Summer Anticipation

Spring has come and gone and now all of our gardens have transitioned to the summer stage. Here that means everything is starting to fill out their fruits and vegetables. I’ve harvested a few zucchinis and cucumbers and they are hopefully going to continue for quite a few more weeks. The broccoli, turnips and beets have all been harvested and pulled out of the garden.

My anticipation is in relations to everything else in the garden. The corn and tomatoes were set back a little bit because of the cold and rainy spring.


Sweet corn


Amish Paste Tomato


A Big Mortgage Lifter Tomato


Zucchini almost ready to harvest


A nice cucumber I just picked

On top of that the ground cherries gave my about half a pound of fruit a couple days ago. Strangely the bowl of ground cherries gets a little more empty everyday. I asked DW (who has discovered a love of ground cherries) and she wouldn’t fess up to eating them, but she can keep on eating them. It always feels good to know that my garden work is making someone I care about happy. I hope we all can get a bumper crop this summer. I’d love to here about what your harvesting and hope to harvest from your gardens. Good growing everybody.


The ground cherries taste like ground cherries

The garden is really starting to take off. I’ve been taking lettuce for sandwiches almost everyday, the tomatoes are starting to either flower or set fruit, and corn is a good foot high. But what I’ve been looking forward to the most has finally happened, a few of the ground cherries have finally ripened. These little guys are relatives of the tomatillo and tomato and a grown in a similar way. They like full sun and good fertile, moist soil. They grew straight up when they were smaller but once They got established in the garden they fell over and started the sprawl. The fruits are little orange berries wrapped in a little papery husk. When fully ripe, the berries fall to the ground and can be gathered from the ground.

While reading about ground cherries, there was a number of references to ground cherries being a staple on Midwest farms. Both of my parents grew up on Iowa diary farms. They visited on their way back from Des Moines a couple of weeks ago and my Mom wanted a tour of he garden. The garden was rather ugly at the time, but it was a nice day so I showed my parents around. When we got to the bed with the ground cherries, all of a sudden my mom seemed to get really excited. She asked “What are those?” “Ground cherries, I decided to try them this year.” She then explained to me how my grandmother used to grow them every year and that you should never pick all of the fruit. That way there will be volunteer ground cherry plants returning every year.

The other day, I was inspecting the plants and I found three small berries and one slightly larger one.


I peeled the husk off of them and decided I had better share these with the wife. She is not nearly as interested in gardening, but she is happy to eat what comes out of the garden. Now like many people out there, neither of us had ever tried these. So we had no idea what to expect and she let me know it. With a mix of both impending disgust and fear on her face she took a small berry from my hand and I took another. We bite it to them at the same time and we both had a wave of relief. Not only were they not disgusting, they set delicious. I think the flavor is truly akin to a cherry. Not a tart cherry but a nice sweet juicy cherry. Plus it doesn’t even have a pit to contend with. Needless to say she quickly grabbed the large berry and popped it in to her mouth leaving me with only the third small one left. I guess she likes them. So the lesson of the day is ground cherries taste like ground, cherries. Good growing everybody.

Flood of June 2013

“Hi Mother Nature, How’s it going?”

“Not bad just had a quick question for you. You know all the rain that you didn’t get last year?”

“Oh yep, that caused a pretty bad drought. A lot of gardens and farm land didn’t do well at all.”

“Oh sorry about that. I actually found all that water and you can have back all at once right now. Here you go.”

That’s what it seems like these days. Nature seemed to misplace all the rain from last year and has now found it and decided to give it all back. So anyone living or working near the Iowa, Cedar or most of the other rivers in Eastern Iowa are pretty worried. There was a thought that the Coralville Reservoir was going to spill over the emergency spillway (something that has only ever happened twice in 1993 and 2008), but the Army Corps of Engineers is now hoping it will stay low enough.

20130422-081500.jpgIowa River a Couple of weeks ago


Iowa River Now




And now

20130422-081604.jpgBack in April the water was falling about 5-6 feet of the Iowa River Power dam


Now its falling maybe a foot.

My house and belongings are in no danger, but there are a lot of businesses, parks and University buildings that may be damaged.  Some of which have barely been repaired after the 2008 flood.  Luckily the city was much better prepared, sandbags are already in place, as well as other flood mitigation efforts.  Just hoping I can still make it to work on Monday.  Stay safe everybody and good growing.

Garden Update-May 2013

I think by now we all realize that this has been a very strange year. Winter just wouldn’t let go, spring has been very wet, and some late frosts has kept a few things from going into the ground. But finally it seems that tide may have turned.  The weather has warmed, the tomatoes are in the ground and my first harvest of the year is in the basket.  Ok its not much, but its something.  I sifted through the two rows of radishes and pulled the biggest ones out to try and give the smaller ones a bit more room.


Plum Purples and Early Scarlet Globe Radishes, totaling about half a pound. A good start to the year.

For most gardeners radishes are the earliest crop to be harvested.  The grow quickly and can take frosts without any significant damage.  If you are not a fan of radishes I would still suggest growing a small row.  If you don’t like them then find someone who does or drop them off at a food pantry.  They are early enough that you can harvest them and still have plenty of time to plant summer crops in the same location.  I planted two varieties this year, Plum Purple and Early Scarlet Globe (ESG).  The ESG are a very traditional radish that has a nice bit to it while the Plum Purple is a pretty mild variety so it might be a good choice for kids or non-radish people.  Well that’s about it for today.  Hope everyone can get something out of the garden soon.  The first harvest always feels good.  Good growing everybody.

Planting Bare root Strawberries

Yesterday was probably the best day we’ve had around here all year.  The weather couldn’t have been better and I had a nice long list of garden tasks; what could be better?  It was also the day for the Backyard Abundance plant sale.  Last year I picked up a pack of ever-bearing strawberries and hope that they will start producing this year.  I talk about it in this post from 2012, i case anybody’s interested.  So this year was my chance to move into june-bearing strawberries.  The nice thing about june-bearing varieties is that they set all their fruit at roughly the same time.  This allows one to have a lot of strawberries all at once for making jams, jellys, and other products.  I have the Erligrow variety.  So I decided to do a little how to in case anybody else wants to try their hand at the bare root strawberries.  Enjoy.

The soil for strawberries needs to be fertile and well draining.  Strawberries do not like their feet wet.  My soil here is a combination of compost, topsoil, and peat.  Since strawberries are perennials its imporatant to have really good soil before you start as it is really hard to fix it once the plants are in.  I started by spacing my bareroot plants about 6-8 inches apart.


Next I dug a hole only a couple of inches deep, but about 8 inches wide.  Then I trenched around the outside of the hole.  So I was let with a hill in the middle.IMG_0098

The crown of the plant goes right on the hill.  The crown of the strawberry is the part where the roots meet the leaf buds.  Now I spread the roots around the hole.  Next simply cover the roots and about half of the crown.  Its important not to cover the crown too deeply or else you will end up with rot and disease problems.  IMG_0099

Water the plants well and wait.  Its also good to add mulch to the beds to help conserve moisture and help keep the fruit off the bare soil.  Traditionally straw is used,hence strawberries, but you could use just about any light mulch out there.

OMG Its a video.  Yep, I’m moving into the 4th dimension and adding a video to my blog.  Its my video version of how to plant bare root strawberries.  I would love to know what everyone thinks.  Should I try more videos?  What do you think?

I’ve been busy with other things as well but I think those will wait for another post.  Thanks for reading and I hope that you might try your own hand at strawberries.  Good growing everybody.

Laser what??

Sorry everybody this is a venting post.  Please disregard if uninterested.

In the morning, as I’m eating breakfast and making my lunch I usually have the TV on the morning news. Of course the plethora of local channels causes me to usually stick to one and never deviate. So I usually have KCRG TV-9 news; it’s the local ABC affiliate. Most days I have no problems with it. They read the news and give me pretty accurate weather info (which is what I’m mostly listening for).

But this morning I heard a story on the local news that just got my dander up. They spent two or three minutes talking about a “new” allergy therapy. Championed by Dr Terri Cooper from the Wholistic Wellness Center in Hiawatha, IA this new therapy is laser acupuncture. All the while they talked about this supposed therapy they showed this lady basically having a laser pointer shot at various points on her body. The main claim they made during the pre-recorded piece was that this could treat allergies. But during the actual broadcast, the anchor also added that they use the treatment for chronic illnesses and CANCER. Well that nearly made me spit out my Cheerios. Below I will lay out the problems with this “treatment.”

#1. I don’t want to get into ad hominem arguments, but the lady from the center they had in the story was Dr. Terri Cooper. ” Dr.” Cooper is the owner/director of the wellness center. I say “Dr.” because she is not an M.D. or a Ph.D.  She is a doctor of chiropractic.  Now I understand that they do go to go through a fair bit of schooling to earn that title, but the entire idea of chiropractic is based on false assumptions.  The idea that most (if not all) maladies of the human body could be caused by misalignment of the spine is just ludicrous.

#2. Acupuncture does not work.  Period.   Its been proven to have no benefit.  There are no special meridians or chi lines.

#3.It seems pretty convenient that most of what they treat are conditions that would come and go on their own. hmmm…

I would love to go over some of the other services they provide at this place, but that will have to wait.  I have an e-mail to write.

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