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Gardening

Page history last edited by pinkhamc@... 8 years, 2 months ago

In case you haven't figured this out, I love vegetable and fruit gardening and I enjoy flower gardening.

 

As evidence of this, check out TerraCopia and the Wallo'Water Plant Protector in case you haven't yet.

 

What to do with leftover produce?

If your garden is like mine, you inevitably have tons of left-over produce.  If your time is like mine, you don't have tons of left-over time to deal with it.  So, over the years I have devised/borrowed ways to preserve and use the left-overs in as little time as possible.

 

Preserving moist items:

One of the easiest ways is freezing.  Some items, like peas and beans, need to be blanched first.  I always grow purple-pod beans.  I throw a few into the blanching pot, and when they have lost their purple color (they turn green), I know it is time to remove them from the pot.  For beans, I first remove the ends with a knife.  Then I throw them into a large pot with boiling water.  When blanched, I pour the contents of the pot into a colander over a large pan.  I catch the boiling water in the pan.  I immediately place the colander in a pan of cold water that I prepared ahead and run cold water over it to stop the blanching process in its tracks.  Next, I return the hot (no longer boiling) water to the boiling pot for the next round.  This allows me to cut down on time AND energy usage.  After that I turn the water off and move the beans (or other produce) around in the pan to cool them further.  Then I place the beans in a salad spinner and spin as much of the water off them as I can get.  Then they go into a labeled zip-lock bag that goes into my freezer.

 

Items that don't need to be blanched first such as raspberries, blackberries, blackcaps, tomatoes, and peppers, have to be frozen individually before bagging.  Otherwise these fruits are so damp that they end up freezing into a solid mass that takes a chisel to break into.  I array them onto a cookie pan with parchment paper beneath them: 

after a day in the freezer, they are rock hard and ready to be bagged.

 

Preserving items that are small and dry on the outside:

Blueberries are what I have in mind here.  My blueberry patch keeps me plenty busy from early July to mid-September.  I barely have enough time to pick them all.  So I simply grab a few from the pail, roll them from one hand to the other to spot and remove debris and stems and then place them in a labeled freezer bag.  When done, the freezer bag goes into the freezer without any further ado.

 

Using:

String beans seem to be the produce I get way too many of and many are too large for freezing.  Chris and I have discovered the absolute joy of roasted string beans using these "unfreezables." Mix a little olive oil, kosher salt, and coarse pepper in a bowl, put the beans in the bowl and swish them around so they are covered with the marinade.  Place them on a cookie pan, and put pan in the oven at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. It doesn't solve the preserving problem, but it reduces the number of beans you have to worry about and it is the absolute best way to eat beans!

 

Do not read what follows if you are the least bit squeamish.  Remember, I am a biologist and reproduction, elimination & excretion (the latter two are the technical terms for pooping and peeing) are everyday stuff for me.

 

Human Urine Could be an Effective Fertilizer

 

Plants, like animals, need nitrogen to build proteins, DNA, and some lipids.  However, unlike animals, they can't get enough (unless they are legumes, but that's a topic for another article).  Our bodies produce ammonia as they break down amino acids and convert them from one non-essential amino acid to another, less abundant one.  This ammonia in our body would be deadly since it could affect our blood and tissue pH (ammonia is NH3 and it easily accepts H+ to become the ammonium ion, NH4+, thus potentially rendering our blood and body fluids more alkaline).  Normal pH of blood is 7.35-7.45, which is slightly alkaline, but moving into alkalosis can be deadly.

 

Fortunately, there is an elegant compound that is the simplest, non-ionic (not able to release ions, such as H+) organic compound, called urea-it is the "active ingredient" of urine:

 

 

Two ammonia molecules and one carbon dioxide molecule unite to form urea.  Thus this compound prevents the formation of the potentially deadly ammonium ion.  Furthermore, it is water soluble so it can be excreted from our body.  Now isn't all this convenient?

 

Once in the ground, bacteria there reconvert urea to the ammonium ion, which plants can take up and use as the source for nitrogen.  Now isn't that also convenient?

 

Hmm, is all this convenience chance or design?  You decide.  I already have.

 

OK, so here's a secret between you and me.  I've been using my urine in my garden as a fertilizer for years.  I have a bucket that I pee into when I have to go and am in (or around) the garden.  I add a little regular fertilizer and a little seaweed extract that I bought 30+ years ago (a pt sized bottle has lasted that long).  The extract is advertised as having plant growth hormones.  I'm not sure if they are still active, but if not, what remains is the real reason for using it anyway.  It has two critically important actions: 1) it turns the cloudy yellow solution black so no visitors know what it is and 2) it tones down the smell.  Before I did that, my 7-year old granddaughter was working with me in the garden and she asked me what smelled so bad.  Being a son of God, I couldn't lie to her so I had to confess.  She, of course, thought it was a delightful idea, worthy of telling everyone else about! 

 

The other benefit of this practice is pest control.  Any snails, slugs, or Japanese beetles I encounter are promptly dumped into the bucket.  Whether they sink to the bottom (snails and slugs) or float on the top (beetles) none escapes, unlike doing so in a bucket of plain water.  The bottom is anaerobic as the bacteria there use up all the oxygen for decomposition.  The snails and slugs promptly suffocate.  The beetles simply drown.  I used to have a serious problem with these pests.  I don't any longer.

 

At the end of the year the thick black residue at the bottom goes onto my compost pile.  I see this practice as a multiple win solution.  You should consider it, unless, of course, your garden is not as private as mine.

 

 

 

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