Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

How Green Was My Garden: AAAALLLLVVVVIIIINNNN!!!!!!"

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Alvin and the Chipmunks were an adorable animated singing band that got into mischief and drove Dave crazy. I now know how Dave feels.   Except the chipmunks in my life aren’t making me any money with a major recording contract, just destroying my garden, digging up plants I spent a great deal of time and money growing, not to mention the burrowing under my house and garage.

In an effort to try to be one with nature and first do no harm I have tried virtually every form of repellents there is,  like hot pepper wax and fox urine, Plantskyyd granules, rotten egg spray, the little critters seem immune.  I also have fencing and raised beds, but chipmunks are tiny little things that can avoid most deterrents.

Public Enemy Number One

Public Enemy Number One

I have found them digging in my pots, pulling up plants, in my raised beds burying seeds, and stealing vegetables.  Just like there is an overpopulation of bunnies this year there are lots and lots of the chipmunks this year.

They may look cute, in fact, the Goldy Gopher mascot was reportedly modeled after a chipmunk, not really a gopher after the artist George Grooms saw the rodents at a rest stop  (see the lineup the Bell Museum created if you want proof that Goldy is actually a chipmunk).  But chipmunks can do a lot of damage; they dig burrows under foundations, can chew through wiring, they carry ticks and fleas and their droppings can also be a hazard when near the home.

Just like any rodent they are a nuisance but more so when you spend so much time and care on your garden and find your fresh produce either robbed or with little bite marks and not consumable.

So what can you do to combat Chip & Dale? Not much unfortunately. In order to stop them digging you can place landscape fabric over all your plants.  If you find the burrow you can fill it with wire wool or even spray foam insulation.  Keeping wood piles away from the house and off the ground can take away hiding places.  If you have a neighbor with bird feeders though, or like me, have a maple tree with ample supply of seeds, you are pretty much doomed as they will keep returning for that food source.

chip-n-dale-1_640

RIP Chip & Dale

When all my prevention methods failed and I found burrowing through the foundation of my garage I decided it was time to fight back, so yes, I turned to chipmunkicide.   This summer I have culled Alvin, Theodore, Simon, Chip & Dale, the Chipettes, and some of their friends.  If you don’t want to hear about it I suggest you don’t read any further. I realize there are many who would rather lose their entire garden than harm a fly, but I am not one of those people.  I am an organic gardener, but I draw the line when my investment is being lost to an overpopulated pest.

To control these rodents the method I found easiest and most humane was snap rat traps which I surround with almonds and leave along the path they travel, usually right near my herb bed (seen pictured above) where they have buried countless seeds and dug up more than a few of the plants.

There are other methods detailed on the internet describing “the swimming pool of death.”  Basically a five gallon bucket is filled half way up with water and the surface is covered with sunflower seeds, then you build a diving board with a small board leading to the bucket and line that with seeds, the little chipmunks will dive into the bucket to reach the seeds, they won’t be able to swim or climb out of the bucket and will drown.   Others profess the benefits of Havahart traps, but  those traps are not inexpensive and relocation can be very inhumane as well, taking the critters away from their food stores.

077Poisons should never be used against chipmunks because it is never safe. You do not know where the chipmunks will end up dying and can easily become prey to another animal or pet who would them become poisoned as a result. The other reason is for your own convenience, when chipmunks die they will cause a rather foul smell and fly/maggot hazard and if you don’t know where they expire, say in their burrow under your house, that would be rather uncomfortable for a few weeks especially in the hot summer.

Though I like to play nicely with nature as a rule, this year I had to draw the line with the chipmunks after all the damage they caused to my house and my garden.  With their numbers decreased I have seen less damage and I know I’ll never eradicate them.  I just wish there was a bounty on them like there is with gophers, I could have made up for all the cost of the plants I had to replace.

After we closed up the burrow when completing a new deck we didn’t see any chipmunks for almost two weeks, but then just yesterday, there he was, peeking out of the downspout again.  AAALLLVVVIIINNNN!!!!

Gone Fishing

As of today Minnesota residents can fish free in most state parks!

The exemption allows state park visitors to take fish without a license when shore fishing or wading on state-owned land within a state park. All limits and special regulations in effect for the body of water still apply.

Fishing without a license from a boat or float is allowed only on bodies of water that are completely inside a state park. The exemption does not apply on bodies of water where a trout stamp is required.

I just bought my license and a couple of hundo worth of gear, so I’m set, but I hope this gives some people that otherwise wouldn’t enjoy our state parks incentive to go fishing.

If it’s good enough for Bing and Louis, it’s good enough for me.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqdtzJvliMk[/youtube]

To Market, To Market

We are so lucky in the Twin Cities to be home to some of the most fantastic Farmer’s Markets so close to our very own Neighborhoods.

Farmer's Market Map

The big daddy, the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market,  is open seven days a week at the primary location on Lyndale Avenue, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. April through mid-November and the Nicollet Mall Farmer’s Market every Thursday.   The Lyndale location of the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market opened in 1937, but according to their website, the Minneapolis market dates back to 1876.  The Minneapolis Market is on both Facebook and Twitter.  You can get a full vendor listing for the Minneapolis market on their website but the most fun is to just go and browse the rows and see all the local fresh farmer grown food, crafts and plants you can find.

The Saint Paul Farmers Market is a weekend affair in the Lowertown area of Downtown St. Paul, and has a big emphasis on products produced within a 50 mile radius of the Capital City and the St. Paul Growers Association only allows “fresh locally grown produce to be sold–directly from the grower to the consumer.”  St. Paul’s market, like Minneapolis, has a rich history.  According to their website the first organized St. Paul market began in 1853.  The Downtown location is open Saturdays from 6am-1pm and Sundays from 8am-1pm, April through November. Saint Paul also has a Woodbury City Walk Market on Wednesdays July-October.   The Saint Paul Growers also have outposts at 17 other locations throughout the summer. Consult the website for more information.

The Mill City Farmer’s Market in the shadows of the Guthrie Theater and inside the ruins of the Mill City Museum along the Mississippi River in Downtown Minneapolis was founded by chef and Restaurateur Brenda Langdon and specializes in sustainable, organic and local foods.  It was one of the first markets to have chef-made edibles.  There are always fun family activities and one of my friends is a vendor there (Braucher Sunshine Harvest Farms) so I frequent it often.

Midtown Farmers MarketClose to my house is also the Midtown Farmer’s Market run by the Corcoran Neighborhood Association. At the intersection of Hiawatha & Lake Street it is a fantastic location for public transportation access right off the Midtown Greenway and Light Rail and Bus Lines.  Unfortunately with the impending sale and development of the school whose parking lot has been the home for the market, it is under threat and the future of this great market is uncertain. This weekend the Midtown Farmer’s Market is celebrating the Summer Solstice with a cooking demo from Beth Dooley, City of Lakes Waldorf School butterfly crafts and more.

Richfield’s Farmer’s Market takes place in Veteran’s Memorial Park Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 12 p.m and is the third largest market in the Twin Cities behind only Minneapolis’ and St. Paul’s markets.   Very convenient for suburban dwellers and a growing selection of produce though their meat & eggs can are limited.  Not bad for a suburban market and one that has only been around since 1990 though.

Newer to the scene in Minneapolis a decade ago is the Kingfield Farmers Market.  Every Sunday from 9am to 1:30pm at 43rd & Nicollet this is market is growing in popularity every week as the buzz spreads. Especially with the ChefShack stopping by!

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better for Twin Cities residents comes news of another market, this one in Uptown. The Calhoun Area Residents Action Group  with additional sponsorship from the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association is presenting the Uptown Farmer’s Market with begins this Sunday, June 21st.  The market will be located on 29th Street between Lyndale Ave S. And Dupont Ave. S.  and will operate between 11am and 5pm.  It is scheduled to be held four times this year, on the third Sundays of June, July, August and September.  According to their press release the Uptown Market is modeling itself against Seattle’s Fremont Market, and like the neighborhood, will bring an eclectic mix of vendors with more than just food goods.  As Roxie Speth, a local artist on the planning board put it, “We want to offer the kind of quirky, offbeat goods that made the Uptown area so exciting in its early days.” The Uptown Market is on Twitter and Facebook for more information.

produce-bag

Shopping your local farmers markets is not only fun and gives you the opportunity to find delicious fresh items but supporting locally grown goods is also environmentally and economically sound practice.   Just make certain to take your own reusable shopping bags (I promise I won’t pimp the bags I’m selling at Mother Earth again). But don’t forget to stock up on reusable produce bags as well!  I have several EcoBags that I love to take to market with me that I purchased from Twin Cities Green.  Great for the new potatoes, radishes, onions, and peas that are on market tables now. When I get home I reuse plastic bags for the items to keep fresh and crisp in the refrigerator, washing the plastic bags in between uses so I don’t have to keep getting new ones.

Which is your favorite market? Any hidden gems?

Can I get a little support, peas?

After having new cedar raised beds built this year I decided to build some of my own pea and bean supports this weekend.  I made a trip to Menards to pick up a little 1/2 inch galvanized pipe with, some corner fittings, and pipe bracket supports and purchased the netting from Mother Earth Gardens and I now have some permanent supports to help utilize the ends of the raised beds for my broad beans and peas.

Bean & Pea Supports


And I did them all by myself, no small feat for someone who doesn’t consider herself very “handy” usually.  The best part is that you can build these supports yourself very easily as well, and the galvanized pipe comes in many sizes.  I don’t suggest PVC as it reacts to ultraviolet rays and can become brittle.

There are, of course, other easy solutions for peas and beans, with many favoring the teepee method or you can get creative and make something that looks like a spider web for your peas.  But I like my galvanized pipe supports. Simple and didn’t take much time to make, and will be a nice permanent addition to my raised beds.

Where the blogs have no names

I still need help deciding on a name for this blog. I wanted something witty and fun (like me!) but my creativity has failed me and my offer of a free reusable grocery tote for the best suggestion didn’t bring any new ideas.  So considering how Minnesotans like to vote I thought I would give you a poll to help me decide the name for this blog.

So please vote below for your favorite name, or suggest a new one in the comments section. Because there is only one person who should remain Nameless.

[poll=4]

When will it rain?

That may have been the name of a cheesy Jackyl song,  but the gardeners of Minneapolis & Saint Paul have been screaming it from the rooftops, when will it rain?   The Twin Cities are officially under drought conditions according to new statistics released by the state.  May was the driest on record since the Dust Bowl and most of the Twin Cities are in the midst of a dry spell that is amongst the worst in historical terms.  As glorious as this sunny weather has been everyone wishes it would rain.

rain-barrelI went to a great seminar early this spring to learn how to make a rain barrel.  Lots of great information, and quite simple to make your own if you have a few key tools.  But unfortunately thanks to Mother Nature, until this past weekend’s glorious soaking, it didn’t do me any good without anything to capture.   But at least we can use rain barrels here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, did you know that in Colorado rain barrels are illegal?

Despite our fantastic recent soaking weekend rain,  there is a prediction of a cool dry summer. So what is the best way to keep your garden going in these arid conditions?

You must irrigate your garden yourself, or risk losing all that hard work and money you put into your plants.  The recommendation is to water early in the morning, and it is always best if you can, to water at the base of the plants, using drip irrigation or a soaker hose, less is lost to evaporation so it is more efficient. Watering at night isn’t recommended as the water stays on the plants and can encourage mildew and fungus.

Soaker Hose irrigationThe other thing that is very important in such dry conditions is a good layer of mulch which will help prevent the soil from drying out as quickly. I use a red cedar mulch as it helps deter pests as well, a good half an inch or more, but cocoa bean mulch is also popular, as is straw or pine bark.  I don’t recommend cypress because of claims of over-logging.  Several other people use shredded newspaper, but I find that can get a little too dense.

The key is to water deeply,  at least an inch of water, rather than for short periods, so that it encourages deep root growth once a week.  A good way to measure how much you have watered is to put out a tuna can, and once it is filled, that is an inch of water.  But in this windy weather, you may find that you may need to water twice a week. Just check your soil and make sure it stays moist under the mulch and look at your plants, they will tell you if they need water, if they are looking wilted or lifeless: time to water.

Pots and containers require more frequent watering, some maybe daily, because, although it hasn’t been terribly hot, they have a tendency to dry out quickly especially on these blustery days. Very Blustery Day

For a guide to garden watering see this handy sheet by The Green Institute’s GardenWorks.

Although this past weekend of soaking rain has helped, without a few more days of it, water bills may be taking a good hit this summer,  another great reason to invest in rain barrels, or perhaps look into how to do a rain dance.

V is for Victory!

Victory Garden
During World War II Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged American households to plant their own “Victory Gardens” to supply their own produce.  Remember this was a time when ration books were the staple and supplies were scarce.   By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America.
Previously many people’s only familiarity with backyard gardens came from  PBS television show Victory Garden which has highlighted this tradition for decades.
Now when the country is in the midst of an economic crisis and food prices are soaring the “Victory Garden” movement is growing again, this time in the war against financial ruin.    There is a a great upcoming seminar in Minneapolis about how to join in the movement and how you can get local government to help support community gardening efforts.
Victory Gardens: Join the Garden Revolution
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.

Join Rose Hayden-Smith, IATP Food and Society Fellow, national Victory Garden expert from University of California for an in-depth workshop about Victory Gardens and what history can show us in how government can better support community gardening.  Rose will review historical case studies and current national policies, and work with participants to articulate public policies for today.  The workshop is sponsored by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Gardening Matters.

Where:
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
2104 Stevens Avenue South, Minneapolis

Registration: $10; Scholarships available upon request.Please RSVP by June 18 to Anne Walters at awalters@iatp.org or 612-870-3408.

Breakfast refreshments will be provided.

Its in the Bag

Find yourself with little space but wanting to grow some veggies?  How about this nifty idea from Whole Foods? Take your reusable grocery bag, preferably the ones with Tyvek or some kind of plastic, not canvas kind as those will go moldy, and poke holes in the bottom, fill with loamy soil, and BAM!  a movable pot to grow some lettuce or herbs.  You could also grow a small tomato plant this way as well, or pepper plant, or even some carrots or beets if the bag is tall.

Gardeners.com sells something similar called a Salad Planting Bag for almost $20 but I like the Whole Foods idea since right now I seem to find myself awash in reusable grocery totes that everyone and their mother is giving away for free (including me!).

The idea is similar to this year’s hot garden product the Potato Bag which I am actually giving a go myself.

Potato Bag

Potato Bag

The idea with a potato bag is that instead of digging the potatoes in the ground they are protected from pests and it is more convenient to harvest.  With the bag it can also be stored flat at the end of the season unlike a trash can or barrel, which also work well.  With the bag, you just place four or five seed potatoes cut into pieces at the bottom of the bag, cover with compost, wait for them to sprout, and when the plants are a few inches high, fill with more compost.  As the plants keep growing you keep filling with compost until the bag is completely filled.

Then you just need to keep the bag watered and fertilized (organically of course) and monitored for the pesky potato beetle.  I have had great success with K+Neem spray but one of my favorite sites for organic garden remedies, GardensAlive, recommends Pyola Spray so that is also a good solution.

At the end of the season you can simply tip over the bag to harvest all the potatoes.  I’m growing fingerlings, Yukons and red potatoes.  I’ve never had trouble growing potatoes before, but this seemed like a good way to do so in less space, with less effort and digging, which for me and my aching back, is a huge bonus!  Plus, these bags will fit between my raised beds or anywhere they can get good sun and drainage.

Looking forward to seeing how my potato bag experiment works.   Though if I was in the UK, I may think about these fancy plastic potato barrels which look like you can harvest while they are growing.  All the best gardening tools come from Britain but it usually takes a few years for them to make it stateside.

If you are looking for a local source for Potato Bags instead of mail order, my local garden store, Mother Earth Gardens, in the Longfellow neighborhood, had some left the last time I stopped by.  They are also selling some of the natural canvas grocery totes that I have made (like those pictured below).

Natural canvas grocery totes

Natural canvas grocery totes

So if you want to use some of your boring reusable bags for your lettuce, stop by Mother Earth and pick up one of these lovely ones to use for your groceries instead. And if you’re making the trip, you can also drop off your supply of plastic pots for recycling and check out Mother Earth’s fantastic selection of sustainably, native and locally grown plants and flowers.  There is a reason Mother Earth has been chosen the Twin Cities Best Garden Center several years running.

And don’t forget your reusable bags to transport your purchases, or (another shameless plug) you could always buy one of mine while you are there!

Welcome New Authors!

Welcome new MB authorships & writers extraordinaire @emilysaysso @punsultant aka (artallen) @quick13 aka (Fiona)@artandemily @kingbozo  aka (SeanH)

Fiona will be heading up a gardening column, Seanh will be covering local biking, and Art and Emily will be writing on entertainment in a column titled Totally Doin’ It with Art and Emily.

Next up, recruit the amazing @kellybarnhill!

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What’s in a name?

When it comes to plants names can be complicated botanical Latin names (Semiarundinaria) or common names (Bamboo).   For this blog, I am hoping for something in between.

Being the daughter of Welsh parents, I grew up in the garden, picking carrots from my grandfather’s allotment in Laleston, Bridgend, Wales and eating them right out of the ground, not bothering to wash them off.  I didn’t have to worry about any pesticides or herbicides; he was organic before anyone knew what that meant.

“Become green” in Welsh is “Glasu.”  Naming this blog Glasu would be a tribute to my heritage and would be a good representation of what it will discuss, gardening, environmentalism, “green” things.

But my last name is also Quick, so something funny, or pun-ny combining Quick, and Green/Gardening does seem appropriate as well. Because although I am passionate about organic gardening, environmentalism, green topics, I do like to keep things lighthearted.

So I will open the naming to creative minds of Minneapolis. If you can combine “Quick” and Green/Gardening in a pun-erific way or perhaps, with a Welsh spin, you get to name the blog, and even better, will win one of my handmade full-size natural cotton grocery totes like this:

eggplant-tote

Submit your suggestions in the comments below and if there is something that takes root, you will not only win the tote, but also bragging rights and my thanks!

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