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Speedy Vegetable Garden Giveway

Speedy Vegetable Garden by Diacono and Leendertz

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how fast does your garden grow? The 208 page Speedy Vegetable Garden by Mark Diacono and Lia Leendertz (Timber Press) will give you a whole new view of how fast you can grow something to eat. This means we can keep some food growing all year long, if only on our windowsill. Impatient children will find that they can harvest some greens in less than two weeks.

I have grown sprouts in my kitchen for years using jars or a sprout bag, but this book opened up whole  new world of quick harvests. Diacono and Leendertz take the reader and gardener all the way from ‘soaks’ to quick harvest vegetables like zucchini and cherry tomatoes. I had never heard of a soak. Did you know  that  soaking pumpkin seeds for only 1-4 hours will wake up the germination instinct and even before the nascent sprout is visible you will have  buttery crop to sprinkle on your salad or sandwich adding potassium, and vitamins A, B, C, and D? Peanuts can be soaked for 12 hours, until the root just breaks through. Lots of vitamins and minerals. Almonds can also be soaked for 12 hours and eaten with gusto.

Moving on from soaks and sprouts, micro-greens come next. Full directions are given for seeding and watering. Little plastic seed flats can be used, but metal guttering cut to an appropriate size can also make a good planter for intensely flavore crops like cilantro, fenn, radishes and oriental greens. A micro-green is really just the baby stage of the shoot and this is a time when nutrients are at a high level. You wouldn’t make a whole salad out of micro-greens, but they add vibrant taste to your regular salad. Harvest in about two weeks. If you grow microgreens you’ll want to keep successively planted containers going all the time.

Other chapters detail cut and come again salads and quick harvest vegetables, again with good directions for keeping the harvest coming. The illustrations are beautiful, as are these young healthy plants, but the chapter on edible flowers makes you understand how easily you can make a salad suitable for the cover of any food magazine. And if you don’t quite know what to do with any of these crops, Diacono and Leendertz provide you with 20 quick and easy recipes. The Spring Garden Tart with spring onions, spinach, peas, beans, herbs and cheese would give my family a very happy lunchtime.

I always say you can’t hurry in the garden, and that is very true. However, there is no harm in letting vegetables ready themselves for the table as quickly as they like.  In the Speedy Vegetable Garden Diacono and Leenderts show us how these speedy vegetables can lead us to a longer growing season, and extremely nutritious vegetables without the usual back-straining labor.  If you would like to win a copy of this book and start your own speedy garden just leave a comment below by midnight on Wednesday February 13. If you want to tell me about the quickest – or longest crop – you ever grew so much the better I am all ears. I will randomly choose a winner and announce it on Thursday, February 14. Because Timber Press and I love my readers.

Jono Neiger – Mimic Nature in Your Garden


Jono Neiger of Regenerative Design Group

Jono Neiger of the Regenerative Design Group which has its office in Greenfield, spoke to the Greenfield Garden Club a couple of weeks ago. His inspiring talk explained how gardeners could mimic nature, and require less work and inputs to create a garden that would give us what we desire out of our garden and what wildlife and pollinators require.

He gave some very specific advice beginning with the suggestion that vegetable gardens, and gardens that need substantial cultivating be sited near the house where their needs will not be forgotten. I can tell you how valuable this advice is from my own experience. The Herb Bed, the Front Garden, the Daylily and Rose Banks, all of which are right in front of the house get more attention because those south gardens warm up first in the spring and because it is easy to do a small job or two as I come and go, in and out of the house.

It is easy to remember to spread compost and other organic fertilizers on our vegetable and flower beds wherever they are, but remembering to weed or watch for problems is easier when the garden is right in front of us.

Water is becoming more of a concern as we often seem to have too much or too little. This has inspired many people to invest in rain barrels which collect rain off our roofs to use later in the garden when there is a dry spell. Those who have used 50 gallon barrels quickly learn that they don’t hold much of the roof run-off and add more barrels.

Neiger himself has arranged it so that the runoff from his roof runs into a small artificial pond that he has created below the house. The pond holds about 300 gallons of water. When the pond is full, there is an overflow pipe that takes water to a small bog garden that he planted when his son was young featuring pitcher plants. When that area is full water runs down to the vegetable garden. His goal is to get as much use out of all the water he can collect and keep it usefully on the site.

Those of us who don’t have enough room to move rainwater across our property could buy a larger water tank to collect more water off our roof. We can count on that tank costing about a dollar a gallon, so a 400 gallon tank would cost about $400. We can also plant a rain garden that will keep rain on our site and out of storm drains.

He also told us that gray water is now legal in Massachusetts. If we can separate out our sink and bath water that gray water can be drained into our gardens. We would have to pay attention to the type of soaps and detergents we use. His passion is to produce no waste and to recycle any waste elements of our house and garden as much as possible. Compost!

He is a proponent of permaculture, growing perennial plants for food, as well as for ornament. He explained the Edible Forest Garden in terms that I could finally understand. The idea is to mimic nature in the way the forest grows with tall trees, then understory shrubs and then groundcovers. An edible forest in my garden simply means to include a fruit tree or two, some berry bushes and then ground covers. Rhubarb and asparagus are familiar perennial edible ‘ground covers.’ How simple.

If you are interested in perennial crops Eric Toensmeier’s excellent book Perennial Vegetables: From Artichoke to Zuiki Taro, a Gardeners Guide to Over 100 Delicious, Easy-to-Grow Edibles will give you full information about familiar and unfamiliar crops, many of which are hardy in our area.

Those of us who live in town will not be able to, or need to, include the food, fuel, fiber, fodder, farmeceuticals, fertilizer and fun that make up Neiger’s productive landscape, but all of us can include several of these elements. In the acre surrounding my house I have food in my vegetable gardens, some fodder for my chickens who then supply some fertilizer, compost for fertilizer, an herb garden for farmeceuticals and fun in the Lawn Beds that include small trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and even some groundcovers. I want to point out bee balm, mint, yarrow and other pollinator magnets are among the perennials in the herb and flower gardens.

How many of these elements do you have in your garden. Begin with fun.

Achillea, yarrow, attracts pollinators


While Jono Neiger gave us some new ecological ways to think about managing our domestic landscapes, Emily Monosson, PhD, teacher and environmental toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts will be leading a discussion at the Greenfield Library with those who have read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson on Saturday, February 2. This talk, The Relevance of Silent Spring after 50 Years, is scheduled from 11 am – 1 pm and is sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners Association to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this book which could be said to have started the whole environmental movement and new ways of. “No book since then has had the impact of Silent Spring. Carson saw an acute toxic change . . . and synthesized an immense amount of research. The changes in our environment today are more insidious,” Monosson said.

Between the Rows  January 26, 2013

Dormancy – A False Death


Winter trees at the End of the Road

The leafless landscape seems dead, but dormancy is only a false death.  In the 1/24 issue of the New York Times Michael Tortorello takes us on a wintry horticultural tour of gardens in New York City and learns that death is not what winter brings. I grant you, the activity he sees in Central Park and other places is rather different from the dormancy I can see in my frozen snowy landscape, but still, his guides make a point.

An important lesson is that it is not really the cold that makes trees and shrubs lose their leaves,  it is drought. Plant respire through their foliage and lose  a great percentage of their moisture through their leaves. If the ground is frozen there is no more water being taken in, so the leaves have to go.

Rhododendron Foliage 1-25-13

Rhododendrons,  broad leaved evergreens, do not lose their foliage, but you can see how the leaves curl to minimize moisture loss. These leaves are still performing some photosynthesis. It is the look of these droopy cigar-like leaves that made me dislike rhodies for a very long time. I don’t know why the wonderful spring flowers did not make as big an impression on me when I was a young non-gardener as the winter foliage.

While there is no chickweed or knotweed or mugwort sprouting in my neighborhood as there is in Central Park, a close look will show tiny green buds on the lilacs, and the buds on the rhododendrons are not hard to see at all.

Dormancy is not death. We are all just waiting. I am more impatient than the plants.


Flax for Textiles, Oil, Nutrition and Paper

Rory with snake

Rory had to go home to reorganize for Boy Scout camp, but not before he caught this snake in the garden. He has such sharp eyes. I’ve seen a lot of snakes this summer, but none as pretty as this one.

Rory harvesting garlic

We keep Rory pretty busy with travels and projects – and chores. He began the garlic harvest and I finished today.

Rory the baker

Time with Granny and The Major is never complete without a couple of stints in the kitchen. Rory’s specialite de maison is Saumon en Papillote, but its always fun to make a few pans of  sugar cookies.

Flax growing at Historic Deerfield

One day The Major, Rory and I coaxed granddaughter Tricia to come with us to Historic Deerfield. We got a great tour of  the Wells-Thorne house, and a brief tour of the Stebbins house where I  worked as a tour guide for a few months in 1972. Or thereabouts. We went to the History Workshop where we saw flax growing.  We got to see how it got from being a plant in the soil, to fiber that could be used for weaving, sewing, rope, and paper.

Harvested flax

The second step is to harvest the flax.

Flax retting

Then the flax has to be  soaked in water for at least two weeks. This is called ‘retting’ which essentially means rotting, to loosen the outer fibers.

The retted flax then has to be dried. It is now ready for the work that gets done indoors. This display includes the equipment to ‘brake’ or break down those outer fibers, then ‘hetcheling’ which is kind of like carding wool,  to release the long flax fibers – known to us all as linen.

We are all familiar with linen tablecloths, towels, and clothes, but did you realized that linseed oil is from flax? And nowadays flax seed is recognized for its great nutritional value because it contains a high level of Omega-3.

The beginning of linen paper

The hands-on project  that is organized for visitors this summer is paper-making, using tow, the shorter pieces of flax fiber. Historic Deerfield Museum staff was on hand with all the supplies needed to help us make our own paper. Here Tricia has perfectly filled her frame with tow.

Tricia and Rory making linen paper

Tricia is taking the next step while Rory gets started.

Drying the paper

The  job begins with wet tow, which has to be dried. It took three blue towels to get out as much water as possible.

Removing the paper from the frame

Then the wet paper is knocked out of the frame. It only took a little encouragement.

Rory 'scutching'

It needs further drying. This step is called ‘scutching’  Afterwards the paper is laid out on trays to dry. Visitors who come the following day will get to use this handmade paper to make a little journal. We made our journals out of paper made the day before. A fair exchange all around.

This project will be continuing until August 30.  Historic Deerfield is a great place to take children. And adults.

Yes, You Can!

Our area is still picking itself up after Irene left her gifts of washed out roads and bridges, flooded basements and houses. We have been fortunate here at the End of the Road because we never lost power and the water that ran into our dirt floored basement, ran out politely without making a fuss. We thought our only problem was hoping the popcorn supply would last through Sunday afternoon while we read our books.

In fact we thought we had gotten through the storm with no damage at all – until a neighbor called to warn us that Rowe Road was washed out and that Henry would not be going to work on Monday. We were stranded.

We are country people and do not let the family larder get too low, because you never know what could happen. Power outages, blizzards, hurricanes. Mother Nature can throw any number of gifts at us and we know we should be prepared.

When people checked in with us, the first question was do you have enough food. Yes, we did. We have a freezer full of meat, fruit, vegetables, bread, and even butter. The pantry has soup and pasta from the store, but also homemade jars of pickles, jams and peaches, not all of which were made in my kitchen.

As more and more people are trying to produce a little more of their own food and cut down on food-miles, the issue of preserving the harvest comes up pretty quick. Even a small garden can produce too many tomatoes to eat all at once, and they will not keep long. What to do?

Daniel Gasteiger has come to the rescue with his new book, “Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too: The Modern Step-By-Step Guide to Preserving Food” ($19.95) published by Cool Springs Press. I have my old stand-bys on my shelf, Putting Food By and the Farm Journal Book of Freezing and Canning, but Gasteiger’s book can take an inexperienced reader step-by-photographed-step through a whole range of food preservation techniques.

Grandson Rory making pickles

This summer my 15 year old grandson used ”Yes, You Can!” to make bread and butter pickles to enter in the Heath Fair. The two of us read the recipe and looked at the pictures and discussed the process, but of course, since these were to be entered in the Fair, I could not help any more than that. Rory followed the directions, slicing, salting, soaking, draining, cooking, packing and canning. He won First Prize! And I can attest that the pickles are crisp and delicious.

Gasteiger gives general directions for canning quick pickles, low acid and high acid foods, hot water baths and pressure canning and includes a few recipes. Jams, jellies, syrups and candied fruits get their own canning chapter.

I mostly use my freezer, so the chapter on freezing was familiar material, although he and I disagree about freezer jams. He likes canned jam, and I like freezer jam, but that is just a matter of taste.

I have a neighbor who does a lot of drying and I was interested to see her electric dehydrator recently. Between the ease of using that counter top machine and Gasteiger’s directions for making Tangy Tomato Treats I am tempted to invest. Instant mashed potatoes, dried herbs, dried fruits, yummmm. Very tempting.

Gasteiger talks about cold storage, too. When we bought our house in Maine there was a fenced off root cellar area in the basement. We noticed rat traps in there as well as a couple of wooden boxes. I asked my Vermont farmer uncle what to do about rats. He said, “Reset the traps.” Gasteiger does mention that rodents are something to consider if you set up a root cellar. Then he lists the basic requirements for an effective root cellar, temperatures, humidity and what different crops require.

As he goes through each kind of food preservation from root cellars and fermentation to freezing, Gasteiger gives information about necessary equipment and basic techniques like blanching. The clear photographs of equipment, techniques, and individual processes are very useful to the novice.

I consider myself pretty experienced in the kitchen, but I admit I have never frozen fruit pies, or thought about putting together a real meal for the freezer. Gasteiger seems to have thought of everything, including the advice not to reheat frozen meals in their plastic containers because of concerns about toxic chemicals that might be released from hot plastic.

The organization of each section is logical, the photographs are useful and the text is clear and encouraging. This book is everything a gardener new to food preservation could need, and even someone more experienced will find new information and inspiration.


Don’t forget. The Sunflower Contest, co-sponsored by The Recorder and The Greenfield Garden Club will be held on Saturday, September 17 at the Energy Park on Miles Street in conjunction with the John Putnam Fiddler’s Reunion.  Entries will be accepted from noon until 2 p.m. at the Energy Park. The contest is divided into two groups:  15 and younger and 16 and older. The categories are tallest, most blooms on one plant, heaviest head, largest head and best arrangement, which must contain mostly sunflowers. Additionally, judges reserve the right to create a special category should that prove necessary. Winners will be announced from The Station in the park, once the judging is complete. Contest winners get bragging rights, a nifty ribbon and a bag of local apples. Everyone who enters gets their picture in the following week’s Life & Times section. ###

Between the Rows   September 3, 2011

A Dying Luna Moth

Injured Luna Moth

The large Luna Moth is a beautiful creature.  The Luna Moth (Actias luna) here was badly damaged and missing its long tail, but it was alive when my friend found it in her back yard. She put it in a casserole dish and began her researches.

Her moth was a female and even in its ravaged state it began to lay eggs. Ordinarily females will lay between 100-300 eggs about 4 to 7 at a time on the underside of leaves.  This moth had to make do with laying them on the dish.

Luna Moth eggs

I apologize that this photo is a little out of focus. My attempt at a close up was not successful.  These eggs are about the size of a pinhead, smaller than a beet seed.  Our poor lady could not lay them on the underside of a leaf, but she laid these down with whatever glue she naturally produces to make the eggs stick to a leaf.  That is something else I never thought about, that all the insect eggs that are laid on leaves need a ‘glue’ to make them stick.

Eggs incubate for 8 to 15 days and then each caterpillar begins its journey through several developmental stages (instars) before spinning a cocoon and pupating for about 2 weeks.  Their life span is short.  They do not eat, but mate and die in about a week.  This moth was discovered on June 3 so it must be very near it’s death.

I have not seen any Luna Moths, but I have noticed more butterflies than last year which makes me very happy.  The swallowtails haven’t started eating my dill, but they are welcome to it.