Healthy Strawberries and Tomatoes

Everbearing Strawberries are Pest Free
Everbearing Strawberries are Japanese Beetle Free

Despite a visit from the Japanese Beetles last week (which I removed promptly and drowned in soapy water), the Everbearing Strawberries are producing a fine, sweet crop of fruit.  I have not encountered any more of the voracious pests that can easily destroy a crop overnight.

There will be fresh strawberries for our Sunday morning waffle breakfast tomorrow, along with blueberries from northern Minnesota, a treat from a co-worker.  I added some of the blueberries to our morning oatmeal today, and I doubt that there are better tasting blueberries anywhere.

Unfortunately the tomatoes growing on the plant in the Topsy-Turvy upside down tomato hanger have not fared so well in their fight again blossom-end rot.  Most of the tiny little tomatoes develop black ends before they get larger than my thumb.  I’ve been keeping them evenly watered and it doesn’t seem to have helped much.  I may try adding Tums to the water, as I’ve read that the added calcium can help against BER.

The tomato plants in the raised bed garden are very healthy looking and have not had any BER at all.  I think the soil mixture that I used in the beds and in the upside down tomato hanger were from the same batch of compost, perlite, and peat, so they all got the same start.

Roma Tomatoes Grown in a Raised Bed Garden
Roma Tomatoes Grown in a Raised Bed Garden - No BER Problem Here

Above is a photo of the Roma tomatoes that are growing in the raised bed garden.

Below is  a photo of the Roma tomatoes that are growing in the upside down tomato hanger.

Roma Tomatoes Growing in Upside Down Tomato Hanger
Roma Tomatoes Growing in Upside Down Tomato Hanger Have BER

I’ll have to remember next year, that the Roma tomato plants seem to do better in the raised bed.  Seems the elongated tomatoes are more prone to BER.  Cherry tomatoes might be  a better choice for tomato planters.  Honestly though, in general I think the upside down tomato planter is a little too high maintenance for me.  Tomatoes do wonderfully in raised beds, and as long as I have the room for the gardens, I don’t really see an advantage to the tomato hangers, unless there is no room for a garden.  Even then, I would probably just plant them in pots.

Trip to Tangletown Gardens

Farm Fresh Produce Delivered Daily
Farm Fresh Produce & Eggs Available Daily

In the middle of the Tangletown neighborhood in south Minneapolis, you’ll find a garden oasis that tempts all of the senses.  Tangletown Gardens offers lush greenery of all types including succulents, perennials, annuals, heirloom, and water plants.  I strolled through the expansive outside area and found a massive display of lush, healthy hostas in both miniature and giant sizes.

Hostas Are Lush and Healthy
Large Variety of Hostas Are Lush and Healthy

You’ll find garden accessories including furniture, garden art, pots, wind chimes and pretty much anything you need to decorate your gardens.

Succulents and Patio Chairs
Statues, Succulents and Chairs

All of the plants were healthy and lush, even in the 90 degree temps.  The hydrangea below almost convinced me to take it home with me.

Endless Summer Hydrangea
Endless Summer Hydrangea

The water gardens in the back add to the sense that you’ve found a hidden garden oasis in the middle of the busy city.

Soothing Waterfall in the Water Garden
Soothing Waterfall in the Water Garden

Water lilies, water hyacinth, and water lettuce are just a few of the plants available for water gardens.  The water lilies were in bloom with beautiful yellow flowers.

Yes, my walk through the pathways was very refreshing, even in the hot summer afternoon heat.  The shop has plenty to see too.  I purchased several packets of flower seeds including Butterfly Bush, Delphinium, and Lobelia which I planted in the whisky barrel, after harvesting this year’s crop of red potatoes.

One of the coolest things about Tangletown Gardens is the fact that they sell organic produce that is grown on their farm in Plato, MN.  They have a program  called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) where you can purchase shares of seasonal produce throughout the summer months.  Shares are delivered from the farm to the Tangletown shop for customers to pickup weekly.

They also sell organic produce directly to consumers who don’t participate in the CSA program.

Farm Fresh Produce Available for Purchase
Farm Fresh Produce Available for Purchase

All of the produce is grown using sustainable farming methods, meaning no artificial herbicides or pesticides are applied.  Only natural methods for controlling pests and weeds, and natural fertilizers are used. I purchased some zuchini and summer squash, since I don’t have either growing in my garden this year.  I sliced it diagonally, drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled it with freshly chopped basil and Old Bay seasoning and grilled it along with shrimp on skewers. It was mouth-wateringly delicious.

This was my first visit to Tangletown Gardens, but it definitely won’t be my last. It’s nice to know that the shop is open year round and has a wonderful supply of seasonal decorations during the holidays too.

BP Oil Geyser Capped; What About the Plastic Leak?

plastic island in the ocean
Plastic Garbage Patch

Hearing that BP finally has gained some control of the geyser that has been pouring millions of gallons of oil and other toxic chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico for almost 3 full months is very good news.  Whether this temporary cap will hold up under the pressure and not cause more leaking in the deep well or the ocean sub-floor is yet to be known.  Still, this is progress in a disaster that has very little success for far too long.

Watching the devastation that the oil leak has caused to wildlife, aquatic life, and beaches as well as the fishermen, tourism and people who’s livelihood is dependent on the gulf has been heart-wrenching.  Cleaning up the effects of the oil leak will without a doubt, take decades – if it’s ever even possible to fully clean it up – which I doubt.

The BP oil leak has been labelled the worst environmental disaster in US history.  But the fact is, there is an ongoing environmental disaster that potentially has as great an impact on the world’s oceans, and it appears that no one has done much to gain control over it yet.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating island of plastic debris that has been collecting in the Pacific Ocean.  It is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and stretches from the coast of California to Japan.  It contains bits and pieces of plastic trash that has either been dumped or floated into the ocean from streams and rivers.  The toxins poison sea life, birds, and mammals. Fish and birds get caught in the tangled plastic net and die.

Plastic (made from oil) does not break down naturally.  It’s durability means that it is not biodegradable and will likely last for hundreds of years.  Plastic contains chemicals such as artificial estrogen that leach into water, increasing risk of cancers and other diseases.

We can reduce our usage of plastics by using cloth bags, growing our own produce, or purchasing produce from local farmers markets, which reduces pollution and packaging.  Recycling plastics, cardboard, and metals and shopping at consignment shops also helps reduce waste.  Using organic lawn and garden products reduces the runoff of toxic chemicals into our waterways.

The world is one, large environmental system and we are all connected through that system.  The thought that a floating island twice the size of Texas exists because of our waste is very disturbing.  Imagine that island covered in a slimy layer of black oil, trapping sea birds, turtles, fish, and whales in a poisonous net, strangling the life out of them.

Let’s hope the cap on the oil geyser is a success.  Let’s also hope that we can figure out a way to put a cap on the toxic leak of plastic and chemical runoff flowing into our oceans too.

Five Benefits of Choosing Locally Grown Food

Strawberries and Grapes
Strawberries and Grapes

Beyond the satisfaction and enjoyment of growing fresh vegetables in a backyard garden, there are many reasons why everyone benefits from choosing locally grown produce to feed their families.  If you are unable to create your own garden, shopping at a local co-op or farmers market is a great alternative.

Some benefits of choosing locally grown food for your family include:

1) Quality – fresh produce simply cannot be beat for taste.

2) Nutritional value – vegetables and fruit lose their nutritional value very quickly. Buying locally reduces the time from field to table.

2) Better for the environment – transporting food across the country increases air pollution, and adds to our dependence on oil.

3) Saves money – it’s less expensive to purchase fresh produce from local farmers than from distant commercial growers.

4) Supports your local economy – keeps local farmers in business.

5) Less exposure to ecoli and other harmful bacteria that is often found on large commercial fields.

For more information or to find a  co-op or farmers markets close to your home, visit this site: