Monday, November 17, 2014

Harvest Monday, 17 November 2014

This week was filled with some wonderful harvests. From parsnips, beets, and turnips.

To broccoli and my first (rather pitiful) celeriac.

I also harvested a good amount of bok choy and green onions to hold me over through this cold week we will have. Basically I harvested things to get them out of the ground before the big freeze hit. The ground might not be frozen permanently until December. But you never know. Occasionally it freezes in mid November and doesn't dethaw. Sometimes it freezes and thaws and refreezes in early December. But all in all it is safer to have those root crops out of the ground. Some people mulch so they can pick later. But honestly I hate going out in the freezing cold, especially to dig in the cold soil. So I'd rather have them inside and stored.

But my biggest harvest this week by far were the carrots.

And more carrots.

And oh so many carrots. 35 pounds in all. I stored some blanched and in the freezer. I stored some in my fridge. And I stored some in the basement. I will be eating a lot of carrots this year. In fact for the whole year I harvested a total of 78 pounds of carrots. That is enough carrots to eat a pound every five days. Which is not all that much of a challenge as I love carrots.

The yearly harvest total stands at 727 pounds. My record, from 2012, is at 735 pounds. So I'm getting close. I need 9 pounds to beat that total. I'm not sure I have that much produce left in the garden. But I guess I'll find out over the next couple of weeks. All that is left is spinach, kale, bok choy, a few bunching onions, and maybe a bit of chard, mache, and mizuna. But even if I don't beat it, I've come very close. It has been a really amazing year in the garden. I've had a few failures, but so many successes.

  • Alliums: 0.64 lbs
  • Broccoli: 1.38 lbs
  • Carrots: 35.20 lbs
  • Greens, Asian: 2.21 lbs
  • Roots: 7.66 lbs
  • Weekly Total: 47.08 lbs
  • Yearly Total: 727.11 lbs
  • Yearly Tally: $1356.49

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.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

But Which Carrot Was The Best?

Half of the SugarSnax and Bolero carrots

This year I grew four kinds of carrots. Two carrots to eat fresh, Yaya and Mokum. And two carrots for winter storage, SugarSnax and Bolero. I had previously harvested all the Yaya and Mokums. This last week I got around to the storage carrots. When you store carrots there is always the argument over whether they store better washed or not. Some studies say washing leads to rot. Some say there wasn't much of a difference. If you don't wash them you can get staining on the carrots. For home use this isn't much of a problem as you can handle that a carrot isn't perfectly pretty before it is peeled. But I can see that the commercial sellers what pretty carrots. And yet still I decided to wash my carrots. I hate bringing so much dirt into the kitchen.

The yield was good. I picked 35 pounds of storage carrots. This is in a 32 sqft space. And they were only in the ground for part of the year. The favas were in the spot in the spring. So they were very productive. 58% of those were Bolero. But the SugarSnax were given six rows and the Bolero were only given 5. If you take that into account, Bolero produced 66% more than SugarSnax did. It wins the production contest hands down. The SugarSnax didn't have the time or the sunshine to really bulk up. But the Bolero did.

My Fridge, Mokums on top, SugarSnax and Bolero in vegetable drawer

As for storage, I decided to split those storage carrots. Part got blanched and frozen. I froze 20 cups of carrots. Part got put in the crisper drawer of the fridge. And part got put in the basement. The basement isn't really cold enough for storage yet. I have them in the doorwell of the basement right now. The bulkhead door will keep the really cold air out, but it will get colder than the basement indoors. It won't be long before my basement is cold. I hope the carrots hold out long enough. I just don't have the room to keep them in the fridge though. As it is they are taking up a lot of space.

SugarSnax on top, Bolero on bottom

So which ones did I like the best? Well I did a side by side taste test of three of them. The Yayas were gone a while ago so i couldn't do that, but I remember the Mokum and Yaya side by side test. So here goes.

Yaya

This is the first year I grew Yayas and it will be the last. I grew it because others I know have grown and liked it. It grew well. It made a good spring or fall carrot. But I found the taste bland. It didn't have the wonderful carroty taste. Though I don't have a side by side yield comparison of my fresh eating carrots, it grew well and certainly produced well enough. And it was a pretty enough carrot. 6" long and tapered. But when growing something at home, taste is everything. And a want a really powerful carrot flavor. So this will not be grown again.

Mokum

Mokum is an 8" blunt carrot that I've grown for years. It is probably the sweetest of all the carrots I grew. It had a nice carrot flavor and didn't get bitter as a spring carrot. So can be grown both in the spring and in the fall. It is one of my favorite carrots. Like Yaya it produces well, though I have no numbers to back that up. You can bet that I'll grow this one again.

SugarSnax

I've grown this one for years too. It has the typical grocery store carrot profile. Long and tapered. I've had them get to 14" but usually they run about 10"-11" for me. They do not do well in the spring as they get bitter. They are strictly a fall carrot here. They are quite sweet. Not as sweet as a Mokum, but still quite nice if you like sweet. They have a resiny carrot taste to them. It is full of flavor, but I find the taste better cooked than raw. To me the Mokum makes a better raw carrot. But the SugarSnax's flavors hold up to cooking better, probably because they are bolder. It has been an OK producer here. The problem is that it doesn't like the partial shade it ends up in as the fall progresses. When I've grown it in the sunny spot in the garden (the circle garden) they grew enormous. But even with the early planting, in the main garden, they struggle to get big enough.

Bolero

This is the first year I grew Bolero. Again others that I know have grown it and liked it. In addition in some Massachusetts field trials, they were one of the longest lasting storage carrots. So they seemed like a good carrot to try. I would have liked a longer carrot for this as I have very deep and loose soil. But I wanted to see if I could find something better than SugarSnax which is what I'd used in the past. Bolero is a blunt 6"-8" carrot. I didn't find any that were longer and most were in the 6" range. But they got very wide and produced an amazing poundage. They aren't as sweet as SugarSnax, but they are still sweet enough to make a good raw carrot. And the taste is wonderful. Better than all the others. It has more of a depth of flavor than Mokum has, with none of the challenging piney taste of SugarSnax. Though I haven't cooked with them yet, I think they will make just as good of a cooked carrot as they do a raw carrot. I will probably grow this one as my only storage carrot next year (unless I decided to trial another variety). The short wide carrots are easy to process in the kitchen. And they handle my partial fall shade as well as the Mokums do.

Basically if I grew one carrot I'd grow Bolero. Mokum still wins out in a fast spring carrot though. Bolero is a 75 day carrot and Mokum is 55. And in the spring I need a carrot to produce fast because the bed needs to be turned over to the fall crops in July. The same over the summer. I want a carrot that can start producing when my spring carrots get used up. So sometimes the faster the better. Another difference they have is that Mokum is more orange than Bolero is. They are both orange carrots, but it probably means that Mokum has more of that lovely beta carotene.

And I told you that I harvested 35 pounds of carrots from that one storage carrot bed. Over the year I've harvested 78 pounds. That is a record for me. But to be fair I had more beds in carrots than ever before too. I do love my carrots.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Double Digging

The soil in my beds is pretty good and according to the extension service a little gravely. When we put in the yard we dug down 12" (30cm) and put in good soil (I say "we" but the yard people did it not me). Though the soil is really good, to keep it aerated I fork it over before putting in a new crop. And every year I try to double dig one of the big beds. That way they will all be dug up once every 8 years and they won't get too compacted over time.

In the summer and fall I put on my clogs, but for this I put on sturdy shoes since I'll be digging a lot. I wouldn't want to bruise the bottom of my feet. As I look at my clogs now I think it might be time to replace them with boots. It is getting really cold out there. I'd like to stay warm when I have to make those dreaded cold trips to the compost pile. Anyway, back to my garden soil.

Double digging is a lot of work. It involves digging one spades depth and width into the soil and putting it in a wheelbarrow. Then in the hole you dug, you fork up the bottom, so in effect you are aerating a double depth of soil. You aren't turning the soil over. On the contrary, you are trying to keep the soil profile the same.

You don't want to dig up sub soil and put it on the top of your bed or anything. For my soil it doesn't matter all that much as it was all put in as the same soil. The top few inches tend to be better in my beds because I add compost to the top every year, but that is about the only difference between top and bottom. But for most beds you want to keep the different soils all at their original level. So once you have the bottom forked over. You take the next row of soil over and carefully move it to the spot where you took the first row of soil out, trying not to turn it over, but put it back in the exact same spot. It never works like that as the soil slips from the spade often enough. But that is the theory.

The side on the left was finished. The one on the right hadn't been dug yet. You can see the difference it makes to double dig. The soil is about 3" taller after digging it. That is a lot of air that has been added. Though it will settle over time. And hopefully by next year it will not be over the rim of the bed.

After I did the beds, I added a layer of compost on the top. Now all the beds except the three that have growing things in them (spinach, kale, and bok choy) are covered in compost for the winter.

I had some compost left over. And put it in my storage bin. This is an old plastic bin whose top has a broken latch. So it won't keep out the animals anymore, but no animal really wants the finished compost anyway. I have enough for 2 1/2 more beds. I have three beds to cover. Hopefully there will be a bit more to sift out come spring. I hope so.

The last thing I did to finish up for the winter was to open the garden gates. Usually they are left shut during the growing season to keep the animals out. But for the winter we leave them propped open. So when it snows you can still get into the garden and more importantly, the compost pile.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Emptying the Beds

These last few days were busy in the garden. We are expected to get a good freeze on Friday and Saturday nights. The ground may or may not thaw out again this year, so I needed to get all those root crops out of the ground.

Tuesday was beautiful so I wanted to get a good chunk of the carrots done. I got half of them picked and stored. I did the rest today. I'm not going to talk about that much as I'll do a carrot post soon.

Wednesday I cleaned up the broccoli bed and picked the last broccoli. I didn't put compost on that bed because if I can get a chance this year before it all freezes up, I want to double dig the bed. Afterwards it will get its share of compost. I also cleaned up the celery and celeriac section of one bed (the rest had already been cleaned out). Of the four celeriac plants I put in during the spring, only two survived. And one had a rotten root. So I harvested just one rather small bulb. I hope it was worth it. I'm fairly sure the seed was contaminated with celery mosaic virus. And then it spread to my celery plants. I'm not too happy about that as mosaic virus never goes away. If I try it again I'll get it from a different seed source.

Also on Wednesday I did a lot of cleaning up. The bamboo poles got put in their silver tarp to protect them from the wet over the winter. The freeze thaw would pretty much destroy them, and I don't want to put them in the basement, so every year they get wrapped in a tarp and put on top of the early corn bed. I like that bed because I won't need it until May, so the poles can stay there a long time if necessary. I removed the hose and reel from the front yard and did the garden area hose late today once all the roots were harvested and cleaned. In addition to the hoses all the filters, flow controllers, and sprinklers were put in the basement. All the little things like knives, scissors, and trowels (which I keep all over the garden) where put away in the shed. Except where it is still protecting the soil (from the cats) all the rebar was put in the shed too along with the short bamboo poles. The shed isn't tall enough for my big poles.

Today in addition to the second half of the carrot bed, I picked the parsnip bed.

It had parsnips, turnips, and beets. The parsnips did just OK. I had a few really good ones. Most were small. I have some rot in the ground that turns the outside orange. Usually it is just skin deep which is good, but I'm guessing they won't last long in storage.

The turnips were also small. They probably had enough time, but the parsnips were right next to them and were so big they blocked the sun. I'm a little surprised they grew as well as they did. I didn't get a lot, but I'll appreciate what I have. Next year I'll grow the parsnips in a square block and leave the other half of the bed for turnips. This year the parsnips were down the middle of the bed. This was a problem for two reasons. During the early season, the early turnips shaded a lot of the parsnips out. And during the later season the parsnips shaded the next seeding of turnips out. I think 4' x 4' blocks of each will work much better.

So I think I'm all set for the cold spell to hit. I have just three beds in production now. The spinach bed, the kale bed, and the bok choy/chard bed. And my refrigerator is full of root vegetables, mainly carrots. Hopefully later this week I'll get a post up about those carrots. But for now I'll just say they did really well. They are my favorite of the root crops. So I'm happy even if the others weren't all that stellar.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bag Lady

Once a year I go through my neighbors' trash looking for gold. That gold would be the lovely leaves from the trees that have been falling. I'll turn them into compost next year. Luckily for decades the towns I've been in or close to have required leaves be left in paper bags because they compost them. This makes it really easy to collect them.

Not all bags on the curb are gold though. Some are sticks or weeds going to seed. I can often tell what is in the bag from the top and by how heavy it is, but some cruft gets through. That all gets sorted out and put back on the curb for the town to take.

As I empty a bag I water the leaves so they start to break down. I get out any trash. I always find some. Last year I swear someone ate a bag of Halloween candy and left all the wrappers in the leaves. I got as much out as I could find, but when I was sifting compost this fall, I found more. This year there wasn't a lot of trash which made me very happy. But it was enough to half fill up that yellow bag at my feet.

I always fill up two bins with leaves and put a handful of extra leaf bags by the compost where we put our kitchen scraps. We always cover our kitchen scraps with some nice brown leaves. I always put a few of the bags still intact on the top of the bins. This keeps the leaves from blowing away. I wouldn't want to lose any of those precious leaves once I get them.

I usually don't ask my husband to help me with the gardening chores as he doesn't like doing them and I do, but he helps with this one and makes it go much faster. This year was quite pleasant too. It hadn't rained for a while, so all the leaves were dry and light. We had a warm sunny afternoon. Even the neighbors were chatty as they wanted to know what I was going to do with all those leaves. I wish every leaf collection day I had would be as nice.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Harvest Monday 10 November 2014

The big harvest this week was the last of the fresh eating carrots. I dug them up in two batches after having to go out and pick them in the snow. I didn't want to do that again and as the season progresses it will become more and more likely. I'm happier getting the carrots I need from the fridge. I also picked some other root vegetables. Radishes, turnips, and the first of the parsnips. The parsnips were quite good, though they are small. You can see that the Mokum carrots are so much larger. But I'll take what I can get. They didn't get planted until after the kale came out in early June.

I also picked enough bunching onions to last the week. I figure I'll do that again this week and until the onions are gone or they are too frozen to pick. I was picking them as I needed them, but with the change in the weather, that changes too.

Though most of the green that I ate was the cabbage picked the week before (and now gone), I did pick some broccoli. Yum. I have one more big head out there and maybe a small side shoot. I'll pick that this week then I can pull all the plants.

I picked all the cilantro and parsley and washed it up and froze it for the winter. I hope it is enough to get me through the winter, but I doubt it. I'll probably end up buying some cilantro and reverting to dried parsley which isn't as good later in the spring.

And last but not least and definitely the most work. I winnowed out the seeds I harvested a while ago. But that means it can get into the tally. I only tallied up about half the dill as the odds of using so much are slim. (I have about four times as much dill as fennel.) I do use a lot of dill seed as I use it in rye bread as it is almost the same taste. A cup of dill seed means eight loaves of rye. Or in my gluten free case, mock rye bread. And then I'll make a lot of dill pickles next summer too.

Unphotographed for some reason is the celery harvest. I harvested about 5 pounds of celery, but only about two pounds was usable, so that was what got into the tally. Celery is always a challenge. And for some reason the ants love it. I decided not to freeze it this time as I should have no trouble going through it as it is soup season.

  • Alliums: 0.64 lbs
  • Broccoli: 1.37 lbs
  • Carrots: 10.80 lbs
  • Greens: 1.90 lbs
  • Herbs: 3.58 lbs
  • Roots: 3.29 lbs
  • Weekly Total: 21.58 lbs
  • Yearly Total: 680.04 lbs
  • Yearly Tally: $1236.37

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.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Winnowing

In my last post I mentioned another chore that I had finally gotten done. I had bags of seeds that needed to be winnowed. Monday while it was too cold to go outside, I was inside stripping seeds off the dill and fennel. I didn't clean up the seeds then as it is a very messy chore. But at least it was part way done. The mustard seed was harder. The seeds aren't out in the open, but in pods. So I waited until Wednesday when it was warm to do that one. I put all those pods into an old pillowcase. Then I stomped on them. I moved it around and stomedp on it some more. Basically it is the easiest way to break up the pods and get the seeds to fall out.

Once the seeds were out, I used a steamer basket I had to sift out the large items. Then a fan to blow away the small things. This is easy with the mustard. But the dill is very light, so I have to turn the fan on to low and take more time. The fennel is even harder as the seed is large enough that most won't go through the holes. I can sift out the small things and pick out the larger ones by hand. If I had a whole series of sifters, my life would be much easier, but I just use what I have.

And there they are, all jarred up. I have two jars of fennel. I collected the fennel green to use as a spice and more ripe to use for seed for later. And that is a lot of seed. I don't think I'll need to let the fennel go to seed again next year. I have enough to put the whole garden into fennel. I wish I knew why fennel seed from the seed store is so expensive. They barely gave me any. But it LOVES to put out seed. And it is open pollinated. The dill is even more seed heavy as I have a quart of seed. What will I do with it all? I tend to only use it two ways. I use it to make pickles. And I use it in rye bread as a substitute for caraway. If you have ever smelled dill seed, you will know it smells almost the same. Of course I don't eat rye anymore, but I'm going to be working on a gluten free mock rye (probably with buckwheat and teff) once my cornbread recipe is complete.