Jen Swanson

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since Jul 11, 2020
Vancouver, Washington
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Recent posts by Jen Swanson

I had a similar problem this year - on one of my tomatillo plants - which has been puzzling me for some time.  I planted two tomatillos next to eachother and in between two rows of marigolds.  One tomatillo was at the end of the bed, the other next to it and next to a bunch of tomato plants.  The one next to the tomato plants got way, way bigger, flowered much later and set fruit much later than the other one.  Frost came with a lot of the fruit still not having ripened.  I'm kind of doubtful the issue is pollination as the tomatillos were right next to eachother and next to other flowering plants.  I do have plenty of pollinators in my yard too.  One difference is that the tomatoes got a lot of Espoma Garden Tone (which is a balanced vegetable garden fertilizer lowest in nitrogen, by the way) and the tomatillos did not.  Considering the bigger, later to fruit plant probably took up some of the tomatoes' fertilizer through it's roots, is it possible your tomatillos got too much fertilizer?
Next year I am not going to plant my tomatoes and tomatillos next to eachother and see way happens.
2 months ago
Hi Jason.  I bought an inexpensive ph meter on Amazon and I think it works fine as long as you follow the instructions which include pouring distilled or RO water into the spot you are going to test right before testing it.

I bought it because I wanted to know what the PH was of my soil in various places in my yard for various reasons. I have been putting in a lot of new plants, including a vegetable garden, so I needed to know if my soil was something they'd like or if I needed to amend the soil prior to planting. Also, some of the plants that were in our yard when we moved in weren't doing that well (including the lawn) and I wanted to determine whether it was because of the ph of the soil they were in. A number of my plants are doing much better as a result of using this tool and amending the soil as indicated. And finally, I have hydrangeas and I'd like to turn their blooms blue, for which a certain acidity level is needed.

I'd prefer to have a test I can do at home to save time and money.  Different areas of my yard have different ph levels depending on the level of decomposed organics in the soil or the amendments that have been added to it over time.  Plus, if you test the soil, determine you need to change the ph and add amendments to it to make it more acid or alkaline, you're going to have to keep testing it periodically until you get the ph where you want it.  That's a lot of testing.

2 months ago
The compost shouldn't be an issue. I do this a couple times a year to many of my plants. I would make sure not to bring the wood chips up to the trunks of the plants, and instead create a bowl shape sloping the sides and leaving a few inches around the trunk clear of chips.  Otherwise you may be inviting rot, pests and disease to the main trucks or stems of the plants.  From everything I've read and heard and experienced, you pretty much need to respect the root collar on the plant if you want to keep it healthy.  The only exception I know to that is tomatoes.
2 months ago
You can specify what you do not want.  For example, I asked that I not get delivered poison oak or black walnut chippings.  You can also ask for logs or not. If you will accept logs, I'm sure it ups your chances of getting chips delivered sooner.
3 months ago
Hey D.W.  An arborist trims trees.  I can't climb way up in a tree to prune it or fell 100 foot trees that are situated too close to eachother or to my house so I need help with that.  A good arborist knows how to prune a tree to make it healthier and bring light to other plants needing it, know what to cut and what not to, and can identify diseased or otherwise unhealthy trees to help you address any issues. A good arborist is very knowledgable about plants and an artist as well.  
3 months ago
I signed up for this.  I live in a rural area and it took a month and a half to get a load, but I got 15 yards of chipped pine for $20!  Now that's a deal!  And I found a new arborist in the process that knows what he's talking about.  Yeah!
3 months ago
I am growing cardoon for the first time this year.  I had never eaten cardoon before but missed the window for planting artichokes and found this close relative, so I planted it from seed in the spring.  It took a while to get going (or for me to learn what I was doing) but now my cardoon are crazy monsters! I've harvested stalks from them a number of times and they are so tasty!  I really love this plant.  Problem is, we can't eat all of this in the short term.  And it's needing harvesting.  Does anyone have any experience with canning, pickling, freezing or fermenting cardoon? I tried looking on the internet for advice on preserving cardoon but it seems this is not a popular plant in the U.S. Then I thought of you all.  This lovely tasty perennial that doesn't go to market well may be a plant permies know and love? (I am not planning to take up the entire plant, by the way, as it's a perennial here, so I am just planning to take the stalks.)  

As a thank you for any cardoon lover out there who can offer up some sage advice, I offer my cardoon recipe:

Gratineed Cardoon and Chickpeas

4 large stalks cardoon
1 pint size jar canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp. butter
fine sea salt
garlic powder
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
parmesan cheese

Deleaf, pare and rinse cardoon.  Cut large pieces through the middle and cut all of it into 4" sections.  Put it immediately into water as soon as you cut it as it discolors quickly. Bring to a boil then simmer for 40 minutes.  Drain.  Put in a 9X11 baking dish and add 1 tbsp butter, mixing the cardoon to coat it with the butter.  Arrange cardoon in a row down the middle.  Add chickpeas to the sides.  Sprinkle the cardoon with sea salt, and sprinkle all of it with the garlic powder, pepper, then some olive oil, and finally grated parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes then broil for 5 minutes to brown the cheese.
I'm wondering it you ended up getting the weed burner?
In case you have or are still considering it, I have a couple of additional thoughts the weed burner: 1 - Do not use on thickly growing weeds.  The smoke is not good for the lungs.  Trust me on this.  2 - Do not use in drought conditions.  And if you do, keep a turned on hose handy and hose everything down afterwards to ensure nothing is smoldering.
I do love my weed burner but it works best for me and my lungs if I use it on rocky areas that have a few weeds poking up. It's great at edging these areas too.  Where I live, the weeds go dormant in the summer when it's droughty and sprout again in the fall and spring with the rains, so it's perfect for the right applications.
3 months ago
My heartfelt sympathies.  I hate that stuff. We have poison oak that does the same thing here and I've taken down plenty of poison oak "trees".  Cutting a big chunk out of the vine will eventually kill the green above the cut.  I spray the freshly cut stem that's rooted with brush killer and that seems to help.  But poison oak at least will root from cuttings if you do the chop and drop thing and has roots like vines so when you kill the root or plant in one place it pops up in another.  And the uroshiol as far as I can tell goes on forever.  I've heard of people getting a poison ivy or oak rash from spreading compost and I read once that they've even found it in some ancient Mayan burial sites! So what I do, and yes it's a big pain in the you know what, is cut it up enough to get it into contractor bags (using an electric pruner in one hand and a big wire cutter for picking it up to cut it in the other) and then we landfill it.  Tecnu and a hot hair dryer blown on the rash both help a lot.  Good luck.
3 months ago
I'm so happy for you that they are recovering!  Tough call on putting them in the ground now.  Is there irrigation where you are going to put them in 2 hours north of you or do you expect it to rain frequently?  If not, seems to me they are probably still a bit delicate to put them where you can't watch over them.  I'd wait until they could weather some weather.
3 months ago