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.

Salad Box

At last Monday’s Victory Garden class, Angela W. brought in an example of a Salad Box – a simple, portable, box to grow your own greens for a salad. We also recently got an email from Ginger Pryor, the PA state MG Coordinator, highlighting a segment on the Martha Stewart show where her counterpart in the State of Maryland, Mr. John Traunfeld, appeared on the show in order to demonstrate how to build one and use one.

You can watch his segment by going to the Martha Stewart link here, and subsequently watching videos 5, 6, and 7 (of 8), a total of about 10 minutes, showing how to build, and plant a salad table.

John also created a University of Maryland Fact Sheet (pdf) on the subject that can be found here.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Elementary School teacher Kathy G. sends this photo of a Monarch on a milkweed at the butterfly garden at New Franklin Elementary School. Master Gardeners helped Kathy with the project.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Victory Garden

Angela W. took some pictures of the Victory Garden folks on Monday, August 17, 2009:

Helping Alex with the picking.

Sweet corn coming in.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Harvest Pics

Tomatoes and Peppers coming in from my garden.

Herb Garden

Karen B. sends along her pictures of the Hort Center Herb Garden to share:

Plant Sale Pictures

Karen B. sent some pictures of this Spring's Plant Sale to share.

Garden Tour Preview

Georgena R. sends some pictures to whet your appetite about a few of the gardens on our Fall Garden Tour. Remember the date - Sunday, September 20, 2009. Contact Brenda B. to volunteer.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bill D. in the News

Our own Bill D. was recently interviewed for a story about peppers for the Hagerstown paper, The Morning Herald:

Gardener Bill Dorman doesn't need to eat a hot pepper to make his face light up.

Simply talking about peppers makes his face red, happy and cheery.

"These go good with pizza," said Dorman, 81, holding up a jar of pickled jalapenos that came from his garden in a prior season. "They're not as hot when they're pickled."

Dorman is a Master Gardener who lives just outside of Greencastle, Pa., and spends at least seven hours a week in his garden. He has roughly 20 pepper plants in his backyard garden and has several jars and pepper shakers full of his homemade spices.

Click through for pictures and video! There's also a section on Peppers: Fact or Myth. Be sure to catch Bill's garden at the Fall Garden Tour.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Punk Rock Gardens

Franklin County's own Steve B. is a contributor to Punk Rock Gardens, now added to the Blog list on the sidebar.

Monday, August 10, 2009

BumbleBee, Monarch, and Dragon Fly

Some more great pictures from Laurie C., taken from her property. If you click on the picture, it will expand to full size, with incredible detail.

Bumble Bee rolling in pollen from a Rose of Sharon flower.

A newly emerged Monarch Butterfly. Note the wrinkles in the wings, still needing to be pumped up with blood and dried.

Dragonfly laying eggs in Laurie's pond. Insects in the order Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies) are considered beneficial since they are predators of mosquitoes and gnats. Dragon fly nymphs (called naiads) are also predaceous and will eat mosquito larvae, as well as other aquatic life.

Weird fact I just learned: Dragonfly naiad gills are located internally, within the rectum, where bellows-like contractions of the rectal muscles cause oxygenated water to circulate in and out.

See if you can identify the species. Here is a place to start using Discover Life. Here's a place to start using Bugwood. Home pages for both sites are available from the side bar.

Tomato Crop Problems

Yesterday's NY Times had an excellent article about the late blight problem and its effect on this year's tomato crop. Here are the parts I want to highlight, but read the whole thing.

If you love eating flavorful organic field tomatoes, good luck — they’ll be as rare this summer as a week without rain. And those that survive will cost you; we’re already seeing price increases of 20 percent over last year.
Here’s the unhappy twist: the explosion of home gardeners — the very people most conscious of buying local food and opting out of the conventional food chain — has paradoxically set the stage for the worst local tomato harvest in memory.

For all the new growers out there, what’s missing is not the inspiration, it’s the expertise, the agricultural wisdom and technical knowledge passed on from generation to generation.

The cooperative extension service is still active, but budget cuts have left it ill equipped to deal with a new generation of farmers. The emphasis now is on reaching farmers through mass e-mail messages and Web-based dialogues, with less hands-on observation. That’s like getting a doctor’s check-up over the phone.

Mountain Magic is an example of regionalized breeding. For years, this kind of breeding has fallen by the wayside — the result of a food movement wary of science and an industrialized food chain that eschews differentiation in favor of uniformity.
Mountain Magic was one of the varieties we tried last Thursday, I believe.

And this part echoes what we've been doing here in Franklin County with our Taste Day:

While they’re at it, breeders could be selecting for flavor and not for uniformity, shipping size and shelf life. The result will mean not just tastier tomatoes; it will translate into a food system with greater variety and better regional adaptation.

Friday, August 7, 2009

An Autumn Stroll

Save the Date. Sunday, September 20, 2009 1-5 PM, our annual Fall Garden Tour. This year, the team headed by Brenda B. has selected 11 Gardens in 6 Neighborhoods in the Greencastle - Antrim Township area. Our own Bill D.'s vegetable garden is on the list, along with Woodland Retreats, Heritage Home Gardens, Executive Lifestyle Outdoor Living and Estate Elegance.

We'll need many volunteers to help on the day of the event, so contact Brenda B., or either of the Lindas at the Extension Office.

Buck's County Blog

Scott G., Steve B.'s counterpart in Bucks county has a blog. Added to the Blog list.

MG Happenings

Tomato Day. Linda W. is gathering names to help out with Tomato Day. Denise L. is looking for help with feeding the hordes (that’s we MG’s). Contact them with your offers to help, or Linda H. or Linda S. at the office.

In the meantime, a bunch of us elite, snobby, tomato connoisseurs are meeting weekly to preliminarily sample some of the varieties to help Steve B. whittle down the selection for Tomato Day. Including the container trial varieties, there are 64 different varieties available. We think 30 is the maximum that the public can handle, so that’s our goal.

Steve also wants written comments about each one that we taste – a subjective evaluation that he will review when he writes up his report at the end of the season, so we’ll continue meeting until the trials are over. We need a better vocabulary, though. I’m not sure Steve will get much out my comment “not very tomatoey”. Sweet? Fruity? Tangy? Salty? How about texture? Heavy? Watery? Squishy? Too firm? Not firm enough? Thick walled? Thick skinned? Mild? Strong? Full-bodied? Robust? I know what I like in tomato flavor, but I’m having a hard time describing it. Help us out. Add your suggestions to the comment box.

Also, Jane K. gives a shout out "Thanks" to all who helped get the water feature up and running in the wildlife area. The hard part is done. Still some landscaping to do. I’ll post some pictures when it’s closer to completion.

What is Extension?

It’s a little weird to a part of an organization that’s been around for so long (since 1862), and with such a distinguished history, but also seems to have so little a collective understanding in the mind of the average citizen.

Whenever I tell a new acquaintance that I work for Penn State Cooperative Extension, the invariable response is, “What’s that?”

I can’t really blame them. When I attended my first introduction to Master Gardeners by Chris M. and Bob K. in the summer of 2001, it was the first question I had. I had heard of 4H, of course, but had not in any way connected it to Cooperative Extension. The only cultural reference that existed was the bumbling “Mr. Kimble” character from the 1960’s sitcom Green Acres, not exactly something to use to foster greater recognition in the public eye.

In many ways, it’s our own fault. Extension often appears content to be “the best kept secret” around. The problem with that, especially in times when public dollars are tight, is that secrets are by definition known only to the few, so no matter how good, or important the programs are, they’re the first to go when budgets get cut.

So, in an effort to get some information out to Extension’s first line of defense, our volunteers, and to do my bit to overcome the "secret" part, here’s a statement I came across from the excellent publication Pennsylvania Produce - A guide to quality produce grown in PA .
About Extension: All universities engage in research and teaching, but the nation’s more than 100 landgrant colleges and universities have a third critical mission -extension. “Extension” means “reaching out,” and, along with teaching and research, land-grant institutions such as Penn State “extend” their resources, solving public needs with college or university resources through non-formal, non-credit programs. These programs are administered through county and regional extension offices, which bring land-grant expertise to the most local of levels. Penn State Cooperative Extension’s mission is to enhance quality of life by providing informal outreach educational opportunities to individuals, families, businesses, and communities throughout the Commonwealth. We teach people how to solve problems, do something better, live healthier, manage resources wisely, and create a sustainable future. We are dedicated to giving you the means to grow, to achieve, to compete, to go farther, and to do more. Contact us and see what Extension can do for you!
That's the best definition I've seen. So, the next time someone asks you what Extension is, refer them here. Master Gardeners are a major part of bringing that vision to fruition, and we can be proud of our role in it.

Dr. Seuss and The Malaria Mosquito

I came across this while researching something else. During WWII, the military hired Dr. Seuss to come up with an information booklet to promote good practices amongst our soldiers to prevent malaria.

Solution Source

I added another permanent link in the sidebar to Penn State's Solution Source. From their "About Us" description:
Solution Source is a Web-based information system from Penn State Cooperative Extension. The system provides you with 24/7 access to trustworthy, timely solutions based on university research.

You’ll find relevant information on child development, parenting, family life, food preparation and safety, lawn and garden care, agriculture, nutrition and fitness, household problems, wildlife, and the environment.
It's a handy on-line repository of many of our fact sheets, organized by discipline. Here is the Home Gardening section.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ptilotus exaltatus 'Joey'

Kathy E. identified the flower below from the Landisville pictures. It’s a Ptilotus exaltatus 'Joey' (Lamb's Tail) a recently tamed cultivar of an annual species native to Australia.
The flowers of Ptilotus 'Joey' may resemble a grass, but it's not a grass. Ptilotus is a large genus of 100 species, most native to dry areas of Australia. This genus was first described by botanist Robert Brown in 1810.
Speaking of Landisville, Bob K. sent around this link to the 2009 Variety Trials there. I’ve added it to the sidebar.