Sunday, May 31, 2015

Garden Share Collective - June 2015

Beds 1 to 3 finally getting rain

May was a very dry month. As I'm writing this we are just under half an inch of rain (though we might get more this afternoon). It is usually our wettest month of the year at 4.5 inches. Everything is so dry that our town has seen numerous small mulch or brush fires and one big one that took down part of a condo complex and killed someone. Needless to say we need the rain that is predicted for the next couple of days.

Beds 3 to 8

All the sun and abnormal heat has been great for the garden. I've had to water a lot, but the growth has been amazing. I've already harvested more than twice what I did last year at this time. And because of our heavy snows and cold weather over the winter, it was the latest start I've every had for the garden in spring.

Circle garden

The fruit is setting well too. It looks like it will be a great apple and peach year. I've thinned out the apples already, but I still need to get to the peaches. Even the two year old peach tree tried to set a few peaches. I took them off so that it can get stronger. It has really burst into growth this year and I've already had to prune it once this month to keep its shape. The smaller fruits are also setting well. It is looking to be a great strawberry year and the currants, gooseberries, and raspberries are doing well too. Sadly the blueberries suffered from all the snow crushing them. Hopefully they will recover.

May Completed

  • May 2, transplanted last succession of Asian green 2E
  • May 3, transplanted zinnias, Brussels sprouts 8W
  • May 6, transplanted lettuce 7E, basil 7E, by driveway, and in front perennial bed
  • May 7, seeded peas 7W, corn 3W, cilantro by driveway
  • May 10, seeded chitted Thai Rai Kaw Tok 3W
  • May 16, planted purchased herbs, 2x Arp rosemary, 2x Hill Hardy rosemary, Berggarten sage, Mojito mint
  • May 18, seeded parsnips turnips 4W
  • May 19, stared rooting sweet potato slips
  • May 20, seeded corn 3E
  • May 21, put footies on Ginger Gold apple to protect from insects, and thinned
  • May 24, reseeded one Thai squash 3W, one broccoli 1W
  • May 24, seeded butternut 3E, coriander 8W, beans 6w
  • May 24, transplanted sweet potato slips CE
  • May 25, seeded second succession of turnips 4W
  • May 28, seeded cucumbers 7W, zucchini 7W
  • Watered 7, 12, 16, 24, 28
  • Weeded all the time
  • Continually tied up espaliered apple and pear trees

Spinach before harvest

Spinach after harvest, tub in the background with four pounds of spinach


Oh the harvests. I've harvested a lot of greens - spinach, bok choy, mizuna, tatsoi, choy sum, chard, kale leaves, kale blossoms, pea shoots, and lettuce. The roots have started to come in too - radishes and turnips. And best of all are the fruits. I've harvested rhubarb. But my heart is stolen by the strawberries. The squirrels and I are competing. The bird netting helps a lot, but they always get some.


I've been very busy preserving this month. For some it might seem strange to prepare for the winter in the springtime. But some harvests are very much spring harvests. Many herbs get dried in May. I've dried thyme, oregano, sage, and tarragon. Spinach is a major spring harvest. This year I had one overwintered bed that got pulled in the first half of the month, but the three spring planted beds have overwhelmed me a bit with all the harvesting, blanching and freezing. In addition I've frozen mizuna, kale, and chard. Though the small bit of chard I froze somehow got mixed in with the spinach. So it is all labeled spinach in my freezer.

Upper left are frozen vacuum sealed packets of greens, lower right the spinach is getting frozen

I'm freezing in a different way this year. Before I've done individual packets. But this year I'm doing packets that have twelve half cup blocks. They take up less space this way and I seriously need more space in the freezer. They are also easier to organize. I freeze the blocks in my mini loaf pan. And the packets are vacuum sealed. This will keep them good for a year. And I need about a year's worth of storage as if my green hold out through the winter I'll be eating them in April still. The garden doesn't really feed me until May. You might notice that my greens packets are brown. I use parchment paper to keep the greens from touching the plastic. I wish I had a good way of storing massive amounts of greens without plastic, but stainless steel is too expensive and glass is too bulky. I use glass to freeze things that are rotated through a lot, like broth or frozen meals, but greens get stuck in plastic still.

Tally of what is in storage from the garden for 2015


  • Kale - 14.5 cups
  • Mizuna - 17 cups
  • Spinach - 36 cups


  • Rhubarb butter 5 half pints

June To Do

  • Plant successions of lettuce (every two weeks) and turnips (every week)
  • Start plants of broccoli and other fall brassicas
  • Figure out what fall brassicas I want before I have to seed them
  • Continue freezing greens
  • Pull spinach, baby Asian greens, and the early lettuce and radishes to make way for summer crops
  • Plant corn, squash, and melons
  • Stake outside rows of corn early before they blow over
  • Thin peach tree
  • Pull oldest strawberries when they finish producing
  • Build trellis for the cucumbers once they start to run
  • Pull sage in center of herb garden and put rosemary there, add parsley
  • Weed!

This post is part of the Garden Share Collective hosted by Lizzie at Strayed From the Table.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Weeds and the Kale Bed

I've been doing a lot of weeding over the last couple of days. Mainly because we had one coolish day. Yesterday I didn't need to rush to open all my windows early in the morning to cool down the house, then watch the weather and when it started to heat up, close all those windows and the blinds to keep the cool air in. I could keep the windows open all day long and listen to the birds sing. And be in the garden without overheating.

This morning I had a different kind of weeding. My neighbors have a tree that neither of us like particularly. I've been invited over in the past to cut it down when I asked. But it is persistent. I forgot last fall, so this year it is pretty big. I cut off all the branches that were overhanging my fence. Which really is good enough for now.

The straightest sticks of a decent diameter (not too large, not too small), I kept for stakes. They aren't perfectly straight like my bamboo, but not bad.

This morning I pulled off the row cover to my kale and cabbage bed so I could pick the kale. While I was under there I checked out the rest of the bed.

I'm trialing three early cabbages side by side this year. Point One is supposedly a very quick cabbage from Pinetree. I didn't give them as much space as the others. They are supposed to be small and quick. This and the others were planted 46 days ago. They say it is ready in 48. I'm not buying it. But they have started heading up. As you can see it is a pointed head type of cabbage. As is the next one. I have four of these and they are all at the exact same stage. They are a very pretty blue green.

Early Jersey Wakefield is listed at at 63 days. Like the previous cabbage, it has barely started to head up. I planted three of this variety and they are all exactly alike.

The last one is the only round cabbage in the bunch. It is Golden Acre. It is listed at 62 days. This one looks like it is the farthest ahead of all the cabbages. True to its name it is a slightly yellowish cabbage and looks really pretty.

The problem is of the three Golden Acre that I planted, two look like this. This is damage from cutworms. If they can't cut something off at the soil level, they will climb the plants. They like to get into the center and eat that as it is the most tender. I'm not sure if the two plants can recover.

I intercrop turnips in my cabbages. If the cutworms are there, they usually go after the turnips as the turnips are so tender. They leave the cabbages alone. Sadly they really like the Golden Acre. To be fair to the cabbage though it has been the worst cutworm season ever in this garden. I used to have really bad cutworms all the time at my last house, but here they don't seem to be as prevalent. Except this year. I might have to start planting in cutworm collars again.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Images That Make Me Happy

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

Butternut squash

Spinach bed before picking in the morning

Parsley in the early morning sunlight

Ditto for peas

Sage and chives in full bloom

Chard that was picked just five days ago

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

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

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

Strawberries ripening

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 28, 2015

This and That

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Thinking Ahead . . . Or Not

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

5+ pounds of spinach

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

Second bed after picking

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

Harvest Monday, 25 May 2015


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

Mizuna and choy sum

Spinach from the three beds


One of two bok choy pickings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Planting Sweet Potatoes

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

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

Garden in the early morning

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fruit Tree Protection

Santa Rosa Weeping plum

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

Ginger Gold apple

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

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

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

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

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