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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sunflower Sprouts

This is the time of the year when most of us are really craving some garden-fresh greens. Unless you have a greenhouse, or a cold-frame, it's probably been months since you've had raw, fresh greens (unless you like raw kale or beet greens...). Enter the delicious and nutritious sunflower sprouts! These are available for a premium price in some stores but with a few supplies, and a sunny window, you can grow your own!

As with all things related to gardening, growing sprouts is a cyclical affair. We begin with growing the flowers themselves. Most gardeners can manage to find space for a t least a few of these plant "sisters". They grow quite effortlessly providing a stately and regal presence as their faces follow the sun's path through the day (heliotropic is the name for this phenomenon). They are a perfect example of Nature's economy--each seed capable of producing many hundreds more of itself. 

We always harvest our own seed from the previous year's garden but if you didn't do that, look at your local bulk foods section. You need to find raw and unsalted seeds, still in their shell.

(1) Start with a flat nursery tray, or other tray with drainage.

(2) Place a layer of newspaper on the bottom (to keep soil from falling through).

(3) Fill to about half with good potting soil, or 'potting mix'. Make the soil as level as possible, then lightly tamp down.

(4) Distribute seeds relatively evenly over the soil. The seeds should be touching each other and very little soil should show through but you don't want them layered much on top of each other. Probably about three cups of seeds in this size tray.

(5) Evenly spread more soil over seeds till they're thoroughly covered. You don't want any seeds showing through but it makes it easier to rinse off excess soil later if you don't overdo it.

(6) Place in a warm, sunny spot: a south window or greenhouse. If days aren't too chilly you can even put them outside.

(7) Keep them moist with a plant mister or spray nozzle on your hose.

(8) Sprouts are ready when they look like this picture.

Harvest just as soon as the second set of leaves appears, other wise they get bitter. Best to harvest them all at once.

(9) With your fingers, gently remove as many of the seed husks as possible. Using sharp scissors, hold a handful of sprouts with one hand and cut them off as close as possible to the roots.

(10) Place them in a large bowl and run cool water over them, gently swish them in the water to allow any remaining dirt to drop to the bottom. Lift the sprouts from the bowl and drain them in a colander or spin them in a salad spinner.

(11) Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. Use them up in 3-4 days.

Stay tuned to future episodes where we discuss planting, harvesting and saving sunflower seeds for next year's sprouts.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tractor mechanic?

Here's a picture of the beautiful, 1947 Farmall Cub that Chris and I bought a few years ago and need some help getting it to run again. It worked fine last summer but we had to replace the carburetor and it's never run right since.

These Cubs are amazing! They were designed for farming vegetables before agri-business got into the picture. They're perfect for the small family-farm, or a farmer producing food to take to the local markets. We have implements so we can peel the sod right off the top layer of soil. After digging down deeper and working rabbit manure, and other kinds, into the earth, the tractor can then make mounded rows perfectly ready to plant seeds and starts into! But alas, none of this can happen until we get the little bug running again. Do you know of anyone who can help? This engine is a joy to work on for someone who likes the old engines before they started computerizing them and such.

Give us a call, or email. Thanks! Llyn and Chris - 424-2262 AlpineCoGarden@gmail.com

Got Potatoes?

Happy St. Patrick's Day! In this part of the world, St. Patty's Day is typically considered a good time to plant your potato crops. We'd like to have a really big potato crop at the community garden this year. Most people love potatoes, they store easily in the winter and, for the amount of space they take up in the garden you get a good return on your investment (each potato planted can produce as much as five pounds of harvest!) IF you have your own garden this year, you can plant potatoes any time now. We'll put them in at the community garden just as soon as the ground isn't so soggy, and we get the tractor running. (Thanks for all your ideas for local tractor mechanics. We've got some good leads.)

If you haven't already, now is the time to start "chitting" any potatoes you've got sprouting under your sink. Chitting is a way to help the potatoes store up solar energy which makes them more likely to produce a big crop. The way to do this is to take the potatoes and put them near a window where they can get sunlight (don't put them in direct sun). They will start to turn a little green. If there are any long sprouts, they will harden off slightly making them less likely to snap off when we plant them. If you have potatoes larger than a hen's egg, with multiple "eyes", cut them so that each "eye has at least an egg-size piece of potato attached to it. After they have "greened up' a bit, and any cut parts have sealed over, they are ready to plant. Green potatoes are poisonous so don't eat them after chitting.

If all this is more than you want to take on right now, and you have sprouting potatoes you want to contribute, just drop them in front of the Alpine library door and send us an email that they're there so we can pick them up. We'll chit them and plant them in the garden.

Thanks to: Jack and Joanne: they found three of those carport frames that someone was going to take to the dump. These make excellent greenhouses (with a little bit of work). Thanks to the people at "10-Rivers" for the warm welcome they have given us to link up with their site and help spread the word about our garden. They are a local group that advocates for healthy, local, organic solutions to food production and distribution. The link to their site is in the right-column of this website.

We have tools!

Dorothy got us copies of the well-house, and bathroom keys and Chris and I went down to see the tools we'd stashed in there during the community center clean-up after the honey people moved in last fall. We have several flat rakes, a leaf rake, multiple shovels and a wheelbarrow. There's also several hoses including a flat hose (the kind with holes poked every few inches) that will be perfect for watering our potato patch. What a great start!

Thanks go to: Lee Miller, at Earth Risings Farm for donating a wheelbarrow. Also to Evelyn and Dorothy (and others?) for the amazing job they did cleaning up and rearranging the library. It looks incredible!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Thornless raspberries, oh my!

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day here in Alpine. Chris and I went to Evelyn Lee's house and dug up a bed of thornless raspberries. Then we went to Steve Rose's and he donated several hundred gallon pots. At the Alpine garden site there is already a pile of dirt that someone had deposited there. Perhaps it's left over from when the picnic pavilion was built(?). Chris determined that it is good enough soil to host the raspberries until we can get them in the ground. He and I had a little potting party there in the park.

We ended up with over a hundred raspberry whips. We only need 50 for the garden. Does anyone need some for their own patch?
At the end of the day, just as we were finishing, there was a beautiful rainbow that appeared in the east. What a great day!

Follow-up: All the surplus raspberries have been spoken for. We're saving the ones still at the park to plant in the community garden.

P.S. Thanks also to Barry for his donation of a 10' farm gate. This is great! Also we are thankful to Rachel Unrein for all her help in thinking of people to contact about reaching out to young people, for bailing twine from her Grandpa's place and to her mother for a bag of sprouting potatoes. Lee Miller has donated a wheel barrow that just needs a little work. Gary (of Alpine Pump fame) spent some time down at the park this last week and got the electricity flowing again. We also want to thank Dorothy for all of her help in coordinating between the Alpine Community Center and the Garden Club so we could get permission to host the garden in the park. Patty Parsons has been writing grants for us. We'll start hearing in April if the first of them came through.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We need your surplus fencing material

We've had a wonderful response to our first request for donations. We have five different kinds of manure offered (llama, sheep, chicken, horse and rabbit). We have tractor work to prep the soil, and various garden supplies: pots and bailing twine. We have raspberries, strawberries, sprouting potatoes (we still need more) and various herbs to transplant when the time is right. Our next big need is:

Fence posts, fencing material and gates. These don’t need to be new. We’re looking for surplus materials that you may have lying around, that you can spare for the garden project.

We need:

36 – 8’ fence posts – These can be t-posts, 4” treated round posts or 4”x 4” treated posts. They don’t have to be new. If we get a few here, and a few there, we’ll have enough for the whole garden. Have you got a small pile of them laying around on your property that you're not using?

10 – 10’ fence posts (to hang the gates on)

Gates: either 2 – 6’ gates, or 4 – 4’ gates (so we can drive the tractor through on either end.)

6’ high fencing material: We need a total of 350’ to fence in the whole garden. Even short amounts would be useful to make tomato cages and to protect the fruit-trees that have been donated. If you have any partial rolls of chicken wire or other material, we could piece the longer pieces together to surround the garden.

We think of this as a Stone Soup Garden, where if each of us shares a little of what we have, whether that’s time or materials, that we’ll be able to grow food for all of us to enjoy eating together.

If you have any amount of this that you can donate, contact Chris and Llyn at 424-2262 or alpinecogarden@gmail.com