Archive for December, 2010

I admit, one of the most fun things about having a garden is watching people’s faces when I tell them I’m still cutting slices of fresh tomatoes from my garden. First they’re eyes get big. Then disbelief sets in. Oh, you mean you canned them, right?

But no. I’m slicing fresh tomatoes. As in today.

Yeah, that’s right. Today, December 9.

No, I don’t have a hothouse and I didn’t dig up any by the roots and bring them indoors. These are what I like to call “lazy” tomatoes.

When frost was pretty much a certainty back in October, we got busy and picked every last green fruit off those vines, like most any right-thinking gardener would do.

There are all kinds of industrious things you can do with those green tomatoes. You can fry them up. You can pickle them.  You can bake them into a pie.

It’s a fascinating, to see all the things you can do. If you’re feeling a lot of excess energy.

I love reading all those recipes. And then putting them down and walking away. Because the truth is, I’ve never much liked green tomatoes in any of their various permutations.

So what I do, I lay them all out on newspapers on a table in the basement. And slowly, one by one, they turn red and I bring them upstairs to use.

They’re not quite as good as vine ripened. But they’re still miles better than any you’d buy in the grocery store.

This year we’ve managed to extend the basement tomato season longer than any time in recent memory. In fact, I think this may be a record for us. But our days of eating garden tomatoes are numbered. Here’s a look at what’s left.


Just a few left. On the bright side, we still have plenty of butternut squash.


Yes, in just a few days, the glorious garden tomatoes will be gone and we’ll be back to the waxy, mushy supermarket kind.

And it will be time to start mooning over the 2011 garden catalogues once more.

Posted by: Roxie


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Yard and garden cleanup is finally finished here at the real-life vegetable paradise.  And once again, Roxie and I have happily avoided adding to the profit margins of the petro-chemical companies that make those plastic leaf bags, and denied our business to the paper mills that make those supposedly more eco-friendly (as if) paper yard waste bags.

Of course, we feel terribly guilty for not helping the recovery along by squandering our money on leaf bags. But whatcha gonna do?

We compost.

Besides  it being a cheaper and more environmentally responsible way to deal with lawn debris, composting is easier than bagging leaves.

Yes, easier. I always hated having to stuff leaves into bags (don’t you hate it when the cheap ones split open?). It’s so much easier to rake leaves onto a plastic tarp and, when a sufficient pile accumulates,  gather up the corners of the plastic sheet and hoist the bundle onto your shoulder as you set off to the dump the contents into your composter.

Isn’t that tarp heavy? you ask.

It doesn’t have to be. You decide how big the load is.

And as for the composter, we described in our book how  easy it is to build a sturdy, attractive composter for your back yard. This time of year,  I also assemble a satellite composter to handle all the leaves. We have a couple of dozen  mature trees. Wire fencing makes a great, temporary leaf corral. Come spring, when the volume of leaves lessens due to decomposition, I transfer the plant matter to the main composter and store the fence roll until fall.

There are other advantages to composting yard and garden waste, of course.  Once broken down, the material is a wonderful additive to your flower beds and vegetable garden.

But a bigger incentive is coming our way.  Yard waste accounts for more than 10 percent of the material dumped in landfills. So in an effort to keep the local dump from filling up too quickly, many communities have implemented or are considering limits or outright bans on yard waste in landfills.

Johnson County, Kansas is one prominent example in the Kansas City area. Beginning in 2012, trash haulers will be forbidden from dumping yard waste in the Johnson County landfill.  Other changes include  requiring haulers to offer curbside recycling and institute volume-based pricing on trash pickup.

Some residents and homes associations are already getting ready for the switch. And for still others, the changes won’t have much effect on them because they already compost and recycle everything they can possibly put in the bin.

For instance, our three-person household sets out at most one 30 gallon trash can a week, and it’s rarely more than  half full. Whereas the green recycling bin is loaded brim high. Area trash haulers don’t accept glass, but we save up our bottles and jars in a separate bin, which I dump every so often at the big, purple Ripple Glass recycling center near our house.

But the coming changes could be a shock for some folks. You know who they are. On trash day, they’re the ones who line the curb with three, four or more big bags or garbage cans, and not a recycling bin in sight.

It’s not hard to recycle as residents of our hometown, Lenexa, can tell you. Lenexa was the first community in the KC metro area to require trash haulers to provide curbside pickup. That was back in 1989. According to city officials, 86 percent of households participated in the program in 2009. that compares to 23 percent overall in Johnson County and a national average of 32 percent.

But lets dig back into the compost pile. Under the new regs, JoCo residents will have these choices when it comes to yard waste:

1.  Mow and let the chopped up  leaves and grass clipping stay on on the lawn as a fertilizer.

2. Collect leaves and cut grass and apply it as  mulch.

3. Ccompost.

Some will opt to pay a special fee to a trash hauler, who would transport their yard waste to a central composting station of some sort. But it’s a whole lot cheaper and more beneficial to do it yourself.

And for those whodr rather not  go to the trouble of building their own composter, but would like something better than an untended pile behind the garage, buy a bin.

Many garden stores have them. Or the county would only be too happy to sell you one. Johnson County Extension and the Johnson County Environmental Department are offering wire bins that hold up to 30 bags of leaves for $50. With tax, it’ll set you back $54.32.

"We're selling a ton of them," the woman answering the phone at Johnson County Extension said of the $50 compost bins.

For more information, call 913 751 7000, or visit http://www.johnson.ksu.edu or go right to the page by clicking here.

Posted by: Mike

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