Thursday, January 12, 2017

January in the Garden



January is traditionally the time of day dreaming and planning for gardeners young and old.  Garden catalogs begin trickling in, tantalizing us with rediscovered heirlooms as well as new and improved flowers and foods.  Slowly we work through each catalog revising the list of everything we want, until we can be satisfied with what we really need and what we really have time and space for.  But many a cold, rainy day is cheered with all the possibilities.  

If you aren’t already inundated with gardening catalogs check out this blog post from ‘The Garden Glove’ on the Top 12 Garden Seed Catalogs:   <http://www.thegardenglove.com/top-garden-seed-catalogs/ >.  It contains most of my favorites, many of which are free on request.  When you click on a catalog name you are sent to their web site.  Most seed companies feature a link to a page where you can request a free copy of their catalog right on their home page.  If you don’t have Internet service, stop by one of our local libraries. Most libraries (including ours) have public access computers available, and someone is usually available to give you a hand or help you sign up for a class or a tutor.



Planing for Peppers

Believe it or not, now is the time to plan for peppers.  Peppers do an outstanding job when our summers are hot.  However, our cool spring weather can get them off to a dismal start. They tend to be very slow growing when young; the cooler it is, the slower they grow.  A little planning ahead will help you grow the best pepper crop ever.  Peppers of all kinds can be started inside (in late January or early February) if you can provide a warm location and bright light. Peppers germinate best with soil temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees. You can get a good guestimate of indoor soil temperature by laying a room thermometer down on the surface where you will place your seeded six packs. It may take some experimenting to find the right location. You need the seeded six packs to stay warm at night, but not get over heated during the day when they are under lights. Many people resort to special heating mats made for starting seeds; others skip the seed starting step and purchase young plants ready to harden off and slip into the ground.  If you want to grow your own peppers from seed, it is a good idea to find your spot or shop for a heating mat now. Most nurseries and garden catalogs keep them in stock, especially this time of year. Shop around; prices for exactly the same set up can vary greatly.

In January our minds are on catalogs, even when thinking of peppers. If you are interested in growing organic heirloom peppers, The Seed Savers Exchange has a great catalog.  Seed Savers offers seedlings of eight different heirlooms, three of which are hot, with the rest being mild or sweet.  You can mix and match or order a sampler pack.  And they have an amazing variety, nearly 50 different kinds of peppers, available as seed. (563) 382-5900 / <www.SeedSavers.org>.  If the latest hybrids are what you want; Burpee has in a dazzling variety, many available as seedlings or seeds.  (800) 487-5530 / <www.Burpee.com>.  If you are hoping for peppers even if next summer is cool, then you should visit Territorial Seeds. They have an awesome selection of both seeds and plants that have been proven to do well in the Pacific North West. 800-626-0866 / <http://www.territorialseed.com/>. You can request a catalog on-line or by from any of these companies.

Once you get your seeds growing or your plants delivered, you will want to keep them in containers until all threat of frost has past.  They will enjoy spending warm days outside, at first in the shade.  Each day they should be exposed to more and more sun, until they are ready to stick their feet in the soil and thrive.  Don’t forget to bring them in at night if it might get down close to freezing.  Save your peppers a sunny spot in the garden and they will reward you with a bountiful harvest.


 

Fresh Produce From the Garden

Winter’s crisp cold nights have an uncanny effect on many root vegetables, turning them sweeter than if they were grown in the summer. If you planted parsnips last spring; carrots, rutabagas, or turnips this fall—you can look forward to a special treat. Get out your shovel next time we get a break from the rain and use it to carefully loosen the soil around these delectable roots.  Dig only as many as you will need for a few days; they will stay sweeter and fresher in the ground than they will in the fridge.  You can use them in most any dish that comes to mind, such as home-made soups, casseroles, stir fries, or grated into salads.  For a real treat try roasting up a batch of mixed veggies. Roasting brings out the flavors of fresh dug winter roots like nothing else can, whether you throw them in next to a pot roast or a nice fat hen; or if you just roast them up on their own. 

Here is a veggie roasting technique that doesn’t require using parchment or any other fancy supplies. You can use a metal cookie sheet or a baking pan--whatever you happen to have on hand (and is safe for use under the broiler). Scrub up your veggies and cut them into pieces about two inches long by an inch wide and a half inch thick. Brush your pan and the veggies with a thin coat of olive oil. (If you don’t have olive oil, use whatever you have on hand.)  You can sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper or other seasoning if you like. Place your veggies in a single layer on your pan, and set your oven rack so the surface of the veggies will be about five inches from the heat.  Turn the oven on to broil, and keep a close eye on the veggies.  After about five minutes, as they begin to brown, you want to move them around on the pan so they don’t stick.  Continue checking them every three to five minutes. As they develop a nice warm color, pull the pan from the oven, brush their tops with oil and flip them over.  They won’t all be ready to flip, nor will they all be ready to remove from the oven at the same time.  But every time you turn or remove some, the rest can be shifted just a bit to keep them from sticking.  If you don’t devour these delectable morsels as soon as they cool, you can serve them as a side dish; arrange them on lettuce or other greens, toss them with pasta, tuck them into a sandwich, or offer them as a finger food with a little dip.  

However you serve them, the results are elegant. And it is so easy to prepare.  It is best to stay in the kitchen while they cook, because you don’t want to let your poor roots get scorched.  You can use the time to toss a salad or set the table.  It’s fun and it’s yum!

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Published by the Willapa Harbor Herald, December 4th, 2017.  Posted here with permission.

A previous version was previously published by the Hoopa People News, in 2007.

Copyright 2017,  Harvest McCampbell.  Please feel free to use the buttons below to share.  All other rights reserved.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Avoiding Bed Bugs

Cimex lectularius, bed bugs, are parasites of human beings. Their only food is our blood, and they need it for every stage of their lives. Scientist tell us that they are very genetically diverse, very adaptable, and that they have been with us as long as we have existed. Once they thoroughly infest a home or an apartment, they are difficult to get rid of. The best offense is a good defense.

The first thing we need to think about is how they arrive in our homes to begin with.  Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers. They hitchhike in and out of homes and business on people’s shoes, hats, scarves, sweaters, and coats. Holiday parties and family gatherings, where coats and sweaters may be thrown on a bed or be crowded into a closet, are the beloved Grand Central Station of bed bugs. Hotels and motels are also often bed bug transit stations, and they can be carried home in one’s luggage.  

Bed bugs can also enter our homes under their own power.  The adults grow to about 1/16th of an inch, sometimes larger, and they can travel fairly long distances and squeeze through the tiniest cracks.  One survival instinct possess is the desire to spread out.  A small population of bed bugs is difficult to detect; however, a large one is impossible to ignore.  

These adaptable creatures have also learned to sense threats, and will flee from rooms, homes, apartments, and businesses where pesticides and heat treatments are being used. Whether or not the treatments are successful for the home or apartment in question, the majority of the insects will have fled through narrow cracks around baseboards, windows, plumbing, switch plates, and through electrical outlets as well.  These are the same pathways they can use to enter your home!  

One begins to see how tricky it can be to avoid an infestation. Understanding what attracts bed bugs can help. They have very a very keen sense of smell, and it is cued into all the sorts of scents that humans emit, even the ones we cannot smell ourselves.  Their sense of smell is their primary way of finding us.  
In our homes and apartments, and even in our offices and businesses, we can begin by sealing those tiny cracks mentioned above that allow them to enter. Those tiny cracks also allow scents to waft down the pathways and hiding places in our walls where bed bugs like to spend their days, out of the sight of human beings. 

Frequent airing out of our homes and offices is also helpful.  Given a choice, bed bugs will head for the strongest human scents.  You don’t want that to be your home.  Besides, frequent airing lets out the toxins that are out-gassing from all the synthetic materials found in our homes and buildings, the fumes from our cleaning products, and it lets in fresh air and oxygen.  Frequent airing makes your home healthier!


Laundry Tips: 

Laundry should be done frequently, as piles of dirty laundry are bed bug magnets. Sheets at least, and all bedding if there is a possibility of infestation, should be washed every week. Washing with hot water and drying on high heat kills bed bugs.  And for those doing laundry at home, once the washer has filled and started agitating, you can turn off the cycle for the night or the day, and they will all drown—even if the fabrics involved cannot stand high heat.  If you have no laundry facilities at home, you can use a bucket or the tub to soak those items that cannot be washed in hot water or put in the dryer.  Just make sure to squeeze out any air and that the fabric is completely submerged.

When out visiting, avoid piling your outer wear up with other people’s clothes or hats.  If you know ahead of time that this is not going to be avoidable, have a couple of plastic garbage bags waiting for you at home, one by your front door and one in the most convenient place to change clothes near your entrance. Also have a complete change of clothes waiting for you near the second garbage bag.  Place all your outer wear in the first one, and seal it tightly.  Then change your clothes and seal them in the other bag.  In between, you might wish to shower and wash your hair.  Bed bugs do not ordinarily hitchhike on our skin or in our hair, and they usually wait till we are asleep to actually touch us, but we can easily transfer them to our hair with hats and scarf’s.  And in very heavily infested buildings they can drop down on us from light fixtures and vents. 
 
Your bagged clothes can then be treated at your leisure.  You can soak them for 6 to 8 hours, wash them with hot water and dry on high, or leave them outside in freezing weather for four days or more.  Ironing with a hot iron or steaming thoroughly with a special clothing steamer will also do the trick.  In addition one can purchase small heat chambers made for treating items that may have come in contact with bed bugs.
And then there are our shoes.  Shoes smell like heaven to bed bugs.  Taking your shoes off when you come in your home, or even before, is a good idea.  Not only does this reduce the possibility that you are depositing these hitchhikers throughout your home, it gives the shoes a chance to air out.  The less scent the shoes have, the less attractive they will be to bed bugs.  In fact, having two or three pairs of everyday shoes is a good idea.  The longer you can air them out between wearings, the better.  If your feet tend to sweat and, um, well, smell—several sets of activated charcoal inserts will help.  You can also air the inserts out separately from your shoes, and rotate them on a daily basis.

Tea Tree, citronella, and lavender essential oils are known to confuse bed bugs.  Using a drop or two on each shoe before leaving the house can be helpful.  Essential oils are generally available from natural food stores, herb shops, some bed and bath type stores, as well as from many on-line outlets.

There is also a product called CimeXa which is completely non-toxic when used as directed.  It is the current scientifically proven go-to treatment for bed bugs.  It’s a dust that has no scent at all.  A tiny puff wafted into each shoe provides excellent protection from any bug that comes in contact with it.  Once you have your CimeXa, read the label and consider treating the inside of your car as well.  If you are going to travel, treat your luggage before you leave, and all your belongings before you come home.  With CimeXa, more is not better. The dust should be applied so finely that you can’t actually see it.  If the bed bugs can see it, they will avoid it.  CimeXa is only available on-line at this time, but it is available from many different sellers.  (See comments for more information on CimeXa.)

Helping Others:

Meanwhile, if you need to help a friend or family member with laundry and sealing all those tiny crawl spaces in a building where there is a known infestation, don’t stop at using essential oils.  Deet, which can be a problem for sensitive people, is the best bed bug repellant you can buy.  It is not healthy, however, to use Deet on a daily basis.  But if you need to help clean up an infested area, put it to good use.  And definitely wear clothing and shoes that can be soaked, left out to freeze, or washed and dried on high heat.

Bed bugs reproduce very quickly, and they then disperse in an effort to protect themselves.  Ignoring someone else’s infestation is not only harmful to the person affected; it is harmful to us all.  Let’s try to be good neighbors and help where help is needed.  We can stop this before it becomes our scourge. 

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Your right, this isn't about gardening, but you might need to know!  

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Published by the Willapa Harbor Herald, December 21, 2016 under the title 'Bed Bugs are Among Us.' Posted here with permission.  (This version is slightly edited. The originally published version refers to our local community and this version also contains a few corrections.)

Copyright 2016, Harvest McCampbell.  Please feel free to use the buttons below to share.  All other rights reserved.