Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Plant Lust and Pea Trellises by Irene Shonle

It’s cold, snowing, and blowing, so I am doing what any sensible gardener does in January – drooling over catalogues.  Goodness, they are dangerous!

Two plants that have really caught my interest are a kale-broccoli hybrid called Purple Peacock, originally developed by Wild Garden Seed, but now available in many locations. Here is their description:
 Sweet purple stems, toothy red veined leaves that will make you think it’s Red Russian kale. Young leaves are salad-rate, and mature leaves are as sweet as any lightly steamed kale. Floret stems erupt first as loose heads of broccoli, followed by prodigious side shoots. These are sweet and non-biting as raw “dippers” and salad additions. This “eat everything brockali” comes from crosses between ‘Green Goliath’ broccoli and two kales. Farm Original Variety!
Purple Peacock - pic from

What I like the most about this is that I have found that broccoli takes up an inordinate amount of space in the garden for what you get – but this clever plant means that you get to pick kale-like leaves AND harvest broccoli all from the same space.  I can’t wait to try it.  Plus, it’s very decorative (although this is less a factor for me, since I usually keep floating row covers on my garden all summer, which puts the kebosh on “ornamental edibles”).

The second plant is the golden pea.    I have always stuck to peas that don’t need trellising in the past, and have been happy with the yields, but there is something about the elegance of the unusual golden pea pod in combination with the purple flowers that just made me cave, despite its 6' growth.  Plus, reviewers have mentioned the productivity and the deliciousness of the peas. 
Golden pea, picture from

 So, now I need to figure out a suitably elegant (and preferably DIY) trellis on which to train them.  I’m intrigued by the idea a willow trellis (we have lots of shrubby willows up here in wetland areas, which I can use).

This one is quite elegant:,,20296527,00.html
Here's a woven fence:

Here's another nice possibility

Friday, January 24, 2014

eXtension - What is it? by Tina Ligon

Just what is eXtension? How is that different from your local Extension office? I like to think of it as a web based access point to extension on a national level. Here is the description from the website which can be accessed with this link:
"eXtension is an interactive learning environment delivering the best, most researched knowledge from the best land-grant university minds across America. eXtension connects knowledge consumers with knowledge providers - experts who know their subject matter inside out.
eXtension offers:
  • Credible expertise
  • Reliable answers based upon sound research
  • Connections to the best minds in American universities
  • Creative solutions to today's complex challenges
  • Customized answers to your specific needs
  • Trustworthy, field-tested data
  • Dynamic, relevant and timely answers
eXtension is unlike any other search engine or information-based website. It's a space where university content providers can gather and produce new educational and information resources on wide-ranging topics. Because it's available to students, researchers, clinicians, professors, as well as the general public, at any time from any Internet connection, eXtension helps solve real-life problems in real time.
eXtension Foundation: The eXtension Foundation is a non-profit entity that exists to support the work of eXtension. Learn more about how you can support or sponsor this work at our eXtension Foundation."
A personal favorite of mine from eXtension is the eOrganic, which can be found at: This website is a bit more geared toward production farms but still has a wealth of valuable information for the home gardener/homesteader.
eOrganic will be having webinars covering several of the sessions at the upcoming Organic Seed Alliance conference, 1/30-2/1. There is also a library of past webinars that can be accessed at any time.

Check out this great resource!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter winds - a new level of meaning by Tina Ligon

I am used to talking about the desiccating winter winds frequently experienced here in the Colorado foothills. However, this winter seems to be one of the worst I have experienced for dangerous gusty winds. My husband and I just had to rescue our small greenhouse from blowing to Kansas. Luckily we were home and heard the thump as the wind tried to carry it away. The wind had picked it up, moved it by several feet and was trying to flip it over but a tree caught it. We have tried to secure it, only time will tell if it works. There is substantial damage to the roof but so far all looks repairable.

So just what is my point, other than whining about the winds that are about to drive me bonkers? I realize that I need to rethink the greenhouse placement and design with these winds in mind. I have also contemplated other season extension structures such as small hoop houses but am also reevaluating that idea. The greenhouse was built in the spring of 2010, here is one of its baby pictures during construction. It is a pretty sturdy structure but I now realize it needs much more substantial anchoring to deal with the winter winds.

Take advantage of these blustery, winter days to evaluate your site and plans for any gardens, garden structures, etc. It is hard to imagine winds like this on a nice sunny spring day when you are more likely to be outside starting the year's gardening projects. But if you do go outside on days like this, be careful, I kept having the Wizard of Oz movie images in my mind. We don't want to be under any blowing houses.