Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Worm Composting

Worm composting is a convenient way to compost kitchen waste and provide compost for your vegetable garden. The Santa Clara County Home Composting Program has directions and information on how the build or obtain a low-cost bin to house the worms, where to obtain worms, what to feed them, and how to harvest the compost.

Italian Plum Tomato Drying

Clean and dry tomatoes. Peel if desired by dipping the tomato into boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds and pull off the skin with a knife. Cut in half, place cut side up on drying rack (cake racks work well) and sprinkle with salt (optional). For sun drying, cover with cheesecloth but don't let it touch the tomatoes. Dry for two or three days or until they are pliable but no longer sticky. Turn at least once a day. Take the racks in at night. For oven drying, set the temperature at the lowest setting or 150F and leave the oven door ajar. The dehydrator should be set at 125F. Dry until the tomatoes are pliable but not sticky or hard. Switch the racks around occasionally. This should take six to eight hours. Cool completely and seal in containers such as freezer bags or canning jars. They will keep in a cool dark place or freeze well.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Roof Rats

Have you found snail empty shells stashed in out of the way places, fruit with holes gnawed in them or grape skins scattered around? This could indicate roof rats. Roof rats are agile climbers and usually live and nest in shrubs, trees, and dense ground cover like ivy. Good sanitation is required. Garbage and garden debris should be eliminated. Use tight fitting lids on garbage cans. Thin out dense vegetation to make the habitat less desirable. Mow ivy once a year to the ground. Climbing ivies on fences or buildings should be removed.

Trapping is the safest and easiest method for controlling rats. The simple snap trap is effective. The most important thing about trapping rats is to have lots of patience and keep trying. Wet some oatmeal enough for it to hold together, add dog or cat kibble or bits of lightly cooked bacon mixed in. Other baits to try are peanut butter and fresh fruit. Set traps where rats are likely to travel or where you see droppings along fence lines or building. Bait the trap but do not set it for several days. Try different baits in multiple traps until you find one the rats like. Put two traps facing each other. After the rats are accustomed to being fed, then set the traps. If the rat springs the trap but doesn't get caught, move the traps to a different place and change to different baits. Rats prefer secluded spots and will be less wary there. Be sure to secure the trap with a wire or nails. Above all be patient.

Neem Oil

Neem oil is an approved pesticide in California for use on ornamental and food plants. It is derived from the neem tree. Aphids, caterpillars, loopers, mealy bugs, thrips, whiteflies, and diseases like mildew and rust are effectively controlled. It is most effective when alternated with insecticidal soap or pyrethrum, killing problem insects in different stages of development. Follow label instructions. Spray 2 or 3 times from 7 to 10 days apart. As with all horticultural oils, do not spray if daytime temperatures will exceed 90F.