Blog Archive Homegrown Blog

Ice Storm Photos from Jeneen Wiche & Bob Hill

Jeneen and Bob brought in some photos to share from the recent ice storm.  While some pictures depict damaged or destroyed trees, the majority are striking images that demonstrate the beauty of nature, even when it is being cruel.

Bob reports damage to the following:  lacebark elm, roundleaf sweetgum, serviceberry, sawtooth oak, and arborvitae.  His dogwoods, redbuds, and Japanese maples all survived just fine.

Jeneen had damage to lacebark elms and yellowwood, while her oaks, bald cypress, and blackgum trees were essentially unharmed.

If anyone cares to share their own storm photos, use the comment box below to leave your hyperlink.

Visit Jeneen & Bob’s ice storm photo gallery

Blog Archive Homegrown Blog

2008 Tomato Trial Results from Jeneen Wiche

For several years now I’ve grown only heirloom varieties of tomatoes and it’s time to share my impressions of this year’s selections.  I’ll start with my favorites:  ‘Arkansas Traveler’ and ‘Momotaro’.  Both had high yield, great taste, beautiful shape and storability.  Amazingly long storability, in fact, just sitting piled high on a plate in the kitchen.  I will definitely grow theses again (with my long-time favorite ‘Cherokee Purple’).

‘Tiffin Mennonite’ was a very good large, pink tomato.  It had a tendency to crack on its shoulders but it still stayed rather clean.  The sweet, juicy fruit made up for any deficiency in form.  I do not need a perfect looking tomato, only one that performs well and tastes delicious.

I think I have finally come to terms with the fact that I really don’t like yellow beefsteak types of tomatoes.  They either lack taste or bust open just as they ripen.  ‘Pineapple’ has great taste but I didn’t grow it this year because it is usually a mess.  I decided to try ‘Flame’ and ‘Old German’ instead. ‘Flame’ (also called ‘Hillbilly’) was the most disappointing, the flavor was watery and the fruit formed woody cores that made them hardly worth picking.  ‘Old German’ formed well and had decent flavor but there has to be a better one out there.  Let me know if you have a favorite big yellow.

I did get some satisfaction from yellow.  I received some heirloom seeds from a friend last year that we started indoors this spring.  Among the collection our two favorites were ‘Garden Peach’ and ‘Lillipop’.  The names say it all:  ‘Garden Peach’, although a tomato, really did look like a little peach with a tinge of fuzz and a peachy color when fully ripe.  ‘Lillipop’ is one of the best yellow cherry tomato varieties I have had with large round fruit on a very prolific plant.

‘Stupice’ and ‘Bonito Ojo’ were okay.  Their value was that they were early and prolific.  Both varieties bear small round fruit, the flavor was good, just not what I was looking for.  They both came in handy for canning and making other tomato products for processing and storing, so I was glad to have them nonetheless.

With all this said I have to add that weather and fertility have much to do with how well a tomato plant does, how well it fruits and how well that fruit develops and ripens, so I can’t say definitively that these varieties will perform or taste the same from one year to the next.  I do know that I will recommend ‘Arkansas Traveler’, ‘Momotaro’, ‘Garden Peach’, ‘Lillipop’ and ‘Tiffin Mennonite’ to gardeners interested in heirloom tomatoes.

Feel free to comment in the space below and share any of your own outstanding or disappointing performers in the garden this year.

Blog Archive Homegrown Blog

Jeneen Wiche's Eggstravaganza

Jeneen Wiche of WFPL’s HomeGrown recently realized a personal dream when she acquired a small flock of egg laying hens. Free-range or so-called “backyard” chickens are growing in popularity nationally as supermarket egg prices continue to rise and as people become aware of the nutritional inferiority of eggs produced by hens confined to the indoors in cramped conditions. According to some studies, eggs from pasture-raised hens may contain 1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat, 2⁄3 more vitamin A, two times more omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E, and seven times more beta carotene as compared to the conventional eggs sold in mainstream supermarkets.

Jeneen has discussed her flock of chickens on recent episodes of HomeGrown, and created an online photo album of the coop construction and the arrival of the chickens. She writes:

“I am not one to blog but I have chickens to tell you about! My friend and neighbor Kay Yount gave me a dozen laying hens three weeks ago. She needed to thin her flock of 24 Barred Plymouth Rocks so Andy and I showed up with a truck filled with (empty) banana boxes for the transport. We live about a mile away from each other.

We prepared for our new hens like an expectant couple. We read magazine articles, books and asked questions. Ultimately I think that chickens are like children because as long as they have food, water, shelter and protection from predators, all is well. The only difference I can tell so far is that chickens need some dust so they can “clean” themselves.

We have a secure coop constructed in the barn. A secure chicken yard is in the plans, and we have some moveable fencing for when we want to move them further from their home zone around the barn. For now they go out when I am home and they love it. They scratch around the blueberries eating henbit and chickweed; they find worms in the damp soil and they happily eat grass in the field. When a flying insect catches a chicken’s eye, they high-tail after it. They all follow well on runs back to the barn (except Big Mama, who seems to be a bit more independent).

So, for now, all are alive and well. Our dog, Buck, has been trained not to chase and his red healer instincts come in handy when I have to round everyone back into the coop. At dark they usually are in the coop, roosting, on their own….except for Big Mama who seems to wait until the very last minute.”

Oh, and the eggs are pretty tasty too.

Blog Archive Homegrown Blog

Cicadas Bring The Noise (Again)

Trivia question: What is the loudest insect on earth?
Answer: The cicada.

2004 was memorable for the emergence of a periodic brood of cicadas that comes above-ground only once every 17 years. Who could forget the shrill, high-pitched din of ‘Brood X’, not to mention the streets littered with their carcasses in the aftermath (and some dogs just loved eating these, uh, tasty things).

This year another 17-year-cycle brood of cicadas will be taking to the air in and around Kentuckiana. ‘Brood IV’ will be emerging beginning in late April and continuing its noisy cycle through early June of 2008. This emergence will actually be greater than that of 2004, and in fact will likely be the largest since 1991.

Tender young trees and shrubs can be seriously damaged by cicadas, and the Jefferson County Extension Service is hosting several workshops so homeowners can learn how to prevent or minimize the costly damage cicadas can cause on your property. If you’re concerned, plan on attending one of these workshops, or simply digest the informative cicada page at the UK Entomology site.

  • March 25 7:00pm Louisville Nature Center
  • April 9 7:00pm Highlands/Shelby Park Branch Library
  • April 17 2:00pm Crescent Hill Branch Library
  • April 17 7:00pm Highlands/Shelby Park Branch
  • April 23 7:00pm Old Louisville Information Center
  • April 24 7:00pm Crescent Hill Branch
  • May 7 7:00pm Crescent Hill Branch
  • May 8 2:00pm Crescent Hill Branch
Blog Archive Environment Blog Homegrown Blog

'Doomsday' Seed Bank Opens In The Arctic

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened earlier this week. The vault, located in Norway and funded by the Norwegian government, is the world’s insurance policy on a host of threats that could destroy important crops, from global warming and war, to natural disasters like drought, flood and wildfire. The media have nicknamed it the “doomsday vault.” The vault will initially contain 10 million seeds (250,000 varieties of plants) from countries around the globe.

According to the Press Association, “All that can be seen of the vault outside the mountain is a concrete wedge, inside which a (410-foot) tunnel goes deep into the hillside, ending in three vaults with airlocked doors, keypad entry, stone and plastic-impregnated concrete walls.” The air in the vault has been cooled to between -18C and -20C, but Norwegian meteorologists have stated that even without power, the vaults would still be below freezing 200 years from now under the worst climate change scenario.

More information on the vault is here, and a gallery of images can be viewed here.