Saturday, March 30, 2013

Onion Planting

Yesterday I was out in the garden again. This time planting onions. The bed was a little harder than normal to prepare as it had a cover crop of vetch growing on it. The cover crop included oats and peas, but those aren't winter hardy, so only the vetch remained. I didn't want to turn it into the soil since I didn't have time to let it rot for a few weeks. Instead I pulled it. I tried to leave the roots in the ground, but many of them got pulled as the plant got pulled. There were lots of those light pink nodules on it that had set nitrogen. That made me happy.

The ground right near the fence still had a small section that was frozen, but by my calculation I wouldn't be able to fill in the whole area reserved for the onions. I had two flats of onions, each flat contained 72 onion plants. The first flat was filled with Copra onions. They are my main storage onions. The second flat was half Redwing, a red storage, and half Ailsa Craig, a sweet onion. I put all of my alliums in one 4'x 16' bed. I take about 5' for the garlic and the rest is for the onions. They are planted on a 6' grid. I ended up with about a foot at the end of the bed left over. I'm thinking of putting in some lettuce that I want to go to seed. Some of my seed is getting old, so it seems a good year to collect more. Usually you separate the plants about 12' to keep the line pure, but I've found that even lettuce plants that are right next to one another will not cross (in my garden, with the insects I have, yours might be different). I ought to be able to tell if they do cross as some lettuce has white seed and some black. If I get mixed colors out of some plants, I'll know I've got a problem.

As I was planting my onions it started to rain. I took the above photo just as it started so I could put the camera back inside. I stayed outside in the rain to finish. It only took a couple of minutes as soil blocks are so easy to plant. You can also see my stool in that photo. When I was younger I didn't use a stool, but I've gotten older and a stool really helps the knees. It isn't really a garden stool as a garden stool won't fit in my narrow paths. This one is actually from some medical supply place. It is the perfect size. I just hope it holds up for a long time.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Slow And Steady

It has been such a beautiful week that I keep going out every day and working for an hour or two. Some years I feel like I have to get it done right away, but I just don't feel the rush this year. It could be the weather forecast. The next three days are forecasted to be in the mid 50Fs and Monday in the 60s before we get a cool down. I want to be out everyday. I know mid 50s are close to normal this time of the year, but since planting has been late this year because of all the snow, the weather feels better than average. I'm doing this at the end of March instead of mid March. You might think this would make me want to rush it all the more, but last year I did a succession of pea planting and found that peas planted three weeks late end up producing only one week later than the early ones. I'm also getting older. Doing things in small batches means no aches and pains at all. I like that.

Yesterday's chore was to prepare two beds. Both were aerated (with a garden fork as I don't have a broadfork) and fertilized. One bed was the fava beans. One year planted these 6" apart and I thought it didn't give the favas a lot of chance to develop. So now I'm planting them 9" apart. I keep wondering if 8" is better. Once I had them laid out in a grid I pushed the seeds down about 1 1/2". As you can see I only plant one bean at a spot. I know a couple won't come up. If I'm smart when I see the first one starting to push up the soil, I should presprout a couple more seeds to replace the ones that don't come up. I've never done that before, but it would be useful.

The other bed I prepared was the Asian greens bed. I think of it like that but this year it is going to have kohlrabi too and maybe some lettuce. The very early Asian greens were hardened off and ready to plant. So these are the first transplants to go in. They were started on March 8th, so they only had three weeks to grow. I find most of my greens and brassicas only need that amount of time. I don't need huge transplants, and these particular ones are quick greens that mature in 40-49 days. Now that they are in the ground they can flourish.

After they were planted I put my row cover over it for protection. Which reminds me. I have to get my row cover over my newly planted spinach. I should have done that when I planted. Maybe today.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Planting Peas

That frozen soil that I turned over two days ago was all unfrozen yesterday late morning. So I finally got the peas in. I plant them pretty close. I sow them in two rows down the support six inches apart. I couldn't do the whole 16' length. The last 8' were still frozen. I'll plant those last 8' in mid April sometime. I like to put up the supports before I sow. Pea roots dislike being disturbed so putting them in before there are pea roots in the bed is much better. I'll put up the twine as they get bigger.

I also went out and got lime for the rest of the beds. Once those were done, I figured the rock wall garden ought to be done. To do that I had to unearth the fig trees that were wrapped up all winter long (figs roots are hardy here, but not the branches). I've never done it before and I really wasn't sure when I should take the protection off. I also don't know which stems survived or if I can get them to grow straight up again if they did. I guess time will tell. I know some of the branches are dead as one snapped off when I was trying to unearth it. But I did get it uncovered and all the leaves were brought over to the compost pile. Then I could lime.

As I was going by my front walk I noticed the first crocuses flowering there. We had had the main spot by the foundation come up, but I don't see those much. I do see my walk way ones all the time when they are in bloom.

Sadly not everything is happy. The rosemary in the circle garden survived quite well. I think that one is Arp, which is a cold hardy rosemary.

But the other two by the warm foundation died over the winter. One was Hill Hardy which is also a cold hardy rosemary. The other was Tuscan Blue which is only hardy to zone 8. Last winter it survived which was shocking, but not this winter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Has Sprung

It finally feels like spring here instead of winter. This week's predictions are for 50F for highs and 32 for lows - well for the most part. The snow isn't 100% gone, but all the parts in the sun are snow free and warming well. Yesterday I prepared two 4'x8' beds, including fertilizing the beds. The first had a high nitrogen fertilizer for my spinach. I got it all mixed in and then planted out some Space spinach seeds. I sow them in rows 6" apart (7 rows as I don't like them next to the edge). My in row spacing is about 2" or a bit less. Not all of them will sprout, and I'll eat the little baby spinach thinnings when they get big enough.

The other bed is the pea bed which got a lower nitrogen fertilizer. I didn't plant peas yet as one spot didn't thaw because a pile of snow was next to it. I moved the snow so it would melt faster and brought the frozen patch to the top. I'm hoping this afternoon it will have thawed out. With the coming warmer weather, I should be able to plant soon, hopefully today.

My onions are all hardened off and ready to plant. Their bed is next to the fence though and that section takes a bit longer to thaw than the beds closest to the path. They are still in shade and haven't seen any direct sun yet. Soon though. Everyday the sun moves closer in. Just a few feet are left. I will plant them as soon as that section thaws. I might do part of them earlier and just keep planting as more and more of it warms up.

In previous years I've put my brassicas that need hardening off underneath the row covers in the garden beds. But this year I made a little support for a row cover over my flat so I can keep my seedlings right next to the kitchen door. This will keep any butterflies or flea beetles from attacking them when they are so small. And I will look at them more often to make sure they aren't getting too dry.

I made a tiny support too. I grow the seedlings indoors in flats. But when one kind of seedling needs to be hardened off and there aren't very many, I move them to a small repurposed take out container. Here you see my very early Asian greens. Not many, but early is risky.

Oh and I almost forgot. The soil in Massachusetts will get very acidic if it isn't limed. Blueberries grow naturally here. We get a lot of acid rain. I did a soil test through our extension service in January. I dug up the samples in December, but forgot to send them in until the end of January. My pH is 6.4. When it was put in two years ago the pH was 6.9. I like to keep the garden between 7 and 6.5. So it was time to lime. Their recommendation was 2-3lbs/100sqft. Normal lime is about 1lb/cup, but I used pelleted lime and weighed it at about 2/3 of that. And since my 4'x8' foot beds are about 2/3rds of 100sqft, I figured I needed about 2 cups of lime per bed. I don't use a spreader. I have use a 2 cup measuring cup for all my garden fertilizer and lime. Sadly after doing all the outer beds except where the corn will be planted and one inner bed (the one that will have the onions), I ran out of lime. I'll have to pick some up today. Hopefully I won't forget where I put it already. It is better to lime in the fall, but spring will have to do.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Harvest Monday, March 25th, 2013

Not much has been going on in the harvesting front with more snow last week. I made a large sweet potato and onion dish that I ate all week long with stored sweet potatoes from the garden, but my onions are long gone. The greens varied from spinach, to kale, to broccoli all frozen from the garden. The above even has tartar sauce made from my homegrown pickle relish.

I have some friends that don't eat pork and were getting some pork from their meat CSA so I've been getting the joy of fresh pork. So I sent back some carrots with them. I have way too many carrots frozen this year. I've got to check the freezer and see what else I have too much of so I can send it off to someone.

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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Winter Returns

This week is going to be a real wintery week. We will have highs in the 30Fs for the most part, and lows in the mid 20Fs. Oh and as you can see we got more snow. About eight inches. We have flurries predicted on Thursday too. I'm glad I didn't plant my peas this last weekend. They are predicting a warmup over the weekend, so maybe the peas and spinach can get in then. I'm hoping.

And on a happier note, my husband got the connection to the weather station working again. I lost a couple of weeks of data, but at least it will now keep the lows again. I'm still trying to figure out what the normal last frost date is around here. Not that we ever have "normal", but the info is still useful.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Harvest Monday, March 18th, 2013

No harvests as usual this time of year. But I have been using up my stores. This week was mostly about using my squash. I'm doing pretty well on it. I have just six left. Above is a black bean and squash salad with apples and lox. I also made a squash pizza (with onions and mushrooms). I really liked it. I like the spinach version better, but squash is good for a change.

I'm also trying to figure out what I'm bringing to our big Passover dinner this year. I was given "vegetables" as my dish. Last year I brought maple glazed carrots from my stores and kale fresh from the garden. But last year Passover was later and we didn't have much of a winter so the kale had put on new growth already. This year things have just defrosted and the kale looks pretty sad. No new growth at all yet. So this year will be sweet potatoes and spinach from my stores, both of which I have an over abundance. I didn't want just plain spinach so I'm trying a frittata with more veggies than usual. I think it will work out well. I'm going to use coconut milk as the milk since I can't use dairy. We usually have at least one vegetarian in the group so it is a good addition for them. So I've got the green and orange vegetables covered.

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.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Preparing for Spring

This week I finally brought out my sweet potatoes. I started them last week sitting near the radiator, but now they are in the window. Hopefully they will grow well. I need slips and I'm worried about the purple ones producing slips. Last fall they started to grow and I rubbed off the growth. Will I get new growth? I hope so. I do have more purple ones in my box of sweet potatoes. Maybe I should bring more out. I do love their taste. I've started Beauregard, Garnet, and Purple, which are the three that did best in my garden last year.

I'm a little late doing it but I went out yesterday to prune. It was the most glorious day. In the 50Fs and very sunny. I didn't even have to wear my coat. The raspberries were first. I lost a lot of canes to last year's lack of rain. I'm hoping I didn't lose whole plants. But I'll see once the spring growth starts. Then it was off to the peach trees. I'm no expert on fruit trees. This is the first time I've ever grown them. But all the books say open up the middle to an open vase shape. So I tried doing that. I've got five main branches on both peach trees. Not sure if I'm doing things right, but hey, I'm sure I'll learn.

The snow is mostly melted (or at least in the beds that see sun this time of year) so I tested the beds and found the pea bed was defrosted all the way down. The spinach bed had frozen soil at about 5" deep. I've planted spinach like this before and it does fine. So I might go out on the next warm day and get that in. I'll also get my peas in soon. Not all of them, but the warmer parts of the bed. The other parts will have to wait two to three more weeks.

The soil is unfreezing and my Asian greens that I sowed inside are starting to pop up. I'm really getting excited for the gardening season to really start.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Harvest Monday, March 11th, 2013

Though more seeds were planted indoors, the outside harvests will have to wait even longer. We got about a foot of snow last week. It is melting fast, but the beds are still covered with it. I have been using up my stores.

Yesterday I made a big batch of Boston Baked Beans. I used the Yellow Eye Beans which are a Maine heirloom. I didn't think they came out quite as good as last time. Not sure why.

Spinach is always one of my favorite vegetables in storage. Especially when it is paired with a comfort food. I love macaroni and cheese. I don't make it very often as my husband isn't a fan. He likes the neon orange boxed variety which I don't eat. I used a recipe that has more flavor than your typical mac and cheese. Though I used whole wheat noodles. The recipe makes so much, so I've been eating it everyday for lunch. It had both garlic and onions from the garden. I now have just one onion left. I've put them on my shopping list. It is always sad when I run out.

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, March 9, 2013


Yesterday I finally got some more seedlings into soil blocks. For now I'm just doing three each of some early lettuce (Red Sails, Little Gem, Paris Island, Deer Tongue), bok choy (Shuko, Purple), mizuna (Early, Ruby Streaks), some celery (Ventura, Redventure), and Fun Jen. I'll do the main planting of them in a couple of weeks, but for now some riskier early plants. I fully expect them to produce, but you never know what the weather will bring. Yesterday we had another foot of snow.

Today I had to shovel a spot on the back steps to put out my onions. It is already 42F. This week will be mostly in the 40Fs and 50Fs, so I figure it is a good time to teach my onions what the real world is like. I'll bring them in at night. They don't predict the warm weather will stick around past this week, but a week of warm weather is helpful. In Boston the typical outdoor planting time for things like peas and spinach is St. Patrick's Day. Some years that works, some years we have to wait another week. Not sure about this year. We haven't had the intense cold like some years, so the ground might not be frozen as far down as usual, but we have had a lot of late snow which insulates it.

Friday, March 8, 2013


On Monday we finally got our solar panels turned on, just so they could see our cloudy weather all week. We contracted for them to get put in last August. At the time they said the panels would be up in October. Then November. Then definitely before the end of the year. Well they were installed in January. They said two weeks and they would have the paperwork done to turn them on. So finally in March it happened. I feel like I've been waiting forever for it. Now we just need the sun to come out for them to really produce.

The system is a 6kW system which should produce most of the electricity that we use. You can go here to see the roof (which is shared with our townhouse mates) and solar production (on just our side of the roof). So far we have made 26kWhs. Or $4.68 in energy at our rates. Well not even that. The electric company charges $7/month in connection costs. That doesn't even start to cover the costs of the installation itself. But hey it is a start. I've wanted solar on my roof forever, so now I have it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Harvest Monday March 4th, 2013

I got back from vacation over the weekend. My onions are growing strongly. My husband never had to water them, but he pet them every evening for me. Soon I'll have to start some of the early spring greens like baby bok choy and lettuce. The garden is still snow covered but it seems to be melting out rapidly. That is the good news. The bad news is that my weather station isn't connecting to my computer. Not sure why. But I'll be losing all that wonderful weather data for the time being. I've got too much to do right now to try many things, but hopefully it won't take long to figure it out.

Since I was gone for the week I don't have any real Harvest Monday things to share. But I'll enjoy seeing all of yours.

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.