All posts by whatthymeisit

How to Save Tomato Seeds

The Snarky Gardener shows you how to save tomato seeds using a 5 step process

1. Let the tomatoes ripen. The riper, the better. I usually seed save from tomatoes that are too far gone to eat. Remember, every year tomatoes fall off into the garden and “volunteer” the following season. What we are doing is speeding up the process by fermenting them in the house.

mildlysnarky

2. Cut open the tomato and scoop out the seeds. A spoon will be of good use to you here.

Cut tomatoes with seeds to save

3. Put the seeds (and the pulp that will be with them) into a glass, mug, or jar. Add water. Cover with something that will let a little air in and keep the fruit flies out. For me, that means plastic wrap with a few holes poked in it. You will also want to mark each vessel with a label or write directly on it with non-permanent marker. It’s really easy to mix up multiple cups with tomato seeds in them.

wpid-wp-1409143497715

wpid-wp-1409142886012

4. Let sit for 3 days or so on a windowsill or somewhere else warm, swirling the “gunk” around once a day. You might notice some mold forming on the top. That’s to be expected.

wpid-wp-1409622427480

5. After the 3 days, pour the liquid through a strainer and rinse the seeds carefully with water. Put the seeds at the bottom of the strainer onto a plate to let dry for a few days. For me, this usually takes a good “smack” to get the seeds onto the plate. I use plastic covered paper plates so the seeds don’t stick and so I can write on the plate what the seeds are. Again, it’s very easy to mix up your seeds, especially when you have 5 or 6 plates going at once. During the drying phase, you may want to break up any seeds globs that form so they don’t all stick together. The end result should be seeds that look like the ones you buy from a commercial seed house.

wpid-wp-1409623002614

Fairly Snarky

The Snarky Gardener entered his vegetables in the local county fair.  Now the Snarky Girlfriend will never hear the end of it.
Zucchini Winner
The Snarky Gardener with his award-winning zucchini

A little while back, the Snarky Girlfriend picked up this year’s Portage County Randolph Ohio fair book. She thought it would be cool for us to enter some items just for fun. She had some photos she wanted to enter, including one of my dog River. According to the rules, our entry forms had to be in by 8/5 even though the entries needed to be onsite when the fair started two weeks later. Telling the future is hard with garden produce, though I did have the option to enter and then just not have them. Going with a conservative first-timer approach, I perused the book, looking for viable vegetable categories.

Vegetables not quite ready for the big show:
1. Tomatoes and peppers – behind all year with cool wet weather
2. Corn – a few weeks off, not sure they would be ready by then
3. Beans – they wanted a quart of beans and I didn’t have that many.
4. Swiss chard – would rather eat it then enter it
5. Carrots – not enough and/or too small

Showable Vegetables:
1. Red potatoes – Red Chieftain
2. Golden potatoes – Yukon Golds
3. Kale – Red Russian
4. Turnips – Purple Top
5. Zucchini Under 10 inches- Sure Thing from Burpee

We dropped them off on Sunday 8/17, the day before the first day of the fair.  Right away I realized something was amiss.  People with kale and Swiss chard were using jars of water to keep them hydrated.  The fair book said to do this, but somehow I didn’t pick up on it (oh well – lesson learned).  On the plus side, we didn’t see any other turnip entries, so I knew I had a good chance of winning something in that category.  The turnips I entered were far from perfect, as they had pits and marks on them.  From the Internet articles I read after the fact, fair entered vegetables should all be little clones of each other and as close to retail sale quality as possible.

On Thursday (a long 4 days later), we attended the fair with some friends to see how I did (at least that’s how I saw it).  They seemed to be interested in other things first, like seeing the Snarky Girlfriend’s pictures (she won a second place ribbon for a flower picture), and eating fair food.   Finally we arrived at my vegetables and lo and behold, some had ribbons!  Two firsts and a second (yeah).  My red potatoes didn’t win (3rd place out of 3) as they were noticeable smaller and less uniform than the other competing entries.  But my Yukon Golds won second place (out of 4) – not bad at all.  My sad turnips garnered a first place ribbon as they had no competition.  But the topper was my zucchini which earned 1st place out of five.  Mine seemed to look the most like the ones you see at the grocery store.  Now I just have to figure out what I’m going to spend all the prize money on.  I wonder what I can purchase for $5.50?

wpid-wp-1408671286632.jpeg
Zucchini 10″ and Under – First Place out of 5
wpid-wp-1408671292232.jpeg
Root Vegetables – Turnips – 1st place out of 1
wpid-wp-1408671302675.jpeg
Golden Potatoes – 2nd Place out of 4

Groundhog Love

The Snarky Gardener discusses not his love for groundhogs, but what groundhogs love to eat from his garden.

img369

For the garden, groundhogs are very destructive. They have great appetites and can wipe out a whole season’s productivity. Fencing does help, although groundhogs are known for going under or over to get at the buffet the Snarky Gardener has provided. After seasons of experience, the SG has developed a strategy to mitigate vegetable loss. Below is a list of groundhog favorites and another list of those that have never been touched. Some of the “groundhog safe” plants have even been grown outside the fence with no munching, including garlic, onions, turnips, and various herbs. Going forward, more of these will be planted outside the fencing and efforts will be redoubled (more fencing!) to keep these little guys out of the good stuff.

Groundhogs have never munched on:
Turnips
Garlic
Onions
Leeks
Herbs (lemon balm, thyme, sage, basil, rosemary)
Tomatoes
Potatoes
Peppers
Zucchini (bush)

What groundhogs really love (in order):
Broccoli
Carrot tops
Sunchokes
Peas
Beans
Cucumber leaves
Kale
Spinach
Lettuce
Corn (pulled down the stalks to eat the cobs!)
Pumpkins (the outside of the fruit)

.img354

Abundance

The Snarky Gardener writes an abundance of words about abundance.  Imagine that.
snowpeas
Too many snow peas? I think not.

To the Snarky Gardener, abundance means having plenty (even too much) of a thing. Often people are concerned with what they can’t grow or what’s not doing well because of pests, lack of sunlight, or poor soil. But if you take this “problem” and turn it on its head with abundance, your mindset totally changes. The question, “What can I grow a boat load of?”, offers up all kinds of possibilities. I believe food growers should build upon their successes, with new and experimental plants taking only a small amount of total resources, and removal of those that produce poorly. At Snarky Acres, that means growing more sunchokes, turnips, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, peas, kale, garlic, onions, greens, zucchini, corn, Swiss chard, comfrey, and herbs (especially perennials like mint, lemon balm, oregano, and sage). It also means growing less (or no) broccoli, watermelon, peppers, eggplant, spinach, and beets. It’s hard to stop trying with those fruits and vegetables we love to eat, but not everything grows well everywhere, even in the same relative climate.

wpid-img_20140626_165739.jpg
Too much mint or not enough mojitos?
How to create abundance:

1. Grow a lot more of what grows well.
2. Look for alternative resources (weeds, trees, native species)
3. Create environments where abundance happens naturally (perennials and self-seeding plants)
4. Save seeds, plant extra starts (tomatoes, etc), and start new plants from cuttings.
5. Grow in non-optimal spaces (shade, poor soil)
6. “Invasive” also means “Abundance”

How to utilize abundance:

1. Find trading partners (food swaps, seed swaps, time banks, neighborhood barter systems)
2. Learn to preserve (canning, freezing, drying)
3. Find other uses (dynamic accumulators, medicinal)
4. Learn to create products from your produce (extracts, salves, pesto)

You Had Me At Shiitake

The Snarky Gardener is looking forward to Shiitake and Chicken-of-the-Woods mushrooms in 2015
wpid-img_23519663190829.jpeg
The Snarky Gardener had to cut down a maple tree for inoculation.  Notice the lack of safety goggles or ear plugs – very professional.

The Snarky Gardener read a TimeBank ad for mushroom inoculation and jumped at the chance. For only 2 Time Credits (equals two hours of my time somewhere else), a mushroom expert came to Snarky Acres and put on a demonstration. I read up online to get the basic idea. First, I had to have fresh wood – 3 weeks or less old. And the wood had to be a hardwood like oak, maple, or black cherry. The timing was perfect as I’ve been wanting to cut up a pile of pine logs near my garden for a year or so. So I found a local tool rental place and rented me the biggest chainsaw they had (24″ inches) as the logs were quite big. Of course this was only the second time I’d ever used a chainsaw, so the Snarky Girlfriend watched to make sure I didn’t cut anything off my body (and to apparently make fun of me). As you can see by the photo, I’m not using ear or eye protection, but I was sure to wear the traditional lumberjack polo shirt. Fortunately, the logs and a six inch wide maple tree were cut without any injury to the Snarky Gardener or his ego.

wpid-img_20140531_154548.jpg
Tom (aka the Mushroom Expert) is putting wax on top of inoculation holes

On inoculation day, process went like this :
1.  Use fresh wood that’s been cut between fall and late spring (for nutritional reasons).
2.  Drill holes into the wood.
3.  Insert pre-treated plugs into the holes.
4.  Wax the holes to protectively seal them.
5.  Wait until next spring, keeping the logs in the shade and moist.
6.  Eat mushrooms for the next 5 years or so.

So now we just have to wait nearly a year before mushrooms will be eaten.

wpid-img_20140614_091250.jpg
The finished product