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Monday, October 31, 2011

Promotion

Thanks to Roman May

I have been working for this promotion for almost a year, and I finally got it last week. It is one of the greatest feelings in the world to work hard towards a goal that you finally attain. My wife and I celebrated with the nicest dinner we have ever had, and I can honestly say earning this promotion has been one of the most rewarding events of my life. I have worked for the same company for the past seven years, with the last three in a mid-level management position. However, an executive-level position came open about 13 months ago that the company did not fill right away. The company essentially made it a competition between several managers, and I ended up winning the job. The promotion includes a significant salary increase as well as significantly more responsibility. The raise could not come at a better time for our family. We just had our first child, and we are learning how to manage our money with another mouth to feed. We recently switched to fixed-rate energy through http://www.shopelectricityratestexas.com/ in an attempt to save money in the long run, and I have also invested in some short term stocks hoping to earn a profit in the next three years. I feel so excited about my new opportunity.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Frost is Coming: Saran Wrap, Dark Trash Bags, and Pots to Prevent Frost Damage

The frost will hit Maryland tonight if you are  in the right areas. We even have some snow coming. The ground is very warm and our friend at this point. It is worth battling the first few frosts because you might be able to extend the season for several more weeks. Once the frost is in the picture for 3 or 4 consecutive days, it's time to give up the garden.

You can fully wrap a tomato cage in Saran Wrap and create a green house. This is good for taller plants like my peas. Tuck the plants inside the cage and wrap. You want to do this in the morning so the sun has time to heat up the space.

You can put your containers in black trash bags and seal the top, just like you are throwing them away. Again, do this in the morning and let heat collect.

If you have lettuce or other grown crops in beds, a black plastic pot can be set on top of  them like a dome. You can even use your empty 5 gallon buckets for bigger plants.

These methods will by you some degrees in cold and frost protection. And they work. Remember a lot of cold weather crops can take a light frost. Protecting them today could buy you a few more weeks of greens and  vegetables.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Finding the Supplies and Tools for Next Year's Garden

One of the things I like about Zone 7 gardening in Maryland is that you get all four seasons. Each season brings on its on challenge for the gardener and requires specialized tools and preparation. We don't often think of gardening beyond a shovel, dirt and some seeds but we do need and use (and deserve!) the right kind of tools and equipment. I think one of the best ways to find equipment and supplies for all our gardening and landscaping needs is on-line. I particularly found the site Canada Post helpful. It provides you with pricing comparisons for all the things you could possibly need to manage your garden and grounds. This is what I do during the Winter to pass the time. I call it research.

I like this site because it provides information with equipment pictures, prices, details and locations of the products as found all over the United States in our local do-it-yourself and garden shops. Knowledge is the key to a great garden and great savings gives us more seed money. Using this site lets you find what you need and it lets you compare prices. You can view 100's if not 1000's of items comparatively by most popular, lowest price or by best deal. It really is a great site for information.

With Winter coming and judging by the 38 degree night, soon snow will begin to fall. There isn't much to do in the garden during the Winter but there is a lot of time to begin planning next year's garden. This site will let you compare every supply or piece of equipment you will need for the garden and once that is done, you can even price shop clothing, electronics and just about everything imaginable. I've been browsing through gardening tools, power washers, chemical sprayers and chemicals and with snow just around the corner snowblowers. I would much rather turn the earth and open up more garden beds then shovel away two feet of snow. The Farmer's Almanac is calling for a big Winter around my area!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Fall Lettuce Container Garden: A Cut Greens Garden

Again, think lettuces, radishes, onions, kale, peas and cool weather vegetables in Maryland as two season vegetables. You can extend you gardening beyond August. You get cool weather Spring and cool weather Fall, as seasons, for planting this grouping of vegetables and greens.

Here are some pictures of my containers that are filled with arugula, lettuces, kales, a few peas, onions and probably some things I have forgotten. 

This picture if from September. I cleared out the old tomatoes and spent vegetables. I transplanted my greens and even peas to the containers somewhere in the middle of September.


Starting A Fall Greens Garden: Gary Pilarchik

I took this picture on October 22nd. We haven't had frost yet and the container greens are ready to be harvested, leaf by leaf, for a pretty fancy and extremely colorful salad. 


4-5 Weeks of Fall Growth for My Mixed Greens Fall Garden: Gary Pilarchik

Some of the containers up close and colorful.


A Fall Lettuce and Greens Container: Gary Pilarchik

The above picture shows Arugula with 'Ruby Red' leaf lettuce to the right. The other red lettuce is a romaine variety. In the back is 'Paris Island' romaine, a green variety.

Below I have onions planted around the greens. The onions came from bulbs and were actually put in there in July. I used them for the tomatoes that grew in the container. When the heat and growth of the tomato came, the onions died back. You can see the cool temperature of the Fall rejuvenated them.


Onions and Lettuce in a Container: Gary Pilarchik

Red Kale and Peas with My Greens Containers: Gary Pilarchik

The containers were mostly used for tomatoes. The 5 gallon gray bucket, which came from a do-it-yourself store for $3, has 'Red Russian' kale planted in it. Kale will often survive the Winter and grow again in the Spring. You can also see peas in the background. I am getting some pods but did you know pea leaves taste great in mixed salads?


Red and Green Romaine in a  Container: Gary Pilarchik

Notice I am not growing my lettuce and greens in containers for 1 large head of lettuce, well spaced out. Over plant them! This is a cut greens garden. There is plenty of soil in the container for the roots to grow down. Less root competition means lots of leaves. If you were to toss in some liquid fertilizer they would go wild. The greens in my containers are harvested one leaf at a time. They will keep growing until a hard frost comes.






Red Romaine Lettuce in the Fall: Outstanding Color!

Red, for a lettuce has been both myth and fact as a color the seems to deter snails and slugs. I can attest to the truth that my red lettuces tend to be left alone by slugs and snails... when there is other stuff to eat in the garden.

If you have nothing tender for them to eat, they will go to the red lettuces. But in the Fall you tend to have to worry less about those pests. Red lettuce, in this case, a Red Romaine looks beautiful in the Fall. No special variety, just Red Romaine. The cooler weather lets the reds become redder. I want to encourage everyone to think about Fall greens or in this case reds, in your Zone 7 garden. 


Red Romaine in the Fall: Gary Pilarchik



Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tabasco Peppers Make for Great Fall Color and Bottling

The Tabasco pepper looks great in October. We used to have an annual chili contest in our neighborhood and I would always lend branches of the Tabasco pepper for table decorations.

I will be making hot-sauce with these in the future.  The blog will follow.


Tabasco Peppers in October: Gary Pilarchik

Leeks in October: Growing Over 100 Days

Leeks are in the onion family. I planted my leeks from seeds in seed trays. They were very easy to transplant. I over planted in seed cells and gently broke the leeks into single strands. I think I planted most of them in June.

I ate them through the summer and the pictures below are leeks I let grow. The look even better now mid October.


Leeks in October: Gary Pilarchik

You can see the leeks coming up around the fallen blackberry brambles. The leek greens are good to eat too.


Larger October Leeks: Gary Pilarchik

You can see the remains of newspaper I used as mud and disease barrier for cumbers that were grown next to the leeks.


More Smaller October Leeks: Gary Pilarchik

Another bunch of leeks, I planted more closely together. The weeds are around but the garden still holds vegetables I can eat.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Greens of Fall and Winter and Eventually Spring: Lettuces and Kales

This weekend, I will be updating my blog with some pictures of greens. I did tire out in August but was able to get some greens into seed trays. I got most of them into the ground or into containers. I also planted a lot of radishes in spots I cleared out in the garden. I do still have weeds and dead tomatoes to clear out but I am trying my best to garden through all 4 seasons.

I will be revealing my sweet potatoes... that sounds odd but hopefully, I didn't wait to long to dig them up.

All though my potato bags failed, I did put potatoes in pots that I will also dump this weekend. Hopefully they are full of baby potatoes.

I have leeks I planted back in June I think? I ate a bunch but they sure love the cold weather. They are huge. And getting bigger every day.

My cilantro is loving the cold weather.

Peas are moving along.

Anyway, I will get to updating the blog with some October 22nd and 23rd pictures to show you what can be grown through October in Maryland and related Zone 7 areas.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Plant Your Garlic Now!: Maryland Garlic in October

You can put garlic in the ground right now through Thanksgiving. Garlic planted now will mature and be ready late Spring. Garlic can be used any time during the Spring. You can use the stems. Dig up immature bulbs. Use it however you want. You don't just have to wait for it form the standard bulb.

You can order all kinds of garlic on-line but your store bought garlic will work in a pinch. I use it. And it comes up nicely every year.

To plant garlic, you have to break the bulb down into single cloves. One bulb will get you 10 to 20 cloves. The clove should be planted about and inch deep with the root side down. Don't worry if you plant it upside down by mistake. The plant will adjust.

If you like garlic.. grab a bulb from the store and just get in the ground. You can even put it in your containers. Like I said, you can just harvest the stems. They make a great addition to salads.




Monday, October 17, 2011

Drip Irrigation Sytems and Container Gardens

The nemesis to container gardening isn't only insects or disease but it very often is watering or moisture control. I have been using containers for vegetable gardening for years and they seem to do well until the heat of July and August hit. Within a day, you can actually have a container dry out and damage your plants. Tomatoes are especially susceptible to moisture damage which shows up as cracked fruit or blossom-end rot.

This year I am determined to find an irrigation system that works for both my earth gardens and container gardens. I tried going to my local do-it-yourself stores but it was just too expensive or difficult to find what I needed.  That lead me to go on line to find a specialty shop.  I searched  irrigation supplies and found the Irrigation Supply Outlet.

When I say they have everything, it is not an exaggeration. You can buy individual supplies and parts for drip systems, lawn irrigation systems,  landscape supplies and even landscape lighting. What I like about them is I can research a design on-line and decide what kind of drip irrigation system I want to create. They have every part or piece you could need for designing your own tailor made system. They even have parts and supplies for hydroponics which I might look into for the future. My plan is to use the Winter to figure out the best design for a container irrigation system and  build it during the cold months. There is always something to do for the gardener. Irrigation system this year and hydroponics next year!




Flowers for Every Occasion with International Delivery

There is a common connection we all share through gardening. Recognizing the beauty that comes from the earth and how create with seeds and plants is universally shared. There are times when you want to send the beauty of the garden to friends and family during those difficult times and shared grand occasions. Sometimes you even need to send flowers across the ocean. We wanted to trust the flowers we ordered would arrive and found a flower shop that has won awards for ease of use, value, and choice.

Finding the right flower arrangement or gift, for the right occasion shouldn't be an exercise on settling for the small selections of what many shops have available. Serenata Flowers offers 100's of options and arrangements for your needs.  They are located in England but offer international flower delivery and can deliver the next day to the United States. You can find the perfect arrangement to meet your needs. Their selection is enormous.

Consider them your local flower shop. They use a network of floral partners throughout the world and this allows you to send flowers wherever you want, at a great price. You can search for flowers by occasion, by sentiment or by flower variety. You will be amazed at the 100's of options that are available. Not only do they have flowers but they have plants, chocolates, wines and hampers or gift baskets. Who wouldn't want flowers and a bottle of wine? Or chocolates and bouquet?

They are more then just a flower shop and have world-wide delivery reach. Payments can be made from your standard credit cards, Google Checkout, Paypal and with many other options. This is a site you have to visit and bookmark. It will become your international delivery site  for all occasions when you want to send flowers or gifts. They offer a full money back no hassle satisfaction guarantee. And they make it easy to get in touch with them. You can easily find their phone numbers and email addresses to order and talk with them. They strive to make ordering an easy and enjoyable process.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How to Oven Dry/Dehydrate Cayenne Peppers from the Garden (In Pictures)


Cayenne peppers have grown extremely well for me in Maryland, every year, for the last 10 years. Just plant and forget them. Neglect them. They grow and grow. I planted 2 plants this year and somewhere around mid September when I got my garden interest back, I found 100's of red cayennes. What to do? Oven dry them for crushed red pepper of course. I needed something to compliment all my frozen heirloom tomato sauce. The process of oven drying/dehydrating cayenne peppers is easy. I'll keep the blog entry short and sweet.


Red Cayenne Peppers: Gary Pilarchik

The first step is to grow two or more cayenne pepper plants and let the peppers turn red. You can see I collected a pretty large bowl of cayenne peppers. They do get a bit sweeter when they turn red from green.


Picked Cayenne Pepper for Oven Drying/Dehydration: Gary Pilarchik

Wash the peppers if you are concerned. I didn't wash mine. Set the peppers up on foil, spaced out like you see. You do not want them touch too much. It slows the drying process. And the process already takes 6-8 hours. To prepare the peppers, you need to break the stem tips off as below. You do not want dried stems in your crushed red pepper.


Remove the Stems for Oven Drying: Gary Pilarchik
Cayenne Peppers Ready for Drying: Gary Pilarchik

Most oven drying recipes state you should dry vegetables at about 130-140 degrees. I would agree that is good  temperature for vegetables and herbs. Too much heat can cook them or remove oils. If you are drying green beans, squash or kale (for example) , you would want the lower temperatures. For hot cayenne peppers, I feel 175 degrees is fine. Any higher and they will cook. Somewhere between my temperature and theirs is probably just right. My finished product tastes great and has no over cooked taste to it. So for me, 175 degrees.


Half Oven Dried Cayenne Peppers: Gary Pilarchik

The process is low and slow. About 6 to 8 hours slow.  Above are the cayenne pepper halfway through the dehydration process. Below are the dried cayennes at around 7 hours. You can mix and move the cayennes every 2 hours or so, to help with drying. I recommend you dry them on foil. Don't use oil, or seasoning or anything. Just let them dehydrate and dry.


Fully Oven Dried Cayenne Peppers: Gary Pilarchik

Once completely dried, they will crumble when you crush them. You might want to use gloves when you crush any hot pepper. Whatever body part you touch after crushing the cayennes will feel the heat. SO beware!


Oven Dried Cayenne Peppers Become Crushed Red Pepper: Gary Pilarchik
Garden Fresh Crushed Red Cayenne Pepper: Gary Pilarchik

About 7 hours later and a Summer's growth of cayenne peppers and I have an ample supply of crushed red cayenne peppers to compliment the sauce I made with all  my heirloom tomatoes. Try it! Crushed red cayenne pepper beats any store bought brand.


Crushed Cayenne Red Pepper for the Win: Gary Pilarchik

If you like my blog would you please consider passing the link forward to fellow gardeners? Thanks so much!


Collecting Squash, Zuke, Melon and Cuke Seeds


This is how I save seeds for melons, squash, zukes and cukes. I keep them off the ground to prevent bug damage and infestations. This works well. The rain is an issue too. Using these slats the vegetable dry out quickly. Believe it or not these vegetables have been there 4 - 6 weeks. The decayed vegetable on the right is the remains of an 'Armenian' cucumber. I missed getting to it before it rotted. There are actually viable seeds in the remains but I have enough.

The remaining vegetables will be split and I will dry the seeds indoors for about a week. The seeds do not need to be fermented like tomatoes.


Seed Saving Squash and Melons: Gary Pilarchik

My Sweet Potatoes: What is Underneath and Are They Ready?



I didn't have great success with my standard potatoes. Here is my sweet potato patch. The original transplants were very hardy. When I bought them in June, I left them on the ground and rabbits ate all - all the leaves off them, leaving only stems. I kept them in the cell trays for about 10 days and new leaves grew. Later, I transplanted them below. They are doing well.... but I don't know how to tell when they are ready to dig.

Who can tell me when to dig sweet potatoes up and is there a way to save the patch for next year too?


Sweet Potato Patch: Gary Pilarchik