Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from 2 Green Acres

Happy Thanksgiving from 2 Green Acres, a Maryland garden blog
Hope that you are with people you enjoy, eating food that you enjoy!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Composting for Lazy Gardeners

Composting is great - it keeps yard and kitchen waste out of landfills and creates cool stuff (technical term) that improves your garden soil.

But if you talk to some people, composting sounds like a lot of work - chopping up everything you put in the pile, layering your materials just so. Then you have to turn the pile weekly, take the temperature of the pile and adjust the moisture level and ingredient mix to keep the composting process going at an optimum rate.

If you have the time and inclination to do all of those things, great. You will get great compost, and you will get it relatively quickly (in a few months).

But for me, it all sounds like too much work. If I am going to spend that much time in the garden, I would rather be doing almost anything else - even weeding.

Composting does not need to be so complicated or so time intensive. All you really need are four things:

- Brown materials (leaves)
- Green materials (grass clippings or food scraps)
- Water
- Time

kitchen scraps for composting from 2 Green Acrescomposting at 2 Green Acres, a Maryland garden

composting and gardening in Maryland from 2 Green Acres
Garden composting at 2 Green Acres in Maryland

Fall is a great time to start a compost pile. And it really can be just a pile. A compost bin helps keep things contained, but are not totally necessary.

To start, rake a portion of your leaves (your "brown" materials) into your pile or bin. Wet them down. Add some of your "green" materials. Cover with more leaves. Water again. The pile should be damp, but not totally soaked.

That's it. I usually add more kitchen scraps when I have them, but you don't even need to do that.

If you want to do multiple layers you can. If you want to water monthly you can. If you want to turn it you can. Doing these things will speed the decomposition process, but they aren't absolutely required. Same with shredding your leaves or chopping up your kitchen scraps - it will speed the process, but it is not necessary.

Just a couple of notes on what not to put in your pile:

1. Don't include any diseased plant material (the pile may not get hot enough to kill the disease)
2. Don't include any meat, dairy or oils (this will attract rodents)
3. Don't include pet waste

Some people have told me that they find composting intimidating. It shouldn't be. Composting is really just harnessing the natural decomposition process that happens without our intervention. Finished compost is such an asset in the garden, everyone should compost - even lazy gardeners.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Native Plant of the Month: Doll’s Eyes

doll's eyes - a native plant on 2 green acres - a maryland garden blog
For my native plant this month, I am picking an odd one. I first saw this plant on a hike in the Adirondacks this past September. I had no idea what it was, but was mesmerized by its white berries on magenta stems.

I came home, did some research and found out that this plant, commonly known as “doll’s eyes” is a member of the buttercup family. The latin name is Actaea pachypoda. In late spring or early summer, it has interesting white flowers – like something that the Star Trek crew would find on a distant planet. But it is the berries that make you do a double take. At their height in early fall, they truly do look like little doll’s eyes, strung together by a mad scientist. Their bright white color really jumps out in a shaded woodland setting.

This is a great specimen for people who love to collect odd plants. It is also a great plant for a woodland garden – nice spring flowers, interesting foliage, and those great berries in the fall. The plants grow about two feet tall and wide. They will self-seed, but are not aggressive. Oh, and deer don’t like these plants!

One note of caution: Don’t be too tempted by the berries. To me, they don’t look appetizing at all – and they aren’t. The whole plant (particularly the berries) are poisonous to humans (and deer) if ingested. It is fine to handle the plant, but don’t try to eat any of it.

You might also like:

October native plant of the month: Sugar Maple
September native plant of the month: Blueberry
August native plant of the month: Joe Pye Weed

Monday, November 16, 2009

A local Thanksgiving feast

It's easy to eat local in the summer. But for many of us, it gets harder in the fall and winter. This is especially true if you don't can or preserve food some other way. I preserve a few things, but not enough to last all winter.

However, it is pretty easy to get the main components of your Thanksgiving meal locally. Farmers markets have potatoes, yams, and squash. And in Maryland we have a number of local, humane meat producers who sell turkeys, lamb, beef and almost any other meats you might want.

Two of my favorites are Springfield Farm and Roseda Farm. Springfield Farm sell eggs, butter and almost any kind of meat or poultry you would want - except beef. Beef is Roseda Farm's specialty. For the past several years we have purchased a lot of meet and poultry from the two farms. To the best of my knowledge, neither farm fits the strict, government definition of "organic", but both limit the use of antibiotics and raise their animal humanely.

At Springfield, I particularly like their eggs - big, beautiful yolks and so delicious. They also make great ice cream. I am not a huge ice cream lover (my husband is), but even I look forward to the Jack Daniel's flavored ice cream. As for Roseda, all they sell is beef, and the quality is terrific. I am not sure if you can buy individual cuts directly at the farm, but they sell their meat at a number of local grocery stores, including Graul's.

For more information on local farms where you can buy a Thanksgiving turkey, check out this article in The Baltimore Sun.

Also, if you are interested in an eye-opening look at how big agriculture is trying to take advantage of the local food trend, read this.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Final Harvest of 2009

Local vegetables from the Maryland garden of Two Green Acres
After a couple of weeks of ignoring the garden completely, I ventured in this weekend to harvest anything that remains. The haul? Two butternut squash, a jalepeno, a green pepper, a forgotten carrot and lots of chard. In fact, the chard might keep going, but except for that, the only thing that remains in the garden is oregano and sage.

I always feel a bit sad when cleaning up the garden for fall. I hate the shorter days and colder weather. Even though I love the food of fall and winter, and I like cozy days and evenings in front of the fire, I really mourn the end of long, warm days.

That said, I do like the change of seasons, and winter reminds us of the beauty of spring, summer and fall.

Besides general garden clean up, I also planted garlic this weekend. This is my first time growing garlic. I bought a head of organic garlic when I was in Vermont this fall. Unfortunately, it only had 4 cloves (believe me, they were huge). So, I’ll have, at best, 4 garlic plants. I’ll let you know how it goes.Swiss chard from the Maryland Garden of Two Green Acres

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Vegetable Garden: Harvest Totals

This weekend, I harvested my last eggplants and peppers. I still have two butternut squash on the vine, and some chard that may continue to produce, but I am ready to do the final tally for my garden.

From my 32 square foot garden (two 4x4 raised beds) I harvested:

  • Spinach: 12 servings*
  • Leaf Lettuce: 16 servings
  • Boy Choy: 6 servings
  • Romaine: 2 heads
  • Chard: 22 servings
  • Radishes: 3 servings
  • Green beans: 18 servings
  • Carrots: 1 serving (and a small one at that!)
  • Pickling cucumber: 7
  • Regular cucumber: 19
  • Japanese eggplant: 11
  • Regular eggplant: 7
  • Jalepeno pepper: 15
  • Green pepper: 16
  • Tomatoes: 190
  • Butternut squash: 3
  • Mini pumpkins: 10

*I am too lazy to weigh my produce, so I either count by item (if large) or by "serving" meaning the amount needed for a side dish for one person.

Also in my square foot garden, I had tons of sage and oregano, and a bit of basil.

In addition, I also harvested 4 servings of snow peas from pots on my deck.

Not bad for a small garden. I am getting better at planting a series of crops in the same space, although there is still room for improvement. I tried to put a crop of beans in after the snow peas, but waited too long. As a result I got very few beans in the pots on my deck.

For more on my harvest, check out what worked and what didn't in my vegetable garden this year.

What was your harvest like this year?