Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Historic Vegetable Gardens (Part 2)

Other historical gardening books for further reading and research:

The Family Kitchen Gardener by Robert Buist, published in 1861.

The Kitchen Gardener's Instructor by Thomas Bridgeman, published in 1847. Here's an excerpt on my favorite big berry:
A celebrated writer observes, that " the common Tomato
made into a gravy, by stewing over the fire, and used as a
sauce for meat, has been known to quicken the action of the
liver and of the bowels, better than any medicine he ever
made use of." He states farther, that " when afflicted with
inaction of the bowels, headache, a bad taste of the mouth,
straitness of the chest, and a dull and painful heaviness of
the region of the liver, the whole of these symptoms are
removed by Tomato sauce, and the mind, in the course of
some few hours, is put in perfect tune."
And that was long before we heard anything about lycopene!
A New York Times article from 1993 discusses historical gardening and highlights Pennsylvania's Landis Valley Museum and its Heirloom Seed Project.
If you are interested in the vegetables and flowers grown by the Germans who settled in Pennyslvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster, Pa., offers seeds through its Heirloom Seed Project.

"One of our most interesting seeds is the Mosteller wild goose bean," said Nancy Pippart, the coordinator. "This bean has stayed with the Mosteller family for 125 years, and it was first found in the craw of a Canada goose by a woman who went to dress the bird."

The Wild Goose Bean is one of the beans we planted at John Brown's House, and saved for next year. They were donated by Plasterer's Florist and Greenhouses here in Chambersburg from their Landis Valley Heirloom Seed Project section. A PDF with seed descriptions is here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Historic Vegetable Gardens (Part 1)

Linda S. took these pictures of the gardens at John Brown’s House in Chambersburg earlier this month (We promise to get some pictures of the garden in season next year.) In case you were unaware, the Master Gardeners of Franklin County worked with the folks at the Franklin County Historical Society-Kittochtinny, to establish a demonstration kitchen garden to go along with the restoration of the boarding house used in the mid 19th century. Its most famous roomer was, of course, John Brown, who planned and executed the raid at Harpers Ferry from these premises. You’ll have to take the guided tour at the house to learn about the “Bean Pole Incident” that we tried to portray with the supports you can see in the picture. If you go on certain Fridays, our leader, Linda S. will be your host guide, all gussied up in period costume, hoop dress and bonnet.

Those poles were cut from the woods behind my house, and lashed together by Donna B. using techniques described here and here. (I really like those 1863 hoop training tomato supports shown here in "The field and garden vegetables of America" book).

The garden was designed by our own Jill H. and planned with help from Renfrew Institute's staff biologist, Dr. Doris Armstrong Goldman, the recently published author of Moon Rue & Mary’s Root, Plants of the Pennsylvania Dutch Four-Square Garden. The comprehensive volume covers more than 400 plants—cultivated and wild—grown and used by Pennsylvania Germans (also called Pennsylvania Dutch) in their traditional “four square” gardens.

Entries include fruits, vegetables, cooking herbs, ornamentals, and plants used for medicines, soaps, perfumes and children’s toys from around 1800 through the Civil War era. More than 100 botanical illustrations highlight the text.

Each entry in the book includes the scientific, Pennsylvania Dutch and common English names for the plant, plus geographic origin, when the plant was first used, and how it was used by the Pennsylvania Dutch and others. Tips on traditional medicinal uses, recommended historical varieties and hints for cultivation are also included. The volume is published on a CD using PDF format.

Although the privy in the picture above is for display only, and non-functional (it houses some garden tools), the archaeological excavations of the outdoor privies at Renfrew show that many of the seed varieties covered in Dr. Goldman's book were grown there.

Some of the historical vegetable seeds used at Renfrew and John Brown’s – heirloom varieties that were grown at the time - include Cardoon, Salsify, Scarlet Runner Beans, Goose Beans, Spelt Beans, and German Red Limas, hot pepper Hinkelhatz (chicken heart), as well as the variegated leafed Fish Pepper. Tomato varieties included Amish Paste, Riesentraube Cherry, Purple Calabash, and Pittman’s Plum. There were multiple cabbage varieties, as well.

Master Gardeners worked with Dr. Goldman this past Spring, starting about 600 plants for both locations at Renfrew and John Brown’s House. The Four Square Garden at Renfrew is planted entirely by school children of Franklin County. In 2009, there were over 41 classes, representing over 900 children learning both history and horticulture.

In 2010, the Four Square Garden at Renfrew will be moved to an expanded area.

You can order Moon Rue and Mary’s Root by contacting Renfrew Institute at:

It’s priced at $24.00 including shipping, or $21.20, if you go there to buy it.

I'm looking forward to continued collaborative efforts with Renfrew and the Historical Society in 2010.

Pollen Pics

Tom Butzler at the Gardening in the Keystone State Blog, points us to these incredibly beautiful close up pictures of pollen grains from the December issue of National Geographic. Wow!

In allowing plants to have sex at a distance, pollen, and ultimately flowers, led to explosive diversification, turning a brown planet green and then red, yellow, white, orange, and all the rest. Pollen diversified too. In the 300,000 pollen-bearing plant species on Earth, there are 300,000 different forms of pollen. The great variety in colors, shapes, and textures of the grains has evolved in accordance with each plant's biological particulars. Beetle-pollinated plants tend to have smooth, sticky pollen, the better to adhere to the lumbering beetles' backs. Plants pollinated by fast-moving bees or flies may have spiny pollen that lodges easily between the insects' hairs. Plants pollinated by bigger animals, such as bats, sometimes have bigger pollen, though not always—perhaps not even most of the time. In the details of pollen's variety, more remains to be explained than is understood.

Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Extension Board Annual Meeting January 2010

The Penn State Cooperative Extension Board of Directors of Franklin County invites all Master Gardeners and the General Public to attend the 92nd Franklin County Cooperative Extension Association Annual Meeting.

This year’s speaker is Professor H. Louis Moore of the Agricultural Economics Department of Penn State University, whose topic is “The Need for Food by Emerging Countries and its impact on Franklin County Agriculture.”

The event will take place on Friday, January 29th, 2010 at Solomon’s Lutheran Church, 4856 Wayne Road, Chambersburg, PA, from 6:15 PM – 9:00 PM. Tickets are $12.50 for adults, and $6.00 for children aged 5-11. Tickets are available from the Extension Office at 263-9226, or any Extension Board member. Dinner is included.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Blogs at The College of Ag Sciences at PSU

The College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State provides a link page to blogs of interest throughout the state. Our blog is the most recent entry. Check out the others, including one from our own Jonathan Rotz – Franklin County Agronomy. I’ve added a permanent link to the side bar (click on the “Read our Blogs” item on the left of the page at the site.)

Here's another MG Blog from Clinton/Centre Counties, Gardening in the Keystone State.

And one from Dr. Chris Raines, an Associate Professor in the Department of Dairy and Animal Science, Meat is Neat.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Seed Catalogs

Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge Tomato from Baker Creek Seeds

Need to whet your appetite for the next growing season? Some 2010 garden seed catalogs are out already. Judging from my mailbox, Baker Creek, Pinetree Garden, and Totally Tomatoes win the early sweepstakes. Got any others?

The Three Minute Gardener

Check out the archived videos of Penn State's "Three Minute Gardener" series. These are short videos, about 3-4 minutes long covering various garden topics. The two soil test videos below were originally part of this series. Some examples:
Container Gardening
Rain Barrels
Lady Beetles
Forcing Bulbs
Many more at the site. I added a link in the sidebar.

Soil Test Videos

Penn State Professor of Horticulture, Rob Berghage, explains the process and benefits of a soil test.

Ever wondered how the lab processes your soil sample? Here's a behind the scenes look at soil analysis:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Forest Resources On-Line Seminars

The School of Forest Resources in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State has put on-line many of its recorded internet seminars, or webinars. They can be accessed here.

Just click on the ‘view’ button at the site to watch the seminar, or, alternatively, download the power point presentation and read at your leisure. The site includes links to handouts that can be printed, or viewed on-line. Each of these seminars count as advanced training for MG credits.

Some of the topics that I’ll be watching over the coming months are:

1) Summer Tree ID made easy
2) Invasive Plants in Your Forest
3) Invasive Insects in Your Forest
4) Wildlife Habitat

I’ve added a permanent link in the sidebar: ‘Forest Resources - Webinars’

If you register at their site, you can subscribe to their on-line publication, Forest Leaves, their quarterly newsletter, and receive email announcements of upcoming Webinars.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Becoming a Friend of Penn State

Access to some software applications that the University provides requires creating a “Friends of Penn State” account. This is a totally free account with privacy assured, that will provide a modicum of security control and some demographic data about who is using the application. It’s essentially just an on-line identity for PSU applications, very similar to registering for on-line access to free content from Newspapers and Magazines.

The process is easy. Go here. Click on "Create an Account". Answer the information (First Name, Middle Name, Last Name, Address) and create a password (must be at least 8 characters long and contain both letters and at least one number). You will be given a userid, based on your initials (if you don’t provide a middle initial, one will be assigned) and numbers. So, my userid is rce11, for example. Linda S. is lbs112. Linda H. is lmh19, etc. You’ll also need to fill out some basic demographic data.

Eventually, all Master Gardeners (and other Extension volunteers, including 4H’ers) will need to open a “Friend of the University” account because sometime after the first of the year, the system for reporting our volunteer hours will be changed, and the new application will require folks to use this registration process in order to gain access to the new system.

We'll know more after the training session in Gettysburg that Linda and I will attend on November 12, so stay tuned.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shelob in the Lavender

I reached down to collect some calendula seeds in the Herb Demonstration Garden on Monday, and came up close and personal with this beautiful spider.

Laurie C. was kind enough (and brave enough – given her confessed arachnophobia) to come in and get pictures.

The web is right in the middle of the lavender patch at the center of the Herb Garden.

We’ve narrowed the ID down to Argiope aurantia (Yellow Garden Spider), or Argiope trifasciata (Banded Garden Spider) and asked Alex to confirm.

Argiopes, like other orb-web spiders, weave an additional pattern of white silk in their webs (visible in the center of the web in the first picture), called stabilimenta. Scientists are unsure of the purpose of the stabilimenta, speculating that they provide an additional attractant for prey, that they can be used to scare off predators, or that they provide a visible means for birds and mammals to notice the web and leave it undisturbed. One of the common names for aurantia, is writing spider, for the resemblance of the stabilimenta to writing. Charlotte must have belonged to this family.

The Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet, Commonly Encountered Pennsylvania Spiders, is an excellent resource to hand out to the public when you're covering the help desk and you're asked about a spider specimen.

Check out this battle between an aurentia garden spider and a huge cicada-killer wasp.

UPDATE: Alex says A. trifasciata and sends this picture of A. aurantia that he took in Delaware County, PA.

UPDATE II: Alex went back to the Herb Garden and took these pictures:

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Way to Garden

Angela W. sends this link to another garden blog, "A Way to Garden" hosted by Margaret Roach, a former garden editor at Newsday in New York, and, more recently, Martha Stewart Living, where she was the magazine’s first garden editor and until 2008 was editorial director over all of the company’s content: magazines, books, and internet. I've added a link in the sidebar.

Friday, October 9, 2009

An Albino Wooly Bear?

Nancy M. sent in a picture of a wooly white caterpillar that was eating her oak trees. Alex was able to identify it as a hickory tussock moth caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae). Those long hairs are defense mechanisms that can cause stinging rashes.

From the OSU fact sheet:

Caterpillars or larvae of certain moths possess stinging hairs. These sharp hairs or spines are either hollow, connected to poison glands (venom flows on contact), or similar to glass fibers (hairs break off in skin easily) sometimes causing pain like a needle prick. Depending on the individual, reaction to the sting ranges from mild, with local reddening, swelling, burning and itching to severe pain. Hypersensitive persons may experience severe swelling, nausea and generalized systemic reactions, occasionally requiring hospital treatment. In severe cases, entrance of hairs into the eye can cause blindness.

This caterpillar is basically white with a black head and when fully grown is about 1-1/2 inches long. Symptoms are usually a skin rash (poison ivy-like) and sometimes severe itching followed by a painful burning sensation.
Here’s the Wikipedia entry.


I was really looking forward to growing some Scarlet Runner Beans next year, based on the ones we saved from the John Brown’s House. (Close up at right). They are simply gorgeous. I was imagining some redone bean dish with that purply, mottled appearance, paired with some contrasting color combination to wow fellow MG’s and folks at Church potlucks. No such luck.

Barbara Damrosh, who writes a weekly (every Thursday) “Cook’s Garden” column for the Home Section of the Washington Post has this to say:

…the anthocyanins that account for the gorgeous pinkness dissolve when cooked, and the beans, though still fine to eat, fade to a lavender-gray
How disappointing. I think I'll grow them anyway.

The Home section is also host to a weekly column by Scott Aker, a horticulturalist at the National Arboretum, who this week has some advice about preventing spindly mums.

He's also doing his part to overcome the "secret" part of the "Best Kept Secret", known as Cooperative Extension. From the same column:

Names vary slightly from place to place. Sometimes it is the Cooperative Extension Service, sometimes Cooperative Extension, and other times simply Extension. Whatever the name, it is always associated with the land-grant university system in each state and the District.

The Extension Service's Master Gardener program provides trained volunteers to advise home gardeners across the country. There are active Master Gardener programs throughout the Washington area, providing plant clinics, lectures and demonstration gardens.
Our own Elmer G. has been a volunteer at the National Arboretum for years. You can sign up to visit his fabulously landscaped surroundings in Shippensburg by taking the November 7th class of Principles of Landscape Design.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So Whodunit?

Ageratina altissima , formerly known as Eupatorium rugosum (Taxonomists gotta make a living somehow) or white snakeroot, is a common native wildflower in bloom in our area now and is on many extension lists of native plants, good for attracting pollinators.

It is also the plant that killed Lincoln’s mother.
When stock animals feed on white snakeroot they show symptoms of trembles—muscular tremors, weakness, and constipation often leading to death. The poisonous principle is named tremetol, a fat-soluble, high molecular weight alcohol. Nursing females are shielded from some of the effects of tremetol because of the high rate at which it is excreted into their milk. This can be a death sentence for their nursing young however. For people consuming the milk of their animals, the resulting sickness was misinterpreted as a dangerous infectious epidemic of late autumn.

In 1818, nine-year old Abraham Lincoln, lost his mother to milk sickness.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wicked Plants!

In the seed saving post, below, if you enlarge the picture with the beans (by clicking on it), you’ll notice that one of the plates is labeled castor bean plant. Bill D. gave me those seeds last week at the garden tour after I admired and asked about the strange, large-leaved plants growing along the fence.

Not only are these the source of the old health tonic, castor oil, but also, the source of the deadly, full of spy-induced intrigue, compound ricin. From the Cornell site:
In 1978, ricin was used to assassinate Georgi Markov in 1978, a Bulgarian journalist who spoke out against the Bulgarian government. He was stabbed with the point of an umbrella while waiting at a bus stop near Waterloo Station in London. They found a perforated metallic pellet embedded in his leg that had presumably contained the ricin toxin.
Reading that, reminded me of this NY Times article from earlier this summer, about a Brooklyn Botanic Garden exhibit dedicated to growing horrible, poisonous plants. It’s the subject of the book Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities, by Amy Stewart.

This passage in an interview with the author intrigued me:

Abe - Who’s going to read the book? Gardeners or people who like weird twisted stuff?

Amy Stewart - “Actually, I am really pleased to see that it’s making its way into the hands of people who like weird twisted stuff. I’m getting a lot of very, very interesting emails. There is definitely a sort of horticultural underground out there of people who are into dark and dastardly plants. But it’s also finding its way into the hands of murder mystery readers, and I love that! Those people love a good villain as much as I do!”
I’m a gardener who also likes weird twisted stuff, so I seem to fit the demographic perfectly!

Any others out there? I know of at least one.

Pictures from the book here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Seed Saving

We recently put the John Brown’s House garden to bed, and saved some seeds for next year in the process. Saving tomato seeds is easy. Squeeze seeds into a class of water, let it sit and ferment for a few days, strain, and dry. I like to dry them on paper plates where I can write the variety on the plate. Paper towels work well, also, but the seeds have a tendency to stick. Peppers and beans are even easier. With peppers, allow the fruit itself to dry, then break open and save the seeds. The same procedure works with peas and beans – allow them to dry on the vine until they rattle, then harvest and allow to dry. Paper envelopes are best for storage, then putting them in an air-tight jar and placed in the refrigerator or freezer. Here’s a fact sheet from the University of Minnesota.

Remember that saving seeds from hybrid varieties, or from plants that easily cross-pollinate (like cucurbits), is not recommended.

Seed saving is not limited to vegetable gardening, of course.

The National Gardening Association’s recent regional newsletter, pointed me to this site. It’s all seeds all the time. There are sections on plant ID, based on its seed, or seed pods. Saving seeds. Links to other seed sites. It's an excellent resource. I’ve added it to the sidebar.

We are always looking for seeds from native plants to add to the wildlife area. Echinacea, Rudibeckia, Ratibida, Cosmos, Cleome, Helenium, Asclepias, Digitalis, Larkspur, Lobelias, and Lupines are all welcome. If you grow any of these, consider not dead heading, and letting them go to seed to collect and spread in the wildlife area.

You can sign up for the regional National Gardening Association Newsletter here. Here is their home page.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Garden Professors

Ginger Pryor forwarded a link to a new blog (since July) by some PhD horticulture professors and Extension specialists at various Universities. From their promotional email:

We are university professors with expertise in the science behind various aspects of urban horticulture, arboriculture, gardening, and landscaping. Every weekday one of us posts a commentary on something we feel passionately about - and sometimes it's controversial. Follow our debates, and leave your own comments as well!

The professors are:

Bert Cregg, an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Horticulture and Department of Forestry at Michigan State University

Holly Scaggins, an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech and Director of the Hahn Horticulture Garden, a 6-acre teaching and display garden on campus.

Linda Chalker-Scott, an associate professor in the department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Washington State University and an Extension Specialist in Urban Horticulture

James Nienhuis from the University of Wisconsin (no introduction, yet)

and Jeff Gillman, an associate professor in the department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota.

I like the way they've approached the blog - having fun, debating with each other, and providing lots of science-based information in the process.

I've added a link to their home page on the side bar. The Garden Professors.

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Autumn Stroll

This Sunday, September 20th, 12:00 to 5:00PM, the Franklin County Master Gardener Fall Garden Tour. Here is a preview:

Bill D.'s vegetable garden and greenhouse is also on the tour.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Delayed Gratification

OK. This has nothing to do with Horticulture, or Franklin County, but I had to share:

Oh, The Temptation from Steve V on Vimeo.

Pollinator Class

Don’t forget Saturday’s Pollinator Class 10:00-12:00 at the Clubhouse. Here are some pictures sent in by Laurie C., taken in the Wildlife Area on September 1st to whet your appetite.

Scolia dubia, digger wasp. Not only beneficial as a nectar-drinking occasional pollinator, but a parasite of Japanese Beetle grubs.

St. John's Wort, growing behind the Compost Demonstration Area.

You’d think there’d be flowers, other than the invasive Canada Thistle Bull Thistle weed, she could be pollinating in our Wildflower Meadow. Stoopid bee.

Moths on the Sedum 'Autum Joy'
Update: The antenna look more butterfly than moth. Can anyone confirm?

Road Trip: Gourds, Native Plants, (and Bees)

Angela W. sends these pictures from yesterday’s Road Trip where ten MG’s visited Meadowbrooke Gourds in Carlisle, PA, and Meadowood Nursery in Hummelstown, PA.

Speaking of gourds. Have you wondered what all those vines spilling over the fences over in the Hort Trial Garden are all about?

Hoping for some Winter Squash from another of Steve’s trials?

Sorry, no. They’re the vines for various large-sized gourds: Swan-necked, Bird House, and Basket gourds. It turns out Alex S. is continuing his research in native bee shelters. As you know, for the last two years, he’s been experimenting using various bee box designs to provide shelters for native bee populations. Growing gourds is another potential way to accomplish the same thing, cheaply and sustainably. Alex will be talking to us about the subject at our next MG general meeting on Tuesday, September 22nd. So come for what’s sure to be an informative meeting.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pomodorians? Lycopersiconiphiliacs? Tomatamorati?

Got a good name for the group of folks helping Steve rate the flavor and texture of this year's tomatoes?

Vote at the poll, or suggest another name in the comments section.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Camera Finds - Pink Lady Slipper

I emptied my partner's camera of all pictures that had been taken and stored in order to free up memory space, and came up with these from back in April. These were taken behind the old log cabin that I use to store old pots and garden stuff for the winter. Here's a fact sheet from the University of Wisconsin on Cypripedium acaule, Pink Lady Slipper. I found this part on how they get pollinated interesting:

Bumblebees are lured into the pouch of the labellum through the slit in the front, attracted by the bright color and sweet scent of the flower. Once inside, they find no reward, and discover that they are trapped--with only one point of escape. Inside the pouch, there are hairs which lead to a pair of openings, one beneath each pollen mass. First, however, the bee must pass under the stigma, so if it bears any pollen from a visit to another flower, it will be deposited before picking up a fresh load, thus preventing self-pollination.
Unfortunately, the bees quickly learn from their experiences and soon avoid C. acaule flowers. Thus, like several other orchids in our flora, they are dependent on naive bees, and generally experience very low pollination rates (Davis 1986).
I'm not sure if it's the seeming cunning of the flower, or the learning process of the bee that impresses me more.

I hope that sometime in the future, we'll establish a Spring Native Ephemeral Garden in the Wildlife area when the trees get large enough to create the right habitat.
UPDATE: Here's a scientific paper on the learning ability of honeybees. Google "naive bees" for more fascinating reading.

Monday, September 14, 2009


At the first new Master Gardener class last Thursday, Ginger Pryor introduced us to the eXtension web page. I’ve added the Horticulture home page to the sidebar. Here’s the Master Gardener page. Think of it as a kind of Wikipedia for Land Grant Universities and Cooperative Extension across the U.S. and Canada. It's chock full of interesting articles and pictures. Here's one about Pollinator Gardens.

If you use the "Ask the Expert" feature and ask something about mosquitoes in South Central Pennsylvania, it might even get routed here.

So who's gonna be the first to try that out?

Tomato Day Pictures - Evelyn

Proud Grandpa

Ask the Plant Doctor

Dang, these are good!

Denise L.'s arrangements are wonderful.

Ready to Go.

Dead animal preparers
A window view

Bill D. with a 3 lb Orange Strawberry. Yum!


Laura at the Punk Rock Garden blog informs us that there is going to be a pawpaw tasting this weekend (9/19 and 9/20) in York County at the Gardener of the Owl Valley Nursery. Pawpaws are a native fruit tree, with a fruit tasting something like a cross between a banana and a mango. Here are some fact sheets on growing them. From Purdue, and from Virginia Tech. Our friend, Mike McConkey of Edible Landscapes in Virginia sells them on-line. You’ll need two different varieties for cross-pollination purposes, and they like moist, well-drained soil. They are the larval host plant for the zebra swallowtail butterfly, so great for attracting them to your property.

Tomato Recipes

Some recipes for all those tomatoes coming in:

Oven Baked Semi-Dried Tomatoes (from Peg B.):

Peel, core and slice tomatoes onto a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Season with crushed garlic. (Can also add other favorite herbs -basil, oregano etc. sprinkled on midway during the baking process). Bake in 400 degree oven for 30-60 min or until liquid is absorbed, which will depend on the variety of tomato used. Roma, plum, or paste tomatoes do well with this recipe, and will take less time than the juicier slicer, or beefsteak tomatoes.

Freeze in a zip lock freezer bag. Use with pasta, in soups, etc., or any recipe calling for tomato paste, or dried tomatoes.

Lotsa Spaghetti Sauce:

½ Bushel Tomatoes (16 quarts)
1 pint Olive Oil
3 pounds of onions, chopped into ½ - ¼ inch dice
5 or 6 Bell Peppers, chopped into ½ - ¼ inch dice
1/3 Cup salt
1 ¼ Cup sugar
60 ounce tomato paste (or use Peg’s recipe above, instead)
1 Cup of Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
2 Tablespoons Oregano
3 Cloves Minced Garlic (or more, to taste)

Saute onions, peppers, and garlic in olive oil. Separately cook tomatoes until soft. Strain through a foley mill to remove seeds and skins. Add to cooked peppers and onions. Add seasonings and herbs. Cook down to right consistency. Can in quart jars and follow directions for processing and sealing. Makes 15 quarts.

We tasted the spaghetti sauce at the Victory Garden class this morning and it's a winner!

Upcoming Classes

Two classes coming up in the area in nearby counties Cumberland and Adams. In Cumberland, this Saturday, September 19th a Fall Garden Day will have classes in Growing Garlic and Shallots by our own Steve Bogash, as well as classes on Growing Fall Lettuce, hands-on Salsa making, and a presentation on Green Roofs. Directions on the brochure (pdf), or contact the Cumberland County office.

In Adams County, on Saturday, October 24th, there will be a Rites of Fall day with classes on Food Preservation, Building Cold Frames, Garden Photography, Herb preservation, weather proofing your garden, pruning, and flower conditioning for arrangements. Contact the Gettysburg office for details.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Labor of Love

14 quarts of tomatoes and tomato juice and 3 half-pints of preserves. There's nothing like a sip of your own preserved tomato juice in January to bring back the rich goodness of your Summer harvest, so well worth the effort. I threw in a couple of Steve's mushroom peppers in the juice batch, and I'll be harvesting horse radish in a month or so, so it looks like a home grown Bloody Mary mix is in the offing.

Now, if I learn how to distill vodka from the potatoes I grew, I can be totally sustainable!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Final Tomato Pruning

We're about 6 weeks away from the average last frost-free date (October 15) in Franklin County. Since that's about how long it takes to go from fertilized flower to ready-to-pick fruit, now's the time to prune back your tomato plants. Cut the growing tip of all vines, and snip off any new flowers. This will redirect the plant's energy toward existing, ripening fruit and reduce the number of green tomatoes at the end of the season.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Final Tomato Day Results

Linda S. and Barb P. completed the last of the data entry. We had 212 valid score sheets with the following results. George Weigel's column in the Patriot News will appear on Thursday.

UPDATE 9/3/09: Here's a link to George Weigel's column.

And more from Laura at the Punk Rock Blog.


1 Y Brandy Boy 821.50
2 W Blosser Pink 798.50
3 ZG Paul Robeson 760.00
4 A Grandma’s Garden 748.00
5 H Mountain Magic 742.50
6 I Cabernet Hybrid 704.50
7 P Sweet Mojo 692.50
8 D Super Bush 692.00
9 F Napa Grape 690.00
10 ZC Sweet Seedless 684.50
11 M Black Velvet 681.50
12 T Ramapo 670.00
13 J Solid Gold 667.50
14 U Black Brandywine 665.00
15 C Hillbilly/Flame 656.00
16 ZA Pineapple 653.00
17 ZE Orange Blossom 639.50
18 G Fabulous 628.00
19 V Fletcher 617.50
20 O Sweet Tangerine 609.50
21 Z Conestoga 608.00
22 N Moreton 605.50
23 R Valencia 605.00
24 S Black Truffle Hybrid 604.00
25 ZD Tomande 592.00
26 L BHN 876 589.00
27 ZF Legend 572.50
28 Q BHN 641 568.00
29 X Mountain Glory 562.50
30 ZB Scarlet Red 559.00
31 B Primo Red 543.00
32 E Patio Princess 488.00
33 K Tangerine Mama 467.00


1 W Blosser Pink 803.50
2 Y Brandy Boy 795.00
3 V Fletcher 787.50
4 ZE Orange Blossom 787.00
5 D Super Bush 786.50
6 H Mountain Magic 784.50
7 P Sweet Mojo 781.00
8 G Fabulous 771.00
9 L BHN 876 769.50
10 T Ramapo 768.50
11 I Cabernet Hybrid 762.00
12 A Grandma’s Garden 759.50
13 J Solid Gold 756.50
14 F Napa Grape 754.50
15 ZF Legend 748.50
16 ZC Sweet Seedless 732.00
17 ZA Pineapple 731.00
18 ZG Paul Robeson 730.00
19 O Sweet Tangerine 725.50
20 ZB Scarlet Red 725.50
21 C Hillbilly/Flame 717.00
22 B Primo Red 715.50
23 Q BHN 641 711.50
24 N Moreton 700.50
25 U Black Brandywine 691.50
26 Z Conestoga 677.50
27 R Valencia 675.50
28 M Black Velvet 673.50
29 X Mountain Glory 656.50
30 K Tangerine Mama 639.50
31 E Patio Princess 634.00
32 S Black Truffle Hybrid 610.50
33 ZD Tomande 603.50

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tomato Day Tally

It's a race, now. A couple of new entries in the top 10: Burpee's Sweet Seedless and Black Velvet. Linda S. has entered a bunch of score sheets to bring the count to 100. Still have 116 more to enter. Anyone wanting to come in and help with the data entry is welcome!


Y Brandy Boy 401.50
H Mountain Magic 373.50
W Blosser Pink 372.50
A Grandma’s Garden 370.00
ZG Paul Robeson 362.00
ZC Sweet Seedless 345.50
U Black Brandywine 334.00
F Napa Grape 332.00
I Cabernet Hybrid 329.50
M Black Velvet 326.50


L BHN876 384.50
H Mountain Magic 383.50
W Blosser Pink 382.50
D Super Bush 379.50
P Sweet Mojo 376.00
V Fletcher 374.50
I Cabernet Hybrid 374.00
Y Brandy Boy 373.00
J Solid Gold 369.50
T Ramapo 368.50

Ag Education

If you think it's tough educating the folks of Franklin County about agriculture and where our food comes from, think of the poor folks from Cooperative Extension in L.A. County, California and how monumental their task is.

Bug Cam

Check out these videos. The Museum of Animal Perspectives has mounted a camera on critters and recorded the view. Here are the bug ones: Tarantula. HouseFly. Honeybee. Cricket.

Lots more, including farm animals, wolves, bison, and more. Enjoy!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tomato Day Coverage

Mayor and Mrs. Pete Lagiovane of Chambersburg

Linda F. and grandaughters Nyehma and Courtney

Elinor B. of Chambersburg

Thanks to Anne F. for those.

The Waynesboro Record Herald has an on-line photo album and coverage on their front page.

Evelyn S. gets quoted at the Punk Rock Garden Blog.

I've been in touch with George Weigel at the Patriot News. His column's deadline is early Monday morning, so final results will not be included. In the meantime, check out his Q&A Blog added to the sidebar. His latest entry quotes our own Steve B. and answers a question about tomatoes and containers. I love his hat. Gotta get me one of those.

After tallying 41 of the 216 score sheets, here are the top 10 or so in taste and aesthetics:


Letter Variety Total
Y Brandy Boy 160.00
W Blosser Pink 155.50
A Grandma’s 152.00
U Black Brandywine 148.00
P Sweet Mojo 144.00
ZA Pineapple 141.50
I Cabernet 140.00
ZG Paul Robeson 140.00
H Mountain Magic 138.00
F Napa Grape 137.50
J Solid Gold 131.50


W Blosser Pink 160.50
Y Brandy Boy 156.00
I Cabernet Hybrid 155.50
L BHN 876 154.50
P Sweet Mojo 152.50
H Mountain Magic 152.00
D Super Bush 151.50
V Fletcher 149.50
A Grandma’s Garden 147.50
J Solid Gold 145.00

Pink Beefsteaks just ahead of the Black Beefsteaks and one Bicolor Beefsteak, with Grape and Cherry varieties in striking range. I'll post results as tallying gets done. Anne F. promises more pictures, too.

Pollinator Garden Attracts Pollinator

Hey - this stuff really works! Laurie C. sends in a picture of a monarch caterpillar on the butterfly weed in our pollinator garden.

Remember the Pollinator class coming up - Saturday, September 19th, 10:00 to Noon out at the clubhouse and gardens.