Category Archives: Gardening

This summer I grew some amazing heirloom cucumbers and I was interested in saving cucumber seeds. The cucumber seeds were called Athens and they were true to their description. About 9 inches long, this uniformly slender slicer has smooth, deep dark green skin, dense, firm, crisp flesh and a small seed cavity. Very productive over a long season on vines that want support.

 

There was one cucumber that didn’t get picked while we were away so I let it stay on the vine. Cucumbers that are being saved for seed must be grown to full maturity and allowed to ripen past the edible stage. The cucumber will be large and beginning to soften. Depending on the variety the fruits may change from green to white or deep yellow or orange. My cucumber was soft and yellow!saving cucumber seeds

 

Carefully cut open the cucumber and scoop the seeds into a large bowl.saving cucumber seeds Each cucumber seed is encased in a gelatinous sack that is most easily removed by fermenting the seeds.saving cucumber seeds Add about as much water as seeds but not too much or fermentation will be slowed. Set the bowl away from sunlight in a protected location to ferment. Depending on the temperature, fermentation will take from one to three days. During this time the aromas coming from the bowl will be less than pleasant and some mold may form over the top of the mixture. Stir the mass twice a day. Fermentation is complete when most of the seeds have settled to the bottom of the bowl and the seedcases are floating on top of the mixture.

 

Stir the mass while adding as much water as possible, this allows the clean seeds to settle to the bottom. The debris and hollow seeds will float and can be gently poured off with the excess water. Repeat this procedure until only clean seeds remain.saving cucumber seeds

 

Pour the clean seeds into a strainer, wipe the bottom of the strainer with a paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible and dump the seeds on a cookie sheet or other non- stick surface. Allow the seeds to dry.saving cucumber seeds Cucumber seed will remain viable for ten years when stored under ideal conditions. Saving cucumber seeds is quite easy and now I now I will have seeds to plant next year.saving cucumber seeds

Harvest failure is always a possibility when you garden. Many of you have been following along with my adventure with the Gete okosomin squash seeds I received last year in South Dakota! I was given 9 of these ancient heirloom seeds with the hopes of growing a small harvest and be able to share seeds with my readers.Gete-okosomin

Knowing our home was on the market and could sell at anytime I only planted four of the nine seeds I was given.Vermont real estate Of the four seeds only three sprouted and did extremely well at first.Gete-okosomin Unfortunately we had several things going against us this year. Our garden was overrun with chipmunks and voles. The voles were especially destructive chewing off numerous plant stems and digging tunnels everywhere.voles We also experienced a drought this summer. While normally this isn’t a problem as we have a deep well and plenty of water to keep the garden well irrigated. However we had a granddaughter arriving in August, at the height of the growing season. When I left for Seattle the garden was doing well, it was also used to getting well watered each day. During the two weeks we were gone the garden was not watered and it suffered. When I returned home there was only one squash plant alive and even that was suffering. Insects had burrowed into the stem which limited the amount of water going to the growing squash. One of the growing squash  also was suffering from some sort of end rot.Gete okosominI have never had such a dismal harvest before. Usually when I grow winter squash or pumpkins I have more than enough. Not this year. I was only able to harvest two small squash plants.Gete okosomin, harvest failure Certainly there are not enough seeds to supply the hundreds of people that have written me requesting seeds.gete okosomin

However I now have about 100 viable seeds which I am willing to share. I plan to contact the folks that wrote me first and work my way down the list sharing the seeds I have. Hopefully next year I will have a better crop and will have more seeds to share.

gete okosomin

In gardening you are never guaranteed a harvest. Perhaps next year these seeds will be available commercially by another grower. If not I do plan to try again and may have some seeds to share next fall. Hopefully my next harvest will produce mature squash with plenty of seeds and I will not experience a crop failure again.

Gete okosomin

Is autumn really the end of the gardening year?

Fall is not the end of the gardening year; it is the start of next year’s growing season.”
Thalassa Cruso

Autumn in Vermont is one of my favorite times of year. The days are clear and sunny and the nights are cold! The leaves begin to change color and you know winter is just around the corner. Is it really the end of another gardening year?The colors of fall.

My goal each year is to get all my gardens cut back and cleaned up for the winter. Sometimes this happens, sometimes it doesn’t. It all depends on how busy our fall is.fall, garden, gardening year

First step in preparing for the winter is to remove all the decaying plant material to our compost pile. This means the random tomatoes that have fallen to the ground, the old tomato vines and the dying flower stalks. I like to leave my raised beds free of any weeds. If I have time I like to plant a cover crop in my raised beds as well. This will add nutrients to the soil while at the same time keep the weeds at bay.

If our compost bin is full we will also top off the raised beds with some compost and dig it into the raised beds. By spring it will be well composted and the beds will be ready for the spring planting.

There are also my flowerbeds to be cut back. Cutting back my numerous hosta plants is always a chore, but I don’t want to leave decaying leaves on the beds.

Once the gardens are cut back and cleaned up we are ready for winter. Now the snows can come, my garden is wonderfully cleaned up and ready to face the winter.The way time goes by it won’t be long before the seed catalogs begin arriving in the mail. It will be time to sit by the wood stove and plan next year’s garden!gardening-year

Finding the Perfect Homestead

Our house is on the market and we’ve been told it could take several years for it to sell. Real estate in Vermont is not moving quickly. This gives us plenty of time to come up with our lists of “wants and needs” for our perfect homestead.homestead

If money were no issue I would want to move to a large parcel of land and employ a caretaker to help us run our homestead. However, this is not the case and it will just be my husband and me. We currently have more than ten acres and it is a lot of work. So our future homestead will be on a much smaller scale.

Ideally we would like to have enough land for a nice garden, some fruit trees and blueberry bushes and a few chickens. We are thinking of a small size homestead perhaps on only an acre of land! Just enough to be able to manage while not having to spend all our time on it, After all we are moving to be closer to our children and grandchildren so we would like to have time to spend with them!

In our last two homes I have had to start the vegetable gardens from scratch. This means years of preparing the soil year after year to get it just right. I would like to be able to find a new home where I am taking over from the previous owner. Moving into a home that had a previous garden lover would be awesome!

We don’t need a large lawn either. While a lawn is nice who wants to spend time mowing and watering just to have a nice green lawn? We don’t have plans to raise livestock other than chickens so I think an acre or so would be fine.Chickens!

One of my favorite books is The Have More Plan. They talk about setting up your ideal homestead on an acre. If we can find just the right property I plan to follow their lead.frugal living, prudent living, book review

Basic Principles of a Perfect Homestead

Every bit our land should be used advantageously.

Our vegetable gardens should run north and south for equal sunlight. The vegetable garden should be close to the kitchen. I absolutely love having an herb garden within walking distance to the kitchen.

Inside the house there should be adequate storage and closet space. I’m going to hate to leave my current pantry, but would like to have my next pantry closer to the kitchen! I definitely need a cold storage room for vegetables and canned goods.storage, pantries, home canning

There should also be space for a home freezer, laundry and fireplace wood.

Housing for our garden tools, wheelbarrows, lawnmower and a small tractor would also be nice as well as space for a home workshop.gardening, garden tools

In a way I am glad that our house is not selling as quickly as we thought it would. This gives us plenty of time to figure our what we want in our perfect homestead.

As if it weren’t enough that our garden is over run with chipmunks, we also have voles! Voles can be just as destructive as deer and rabbits. My poor garden, I thought it was just a problem with chipmunks but yesterday I was in the garden and saw two voles running around under the zucchini plants. They are mouse size but have shorter tails and are more of a black-brown color. They have small eyes and partially hidden ears. You have to admit they are kind of cute but so destructive!voles

Here are the signs to tell if you have voles in your yard or garden.

Trails in the lawn.

Voles travel the same paths, and they create 1-2 inch runways or ruts in the lawn. They also create these same runways in a raised bed!vole tunnels

Holes in the soil.

Vole tunnels have openings about 1-2 inches across and are usually hidden beneath mulch, shrubs or spreading plants. They also happily inhabit mole and chipmunk tunnels.vole hole

Unlike the chipmunks that love blueberries voles eat mostly plants. They often chew plants at the crown causing the plant top to fall over. This was why when I went to pull my beets the tops looked fine but the beet itself was all eaten away!

Protecting your garden against voles.

Voles need weed cover to survive and avoid open ground. Remove weeds, mulch and any crop litter around the garden. Guess I need to cut back the flowers that are crowding my raised beds!

Repellents

There are certain suggestions of inserting garlic tubes into their tunnels or using hot sauce.hot sauce

Mowing

Keep your grass mowed. Longer grass provides cover for the these pests.

Fencing

Like the chipmunks you can protect your plants with a fence that is buried 3-6 inches below the soil, above the ground the fence should be from 4-12 inches tall.

Looks like I have some clearing to do around our raised beds. If our house doesn’t sell and we are here for another growing season I may dig up my raised beds and put hardware clothe on the bottom. This will keep them from digging into the beds. We did this on our herb garden raised beds and have not had a problem with the voles there.weeds to remove

Always something to keep you challenged on the home front!

Do I see a chipmunk?

This summer we have been overrun with chipmunks in the garden! Everywhere I look I see a chipmunk! They are eating the blueberries, enjoying my tomatoes and eating my beans! Not only are they doing damage but when I am in the garden they sit there and watch me as if to say, “what are you doing in my garden!”Chipmunks I really didn’t want to resort to harmful chemicals to get rid of them but what were we to do?

Chipmunks look so cute but they can be so destructive. They’re small and nimble and can get into tight places that larger pests can’t. Here are a few options to get rid of them.

Fence them out.

Chipmunks are small and they are good diggers. If you want to fence them out you will need to have a fence with small holes and it will have to be buried at least six inches under ground. Since our garden was already planted this year before we realized the chipmunks were going to be a problem this was not an option for us.

Trap Them

We have numerous have-a-heart traps so we decided to give this method a try. In the past we have been very successful trapping chipmunks, one year we caught more than 30! This year I think we are dealing with smarter chipmunks. My husband actually saw the chipmunks rolling the small have-a-heart trap over so the seeds would come out, they would eat the sunflower seeds and not go into the trap. Next time we’ll mix peanut butter with the seeds so they stick in the trap!trapping chipmunks

Spices

It has been said that you can sprinkle cayenne, chili powder or other hot, intense spices around your garden. Many gardeners report success using this method. I may still try this method although I am now at the end of my garden season and the chipmunks are not so much of a problem. They’ve done their damage and have moved on!

Predators

You can also use a decoy predator like a motion activated owl. You can also purchase a product make for the urine of predator animals like red foxes and cats. The smell will convince the chipmunks that they are in danger and they will stay away. May have to try this next year. Wonder how bad the smell is?chipmunks

Have you had trouble with chipmunks this year? What did you do to solve the problem of eliminating chipmunks?Tamias striatus Tamia rayé (suisse) Eastern chipmunk

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