Dianne Justeen

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since Mar 21, 2019
Total newbie
Allentown, PA but we bought off-grid property in Newark Valley, NY
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Recent posts by Dianne Justeen

I realize not everyone has this possibility but we live in an old house with a walk-up attic.  There's a window at one end and we installed an attic fan at the other to keep the house cooler and preserve the roof and wood from the excessive heat.  Even in our humid climate, the attic is the absolute best place for drying anything.  I ran a clothesline on a pulley and we don't even own a clothes-dryer.  In the summer, whoever does laundry wants to do it early in the day.  I've dried elderberries up there as well as herbs.  Haven't tried tomatoes yet but will give it a go this year.  By autumn it's warm but not roasting so I cure our sweet potatoes and squashes up there.  I even had success curing storage potatoes there.
2 weeks ago
Hi Kate!  I'm looking forward to recipes that don't ask for a combination of ingredients that come in season at different times.  Because really, whose garden produces fresh strawberries and tomatoes in any quantity at the same time?!
4 weeks ago
I learned how to make souffle.  Impresses a lot of people and very easy to make once you get over the intimidation factor.  Basically, make a white sauce (bechemel) stir in the egg yolks and whatever you're using for flavoring.  I like cheese and leeks - precook the leeks.  Let cool a bit then fold into beaten egg whites.  Bake and enjoy. Here's a link for an actual recipe.

4 weeks ago

Mathew Trotter wrote:
It's definitely something I'm planning to experiment with this year. Most of the successes I've seen here revolve around growing on black plastic, but that's not really a viable solution for me. Since sweet potatoes grow so readily from cuttings I'm planning to just stick as many in the ground as I possibly can. That way, as long as there is a yield, and even if that yield is small, I can at least have a decent crop just because of the sheer number of plants I have. I figure it's a good ground cover that'll choke out the undesirable invasives, if nothing else.

Your post reminded me that we used a layer of cardboard and rough compost mulch over it between the plants.  This prevented the vines from rooting along them and let more energy go into the main plant.  We did this for weed suppression but afterward learned that doing this will result in bigger tubers.  Might want to try something along those lines.  And we only lightly harvested the leaves so that also contributed to strong growing plants.

Mathew Trotter wrote:And that's why sweet potatoes aren't a great crop here. We can have 40-50 degree temperature swings between day and night because we're between the mountains and the ocean, so even if we hit triple digit temperatures during the day it's a rare thing for our lows to be above 60. Our lows hold pretty stably in the mid-50s, regardless of daytime temps, so heat loving crops just flounder here.

The sweet potato I brought in had a healthy looking root system, in my estimation, just not good eating size. If it has enough energy to sprout again, the plan was to take cuttings from that to plant a bed in the ground. If it doesn't, I can always start another batch of slips. We don't have heat yet, other than small electric heaters to keep just the bedrooms warm at night, so I don't know if I can actually keep it warm enough for growing them out inside. It might be about 10 degrees warmer inside than outside, once you factor in the insulation, but that would put it at the mid-50s at best during the day, and not worth getting out from under the covers after about 7pm. I tolerate it marginally better than sweet potatoes would. 😂

We garden in zone 5B and our summer night-time temps are usually mid-50's to low 60's except for an occasional heat wave which doesn't often last long.  Our temperature swings are less than yours, usually about 30 degrees.  No planting summer crops until Memorial Day and we often get one early frost in September, but if you can protect something through a night or two we're usually good until October.  Most people around here don't bother with central air conditioning if that's any indication.  

The last two years we grew bumper crops of sweet potatoes.  They taste really good, most are medium size but a few were giants.  We grew them from proprietary slips I bought that were bred for our region.  Since we don't grow commercially and only for our home use, I didn't feel guilty starting slips from my stored sweets the second year and probably will do so again.  Especially since, in 2020, the company we bought them from cancelled much of my order that I placed that January due to COVID.  We grew lots of "regular" potatoes of several varieties and now in mid-April the sweets are the hands-down winner for storage.  Although that may be due to the fact that we don't yet have a root cellar for the potatoes.  We store the sweets packed in a cardboard box with dry straw in a basement laundry room that's cool but not cold and not overly damp for a basement in the northeastern U.S.

So if you like sweet potatoes as much as we do, I'd encourage you to try different varieties.  You may well hit on a favorite that grows well and produces enough in your area to make it worthwhile.  And adding another option to your diet will certainly be a good thing if you're trying to grow most of your own calories.

Kim Huse wrote:[  I have not seen much in the way of clothes in the catalogs that I want to wear, anyways...

Amen to that!

Andrew Sackville-West wrote:In the end, I think it's a choice between paying a lot, or making it yourself.

I used to sew a lot but have found it increasingly difficult to source quality fabric and no longer do.  And it's not any cheaper to sew most of the time now due to fabric cost.  The biggest argument in favor of sewing your own is either for mending, repurposing, or because you are a difficult size (my case, I'm very tall and don't want to look like I outgrew everything).
We had a big crop of delicious tomatoes in 2020 so I canned a bunch of puree that was earmarked for sauce.  Grew stripped Roman's from Johnny's for the first time and it was a favorite.  Flavorful enough for any fresh eating but surprisingly large fruits of a paste shape and type.  To save space I peeled them by blanching, squeezed out as much of the seeds as possible and then pureed them and cooked them down to a thick puree.  I water-bath canned them without salt but with 1 tblsp. lemon juice to make sure there was enough acidity.  This tastes great straight out of the jar so I don't do much to it.  Here's my "fast" sauce which tastes more like a long cooked one because of the pre-processing of the puree:

Lightly saute garlic to taste in some oil
Home canned thick puree
Oregano and basil
Dry red wine if I have it otherwise a small splash of balsamic vinegar - not a lot because the lemon already adds a bit of acidity
Sugar to taste (I like an acid sauce so very little for me)

If I want a more traditional marinara I start with sauteeing chopped onions and celery, then add the garlic when the other veg are translucent. I add some tomato paste which I "fry" in a little added oil, then add puree, broth (veg or meat, whatever floats your boat), dry red wine, basil, oregano, a little fresh parsley if I have it and a whole carrot for sweetening (which gets pulled out at the end)  When done I adjust acidity with a little sugar and correct salt and pepper.

My personal opinion about cooking time is either do a quick sauce, which I like with fresh tomatoes, or a really long cooked sauce.  Because in between doesn't work for me.
4 months ago
Wonderful ideas here!  Led me down some pot making rabbit holes.  Came out with another idea for making square grow bags from landscape fabric.  But I'm sure you could use old cotton fabric if you wanted it compostable.  Maybe some old bed sheets?

5 months ago
Want to bump this old thread back up since now is the perfect time for winter sowing.  I just learned about doing this on purpose and it's so instinctual, I can't believe this isn't a common gardening practice.  I routinely get "volunteer" kale, tomatoes, arugula, some herbs, so why not add some intentionally winter sown plants?  Quite coincidentally to the original poster, my husband was laid off last summer and while he's been able to get a couple of contracting jobs, he's yet to land a job with benefits.  So we're keeping our belts tight.  Great chance to learn new and cheaper ways to grow food and pretty flowers.

Does anyone have advice about this, or anything a "newbie" should know?  What has been your experience with this?  How closely do you put the seeds?  Seems like the plants live in there a while so super-close spacing doesn't seem advisable.  We live in US Zone 6 in an urban (sheltered) location with a tiny yard but our land for gardening is 150 miles north in US Zone 5b on a windy site with lots of sun exposure and lots of garden space.  Planned on setting up in my tiny yard using the basic method on wintersown.org then bring to the main garden at planting time.  Will be using recycled gallon jugs as containers and cheap, basic potting mix.  
5 months ago