Monday, May 31, 2010

Harvest Monday - 31 May 2010

Whoohoo! Another good spring harvest week. Our weather went into the 90s this week. I remember Mays when we got a day in the 90Fs (32C+) before the cool comes back, but this week had a couple of days there and a lot in the 80Fs (27C+). Where did spring go? July has hit and it is only May. I decided it was time to pick some lettuce and the last of the radishes before the heat hit. Most of the radishes were already bolting, but I got a couple of nice French Breakfast radishes.

Red Sails and Deer Tongue

Little Gem

Tom Thumb

So I've been picking the leaf lettuce and the smaller of the head lettuces. I've left all the romaines because they are just heading up now. I hope they can survive the heat.

I also picked three perfect Shanghai bok choy. Two have already been made into a stir fry. I've got one left. I picked one Komatsuna and a single stalk of Chinese Broccoli. I think if I do Chinese broccoli again I need more plants to get a real harvest. They easily go into stir fries, but it would be nice to have them prolific enough to get a better sense of how I like them.

I had a great dill harvest from the volunteer dill. This is half the harvest. I dried it and filled up a large spice bottle.

My favorite harvest from this week was my Fun Jen. I love Fun Jen in salads. I don't think it holds up to cooking as well as bok choy.

I wanted to make an oriental salad, but I really wanted mandarin oranges in it. I was out. So I made myself a salad mixed with Fun Jen and lettuce. I threw in a few of my radishes. Then I topped it with a raspberry salad dressing made from my raspberry jelly. It was good but it was missing something. My daughter was eating pasta with Parmesan cheese. The Parmesan cheese was the perfect addition. It was just what it was missing.

I did spend some money this week. I spent about $11 on plants for the new house, but I can't find the receipt. I bought a bunch of nasturtiums (some will have to be replaced as they died in the heat and me not watering except every other day) and some peppers.

  • Lettuce 1.21 lbs
  • Bok Choy 0.84 lbs
  • Chinese Broccoli 0.02 lbs
  • Spinach 0.10 lbs
  • Komatsuna 0.31 lbs
  • Dill 0.28 lbs
  • Radish 0.18 lbs
  • Total harvested this week 2.93 lbs
  • Total for the year 8.38 lbs
  • Total dollars -240.33

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 30, 2010

Bloomin' Like Crazy

Oh the garden is blooming now. I've been seeing so many different blooms around. Above is my favorite peony. I have a double one that is so full, but it just doesn't appeal to me like the single ones.

One of my favorite flowers is the Japanese Iris. Its blooms don't last long but they are so beautiful.

But what really inspired this post were my peas. I've been meaning to crow about them blooming like crazy, but hadn't had time. Right now it is the calm before the storm. I've got two barbecues this weekend. One on Sunday and one on Monday. When I think about Memorial Day though all I can think about is Carl (a cousin) who is going to Afghanistan very soon. It is his last tour before he retires. I'll be hoping for his safe return. Then after the holiday the packers come on Tuesday and then the move is on Wednesday. On Tuesday my internet and phone get changed and I'll be unconnected for a short time until we got all the computers back up. I've got my Get Growing post scheduled. Hopefully I'll have time to get my photos of the new garden up for a Wednesday post. I finally remembered my camera. It was charged and it had its card in it.

But I digress. The peas are starting to develop. These are the Blizzard snowpeas. One was ready and I ate it straight from the garden. No Monday Harvest weighing for it. Yum! The Cascadia, a snap pea, has small peas forming too. I can't wait for the harvests.

I have so many other blooms. But I'll show you a few more of my favorite and they are all herbs. I meant to make vinegar of my chives. I haven't had a chance to go to the store and get some good vinegar for it. They might just fade away before I have a chance.

My dianthus scent the yard like cloves. I just love the early morning in the garden because the scent is just divine.

My chamomile is ready to pick if I get the time. I better if I don't want it to go to seed and quit producing. I obviously don't love it for it beautiful flowers. It does look better later in the day when the petals open up, but it is not a stunning plant. I do love the flowers in tea however. It is a nice calming cup of tea with a little bit of chocolate mint added to it.

One of my all time favorite flowers is the dianthus. I like the blooms a lot, but the real reason I love it is the scent. They have a subtle scent that wafts through the garden. When I smell it, my first thought is how wonderful the garden smells, then it hits me it is the dianthus scent. It smells a bit like cloves. I love its timing too. My Miss Kim lilacs hit you in the face with their scent and once they fade away the dianthus starts to bloom. I wish I had a scent like this that would last all summer long.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bean Bed

Well this is what my bean bed looked like before I dealt with it yesterday. I have pole beans growing along the back of the bed under the trellis. I put in a bunch of Jacob's Cattle beans ages ago and they are growing well up near the fence. But in the front part was my spring spinach that wasn't doing anything and the volunteer dill that was taking over. I love to have my volunteer dill, but this was ridiculous. It wasn't a bunch of dill weed anymore, but a dill monster. It needed to be tamed.

So I weeded it all out and turned it under. Then planted my beans. I had leftovers from planting up the new house garden. So I used those Black Coco beans and Red Kidney beans. Beans are such easy plants. They come up and shade out the weeds. Dried beans don't even need to be harvested until the end of the summer and you can do it all at once when you pull out the plants. Between doing two gardens, I can really use easy about now. If you notice I didn't pull all the dill. I left some plants in for my pickles later in the year.

Since I pulled the dill, I had to harvest it right? I'll give you the harvest photo on Monday, but for now you get the dehydration photos. Usually I don't dehydrate so much. I needed two batches in the dehydrator. Part weeded out earlier in the week and part was weeded out yesterday.

Now I have a ton of dried dill which in spice terms is probably an ounce.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Planting at the New House

I keep meaning to take photos when I go to the new house to water the seedlings. Without fail I forget. So you get a photoless update which isn't as fun, but so much has been happening there.

I have one long bed by the driveway that I'm using for this year's garden. It has a little rock wall in front of it. The builder filled it with rocks and then two inches of top soil. So I had to pay a fortune to remove it all and replace it with real top soil. We tried finding someone on Craig's List that wanted the rock fill, but no luck. I don't know what he expected anyone to grow in there with two inches of top soil. Maybe crab grass. Even if I were planting bushes or perennials there I would have had to haul out most of those rocks.

The bed is about 2 1/2-3' deep. In the back there was weirdness again. The level of the neighbors yard is about 6" higher than in our bed. So I shored up the soil with some 2"x8"x16 concrete blocks set into the soil on end in one part and on the side in the other. This will keep their soil from falling in and also keep their grass from invading. Why didn't the landscaper do it right? Why didn't they make the soil in both yards the same height? Or at least put a little retaining wall in. There was a reason when we bought the place we told them to stop the landscaping immediately. Everything they did was wrong. Even my front walk. Every landscape designer that we interviewed said there should be a step in our front walk so we wouldn't slip on the ice in the winter, but no he put a sloping brick path instead.

Well enough complaining. And onto the vegetables. Last Thursday I started preparing the bed. I fertilized and turned over the soil. I planted 14 tomatoes, all different varieties. Maybe I should just make a list of the rest: 6 varieties of pepper (cayenne, Big Chili II, early jalapeno, serrano, sweet cherry, California Wonder), six varieties of beans all of which are dried beans except Kentucky Wonder (Trail of Tears, Ottawa Cranberry, Kentucky Wonder, Black Coco, Red Kidney, Tiger's Eye from Dan), Waltham Butternut Squash, Costata Romanesca zucchini, cilantro, flat leaf parsley, basil, cumin, dill, Diamant cucumbers, Ruby Chard, Verde Puebla tomatillos, marigolds and nasturtiums. The bed has about 200 sqft of planting space.

Needless to say it took me a while. I mostly got it all done in three days and it took about nine hours of work in the broiling heat. I drank a lot of water. This bed will be very hot. It is right next to the driveway and the wall just absorbs the heat of the sun. I'm hoping the tomatoes do well here since it will be very very hot. Since then I've been going over there every day to water. Sadly some of the cumin is dying. Even watering once a day wasn't enough for it. We have been having a heat wave and those little tiny plants got all dried out. Usually this time of year we are in the low 70s, but we have been in the low 90s the last couple of days. This really feels like the middle of summer to me. I wonder what July has in store for us. If it is temperatures in the 100s I'm moving to Canada.

Oh and to the rest of the new house yard. We hired a landscape designer and have been working with her. We have the hardscape plan pretty much finalized and it is going to to bid. Things are probably going to start sometime in July.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


For years I've used little hosta stems to prevent cutworms in my garden. One old hosta flower stem on each side of the plant. This year the cutworms have taken a couple of plants down anyway. I've had cutworm collars fail on me too in really bad years. I've even had cutworms climb the plants to cut off branches when they couldn't get to the stems when they were protected. Supposedly they don't climb. My cutworms didn't get the memo.

I'm thinking maybe put a few more hosta stems around. This time farther out from the stem so they can't even curl around it. Do you think that will stop them? I hope so. I've also lost a pepper plant to something else. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe slugs? The plant was eaten from the top down. The stem is still there, but all the leaves are gone. Shredded might be a better term.

At least I can catch the cutworms. As soon as I see any damage, I dig around where they cut and find the nasty worm. Usually about an inch or two under the soil. I dread years like these. Cutworms can be so vicious. I've even had one chew through a tomato stem three inches under the soil (below where I protect it). And years ago one chewed through a tomato stem that was about 3/16" thick already, past a cutworm collar.

I wonder what makes a bad cutworm year. I know we had a mild winter. Maybe that is it? Or maybe it is just a randomly bad year. Luckily not too many years are like this.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Harvest Monday - 24 May 2010

It is days like this that I hate being a hostess of Harvest Monday. I harvested absolutely nothing from the garden this past week. It wasn't because there was nothing out there to harvest. Oh no. There is plenty of lettuce out there to eat and the Asian greens need to get picked. Early in the week we had my mother and MIL in town. We went out to eat a lot. We ate a lot of desserts especially ice cream. Oh all the food that we ate, but not from my garden. We did cook up some spinach one night, but it was from last Harvest Monday.

Then when they left, I was trying to eat up the leftovers which included all the things we picked last week. So I did eat from the garden this last week, but I just didn't pick from it. And I discovered one thing. I love Choy Sum. I made a nice stirfry with it and yum. Too bad it is one of the quickest bolters in the garden.

I did spend money in the new garden. I spent 8.97 on plants. I have more to spend on those too. Since I wasn't sure what I would be gardening at this house I didn't have plans and didn't grow all that I needed. I also bought some fertilizer for 17.97. And some gloves and a root saw for 26.92. The big things I bought were tomato cages. I bought two packs (four per pack) of the folding square ones that stack which are 14" on the side from Garden Harvest Supply. These cost 86.06 with shipping. And I bought two packs of folding round ones (6 per pack) from I bought the medium ones. So it was 274.30. The tomato cages ought to last 20 years, so they will be amortized over that. I'll amortize anything that is big and lasts a long time. These amortize to 18.02 per year.

Oh my goodness the money I spent. And it is going to be more before it is all over. So my tally is going down. I'm at -242.89.

One of my big expenses will be the edging to the raised beds. I will have ten raised beds that are 4'x16'. I could use cedar edging which would rot out in 10-15 years. Or I could use concrete 4x16x16 blocks or 4x8x16 blocks (this size can be hollow, though you wouldn't see it since they go on end) sunk into the ground. The price with them would be similar. The advantage to wood is that it is thinner and you can attach things to it (like pipes to put hoops into). And it is so much easier to install since there is little that goes below ground. The advantage to concrete is that it will last forever and won't have to be replaced (though if it starts to tilt too far it would have to be reset). Concrete is hotter, which is an advantage with a lot of crops and a disadvantage with others. Anyone have any thoughts about this? It won't go in until July or August anyway. It may even be too late for most of the fall crops.

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, May 21, 2010

Planting the Cucurbits

Tuesday I got out early morning to plant up my squash and cucumber bed. I have a bed that is two feet wide by the fence for them. Remember those walking cucumbers? Well I tossed them. Those where the Armenian cukes. Now I only have Diamant cukes, which is fine since they are my main pickling cucumber. Their makeshift trellis is getting old. I'm contemplating what to do for trellises for the new house. Eight cucumbers were planted, all a foot apart. I hope they grow well.

On the other end of the bed I planted my butternut squash. I planted these 2' apart. These seedlings didn't walk and rooted in their soil blocks just fine. The zucchini on the other hand didn't root well at all. They were growing, but their roots weren't well into the soil. Cucurbits don't like their roots disturbed and they were getting disturbed just by getting moved around so I tossed them. I planted seeds instead. Three in each of the three spots. I'll thin to one once they come up. Now I probably don't need three zucchini plants, but I find I get better pollination with more. So I either have very little zucchini or way too much. I'm going for way too much.

As I was over in that section of the garden I noticed the peas have been really taking off. The Cascadia had some spotty germination, but the Blizzard peas all came up. It could just be because the Cascadia is old seed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Planting the Solanum Bed

Monday I deserted my relatives for a few minutes and planted out my tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos. These take a long time to plant as I actually dig a deep hole for the tomatoes and amend the bottom of each hole. I put in one cup of 5-3-3, one cup of bonemeal, one cup of powdered eggshells, and one cup of Azomite. Above you can see how I protect my tomatoes from cutworms. Those are hosta flower stems from last years flowers. I like this way of doing it as the stems just rot out over time and they are very quick to stick in. I used to use cutworm collars made out of newspaper, but were just too fiddly to get right. Occasionally the cutworms will climb the stem and cut off a branch, but not often. We get a lot of cutworms here. I even killed about 12 cutworms that I found in my onion bed. I'd never seen them in the onions before, so didn't check. They killed about a row of the plants and severely set back a few more. I mean really? Onions? Onions are supposed to help repel these things.

After I was done I still had a flat of tomatoes left. I'll plant one of each variety at the new house in the bed behind the wall, but I still haven't had a chance to do that yet. I'll probably get to it this afternoon as we are getting a warm spell and the tomatoes will just take off with the heat. The 10 day forecast has lots of mid 70Fs to lower 80Fs with nights in the 50Fs and 60s. This is very warm weather for May.

Behind every other tomato plant I put in some Ground Control marigolds that were from seed I saved last year. They grew quite well. Now I don't amend the ground below these at all. They can get rather large and unwieldy. If anything I keep them cut back during the year to control them.

I planted out 12 peppers. I only have 25 total. So the other house will get 13. I'm contemplating if this is enough or not. I can always buy more seedlings. I'm so used to growing them again that I don't think about it, but I think I will get a few six packs of nasturtiums so they will start off bigger. I have seed, but never even thought about starting them. I think some nasturtiums trailing down the wall would be pretty.

I also planted two of my four tomatillos. I keep wondering how big they will get. I told myself I would always support tomatillos from now on, but I don't want to buy supports for both houses. Last year my cages were tossed as after 19 years they had rusted through and didn't support well anymore. I might just stake them. Stakes are cheap. As you can see the tomatillos are a bit yellow. They have been growing so fast and struggling with my treatment of them. I accidentally left them inside (with the lights turned off) for two days. The poor things have been recovering, but they still aren't happy.

At the end of the bed I planted out some really tiny basil plants. I have no clue as to why they didn't grow well for me. Maybe they just needed more time. Or maybe they needed more fertilizer. I've found the fertilizer that I add to my soil blocks lasts about three weeks in the small blocks and four weeks in the larger blocks. I need to get some liquid fertilizer for next years seedlings if I keep making my own soil. The Fort V soil from the Vermont Compost Company was better soil than I made. Things grew better in it. I just wish I could buy the large bags somewhere here around where I live. The small bags cost too much and if I ship it costs too much.

But now the plants are all out in the garden. I tried to row cover as much as I could for a couple of days. It helps with transplant shock as it protects from the seedlings from the wind. Sadly I don't have a large enough row cover to protect the whole bed. I think today I'll remove the cover as the weather is supposed to be so good. I think the direct sun will help them grow fast. Grow tomatoes, grow!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Harvest Monday - 17 May 2010

This week was a sad week. I had to pull up all my overwintered spinach. This made for a good harvest though. We had some of the smaller spinach and some unphotographed lettuce for dinner last night with the relatives. The gourmet lettuce blend and tasty radishes were much loved, but I did add some store bought carrots and tomatoes.

In addition the Chum Soy and Ching Chang bok choy was starting to bolt. So it was harvested. I hope it tastes good and isn't too mustardy for my tastes. Right now I'll add it into the harvest totals, but if it turns out inedible (which it probably isn't), I'll remove it later.

I pulled out a lot of radishes. They aren't bulbing up as well as the French Breakfast radishes, but some were good. I still weigh all of them since with radishes the leaves are just as important as the roots.

This is why. I make radish top soup in the spring. I find it rather tasty. It is basically just onions and butter sauteed. Then I add potatoes, broth, and the radish tops. Puree them all. Some people add cream to make it even tastier, but I don't always do that. I also like beef broth over chicken now. I used to always make it with chicken broth, but the strong flavor of the beef holds up better to the greens.

  • Lettuce: 0.13 lbs
  • Bok Choy: 0.30 lbs
  • Choy Sum: 0.35 lbs
  • Spinach: 0.84 lbs
  • Radish: 0.85 lbs
  • Total week: 2.48 lbs
  • Total year: 5.45 lbs
  • Spent this week: $0
  • Tally: -172.01

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 like to Mr Linky below.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Busy Garden, Slacking Gardener

So today my daughter graduates from college. The grandmothers have come in to see the event, though I'm sure my daughter is wishing that she could just avoid the whole thing. No such luck for her. We get to see her get handed a little piece of paper whether she likes it or not. But because of company I haven't gotten out to the garden much. I did succeed in getting out for just a few minutes yesterday.

I had a couple of chores. First I had to move the row cover off of the bean and spring spinach bed. I needed the cover to finish the hardening off of my tomatoes and peppers. The sad spring spinach will have to live without it.

And I say sad because above is what you see more in the spinach patch than spinach this year. This is the self sown deer tongue lettuce. I'll have to move it out when I plant the beans, but it is growing delightfully. Thank goodness for the over wintered spinach, because the spring spinach just didn't grow.

Also in the bed I had sown the Jacob's Cattle beans just so I wouldn't have to toss them. I was doing a germination test on some local beans that they sell for eating. Well I think they would be great for sowing too as they germinate beautifully. Luckily they were under the row cover during our cold snap.

Ottawa Cranberry Bean

The beans I sowed last week also are just starting to come up. So the pregermination in the paper towels seems a success so far. Though for dried beans I really don't need the season extension a lot. I get a harvest by the later sowing. It is just the harvest dates that could change. Late August is a better time to harvest than middle September. We often get long dry spells then. September tends to be wetter. So if this makes them mature a few weeks earlier, so much the better.

Then since I was out I peeked under the brassica row cover. It looks so pretty doesn't it? OK I agree it looks kind of jumbled up and messy, but most things were growing well, especially with the soapy water white traps (which are working wonderfully on the flee beetles). I had two exceptions. The overwintered spinach section that has broccoli interplanted was ready to be all pulled out. And just in time. The broccoli there is about half the size as the broccoli outside of the spinach. I hope it still has time to produce.

In addition the Choy Sum was bolting as was the Ching Chang bok choy. We have had some wild temperature fluctuations over the last few weeks. From about 90 to about 34. Asian greens hate these kinds of swings. The others seem to be holding in there. The Shanghai bok choy from Mac shows no signs of bolting yet and is almost ready to pick. Probably next week. My understanding of the name "Shanghai" bok choy just means baby bok choy and there are many varieties of it. So I'm not sure which I'm actually growing, which is too bad because if it works well it means I can't order more. If I'm wrong about that, someone correct me.

In new house news, I'm hoping the bed that I'm using for my garden this year will be all ready to plant by the end of the day. The bed is behind a rock wall. The builders back filled it with rock. So we had to hire someone to come in and dig out all the rock and fill it with soil. As a record keeping note this is not going into the costs of the vegetable garden, as even if I were just putting in ornamentals I would be doing this. I'll be adding in things to the vegetable garden budget that I wouldn't other wise do, like the rodent fence and the raised beds. Since I'm not around during the day, I'm just hoping it gets done. I much prefer to be around when the workers are if there are any issues. The raised bed section of the garden won't be done in time for planting - maybe for fall crops but not for summer. But this section has about 200 sqft of planting space so it is a little smaller than my current garden. I'm just going to plant summer vegetables and hope the fall garden gets up.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Disappearing Lights and Walking Cucumbers

Today my daughter asked me what was going in the empty spot in the garden. Well the one she meant is the solanum bed, which will get the tomatoes and peppers. Those seedlings are well on their way. Or so I thought. I went down to check on them. Their automatic light was off. Several of the hours in the middle of the day were pushed down on the automatic timers so they have been getting very little light since it happened. But I have no clue when those got pushed down. I know I've been on steroids from my doctor and it is supposed to mess with your mind when you taper off, but I swear there is a ghost in my plant room. Who else would be playing with my lights?

And that is not all. I was down there to check on the other seedlings. Sunday I finally planted my cucumbers and squash in some soil blocks. I was only two weeks off of my written schedule. Sigh. I've been a bit slow at getting my gardening work done. Anyway today I saw signs of life, but not like I wanted.

This is what I saw. My cucumbers and squash were pushing themselves out of their containers. It looked liked they were trying to escape their soil blocks. Maybe they were trying to escape the ghost?

They are growing roots outside of the soil and trying to heave themselves up and out. This one pushed itself all the way out and had massive roots all along what ought to have been its stem. I wish I had better photos, but as soon as I saw it I took the worst ones out and covered up the roots of the ones that weren't as bad. Only after I had repaired what I could from the ghost attack, did I think of documenting it. Maybe I should feed them some chamomile tea to calm them down? Or maybe I should be the one drinking it.

Such strangeness going on and it isn't even close to the full moon.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Harvest Monday - 10 May 2010

Well earlier in the week I told you that I harvested the first of my radishes and lettuce, but I made you wait until today for the pretty photo. There is something about bright red radishes against the green that I've always loved. I like the round ones better in the photos, but I grow for what I like to eat. French Breakfast and White Icicle radishes are my favorite. The White Icicle radishes weren't quite ready yet so I'll have at least one more radish harvest later on. I've only really succeeded in growing radishes in the early spring here after that they just don't bulb up well for me. I'll keep trying them in the fall. Occasionally I get a few.

And that is not all! I harvested the last kale plant as it was starting to bolt. It still tastes good, but isn't as good as the kale that was picked in January.

Then I had more of the overwintered spinach to pick. I'm slowly pulling them out as they start bolting. I always wonder what makes one spinach bolt a couple of weeks before another plant. By the end of this week, I'm sure they will all have been pulled. I might or might not get a harvest from my spring spinach. They are still pretty small and they may bolt before a real harvest.

I did spend money this week. I needed some jute for my two trellises. My peas are getting tall and they really need to have that twine put on. I like to make my trellises with jute because I can just cut it all down at the end of the year and compost it. It makes for quick clean up. Occasionally I wish I used something like a cattle panel that is reusable, but it is so hard to get those little tendrils off at the end of the year.

  • Lettuce: 0.22 lbs
  • Kale: 0.44 lbs
  • Spinach: 0.48 lbs
  • Radish: 0.71 lbs
  • Total week: 1.85 lbs
  • Total year: 2.97 lbs
  • Spent this week: $5.29
  • Tally: -183.41

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 like to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Brassicas Under the Covers

Well last post I lifted up the covers to show you my lettuce. Now it is time for some of the brassicas. I always leave the brassicas covered because of all the nasty insects we have here that like to eat them. Flea beetles, root maggots, and caterpillars are the worst of them.

The big yellow green plants on the lower left are Fun Jen. It is a pai tsai, whatever that means. I never have gotten the Asian greens naming down. Usually by this size it is speckled in holes as the slugs think it is dining heaven. This year they are doing much better. Lets see if I can actually name all the plants in the photo. The labels are out in the garden so I can only hope I can get them right. First row from bottom to top is Fun Jen and Shanghai bok choy from Mac; second row is one Ching Chang bok choy from Granny, and Choy Sum from Mac; third row is Chinese kale from Mac and Senposai from Michelle, fourth row is Komatsuna; fifth row is a napa cabbage from Mac.

I do have more brassicas that you can't see in the photo. Farther on is my broccoli and more Chinese cabbage and more broccoli. The last are two rows of tatsoi and yokatta-na. The last few rows including some broccoli are having some slowdown in growth. They are sprinkled around the overwintered spinach patch as there was no other place for them to go. I've tried to keep the spinach in bounds but it just won't stop growing (yeah). I finally had to rip some up so the broccoli wouldn't die. I think it is more under control now. The spinach is starting to bolt anyway so soon it will all be gone.

Not everything is picture perfect though. I keep the row cover on to keep out the bugs, but last year my broccoli got taken down by root maggots anyway. This year I seem to have some flea beetle damage. They like the Shanghai bok choy the best. So I put out some traps for them. The traps are just white plastic bowls with soapy water in them. Yellow works better, but couldn't find anything yellow to toss into them. White will attract them still. Hopefully they will all dive bomb into the traps and keep their numbers down. I don't need to get rid of them all, but I do need to thin out their army. I'm not a fan of these traps out in the open. The yellow color attracts bees and the bees can kill themselves in them pretty easily.

The other trouble in paradise looked to me like caterpillar damage. But I don't see any caterpillars or droppings in there, so it is probably slugs. I'll keep an eye out though to make sure. Every year I do get a few caterpillars under the row covers. Not many, but you have to watch them as they can eat a plant to the ground in no time flat.

This year I'm doomed to more flee beetles and root maggots. My row covers are getting holes in them. If I can see the holes, it is easy for the insects to find them. When I move, I'll order more and get it all cut to size for the beds. But until then I don't want to order anything that might not fit the garden well.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lettuce Under the Covers

Much of what I plant in the garden is still covered up. I cover the greens to keep out insects. The row cover is not easy to see under so I really don't know what is happening until I lift it up to peek. I decided I had to check on the lettuce today.

This is what I found in the lettuce area. I keep it covered early on because I plant radishes between rows of the lettuce and radishes are in the brassica family with a host of nasty insects that like to eat them. Once the radishes are pulled or are large enough I open up the lettuce bed. In this bed it is hard to see all the lettuce as the radishes are so huge. The French breakfast radishes sent to me by June grew very well and mostly were ready to pick. I left a couple in. Their foliage wasn't huge though. The huge foliage was on the right side. These are the white icicle radishes. They weren't quite sized up yet. Well except for the foliage. I hope the lettuce hiding in there survives until those radishes are pulled out.

The most interesting of the lettuces is Freckles sent to me by Emily. It is an old heirloom over two centuries old and has gotten many names over the years: Forellenschluss and Black Trout being other common names. I use Freckles because it is easier to type.

The Tom Thumb caught my eye. Sent by Stefaneener, it is one of her all time favorites. I'm not a huge fan of butterheads, but I have to admit it is one of the prettiest little heads of lettuce. The one in front seemed quite ready to pick, so out it came. I also picked some Deer Tongue lettuce from seed that I saved last year. I picked the outside leaves off of these and will keep letting them grow. I used half of the lettuce and a few radishes up to make my first salad of the season. Yum! If only I had some garlic scapes I could make my garlic scape dressing to go with it. But with early spring lettuce the "if onlys" are huge. I could use some cucumbers and tomatoes too.

I have a total of eight varieties, but most are romaines that will take longer to form heads. I want to do a good taste test of all of the romaines as leaf lettuce and romaine are my favorite types of lettuce. I'm pretty happy with the leaf lettuces I grow, Red Sails and Deer Tongue, but I really want to add a good romaine or two to my regulars.

I left the cover off of the lettuces as the radishes seemed big enough to withstand the insects at this point. It is a much prettier section now without that cover. Sadly the brassicas will have to have it for a good long time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hardly Working

I've been pretty sick over the last week or so. Nothing horribly serious unless you like breathing. I've been told not to do anything strenuous until the inflammation is down. Stay home. Now they didn't tell me to stay out of the garden. Silly doctors. They really ought to tell you the important things.

The carrots were put in a while ago and I had to keep watering them two times a day. Nothing too strenuous I promise. I should have just put a board over them. I have to look in on the seedlings that are all outside now under the row cover. We have had unusually warm weather so luckily I haven't had to drag them inside and out. It has been windy but the row cover keeps them pretty safe.

Last week when the weather man predicted some really nice weather for this week, I put some of my beans in paper towels to speed their germination. On Monday I noticed they were starting to get a bit too germinated so had to get them in the ground. I just couldn't bear to kill them off. Then when you plant beans. You have to put in the trellis.

Bean trellis and under the row cover the seedlings

I decided to make a trellis out of the bamboo poles I have. Hopefully it will be sturdy enough to hold all those pole beans I planted. I put the diagonal supports on today since I was chased inside by a bad coughing fit before it was done. But now the beans can grow. Planting beans on May 3rd is just unheard of here. The soil is usually too cold. Our weather has been a couple weeks ahead of schedule this year. I wish it would have let me know in advance so I could have planned for it.

Now I haven't planted all my beans yet. I'm planning on saving the seed I wanted to grow for the new garden. This was just seed I had a lot of. I planted Trail of Tears, Ottawa Cranberry, and Kentucky Wonder. I plan to put them in at the new house too if the garden gets constructed soon enough. These are all pole beans.

The bush beans this year at this house will be from the grocery store. We have a local bean farm that puts out very nice beans. I figure since it is just about thirty minutes away from my house their beans have to be well adapted to the area. I'll buy the packs I usually buy to eat and plant some of them. I did a germination test on some Jacob's Cattle beans and they germinated well. Some of those even made it into the soil. I'll probably add some to the new house too. Jacob's Cattle beans are just wonderful for baked beans. They are the old variety that used to be grown around here all the time.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Harvest Monday - 3 May 2010

Spinach! Yes this is still my one and only harvest. I haven't been counting my chives, which I occasionally snip. I don't weigh them since the weight is so tiny. So I harvested over just over 8oz of spinach. I hope I keep getting harvests from this overwintered spinach as my spring spinach didn't come up well. But I'm guessing with our heat it will be bolting in no time flat.

Total incoming: $7.07
Total outgoing: $191.33
Grand Total: -$184.26

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 like to Mr Linky below.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Get Growing in May

This is the sixth in a twelve part series for new gardeners. If you have never planted vegetables before but always wanted to, this is the series for you. Robin, who writes the blog Vegetable Matter, and I will post on the first of every month. Robin lives in Houston and I live in Boston. We will be posting about what to do in the garden that month and giving advice. So if you have always wanted that vegetable garden, but didn’t know where to start, you have no excuse. Get growing!

May brings warmer weather to New England. Here in the Boston area our temperature averages are in the 60s at the start of the month and rise to the 70s by the end of the month. Though some in southern New England have already seen their last frost for the year, usually the warm season crops aren't planted until May 15th, or May 31st in more northern areas. A good rule of thumb is to plant warm weather crops two weeks after your average last frost date, as these plants will die if they see a frost. A list of these include: tomatoes, peppers, basil, tomatillo, beans, cucumbers and squash. Some warm weather crops are more finicky. If your season is long enough it would be prudent to wait 4 weeks after your last frost for melons and eggplant. They much prefer the warmer nights of summer to the cool nights of spring.


Tomatoes are the queen of the vegetable crop. People who grow nothing else will plant tomatoes. The taste of a homegrown tomato does not even taste like the same species as the tomatoes that you buy in the grocery store. In New England tomatoes are not the easiest of crops to grow. Our weather tends to be cooler then they like and the humidity and rain encourage a host of diseases. But it is worth the effort.

What Tomatoes to Grow

Tomatoes come in all sizes, shapes, and colors

Between the more disease resistant hybrids (a hybrid is a cross between two tomatoes that you can buy commercially, you can't save seed from hybrids) and the resurgence in popularity of old fashioned heirlooms (that breed true so you can save seed from one year to the next) there is a lot of choices in tomatoes. If you haven't already grown them from seed where the choices seem almost infinite, there is probably a garden center near you that grows many different varieties. One near me grows around 30 each year.

Tomatoes come in several generalized forms. The cherry tomato is good for salads and tends to be easier to grow than the larger tomatoes. I recommend Sun Gold which is a hybrid gold tomato. It is particularly good for our area as it is cold tolerant. It is early. Typically it is the first tomato in my garden to get ripe and the last one in the fall to still be standing. It is very disease tolerant, not because it has innate resistance, but because it grows so fast it seem to out grow a lot of the standard diseases. The best part about this little gem though is its taste. It frequently wins taste tests. Another favorite of mine is Black Cherry and Chocolate Cherry. They are two black tomatoes - well they are really brown with red and green hints, but they are called black tomatoes. Black tomatoes have a flavor all their own. If you have never tried one before, you are missing out.

Most paste tomatoes have an elongated shape called a plum tomato

A very popular form of tomato for cooks and canners is the paste tomato. This kind of tomato has a lower water content, so it will cook down into a thick sauce faster than other types. Though I don't currently have a favorite, often people will like San Marzano, Opalka, and Amish Paste.

The top of the heap in tomatoes is the slicer. Everyone has their own favorite. Some large slicers that are popular like Brandywine, Pineapple, and Cherokee Purple take a long time to ripen. They can be done successfully here in the northeast, but in bad years they can also be a failure. My suggestion is to plant some shorter season plants (70 days or less to maturity) in addition to the longer season ones to hedge your bets. Disease resistant hybrids like Celebrity can also be useful, though I'm more fond of the open pollinated plants because I like to save seed from year to year. Currently my favorite early slicer is Market Miracle which did well in last year's bad weather. It is a Russian heirloom. Many of the Russian tomatoes do well in colder climates. (Note: there seem to be more than one kind of Market Miracle tomatoes. Mine are the 6-8oz variety not the 2-3 oz.)

Tomatoes not only have different sizes of tomatoes, but there are different sizes of plants and growth habits. Determinate tomatoes don't get very large compared to indeterminate ones. Determinate tomatoes branch out and at the end of the vine they set a terminal bud. As soon as the plant sets fruit they quit growing and put their effort into ripening those tomatoes. Pruning determinate tomatoes will result in low fruit set since the fruit itself is set at the end of the vine. There is also a form of this that is called semi-determinate. These will form terminal buds, but the plant will keep on sending out side branches, so fruit keeps getting set. Usually for a home gardener, you want to get fruit over a long period of time. If you do you can plant varieties that become ripe at different times. Many people like the short manageable size of determinates. They tend to only get 3-4 feet high. Or if you like to can your tomatoes, having all your fruit becoming ripe at the same time is a bonus as it is easier to process everything at once.

Indeterminate tomatoes do not have a set size. If they have good growing conditions they will continue to grow forever. And they can produce a lot of fruit. Fruit is set off of the stem and not at the end so the vines keep growing. Tomatoes are actually a perennial in the right climate (though diseases shorten their life span). Up north they will be taken out by frost, but even here I have seen vines grow to nine feet tall. Be prepared to support them to about six feet tall. I have had tomato cages in the past that are four feet tall and they easily out grow them. You can chop off the tops or just let them flop out of the top if your cages or stakes are too short.

Transplanting Tomatoes

Tomatoes and peppers in newspaper pots getting hardened off

Tomato transplants are not strong enough to go out into the garden without hardening them off first. Make sure they have a good week of slowly letting them get used to the weather. They can get sunburnt easily if they were grown under fluorescent lights. I often let my home grown transplants see the sun on any good day during April and May. It keeps them sturdy and the hardening off process is shorter.

I like to give my tomatoes a lot of tender loving care before they are even planted. I double dig the tomato bed, which is a lot of work, but gives the roots plenty of room to grow. Right before planting I dig a deep wide hole maybe 18" deep and add 1c organic 5-3-3 fertilizer, 1c bonemeal, and one cup powdered eggshells (eggshells ground in a food processor that I've been saving all year for this). I mix it well into the hole. Then add some more of the dirt and mix again. I'm trying to encourage the roots to go down more.

Then I cut off all the lower leaves to the tomato plant and plant it so just the top leaves are showing. The tomato will form roots all along the stem. Not all plants can do this, in fact many would die if you did, but tomatoes do well if they are planted deep.

Tomato plants should be planted somewhere between 1' and 3' apart depending on what kind of tomatoes you grow and how you train your plants. Some people let their plants sprawl on the ground (which needs lots of space), but that promotes disease and the fruit often rot. Some people like to stake their plants and train the plants up the stake as they grow (requires less space). I tend to like cages. I find I get more fruit when I cage and let the plant grow mostly to its own designs. The fruit tends to be later than staked tomatoes, but it has larger harvests.

Tomato Problems

The first problem you could encounter with tomatoes is the cut worm. It loves to chop the newly planted tomato down. Most people use a cutworm collar. Which is just a collar a couple of inches from the stem that goes all the way around. It has to go two inches into the soil and stick up a couple of inches. I've seen them made from old cans, cardboard and newspaper. It doesn't provide 100% protection because I have seen cutworms go down three inches, but two inches is usually enough. I don't protect my seedlings this way. I use old hosta flower stems from the previous year. The stems are about 1/8" thick. I cut off two four inch sections of the old flower stem which is brown and tough. I push them into the ground, one on each side of the stem and very close. Cutworms wrap themselves around the stem as they chew and when they wrap around the stems with the flower stems, they can't chew through.

Horn worm with wasp cocoons

Other insect problems is the tomato horn worm. It blends into the foliage surprisingly well for how huge it is. It can defoliate a small plant quickly, but will just damage big ones a bit. If you see one remove it. You usually find it by the damage it does and not by seeing the caterpillars first. Sometimes you will find white cocoons on the caterpillar. If you do leave it, those are parasitic wasp cocoons and you want to encourage them. Trust me that caterpillar will be doing no more damage.

There are a lot of other insect pests like flee beetles (puts holes in the leaves, but usually doesn't do a lot of damage unless the plants are seedlings), aphids and stinkbugs (sucks the juices from the leaves and can damage the fruit), but most of them are not too bothersome. I handpick any nasty bugs that I see. Don't assume an insect is bad because it is on the plant. Lady bug larvae looks very nasty, but they eat aphids.

Diseases are where your main problems will be, at least if you live in New England. We have a whole host of diseases that will spot up the leaves and slowly kill the plant. Many of them are hard to tell from one another. The basic care is to remove the diseased branch and dispose of it when you find it. To make disease less likely you can stake your plants instead of caging them. This lets the air flow through better. If you do cage, you can thin out the branches in the interior of caged plants.

One of the most important practices is crop rotation. Some of our diseases can over winter here and they stay in the soil. Rotating the crops in a three year cycle can help keep the diseases down. It won't get rid of them, but can help. The plants get a lot of diseases from the splash up of the spores from the soil. If you mulch your plants well, the spores are less likely to make it onto your plants. Black plastic as a mulch can be used when you plant, but if you are mulching with organic material, like hay, you may want to wait a while until the ground is very warm. Our soil in May is not all that warm yet and tomatoes love the heat.

If you are still having disease issues, you can spray. I don't like to put anything toxic on my plants. I used a mixture of aspirin and worm casting tea. I take 1/2c of worm castings and soak it in water for a day. I strain the mixture into my gallon sprayer. Then I add 3/4 of an aspirin tablet dissolved in water and fill the sprayer to the top. I coat the tops and bottoms of all the leaves. Most people know the benefits of worm tea. It is a foliar feed and it has microorganisms that fight off diseases in the garden. Fewer have heard of using aspirin to help their garden. Aspirin works because it turns on the plant's own disease fighting mechanisms. I usually spray this every other week. It helps better before the plants are infected, but will still help after the plants is sick.

Blossom End Rot

One condition that is very common in tomatoes, especially the larger ones, is blossom end rot (BER). As you might guess from its name, the tomato starts to rot from the bottom. This is not a fungal disease, but it is a nutrient deficiency. The plant is lacking calcium. Most often this is caused by irregular watering. Either not enough or too much water can make it hard for the plant to take up calcium. You can't prevent mother nature from sending the rain, especially in my area, but you can improve your chances of not getting BER. When I plant, I add bone meal and powdered eggshells to the hole. Both provide a large amount of calcium. If you are still getting BER, you can make eggshell tea and water your plants with it. Just throw some crushed shells into some water and let it steep for a few days then water with it every week. I warn you. It smells disgusting, so leave a lid on it and keep it outside. Each week make up a new batch.

Tomatoes really are the stars of the garden. Both Robin and I felt compelled to write about them. Though we covered the same topic, we both said different things and you might want to read her February post for her take on tomatoes too.

Other post in the series

Determining your growing zone and planting peas (Vegetable Matter - December)
Planning a Garden (Daphne's Dandelions - December)
Growing Lettuce (Vegetable Matter - January)
Starting transplants indoors (Daphne's Dandelions - January)
Growing tomatoes (Vegetable Matter - February)
Compost (Daphne's Dandelions - February)
Snap Beans (Vegetable Matter - March)
Peas and Spinach (Daphne's Dandelions - March)
Eggplant (Vegetable Matter - April)
Brassicas (Broccoli, Cabbage, Asian vegetables) (Daphne's Dandelions - April)
Edamame (Vegetable Matter - May)
Tomatoes (Daphne's Dandelions - May)