Monday, April 30, 2012

Harvest Monday - April 30, 2012

My one harvest. I'm in the middle of pulling out my overwintered spinach plants. There are a few that are starting to bolt, but the main issue is that the leaf miners have come weeks early. I don't cover my overwintered spinach as usually I get all the harvests I want before they come. And that is almost true this year too. The first of my spring spinach is just about ready to pick. Young spinach is better for you (less oxalic acid) and it tastes better.
  • Greens 0.95 lbs lbs
  • Weekly total 0.95 lbs
  • Yearly total 40.29 lbs
  • Tally -$532.60
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, April 29, 2012

Sweet Potatoes

When I was watering the sweet potatoes plants in their pots I decided they were getting too tangled together. So I split them into two flats instead of one. When I saw the backside of one I wondered if a leaf had died or something. Then I noticed it was two flowers. I never knew that sweet potatoes put out such beautiful flowers. The slips were sent to me by Norma and they were labeled as "Unknown". So I have no clue as to the variety. But their flowers are really pretty.

The sweet potatoes that I'm trying to get slips from are starting to take off. It has been about two months since I put them in water. A long, long time. I thought about taking some slips and potting them up, but with Norma's slips it took about a month to get where they are now. Now they are just starting to run. I think it would be better just to leave them on the sweet potatoes and cut them off when I get close to planting. Otherwise I might not have usable slips to put out into the garden in a month.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Overwintered Spianch

Overwintered spinach patch, spring spinach under the cover

The weathermen were predicting frost. Channel 7 was even predicting 30F. I wasn't quite believing it since the ground was so warm. I didn't protect anything. There are only a couple things that might be a problem. The main one is the cosmos I planted the other day. I didn't know if it was hardened off well enough to stand frost. Well we only got to 36F. Not quite frost weather. The next three days are predicted to have temps around freezing. I think my plants can handle it if it comes to pass. I think of May 1st as the date that is safe to plant the frost tender plants. Though the last frost is usually sometime earlier in April. I rarely plant tender plants like tomatoes and basil until mid May though because the iffy May weather can be cool and damp even it is isn't frosting. But with the warm weather that we had earlier Mother Nature seems to be about three weeks ahead of normal. I wonder if a frost will be an issue for the wild plants.

And speaking of three weeks ahead of schedule, I usually pull out my overwintered spinach in the middle of May because they are starting to bolt. Well earlier last week I saw the first signs. I picked this patch two weeks ago. It had grown enough to pick again.

But when I went into the patch I saw leaf miner damage. They are very early this year.

There were lots of leaf miner eggs on the backs of some of the leaves. But only some. There are quite a few leaves and they hardly got them all. So I started ripping out the plants one at a time and harvesting the leaves that were good.

And before we go any farther, I like to show the spinach roots when I pull them up. Spinach plants have a tap root. This is why I never start them indoors. When you start them indoors the tap root doesn't form and the spinach plants are not as strong. Mine handled our spring drought with flying colors. Transplanted ones wouldn't have.

And now on to the rest of the story. I got through half of the patch before I gave out. The day before I had eaten some chipolte mayo on a sandwich. For those that don't know, I had a bout of solanine poisoning last year (one of the more toxic alkaloids in the nightshade family plants - tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes - and why nightshade itself is so poisonous). I try to eat a little bit every couple of months to see if I can start eating them again. Well the answer is a resounding NO. I might just be sensitive to the poison. I was up all night with massive cramps in my legs and the next day my mind was dead. Dead meaning I have no desire to do anything and have trouble making connections. Solanine and some of its related alkaloids are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. They prevent them breakdown of acetylcholine in your body, which is a neurotransmitter. It is good in the correct amounts but too much and I get cramps, twitchy muscles, ticks, and the minds doesn't work like it should. I just don't want to do anything. The world becomes an uninteresting place. The wonder of life is gone. I made myself get out to pick the spinach. But I just couldn't make myself stay out and finish. So I did half of it. Maybe today I'll make myself finish. Maybe. No promises.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard

Most don't think of cooking squash in the spring time. But these were my last two squash. They had kept for 6-7 months with no signs of rot. One was a Black Futsu and the other a Waltham Butternut. The butternut was tiny. Only about 6" high. I wanted something special for the last of the squash. I had seen a squash lasagna recipe before and wanted to try it.


But there was a problem. I had trouble finding the mascarpone cheese. Mascarpone is just a farmer cheese. The whole world makes it in slightly different ways - queso fresco, fromage blanc, paneer. I'm sure the list goes on. They differ in texture based on the amount of milk fat that is in them and based on how they are drained. But they are basically the same thing. Milk that has been soured, often with lemon juice, and heated to make a curd. Then allowed to have the whey drain off. They are fresh cheeses that are pretty easy to make. I'd made paneer in the past. So I figured I'd make the marscapone. I got some light cream and went to it.

Draining the mascarpone

The cheese takes about 24 hours to drain in the fridge. So my project was put on hold for the day.

The next problem was the whole wheat lasagna noodles. I couldn't find any. So I brought out the pasta maker and made some. This took up so much time that I didn't have time to finish the lasagna.

The next day I finally got to cooking up the squash.

When they were done I assembled everything. Cooked the noodles and put it together. Lasagna takes so long to make. I breathed a huge sigh of relief that it was finally in the oven.

Then had the piles of dishes to wash. This project took so long to make.

But was it worth it? Nope. Not really. I found the result a bit bland. I probably would have been happier with black bean and squash tacos. I think the recipe would have been better if it has more sage and inside not just outside. It reminded me a bit of a riff on squash ravioli with sage brown butter. Now that is a yummy dish. But you will never learn what you like without trying things out. And don't get me wrong. It wasn't a bad dish, but not spectacular enough for all the work.

This is part of Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard. Join Robin to find out what others are cooking up from their garden produce.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tour of the Spring Garden - Part 2

The first part of the tour was the flower photos. Now on to the main attraction which is the actual plants.

These are my two rhubarb plants. The one on the left is huge. The one on the right is struggling. I'm wondering if I should just put it out of its misery.

We got 2.7" of rain in the storm. It really perked all the plants up. The garlic was getting some brown tips, but now they seem to be happy again. I probably should have watered.

My onions perked up quit a bit too.

The baby Asian greens are in the circle garden under a row cover. Some are almost ready to harvest.

I have three beds with brassicas in them. The baby Asian greens is the first. This is the main brassica bed. It contains a huge mix of things from cabbage to Komatsuna. From kohlrabi to Napa cabbage. The Asian greens in the bed are really taking off. They always seem to grow more quickly than the other brassicas.

The broccoli is growing well. I can't wait for a harvest. Not from this plant though. This is a late broccoli. The early one which is Windsor is right next to it. I'm hoping this variety, Fiesta, will keep growing all summer and fall. The hope is for a continual supply of side shoots.

The above broccoli shares a bed with the Swiss chard. I grow Argentata because it is lower in oxalic acid than the other chards. Supposedly. I've got no proof of that except what my seed packet tells me.

The lettuce that self seeded and grew during the winter is almost big enough to thin out and harvest.

The largest of the peas are just starting to grab onto the first string of the trellis.

I swear the radishes tripled in size since the rain started. And their roots have started to size up too.

The fava beans look so pretty. It is always shocking how fast they grow to start. But then their seeds are very big.

The carrots have their first true leaves. No one has ever accused a carrot of growing fast. Not even after a rain.

All four of my mint plants look so pretty and lush. It won't be long before the first harvest.

The herb circle has recovered from its transplanting.

And last but not least, I have flowers coming up that I seeded. These are the sunflowers. They really took no time at all to germinate. I'll wait until they get a bit bigger before thinning them out. I love plants where you can just toss in seed and they grow.

I didn't quite get everything in the tour, but I got most of the plants growing in the main garden. I did miss some herbs. Cilantro, rosemary, coriander and such. The mustards were overlooked. As were the newly planted celery, and bunching onions. And this time the spinach got left out too. But it has been photographed so many times in the last week. It is such a camera hog in the spring. I think the peas might steal the spotlight soon though. They are growing so fast.

Tour of the Spring Garden - Part 1

I was out taking photographs in the early morning light. I have way too many. So I'm breaking it up into two posts. The first will have some that are flowers. These aren't my showy flowers. These are flowering veg and fruit.

My kale going to seed. When I harvested my kale, I didn't pull the plants. I just cut the main stem way back. Well they decided to keep growing and send up flowers. I'm not collecting seed as this is a mixed batch of kale. But I'll let them bloom. It will give the bees something to eat. Not that I've seen a lot of bees. But maybe it will teach them that my garden is a good thing.

My strawberries are all in bloom. I can't wait for the big harvest this year. I really need to get some netting over them to keep out the squirrels though.

My gooseberries are blooming too. I have three varieties whose names I forget right now. I've never grown gooseberries before, but have loved gooseberry pie. I hope these are flavorful and tart. But who knows until they finally give fruit.

My blueberries are blooming. I expect I won't get much this year but anything is nice.

One of my sages is in bud. The other isn't. I've been harvesting the other quite a bit though. It is my goto sage for the kitchen. This one is farther away around the corner so it is spared.

This is a flower from one of my bunching onions. I have a 4' row all going to seed. I wasn't intending on letting them, but the onions didn't get harvested last fall. They are hybrids so they won't come true to seed. It might be fun to collect them and see what comes out.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Harvest Monday - April 23, 2012

Baby spinach leaves

I didn't expect to have a real harvest this week. But I did. The harvests are all thinnings of the spring greens. The first one above was my spinach. The earliest of the spring planted spinach was thinned out. I like to keep the plants about 6" apart, but I plant seeds about 2" apart. So if I get good germination, I have a lot to thin. I had brought one of those black plastic containers out to put the thinnings in. Then I had to go in and get another and it still didn't all fit. I should have just brought my basket. But I didn't expect so much.

Then later I thinned out the baby Asian greens. Mostly it was tatsoi. The rest didn't come up as well and didn't need thinning. I did get some choy sum however. It didn't grow nearly big enough before it started to bolt. Now you pick choy sum usually when it starts to flower, but in the fall the stems get huge first. Here they were small. I don't think it has liked out hot spring weather one bit. I'm sad. I love choy sum, but this was a little tough. I guess I'll have to wait until fall to get the really good stuff.

I did spend some money. As I said earlier in the week I got a HUGE ball of twine. It ought to last me a while. I really have to stop spending money on the garden if I'm going to get into the black this year. But then I always think that. I don't spend much during the height of the growing season, but in the spring I do.

  • Greens 1.22 lbs lbs
  • Weekly total 1.22 lbs
  • Yearly total 39.34 lbs
  • Spent 35.57
  • Tally -$535.45

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, April 21, 2012

Before The Rain

Our weather forecast is for rainy cool temps to move in after today. Finally normal weather. So today and yesterday I was getting ready for the deluge. Well OK the predictions say 2". I'm good with that. It is enough to wet our bone dry soil.

The first chore yesterday was to plant up the flower bed. I grew the cosmos in the back. They have been out for weeks waiting their time to get planted. In the front are Johnny-Jump-Ups that were transplanted from the places that they jumped up in and didn't belong. In the middle I sowed some zinnia. But the first thing I needed to do was run my irrigation system in this bed for the first time. It shares irrigation with the asparagus and strawberries and a few fruit trees. Basically the whole rock wall garden is on one system. The system ran perfectly the first time except for the ends. The doohickeys that are at the ends of the lines aren't holding well enough. Some water drips out. If it were the same as the emitters on the T-tape it would be fine, but it isn't. It runs out faster. The other connections didn't leak at all. I'm going to have to do something about this, but I'm not sure what. Probably a call to the company is in order.

Oh and speaking of irrigation. I looked at the strawberries. Two of them had already died from dehydration and some showed problems. Hopefully the water we are getting will perk them all up again. They are all in flower right now and setting. Hmm which makes me think I have another chore coming up soon. Protecting them from the varmits.

I didn't want to plant anything else yesterday as it got to 80F. So I waited until today. I moved some more Johnny-Jump-Ups to the back yard in front of the raspberries. These aren't them, but the ones I moved are small and not as in flower. I'm sure they will look like these soon. If only they would jump up in the right places. They do come up all over, but never ever where I want them.

Then I dealt with the baby Asian greens bed. The ones that have been in there were weeded and thinned. I found two cut worms in the mix. Hopefully there aren't more. Then I planted the ones I started indoors on the other side.

It was so dry I would dig a trench. Water. Let it drain. Put in the plants. Then water again. I don't think I watered enough to moisten the whole bed, but it was enough to keep the poor plants from dying until it starts to rain tonight.

Then I had to preform the last rites on a poor dehydrated broccoli plant. RIP

Broccoli with chard in the back

This is what he should be looking like. He was replaced with some extras I had saved. The ones that survived are twice as big as the ones that I planted today. I put two into the hole. I'll cut one down mercilessly once I'm sure one will live. I dumped my extra transplants. I was tired of looking at all the too big plants for their soil blocks. I just kept them long enough to make sure I had plants that lived.

Then it was on to the mustard patch. They had come up, but there were some bare spots, so I transplanted about five of them to fill in.

Then my miscellaneous bed got mostly planted up. It is just missing the cumin which I ought to start indoors soon. I put in a 3' foot row of: Ventura celery, Red Ventura celery, parsley, and bunching onions. It also has the beets that I sowed before. The beets are just starting to come up. By the end of the two day storm they will probably all be up.

Then it was a hunt for sweet alyssum. I saw one in my spinach garden, but not along the area where I let them run. I figured it was just too dry for them to germinate. But I had been keeping the spinach watered after I cut it. And they had popped up. I transplanted all the ones I could find and put them along the brick path. I like a wide swath of them all along. It smells so good all summer long. And the beneficials really like them.

Then I had to fertilize the perennials. I got some acid loving fertilizer for the blueberries and cranberries. And some regular for the fruit trees and other perennials. Some I fertilized and some I didn't. In general the perennials will do fine without much fertilizer since we mulch them regularly.

I didn't do anything with the above fava bed. But look at all the well spaced plants. Out of exactly 50 seeds that I planted, 49 of them came up. I only have one gap and one plant is still very small so hard to see. 98% germination. The packet said 86%. I think they like it here. I'm dreaming of favas to come.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Even More Supports

It seems to be the week for getting trellises up in the garden. My first chore was the trellis for the plum tree. I originally was going to make a fan shaped trellis with my bamboo. But then I decided it would be too close to the fence and I wanted more airflow. So I got two T-posts. I wanted to attach them to the fence with some U-brackets. But no one seemed to sell what I wanted. So I bought some L-brackets and bolted two of them together. These brackets were to hold the T-posts away from the fence and provide that needed circulation. Putting them up wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. One side had concrete coming in from my neighbors brick. So I had to move it over a bit, but it just fit. And the close side that you see had the latch for the fence gate. If I attached it normally it would have blocked the latch. So I twisted it slightly at the bottom. It isn't quite as strong of an attachment to the fence, but it works.

Now I should have gotten this in last year when the tree was planted. But did I? No of course not. Supposedly plums are hard to trellis. I guess I'll find out. Just what I need, a hard to train plant and me not knowing anything about it. I figured I'd just try to let it go fairly naturally in a fan shape, but keep the tree linear. But it would be so easy to follow the horizontal trellis line. I'll have to think about it. Oh and I'm keeping it way shorter than it grows naturally. I couldn't find a dwarf Green Gage plum. This gets to about 16' naturally. I'm letting it get about 6' here. It might be hopeless, but I won't know until I try. Its roots are constricted on one side by the rock wall. Maybe that will help to keep its size down. I could root prune it too. I've heard of people girdling it too to keep the size down. That sounds very risky.

Then it was on to the peas. I had the T-posts in, but I added the string. This is my old polished hemp string from last year. I don't like it as much as the new jute twine. Hemp is too rough on the plants. Jute is much softer. And in the photo you can see the three sizes of pea plants. The largest were planted in February. The next ones down in March. The last part that is just coming up - not that you can see it - was planted in April. Will I get different harvest times for them? Or will they all give me peas at the same time anyway?

OK the spinach isn't getting trellised. This is my spring planted spinach before I thinned it out. There are two sowings of it here. The first was in February. I couldn't do the whole bed then as the rest was still frozen since it was in the shade of the my neighbor's house. So the smaller plants were sown in March when I got back from vacation. I harvested the thinnings of the bigger plants. It was a lot more than I thought it would be. Oh and the winter sown spinach that I have been harvesting, well some of it is starting to bolt. That is about three weeks early this year. It seems like nature in general is about three weeks earlier than normal too. The flowers, the plants, and of course the weeds.

Though there weren't many weeds in the earlier sown spinach. There were a lot in the later sown ones. I wasn't thinning so much as weeding that part.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard

Since we had the big heat wave, there were a lot of greens to be frozen. I had about four pounds of spinach to freeze and several pounds of kale.

Washing the spinach

The spinach was a real pain. It took me a hour and a half to process it all. The leaves were very sandy and I like to pull off the stems off the spinach if the leaves are large which a lot were. This takes a long long time, but then the cooked leaves are like butter when I eat them. The kale was so much faster. It got a quick wash and I just chopped it all up. Sometimes I pull the leaf stems off, but not always. It has a more even texture without the stems, but it is a real waste to throw them away.

I got my huge pot half filled with boiling water and put all the spinach in. I guess there was more than I thought. I ought to have done it in two batches but it almost doubled the amount in the pot. This means it took a while to get back up to boiling. You get better quality if you do it in smaller batches and the boil comes right back. Then you don't have to have the leaves in the hot water for so long. I always blanch the leaves for three minutes.

Kale cooling off

Then plunge them into ice water too cool off. I divided them into individual portions and freeze. Then I put them into a freezer ziplock. The spinach made 11 portions. These are being frozen for next winter. I want to have two packets of spinach or chard per week during the winter. This is about 30-40 at the end. So I'm well on my way. The spring spinach isn't even big enough to pick yet and the over wintered spinach might produce again. Though maybe not. I like the spinach better than the chard, but if I don't get enough spinach this spring, I'll be freezing chard too.

The kale is to be eaten this spring. Hopefully I'll have plenty of kale plants that can over winter next year so I won't need to freeze any for winter. Fresh is better.

Join Robin for other Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard posts.