Smart Garden Tools Need Smart Storage

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There’s nothing more gratifying on a sunny winter’s morning than going to the basement or garage and stepping on a rake.  Yes, the joy of watching that well-worn hickory handle swing up and catch you right in the coffee cup (and then the nose) is an experience underappreciated by those who don’t garden.  But what really makes the experience is dumping that hot coffee onto one of your expensive circuit boards.

There’s nothing more gratifying on a sunny winter’s morning than going to the basement or garage and stepping on a rake.  Yes, the joy of watching that well-worn hickory handle swing up and catch you right in the coffee cup (and then the nose) is an experience underappreciated by those who don’t garden.  But what really makes the experience is dumping that hot coffee onto one of your expensive circuit boards.

Of course, that’s all purely facetious.  Unfortunately, it can be all too real for some of us who lack good storage space for our off-season garden needs – many residents in warmer, seasonal cities like Cincinnati struggle with effective organization and protection for their garden equipment.  For most of us, the only climate controlled storage we have is where we store ourselves–the ol’ hacienda. 

Shovels, cultivators, chemicals, and our own array of homemade tools accumulate quickly and have to go somewhere.  Plus, most people don’t want all those items underfoot for several months a year. So in general, we find a rain-resistant place to store everything outside, and maybe do a little rehab work come spring.

However, the smart gardener today uses the thinker as much as the tiller.  Greater technology in irrigation management, temperature monitoring, and humidity observations means that, at season’s end, we now have some very expensive and fragile equipment that needs someplace to go until the first light of spring. 

Scientific instruments like these can tolerate significant meteorological swings.  Store-bought ones will include advice on acceptable temperature and humidity ranges.  Those you’ve made at home will provide that information on the individual components you’ve bought.  And even within their accepted ranges, they all have issues with calibration.

Your hand tools shouldn’t be, well, left out in the cold either.  You may have hundreds of dollars’ worth of them, shivering in the December chill like Washington’s troops crossing the Delaware.  Keeping them in a warm place preserves your investment for the long haul. 

Your power equipment needs good care as well.  As smart as we garden now, we do still use the internal combustion engine quite a bit.  These aren’t as sensitive to cold and moisture as electronics, of course, but the guts of your tiller do not fare well if your 2012 gasoline is still in there in 2013. 

The best thing to do?  You can buy gas stabilizer and pour it in the tank, or simply run the machine during its last use of the season until it is out of gas.  You can till something, or just stand there and let it run. The same goes for string trimmers, mowers, pressure washers, and all gas-powered machinery.

Good climate controlled storage can also allow you to grow produce year-round, if you take a few steps to plan for it.  Apart from the delicious outcomes, you will also find yourself in a horticultural state of mind all year.  That makes you a more curious and creative gardener.

So take those cool fall days as the last vines are drying and organize some available space in your home to preserve your tools, nurture your plants, and protect your feet.

Redmond farmers market

Made to my favorite local farmers market here in Redmond, WA. There is a great selection of different vendors which helps keep the prices very competitive.

We left with our typical wares, kettle corn and apples, but also picked up some sugar peas in the pod, basil plant pears, and a tamale to go for my wife

My oldest daughter also convinced me to buy her a Hawaiian ice…

Happy to see some help in my garden

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I am also getting some help watering the zucchinis…

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She has really grown up since last time I posted a picture

Environmentally Friendly Tips for Your Lawn

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Who doesn’t appreciate a nice green lawn? Caring for a lawn doesn’t have to be a nightmare. In fact, with a little creativity it can be fun—even if you live in a neighborhood with an overly strict and nosy homeowner’s association and makes seemingly unreasonable demands and is always looking over your shoulder. Here are some of the things to make the task of yard and lawn care easier for you and for the environment.

1. Hire a Professional

Seriously! The easiest way, though not the cheapest, to care for your yard and lawn is to hire someone else to take care of it for you. It’s easy enough to find a professional in your area by using sites like search sites like lawnservice.net or hitting up Craigslist. Professionals do this for a living, know all the tricks of the trade, and bring professional grade equipment that can do the job in half the time.

2. Use a push mower

Mowers that use engines require gasoline. This is terrible for the environment, your lungs, and your wallet. They are also louder than push mowers and while it might be fun to irritate an annoying neighbor, that whole turnabout is fair play thing should keep you in check. Plus, do you really want to spend money to bother your neighbor?

Bonus: engineless/push mowers are more difficult to move, which means you get a better workout when you mow the lawn (which could mean that you no longer need that expensive gym membership!)

3. Compost is Your Friend

Start a compost pile at a far corner of your yard (they’re smelly and aren’t fun when kept under windows). Compost piles are great because they reduce the amount of land-fill bound waste produced by your home. You can compost almost all organic foodstuffs (not meat—compost piles are Vegan) as well as grass clippings and other yard debris. Compost is better for your lawn and plants than fertilizer, it saves you money and it is much better on the environment.

4. Use Rain and Gray Water

Set up a rain collection barrel near your house (they’re easy to set up and use). Stop up your tub and sink when you bathe and wash dishes. Run this water through a simple filter and then use it and the rainwater you’ve collected to water your lawn and your plants. This reduces your water and electric bill by quite a lot. It’s also better for your plants. Just don’t use the gray water or roof runoff to water vegetable or fruit producing plants, they may contain toxins that you don’t want in your food.

5. Rake, Don’t Blow

Leaf blowers are loud, they are obnoxious and they require gasoline to run. They put lots of carbon into the air, which is terrible for the environment. Also, blowing the leaves from your lawn into the street (or someone else’s yard) doesn’t actually solve the problem. It just creates a bigger one for someone else to take care of.

Raking your yard helps you gather up leaves and debris so that your yard looks great. It provides you with a pretty decent workout and can be a fun way to spend an afternoon if you get the whole family involved. Leaves and organic debris are compostable so you can simply add them to your compost pile when you’re done gathering them up (and jumping in them).

These are just five ways that you can care for your yard and be as eco-friendly as possible.  They should even pass a strict Homeowner’s Association’s standards (especially if you keep your compost pile covered so the smell doesn’t spread or attract critters)!

How to keep termites out of your home

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Termites are the last insect most homeowners ever want to see on their property.  Their voracious appetite for wood can do untold damage to even the newest and best-built homes in any neighborhood.

Making sure they don’t do this to you takes persistence and anticipation.  Waiting for signs of termites before you initiate a treatment program is the wrong way to handle it.  If you don’t already have termites, don’t think of it as a treatment program. Think of it as a prevention program, or else it may become a treatment program.

You must deal with professionals on termites.  An infestation requires skills, tools, and chemicals that homeowners do not have.  Finding a reputable exterminator is as easy as dropping in on www.pestcontrol.us and placing a phone call.  From that initial contact, your situation will be handled by people who are well-trained in termite issues.  Don’t select some no-name startup local company, staffed by freshly-minted technicians who might not be able to find termites in their own homes.  To get the best results, work with the best people.  This is your home we’re talking about!

Calling a professional isn’t exactly how-to instruction.  But there is a significant DIY component to the process of termite-proofing your home.  We’re getting there…

First, you must limit the availability of cellulose.  That can best be handled at the time of construction, of course, but even with renovation you can look for places where wood is within six inches of soil.  Consider lattice work, structural members, and decorative items.  And note that pressure treated wood is not immune to termite damage.

Second, don’t store wood on the ground.  Whether it’s firewood or scrap lumber, placing it on the ground is making it a vector for termites.  When you grab a 2×4 block for a household repair, it may already be infested with termites.  Bringing in an extra armload of firewood to get you through the night will also bring in a squadron of these destructive pests.  Mulch, in excess, can stay moist enough to provide a home for termites that’s just inches from your home.  If you like to replace mulch annually, rake away last year’s accumulation (and any previous years’!) and use a modest layer that covers the soil just enough to get the look you want.  Don’t let mulch mound up in a thick, damp layer.  That is Club Med for termites.

Finally, manage moisture.  Termites are soft-bodied insects that cannot survive very long in a dry environment.  By taking away the moisture that keeps them alive, you will force them to relocate elsewhere.  That applies to inside your home and out.  Check for damp areas around your foundation.  Ensure that gutter downspouts can easily drain away from the home.  Get a dehumidifier for summer use, and make sure you keep it emptied as needed.

The battle against termites never ends, but with vigilance on your part and skilled work by professionals on theirs, you can stay ahead of the monsters that would eat your home.

Nutrient density of vegetables in your garden

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Just out of curiosity I got my hands on the USDA food database and had a little fun in Excel and the results were pretty interesting.  Assuming I wanted to figure out what vegetables I could grow in my garden had the highest nutrient density.  I wrote a formula for each nutrient from Vitamin A to Zinc what percentage rank across all of the foods did the item have.  I then summed up these percentages based on 100 calories consumed to create an overall score and grouped by average across the categories as a “Nutrient Density Score.”

The results were pretty interesting and discovered some new plants I should try consuming this year.

Top 10 most nutrient dense vegetables

Rank Vegetable Score Nutrients with significant content
1 Pumpkin leaves 24.0 Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Leucine, Tyrosine, Threroline, Isoleucine, Phenylalanie
2 Spinach 23.4 Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Folate, Magnesium, Beta carotene, Tyrosine, Threroline, Isoleucine
3 Mustard Greens 23.0 Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Folate, Beta carotene, Tyrosine, Arginine
4 Broccoli 23.0 Calcium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Pantothenic acid, Folate, Aspartic acid, Glutamic acid, Valine
5 Asparagus 22.6 Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, Selenium, Niacin, Folate, Aspartic acid, Glutamic acid
6 Turnip Greens 22.6 Calcium, Potassium, Beta carotene, Tyrosine, Threroline, Isoleucine, Phenylalanie, Leucine, Valine
7 Pak-Choi 22.3 Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Vitamin C, Folate, Beta carotene, Glutamic acid, Isoleucine, Alanine
8 Swiss Chard 21.5 Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper, Beta carotene, Isoleucine, Phenylalanie
9 Green Leaf Lettuce 21.5 Phosphorus, Potassium, Manganese, Vitamin A, Beta carotene, Isoleucine
10 Beet Greens 21.4 Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Pantothenic acid, Beta carotene

 
As you can see everything in the top ten is at least the color green with most of the plants being leafy vegetables.  Some honorable mentions rounding up the top 20: Chives, Kale, Zucchini, Corn salad, Okra, Cauliflower Greens, Parsley, Mushrooms, Collards, Red leaf Lettuce.

So as you know vegetables contain the most nutrients the shorter the time between they are harvested and then consumed so anywhere you can shave off a few hours of this process is to your advantage, so to benefit the most for the nutrients in your food some of the above plants are some great options.

So how about the bottom, or the top ten least nutrient dense vegetables in your garden?

Bottom 10 least nutrient dense vegetables

Rank Vegetable Score
1 Indian Squash 8.4
2 Shiitake Mushrooms 9.4
3 Potatoes 9.5
4 Jerusalem Artichoke 9.6
5 Parsnips 9.7
6 Lemon grass 9.7
7 Pumpkin flowers 10.3
8 Arrowroot 10.8
9 Tomatillos 10.9
10 Rhubarb 10.9

 

Now don’t get me wrong many of the plants in the above list may still have plenty of nutritional value it is just that compared to the competition they lack the shear concentration of nutrition and the diversity across the spectrum. 

I know for me I am planning on trying some pumpkin leaves this year.  Sounds like you just dice them up and sauté with some oil and throw in some garlic at the end and sounds like the leaves should actually be pretty sweet tasting…I will be sure to post of the success or failure of cooking pumpkin leaves.

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