Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wings - Guineas Part 7

The keets are about a month old, and have been in their new home for 2 weeks. 4 or so more weeks to go (around Labor Day), and they'll be released to free range. They'll be roaming the property when the Garden Tour comes around (Sunday, September 18th - save the date).

Lookit Me, I Can Fly

We finished predator-proofing the old children's playhouse by putting up chicken wire over the windows. We then took the lid off the keets' home, and let them explore. Within a few minutes, they each took turns flying up to the roosting bar and checking out their new-found freedom.

Blondie's Getting Bigger
Their food and water will remain inside the dog crate and they can always find refuge by flying back in. They should be able at this stage to avoid any negative encounters with their chicken cousins, but the dog crate will be a safe haven in a pinch. The keets' food is 24% protein, higher than is recommended for chickens.  Chickens can get gout by having too much protein in their diet, so it's a good idea to keep the keets' food away from the chickens.  Once on free range, this will no longer be a problem - the guineas will be eating tons of bugs to get their protein quota, and the food in the coop will be the reduced protein chicken feed, suitable for them and shared by the guineas.  According to the book, guineas will get 90% of their dietic requirements on free range, so the shared source will be fine.


Here's Warren, cock of the roost. Warren is a rescue rooster. He was wandering around a Chambersburg neighborhood near the Butcher Shoppe, when Karen Hack, Penn State Extension 4-H Educator and Franklin County Extension Director collected him and gave him to me for a home. The other two chickens are rescues from the West Nile sentinel chicken program that was discontinued in 2007.

West Nile Sentinel Chicken

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bug Guy - CSI for Vegetable Pests

Via Facebook, MG Angela Weathers recommends this video by Dr. Michael Raupp, entomologist for the University of Maryland Extension:

Dr. Raupp is also the sponsor of the "Bug of the Week" column, accessible from the the links to the right.

The video is part of the University of Maryland's "Grow it: Eat it" campaign.

And they have a blog, now added to the blog list to the right.

Monday, July 25, 2011

All in for Alliums

Garlic and Multiplier Onions
2012 Seed Bulbs to the Left

I grew two types of garlic this past year: I repeated the Inchelium Red, a softneck variety, originally purchased from Territorial Seed Co. and a hardneck variety I call Wilson’s Fulton Farm garlic, which I think, started out as a variety called Music, although I’m not sure of that. Maybe Chris Mayer can let us know in the comments section? The seed bulbs were given to me by Bill Dorman last fall, who said he got them from Wilson’s Fulton Farm several years ago. After planting last fall and fertilizing in the spring, the garlic was harvested during the July 4th weekend and has been curing in the barn since. The cool thing about garlic is that after the first year, you don’t need to buy, or acquire any more seed bulbs. Just save your largest bulbs for planting in the fall, for the following year’s harvest.

Hardnecks tend to be stronger in garlic flavor and they have 5-10 uniformly sized cloves around the hard stem, which makes them easier to use. Their storage shelf life after curing is about 5-6 months, which is less than the softnecks. They’re also more cold tolerant and will survive the coldest of winters here in our Zone 6 growing area, and colder zones farther north. And the hardnecks offer a gourmet treat that adds another dimension. They send up a flower stalk called a scape in late spring. It’s best to cut it off, so the plant gives all of its energy to the bulb, not to flowering and seed. The subsequently cut scapes are a great treat in stir fries and salads. Think of them as sturdier chives, with a garlicky, rather than oniony flavor. Delightful. It’s one of those treats only available to the grower, since they have minimal shelf life, once cut. Add radish seed pods to that category, as well.

Softneck garlic bulbs are what you’re used to buying in the grocery store. They have a longer shelf life, at 9-10 months, sometime up to a year under ideal conditions. I didn’t buy any garlic this past year, using only my home grown ones, although by May or June, the last cloves were starting to sprout and were getting soft. I did have the dried garlic powder I made last fall to tide me over until harvest time, and the scapes from the hardnecks filled in nicely when I started to run out. The softnecks have large cloves around the outside circling ever smaller ones toward the middle. And of course you can braid them, since the stems and leaves are flexible. Note: the ones in the grocery store are not recommended for growing here, since in all likelihood, they were grown in a warmer climate, like China or California. Buy your first set from a reputable seed company, save the biggest and best year to year and establish your own strain, tailored to your (very) local growing conditions. Local Farmers Markets are another source of seed garlic that is good to use in your garden.

I will continue to plant both kinds to take advantage of the best characteristics of each.

Multiplier Onions  

Multiplier Onions for 2012 Crop
Another gift from Bill Dorman. This is a type of onion that grows bulblets around the main bulb, sorta like (but not really) the way cloves of garlic cluster. Just like garlic, you save the largest bulbs for replanting, and in this case, harvest the smaller clustering bulbs for storage, fresh eating, and cooking. The bowl in the first picture at the top has the harvested bulbs, and the ones in the middle of the picture show how they grow around the main bulb. Their flavor is somewhat mild, reminiscent of shallots.

Above are the seed ones I’ll be replanting in the fall.

Bulblets from the Top of Egyptian Walking Onions
Egyptian Walking Onions

This is another perennial onion that has the unique characteristic of growing bulblets at the top of the plant. They’re called walking onions, because if you were to leave them on their own, the leaves will bend over and emplant the bulblets in the soil, thus, “walking” across the garden bed, year to year like a slow motion Slinky (Remember those?) This is my third year growing them, again as a gift from Bill Dorman, who got his original supply from Renfrew’s 4-Square garden when Master Gardeners visited there in the summer of 2007, and Doris Goldman gave out some samples. The small bulblets are quite strong in onion flavor, and, because of their small size, are kind of a pain to peel and use. They make great additions to stocks, however, giving a wonderful onion flavor to the brew, without having to peel them at all. I just add them whole to the simmering stock pot that will later be strained out after extracting their goodness. Another trick is to plant them back in the garden in late August for a fall harvest of scallions, or save them for the spring for the same purpose. In the tender, early sprout stage, their flavor is much milder. Again, as with the garlic and multiplier onions, they are totally year- to-year sustainable, without having to rely on an outside source.

Main Crop Onions

Freshly Dug Onion Harvest
I grew three different varieties of main season onions this year: two storage varieties, and a sweet variety. All were purchased and planted as sets. They were acquired for the Victory Garden with an oversupply offered to Master Gardeners for our home plots. We sell them for $3.00 a bundle, slightly above cost. And a bundle holds between 60-70 plants. Our supplier is Dixondale Farms, if you'd like to order directly.

Red Zeppelin
The first storage variety is called Red Zeppelin (I love the name), and the other, a yellow one, called Big Daddy. For storage varieties, a curing period is called for. You harvest from the earth after the leaves have fallen down, but before they yellow. The leaves stay on during the curing process. Placed in a dark, dry place, the drying leaves wick away moisture from the interior of the bulbs.

Big Daddy
After about 2-3 weeks of drying, the leaves will have yellowed, and the bulbs are ready for storage. At that point, you cut away the dried leaves, trim the roots, and hang in a mesh basket in your root cellar (dry, cooler temperatures in the 55-65 degree range). A basement, or attached garage suffices. They should keep for 6-8 months.

Super Star

The white one is a sweet variety called Super Star. This is not a good storage variety, so only plant enough to eat before Thanksgiving, since their storage life is limited to 2-3 months. Cut off their leaves upon harvest, since curing is unnecessary for their short shelf life. Refrigeration can extend that life for another month or so. These are sweet enough to rival Vidalias and make great raw additions to burgers and salads throughout the summer and fall.

Onions and Garlic are among the easiest vegetables to grow, requiring little more than planting, a bit of fertilizing (same as is used for your lawn, if you do such things – nitrogen only is needed), and weeding. No staking, no pruning, no spraying, and one of the earlier summer harvests, before your beans and tomatoes. They are virtually pest and disease free.

So, once I add shallots and leeks to my repertoire to go with the above, and the chives that are in my herb garden, plus some of the ornamental ones in the perennial bed, the total conquest and exploitation of the Allium family will be complete.

UPDATE:  Well, conquest is farfetched.  USDA lists 299 separate species of Alliums (type 'Allium' in the search box at the link).  Maybe it would have been better to say exploitation of cultivated Alliums.

UPDATE II:  Monday 8/1/11 - Chris Mayer informs me by email that after checking with the Farm Manager, the Fulton Farm Garlic has been grown there for the last 16 years, and the guess is that it was probably Music, given its prominence in Organic Farming circles, but there is no way to tell for sure.  Doesn't matter.  If you want a source of hardneck garlic, genetically conditioned to our local growing area, Fulton Farm garlic is a great choice.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Patrick Gass Garden

Sign at the Site of the Future Gass Garden
Franklin County Master Gardeners are reaching a milestone in our efforts to establish a garden memorializing one of Franklin County's pioneering spirits, Patrick Gass.  The small stone building perpendicular to the main Extension building is the birthplace of Patrick Gass and bears this sign.  Bud Marshall, a long time Master Gardener introduced the idea of installing a garden honoring this native son 7 or 8 years ago, having researched the Lewis and Clarke Expedition and taken a tour tracing its steps.  From recent scholarship of the journal Gass kept on the Expedition:
An accomplished carpenter and boat builder, Patrick Gass proved to be an invaluable and well-liked member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Promoted to sergeant after the death of Charles Floyd, Gass was almost certainly responsible for supervising the building of Forts Mandan and Clatsop. His records of those forts and of the earth lodges of the Mandans and Hidatsas are particularly detailed and useful. Gass was the last survivor of the Corps of Discovery, living until 1870—long enough to see trains cross a continent that he had helped open. His engaging and detailed journal became the first published account of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Gass's journal joins the celebrated Nebraska edition of the complete journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition, which feature a wide range of new scholarship dealing with all aspects of the expedition from geography to Indian cultures and languages to plants and animals.
In 2009 and 2010, Bill and Cindy Stead took on the project, to plan and budget, research and design a multiyear effort to bring this idea to fruition.

In 2011, Franklin County Master Gardeners applied for, and received a grant in the amount of $2,500 from the Alexander Stewart, M.D. Foundation, paving the way to begin the project.

This garden will memorialize the leading role of a native son in the Lewis and Clarke Expedition of 1804-1806. The project will present a horticultural and historical experience that demonstrates the importance of flora and agriculture in the young and expanding Republic. It will offer an educational experience for youth groups, school groups, historic groups, tourists, and public visitors.

Common Snowberry
The garden will border the entrance to the limestone house where Patrick Gass was born and where a Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission marker now stands. The mission of the garden is multi-fold. We will offer a horticulture experience, an historical educational experience for visitors and school groups, and a recreational experience while beautifying the property. Plant species will be selected using two criteria: Flora reported in the Lewis and Clark Herbarium and which is viable to our area and flora documented in the local area for the 18th and early 19th century.

Step one will be the removal of an old and diseased Colorado Blue Spruce tree at the site.

Watch this space as we track and document the progress.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Native Jewel Orchid

Sounds so much better than its other common name, Rattlesnake Plantain, which is what I’ve always called it. I learned the more elegant name for Goodyera pubescens by reading these posts at the Garden Professor’s Blog, a place you can get to from the links to the right. It’s a regular read for me.

The plant is not uncommon in our native Appalachian forests, although it is much more conspicuous in the late fall and winter, since it remains evergreen during that time.  Individual leaves have been known to last for up to four years.  The variegated foliage is gorgeous, and the flower, though small, definitely marks it as an orchid.  Here's a close up of the flower.

This one is in my shade garden, moved from the woods on the property (I know, I know, but there were plenty where I got it from.)
Jewel Orchid Leaves
There are four species of Goodyera found throughout the U.S. with only some areas in the Southwest lacking a native population.  Next time you're out walking in the woods, look for this relatively common native orchid.

It's a Miracle Food, I Tell Ya

A Ramapo from Rutgers University
Fellow MG Sylvia Kremp sent me this article in the current issue of the AARP magazine extolling the health benefits of tomatoes.  Not only lycopene,
...a powerful antioxidant that works by neutralizing free radicals (errant oxygen molecules that cause cellular damage in the body). Research has shown that eating foods high in lycopene protects against a wide range of cancers, from prostate cancer to lung and breast cancers.
But also,
... 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid, which researchers at Kyoto University in Japan recently found lowers cholesterol and fat in the bloodstream. (Left unchecked, these lipids can lead to such diseases as arteriosclerosis and even type 2 diabetes.)

Been harvesting Bush Early Girls (plants started by fellow MG, Mary Crooks - thanks!) for a week or so now, plus some Stupices and Bloody Butchers, as well as Sun Gold Cherry tomatoes.  Yum. 

The article notes that three or more servings a week [how 'bout a day?] of tomatoes are optimal.  Ketchup, Pasta and Pizza sauce count, too. 

Several recipes at the link. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Other Master Gardener Gardens

The Pergola at the Falling Spring Nursing Home Garden
The Franklin County Master Gardeners are also involved in two other gardens in the Chambersburg area, the Falling Spring Nursing Home Garden, and the John Brown House Historic Kitchen Garden.

The Falling Spring Nursing Home Garden is located next door to the Extension Office, behind the Nursing Home building itself.  The garden was first designed and installed in 1996. It underwent a major redesign and renovation in 2004, and won the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Best Public Garden award in 2006. This garden provides a lovely, restful spot for residents and visitors to the Falling Spring Nursing home. Master Gardeners and managers of the nursing home work with Occupational Services, Inc. to maintain the garden.

A walkway circles around the planted area
These two pictures above were taken by Anne Finucane on June 13, 2011.

MG Donna Berard ties up tomato plants
 using torn sheets as supports
 The John Brown House Historic Kitchen Garden is located on King Street in Chambersburg between 2nd and 3rd street.  It is the former home of Mrs. Ritner, a widow who ran it as a Boarding House in the 1860's.  One of her boarders was John Brown, who planned the raid at Harpers Ferry from this location.

Franklin County Master Gardeners researched historic kitchen gardens from that time period, and worked with Dr. Doris Goldman of the Renfrew German 4 Square Garden in Waynesboro to establish a demonstration kitchen garden using plants and materials authentic to the period.

Each year, Master Gardeners start seeds of historic varieties for planting in the garden.

More information here and here.

Cabbages, Pole Beans, and 2nd year Parsnips
Parsnips, a root crop, are biennial.  The tall plants in the background are 2nd year parsnips going to seed.  These will be saved and used in the spring for the 2012 planting, just as was done in the 1860's.

Some of the more unusual plants we're growing this year that were more popular in the 1860's include salsify and cardoon.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A New Home - Guineas Part 6

Chickens and Guineas Share a Home
The keets have outgrown their cardboard brooder box.  At first we taped up the flaps to make the sides taller, at about 10-12 days old.  When that didn't work any longer, we put a lid on the top, weighted with a partially filled gallon milk jug to keep them from jumping out.  I spent one morning searching for over an hour to find one of the better jumpers wandering around the utility room (Violet 1 or 2).

In the meantime, we finished converting the old children's playhouse into a large chicken coop, to give the chickens room to range, and still be able to lock them up for the night, to protect them from predators. Chicken coop built by the Goetz brothers, given the relatively low carpentry skills our household possesses.

Duck Tape - Is there Anything it Can't Do?
But you can't mix adult chickens and young keets (or chicks), without running the risk of a fatal pecking order incident.  Also, according to the book, the keets need to be confined to the place where you want them to roost at night, once they're adults and on free range.  Six weeks is the recommended time frame.  The idea is to give the keets a sense of security with fresh water, food, and occasional treats to make sure they come back every night, and don't start roosting in the wild, with all the inherent risks of predators (owls at night are the #1 worry.)

However, the spaces between the bars of the kennel were too far apart - the keets, at their current size, can easily squeeze between them.  So, we jerry-rigged a screen wrap of the kennel (sounds a lot easier than it turned out to be - taxing my meager abilities in this area to the limit.)

Here they are, happily (I hope) ensconced in their new home.

They Grow So Fast

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Look What's Blooming in the Demonstration Gardens, July 13

Introducing a new feature to the blog - What's Happening in the Franklin County Demonstration Gardens.    These are gardens and demonstration plots available to the public to peruse and learn about various horticulture topics.  They include an Herb Garden, Perennial Garden, Pollinator Friendly Garden, Woodland Meadow Native Habitat Garden and The Victory Garden.  These gardens function as learning classrooms for various workshops and classes, as well as outdoor laboratories for research and variety trials.  The public is welcome to come and take a look, get ideas, and take literature from the mailboxes, but please remember to just look and take notes, or just enjoy.  Please do not pick or take samples, since that will detract from others' enjoyment or learning experience.  The pictures below have links to further information about the specimen.

All the gardens referenced above are located at the Penn State Extension campus at 181 Franklin Farm Lane across the street from the stone building office.

We hope to make this a regular feature of the blog, so we can do year to year comparisons.


The Pollinator and Herb gardens are filled 
with color and texture.

Heliopsis helianthoides

Oenothera, Lemon Drop

Heliopsis, Phlox Paniculata (unknown), Consolida ambigua Larkspur

Lathyrus odoratus

Acanthus Mollis, Leucanthemum
Agastache Blue Fortune

Origanum Vulgare
Meanwhile the Wildlife Garden puts on . . .
. . . a berry, berry nice show.

Linaria vulgaris
(Yellow Toadflax - Be Careful of this one - it is often considered weedy)

 And garden-fresh veggies get ripe for the picking.

A salad in the making.

Tomatoes All in a Row

Green Peppers

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Meet the Keets - Guineas Part 5

Guineas come in a variety of colors and patterns. We ordered a selection of assorted colors, chosen at random from the following: Brown, Powder Blue, Chocolate, Violet, Sky Blue, Pewter, Lavender, Royal Purple, coral Blue, Bluff Dundotte, Buff, Porcelaine, Opaline, and Slate. Based soley on my amateur observances, we think our eleven are composed of eight different varieties.

Here they are:

Violet 1

Violet 2

Numbers 1 and 2 are also the first two that hatched. Look at their heads. There's a solid light brown patch on top. We think these will be Violet as adults. Here's the description from the author of Gardening for Guineas.
Keets are a rusty red color with a white belly and wings. These are very cute. As they feather they gradually change to the steel blue color and then darken to a dusty black, with the purple sheen.
Other possibilities are pewter or slate.

Blue 1
Blue 2
The next two above are one of the blues.  Which one, I'm not sure, but they could be Coral Blue, Porcelaine, Opaline, or Powder Blue.


This one we call Blondie.  Very light tan color.  Chocolate, Buff or Buff Dundotte.

Darker Blondie

This one is a little darker than Blondie, maybe the same as Blondie, but a different sex.  I dunno.

White Face Friendly Fella
 This one has a white face, with brown stripes.  We have two of these.  This one is the most friendly and will hop on your hand when offerring seed.

White Face #2

Number 9 - Narrow Stripe

Number 10 - Medium Stripe

Number 11 - Wide Stripe

Numbers 9-11 are very similar, and we are unable to assign them to a category. Number 9 has a narrow, brown stripe on the middle of his head. Number 10 is the same with a slightly wider stripe, and Number 11 has the widest stripe.

We'll be watching as they feather out and characteristics become more pronounced. Also looking for more names, so make suggestions. No more 'Gimpy', since the bandaids have come off, and they are all walking normally.

Maybe other eyes can look at the various color keys and make guesses.

UPDATE:  Sad news. 10:15 Sunday night.  Just checked on the Keets, and #10, medium sized stripe, has died.  Now have only 10.  Poor thing.