Friday, May 29, 2015

Images That Make Me Happy

My Brussels sprouts are growing well this year. Will I get them for the first time ever?

Butternut squash

Spinach bed before picking in the morning

Parsley in the early morning sunlight

Ditto for peas

Sage and chives in full bloom

Chard that was picked just five days ago

The rose is starting to bloom over the mint pots. It helps hide the gas meters and the shut off switch for the solar power. Thyme is in bloom by the path, with sage and rosemary to the right.

The little path in my new perennial bed. Gooseberries on the right. Blueberries and basil on the left. And the daisies are almost ready to bloom. Once again I've put a Garnet sweet potato in my pot by the front steps. It is pretty enough to be an ornamental sweet potato, but I get tubers from it in the fall.

Six lettuces from Fedco's summer mix. Except for one they look like just what I grew in the spring. I swear the upper left is Red Sails and two of them are Deer Tongue. And maybe the middle bottom is Paris Island.

Strawberries ripening

And a view of most of the garden, with radishes being rinsed off in the path.

Everything is just so green. I love springtime. Our unusually hot weather has made things jump in growth. When I picked the Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach this morning, there was three pounds from the one bed. And I was looking at the chard and kale bed thinking they needed picking again too. Even the spinach I picked from two days ago is almost at that stage again. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, so I dumped some spinach on my townhouse mates. I kept enough to fill up my mini loaf pan to freeze what I had, but no more than that. My townhouse mates really appreciate the extra greens and it lets me off the hook when I feel like there is just too much.

The greens won't last forever though. OK the chard will last, but the spinach is starting to bolt. I'm not surprised with all the heat we have had. Even with perfect spinach weather it is the time for it. Not all of it is bolting yet, but some of the spinach that I picked this morning had blooms coming up. I picked all the leaves off of those. I left a decent amount on the others so as not to stress them too much. I've been keeping them well watered (every four days during the heat spell) so they are happy.

Our weather is going to break big time on Sunday. Wet cooler weather is moving in. We really need it. I just hope the forecasted rain materializes.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

This and That

It has been so hot this week. Mostly I have stayed indoors where it is cooler. Tomorrow the heat starts to break which will mean I can get in the garden more often. Because frankly, though I love gardening, I'd rather let the weeds grow then go outside and weed them right now. I still get out for a good long walk every day. Today I even went to the park for tai chi. And I do get out early in the morning to do what ever work really needs doing in the garden. Which isn't all that much right now.

I've gotten my broccoli staked. I don't always need to stake, but once they have started to head up they get pretty top heavy. A big windstorm at the wrong time could take them down. So I'd rather stake. And still no sign of the seeds that I sowed four days ago to replace the dead plant. Hopefully they will germinate once it gets a bit cooler.

I soaked some cucumber and zucchini seed overnight and planted them this morning. I should have done this at the beginning of our heat, not toward the end. But I still think they will come up fine. And I check on my indoor lettuce seedlings every day. They are all growing well. I'll plant one batch out as soon as the cooler weather hits.

On one of my walks I picked some cattails. I've heard you can make baskets from them. Yup not too hard. Then of course it dried. It didn't actually fall apart, but the spaces between them are too large for some of my strawberries. I think I need to let some dry and then make a basket.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Thinking Ahead . . . Or Not

The weather has turned really hot. Today is 90F already. Bleck! I'm such a heat wimp. I talked earlier about my morning routine and I figured I ought to keep the house as cool as possible, which means don't heat the house up every morning blanching vegetables to freeze. I ought to do a big picking and only heat the house up one morning. I could pick all three spinach beds. I'd have one day of nastiness and then the next two mornings could be enjoyed with my windows opened wide and cool breezes blowing through.

5+ pounds of spinach

It started off well. But I could tell after picking the first bed that I wouldn't have space in my basket and tub for all three beds. They had grown a lot over the last week. I fit about five pounds of spinach from two beds. Which really is more than I want to process at once anyway. That last bed will have to wait until Friday.

Second bed after picking

As I was on my last bed I decided to pull a few plants (the middle was bare anyway as those didn't grow for some reason). This will be my cucumber and zucchini bed for the summer and the seeds needed planting. I pulled just enough I think to fit them in. Once they really get going the spinach will be long gone anyway.

Since I was pulling spinach, I took a photo of the roots. The ones that didn't really grow didn't have much of a tap root, but the big plants did. This one is about 6" long. I know some people like to do spinach transplants but I just can't imagine them doing that well with a stunted tap root. Though I supposed my parsley does fine most years grown that way.

Anyway back to the task at hand. I took that huge pile of spinach inside to blanch. It was kind of amusing as I scurried about trying to get everything done for the next batch before the first batch was finished blanching in the pot. I had to get ice to cool down the hot spinach. I had to toss the wash water on the garden - run, run, run. Get back fill the tub up, wash some more. I didn't want to have any time that the pot was boiling and not being used to cook spinach. But I got it done. I left the hot pot of water outdoors to cool off.

I might have been thinking ahead about not heating up the house, but I wasn't thinking about freezing it. I only have one container that I use to freeze my greens. I like to have a nice half cup which is about 3 ounces of uncooked greens in each. My little mini loaf pan fits that if I round the tops up. But five pounds of spinach comes to about 26 servings. My pan holds 12. Whoops. I had to store some of the blanched spinach in the fridge waiting its turn in the freezer. Usually my greens go right from the garden to get blanched and then frozen immediately. It is the freshest I could possibly have to eat in the winter. I'll have to remember that in the future. Just over two pounds works fine. Any more and I don't have the pan for them.

And in no way related, but I just had to share. My first two strawberries! Whoohoo! Sadly the real first strawberry was eaten by a squirrel. I have since shored up my defenses and hopefully the rest are mine.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Harvest Monday, 25 May 2015

Tarragon

I finished up drying the thyme and the tarragon. The thyme was camera shy, so didn't get photographed. The greens however were not. And they were camera hogs.

Mizuna and choy sum

Spinach from the three beds

Chard

One of two bok choy pickings

And lettuce. I had to pick the lettuce as we are getting weather in the 80s and up to 90 this week and this bed is surrounded by brick so gets hot and stays hot. I wasn't sure how long it would hold. I picked everything in this bed except the romaine that hadn't headed up yet. I kept four heads and gave my townhouse mates two. The heads picked are not small, so I'll be in lettuce for a while. It ought to keep a couple of weeks in the fridge easily. I watered it the day before I picked it and picked it really early in the morning.

The Red Sails lettuce that is marked by little pieces of bamboo will stay as I need to let it go to seed. My seed is getting really old. I picked the best of the plants to save. I'm hoping that it won't suck up too much energy from the melons which will be planted here soon. I probably should have planted one somewhere I didn't care about, but I didn't even think about it until after they were all growing.

Hopefully the romaine that is left will head up before it bolts or has to be pulled. This bed is getting cleared out in two weeks, so it will all be picked then one way or the other.

The second and last sowing of French Breakfast radishes was picked.

And the first of two sowings of German Giant. I find that German Giant is not very giant. Some were starting to bolt. I'm not sure how they taste yet. So the jury is still out. But I like how the French Breakfast grows better. It has pretty sparse leaves and more root. The German Giant need more space as most have lots of leaves. I know radish leaves can be eaten and I used to when my garden was smaller. But as you can tell from the above photos, the last thing I need is more greens. So they got fed to the compost pile.

  • Greens 9.19 lbs
  • Greens, Asian 4.84 lbs
  • Herbs 0.64 lbs
  • Roots 1.93
  • Weekly total 16.60 lbs
  • Yearly total 34.75 lbs
  • Yearly Tally $-185.95

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Planting Sweet Potatoes

Today I was out early this morning planting my sweet potatoes. Today is the first of seven days that are predicted to be in the 80s, maybe even higher later in the week. The slips were ready, so I put them in. On the northern side I used the mycorrhizal fungi and didn't closer to the compost. I'll see if one does better than the other. I'm probably not going to weigh one side versus the other as the middle ones have fungi so it would be uneven. In addition it is sometimes hard to tell where the roots came from at least with the Purples. But I think I'll get a feeling if one side is doing better or not.

I did this experiment with the early planted lettuce and with the peas. I found no difference in growth at all. I'm not too surprised as the fungi sometimes doesn't work as well in cold soils. But the soil will be quite warm with the sweet potatoes.

Garden in the early morning

In addition I did a few other chores. I watered the garden and new front perennial bed. I planted the beans which will be fed to my townhouse mates. The soil had been prepped earlier so it wasn't much work. Ditto for some coriander and some butternut squash. And in the broccoli bed the root maggots took down one of the plants. One is still fighting, but smaller. I left the one that might pull through, but the other I took out and put in some seed. I've never direct seeded broccoli before, but I figure it can't hurt. If it doesn't take then it will wait until I start a new batch later in the year.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fruit Tree Protection

Santa Rosa Weeping plum

I had no particular plan yesterday to deal with my fruit trees, but as I was walking I noticed that the pile of mulch was still by Waldo park. The neighborhood has a work day and cleans and puts mulch around the bushes and trees in the park every spring. They get a huge pile of mulch for this. It is always more than the park needs. The remaining bits of the pile sits outside the park fence rotting. Any of the neighbors can come and take it as it is no longer needed. The park is a few blocks from my house. I figured I ought to bring some to a spot or two that still needs mulch. I brought out my wheelbarrow and got one load. It was enough to cover the spot under my weeping plum tree. I used to let this bed grow volunteer sunflowers, cilantro, and sweet alyssum, but with the tree there I've been having trouble keeping those volunteers down. The mulch ought to help.

Ginger Gold apple

Then in the afternoon I noticed that my apple tree had some half inch long baby apples on it. I hadn't really been looking as it also still has blooms on it. It has been setting apples over a long period this year. I always use protection - well for my apple trees. I don't spray pesticides. Instead I put on little footies when the apples are tiny to keep all those apple pests out of my apples.

I pick the best and biggest apples on the tree. Some I can see are already damaged as they have indentations on them. But the perfect bigger ones are wrapped in the footies and tied on with twist ties. I don't cover them all as the tree can only support an apple about every eight inches or so. I don't even do that many. Though I'm not particularly even about picking my best baby apples on a branch. I used 85 little footies then ran out. But that is fine. I'm a little worried that it may be too much even though I wasn't particularly dense in picking my apples. 85 seems like a lot of apples for a tree that is only 8' tall and not particularly thick in foliage.

Over the next few days I'll go out and take off any baby apples that aren't in footies. Two years ago we had a great flush of apples and then the next year the tree barely bloomed. It isn't supposed to be a biennial bearer, but I've heard that if the tree sets too many one year, it won't the next. So hopefully my thinning will work. If not I'll have to thin more vigorously in future years.

I have another apple tree, but it was attacked by some kind of caterpillar. I'm thinking the winter moths that invaded our state (I think from China), but I'm not sure as I didn't notice when they were feeding and they seem to be gone now. It bloomed later too. So the baby apples it does have are small. The biggest ones of those are damaged. I'll come back in a week or so and see if there is enough worth saving to protect the tree. A few really aren't worth it as I have to net the whole tree later to keep the squirrels away. And netitng the whole tree is not worth a few apples.

I also noticed some stress on the Ginger Gold apple tree. So I watered that one and the smaller Honey Crisp. I watched the forecast yesterday and they said we were in a mild drought right now. We have only had about a third of an inch of rain in May. And we are down 4 to 6 inches since March. All my other fruit trees have been getting watered regularly, but these two apple trees are landscape plants and I don't water my landscape on a regular basis.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Morning Routine

Mizuna ready for picking

I'm starting to set into a routine with my greens now that so many are ready for picking. These greens are what I'm freezing for the winter - mizuna, spinach, kale, and soon to be chard. I pick them as soon as I get up in he morning. I only pick one bed, which so far ends up being a bit over a pound and a half. It has been cold in the morning recently. I keep forgetting to wear my coat so my hands get a bit numb with the moisture on the leaves. I bring them in. Photograph and weight them. Clean and blanch them. At this point I love standing over the stove as it makes me so much warmer. As soon as they are blanched and in their ice bath, I bring up yesterdays greens from the freezer to package up. I save some of today's greens for the evening meal and fill my now empty mini silicon loaf molds with greens and freeze them. I toss the wash and ice bath water onto the raspberries - though tomorrow it might be the strawberries. And let the hot water cool on the stove to heat the house a bit as it cools down. Then I make breakfast. It is a very calming and happy routine.

Mizuna after picking

I cut the leaves from one side one time, and the other the next

In other years I've done larger bouts of preserving of greens. This way is easier on me. I don't spend so long over the stove and the chore is done before breakfast so doesn't take up my day. This routine will only last for another couple of weeks as then the spinach and mizuna will get ripped out. Then I'll be left with just chard and kale. It will be hotter. I'll want to do larger batches if I can to avoid heating the house up so often. But my current routine is nice while it lasts.

Two sisters bed starting to be planted

And as to yesterday's garden chores, I planted up another batch of corn seed that I soaked for a day before planting. You can just see a corner of the one I planted a week and a half ago. It is up. The squash I planted on the end of that bed came up, but one damped off, so I'm chitting some more seed. The squash for this new bed will be butternut. I've got the seed soaking in a paper towel. As soon as it starts to send out roots, I'll plant them. I might need to put a cutworm collar around the seeds as I found two cutworms when I prepped the bed.

Kohlrabi starting to form

I also got under the row cover to the bed with the kohlrabi, Michihili cabbage, and some turnips. The bed needed weeding. I lost one kohlrabi to something. Since it was big and wilted and died I'm guessing root maggots. But the rest look great, so I'll have a lot of kohlrabi this year.