Natasha Flue

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since Dec 20, 2016
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Recent posts by Natasha Flue

Well, as it turns out, I threw the seeds in the ground to see what happened.

I have live plants! I planted all of the peas on October 15. I planted Tall Telephone (pole) and Maestro (bush). We had an early hard cold in October and when I checked on them October 30th, they were just germinating but I expected them all to die.

We had a cold of 6 degrees with snow cover over thanksgiving

I checked them December 31st and Maestro is alive! The Tall Telephone are completely gone but here's a picture of Maestro. We'll see if they survive current weather, which is teens with windchill down to 0 or negative without snow cover.

1 month ago

I'll be attending this seed swap. I am especially looking for collaborators in areas where blights vigorously attack tomatoes.

I'm attending that conference and seed swap! My work is paying for me to attend the whole conference as professional development as long as I help my boss with her talk on Saturday.

I'm excited as this will be my first in person seed swap!

I'd be willing to grow out some tomatoes, I grow in Northeastern PA at my parents farm. Every couple of years, a bad strain of late blight comes through and wipes out everyone's tomatoes so it's probably present in the better years. They might be neglected a bit as I get down there every other weekend or so to work on my field. I also haven't done a ton of selection breeding other than selecting the earliest/largest fruit/beans/crop/etc for seed saving.
If you've got larger things, often liquor stores will let you take the cardboard boxes that the bottles come in. They are very sturdy and generally pretty clean. I've also used them while moving for books!
1 month ago

My friend works with horses, I may be able to get some but then yes I’m not sure if I’ll be able to break it down... Is poultry much preferable? From what I read P seems to be higher (our P is pretty low).  

As far as manure goes, you do want to be careful with the higher nutrient manures and when you apply them. Some actually are too high for direct application to a soil with plants and will burn the plants. This is because of high nitrogen. Poultry manure is pretty bad about this unless it is pelleted, which you might have some luck finding in stores.

I wouldn't try and apply a ton of manure in the first year to get your levels up fast. There's some risk of plant burning and you may over apply. Some crops also don't need a ton, leafy greens, etc. If you apply too much and then grow tomatoes, the plants will grow enormous because of excess nitrogen but produce little fruit.

If you have a fallow/not growing season (it looks like fall for you), apply the manure of any sort then, mix it into the soil, and the soil microbes will get to work breaking the manure down and storing it in stable forms in the soil. This will prevent burning. If you do the horse manure, you can apply a greater amount ahead of time and it will breakdown in the soil just fine. You may need to add some moisture depending on your climate.

One thing I did with a small garden a few years ago is I dug the area where I was going to grow potatoes a month ahead of planting and buried the horse manure under the ground by six inches under my potato planting trench (I was double digging). By the time the potatoes got big enough to reach down there, the manure had broken down very well and provided nutrition to the plants. I had lovely potatoes that year.

So overall with manure, apply and mix in ahead of time. Pig, and poultry manure tend to be "hot" in nutrients and need more time to stabilize before plants go in on it. Horse, dairy, cattle manures and pelleted poultry are less hot, need less time/no time before planting into them but provide less nutrients.
2 months ago
Manure is your best source of phosphorus and potassium if you're looking to get sustainable nutrients. It might not be possible for you to spread it but if that is the case, a well done compost will also work. There might be some farms around that do their own composting although I know little of the area you live in. If there are any smaller horse farms around, they usually either compost or offer their manure for free because it's too much work for them to spread it. The horse manure will take longer to have an effect because it is lower in those nutrients than a ruminant or poultry manure.

In general insects are more likely to attack weaker plants, those that aren't getting enough phosphorus and potassium will be weaker.
2 months ago

I do wonder though (entirely politely) - some of the bad experiences you've all had - how many of those came about because you generously shared - but didn't ask first if they really wanted it? (Even if you asked, I know some people have a hard time saying no even if they don't want it, because it feels rude)

I know around these parts - a lot of people would likely say "yes please!" - but if the fruit & veg wasn't "top quality" (ie, blemish free) they'd likely quietly dispose of it rather than use it. People seem to fairly quickly associate any marks or oddities with it being diseased or unhealthy.  

I think this is a huge thing. I only give excess away to those who give an enthusiastic Yes!! Because I know how that goes. I don't bother giving any to certain people in my life except in small quantities. I actually have ended up doing some trading with someone else's excess. They had a million eggs and were just feeding them to the hogs. I love eggs for baking so I've traded them both baked goods and the enormous amount of excess delicata squash I ended up with. They have a big extended family and love delicata so it worked really well.

In general if I have excess, I do something with it and then give it away. Since my excess is things like tomatoes, squash, berries, I'll make jam, pies, other baked goods and give those away. I enjoy the baking and it makes the things not go to waste. This only works because I have a lot of freezer space.

For things like berries, I'll put them out for my roommate to eat for two or three days. She won't remember about them after that, so then they get frozen or preserved.

I think it's about talking to people about food and cooking and then you can really see who will use your excess.
2 months ago
I've only pruned highbush blueberries but you absolutely want to keep those tall shoots. Blueberries produce on second year shoots, those tall shoots are your first year shoots, which will branch next year and produce a lot more. You want them tall so they grow up into a bush and don't produce their berries low to the ground. You would be better served pruning out some of the older wood as it will eventually decline.

When I learned to prune older bushes, we generally pruned out one older branch, which will stimulate more crown growth for first year shoots and clear out the lower area of the bush to increase air circulation and reduce disease. You leave 2-3 first year shoots, the tallest and thickest and then prune all other new shoots.

It's also good to prune for larger plants because they're easier to pick if the fruit is higher up.
2 months ago
I've started growing rice, although I haven't done anything as far as hulling yet as I don't have a lot grown yet. I'm in zone 5b in the mountains of Pennsylvania, which we get around 140 frost free days. I've only been growing upland rice because I don't have the ability to do paddies. Generally the upland rice needs as much rain as melons or tomatoes, so 1-2 inches per week and consistent. Some varieties are better suited to upland.

I transplanted mine, started them six weeks before transplanting, which ended up stunting them in the seed trays. I'm going to 3-4 weeks start this year. Some of the varieties don't work for me, since they're too long of a season and don't mature in time as upland. We had so much rain this year that I didn't really have to worry about watering. I mostly just let them do their thing and harvested them by heads when they were hard in the hull. I hand pulled the rice off the heads.

I can't help any with the ducks or the azolla unfortunately.

I highly recommend of Indiana, he's got good resources on rice hulling and he's in a similar zone as I am. He's also got a ton of awesome rice varieties, unfortunately he doesn't ship outside of the US. You might be able to find someone willing to order from him and ship to you.
Has anyone retted flax in the winter/cold temps?

I wasn't able to ret my flax during summer/fall (couldn't leave it at the farm in case it over retted while I was away, can't ret at the apartment complex, never got around to asking favors of friends during the busy season).

Now I've got some time and flexibility and I might be able to get it retted.

I'm in zone 5b, temps are around 40F during the day and between 25 and 30F at night. It's very wet right now, rain every couple of days. We usually get ground frozen in January. We've also had our first snow, although it didn't stick.

Is it possible for the microbes to work when it's this cold or should I just wait for spring?
3 months ago
I have a taco seasoning mix and a seasoning mix for "indian" cream/tomato curry although I use it other places.

For taco seasoning, I mix it in with the meat as I'm cooking it.

Taco Seasoning

1 tbsp chili powder
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne
¼ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 ½ tsp cumin

I sometimes sub in dried paprika and cayenna peppers that are chopped into small pieces. I couldn't get them dried well enough to powder, too much humidity but they store alright.

"Indian" curry spice. I fry this in oil before adding other ingredients.


1 tsp dried pepper (sub with medium to hot dried peppers)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp salt
3 months ago