Saturday, January 21, 2006

Heading south for a few days

Dear Readers,

I am heading down to San Jose for a few days. I am going to have my head examined. LOL Literally. I am seeing a specialist for the brain injury. So even though it is warm and sunny out I am in here, trying to get ready to go.

Of course I keep getting distracted. First by germinating seedlings, I had miners lettuce and white butterfly weed to transfer to cell packs. Then since I was fussing with the cell packs I had to examine each seedling and top some cells off with soil. Then I counted the empty cells. Since there were plenty I had to get out the seeds and decide what to germinate next. Hmmmm . . . I choose Dames Rocket (from a round robin) and two kinds of Pak Choy (from ). Since the seeds were out, I had to work on their organization a bit . . .

Then the Gemplers catalog arrived. ( ) And as soon as my Son was done looking at it, I had to have a turn. I looked at every page to do with gardening, nurseries, farms, and . . . ahhh . . . ummm . . . What the heck am I supposed to be doing? LOL

I still haven't packed. And I haven't gotten outside either. Oh well . . . I am going to get right no it . . .

I hope to have some time Tuesday morning - maybe I will find a nursery to visit in San Jose. If I remember I'll tell you all about it . . .

Until Wednesday - you all have fun in your gardens without me!


Friday, January 20, 2006

What I forgot, Grandma, Shrubs, & Slugs

What I forgot:

Yesterday when I was telling you about my “worm hole garden” I knew I was forgetting something. Here’s the list: Mallow Zabrina, Egyptian onions, chives – a new from seed clump and a much older clump, and Greek oregano, as well as a few ornamentals and bulbs. The slugs aren’t bothering any of these edibles. Whew. At least a few things are safe.

Grandma, Shrubs, & Slugs:

Yesterday I got to thinking about my dang slugs and future possibilities. What if I never feel better enough to pick those slugs everyday? I don’t want to get into a habit of using a purchased product, especially a poison, even if it is supposed to be safe and beneficial. I just don’t believe that a substance that is poison to one creature is entirely harmless to the rest of us. With all this stirring around in my mind, I remembered one of the precepts of the organic gardening movement. All things in balance.

The goal is not to eliminate the pest species, but rather to encourage their natural predators. When the pest and its predators exist within a good balance the predators always have enough to eat, and so do we. It is kind of like the deer in the woods. Without some predatory pressure they would over populate, eat all our acorns and herbs, and actually become unhealthy and weak. But what the heck is going to eat my slugs? They are just dang gross.

The predatory slugs I have observed in my yard, hunting other slugs came to mind. But I all ready have these creatures and they are just not doing the trick. Stymied, I asked myself, “What did Grandma do?” Oh yes, Grandma had toads. Toads controlled her slugs. Hmmm . . . I wondered, why don’t I have toads. I have even caught them and turned them loose in my yard. But there is really no evidence of toads making their home here.

I remembered being a small child in Grandma’s yard. The edges of her yard were bordered with shrubs of various kinds. Some of them were medicine plants, some bore fragrant flowers, other produced edible fruit. Together they formed a thick permanent border. Most of grandma’s shrubs were evergreen, however there were a few deciduous shrubs, and even some vines. As a little child, on my belly, I would peer under these bushes, which began branching within a few inches of the ground. “Don’t you hurt my toads, Child,” Grandma would say.

There was a magical world of fairies and toads under Grandma’s shrubs. She kept the ground mulched with grass clippings and leaves. And she arranged cracked bowls and broken crockery under there to form both homes and wading pools for the toads. If you didn’t get down on your belly, you would never know that secret world was there. Once I discovered the toad’s pools it became my job to make sure they had plenty of water. Before they gained my attention, rain, dew, and the sprinkler filled them.

I have kept toads in most of the yards I have lived in ever since. Why don’t I have toads now? It is a simple answer. I have no safe toad habitat. The hedgerows of England and the boxwood hedges of formal European gardens are brought to mind. These features offer many benefits to the gardens and landscapes they occupy. Not only do they provide beneficial toad habitat, when hedgerows include native and fruiting plants they provide food and safe harbor for birds and butterflies.

Most important to me, is the knowledge that Grandma’s shrubs were not just frivolous, eccentric, or even a nod to mainstream landscape ideas. Not only did they provide beauty, food, and medicine, they were toad habitat. They fostered a balance between pest and predator for her yard and gardens.

Grandma left me a long time ago. But I still find much wisdom in the way she lived and in the stories she taught me. While I may not remember all the exact shrubs Grandma grew, I do have some ideas about what I might try here in this oh so wet landscape.
One of the first “shrubs” I am going to try to get established is the illustrious Olive. I have been doing some research on the production of olive oil. Many of the new olive orchards are being trained as shrubs. They come into production faster and are easier to care for. I am not sure that the Olive will thrive here, but I am set to give it a try.

I have found a couple of sources for information on shrubs that provide edible fruit. One is a catalog to drool over. “One Green World” makes its home in Molalla Oregon and on the web at: They carry many intriguing and unusual fruit varieties from around the world. The other is a great web site “Plants for a Future.” I love this webs site and visit it often. They have an interesting approach to permaculture, and many interesting articles are posted. They also have a great database you can use to look up information and many useful plants. Check them out: They have specific information on hedges:
And shrubs: We will probably all find lots of items to add to our plant want lists!

Until next time,


Copyright 2005 Harvest McCampbell

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Winter veggies and them dang slugs . . .

Dear Readers,

Today I was taking a little visual inventory of what I had in the ground in my winter garden. (I also have 3 raised beds, but before I move on to talking about those, I want to think some more about what is in the ground.) This little essay is off the cuff - at the tired end of the day.

I have 3 or 4 producing Brussels sprout plants. They are probably over a year old. We have very cool summer nights and very short winter days. Some things take much longer to produce here than they might in another spot. Anyway, I also have younger 4 Brussels sprout plants planted last fall. As this is only my second time planting Brussels sprouts I am not going to predict when/if they will produce. But I find even though the plants attract slugs and aphids, they are very productive over a long period. (So I also have seedlings not yet mature enough to plant out.)

I have several garland chrysanthemum plants at various spaces of maturity. They like the cool weather, and they are good in salad, soup, stir fry and in mixed greens. The slugs don't bother them too much, which is great. I also brand new seedlings of these.

My Cilantro with is planted out in the ground is not doing as well as the one about the same age planted in a raised bed. Additionally the younger plants are having a big problems with slugs. And they aren't the only plants that are suffering. *

The four Red Russian Kale are doing awesome. They are young, planted this last fall, but I still get a few leaves from them once in a while - for soups, stir fry, and mixed greens. The tender young leaves up to 2 inches long are great in salad. An interesting note on the RRK. Last year I had 5 different kinds of flowering cabbage and kale. They were flowering the same time as the RRK. I saved seeds from those flowering brassicas and mixed them together. The seedlings that I am now growing out from those mixed brassicas all look a bit like the RRK. They have a lot more diversity of form than the seedlings of the RRK did - but you can definitely tell who donated the pollen. (Hey, check this out, they are trying to say that all brassicas came from sea kale: But sea kale's seeds are very different than those of the brassicas. I have some sea kale seeds - anyone ever grow them before?)

There is also some bulbing fennel. They are yummy however you fix them. They seem to grow faster in the raised beds, but also do pretty good in the ground - except when the gophers get them.

I have a number of Pak Choy plants - and none of them are doing well. In the summer they struggled along and suffered in the heat. Now, planted in the fall, they are bolting and horribly hounded by slugs. I am going to have to keep on experimenting with the Pak Choy to find a good planting time and a good variety for my area.

There are some very young sprouting broccoli, leaf broccoli, Italian parsley, sweet cecily, and giant red kale. All hounded by slugs. Dang slugs anyway. The walking stick kale seems to be avoiding the slugs about the best.

Last but not least (and I am profile forgetting something) I have some mature celery, red Russian kale, locinto kale. I think that about covers it for the things planted over the worms dinner - except for the things in raised beds . . . And I am fading fast . . .

I had a slightly busy day in the garden. I helped my Son plant an apple tree. He did the hard parts, but we did end up with some left over dirt that I sifted into my raised beds around the plants. I also dug my regular worm hole and planted a cardoon and an arugula over the hole. And again the left over dirt got sifted into the raised beds. Gosh darn it - and now I am beat.

* My normal slug control plan has always involved hand picking slugs. When there have been near by chickens, ducks, or whatever to donate the pickings too so much the better. If not they just get tied up in recycled plastic bags and sent to the land fill. But since the accident I really don't feel well enough to pick slugs twice a day - so they are starting to get out of hand. I am going to break down and get some Sluggo:
They claim this product is safe for pets and wildlife - but I have seen forums were folks discussed pretty bad stories about chickens getting poisoned. My plan is to put the Sluggo in narrow mouthed bottles, so the slugs have to crawl in the bottles to take the bait. That way birds, bunnies, pets, etc. won't have direct access to the bait. I am only going to use this as a tempore measure, till I can go back to hand picking. I just don't completely trust anything poison- natural or not.

Ok, wish me sweet dreams . . . LOL . . .


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lightning, nitrogen, phone service, and worms . . .

Dear Readers,

Yesterday while I was at the library I read a short article in the current issue of Organic Gardening magazine about how lightning storms increase the levels of nitrogen in our soils. Then of all things, last night nature treated us to the most glorious thunder storm with lightning so bright it hurt - even though my eyes were closed . . . I hope our gardens will prosper. Here is more on nitrogen, lightning, plants, etc.:

The storm also reminded me about how tenuous our phone and electric service is here during the winter months. If I ever disappear for a bit, unannounced, it is probably on account of wild winter weather.

And in response to a comment on worms . . . Yes, I was being a little tongue in cheek - but it is all true. And yes my pesky pet worms spy on my business in the garden, especially in the winter. They are not so interested in the seeds or seedlings I am planting, but their dinner, which I am burying a little deeper down. All animals are probably smarter than science gives them credit for, and people may be a bit dumber than science likes to admit. Even a worm can determine the types of sensory stimulus that means dinner is on the way . . .

Ahh yes, Dinner - I picked brussel sprouts and a mess of greens for tonight's dinner. The greens include wild radish and mizuni bolts, garland chrysanthemum, celery leaves and stalks, and one artichoke leaf. Yes, artichoke leaves are edible, and in fact they are quite yummy . . .

I have seedlings to transfer to cell packs. The seed boxes to organize, and I am expecting bulbs in the mail . . . I better go. Hope to be back tomorrow.



Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Organizing the home seed bank

Dear Readers,

I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject, but I do have some thoughts. Bountiful Gardens in Willits CA recomends storing your home saved seeds in recycled glass jars, which was what I was planning on doing. (You can request their free, and infomative catalog by e-mail) But then we had an evacuation scare and I was really glad my seeds were not in bulky, heavy, space taking jars.

The sky has been providing us with way more than our fair share of rain. (12 inches above average last time I checked) Along about new years, the river was rising and we were told to prepare for evacuation. I ran around the house with plastic bags, collecting the seeds from various drawers, padded envelopes, piles, and boxes.

Right at that moment I knew I needed to get more organized – not just think about it.
I also knew that jars were not the way to go. Between forest fires and the river threatening to flood, we typically have several evacuation scares a year. I wanted my seeds easy to move, compact, and light weight.

Things calmed down for a bit and one of the round robins I participate in arrived. The seeds inside the box were seperated into catagories. Each category was securly zippered into its own reclosable bag and labeled: Veggies, annuals, wild flowers, etc. Ahha! This will work well.

I am now sorting through my seeds. I have two different plastic lidded containers one small and one larger. The smaller one will hold my personal seeds – those seeds I am saving to grow myself. The larger box will hold the seeds I save, trade for, or purchase that are in excess of my own personal needs. These are the seeds I use to trade with, sometimes give away, and that I use to make donations to community gardens and other projects.

My catagories mirror the catagories listed in the key for my seed list – back of border, middle of border, front of border; as well as separate sections for winter greens, winter squash, etc. I am still in progress with the organization. I spend about 30 minutes at it a day. However, I already have discovered a few things I have way more than I need both for myself and my usual trades, shares, and donations . . .

Stay tuned, I feel a seed give away coming on . . .


Monday, January 16, 2006

Getting Ready for Seed Exchanges

The dead of winter is a great time to begin preparing for next summers seed exchanges. As long as we are looking at seed catalogs and dreaming, we might as well start making our own lists. While cruising the seed catalogs keep your eye out, not only for what you want, but for what they are selling that you already have. You might be pleased to find that some of the things you think of as weeds are considered valuable as herbs, edibles, or wild flowers.

Those plentiful weeds in your yard, may be rare and sought after in another region. You may be surpised, but many of these volunteer plants may actually have trade value. Here is a great catalog to check out: You will probably find many of your common weeds listed here. Richters catalog reads like an herb encyclopeadia. It is also rich with color pictures. You can request a catalog be sent to you at their link above. And who knows, you may find a few things in there that you can’t live without.

If you are not sure of the identification of any of your plants, you can try taking samples to your local nursery. You can also look in the phone book under “UC Co-operative Agriculture Extension” (in your county listings) and let them know you have some plants you want to identify. They will let you know if they have someone available to help you. They often sponsor Master Gardner plant clinics, and if so, this will be a good place to find knowledgeable folks to answer your questions.

When making your list of seeds available for trade, you can include any vegetables, flowers, herbs, and usefull weeds you have growing. You can also include the leftover unused seed from packets that you have purchased. Most people will want to know if the seed is saved or commercial, and it’s date. For saved seed, people usually use the date it was collected. For purchased seed use the date printed on the package, or your best guess if the package is undated.

You may want to check out some other seed trade lists before you compose your own, just to get an idea of the type of formats people use. At the bottom of this post you will find three links to yahoo garden groups where folks arrange plant exchanges. Check the files section on the group called “seedswapworldwide” and “thegardenseedexchange,” you will find some trade and seed lists posted. If you know of other sites for people to check out, please post the link in the comments section.

Another site you will want to check out is “The Seed Site.” They have information on seeds and seed pods, harvesting seed – which includes information on trading, and so much more. Spend some time surfing this site, you will be glad you did. And you will probably find yourself going back again and again to answer questions not addressed anywhere else.
Once you get your list and seeds organized it is time to find some folks to trade with. Below you will find some friendly groups that love to trade seeds. If you know of other groups or websites for trading seeds, or have any questions, please feel free to post links in the comments section.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Round Robins

Dear Readers,

This post is more or less in reply to "anoynomous" who left a comment on my previous post on round robins . . .

How do you find a seed round robin to join? Did you make one up among seed-saver friends? Sometimes round robins get stuck on somebody's desk and then it stops. Sounds like a dynamite way to get past the overspecific I want this-I want that specifications and get the process happening faster, though.

I found my first Round Robin on yahoo groups - and helped organize the other one.

I just did a search on seeds/round robins on Yahoo Groups <> and found this group: I am not a member - so I don't know how well they work.

I belong to this Yahoo Group that has a couple of Round Robins, in fact it is where I joined my first robin: However both the round robins and the moderator seem to be missing in action . . . So here is proof that Round Robins can be problematic.

I also belong to this Yahoo Group - where I run a Round Robin: This Round Robin is currently full, however, we have almost completed one round at which point we will be adding more folks, first come first serve. There is also talk on the group of starting a few other round robins - so if you have enough extra seeds to get one going this might be a good place to drum up participants. (It is also a great group with lots of information being shared.)

You can probably find other Round Robins by simply searching on your favorite search engine. And if any one reading this knows of Round Robins accepting new members - pleas let us know. You can reply to this post, or send me an e-mail or instant message . . .

Round Robins can definitely be problematic. It can take a few years to get one going in a way that turns out to be efficient and really usefully for all the members. You have to weed out those folks who don't move the robin along or who only take seeds and don't add to the box. And yes, sometimes they die for being lost in the mail or whatever. My philosophy regarding the robin is that if it keels over I will just get it going again. I have tons of seeds that I have saved, purchased, and traded for. As long as you have a playful attitude towards the round robins and don't get too attached they can be great fun.

The rain has paused for the moment - so I am off to go feed my worms . . .

Have a great garden day!