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Grow up! (off the ground)

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog grow upThis elevated garden planting box is filled with cool weather crops. I hope to harvest all winter. Photo by Doug Oster

After speaking at the Green Thumb Workshop in Meadville a few weeks ago I was introduced to the folks from Aaron's Homestead Products. They were showing off this elevated garden planting box.

They come in other colors but I had to have the pink, 10 percent of the price goes to cancer research and I love pink. Only a real man can garden in a bed that color.

There's a interesting back story to the creation of these elevated boxes. A family member who loved to garden got cancer, beat it, but had mobility issues. Now she could garden again in an elevated planting box.

The planter is shipped in a box and was very easy to put together. Although I have some fun spoofing the directions in the video below, once I built one, the second could be put together in less than half the time. I'm the most unhandy person on the planet, and found building the elevated bed pretty simple.

The quality of all the components is top notch. The metal parts are powder coated and all the hardware was top notch. The wood is cedar which is naturally rot resistant. Every piece matched up perfectly when building the bed.

This was perfect for my garden as I sited the bed right outside the kitchen door. I'm growing a variety of cool weather greens in the box. They will benefit from the protection the house provides and will be easy to pick at dinner time.

The planters come in two heights, 30 inches and 36.

I'm looking forward to harvesting for months and I'm excited about planting something new in there next spring. I've got the winter to think about what to put in there.

Check out the video for some more details on the planting box.

 

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Drying peppers for winter storage

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog super chiliThe dehydrator is filled with 'Super Chili' peppers. The house smells like hot peppers! Photo by Doug Oster

The garden was awash with peppers this season. 'Super Chili' was exceptionally prolific. It's a small hybrid hot pepper which will wake you up. I usually only use one of them when cooking.

Just handling the outside of the pepper can cause havoc if fingers encounter eyes or other tender areas of the body. The Scoville Scale rates peppers heat. 'Super Chili' is 40,000 to 50,000. As a reference jalapenos are around 2,500.

There were hundreds of green and red peppers harvested to make way for a planting of garlic.

In the past I'd put some in the fridge and the rest would be hung in the kitchen to dry. I'd lose about a quarter of them to rot.

I've become gardening friends with a security guard I see at one of my monthly Giant Eagle Market District appearances. He's another hot pepper lover.

He suggested putting all my peppers into a dehydrator.

What a brilliant idea, so I asked the boss (wife) to point me in the direction of the machine and filled it with hot peppers.

It will take a good day for the peppers to dry down. Then I'll crush them and store them in glass jar to be used as needed all winter.

I imagine enjoying homemade pizza in January sprinkled with 'Super Chili' flakes, a wonderful reminder of the summer garden. We all need a little wake up call in mid-winter and 'Super Chili' will certainly do the trick.

 

 

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Guest Blog: Saving tomato seeds, a fun experiment in the garden

Written by Doug Oster on .

There's nothing better than sharing garden advice. Gardeners aren't like fishermen, we share our secrets. Margaret Collins sent me a message about a volunteer tomato which had sprouted unexpectedly. She wanted to save the seeds and is sharing them with me. I'm looking forward to seeing what they produce next season. Here's her story on discovering the tomato and her experimental garden journey.

blog saving tomato seedsOn the left is a plum to show the scale of these volunteer tomatoes in Margaret Collins' garden. When this happens I call them a "compost surprise."

What is gardening if not an endless series of experiments we hope will come to fruition? So when I saw a volunteer, most-likely cherry tomato plant growing in an unexpected spot, I figured, Why not?

So I let it go and not surprisingly, it grew. The crop is not abundant but I hear that is true for intentionally planted tomatoes this year. What fruit there is, does what cherry tomatoes are supposed to; pops into my mouth with sweet fresh flavor and refreshes me after a few moments in the hot sun.

As the season progressed, I noticed two tomatoes on the same branch were significantly larger than the others. This is how plants are cultivated, isn't it? And a new experiment sprouted.

One problem. I have never saved seeds before. Twitter and @dougoster1 to the rescue! "Hey @DougOster1, would you like some seeds?" I explained the situation in a series of 140 characters or less tweets. He decided it sounded interesting so we went forward. I learned when to pick the tomato and how to get them ready for hibernation. http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sectionfront/life/great-saves-601296/

And, now we wait. Isn't that the fun of gardening? The tether that keeps us tied to our garden year 'round? The wait. The "what will happen if I do this?". It's an on-going ever present endless series of hopeful garden experiments.

 

-Margaret Collins

 

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Tree Pittsburgh seedling sale Saturday 10/18/13 (Pawpaw alert!)

Written by Doug Oster on .

 

Blog paw pawPawpaws are a native fruit which some say taste like a cross between a banana and mango. Photo by Pam Panchak

Environmental nonprofit Tree Pittsburgh is proud to announce the first opportunity for the public to purchase homegrown trees from the organization’s tree nursery, with a limited number of pawpaw (Asimina triloba) trees available. Here's some more information about Pawpaws.

Trees of varying species will be available for the public to purchase Friday, October 18 and Saturday, October 19 from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at Construction Junction (214 N. Lexington St., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15208). All trees are grown from locally-sourced seeds in the Tree Pittsburgh Seedling Nursery.

Proceeds from the tree sale will help Tree Pittsburgh to continue to grow trees locally for ecological restoration projects across the City of Pittsburgh. The organization launched the nursery program in 2011 thanks to generous funding from the Spring Program, an initiative of The Sprout Fund in partnership with The Pittsburgh Foundation. The nursery helps to address the issue of urban forest biodiversity, providing a more diverse tree stock to use in local tree planting and ecosystem restoration efforts. 

“By growing the trees locally with volunteers, we knew would have access to more affordable stock - increasing our capacity to plant more trees well into the future,” said Matthew Erb, Director of Urban Forestry at Tree Pittsburgh. 

The nursery now boasts over 8,000 tree seedlings of over 70 varieties.

In addition to pawpaw, sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) and other species will be available. Limit two paw paws per customer.

Worried about tree care? Don’t be, says Executive Director Danielle Crumrine. "Tree Pittsburgh staff will be on-hand during the sale to provide information regarding proper placement and planting to set your tree up for success," she said.

Trees are growing in 1-3 gallon containers, and range from 2-4 feet in height. All trees are $40 each, and credit cards will be accepted. For more information, contact Matthew Erb at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About Tree Pittsburgh

Tree Pittsburgh is an environmental non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the City's vitality by restoring and protecting the urban forest through tree maintenance, planting, education and advocacy. To learn more, visit www.treepittsburgh.org.

 

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Learn beekeeping with Doug's bee mentor

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog bee on sir winstona

Steve Repasky has taught me a lot about caring for honey bees over the last three seasons. I'm lucky to have such a great mentor. It takes time to learn bee biology, having a Burgh Bees mentor saved my hive many times.

He's teaching the same class I took a couple years ago. Burgh Bees is an organization trying to help honey bees thrive in Pittsburgh and beyond.

The two day class will teach you everything you need to know to begin caring for bees. I love my bees. They pollinated my vegetables and flowers. They also make the most amazing honey, lots of honey!

The classes are held at the Penn State Extension of Allegheny County, 400 N Lexington St, 3rd Floor, Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 26 and Saturday, Nov 2, 2013 from 8:30am until 1:00pm.
Registration is required, here are all the details.

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