Compost, the Black Gold

Posted on April 10, 2016 BY Kelly

Every gardener’s compost pile aspires to the almighty ‘black gold’. Full or nutrients and beneficial microorganisms, it feeds your vegetables, herbs and flowers so much better than any fertilizer can and the best part of it is, it’s FREE!

The hardest aspect of composting for me is the patience. I have none.

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It takes at least 6 months to turn your garden’s leavings from garbage into gourmet food.

You can make compost in a pile in the corner of your yard or homemade bin. If you are using wood, just be sure that is it not pressure-treated. You don’t want those nasty chemicals leaching out into your compost and then into your food. There are a number of materials that can be used to make great compost, including: plastic, wire, wood, pallets or fencing.

The key to happy, healthy compost is heat and the right amount of brown and green material. 100908_4354

Heat is generated by keeping your piles to a manageable size (3’x 3’x 3′) and turning it weekly. The ingredients are the other half.

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Shredded newspaper, pine needles, dried leaves and cardboard are all good sources of carbon (or brown) materials, while vegetable scraps, grass clippings and other green things are good nitrogen sources. The rule of thumb is for every one bucket of nitrogen, use two of carbon.

Since carbon materials can be in short supply in the growing season I’ll bag up a bunch of leaves in the fall and store them in the shed for use in the summer.

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Once your pile smells nice and woodsy, it’s time to spread it out in the garden. And don’t be stingy! Use a good 3-4 inches and your garden with thank you.

For more on composting and the organic kitchen garden, be sure to check out my new book, The Backyard Gardener!

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Spring is in the air!

Posted on April 4, 2016 BY Kelly

ColdMaine.KellyOrzelPhotography

The calendar says it’s spring, but the snow outside my window gives me serious doubts. Still, I know the white stuff will disappear in a few days (hopefully less) due to our unseasonably warm weather. My garlic, chives and comfrey are all awake and I’ve been running flats of herbs and scented geraniums wrapped in frost blankets between the hoop house and potting shed. Even thought Mother Nature is teasing me, my plants and my garden, I will not let her get the best of me.  

ScentedGeraniums.KellyOrzelPhotography

Aside from my little tirade about the weather, there are many lovely things happening and growing at Bowery Beach Farm. We have a new four-season greenhouse going up next week, the base of which is finished. This past fall we received our official mail-order nursery certification and our spring orders are already rolling in. And last, but certainly not least, my first book, The Backyard Kitchen Gardener, will be published by Lyons Press next Spring (2017). Their senior editor contacted me last fall and I signed my first very first book contract.

Needless to say, we’ve been quite busy, but also quite grateful!

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Scented Geraniums

Posted on March 27, 2016 BY Kelly

 

Scented Geraniums are one of my favorites to propagate from cuttings and grow. I love the variety of smells, particularly right after a good rain. And while summer is drawing to a close (sniff, sniff) you don’t need to day goodbye to this pelargonium (a.k.a. scented geranium), now is the time to take some cuttings and pot them up!

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You can take cuttings of this woody geranium anytime from spring to late summer, but I have found that cuttings taken in August and September do especially well. And don’t worry if you are a first-timer or experienced grower, scented geraniums are easy to propagate.

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And we all lose a few, so don’t be worried if you see a casualty or two, it’s not you – it is just the nature of the beast. Even the most experienced propagator will lose some cuttings.

Cuttings root best in moist (NOT wet or soggy) soil. I use a mixture of potting compost or soil and perlite. The perlite gives the mix just a bit of extra space so the cutting can spread its roots out.

Take a clean, sharp razer blade, knife or scissors and snip your cutting from the fresh, fleshy green stems. If you keep your scented geraniums around long enough you will notice they can become rather woody at the base of the plant. That is NOT where you want to take a cutting.

I like to take 2-3″ cuttings from a healthy stem. I always include at least one leaf, but if I have a node (branching) available I take it below the node.

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And although it is tempting to take a cutting from a flowering stem, resist! Either find a new stem or cut the flower off first. If you take a cutting that is flowering the plant’s energy is not going into developing the roots (which it needs to), but rather to the flower, which almost always results in a cutting casualty.

Rooting hormone … ehhh.

I don’t find that it helps the rooting, but if it makes you feel better you can give it a light dusting.

Plant your cutting in a moist potting mix. You can use small 3-4″ pots, or trays if you have the zealous propagator disorder (which I have been known to to suffer from). Use your finger to create a hole, insert your cutting, then gently firm the soil around the cutting.

Place your cuttings in a warm, sunny spot. Right now I have mine on tables in my backyard, but a windowsill will do just as nicely. Then water and wait.

When it comes to watering I find it best to water from the bottom of the pot (if it has holes) or at the base of the plant. You can tell it is time to water when the top of the soil is dry. Be wary of overwatering your geraniums. Let them tell you when they need a drink.

On average it takes 3-4 weeks for the roots to develop, but will happen sooner if given the right conditions (sun, moist soil, and time). You can tell that your cutting has taken if you give a gentle tug on your cutting, and you feel it anchored in place.

Once your cutting has taken, pinch back some of the leaves (only if your cutting has enough leaves) and you will be rewarded with a bushy, happy scented geranium.

I keep my scented geranium babies in the greenhouse, but a kitchen windowsill and/or counter that gets bright light throughout the fall and winter will be all you need so they are ready for the garden (or a container planting) come spring.

If you’ve propagated enough, pot-up your extra scented geraniums in a pretty pot, and give them away to friends and family. They make wonderful holiday gifts and housewarming presents.

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With their subtle flowers, lush leaves and their delicious scents, scented geraniums are a sweet garden surprise to many. For me it was love at first sight. And now I’ve been growing and propagating these ethereal little plants for many, many years.

And now you can too!

For more on growing and the organic kitchen garden, check out my new book, The Backyard Gardener!

Warmly,
Kelly

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Hellebores are here!

Posted on February 10, 2016 BY Kelly

Hellebores | Bowery Beach Farm

There are not many plants that thrive in the winter, but Hellebores are one of them!

I love these plants so much I cannot get enough of them. In fact, last year I started my very own collection of these pretty girls in one of my garden. And I just bought two new additions this winter that I plan to plant out in the spring. First is the traditional white Helleborus niger that currently is residing in our guest bathroom.

Hellebores | Bowery Beach Farm

Then there is this green-flowered hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius, that I’m crushing on. Can’t wait to see how it stacks up against the Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) – which by the way does NOT stink – and the purple flowered hellebore from Slovenia, Helleborus atrorubens.

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Planning the Garden

Posted on February 1, 2016 BY Kelly

Ordering Seed  | Bowery Beach Farm

While it’s still chilly and cold outside here in my office I’m nice and cosy. I love this time of year. There’s nothing to do in the garden but imagine what can be …

Time spent pouring over seed and bulb catalogs. Mostly likely with a glass of wine. 

Making meticulous layouts of this year’s garden that will be modified many times over before the season is over.

And catching up on some of my favorite movies like Anne of Green Gables.

Seed Sorting | Bowery Beach Farm

Just the way I like to spend a wintery day.

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Bulbs are Busting Out!

Posted on January 18, 2016 BY Kelly

Forced Bulbs | Bowery Beach Farm

Potted up in late October, now is the time of year I can begin pulling my forced bulb pots from the cold.

Most were potted in soil, but I did some hyacinth water forcing in the fridge. And they look ready to bust open!

Water Forced Hyacinth | Bowery Beach Farm

Every year I’m amazed that within one day the shoots go from white to green. It really is the magic of forcing. And just think that in a few more weeks my house – which is shrouded in wintery, cold snow (grrrr!) – will be filled with color and the sweet scent of Spring!

 

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Hibernating

Posted on January 1, 2016 BY Kelly

Winter in Maine | Bowery Beach Farm

Most people start the New Year off with promises and resolutions … me, I start it off with a little hibernation.

I can’t wait to shower, get some fresh jammies and curl up on the couch and read one of the books I’ve been diligently adding to my “Have to Read” list during the growing season. A glass (or two) of wine may, or may not, be involved!

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Merry Christmas!

Posted on December 24, 2015 BY Kelly

Merry Christmas | Bowery Beach Farm

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

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Christmas Decorating

Posted on December 16, 2015 BY Kelly

DIY Christmas Gingerbread house Bowery Beach Farm

Every year it’s the same old story …. I cannot believe it’s almost Christmas! And I’m sure it is the same in your house this time of year. The most magical time of year is always going so fast.

As I do every year I made my gingerbread house. But this year I made it significantly bigger and Houston, we have a problem. The roof broke. But no worries. 

A little super glue (we don’t eat our house, its more just to look pretty), more frosting to ‘hide’ the damage, and some string to hold it together while the glue and frosting reset and we were all good to go. again. 

Then after spending some quality time with Pinterest I just had to make some of these DIY Snow Globes. Which I was rather satisfied with. 🙂

DIY Christmas Snowglobe| Bowery Beach Farm

One of my favorite traditions of the season is to wrap all the gifts. My husband always says he plans to help but seems to ‘disappear’ when it comes time to wrap. But that’s okay. Me and Mr. Bert settle in with a pile of Christmas movies and go to town!

DIY Christmas Wrapping| Bowery Beach Farm

This year I went old school with my wrapping plan. I used brown kraft paper, greens and wild rose hips cut from the garden and some bakers twine to hold it all together.

But the gifts would be nothing without the tree …

DIY Christmas | Bowery Beach Farm

A few years ago my mom and I found a local nursery that sells these sparsely branched ‘Charlie Brown’ trees which I just LOVE! Hope you all are finding time this holiday season to enjoy your favorite traditions.

 

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12 Christmas Tree Tips

Posted on December 9, 2015 BY Kelly

Christmas Tree Tips | Bowery Beach Farm

Your Christmas tree only has two essential needs, cool temperatures and plenty of water! So as long as you make sure your tree has water and isn’t drying out, the only problem you are facing are needles. Follow this guide for a longer-lasting Christmas tree, and stop the drop

Tip 1: Choose and cut your own tree. The longer your tree sits cut on the lot, the more moisture it loses. By cutting your tree down, you know it is as fresh as it’s going to get!

Tip 2: Inspect tree before purchase. Choose a healthy tree. It should have a good scent, and it’s needles flexible at the tips, not brittle to the touch. If the needles fall when gently brushed, then the tree has been sitting too long.

Tip 3: Make fresh cut. When a tree sits, the sap collects at the bottom and blocks the stem from getting enough water. So if choosing a pre-cut tree, saw off the bottom half to one inch of the trunk, making the cut perpendicular to the axis. Do not angle the cut, or it will make it more difficult for the tree to take up water.

Christmas Tree Tips | Bowery Beach Farm

Tip 4: Thin out crowded branches before bringing indoors. Remove any sad-looking or congested branches outside. This not only makes the tree look better, but also reduces moisture lost through the needles.

Tip 5: Shake and see them drop – shake the tree outside to knock of any dead or loose needles so you have less of a mess in the house. Norway Spruce, Red Cedar, Virginia, White and Scotch Pines are known for dropping lots of needles initially, so be sure to shake them well.

Christmas Tree Tips | Bowery Beach Farm

Tip 6: Place the tree out of direct sunlight in a bucket of water outside. Once home you may need to prepare the space for your tree. Most trees can go 6-8 hours without water and still take up water, but to be on the safe keep it in a cool place with lots of water.

Tip 7: Keep your cool and avoid the heat. Don’t place your tree in direct sunlight or near sources of heat. It will last longer if kept cool and away for fireplaces, heaters and vents.

Tip 8: Use a traditional tree base with plenty of water! The best is a reservoir-type stand, and the rule of thumb is that the base should hold 1 quart of water per inch in tree trunk diameter.

Tip 9: Use a stand that fits your tree. Sounds obvious, but if you attempt to squeeze a larger tree into a too-small base it will die quicker. Whittling away around the edge of the trunk only opens up opportunities for infection, faster drying and reduces water uptake.

Christmas Tree Tips | Bowery Beach Farm

Tip 10: Monitor for freshness. Check your water daily to be sure your tree has enough to drink!

Tip 11: Reduce drying by using low heat lights, and be sure to turn them off when going to bed or leaving the house. The extra heat will dry out your tree faster.

Tip 12: Select a non-drop needle tree. Ignoring the obvious artificial tree, some trees drop less needles than others. Consider choosing a Nordmann Fir or Fraser Fir tree since they are known for excellent needle retention.

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