Monday, August 22, 2016

Harvest Monday 22 August 2016


The drought continues despite our getting about an inch of rain last week. I am getting a few small harvests here and there. It is no big deal for me but some of the small farmers around here are going to be hurt. A freak -15F freeze in the middle of 70F weather in February wiped out the peach crop in New England. And some of the orchards are having to irrigate their apple trees for the first time in recent history. Surprisingly the corn is pretty good. Ears are much longer than usual and they are very sweet. But a neighbor up the street who grows a field of corn to sell has corn stalks at knee level in mid-August because he can not irrigate.

The patty pan squash is a Sunburst which is supposed to have a central green spot in the center around the blossom end, but the green has bled out of the center.

I harvested the last two Golden Acre cabbages because their quality was not improving, cooking away in the sun. In addition, the cabbage caterpillars seem to have made their appearance and were chewing on one of them.

The Swiss chard has rebounded with the rain and slightly cooler weather. The coloring on Pink Passion is more attractive than earlier. Some of the leaves do have cercospora spots on them.

I am harvesting tomatoes as soon as they color a little to avoid loss to the birds and chipmunks. I have talked to other gardeners who are having the same problem. The big tomato above is my one and only Mortgage Lifter, an impulse purchase. That plant is not going to pay my mortgage, but so far it is my largest tomato.

More tomatoes. The birds have really attacked my Black Beauty tomatoes so I am removing most of them. One I picked earlier is now showing some red on its green areas. The black color comes from exposure to sunlight so the undersides are green. Apparently the green will turn to red as they ripen. And to top off a smashing year, late blight has arrived and is affecting most of the tomato plants.

The Pink Berkeley Tie Dye I picked green is now almost ripe after sitting on the kitchen counter.  The colors are very attractive, random green stripes on a pink background.

The peppers are happy enough that they are starting to flower. This is Lemon Drop.

Likewise for the Ancho Poblano peppers. They are now almost a meter tall and starting to flower.

Sunday I started some dill pickles fermenting. I had to buy the pickling cukes from a farm stand since my cucumber vines are mostly dead. The garlic and dill seed are from my garden, however. And the grape leaves covering them and in the bottom came from wild grapes in the back yard.

I am also trying a lacto-fermentation of garlic cloves, hoping I can preserve some more of my garlic harvest. This is a quart jar slightly more than half full. It was a tedious job to peel all that garlic, even using a silicone rubber tube designed to peel garlic. The brine is just a basic brine: 2 cups (450 ml) of unchlorinated water and 1 1/2 Tbsp (26 .) of sea salt. The brine looks cloudy in the photo because I added a teaspoon of whey to get the fermentation started. Garlic does not produce a raucous ferment and will need to ferment for about a month.

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

PS I was planning to post this early Monday morning but we had a freak storm go through the area at 3 AM. They are not sure if tornadoes or microbursts were involved, but whatever, it took put a tree down in my driveway and across the power lines. So no power until  9 AM. And we did get a lot of rain in a very short time, which will definitely help.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Monday, August 15, 2016

Harvest Monday 15 August 2016

The garden benefited a bit from a few thunderstorms that dropped a little rain. These were mostly small storm cells that produced a quick shower that just evaporated immediately. We had one downpour on Friday that resulted in 1-2 inches, but a lot of that ran off the dry ground and prompted flash flood alerts. So the drought continues and daytime temperatures remain mid-90s to 100+ (35-40°C). The garden is still producing a little while  I still wait (apparently with everyone else) for peppers and tomatoes.


The Revolution bell peppers are starting to produce fruit. The peppers in general are doing the best in these conditions but are taking their time. The plants are stocky with lots of healthy foliage. However, they do not have a lot of time because that first killing frost is maybe 6-8 weeks away. A few of the tomatoes are starting to color, but unfortunately that is causing attacks by the birds. I doubt they are finding many wild berries in these dry conditions,. I picked a green tomato with a bird peck since it will just rot if left on the vine. I also picked the one next to it which was showing some coloring to see if I could ripen it on the counter.

This is a Pink Berkeley Tie-dye starting to show its green stripes. I am really looking forward to trying one of these so I need to try deploying some bird netting. The marketing hype on these says that 10 out of 10 customers at a farmers market taste-off preferred the flavor of these to Cherokee Purple. And so far other than the bird pecks, the fruits are perfect, no cracks or cat-facing or BER.

The Black Beauty tomatoes continue to size up but I still have no idea when one is ripe. I have tried squeezing them gently but so far they are all rock hard. The birds did attack these as well, eating half a mid-size tomato. That tomato's insides were green at the stem end and slightly pink at the blossom end, so no where near ripe.


These are the first two of my flea-bitten Golden Acre cabbages.  This is an heirloom compact cabbage that can be grown in a square foot, which makes it perfect for raised bed gardens. The cabbage on the right was my target since it had formed a dense head. Then I noticed the cabbage on the left had developed an elongated head and I was worried that was a sign of bolting, so it was harvested as well. They weighed a pound and a quarter and a pound and a half (.57 and .68 kg.), which is a nice size for home use. Initially the flea beetles were not a problem because they don't like the waxy surface of the leaves. But once their preferred targets were harvested or killed by the drought, they developed a new fondness for cabbage leaves, but damage was mostly to the edges of the outer leaves.


I declared the Red Wing onions to be done. They have not flopped but the foliage was looking sad and thrip-damaged, so I pulled them and laid them out to cure a few days in the sun. This happened last year with the Red Zeppelin onions. The red onions always take much longer than yellow to mature. Dixondale Farms says 100-120 days for Red Wing, 110 days for Copra. Both are long-day varieties which require long daylight hours to develop bulbs, which starts when the days shorten. They also warn that Red Wing requires a minimum of 15-hour days to bulb, which is no problem here. We get 15+ hour days in June and now in August that has dropped to 14 hours.


The Copra onions harvested a few weeks ago were cleaned and trimmed and put away in the basement. They were not particularly big, which is not surprising given the dry conditions, but they were very health. Thirty-one onions from 6 squares weighed in at 5.44 pounds (2.5 kg). I am thinking I will plant more onions next year so I produce more of my onion needs. I wasted a lot of garden space and my time trying to grow crops like beans, peas and turnips that failed in these dry conditions. Onions have been more reliable.

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

Monday, August 8, 2016

Harvest Monday 8 August 2016

This will be a short post this week, being away in Maine for a week on a windjammer cruise. The garden is in-between the cool weather crops and the summer crops. I am still waiting for tomatoes, peppers and squash to arrive. I expected to see baseball bats lying among the squash plants when I got back but there were none to be found. At least the Romanesco has a couple of male flowers on it. I also expected to see a few ripe cherry tomatoes but there were none. Since it is almost mid-August, I wonder how much of anything I will be getting. It was dry last week except for a few quick showers that provided no real relief since the water quickly evaporates. My son did help me by watering, keeping the plants alive and healthy.


A last trip to the garden before I left produced a few goodies which went in to the refrigerator. I got my first Dunja zucchini and the first Sunburst squash. A lot of the Hungarian Paprika peppers ripened enough to harvest, since I didn't want to trust leaving them on the plants for a week. I also got a first batch of the Amarylla yellow tomatillos and a few Jalapenos.

I checked out the garden on Sunday and found a few things. The Super Shepherd peppers had a few ripe ones that were suffering from sunscald, so I harvested them. The Helda pole beans yielded a few beans, which might be most of my bean crop for the year. The cucumbers are diseased yet again, despite being planted in a new spot, but we got a couple stunted ones. It is not bacterial wilt that is causing the problem and I have not yet seen a cucumber beetle this season. I also got another ripe Hungarian Paprika pepper so it is time to fire up the dehydrator this week.

That's what happened in my garden the past two weeks. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Dave at OurHappyAcres, our host for Harvest Monday.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Garlic Harvest 2016

I had the feeling that 2016 for me was a good garlic year. Now that the garlic is cured and cleaned up, I can weigh it and see what actually happened. And the tally seems to indicate it was indeed a good year for most of my garlic. I planted the same amount, five varieties getting 4 squares each, planted 4 per square foot for a total of about 80 bulbs (8 pounds). The Chesnok Red actually got only 3 squares, planted 5 per square because of its small size.

What did differ was Spanish Roja, which had been a great garlic for me, was not planted this year when I could not find the seed garlic I thought I had reserved. So it was replaced by Philips, a garlic named after a town in Maine where it was grown, but with Italian heritage via upstate New York. I found it at the MDI Garlic Festival. Spanish Roja had a bad crop the year before and I was going to give it another year.  I may grow Spanish Roja again someday with new purchased seed stock.

If you want to read about my 2015 harvest, those comments are in this post. To read comments made when I planted this crop in 2015, go here. And here are the 2016 harvest results.

The total harvest this year was 8.2 pounds (3.7kg.) versus last year at 7.8 pounds (3.5kg.). Not that much bigger in pounds but the garlic this year is far healthier and dried very well compared to last year's crop. Some of that is due to weather, but I also learned a few tricks from trying to dry and process the 2015 crop in very humid conditions. I harvested when the ground was bone dry and pulled some a little early when it looked  like rain (it didn't). That meant the bulbs were dry to start and didn't retain a lot of soil. Drying started in the garage but when the humidity soared, I moved them into the basement with a dehumidifier. They dried nicely this year and cleanup was easy.

Apparently I was not going to plant Chesnok Red this year because of its increasingly small size, replaced by the Philips garlic, but then at planting time I could not find the seed garlic for Spanish Roja. Well, I am happy I did plant this because it did very well this year. Average bulb weight this year was 1.5 ounces, up from 2015's 1 ounce. Total harvest from 3 squares weighed 23 ounces compared to 15 ounces last year. This garlic variety has small bulbs to begin with, but the smaller size also translates into improved storage life. Just last week I retrieved a couple of bulbs from the bin in the basement and most of the cloves were still usable one year after harvest. Pretty good for a hard neck. This is a Purple Stripe garlic and this year is really beautiful with its purple wrapper.

This is the second year for the purple stripe garlic, Duganski, in my garden. When I first planted it in 2014 I was upset with the seed garlic from Territorial because it was obviously harvested late and the bulbs had opened up and skins were peeling off the individual cloves. The harvest in 2015 turned out OK despite that and this year is improved. I harvested 28 ounces compared to 26 in 2015, and average size improved from 1.6 ounces to 1.7.

I purchased German Red, a Rocambole garlic, at the MDI Garlic Festival in 2014 so this is the second year for it in the garden. It is a big garlic, with about four huge cloves per bulb. Last year my largest bulb was a whopper at 4 ounces, while this year's largest was only 3 ounces. But total weight increased from 35 ounces to 37 ounces, while average size decreased from 2.8 ounces to 2.3 ounces. This one does not keep well so it has to be used quickly.

German Extra Hardy, a porcelain type, was one of my first garlics and a reliable producer. Last year was a bad year, however, and it produced a small harvest. I planted it anyway last fall, but discovered on planting day that a lot of the seed stock I had set aside was bad. As a result, I dipped into some bulbs I held in reserve but only had 13 cloves to plant. Well, it really must have been a good year for garlic because this variety did very well in 2016, producing 21 ounces from 13 bulbs versus last year's 20 ounces from 17 bulbs. That is an average 1.6 ounce bulb size compared to 1.2 ounces last year.

Philips is new in the garden this year, another Rocambole garlic that I purchased from Salty Dog Farm at the MDI Garlic Festival. This is a Maine heirloom garlic that is a little hard to find. It has a reputation of being a relatively good keeper for a Rocambole, which made it attractive. It did pretty well but there was a big variation in bulb size. I am not sure why that happened, maybe some of the planted cloves were small? At any rate, next years seed stock gets selected from the largest bulbs so hopefully it will adapt to the conditions in my garden.

The garlic harvest does seem to indicate this was a good year for garlic after last year's poor results. All of the varieties I had concern about did very well this year, so it had to be the conditions last year. The MDI Garlic Festival is definitely in the plans for this year, made even better by the co-location of a KC-sanctioned BBQ contest. I may also try to get to the Vermont Garlic Festival the weekend before. So now the garlic has been cleaned, weighed and reported and I can now begin to enjoy it and preserve some of it. There is nothing like fresh garlic.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Harvest Monday 25 July 2016

I pulled the rest of the beets and radishes. There are a few beet and turnip seedlings left in the beds but I don't know how they will do with the relentless heat and dry conditions. The jalapenos are starting to produce, since it has been hot but not so hot to cause the pepper blossoms to drop.

I also harvested the last of the Napa cabbages. They were small but dense and the two together weighed over 2 pounds (about a kilo). Not a lot of slug damage on them, so maybe the dry conditions are dispatching some of the slugs. I also took the rest of the kohlrabi since they were not looking happy and I didn't want them bolting on me.

 The Copra yellow onions flopped over, so they were pulled and are now drying for storage. Most are pretty good size, so it looks like a good year for them. The Red Wing red onions always take a few more weeks to mature so they are still in the garden and being watered, along with the leeks.

The two large Alpine Korean radishes I harvested last week were turned into this jar of kkakdugi, a fermented kimchi made from radishes. It is often found among the small banchan dishes served with a meal at Korean restaurants and is quite tasty. I used a recipe from Maangchi's new cookbook, Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking, which I highly recommend, and you can find her videos on the Internet. I essentially made a half batch which easily filled a quart jar.

I peeled and diced two pounds of radishes and tossed them with 1 Tbsp. (14 g.) each of sea salt and sugar. Let the radishes sit for an hour, then pour off and save the juice. Toss the radishes with 3-4 cloves minced garlic, small piece of minced ginger, 2-3 chopped scallions, about 12 g. gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) or more to taste, about 1 ounce (30 ml) of fish sauce, and enough of the reserved juice to moisten the mixture. Pack it tightly into a wide mouth jar, cover and let sit for a day or overnight. Then store in the refrigerator.

Maangchi's cookbook has some other interesting kimchi recipes. I liked the looks of the stuffed  cucumbers, small cucumbers quartered lengthwise and stuffed with a mix of shredded carrot, chives, onion, garlic and gochugaru. Another interesting one is Nabak-kimchi, or vegetable-and-fruit-water kimchi, which combines Napa with sliced cucumbers, apples, radishes, carrots and fresh chilies. I think a jar of that is in my future.

The harvest this week was mostly about salvaging what I can from the cool weather crops in the garden. The tomatoes, peppers, summer squash,  and to some extent the beans, are doing OK with the weather and the amount of watering I can do. Everything else is dead or dying with the heat and drought we have been having. I know, I have already complained about the drought, but the situation is, my garden is dead except the crops I mentioned above. On June 8 we had one rain of about 1 inch, and no appreciable rain since.

We normally get about 4 inches of rain a month, 48-53 inches a year. Looking at weather records from a Weather Underground station a mile from me, we have gotten 12.5 inches of precipitation in the first 7 months, putting  us down about 16 inches. There were 4 precipitation events of 1 inch size and another 3 half-inch events. The rest were fractions of an inch, amounts that just evaporated when they hit the hot ground. I say events, not rain, because two of the 1 inch events were snow in January and February. We had very little snow last winter, so there was not a lot of snow melt to fill the reservoirs.

Making things worse for some parts of  Massachusetts south of here, there is a gypsy moth cycle going on that started last year and has seen some of the worst damage since the huge infestation in 1981. The dry weather has suppressed the fungi that normally attacks the caterpillars and keeps them in check. And the drought has severely stressed the trees, so the defoliation by the caterpillars may mean the loss of many of them.

I will probably miss next week's Harvest Monday post. We will be on the Schooner Heritage out of Rockland, Maine, making a run up to Mount Desert Island. On Tuesday we will be part of a tall ships parade up Somes Sound as part of the summer-long festivities around Acadia National Park's 100th birthday. This will be our first windjammer cruise, but I can see myself doing this every year. We are also planning to go up again in September for the MDI Garlic Festival, which this year includes a KC-sanctioned BBQ contest.

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

Monday, July 18, 2016

Harvest Monday 18 July 2016

It has been pretty hot and dry, enough to cause this brown bat to move out of its apartment and hang out on the cool concrete wall of the garage in the shade under the deck. It is hanging upside down, you can see its ears at the bottom. I wonder what it is eating? It is so dry I don't remember seeing a mosquito this year, nor a single black fly or deer fly. But I have already had two deer tick bites, ouch, and this is prime Lyme disease territory.

How dry is it? We are in one of the worst droughts we have had in awhile. I can not find the rainfall amounts for Bolton, seems they are a secret. I did find one article that said Worcester (city or county not specified) had 6.5 inches (17 cm) of rain since January 1st. Consider that includes snow fall and that number is astounding. We get an average of 4+ inches (10 cm) of rain per month (48-53 inches/1.2-1.35 m per year). For the first half of the year we have received 1/4 our normal rainfall, and a lot of that was snow during the winter.

 I really need to water the garden every day but can not always get there. It takes me two hours to water the two plots, but that does not do as thorough a job as a day long soaking rain. Most plants are getting stressed. The peas look poorly and all of the greens and brassicas are hating this weather. The harvest this week reflects the need to get things out of the garden before they are ruined. So lots of root vegetables and greens.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Harvest Monday 11 July 2016

The weather last week remained dry. While hot on Monday it cooled off for the rest of the week and some mornings were quite chilly. This was caused by some cold front that was supposed to bring rain, but while we got lots of clouds and even some lightning, the result was a few tenths of an inch. All this is going to do is wet the foliage and raise humidity, raising the potential for disease higher, while doing little for the roots.

I'm still getting a few Atlantis shoots. I am wondering how much of this stuff do I have to plant to get a reasonable harvest. I keep it in the refrigerator until I get enough for two servings. The rest of this harvest went into a batch of salsa made with canned tomatoes, since it will be awhile until those first tomatoes arrive (and they will not be going into salsa).

Above are two of the heads of Blue Wind broccoli. They were starting to open up so I harvested them. I also clipped off the growing tip off a Spigariello liscia that was headed straight up rather than branching. It has a mild flavor but the leaves are a bit tough, like a kale, or like a broccoli leaf.

The big harvest last week was the garlic. I grow hardneck garlic and follow the rule of digging them when 40-50% of the leaves turn brown or yellow. The remaining green leaves dry and form the wrapper that protects the cloves, so you can't wait until all leaves are brown. Another consideration was the weather. We were looking at potentially several days of rain, so I chose to dig them last week while everything was dry. First out was the German Red, second to produce scapes and second to be harvested.

The next day I dug the rest: Chesnok Red, Philips, and Duganski. It is looking like a good year for garlic. Even the Chesnok Red produced large heads this year. The next step is to cure the garlic without mold forming. Last year teh ground was wet and it was very humid, so drying in the garage did not work well. This year the garlic is in the shed and when the volatiles subside a little (right now it is almost eye watering in the shed), I may move them into the basement where we run a dehumidifier.

Finally, given how dry it has been, I decided to try sprouting some Jade bush beans in a paper towel rather than reseeding. It took 3-4 days for sprouts to start emerging. On a couple of these, the root is actually too long and I had to handle them carefully to avoid breaking off the brittle root. Out of 50+ seeds in the paper towel, I found about a dozen that were sprouted or near to sprouting. These were packed for 2013, so I guess I will be buying new seed next year. It is a little disappointing finding that bean seeds aren't viable for longer than a few years, although Jade has always had slow and poor germination compared to Provider.

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

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