Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Red Chair

Princess & the Red Chair

We didn't move, not really. But my best guy did bring his painting studio back home, which meant that the TV room had to take over the computer space, which put the computer stuff in my workroom, which… you get the picture. Too little house for too much furniture.

So we've been re-arranging stuff, recycling stuff, selling stuff, and just generally moving stuff along. Including giving stuff away. Some things have been easy to part with, and some have been a lot harder. In the middle range was the Red Chair. The chair that was given to me by college chums and in which I wrote my graduate thesis. It wasn't red then, but at some point it got painted red (Guilty. I confess. I did it.) and brightened up a corner of the small alcove just off the living room. Obviously a great place for a small, furry animal on a sunny afternoon. Like Princess, for example.

Luckily, Jackie and Adrian, with a new home to furnish in Alameda, saved the day and the chair. It's new role is to be Jackie's work chair, assuming that she can ever reclaim it from Mushu…

Mushu & the Red Chair

Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Frost

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Volunteers of Oakland #3

Gosh, I wish I'd heard about this sooner. I could have lived with so much less garden-guilt. All those little plantlets and no place to put them, so off to the composter they went. Yeah, yeah, I understand that they certainly are useful as compost, but they still had to die.

But now, all those extra plants, bulbs, seedlings, vegetable starts and all that other green stuff can be given a new chance at life at The Plant Exchange on Saturday, March 29th at the First Presbyterian Church in (guess where?) Oakland!

Very briefly, it works like this: you bring your items to donate (click here for a list of what they accept), and then go "shop" (dangerous, ve-e-ery dangerous) among all the other plants and items donated by other generous gardeners. And the lovely people at The Plant Exchange even help you unload your donations and reload your car with your new acquisitions.

For the complete read-remember-and-follow instructions, click here.

I wish that I could say that I will see you there, but I can't make it this time. Even so, I'm dropping my donations off early - they accept them anytime after noon on March 15th at 2619 Broadway (along 27th Ave, near the handicapped parking spaces) - and marking my calendar for their next event in October.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bottom Rot

2012 San Marzanos.  No Bottom Rot That Year.

Technically, it's not called bottom rot but "blossom end rot (BER)," but we sometimes are a bit more blunt - crude, even - around here.

But so what is it, anyway? A disorder of tomatoes and peppers, featuring lesions at the blossom end (dah!) of the fruit which all too often expand, turn funky and black, and ruin the fruit for eating. Ick. Sometimes you can salvage part of the tomato, but usually it's only use is for target practice in the green bin. Sadly, it seems to occur most frequently on paste-type tomatoes, such as our family favorite, San Marzano.

What to do? Well, BER is generally associated with a calcium deficiency in the plant and/or soil. And lots of expert-type people have all sorts of remedies. I also have one:

Save your empty egg shells, allow them to dry out for a few days, or weeks even, it doesn't seem to matter. Then crunch them up into little pieces* and mix a small amount of these crushed shells in the dirt at the bottom of the planting holes for your tomatoes.

If you do a web check, you will discover that many people have proposed this same idea, but they will also instruct you do crazy things like store the eggshells on top of the refrigerator (do they have a magic refrigerator? Mine only seems to collects dust). Or grind them up in the blender (just what you want… more dishes to wash).

Why mention this now? Because March is the time to start thinking about sowing your tomato seeds for this year's bountiful harvest (all fingers crossed). And adding a smidgen of those crushed eggshells to the potting mix certainly can't hurt.

OK, OK, so why grow tomatoes from seed? Because you need one more project to worry about.

No, really because it's the only way that I know which pretty much guarantees that the variety of tomato I want to grow will be available. Most nurseries only stock a few types, which may or may not be suited to your garden and/or your taste buds. Also, you are less likely to import diseases, such as late blight which decimated the tomato crops in 2009 and 2012.

*I first start with my fingers (easy to wash) and simply pinch and crush the shells. To reduce them further, stick them in a plastic bag, loosely tie or knot the bag shut and run your rolling pin over it a few times. Nothing to clean up. Does not collect dust.