Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mulching

Mulching Trees

I spent part of this past weekend mulching the grass and the leaves with the lawn mower and bagging attachment. I wanted to put a deep layer of mulch around some of the new trees and shrubs to help them get through the winter and also to add some fertility to the soil. When mulching around trees, make sure to pull the mulch back slightly from the trunk to avoid rot.

The two apple trees, the honeyberry bushes, and the cherry bushes all got some mulch. When the rest of the leaves fall off the maples, the blue berries, kiwis, and raspberries will get some too. I also had a little extra to put into the compost heap which should hopefully be ready by spring. It is a large pile (4’x4’x4’) that should be able to keep itself warm through the winter.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Moving Plants Inside

House Plants

We recently had our first frost, so it was time to move plants back inside the house. Pictured above you can see the combination citrus tree I started earlier this year. It is a combination super dwarf lemon, orange, and tangerine. It should make fruit in a few years. In the back you should recognize the pineapple I started from a cutting. It’s doing quite well, and it has more than doubled its new leaves.

You can read starting a pineapple here: Grow A Pineapple From a Cutting

Right now, they are all sitting in a south facing window while I decide where to put them and the grow light. It’ll soon be getting very close to eight hours of sunlight a day here, and that isn’t enough for these two.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Jack Dog Farms Harvest Fest

Jack Dog Farms Harvest Fest

This past weekend my friend Corrine had their end of season celebration at their urban farm, Jack Dog Farms. The farm is located on a rented lot in SE Minneapolis. They only started this past may, and it is impressive what they’ve been able to accomplish. They grew so many different veggies and a dozen CSA shares sold.

The most striking thing I saw growing there was the purple tomatoes shown above. I had no idea they came in purple as well. I kind of have a thing for purple veggies, so I might have to try growing these myself next year along side my purple beans, purple potatoes, and purple carrots.

Apples

Besides showing off the awesome job on the farm, they bought some apples from a local farmer and borrowed a cider press. I’d had never made apple cider before, so I was excited. I brought a pile of my own apples too.

Jack Dog Farms Harvest Fest

It’s a relatively simple two step process. First put the apples in the red hopper on the top while spinning the big red wheel. After the wooden bucket is nearly full, then put on the pressing cover and start spinning the wooden handle on top to squeeze out every last bit of delicious cider. It was a fun time!

You can find Jack Dog Farms on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/JackDogFarms

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Expanding the Compost Bin

DSCN4063

I have two compost bins in my outdoor composting rotation. The one on the right is an expandable one. I originally set it up at a small size since I was having a hard time keeping it full. Now that fall is here, I have lots of extra organic matter to put into the heap. I took out the plastic bolts and enlarged it to the biggest size which is about four foot across which doubled the amount I could put into it. I think I will have enough room now for all the extra green mulch, garden plants, and leaves to keep things tidy. The pile should be large enough that it make heat as well and continues into the winter. I wonder if I will get to see it steam or if I’ll have to rotate it. 

DSCN4088

Monday, October 14, 2013

Apples

Apples

It’s apple season right now in Minnesota, but our apple trees aren’t producing yet. They are still quite small. I expect it will take them another couple years. Luckily, some of our friends have apple trees and they produce more apples than they know what to do with (or have time to deal with).

Apples

They’ve very generously given us several grocery bags full of apples. We’ve been making apple pies, apple leather, apple butter, dried apple chips, and apple sauce. The house smells delicious.

What have you been doing with apples?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Processing Walnuts

We don’t have any walnut trees on our property, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get walnuts. A friend has a walnut tree, and I had expressed interest in getting some earlier in the year. This past week we received a five gallon bucket with the ones that had fallen on the ground so far.

Processing Walnuts

I’ve never processed walnuts, so I checked it out on the Internet first. I did know ahead of time that contact with the husks will stain things. I have a friend who processes walnuts and her hands turned black when her gloves leaked. I use nitrile exam gloves to protect my hands. They almost worked flawlessly until the thumb broke. Now the tip of my thumb is brownish/black. lol. It doesn’t look nice. Next time I will wear two pairs or some heavy duty kitchen gloves. The rotten ones got tossed into the compost bucket along with the husks. Yes, you can compost them just like the forest naturally does.

The process is pretty simple. The husks come right off by hand to reveal the walnut inside. Removing the husks is required before drying and storing. It was recommended to use a wire screen to dry them. I didn’t have that, so I’m using some old boxes and rotating them. They should dry in a couple weeks.

Processing Walnuts

Some useful links I found when learning about walnuts:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Walking Onions Sets to Plant

Walking Onion Sets

I just received my order of perennial onions (Allium cepa proliferum) to plant. The “seeds” are actually called sets and are tiny little onions that grow above ground on the end of the stalk. A bulb keeps them going through the winter. They are also known as “Tree Onions” and “Egyptian Walking Onions” because of how they grown and reproduce. The entire plant is edible from the bulb, to the stalk, and including the sets on top. The stalks grow up two to three feet tall and fall over in autumn putting the sets in contact with the ground. New plants sprout up in the spring as the plant “walks” across the garden.

Fall is a good time to plant bulbs, so I need to get these little guys in the ground. They are quite small with the largest at just over 1/4” in diameter. I’m going to plant several patches to give them a better chance to get going. Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

How to Make a Fruit Fly Trap the Easy Way

This simple and cheap fruit fly trap will only take a two minutes to make and will kill many fruit flies over several days.

Making Fruit Fly Trap

Each summer we get a few fruit flies in the kitchen. It doesn’t seem to matter how clean we keep it. They always show up on some of the fruit we buy from the store. Bananas seem to be the main culprit.

I made this trap after some reading online. Many of the suggestions were overly complicated, so I began experimenting. This trap only uses three ingredients: soap, water, vinegar.

After some experimentation, I learned that apple cider vinegar works better than white vinegar.

Making Fruit Fly Trap Making Fruit Fly Trap

I also prefer using a coffee cup to a bowl. The color of the bowl or cup doesn’t seem to matter either.

Making Fruit Fly Trap Making Fruit Fly Trap

How to Make the Fruit Fly Trap
  1. I suggest using a coffee cup. Pour about 1/3 cup water into the cup. I don’t actually measure anymore as the exact measurement doesn’t mater. We aren’t making a cake here. :)
  2. Pour about 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar into the cup. Again, this isn’t an exact measurement. It’s worth going to get some apple cider vinegar as it attracts many more fruit flies than white vinegar which also works, but not as well.
  3. Add one drop of liquid soap and swish it around.
  4. Leave it in an infected area and don’t disturb it.
  5. Remove any fruit or vegetables from the area by eating them, putting them in the fridge, or composting them.
I usually leave my trap out for a week or two. It’ll keep working the entire time. The fruit flies are attracted by the smell of the vinegar. When the flies go in for a taste, the soap disturbs the surface tension and they fall in and drown. Easy, cheap, and very effective.

Making Fruit Fly Trap

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bees on Flowers

I’ve been really enjoying watching the bees on the late summer flowers. On a summer morning there are hundreds of bees all over the yard feasting on the flowers. The garlic chives are still the favorite with the lavender and sedum a close second.

Bee on the sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Fire’

Bees on Flowers

Bee on the garlic chives

Bees on Flowers

Bee on lavender

Bees on Flowers

Bee on lavender

Bees on Flowers

Bee on lavender

Bees on Flowers