Monday, November 26, 2012

Easy Green Beans w/Bacon Recipe

Image: Gnawme/Flickr
Looking for a tasty side dish to make? Then try this easy green beans with bacon recipe. Using 6 ingredients, this recipe is quick and simple to make.

Green Beans with Bacon Recipe


1 Pound Green Beans Frozen or Fresh
6 Slices Crispy Bacon, Crumbled
3 Tablespoons Water
2 Tablespoons Butter
½ Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Chicken Bouillon Granules


1. Combine all ingredients except bacon
2. Cook green beans until tender
3. Sprinkle with bacon

Additional Recipes

Zucchini Pickle Recipe
How to Cook Acorns
Hungarian Green Bean Soup
Ground Beef and Vegetable Soup
Vegetable Terriyaki Wraps
Garden Vegetable Fried Rice
Baked Apples Recipe
Pumpkin Pecan Butter Recipe
How to Fry Pumpkin Seeds
Popcorn Ball Recipe
Make Your Own Pumpkin Pie Filling Recipe

Monday, November 19, 2012

What Were You Thankful for This Gardening Season?

With Thanksgiving only a few days away I thought I’d get into the swing of things by talking about what I’m most thankful for from my garden this year - after all this is a gardening blog and I want to stay on topic. So, without further ado, here are the 3 things that I’m most thankful for now that this gardening season has come to a close.

Number 1: My Garden’s Bounty

After all the hours of work and sweat I put into my organic vegetable garden planning, planting and weeding, I was rewarded with a bountiful harvest. I’m thankful for the bags of homegrown organic vegetables in my freezer, some of which my family and I will be enjoying this Thanksgiving.

Number 2: Habitat for Little Critters

I noticed lots of what I call little critters in my vegetable gardens this year - mainly toads and snakes. I’m thankful for the habitat my plants and mulch provided for the “good” critters that called my gardens home this summer. I’m thankful because toads and snakes help keep the bug population down naturally while they stay sheltered and well fed.

Number 3: Exercise and Relaxation

Believe it or not, I’m thankful for all the work it took to keep my greatly expanded vegetable gardens growing healthy and strong. Not only did I get a great workout while keeping my garden tended, I worked off lots of stress as well, providing myself with great relaxation later on. I enjoyed and am thankful for the peace and quiet my garden provided me.

What are you thankful for from your garden this year?

Related Articles

3 Things I Learned from My Vegetable Garden This Year

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gardening Definitions You Should Know

When it comes to gardening, there are lots of definitions that you should know. Why? Knowing these definitions makes it easier to understand growing guides, plant descriptions, the backs of seed packets etc. Knowing the right terminology also enables you to become a better gardener.

List of Gardening Definitions

Blight: A plant disease(s) that causes the plant to wilt or die off

Bolt: When plants suddenly produce flowers or seeds prematurely

Companion Crop: Vegetables planted next to one another to benefit and assist each other

Cross-Pollination: When pollen is transferred from the flower of one plant to a flower of a different plant

Floating Row Cover: A protective covering used to protect plants from cold, wind and insects

Prolific Grower: Producing a large quantity of fruit or vegetables

Self-Pollination: When plants have both a stamen and pistil and can pollinate themselves

Sunscald: Damage or death of a plant caused by the sun in summer and sun and low temperatures in winter

Yield: The quantity of fruits and vegetables that are produced from a single plant

P.S. This is a work in progress. I’ll continuously be adding more definitions to the list.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

3 Vegetables to Try in Your Garden Next Year

Looking to spice up your vegetable garden next year? Well, why not try growing something new? I know I did last year and I’m glad I did. Now is the perfect time to scour the internet in search of a new vegetable or two to try in your own garden. 

To help give you a gentle nudge in the right direction, I’ve put together a list of my must-haves - all of which I grew in my own garden for the first time last year.

3 Must-Have Vegetables to Try Growing


Kohlrabi, once a staple in many European vegetable gardens, is quickly becoming more and more popular in the U.S. It’s readily available in most produce sections and has been popping up in more gardens across the country.

Kohlrabi has a crisp, almost sweet taste that is sort of a cross between cabbage and a mild radish. It can be eaten raw or cooked and makes a fresh addition to salads and stir-fry’s. Due to the amount of rain we had last spring, I didn’t get a huge crop of kohlrabi but the plants that survived were tasty enough to make me want to grow kohlrabi again next year.

Here are some must-have early varieties, one of which I’ll be growing myself come spring, and yes, kohlrabi can be grown in the north.

Early White Vienna - 55 Days
Eder - 38 Days
Korridor - 42 Days
Winner - 45 Days
Kolibri - 45 Days


Lots of people love popcorn and knowing that it came from your own garden makes it much more enjoyable. There are a handful of varieties of popcorn to choose from and many double as ornamental corn so its like getting a 2 for 1 deal when you grow it in your own garden.

I myself grew Japanese Hull-Less popcorn in my garden last year. I like this variety because it takes about 83 days to mature and since I live in the north, an early variety works best for me. The trick to growing popcorn is to let the kernels dry right on the stalks even after they’ve turned brown.

Robust - 112 Days
Red Beauty - 120 Days
Neon Pink - 110 Days
Emerald Green - 110 Days
Shades of Blue - 110 Days
Japanese White Hull-Less - 83 Days

Yard Long Beans

Image: clayirving/Flickr

Yard long beans have a slightly different taste than other varieties of beans. They're a bit milder in flavor, meaning not as sweet. I love them in a stir fry or lightly sautéed in olive oil. What’s fun about growing your own yard long beans is watching them grow. Some beans can grow an inch or two in a single day. If you do decide to try growing yard long beans in your own garden, keep in mind that they are pole beans so they’ll grow best along a fence or trellis.

Yard long beans taste the best when they’re about the thickness of a pencil. In my opinion, they are a must-have and an exciting new vegetable to grow due to their size alone. The three varieties I have listed below can grow from 15 - 20” long.

Orient Wonder - 85 Days
Gita - 78 Days
Red Noodle - 85 Days

Which new vegetables are you going to try in your garden next year? Have any suggestions?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Homeowner’s Guide to Firewood

Image: Berillium/Wikimedia Commons
 Tis’ the season to buy, stack and store firewood. Before you shell out any money to your local firewood dealer, make sure you are getting the best deal on seasoned firewood. Find out how to stack it properly to keep it out of the elements and how to keep your home bug-free when bringing it indoors.

Guide to Buying, Stacking and Storing Firewood

The Best Wood for Firewood is Seasoned

Learn about seasoned firewood and why it makes the best wood to heat your home.

Read full article . . .

What is Seasoned Firewood?

Find out exactly what seasoned firewood is and how to tell if that’s what you’re getting.

Read full article . . .

What is a Cord of Firewood?

Firewood is commonly measured and sold by the cord in the U.S. and Canada. Find out how much wood is in a cord of firewood to figure out how much you’ll need to buy.

Read full article . . .

How to Keep Bugs Out of Firewood

Bugs like to find dry, sheltered places to keep warm for the winter. For many insects, a stack of firewood, especially when covered, makes a great winter home. Learn how to keep bugs out of firewood to keep from bringing them into your home.

Read full article . . .

How to Stack Firewood

Stacking firewood the right way has many benefits including keeping firewood dry and easily and safely accessible. Follow this simple guide to learn how to stack firewood.

Read full article . . .

How to Build a Firewood Rack Directory

Provides links to different step by step guides on how to build a firewood rack. All plans are free. Pick which type of rack, whether indoor or outdoor, is most suitable to your household.

Read full article . . .

Friday, November 2, 2012

5 Ways to Scratch the Vegetable Gardening Itch in Fall & Winter

Gibby's Garden
For those of you that have vegetable gardening in your blood, how do you scratch that itch for wanting to get out in the garden when winter hits and the garden‘s under a foot of snow? Read, research, browse and plan your garden during fall and winter - that’s what I do.

Read, Research, Browse and Plan

Read about Anything and Everything Gardening

I love perusing the sale section of the bookstore for books on gardening. Since my passion is organic vegetable gardening, I tend to stick to buying and reading books on this topic which can include planning, planting, growing guides and organic pest control. I also scour the internet during fall and winter reading up on tips and how-to’s to improve my garden next spring.

Here’s a List of Some of my Must-Have Gardening Books

Garden Pest Control: Organic Gardening Basics Volume 7
Compost: Organic Gardening Basics
The Vegetable Gardeners Bible, 2nd Edition
Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Tips for Vegetable Gardeners
Blue Ribbon Preserves

Research Vegetables, Growing Conditions and More

Fall and winter are great times to get in a little gardening research. Take your time and look up different types of information. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your quest to learn.

Growing Conditions for Specific Vegetables
Vegetable Nutrition
Vegetable Varieties
Time Saving Tips
Frugal Gardening Tips
Space Saving Tips
Monthly Gardening Tips
Pest Control
Container Gardening
Vertical Gardening
Companion Crops
Weed Control

Browse and Shop for Vegetable Seeds and Score a Deal

Before vegetable planting season begins and stores are fully stocked with supplies, browse the internet and seed catalogs to find sales and the best deals on seeds and transplants. (Winter is my favorite time do this.)

Start Planning your Vegetable Garden Now

Make a list of the vegetables you want to plant and group them together with those that have similar growing conditions. I like to do this after I’ve bought my seeds or done my research. Figure out which plants grow the tallest and shortest and which ones go in the middle.

Draw a rough diagram of your garden marking individual rows, mounds, trenches or trellises. Write in where each vegetable is to go. Make sure the veggies you plant will receive enough sunlight in their allotted spots and the soil conditions are right.

You can also make a list of gardening supplies and tools you’ll need to pick up. If you haven’t already bought your seeds, make a list of which ones you want making sure to jot down the variety that grows best in your area.

Here are a few Guides to Help Plan your Vegetable Garden

Planning a Vegetable Garden
Choosing Vegetable Seeds
Soil Preparation: Getting Those Gardens Ready
3 Tips for Figuring Out Where to Plant Vegetables
Choosing Which Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden
How Many Vegetables to Plant per Person
Average Frost Dates for the North (2012 – 2013)

What type of gardening information do you read, research or write about? Have any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tips for Making Winter Composting Easier

Image: Diego Grez/Public Domain
 Just because the snow is flying and temperatures are dropping doesn’t mean you can’t continue to add ingredients to your compost pile. There are a few steps you can take to make winter composting easier before and after winter weather sets in.

3 Tips for Composting in Winter

Tip #1: Mark Your Compost Pile

I compost directly on the ground meaning I don’t use a tumbler or bin. When fall rolls around and I’m ready to start the second pile of the season, I always pound 4 stakes into the ground to mark exactly where my pile is. This way when the snow starts to pile up, I have no problems locating my compost pile when I want to add scraps.

Tip #2: Buy a Kitchen Compost Bucket

Kitchen compost buckets are fairly inexpensive and a great way to collect kitchen scraps during the winter. Instead of trekking to your pile every day, you can store scraps in the bucket reducing the amount of trips you have to make outside to your pile.

These buckets are small and designed to fit on the counter or under the sink. They lock in odor and some come with bags to make keeping the bucket clean easier. Simply remove the bag or carry the bucket itself out to the compost pile to empty it.

Tip #3: Keep a Path to the Compost Pile Shoveled

I always keep a small path to my compost pile shoveled beginning with the first adequate snow fall of the season. I shovel it after every storm to keep up with the snow and to prevent myself from having to carve out a path when the snow is a few feet deep - a killer on the back.

I make a point to add my scraps to the pile at least once a week during winter and don’t worry about turning my compost until the spring thaw reawakens the landscape around me. I try to spread out my scraps evenly on the pile over the fallen snow. When the snow melts in the spring, my scraps settle into place where they resume the decomposition process.

Do you have any tips to make winter composting easier?

Guide to Backyard Composting
Choosing the Best Location to Start a Fall Compost Pile

Monday, October 29, 2012

Choosing the Best Location to Start a Fall Compost Pile

Image: Sten/CC-BY-SA
If you’re wondering whether or not you can compost in the winter, the answer is yes and fall is a great time to start a new compost pile. There are several factors to consider when choosing the best location for your compost and depending on the region in which you live, the amount of snowfall you get is one of them.

4 Factors to Consider when Choosing a Location

When scouting out the best location to start your fall compost pile, consider the following factors and choose a location that is convenient to you and one that won’t cause friction with the neighbors come spring.

Proximity to House: If you live in an area that gets lots of snow fall and you are planning on adding scraps to your compost throughout the winter, then choose a location that is close enough to your home so that you won’t have to trek through mounds of snow to reach your pile.

Spring and Summer Considerations: When choosing a location, keep in mind that when the snow melts your compost pile will be visible. Since it won’t be fully composted yet, make sure to choose a location you’ll be happy with come spring.

Proximity to Neighbors: Will your neighbors be able to see or smell your compost pile once the snow has gone? Consider the proximity to your neighbors property line and their field of vision and smell when choosing a location this fall.

Type of Compost Bin: If you use a tumbler, your best bet is to choose a location with some cover so you won't have to dig through a pile of snow to open the tumbler or give it a good spin. If your bin is on the ground, don’t worry about shielding it from the snow as snow won’t hurt the compost pile.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Is Decorative Corn Edible?

Decorative corn, also called ornamental or Indian corn, is known for its multi-colored kernels. During fall its used as a decoration on tabletops, wreaths and tied to lamp posts etc. The question is, is decorative corn edible?

To Eat or Not to Eat

Decorative corn is edible because there is nothing in it that will harm you if eaten. However, decorative corn is extremely hard and pretty bland.

Does Decorative Corn Taste Good?

There are lots of differing opinions about whether or not decorative corn is worth eating or even trying. Some people say they love it while others think its too bland and starchy when cooked and makes a better decoration than side dish. I personally have never tried it.

How is Decorative Corn Used Besides Decorating?

Decorative corn can be ground into flour or popped when allowed to dry correctly. You can even try boiling it to soften the kernels and eat it on the cob but remember its going to be bland, especially if you’re used to eating sweet corn.

Are you going to give eating decorative corn a try?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fun Pumpkin Facts

With Halloween drawing near I thought it would be fun to talk about pumpkins in way that doesn’t have to do with carving or eating them. As I thought about the pumpkins growing in my own pumpkin patch I wondered about a few things myself. I put together a small list of common questions and fun pumpkin facts for my fellow gardeners and their kids to enjoy.

Why are Pumpkin Orange?

Pumpkin Fact: Pumpkins start out green in color and as they ripen turn that rich orange color we love during Halloween, but why do they turn orange instead of staying green? The fact is, pumpkins contain lots of nutrients including carotene. Carotene is responsible for giving pumpkins their orange color.

What is the Record for the Largest Pumpkin Ever Grown?

Pumpkin Fact: A new record was set in 2012 for the world’s largest pumpkin. The massive pumpkin weighed in at 2009 pounds and was grown by Ron Wallace of Rhode Island.

Which States Produce the Most Pumpkins?

Pumpkin Fact: Illinois, California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan are the top 6 states responsible for producing the most pumpkins in the U.S.

How Much Money did The Top 6 States Make from Pumpkin Production?

Pumpkin Fact: According to the AGMRC (Agricultural Marketing Resource Center) the top pumpkin producing states earned a combined total of $113 million in revenue in 2011 from the sale of their pumpkins.

Where did the Name Pumpkin Come From?

Pumpkin Fact: We can thank the Greeks for the name pumpkin as we know it today. The word pumpkin originated from the Greek word “pepon” meaning large melon.

How Many Pounds of Pumpkins are Produced in the U.S. Every Year?

Pumpkin Fact: In 2012 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins were produced in the top pumpkin producing states. The state of Illinois alone produced an estimated 427 million pounds of pumpkins.

Where Does the Tradition of Carving Jack-o-Lanterns Stem from?

Pumpkin Fact: The origins of carving pumpkins into what we call jack-o-lanterns today stems from Irish folklore. As the story goes, a man named Stingy Jack tricked the devil not once but twice. When Jack finally died he was not allowed into Heaven because of his “stingy” ways. The devil was upset with Jack after having been tricked by him and therefore would not let him into Hell either. Jack was forced to roam the earth thereafter. As a way to see, he hollowed out a turnip and carved it placing a piece of coal inside to light his way. As the Irish immigrated to America they brought the tradition of carving turnips with them. Since turnips weren’t as widely available in the U.S., people started carving pumpkins instead.

Pumpkin Recipes

How to Freeze Fresh Pumpkin

Monday, October 22, 2012

How to Freeze Fresh Pumpkins from the Garden

Image: Emilie von Büttner/Wikimedia Commons
Pumpkins are for more than carving jack-o-lanterns, they’re for eating too. If you’ve grown your own pumpkins or have picked up a bunch from the local apple orchard or farmers market for eating, freeze them for later use in pies, soups and butters. Here’s how to freeze pumpkins in 7 easy steps.

Which Pumpkins are Best for Eating?

Sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins taste the best. They’re a little sweeter and less stringy than those you carve for Halloween. When planning your garden, consider planting the following to use in your favorite pumpkin recipes.

  • Baby Pam
  • New England Pie
  • Winter Luxury
  • Gurney’s 
    Giant Magic Hybrid
  • Big Max

How to Freeze Fresh Pumpkin

Step 1:
Quarter pumpkins by cutting in half and then cutting each halve in half

Step 2: Scoop out seeds and save them for toasting or frying, remove strings attached to pumpkin flesh

Step 3: Place pumpkin halves skin side down in baking pan. Add about ¼” water to the pan, cover and bake for 1 hour at 300° F or until flesh is easily pierced with knife

Step 4: Uncover and let pumpkins rest until cool enough to handle

Step 5: Remove pumpkin flesh from skin and cut into 2 - 3” pieces

Step 6: Puree in food processor until smooth or freeze pieces as is depending on what pumpkin will be used for

Step 7: Let pumpkin cool before placing in freezer bags or containers. Measure precise amount of pureed pumpkin and label each bag with amount and date frozen. To freeze pieces of pumpkin, place on a cookie sheet uncovered and pop into the freezer. When frozen, remove pumpkin pieces from cookie sheet and pop into freezer bags, label and date. This method allows you to remove as much or as little pumpkin from the bag as you like and return the rest to the freezer for later use.

What are some of your favorite pumpkin recipes?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

3 Tips for Preventing Garden Pests beginning in Fall

Image: Wikimedia Commons
 If there’s one thing I cannot stand it’s people and pests going into my vegetable garden uninvited and doing as they please whether picking a vegetable that’s not ripe or munching on my plants. While I can talk to people, some of them require more than one polite talking to, there is no reasoning with garden pests. When it comes to dealing with pests, often called the “bad bugs,” I go at them pretty hard with a few tricks I’ve learned over the years starting with prevention in the fall.

Bad Bug Prevention: Fall To Do List

Tip #1: Weed the Garden

I know, I know, it’s fall and you’re more concerned with raking leaves than weeding the garden. Trust me, if you pull whatever weeds remain in your garden now, you’ll help prevent the bad bugs from invading in spring by taking their shelter away. You’ll also be taking away a convenient food source once spring rolls around and insects are hungry.

Tip #2: Remove all Plant Debris

That’s right, by simply removing all the dead annuals in the garden in fall, you can prevent garden pests in spring and summer. Many bad bugs will lay their eggs or borrow under piles of garden debris to stay protected from winter’s cold temperatures and harsh weather. By removing these make shift homes, bad bugs will move on and find another place to live.

Tip #3: Till the Soil

Tilling the soil in your garden in mid to late fall goes a long way towards helping to prevent garden pests. The tilling motion aids in digging up and exposing bad bugs, their eggs and larvae to harsh winter conditions which kills them off. Some of them may even be killed by the actual tilling.

Which “bad bugs” called your vegetable garden home this year?

Friday, October 12, 2012

3 Things I Learned from My Vegetable Garden This Year

Here in the north the vegetable gardening season has come to a close. In a way it's sad to see yet another season has gone by. On the other hand, it's nice to gain more expeience and knowledge from doing some hands-on gardening. Hopefully, after all the time spent in the garden, you walked away knowing a thing or two more than you did last year - I know I did.

Tomato Cages Don't Work for All Vegetable Plants

For starters, I know not to place tomato cages around my young broccoli plants in an attempt to provide them with support when they are big. After transplanting my seedlings, I dutifully provided them with tomato cages. The cages provided excellent support alright, but the inner leaves of my broccoli plants were forced awkwardly upwards.

This caused the outside of the main heads of broccoli to take longer to ripen than the centers. While patiently waiting for the outsides of the heads to ripen, the insides started to rot. What I learned? Next year I'll wait until my plants actually need support and then I'll stake them.

Check to See if Vegetables are of the Pole or Vining Variety Before Buying

I was excited to try a new type of bean in my vegetable garden this year, well new to  me anyway. They were called "yard long" beans and rightfully named because the beans grow up to a foot or more. After the drenching spring rains had passed by, which chose to fall after I had diligently planted my garden, I was delighted to see that a handful of my yard long bean plants had survived.

If only I had read the back of the seed packet a bit better before planting I would have realized they were vining beans. Next year I'll be growing this variety of bean again and I'll make sure to plant them along a trellis so I don't have to go searching for beans around and under other plants in the garden. What I learned? Slow down and take a minute to thouroughly read plant descriptions before ordering and especially before planting.

Make Sure the Manure I add to My Vegetable Gardens is Well-Composted

Hey, I already know this but the person spreading the manure in my vegetable gardens didn't. My father was nice enough to bring a bucket load of manure and dump it in my gardens and then, in the garden that was big enough to use the tractor, spread it for me. Little did I know the manure wasn't year-old, meaning it was still relatively fresh.

Fresh manure isn't good for all vegetable plants. It can burn the roots of some plants while causing others to focus on growing large and pushing out foliage rather than providing vegetables. Many of my cucumber plants didn't survive but my broccoli plants looked like they were on steroids. I'm happy to report my broccoli is still putting out side shoots, despite my caging, well into October. What I learned? Know exactly what I'm spreading in my vegetable gardens.

What did you learn from your vegetable garden this year?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Keep Broccoli and Other Cole Crops in the Ground in the North

Image: Gibby's Garden
October is here and most vegetables have died off or are on their way out, at least here in the north. Even though the tomatoes, cukes and beans have gone by, leave your cole crops right where they are – happily rooted in the garden. They love cool weather and will continue to provide fresh vegetables until a hard frost comes along and kills them.

What are Cole Crops?

Basically, cole crops are cool season crops. They are part of the Cruciferae or mustard family and for the most part, are cold tolerant. Cool season crops grow best when temperatures are below 80˚F during the day and 60˚F at night.

List of Cole Crops

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage (red and green)
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi

For more information on cole crops including planting, care, harvesting and storage, please visit Here you’ll find a great guide about cole crops put out by the Iowa State University Extension. I recommend you read it if you’re interested in growing cole crops next year or want to gain a little more knowledge on the subject.

Here in Maine we’ve had a few slight frosts but my broccoli plants are still going strong. Each week I get lots of side shoots which I dutifully harvest encouraging my plants to keep producing. Sure my plants don’t look like they did this summer, I’ve snipped off quite a few yellow leaves, but the main plant stems are still healthy and I intend to leave them in the ground for as long as I can.

Which cole crops do you or did have in your garden?

How to Preserve Herbs and Vegetables

Friday, October 5, 2012

Too Many Green Tomatoes? How to Wrap, Store & Ripen Indoors


I don’t know about you, but my tomato plants are slowly dying off as we transition into fall. The problem is, I still have lots of healthy green tomatoes on my plants and I don’t want them to go to waste. The good news is I have a secret to ripen green tomatoes indoors and I’ll share it with you. Wrap them up and store in a cool, dark location to enjoy ripe tomatoes well into November.

What You’ll Need

  • Healthy Green Tomatoes
  • Pieces of Brown Paper Bags
  • Elastics
  • Magic Marker

Choose Healthy Green Tomatoes

In order for this secret to work, you really need to be picky about which green tomatoes you choose to ripen indoors. Only choose those that are healthy and firm and have no signs of rot. If they’re already beginning to rot on the plant, they’ll continue to rot indoors.

Make sure there are no splits as these can lead to rot as well. I always go a step further and inspect my green tomatoes for bugs picking off any I see and ensuring they haven’t left any damage behind, i.e. holes or bite marks that could lead to rot.

Wrap Green Tomatoes in Brown Paper Bags

I prefer to use pieces of brown paper bags that are a little thicker than some of the cheaper brands sold in stores. When fall rolls around, I save the bags I get from the convenience store when I pick up the odd gallon of milk and a couple of cans of cat food. Only use bags that are clean and dry - no grease stains from your favorite Chinese takeout or pizza joint.

Cut your brown paper bags into pieces large enough to wrap the entire green tomato. Leave a little extra room to tie the bags with elastics or to fold securely. Remove any stems, even the little nubs because these will begin to decompose and can cause your green tomatoes to rot while they ripen indoors.

Tightly wrap your green tomatoes with your pieces of bag without bruising or injuring the tomatoes in any way. Secure the tops of the bag pieces with an elastic or fold in a way that secures the bag in place - I haven’t figured this out yet so I use elastics. The point is to wrap your green tomatoes so no air can find its way in.

Choose a Dark, Dry & Cool Storage Location

Find a dark, dry, cool spot in the house to place your wrapped green tomatoes. I’ve found that a closet I use for storage and don’t go in very often works best for me. If you’re running a wood or pellet stove, choose an area as far away from the direct heat as possible - I learned this the hard way. One year I stored my wrapped green tomatoes in a closet directly above the wood stove and they rotted before ripening.

Place your wrapped green tomatoes in a single layer and make sure none of them are touching. If one happens to rot and is touching another wrapped tomato, the rot can quickly spread. Write the date you placed them in storage on the paper bags.

Check on your wrapped green tomatoes occasionally, about once a week after the first 2 weeks of being in storage. Unwrap them to check on their progress tossing any showing signs of rot. Re-wrap tightly once again and mark the date you checked them on the bag as a simple reminder. Lastly, be patient because it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a month to ripen green tomatoes indoors.

Do you know how to wrap green tomatoes tightly without having to use an elastic to secure the bags? I’d sure like to know and if you can teach me, please leave a comment below. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Organic Gardening Tips for the Month of October

Image: SB_Johnny

This time of year there may not seem like there’s much to do in the garden except clean up and put the tools away for winter. After the last of the vegetables have been harvested and before putting the tools away, there are a few things to do in preparation for spring. The work you put into the garden in October influences the start of next year’s growing season.

Tip #1: October Garden Cleanup

Once your plants have died off, pull them from the ground and toss them into the compost or bag them to put by the curb on trash day. Rake up any debris and toss that as well. Taking these extra steps helps to reduce the garden pest population next year. Many garden pests, “the bad bugs,” burrow under piles of garden debris to lay their eggs or set up home for the duration of the winter. Removing piles of debris from your garden in October encourages pests to hibernate elsewhere.

Tip #2: Till Compost into the Garden

October is the perfect time of year to till compost into gardens, especially in the north. Plants value the nutrients finished compost leave behind. Add about ½" of compost to existing garden beds and about 1" of compost to new gardens and to those that have never been fertilized before. Till the compost into the soil a good 3 - 4". Over the winter nutrients will leach into the garden bed where they’ll be ready to feed your plants for the new growing season.

Tip #3: Plant a Fast Growing Ground Cover

To minimize the amount of weeds that grow, even during the month of October, plant a fast growing ground cover. Ground covers blanket the garden crowding out weeds. Come spring, till the ground cover into the soil while preparing your garden for planting. Not only will you have fewer weeds, you’ll be giving your garden an extra boost of nutrients.

Tip #4: Clean and Put Away Garden Tools

October is a good month to clean your garden tools and tuck them away in the shed for the winter. While you’re in the shed, place snow shovels in an easy to reach place. Remove garden dirt and debris from your tools, oil them to prevent rust and sharpen any blades that need it. Organize your tools by hanging them up and placing them in storage racks so they’re kept out of the elements and easy to find next year.

One of the things I like to do in October is to sit on the porch drinking a cup of coffee, usually in a sweatshirt here in Maine, and think about my garden. What grew well and what didn’t? What will I keep the same next year and what will I do differently? I keep a garden diary, this year I posted it online, and I make notes for myself to remember next year. Maybe it’s a variety of vegetable that didn’t grow well or a certain insect infestation I had to combat. Whatever it may be, it helps me to grow an even more productive garden the following year. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Time to Dig up Outdoor Herbs and Bring them Indoors

Fall is here and we all know what that means; an end all be all frost is soon to follow here in the north. If you have potted outdoor herbs or any in the ground, now is a good time to bring them indoors. I've already dug up my basil plants, potted them and brought them in for the winter. Annuals, when brought in before the frost, last well into winter.

Which Herbs Should You Bring Indoors?

Before you put your shovel to work, take a good look at the herbs you want to pot. Are they healthy? Are they already knocking on death’s door? Only pot those that are healthy and aren’t showing any signs of dying off as these won’t last very long indoors. Checking for insects and keep in mind that small to medium sized plants transplant the best.

How to Pot Outdoor Herbs

Step 1 Choose the Right-Sized Container: Potted herbs benefit from well-draining containers and those that allow for ample air circulation. Untreated containers such as terra cotta and wood are porous and work well for potted herbs because they let air in and excess moisture out. Choose a container size that will accommodate the root ball of your plants. I prefer to use containers that are twice the size of the root ball of my plants.

Step 2 Dig Up Outdoor Herbs: On a cloudy day, give your herbs a good watering. Gently dig around the plants, about twice the circumference, and coax them out of the ground. It’s okay not to get the entire root ball. When transplanting from the ground to containers, it’s normal for some of the root system to be left behind.

Step 3 Potting Outdoor Herbs: Transplant your freshly dug up herbs to containers that are of the right size and filled with one part peat moss, 1 part sand and 1 part potting mix. Water your plants and move them to a shady spot outdoors.

Step 4 Acclimating Newly Potted Herbs: If the weather permits, let your newly potted plants rest outside in the shade for 1 to 2 weeks before bringing them indoors. This helps to acclimate them to indoor growing conditions. If need be, bring them in at night if the temperatures dip or the average frost date is growing near.

Step 5 Choose the Right Spot Indoors: Before bringing your potted herbs indoors, check them once again for insects. Inspect the leaves and stems of plants thoroughly and remove any insects or eggs you find. Next, choose a spot indoors that receives lots of sun. The sunniest spots of the house are usually those that face south.

Continue to water your plants as they need it. Harvest herbs to use fresh and dry any extras. It’s best to keep harvesting to encourage the plants to keep growing. Don’t worry if your plants look limp for a few days after potting or bringing them indoors; some may go into shock but usually they’ll snap out of it in a few days time. My basil plants wilted but after a good watering they came back a few days later.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Gibby's Garden Diary 2012 Entry

I've been writing in an online garden diary here on this blog since the spring. I thought I'd post my latest entry here for all to see as well as in my running Gibby's Garden Diary 2012 post. The entries are a little rough around the edges much like you'd find in a handwritten diary. Enjoy!

Here in Maine the vegetable gardening season is coming to a close. I myself don’t have much left in my gardens except my tomatoes, green peppers, broccoli and corn. Despite the slow and wet start to the season, I have a freezer full of organic vegetables to last me through til the next growing season.

I’m not sure if my popcorn is going to produce anything before the first hard frost kills it off. As of last week the stalks had formed some ears and I’m hoping they’ll fill out soon. I picked whatever sweet corn was ready, blanched and froze it.

Speaking of my sweet corn, I had one heck of a bad day last week.(It ties into the corn) The green grass in the pasture is pretty much done for the season after being eaten and walked over by the cows and horses all summer. My brother and father, when they have time after work during the week, have been chopping grass in the field and feeding it to the animals to help supplement the hay we’ve been giving them - trust me they are well fed.

Well, they worked late all last week so the animals didn’t get any chopped grass, only hay which is fine. One afternoon the big bull decided he wanted some green grass and was going to sneak out of the pasture and help himself to some in the field. 2 of his buddies decided to follow.

Needless to say I was the one charged with putting them back in the pasture because my brother and father were still at work and wouldn’t be home until after dark. If you’ve ever had to wrangle up loose farm animals you know it’s twice as hard after dark and leaving them out isn’t an option for their own safety - the coyotes might come calling.

If you can picture what I’m about to tell you, you’ll probably laugh or at least crack a smile  - I know my brother and father did. Our driveway runs parallel to part of the pasture. It’s not your average driveway, it’s long, bumpy and made of gravel. Our only neighbor lives about a quarter of a mile up the driveway from us. At the top of the driveway, the road curves going around a bend and up a hill. At the top is the neighbor's house.

Well the 3 loose cows were slowly making their way towards the curve so I needed to usher them back down the driveway towards the pasture. I tried walking behind them clapping my hands loudly, tapping them on the butt and chasing them but they weren’t having any of it. Once they had tasted that green grass they were not about to give it up and go back into the pasture.

After about half an hour I had enough of trying to coax them in so I turned to a usually fool proof plan - the grain bucket. So here I was in my flip flops running down the driveway shaking a grain bucket with a bull and 2 cows, all three who are almost full-sized, chasing after me. Well, the good cows that had stayed in the pasture heard the grain bucket as well.

Mind you I had cracked open the gate before running with the grain bucket in hopes I could run right into the pasture with the cows behind me, toss the bucket, shut the gate and call it a done deal. Well, that didn’t happen. Here comes the funny part - I’ll set the scene.

About 30 feet before the driveway curves, the pasture curves too and goes into the treeline. There are trees between the pasture and driveway after the curve. The rest of the herd was in the corner of the pasture in the area where it curves while the loose cows were close to the bend in the driveway.

Here I am booking it as fast as I can down the driveway with the bull and 2 cows hot on my heals trying their best to get a taste of the grain. Well, the entire herd was watching and must of heard the grain sloshing around in the bucket. Before I knew it, I’m booking it with 3 large animals on my heals and the rest of the herd running parallel to me on the other side of the fence.

I’m sure I muttered a few colorful words as I dropped the grain bucket and sprinted for the gate. Mind you I’m in my flip flops and there’s a giant mud puddle in the area that the open gate swings over. The gate needs some work and has to be lifted in order to move or the bottom drags through the mud. I thought it a much better idea to close the gate rather than have the entire herd of cows loose. Needless to say the 3 that were already loose remained loose and enjoyed what little grain was in the bucket.

Seeing as I had to babysit for the afternoon, I left the loose cows where they were and went back to deal with them after dinner. It took me about an hour to finally get them in using the Cub Cadet, whip and my mother to open and close the gate for me while I chased them. I thought I had the problem solved and went on with my night.

The Next Morning . . . 

After jumping in the Cub Cadet, I drove past my corn on the way to the barn to clean the chicken coop. On my way, much to my chagrin, I noticed that half my sweet corn had been completely leveled and the ears eaten and low and behold the bull and a cow were loose once again. Now I was mad. Screw the whip and the Cub Cadet - this was personal. I put way too much time and work into my gardens for an animal or person to come along and do what they please. (I don’t hit the animals with the whip, only the ground next to them)

I was pissed. I cracked open the gate over the mud once again and wearing my sneakers this time, ran after that bull like there was no tomorrow. I got him and the cow back in the pasture. I went to the barn to clean the coop and a few minutes later the bull was loose again. Time to fix the fence.

I got a hammer and some U-shaped nail things in the barn, hopped in the Cub Cadet - I found out I really like driving this thing - and headed up the driveway. There the bull stood once again in the center of the driveway just looking at me. In the two minutes I was in the barn, he had walked right back out through the fence where the barbed wire had become loose.

Arg! I decided to fix the fence and then put him back in and that’s exactly what I did. Once it was fixed I set my sights on the bull again. By this time he was in the field across from the barn. As I made my way towards him I noticed the same cow that had been loose that morning trying her best to go through the fence.

Since I had just fixed it she only made it halfway through; she got her front legs through but not her back. She was stuck with the barbed wire cutting into her teats turning them bloody. I couldn’t leave her there so I undid all the work I had just done to fix the fence and finally got her free. This time she stayed in the pasture. I fixed the fence again.

By this time the bull must have had a full belly cause he ventured over to the open barn door that the chicken feeder was sitting in front of in my earlier attempt to clean the coop. He managed to knock the top off the feeder and gobble down all the grain. Eventually I got him in a fenced in area that the animals hadn’t been allowed in since a new steer going through the weaning process had managed to jump several times. (This is in a previous entry)

The fenced in area happened to have green grass. I gave him a bucket of water and there he stayed until my brother and father came home and could deal with him. The cows and bulls have been penned in for the past week. They get hay on week days and chopped green grass on the weekends when my brother and father aren’t working and have time to chop some.

Last weekend my brother went around the perimeter of the fence in the pasture making repairs. This weekend we’ll probably let the cows and bulls back into the pasture until hunting season when they’ll be penned until spring. We’ll see how that goes.

Feel free to read my entire Gibby’s Garden Diary 2012. I hope you get inspired to keep one of your own the next growing season. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Average Frost Dates for the North (2012 – 2013)

There’s a reason why people look for the first and last frost dates in their area. Many gardeners, including myself, plan their gardens around these dates. In the north, the spring frost signals the beginning of the growing season while the fall frost signals the end. These dates are also called the first and last average frost dates with the last occurring in the spring and the first in fall.

List of Average Frost Dates in the North

Scroll down to find your state and the city nearest you for the average first and last frost dates in your area. The first date listed is the average frost date for the spring and the last is for the fall.

Average New England Frost Dates


Augusta: 4/27/13 – 10/8/12
Bangor: 5/7/13 – 10/7/12
Portland: 5/2/13 – 10/6/12
Presquile: 4/21/13- 9/20/12

New Hampshire

Berlin: 5/20/13 – 9/21/12
Concord: 5/20/13 – 9/21/12
Keene: 5/13/13 – 9/26/12
Nashua: 5/7/13 – 10/3/12


Burlington: 5/8/13 – 10/3/12
Montpelier: 5/11/13 – 10/1/12
Rutland: 5/13/13 – 9/28/12


Boston: 4/7/13 – 11/7/12
New Bedford: 4/13/13 – 11/2/12
Worcester: 4/26/13 – 11/14/12


Burlington: 5/8/13 – 10/3/12
Montpelier: 5/11/13 – 10/1/12
Rutland: 5/13/13 – 9/28/12

Rhode Island

Kingston: 5/8/13 – 10/3/12
Providence: 4/16/13 – 10/22/12


Danbury: 5/1/13 – 10/9/12
Hartford: 4/26/13 – 10/9/12
Stamford: 4/29/13 – 10/17/12

Average Frost Dates for the Mid Atlantic (North)

New York

Albany: 5/2/13 - 10/3/12
Buffalo: 4/24/13 - 10/19/12
Elmira: 5/9/13 - 10/3/12
Lake Placid: 6/7/13 - 9/11/12
New York City: 4/1/13 - 11/15/12
Syracuse: 4/28/13 - 10/13/12

New Jersey

Atlantic City: 3/31/13 - 11/11/12
Cape May: 4/6/13 - 11/6/12
New Brunswick: 4/20/13 - 10/20/12
Newark: 4/3/13 - 11/7/12


Erie: 4/29/13 - 10/29/12
Lebanon: 4/27/13 - 10/13/12
Philadelphia: 4/6/13 - 11/4/12
Pittsburgh: 4/29/13 - 10/17/12
Wilkes Barre: 4/26/13 - 10/16/12

Average Frost Dates for the Midwest (North)


Appleton: 5/4/13 – 10/7/12
Eau Claire: 5/7/13 – 9/29/12
Madison: 5/10/13 – 10/2/12
Milwaukee: 4/27/13 – 10/14/12


Evansville: 4/3/13 – 11/3/12
Indianapolis: 4/18/13 – 10/18/12
South Bend: 4/26/13 – 10/19/12
Terra Haute: 4/20/13 – 10/15/12


Chicago: 4/20/13 – 10/24/12
Mount Vernon: 4/14/13 – 10/14/12
Quincy: 4/10/13 – 10/22/12
Springfield: 4/13/13 – 10/13/12


Cincinnati: 4/13/13 – 10/23/12
Cleveland: 4/30/13 – 10/23/12
Columbus: 4/26/13 – 10/13/12
Toledo: 5/1/13 – 10/8/12


Cheboygan: 5/18/13 – 10/10/12
Detroit: 4/26/13 – 10/17/12
Grand Rapids: 5/5/13 – 10/8/12
Marquette: 5/11/13 – 10/13/12


Jefferson City: 4/13/13 – 10/18/12
Kansas City: 4/7/13 – 10/28/12
Poplar Bluff: 4/4/13 – 10/28/12
St. Louis: 4/7/13 – 10/29/12

North Dakota

Bismarck: 5/14/13 – 9/21/12
Fargo: 5/10/13 – 9/27/12
Grand Forks: 5/10/13 – 9/27/12
Minot: 5/9/13 – 9/28/12

South Dakota

Hot Springs: 5/16/13 – 9/20/12
Pierre: 5/2/13 – 10/3/12
Sioux Falls: 5/3/13 – 9/28/12
Watertown: 5/10/13 – 9/25/12


Baudette: 5/16/13 – 9/21/12
Duluth: 5/15/13 – 10/17/12
Minneapolis: 4/30/13 – 10/5/12
Willmar: 4/30/13 – 10/1/12


Grand Island: 4/26/13 – 10/8/12
North Platte: 5/5/13 – 10/4/12
Omaha: 4/21/13 – 10/12/12
Scottsbluff: 5/3/13 – 9/27/12


Cedar Rapids: 4/25/13- 10/6/12
Des Moines: 4/20/13 – 10/12/12
Fort Dodge: 4/29/13 – 10/4/12
Sioux City: 4/26/13 – 10/3/12

Average Frost Dates for the West (North)


Boise: 5/5/13 – 10/8/12
Idaho Falls: 5/27/13 – 9/20/12
Moscow: 5/25/13 – 9/20/12
Salmon: 5/25/13 – 9/20/12


Billings: 5/8/13 – 9/27/12
Bozeman: 5/26/13 – 9/19/12
Glendive: 5/2/13 – 9/29/12
Great Falls: 5/17/13 – 9/22/12
Helena: 5/19/13 – 9/18/12


Casper: 5/22/13 – 9/19/12
Cheyenne: 5/12/13 – 9/26/12
Gillette: 5/18/13 – 9/22/12


Anchorage: 5/8/13 – 9/23/12
Fairbanks: 5/15/13 – 9/8/12
Juneau: 5/8/13 – 10/4/12
Nome: 6/11/13 – 8/31/12


Olympia: 5/5/13 – 10/6/12
Seattle: 3/10/13 – 11/17/12
Spokane: 5/2/13 – 10/3/12
Vancouver: 4/20/13 – 10/15/12


Baker: 6/3/13 – 9/13/12
Eugene: 4/22/13– 10/19/12
Klamath Falls: 6/7/13 – 9/18/12
Portland: 3/23/13 – 11/15/12

Farmers Almanac