

Good Luck and Happy Gardening!

How to Save Mustard, Kale, and Turnip Seed

Are you growing (or planning to grow) mustard, kale, or turnips?

Did you know it’s easy to save your own seed?

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Seven Top Turnips going to seed spring 2013

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Snarky Mustard going the seed fall 2013

Mustard, kale, and turnips basically all go to seed the same way. When they get stressed (hot weather, etc) or are overwintered, these plants send up stalks and put out flowers. These flowers are beautiful and functional, as they bring beneficial insects to your garden.  Once the stalks are produced (also called “bolting”), the leaves themselves become bitter as the plant puts its energy into getting busy (cue the Barry White music) reproducing.

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Mustard flowers and pods

The seed is ready to collect once the stalks turn brown and dry out. Unfortunately, the pods don’t all dry out at once, with the ones closer to the base of the plant going first. If you wait until they are completely ready, some seed will escape onto the ground and you’ll have babies starting before you know it. This is a good thing if you are trying to get a perennial supply of yummy greens. Not so good if you have plans for that area in the form of other crops. But, as I always say, edible weeds are better than inedible weeds.

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Dried out stalks stuffed into a plastic trash bag

The best system I’ve found so far to collect this type of seed is through the use of garden cutters and trash bags. Just snip below the pods and put the top into the bag. This way you can squish and crush up the pods in the bag and have the tiny little seeds fall to one corner. Cut the corner tip as small as you can and release the seed. You will get some chaff (fancy word of the day) but only some, not all.

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Cut the tip of the bag to release just the smallest parts – seeds and some chaff
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Seeds and chaff
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Tip the container to collect the seeds to one side and pick out the other stuff

If all goes right, you can put the separated seed into a holding vessel (like this glass jar pictured below).  Once there, you can shake it to force the lighter chaff to the top for more removal.  You could also use a screen to sift out the extra material.

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The finished product

Good luck and happy gardening!

Playing in the Dirt in January

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1/4/2014 – potting up rosemary

January in Ohio is tough on the gardener as we have at least 2 months until working our outside gardens is feasible. But today on 1/4/2014, the Snarky Gardener had the opportunity to play in the dirt. I’d been soaking 4 rosemary cuttings and it was time to pot them up. Easy work as I just stuck the rooty ends into the small pots, poured the dirt in, and watered briefly. Luckily I had some starter soil and pots in the house so I didn’t have to make the treacherous trip out into the snow and cold to my storage shed. I’ll have to admit it was fun to get my hands dirty on this winter’s day. These starts are for my January swaps – the Countryside Conservancy food swap and the Food Not Lawns Cleveland seed swap on 1/25.

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1/4/2014 – starting lavender, mint, and sage. The 20 – 3/4″ square soil blocker is on the left and the 4 – 2″ square blocker is at the top of the picture.

Another reason for my dirt play date is the box I received yesterday from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I ordered a full set of soil blockers and wanted to see how they worked. I bought 2 blockers – one that produces 20 – 3/4″ square blocks and another that makes 4 -2″ X 2″ blocks. The really cool part is I added an Insert Set with “dibbles” to my order which will make 3/4″ square indentions on top of the 2″ X 2″ blocks.  This way the smaller start blocks can be added later to bigger blocks as the seeds grow out.  There was also an available single 4″ X 4″ blocker but it was a little out of my price range for now ($99 normally but just went on sale for $93.60 until March).  As you can see by the picture above, I planted lavender, mint and sage.  The mint and sage seeds are a few years old, so I’m dubious if they will germinate.  But if they do, I’ll have more starts for my swaps 🙂

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The outside garden on 1/4/2014. No digging in the dirt out there for the Snarky Gardener.

Food Not Lawns, Cleveland Fourth Annual Seed Swap

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Saturday, January 25, 2014 – 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Grace Lutheran Church

13001 Cedar Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH

If you are interested in gardening, community, food security, permaculture, seed saving and sharing, this is the place for you!  Bring seeds (purchased or saved) if you have them, or consider what you might swap for seeds in goods or service, but come anyway.  We have a good collection and lots of information to share.  This year, we have signed the Safe Seed Pledge and will not knowing share GMO/Monsanto owned seed.

Joining us will be: Elle Addams of City Rising Farm, Judi Strauss, of The Charmed Kitchen, with herbs, books and more for sample and sale, Chris McClellan, of Natural Cottage Project, will demonstrate a rocket stove, gardeners of the Grace Lutheran Community Garden, and many more.

Refreshments are potluck.  Please bring a dish to share.  Also, collecting non perishable food donation for Hts’ Emergency Food Bank.  There will be a Freecycle table available to bring or take useful items.  Residue will be donated.

If you bring saved seeds, please label them with as much pertinent info as possible.  We will have envelopes and labels available.  New this year:  Seed Savers, who are willing, will be with their seeds at tables, to discuss traits, growing conditions, stories about them, and aspects of seed saving.  Donated seed will be available and asked to be considered a “loan” to be returned, if possible, the fooling swap.  The completed Saved Seed Inventory will be available for perusal, or check it out online at:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AhK_fFhk3xBNdFQxaHNGRF8zXzk1TU5DR2xzb0c1UXc&usp=sharing#gid=0

Freecycle info:   Please bring gently used ( or new) items to donate/swap.  If you have items left at the end of the day, take them home or leave them for donation pick­up Monday morning.

This event is free (donations gratefully accepted), child­friendly, on a bus­line and handicapped accessible.

Volunteers are needed to help set up and clean up.

Please contact Mari Keating @ beanpie55@att.net for more information

and visit foodnotlawnscleveland@yahoogroups.com

Food Not Lawns, Cleveland  Facebook group

http://www.meetup.com/Kent-Food-Not-Lawns/events/156126052/

The Great Indoor Tomato Experiment Bears Fruit

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Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes – 1/1/2014
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Snarky Orange (on the left) and Chocolate cherry tomatoes – 1/1/2014

The Snarky Gardener saw more progress on the indoor tomato front.  Both plants reached the top of the fully extended AeroGarden hood (2 feet), so it’s just pruning from here on out.  The Chocolate Cherry has 4 or 5 green tomatoes on it (yeah!).  They are tiny but are a hopeful sign of things to come.  The Snarky Orange has several flowers but has been running behind the other since the beginning.