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The End of the Season

November 24th, 2017

Last weekend I harvested the rest of the brussels sprouts from the garden. This year, I both grew ‘Churchill’ and ‘Diablo’. (I got my seed from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, a great local seed source for me here in Maine).

‘Diablo’ came out way ahead, it’s a much better variety for my garden. I like the sprouts much better as well, they’re tight sprouts and are more evenly sized. I also found that they had fewer issues with late aphids. If the plants were attacked, the sprouts are easily rinsed off and eaten since they’re so tight. It also held better in the field, without sprouts becoming overgrown and huge. Cold tolerance is also a big bonus for this variety, we regularly had temperatures in the teens and it didn’t mind at all.

The stalks will be left in the garage for a few weeks, then any remaining will be moved to the basement. Most likely, they won’t last long. We’re big fans of Brussels sprouts, our favorite way to eat them is with a balsamic cream sauce, which we had at a local restaurant. Lucky for us, the restaurant chef published a cookbook and it contains the recipe. If you’re interested, see the ‘Brussels Sprouts; The Disregarded Vegetable’ in Comfort Food. I’ll try to share the recipe in December sometime.

Are you a fan of Brussels sprouts? What’s your favorite way to cook them?

Book referenced above, every recipe I’ve tried has been fantastic, which is not a surprise since it’s my favorite restaurant.

Fall Crops

November 9th, 2017

Our temperatures are finally getting down in to the twenties, this Friday night it’s supposed to be in the teens. With the persephone period at hand, crops aren’t growing any more, just sustaining. That means it’s time to harvest various crops that can be affected by the cold weathers. The day before yesterday I harvested lots of things: cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, and fennel. The lemongrass will be harvested today, along with a few other greens.


I’m amazed at how well my fall crops produced this year. If I had planted them a month before I did, they would have done much better, but overall I’m quite pleased. The cauliflower is the size of a small cantaloupe, the broccoli has headed up nicely. The fennel is small, but tender. The butterhead lettuces produced nice small heads, the spinach is perfect for harvest. Overall, I’m very happy with my fall harvest. Each year I get better and better with gardening throughout the seasons. Succession planting is becoming easier and easier.

What are you harvesting this week from the garden?

Indoor Gardening in Winter

November 8th, 2017

I always have pots of herbs, citrus trees, and a few other greens under grow lights during the long winter months here in Maine. This year, since I grew this ‘Pizza my Heart’ pepper in a container by the front door, I decided to bring it indoors for the winter to experiment with growing perennial vegetables in this method.

A few weeks ago, I read about a guy who brings in a lot of his peppers and simply replants them after risk of frost is past the following summer. He claims that they start producing peppers earlier and produce more peppers when treated in this manner. Instead of trying to bring in all my pepper plants, I figured I’d start with one; the one that was already in a container.

This pepper has flourished in this container all summer, since it was still growing, flowering, and producing well, I figured it was a great candidate for this experiment. This variety (from Renee’s Garden Seeds) is well suited for containers, which should increase my chance of success. I’ll keep you up to date on the progress of this lovely plant. At the moment, I’m not 100% certain where it will reside this winter. I have three lighted growing areas in the house, each with different climates. I’m thinking this pepper will appreciate the upstairs area since it’s very warm and gets lots of morning light.

What are you experimenting with this winter?

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

October 23rd, 2017

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I now grow my cucurbits (specifically pumpkins) in my compost pile (more on this method here). I learned of this method from the book ‘Gardens of Plenty’ by Marylynn Abbott and gave it a try. It worked beautifully and I have been utilizing this method ever since. If you remember, I saw this method in action in the garden she wrote about in this book when I visited the gardens at the Hagley Museum. This year, my pumpkins were grown in the giant compost piles I made last fall. I planted four vines figuring I’d get a pumpkin or two from each.


They grew like champs and quickly took over the compost pile and the lawn nearby (which wasn’t really a big deal because I wanted to get rid of the lawn to expand the garden. When the vines died back I noticed how many pumpkins were there.

After cutting all the pumpkins and carting them down to the house, I counted them up. There were 30 pumpkins, the smallest are fairly large, the largest pumpkins are HUGE and very heavy.

Now we have pumpkins sitting here, there, and everywhere throughout the house. The goal is to cure them a bit, so they will store better and be sweeter for eating. There is a pile of pumpkins in the office behind me, a pile on each side of the front porch, they are piled in the kitchen under the table, and on either side of the dresser in the dining room.



Some of them are also being used as fall decor by the front door, these will be cooked and fed to the chickens. Most likely, this winter, as I cook a pumpkin for us to eat, the birds will get at least half of it. There are so many pumpkins we could never begin to eat them all. Add to their numbers the glut of butternut squash I ended up with as well and we won’t be lacking vitamin A this winter.

What did you have a glut of this year? Do you grow pumpkins?

Homemade Organic Blueberry Fertilizer

October 12th, 2017

Around here we like blueberries, high bush blueberries. Maine is famous for their low bush blueberries, which are good, but I much prefer the high bush with their balance of sweet & sour. In Ohio we had six bushes, here in Maine we inherited a few that were not doing so well. Last year I added a few small ones to the garden, this year I added three more.

Blueberries have their own special likes when it comes to fertilization and treatment, they will perform much better if given the acidic conditions that they like. We naturally have acidic soil, but the blueberries are planted in garden areas where the native soil has been improved enough that it’s not as acidic as it could be. This is where sulfur comes in. Blueberries will apprciate a bit of sulfur. I mix up my own blend of fertilizer for the blueberry and other acidic loving shrubs (like rhodadendrons).

My recipe is as follows: 5 pounds sulfur, 5 pounds Tennessee brown phosphate, 5 pounds granite meal, mineral blend (I use Azomite, which I buy in 44lb bags and add to the entire garden as well as feeding it to the chickens), compost. If I have them, I add a small scoop of zeolites as well (these increase water and nutrient retention as well as keep nitrogen in the soil). I purchase all of my amendments at Fedco Grower’s Supply, which is close enough that I drive up and pick up my order.

Each blueberry plants gets a cup of my three ingredient fertilizer mixed into a bucket of compost. If I have mineral mix and zeolites, I add a quarter to a half cup of those as well. Mix well and spread around the blueberry plants. They will thank you for it with robust growth and lots of fruit.

Finding organic options for fertilizers can be a problem. I’m happy to have a large flock of birds to provide lots of fertilizer and a source for good compost. Most soils can use a few extras to help plants grow healthy plants.

Do you have a favorite homemade fertilizer mix for your garden?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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