Monday, June 27, 2016

Harvest Monday 27 June 2016

The Green Beauty snow peas are blooming so I should have peas soon.

And sometimes the view of your neighbor's weedy plot is actually pleasant. This bee definitely likes it. And speaking of weeds, just ignore any that slip into my pictures. By the time you read this the "gardener" will have removed them.

There are still a lot of greens coming from the garden, although the spinach is about done. The onions are some of the excess Copra seedlings that I planted closely together along the edge of the onion squares.

These two small heads are the first of the Natacha escarole to be harvested.  I could not remove one without the other, so two. They were pretty nice with no slug damage.

I harvested my first Webb's Wonderful crisphead and it was very nice, just a little tip burn and a few baby slugs. It is a little tougher than an Iceberg lettuce but still nice and much fresher. I saved some of the outer leaves that weren't slug damaged and found they go well with a sandwich. I just need some tomatoes now for my BLT.

The kohlrabies are sizing up fast now. I am saving these to try making kraut. I may add a few of the radishes to the kraut for color.

A second crisphead was harvested later in the week. It is getting hot here and remains dry so I do not want them to bolt on me.

Finally, the rest of the garlic scapes were ready to harvest. The German Extra Hardy, a large garlic, was first a week ago and had nice sized scapes. This week harvesting the other varieties, I found it interesting that the size of the scape has nothing to do with the eventual size of the bulb. The German Red, my largest garlic by far, had smaller scapes (both length and diameter) than the other varieties. But the stems on the German Red are huge, indicating a large bulb is going to await me at harvest. I guess it is putting its energy where it does (me) the most good, into the bulbs.

That was the harvest for the week, but I did take a few kale leaves from each variety just to compare them. They will eventually wind up in a beans, sausage and kale dish this week.

Nero di Toscano or Dinosaur kale. The leaves are a dark green/gray color. This is a good kale for use in salads and is supposed to be very cold hardy (although that is not my personal experience).

This is Nash's Green, a selection of Nash Huber from his farm in Washington state. It is described as a tall kale but it is the shortest one of three in my garden. The color variation is interesting. Some leaves are lime green with a yellowish stem, while others show some of the blue shades found on the rear of all leaves.

The Red Ursa kale is a knockout, a beautiful, vigorous plant. Leaves vary from green to blue, all with purple stems and veins. I think this one is going to be a favorite of mine.

OK, this is not actually a kale, or is it? This is Spigariello liscia, a plant that doesn't know what it is. Technically, I think it is a broccoli, but a broccoli where you eat the leaves. Brilliant, because in this climate I am expert at growing broccoli leaves but not so good at getting broccoli heads I can eat. So to heck with the heads, lets eat leaves. And it is looking like I will get a lot from my four plants.

That's what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, visit Dave at Our Happy  Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Harvest Monday 20 June 2016

A little more diversity in the harvest. I pulled a couple of the kohlrabies and after chilling them, I peeled and sliced them for a lunch with hummus. I added some sliced radishes to pad out the meal. My wife actually liked everything. Both the kohlrabi and radishes were sweet and juicy and the hummus tamed any spice in the radishes.

A  bunch of radishes picked last week, but not all. I found half as many still in the harvest bag. The lone whitish radish is Zlata, one of the two I will harvest this year. I didn't purchase new seeds and found just a few seeds left in the packet, of which two germinated. Oh well, more room for Champion red radishes.

I got a large cutting of spinach. Several of the plants look like they are ready to bolt but the rest are still putting out new leaves. I am happy with anything I get. We had a spinach salad with strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette Friday, and I finally had enough left to just have steamed spinach with the steak tips I grilled on Saturday. Strawberry shortcake for dessert.

The garlic is finally starting to produce scapes. This cutting is mostly from the German Extra Hardy. Next will be the Chesnok Red and German Red. The tiny scapes are from some of the volunteer clusters of garlic around the garden produced when gardeners failed to harvest scapes and dead head the flowers. I consider it my civic duty to prevent further profligate behavior by their garlic.

Around the garden, the Flash collards are starting to put on some growth and I may have a harvest soon.

The Golden Acre cabbage is still looking good and has not yet been assaulted by flea beetles, cabbage caterpillars or slugs. Still looks like it is not quite ready to form heads but is thinking about it. Saturday I did see a white butterfly floating around the garden so I need to keep an eye out for caterpillars. We had a few butterflies in the spring but none since until the new one showed up. Maybe they won't be so bad this year.

The Minuet Napa cabbage is definitely starting to form heads all by itself. With the Soloist cabbages, I had to use twine to tie up the heads so they would blanch, but Minuet is doing it on its own. It has interesting ruffled leaves.

This is Webb's  Wonderful crisphead, looking like it is getting ready to be harvested. I have never grown a crisphead so I have no experience with when they are ready and when they are bolting. I probably will cut a head next week to see what I have.

The Winter Density Romaine lettuces are are also forming nice sized heads. The escarole behind them are also getting quite large and should be ready to harvest soon.

That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners from around the world are harvesting, visit Dave at Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Harvest Monday 13 Jun 2016

I finally got around to weeding the raised beds. As a nice surprise, in the radish bed I found some radishes that were ready to be pulled. These are D'Avignon (French breakfast type) and Celesta cherry. A lot of the radish seeds did not germinate during our dry spring so I re-seeded the blank spots. If you look at the leaves, you can see extensive flea beetle damage, but it did not affect the roots.

The spinach and chard are now growing rapidly. I made another cutting and disposed of the leaves with leaf miner damage, which is not too bad at this point.

The mustards are now growing quickly, outgrowing the flea beetles. Left is Green Wave and right is Komatsuna. These went into a typical Southern braise with bacon fat, served with stuffed pork chops.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

SFG Seeding Square - New Toy

My main garden is a raised bed garden which follows the late Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening principles. It was developed in the US so it uses English measures based on 12 inches to a foot. The beds are divided into "squares" or square foot sections and plants are planted in squares based on their space requirements. Plants are planted in a grid with 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, or 16 per square. If a plant requires 3 inch spacing, for example a radish or carrot, it is planted in a grid of 16 plants per square. Beets and bush beans are planted nine per square, giving them 4 inch spacing.

The Square Foot Gardening method is superior from a number of perspectives. It makes highly efficient use of space in the garden, important to me because of my small garden. It makes garden planing and layout simple. The Mel's Mix soil blend is light and friable. It dries out quickly in the spring so you can plant earlier, and it is easy to weed. When planting seeds, all you need to do is mark out the planting pattern on the squares and plant. I usually use my finger and an approximation of the spacing. Then I ran across this device on Amazon.

This is the Seeding Square, a very clever device that makes it simple to layout the garden. This was funded by a kickstarter campaign and is manufactured in Canada from a very tough plastic. It is washable and waterproof, so it won't be ruined if you leave it out in the rain. One device accommodates all spacing and planting depths. It is flat, easy to store, and comes with a plastic zipper case. The planting patterns are color coded and it comes with a planting guide, a combination dibble/seeder, and a funnel. The dibble is marked in inches and has an embedded magnet to store it in the slot when not in use.

The shape of the device is like a pizza box. The raised sides are pressed into the soil, marking out the sides of the squares. The funnel stores underneath when not using.

The Seeding Square is started in the corner to align with the sides of the bed. The dibble is used to make planting holes at the necessary depth. If you want to use the seeding funnel, you can now plant your seeds.

Here I am planting this bed with bush beans, with a 9 per square spacing (the yellow holes). The squares and 2 inch holes were quickly laid out. Given the size of the bean seeds I did not use the funnel and chose to insert them with my fingers. The column to the left was planted with pole beans that will be trellised. For them, I use an 8 per square spacing, just the inner two rows of red circles.

When planting carrots, the funnel definitely was handy. Above I am seeding carrots in the space allocated to the now sadly deceased shallot plants. The small size of the carrot seed and the relatively shallow depth of planting hole makes the use of the funnel very handy. Two days of planting have proven the Seeding Square very handy and well worth the somewhat pricey $29 US.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Harvest Monday 6 June 2016

I have been out of touch for the past week while we drove to St. Louis to attend my niece's wedding, which was inconveniently scheduled for Memorial Day weekend. That is prime planting season around here and I had to leave my tomato and pepper plants in the care of my son, who did an excellent job keeping the thirsty plants hydrated. Unfortunately the plants grew so tall that half had their growing tips singed off by the heat of the grow lamps. There are suckers showing on most so I am counting on them recovering.

On my first trip to the garden in a week, the garden looked fine but definitely needed some weeding and watering. I found the spinach and chard ready to harvest, my first harvest this year. The spade shaped, lighter green leaves are Tyee, while the darker green, round leaves are Escalade spinach. The container lettuces on the deck are ready and are harvested as needed, so I did not photograph them.

The garlic is still looking good and I can see a few scapes starting to form on the larger ones, so it will be scape season soon.

The onions are definitely doing well. I planted them late, several weeks after I received them, as they were beginning to break dormancy. The result seems to be a better start than last year, when they were planted earlier while still dormant. This year the onion plants from Dixondale were uniformly larger than last year's plants and I am quite pleased with the purchase. A lot simpler than starting from seed.

The Takrima leeks that I did I grow from seed look established and are starting to grow. The shallots did not do well at all and seem to have disappeared. No shallots this year.

The cabbages are doing well despite the flea beetles. At the top is Golden Acre, a traditional, open-pollinated cabbage that can be grown in one square foot of space. At the bottom are the Minuet Napa cabbages, showing more flea beetle damage because they do not have the waxy leaf surface that tends to discourage the beetles.

The kohlrabi were only slightly affected by flea beetles and are starting to size up. This is Azur Star.

This bed contains some of the greens. The rightmost column is Webb's Wonderful crisphead, and I am pleased with how they look. Maybe I will harvest my first head lettuce this year. Next is a column of Winter Density Romaine. The leftmost column has escarole at the bottom and endives at the top.

I spent Saturday in the garden and got some weeding done. I put in the Ashley cucumber plants and half of the tomatoes and peppers. I also seeded the bush and pole beans. So the raised bed garden is essentially complete for now. Next I have to start prepping the other plot I garden to receive the rest of the peppers and tomatoes and seed the summer squash. That plot already has the kale and broccoli plants and they did fine in my absence. Just minor flea beetle damage and so far no cabbage caterpillars.

That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Dave at Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Garden Update - End of May 2016

The Solomon Seals my wife planted last year in the back of the hosta bed are up and blooming. We have lots of False Solomon Seal growing wild around the yard but I have never seen a Solomon Seal around here. When pollinated each flower will produce a small blue-black berry. The False Solomon Seal flowers at the end of the stem and produces a cluster of red berries.

In the community garden, now that it almost June I finally got all of the cool weather crops transplanted or seeded. What remains to do is plant the warm weather crops (beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash). That will happen the first week of June after I return from a visit to St. Louis for my niece's wedding next weekend. I still have to prepare the beds in the in-ground plot for the tomatoes and peppers, but otherwise I am all set to do it when I get back.

The tomatoes are potted up and under the grow lights. They are looking good and should hold for another two weeks before being set out in the garden. The weather here is still pretty unsettled. You can see that after declaring a disaster, I managed to get enough seedlings started to meet my needs, except for Sunkist, where only 1 of 10 seeds germinated. The current inventory (out of 6 planned seedlings for each variety):

  • 4 Bing
  • 5 Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye
  • 3 Black Beauty
  • 1 Sunkist
  • 5 Sweet Treats
  • 4 Rose de Berne
  • 5 Jaune Flamme
  • 3 Honey Drop
  • 6 Juliet
  • 4 Black Cherry (purchased)
Since I have room for 28 tomatoes, I will have to select from the above for my garden and try to give the rest away.

All of the peppers are potted up and doing well under the lights. I did have a complete failure of the Carmen seeds to germinate and I killed a few of the Super Shepherd plants, but I did pretty well with the rest. I am also missing the Tiburon Anchos I planned because I simply forgot to order seeds. Jalapeno plants will just be purchased. Here is the inventory:

4 Hungarian Paprika
2 Super Shepherd
6 Jimmy Nardello
5 Lemon Drop
6 Revolution

A couple of the Lemon Drop peppers are going into containers I will bring inside in hopes of extending the season. A big problem will be whether there is enough light for them in the winter.

The cruciferous flea beetles have found my uncovered brassicas. Fortunately they have not yet bothered the waxy leaved plants like the Golden Acre cabbage and the kohlrabi. But they have found the mustards and are feasting on them. I did one spraying of Spinosad but that did not bother them. Pyrethrin is next to try. I usually alternate those two sprays to try to avoid building up immunity. My radishes are starting to emerge in another bed so I need to get that covered before they find them.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Harvest Monday 16 May 2016

First harvest comes from cleaning out the beds for the new growing season. These are some volunteer bunching onions scattered around the garden after I failed to deadhead one of their ancestors. These were timely because I had some meals planned, both Mexican and Chinese, that called for scallions.

Last September I showed the innovative trellising techniques used by Mr. Yin, our intrepid Chinese gardener. This picture shows the elaborate trellising method he used to get his winter melon vines to grow vertically. He also had to support the melons somehow, in this case with a large rock placed under the melon to support it and keep it off the ground.

Last week he gifted me this huge winter melon he grew in the gardens. It weighed in at over 7 pounds. What do you do with winter melon (also known as ash gourd or white gourd)? You make soup.

First step is to cut the melon (or gourd) in half with a very sturdy knife. The rind or skin is really a thick, rigid, plastic-like shell that is very hard to cut. In Chinese supermarkets, winter melon is often sold pre-cut into wedges

Next step is to remove the seeds and pulp with a scoop. The seeds are black and very large.

Next I cut the halves into wedges and removed the shell. The shell or rind is very thick and rigid and I was able to just pull the flesh out from the shell. Then the flesh is cut into small cubes for the soup. For the soup, prepare a rich chicken or pork broth flavored with some fresh ginger. The melon cubes are cooked in the broth 45-60 minutes until they are tender. Add some slivered Black Forest ham and shiitake mushrooms and a sliced scallion.

The result is a simple dish with a range of contrasts, visual and tactile. The winter melon does not add a lot of flavor. It is not entirely flavorless, having a subtle melon taste. What it offers in the soup is a velvety texture that is a contrast to the chewiness of the mushrooms and ham. The translucent whiteness of the melon also contrasts with the earthy brown mushrooms and the red of the ham. Just a simple, elegant dish that is very easy to make.

That is all my nascent garden produced last week. To see what other gardeners are coaxing from their gardens, visit Dave at Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

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