Monthly Archives: May 2015

Seaweed in the Garden

Seaweed in the Garden

I’d heard about using seaweed in the garden. It was supposedly a miracle cure. It helped turn dirt into soil (dirt is dead but soil has living organisms), they said. It helped control blight on tomatoes, they said. I wondered if “they” knew what they were talking about. Living near the coast, it was worth a trip to pick up seaweed. Even if it didn’t live up to the claims, it would at least add some organic matter to the soil in a brand new garden.

Joining up with Maple Hill 101!


The first thing I needed to do was call the town office to find out what I am allowed to pick up. Laws vary from state to state and town to town. On the third call I learned that rockweed washes up on the public boat landing so heavily that it gets tangled in boat trailers. The clerk told me to go at low tide and gave me the time. She also gave me a list of things to take with me to make getting seaweed for the garden easier:

  • burlap or mesh bags make it easy to unload at home, but one filled bag can weigh more than 50 pounds.
  • a garden fork
  • heavy duty sled to pull weed to the truck. I said I have a garden cart I could use but she pointed out that wheels get stuck in sand. I’m glad I mentioned it.
  • water proof gloves

We can gather rock weed lying on the beach. We can’t take any seaweed attached to rocks. I went on a weekday when the beach wouldn’t be as busy. It didn’t take long to fill the back of a friend’s truck, and we gathered it all from around the boat landing. I see why trailers get tangled up. It was dense, wet and heavy.

Seaweed is full of micronutrients that improve the soil. I made seaweed tea by filling a five gallon bucket half full of seaweed and topping it off with water. I left the cover on for a week. Stand back when you open the bucket. The “aroma” was strong because I left it in the sun. Next time I’ll set it in the shade. Some of the yellowing broccoli and cauliflower plants improved a few weeks after I mulched them with seaweed and watered with seaweed tea.

I added a layer of seaweed to the compost pile. It’s not high in nitrogen so it didn’t give the pile I hoped for, but the added nutrients to the finished compost were worth the effort.

Mulching the tomato plants is said to help prevent soil born blight because it keeps water from splashing blight spores onto the plants. We didn’t have an outbreak of blight last year but the tomatoes sure did do well. I’ve been to the beach again this year to get more seaweed. I planted the tomatoes in the same spot as last year by pushing the seaweed aside to plant the transplants. I do believe there are a lot more blossoms than last year’s plants have!

I wanted to rototill the seaweed into the soil but remembered the warning about trailers, and I knew it would be a tangled mess in the tines of the tiller. It didn’t break down by the end of last summer but there wasn’t a lot left on the surface this spring. I turned it into the soil with a garden fork.

A couple of things to think about:

  • There were insects in the seaweed. I thought they’d die as soon as the seaweed started to dry out. They didn’t. They’re sea fleas. The don’t harm the garden. As long as the soil under the weed stays moist they’ll live for weeks, and that’s perfectly okay.
  • Seashells! There aren’t a lot of shells in the seaweed so it’s not a big benefit but every little bit helps. Seashells break down slowly and add calcium to the soil. A friend who first told me about seaweed in the garden told me it took five years for the last of the shells to break down.

If you don’t live near the coast you can still use seaweed in the garden by purchasing it as an additive. It seemed expensive to me up front but you don’t need a lot so overall, it’s a good investment in plant and soil health and added nutrition to our food. se

Grocery Shopping is Expensive!

Grocery shopping is expensive!

After leaving the grocery store yesterday morning, I sat in the car, a little disturbed and depressed. The expense of grocery shopping these days is astronomical. I came home determined to grow more of my own food. I’ll add to my container gardening and I’m thinking about what I can grow indoors in winter. Ugh! Grocery shopping is expensive!

grocery shopping is expensive

Jersey cabbage

It’s May and there’s fresh food available but not enough to put fresh vegetables on the table daily so I’m still shopping. It’s time to find the local farmers market in my new state.

  • Cabbage: $1.29 a pound. I bought it because I’ve been craving coleslaw but it kind of hurt a little. grocery shopping is expensive
  • Carrots:  They are dry and many of them were cracked, and they’re .99 cents a pound. I moved on to the organic section and found nice carrots for $1.49 a pound. I’m sure this is less expensive per pound. They don’t have to be peeled because they are fresher, and because they aren’t overgrown and cracked. They’ll be great in the coleslaw.
  • Broccoli: Soft and starting to flower. $1.99 a pound. The stems’ ends were dried out.
  • Peas: $4 a pound. It takes about a pound of freshly picked peas to get one cup of peas after shelling.  Who can afford to pay $4 a cup for peas? Oh my gosh, grocery shopping is expensive.
  • Spinach. I looked at baby spinach with the thought of adding it to my salads and quiche (the hens are laying full force so I’m eating a lot of quiche). It was packaged in a plastic container. $9.09 per pound. I can buy a lot of spinach seeds for $9.00.

    cherry tomato, grocery shopping is expensive

    Juliet tomato

  • Tomatoes: They’re not ripe here yet, and they weren’t in the grocery store either. They were so immature they were hard and what I consider inedible.  Shipped in from Mexico and $1.79 a pound. grocery shopping is expensive
  • Yellow summer squash.  It’s a wonder I didn’t mutter out loud.  $1.79 a pound.

Fresh from the garden this week, I have radishes, Swiss chard, baby beets and beet greens, lettuce, arugula, boc choi, the last of the tatsoi, and the green garlic. And eggs! Lots of eggs for protein. Fresh food is worth the effort, especially after my reminder that grocery shopping is expensive.

Sprucing up the Yard

Sprucing up the yard

I’m still at it! I’m still sprucing up the yard here and there as I get a little time. This weekend I spent time on the perennial gardens. With the garden rototilled and settling, I turned my attention to the perennial gardens. By the time I finished one of them became an expanded perennial garden with room for annual vegetables and flowers.

There’s so much work in setting up a homestead and making it our own that adding beauty can be lost in the shuffle. As good as it felt to have the garden prepared and ready to plant, working in the flower gardens was rewarding. It’s a small start to all that needs to be done to my new plots (remember that I’ve been here just over a year) but looking out the window this morning and seeing flowers that weren’t there 24 hours ago made me smile. Sprucing up the yard has had a fast return in smiles.

sprucing up the homestead, johnny jump ups

Johnny Jump-Ups

I moved Johnny Jump Ups, a self-seeding annual, to the expanded garden, right by the back porch. It was overcast yesterday when I uprooted the clump and divided them. Soon after I put down the shovel for the day, the sky opened up and poured on the newly transplanted flowers. It’s overcast and drizzling today and for the next two days, perfect weather for transplants to settle in.  Before the end of the season I’ll leave a few flowers instead of dead-heading and let them go to seed. Over the years the colors will change as the number of generations grow.

This peony survived transplanting and winter and established its roots well. It will take a few years to grow before it flowers. I divided one plant into three. When they fill in and blossom together they’re be beautiful. When I’m sprucing up the yard next year I’ll probably need to add support for the peonies. Or at least I hope they grow that much in a year.

sprucing up the homestead


This bleeding heart has been here for a very long time. It might have been one of the original plants in the perennial garden. It was overgrown, its root a massive, woody, hollow mess. There’s only one thing to do when it’s that bad – break it up with a spade, dig holes, amend the soil and split it up. I might have been a little too harsh. This and one tiny other shoot have come back. This is the original plant. So be it. It didn’t bloom last year and it might not this year but next  year, it will be beautiful again. I’ll weed this bed when the rain stops, and I’ll be looking for other plants that might still pop up.

sprucing up the homestead, bleeding heart

Bleeding heart

It was nice to find the chives growing. I use a lot of them in cooking, dips and on baked potatoes. I divided the clump, spread them out and will pass one section on to a friend when she visits later this week. I bought an oregano plant at a garden show but I’m not sure it’s going to survive. It’s out there and now I want to see what happens.

sprucing up the homestead

Pansies, waiting to be planted

I ran out of oomph by the end of the afternoon. These pansies are waiting for me. They’ll be just fine right there for a few days as long as I remember to take them out of the tray.

What’s growing in your perennial gardens? Are you adding annuals to fill space or because you like them?

Lincoln Leeks in the Garden {this moment}

Lincoln Leeks

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Leeks! They’re one of the first things we plant each spring.

Lincoln Leeks

Lincoln leeks, one of the first veggies we plant in the spring.

Foods You Don’t Have to Refrigerate

Foods You Don’t Have to Refrigerate

It’s getting warm, sometimes downright hot. Gardens are starting to produce at least spinach and other cool weather greens that need to be stored in the refrigerator. We have pitchers of iced tea and lemonade taking up lots of room. According to the Food & Drug Administration, refrigerators should be kept at 40°. Not all foods must be kept that cold and for some, it’s detrimental. Here’s a list of foods you don’t have to refrigerate. It might help make room for the foods that do need to be that cold.

Bread is one of those foods you don’t have to refrigerate anymore. It was common back in the days of making ten or 12 loaves at a time. As it turns out, bread won’t mold as quickly in the refrigerator but it does go stale faster.

foods you don't have to refrigerate

Tomatoes, peppers and melons should be left on the counter, out of the sun. Refrigeration causes a breakdown in sugars and acids and changes the texture. Sweeter melons are grown with less water (did you know that?) and kept on the counter.

Herbs store well in fresh water on the counter. Some of them, such a mint, will develop roots if left too long, and the taste will water down. Cut only what you’ll use within a few days for best flavor or dehydrate extra for use later.

Apples and Grapes like to be cool but not cold. Polish them up, put them in a pretty bowl and use them as an edible display. We eat a lot of each when they’re easy to see and reach all the time. My exception to cold grapes in freezing them. I like to freeze them in the summer to use in my lemonade.

foods you don't have to refrigerate

Honey is a natural anti-bacterial (when used topically on wounds). It won’t spoil, and it will take longer to crystallize when kept in a dark cupboard. Molasses is another sweetener that doesn’t have to be refrigerated. There are mixed thoughts on Maple Syrup. I didn’t refrigerate an open quart of real maple syrup (not pancake syrup) and it molded. If you need room you can take the maple syrup out but put it back as soon as there’s room.

And the list of foods you don’t have to refrigerate grows longer! Vinegar based, salty and fermented foods don’t need refrigeration. I like cold pickles but they’re the first thing to come out of the fridge when I need more space.

Eggs are the controversial item on the list of foods you don’t have to refrigerate. Did you know that in many countries eggs are never refrigerated? It’s true. In Europe, farmers vaccinate their laying hens for salmonella bacteria. They don’t wash eggs the way we do here in the United States. we concentrate on washing the shells to keep salmonella out of the egg. Washing removes the bloom that covers the egg as a means of keeping salmonella out. The US has 1.2 million cases of salmonella a year. England and Wales recorded less than 600 casaes in 2009.

Do you wash your un-vaccinated chickens’ eggs? What do you leave out of the fridge? Inquiring minds want to know!