Monday, July 21, 2014

Harvest Monday 21 July 2014

As a little reminder of how nasty last winter was, the local paper says that the selectmen are dealing with a budget deficit from last winter when the highway department had to treat roads for 45 separate storms, the most in Bolton history. We are now having a spell of great summer weather. It did rain Tuesday and Wednesday , but except for that daytime temperatures have been in the 80s and overnight temperatures in the 60s. The garden has responded by putting on a growth spurt. The warm weather vegetables are close to yielding large amounts of veggies while the cool weather vegetables have bolted or shut down. Tomatoes and peppers look very healthy and the summer squash and beans are about to deliver.




I harvested the first Soloist Chinese cabbage. After removing chewed up outer leaves and de-slugging it, it weighed in at 2.5 pounds. This was supposed to be a miniature cabbage. Half of this went into an Asian Cole slaw for the Sunday BBQ. Since I have garlic chives in the garden, I’m thinking the rest goes into dumplings.


The last broad beans were harvested and I pulled out the plants, along with the peas. I got about a half cup of shelled beans total out of the effort. They were tasty but I am inclined not to waste the space next year. I also pulled a few of the Jaune Boule d’Or turnips which were ready. The freed up pea/fava bed was planted with beets and spinach. The only trouble with seeding raised beds this time of year is I now have to water the seed beds every day or risk getting nothing, the beds dry out so fast.




The first of the warm weather vegetables are making their debut. I picked a handful of Provider bush beans, a few Sishito and Jalapeno peppers, and a Y-Star patty pan. This is first time growing Y-Star and I am not sure what to expect.The catalog pictures show it a golden yellow with a green spot on the blossom end. Mine started out dark green and then gradually turned yellowish. No green spot on the end, and this one was already pretty large for a patty pan so I harvested it. Eating quality was good but I think I’m back to Sunburst next year. I didn’t photograph it but I removed the rest of the Green Wave mustard, which was starting to bolt, and planted escarole and endive in the freed up space.


That’s what happened in my garden this week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Salad Garden





One of the joys of having a garden is enjoying fresh salads from your own garden every day. What makes it less of a joy is having to drive a couple miles to the community garden to pick the lettuce and herbs. Last fall I decided that this year I would use a self-watering planter on the deck to grow lettuces and herbs. What I purchased last year was a system called Citypickers from Home Depot. If you wait until the end of the season as I did, you can often pick these up at clearance for a discount. Lowes has the same system under a different name.




The box is made of sturdy plastic and comes with casters. It has a water reservoir at the bottom of about 5 gallons capacity and a perforated base for the soil. A filler tube on one corner is used to replenish water in the reservoir. The box holds 1.5 cubic feet of planting mix.




I used a standard sterile planting mix consisting of peat moss and perlite. The tedious part is wetting the plating mix in batches and packing it in the box. When you get it filled a couple of inches below the top of the box, dolomitic lime is spread around on the planting mix.





The lime is covered with more planting mix, up to the top edge. Next you add a granulated garden fertilizer. I used Espoma Garden-tone, a 3-4-4 organic vegetable fertilizer. Where this is added depends on what you are planting. Since this box was going to host lettuce plants, I chose to add the fertilizer n a trench dug down the longitudinal  center of the box. The lettuce plants will be inserted on either side of the fertilizer strip.





The boxes are supposed to come with an elasticized plastic cover, but both boxes I purchased were missing the cover. So I substituted plastic cut from compost bags, held on the edges of the box with binder clips. Since the covers need to be replaced every year and no one sells the replacements, this is a far more practical and economical solution. To plant, you cut holes in the plastic cover and insert the plants.




This is what container lettuce looks like. These are New Red Fire and Merlot lettuces, with a glimpse of Jericho at the top. The area top left was destined for Green Ice but I killed the starts. Even without it, I get enough lettuce for a luncheon salad every day, and I dropped off a big bag for the food pantry this morning.


The second box was intended for herbs such as basil, parsley, cilantro, dill and rosemary, but I never had the time to fill the box. Next year I will definitely use the box for herbs. Just like lettuce, it would be nice to go on the back deck and snip some fresh basil or a little cilantro rather than drive a couple miles to fetch it.

Overall the salad planter has been a real success and I will be using it again next year along with the herb planter.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Harvest Monday 14 Jul 2014

Not much from the garden this week after last week’s glut. I cut more chard and picked more peas. The chard  was used in a gratin that my wife ate without complaint, proving that a lot of cheese, butter and garlic can make anything palatable to the picky.




I harvested a head of what I thought was Buttercrunch only to find it was Romaine, which I didn’t know I planted. How strange, it could not have been a volunteer since I planted it. Maybe a stray seed got in the seed packet.




This is Rossa Lunga di Tropea, actually Rossa Lunga di Boltonea since it was not actually grown in Tropea. Don’t want the EU police after me. I donated these to a neighbor gardener’s pot luck potato salad after she spilled her (one and only) diced onion all over the floor.




Daphne harvested her garlic so I thought I better check mine and decided to dig the lot of it. Below is the garlic harvest, five different types, which is now drying in the garage.Some family members are complaining about garlic fumes, but the smell should subside in a few days as they dry. I don’t think it will take the paint off the cars but it will keep the vampires at bay for awhile.




The most impressive harvest was the Spanish Roja garlic, which is new to me this year. It is a rocambole type of hardneck, not a good keeper but it is supposed to have great flavor. The heads were enormous.




Below are twin heads, from a clove I failed to separate completely. It was hard to tell with this particular garlic, so I had several cases of this. I am amazed how large the heads grew while this close together.




And this was a case of planting the clove upside down. The flat basal end is supposed to be down we all know, but for some cloves it may be hard to tell.




This is a Viola Francese, an artichoke type of softneck. I have not grown this type before so I probably pulled these too late. They certainly did not perform well at all. This is supposed to produce large heads, and the single head I received was large,  but all the heads are about this size. And what are the bulbils forming in a blister around the stem all about? Apparently I can plant those bulbils this fall and get a single clove/bulb next year and a full head the second year. Commercial farmers use this method to increase their planting stock without having to purchase heads and risk introducing disease to their farm, and I may try it for fun.




Finally, a little more about commercial garlic farmers simply dropping scapes on the ground rather than collecting and selling them. According to the High Mowing catalog, to plant an acre of garlic (is that a lot for a commercial garlic farm?), you need to purchase 1,500 pounds of seed garlic per acre, which is equivalent to 60 million cloves per acre (planted 6” apart with 18” between rows). So that would be 60 million scapes to remove per acre, probably by hand, and either collect or drop on the ground. I think most will get dropped, with maybe a few going home for the farmer and his help to enjoy. Maybe they should try pick-your-own scapes.


To see what other gardeners are harvesting from their garden, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


The warmer weather put the garden in full growth mode. The garden is at the in-between stage other gardeners have reported, of harvesting the last of the spring greens and waiting for the tomatoes, peppers and squash to appear.


The tomatoes are doing well, probably the best in several years. It is probably a combination of better weather and some different varieties I am growing. The only disease apparent is bacterial speck on the Big Beef tomatoes, which also had problems last year. I have started spraying the tomatoes and peppers, alternating copper with Serenade, both organic fungicides. I don’t like to do this but if I don’t, I could lose the whole season.


The Blue Beech paste tomatoes, an heirloom of Italian origin from Blue Beech Farm in Vermont, are looking outstanding, growing like weeds. They are even more enthusiastic and harder to control than Juliet, which is saying a lot. This tomato supposedly has the droopy gene, but the leaves look nothing like the spindly foliage of Striped Roman or even Gilbertie. They sucker like crazy and have a dense canopy of foliage, but they are also setting a load of fruit. Below are shots of fruit at the top and bottom of one plant. Note the variety of shapes of the fruits on the same plant, from oxheart to long and slender. The plants were purchased from my neighbor, Jem Mix, from seeds obtained from Fedco.






Another new tomato in the garden is Jaune Flamme, a French heirloom I grew from seed. It looks like it is going to produce 1.5-2” tomatoes, not a cherry but not a slicer. So far the plants are healthy and have set some nice trusses of fruit, shown below, but they are looking a bit petite compared to Juliet next door.




Also new for me this year is Esterina, a yellow cherry that is an experiment. I tried this one in place of my favorite, Sungold, since it is supposed to be just as sweet but more crack resistant. This is an organic F1 hybrid developed by Genesis Seeds. The clusters below in no way match the amazing marketing photos in the seed catalogs, but I hope they at least taste as good as Sungold. I didn’t have room to plant Sungold alongside as a control, but I have a feeling that Esterina is a little later than Sungold would be.




For slicing tomatoes, a new one I’m planting this year is Sunkist, shown below. The plants are robust and healthy, looking better than their neighbors, Big Beef. Sunkist is a medium-sized orange slicer that was developed by the University of New Hampshire. It is supposed to produce 8-10 ounce orange fruits that are as sweet as the red ones. I grew these plants from organic F1 seeds produced by High Mowing at their Vermont farm. When I first looked at the photo below I had a start. The tomato leaf left of center looks a little like a hornworm




The Big Beef have set some nice clusters of fruit, below, but you can see the (few) leaves with speck left on the plant. I am hoping I get some nice slicers from these guys.




The allium family is now starting to produce bulbs. Below are Patterson, a yellow storage onion. I did a bad job of starting seeds and some of the transplants didn’t survive. That means fewer onions this year but hopefully with the additional space, they will be bigger.




The Red Wing transplants fared a little better than Patterson. Below is a Red Wing starting to size up.




The Saffron seed shallots below are also starting to form bulbs. I have never grown these so I have to do some research on when to harvest and how to store them. I am assuming it is the same as any other storage onion, but I will check to be sure.




The bush beans are doing well and are now flowering, so beans in a week or two! The Jade beans are on the left and Provider on the right. While planted the same time, Provider always emerges a week before Jade and has better germination than Jade, so that is why they look like they are at different stages of development. There is also a row of Jackson Classic pickling cukes along the trellis which are starting to grab on to the trellis so they can get themselves above the mass of beans.




Finally, as an example of how I try to maximize output from my limited gardening space, below is a 3x6 bed that would typically have two bush-type summer squash in it, each allocated a 3x3 area. Since squash seeds get planted early June and don’t attain significant size until July, the corners and middle of the bed can be used by crops that will come out by mid-July. In this case, the middle  2x3 space was planted to Rossa Lunga onions (on left) and shallots (on right), both of which will probably be harvested by mid to late July. I have also put spinach in this area, since it will be totally harvested well before July. The corners can be planted early with radishes or turnips.


In this bed, you can see one squash in the foreground, shallots and onions in the middle, and another squash (a Tromboncino climbing squash) in the background. There is an 8’ trellis at the far end that the Tromboncino will climb. In each corner of that end I planted Musica pole beans which are already up to the top of the trellis and flowering. I am hoping Musica and the Tromboncino can share the trellis nicely.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Harvest Monday 7 JUL 2013

I was gone for the last week of June and knew I was leaving garlic scapes, turnips, radishes, chard and mustard to be harvested when I got back. My son watered and kept up with the scapes for me. Fortunately, most items held, but that left me with a lot to harvest when I got back.




Half of the white Hakurei turnips were ready for harvesting and I pulled the batch above with more to harvest next week. These turnips are far superior to the Tokyo Cross variety I used to plant. The lavender Boro King radishes from Territorial were also ready, which was good because their foliage was shading the squash that is going to replace them. Note that one of them was white, not lavender. Also pulled  a few stragglers of Cherry Belle and Zlata.




I cut the kale to reduce its volume and allow my cucumbers some sun to get a start up the trellis. The kale went into Portuguese kale soup with some of the Hakurei turnips, half for dinner and half was frozen. Another Win-Win choi was harvested and used in a Asian-style slaw for the Fourth of July BBQ that was delayed until the 5th by the rain on Friday. The snow and snap peas are now starting to come in.




This a sampling of lettuces I have been picking from the Citypicker on the deck. I planted my lettuces in a self-watering container on the deck so I can pick them when I need them. The lettuces on the top are Jericho on left and Merlot on right. That is New Red Fire on the bottom. I also have my usual Buttercrunch but mistakenly planted it in the garden, so I have to drive 2 miles to harvest it.




The chard is finally mature and  producing well. The Orange Fantasia on the right obviously has some variability in its selection, with some white stems. That is Magenta Sunset on the left, not nearly as striking as it was in the Tower Hill Kitchen Garden last year. All of this and more was blanched and frozen.




More chard and some Green Wave mustard, plus more scapes. The chard and mustard was frozen.




Finally, Sunday I pulled some more of the Hakurei turnips that were throwing themselves out of the ground, just hanging on by the tap root. I guess they were telling me they were ready. I’m going to try freezing most of the snow peas. They will likely be used in a Thai curry or stir fry, so hopefully texture will not be an issue.


That’s what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their gardens, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Back to Gardening



Last week I took a break from gardening and joined my siblings on an Erie canal trip on a chartered canal boat. The picture above shows our boat moored at Canal Park in the tiny village of Holley, New York, with the Holley Lift Bridge in the background. The trip celebrated my 70th birthday and the voyage our ancestor, Michael Velten, took in 1848 when he emigrated from Germany to Ohio via the Erie canal.


While we were gone, my son watered the garden and harvested my garlic scapes. When I got back, the garden was not only still alive but getting out of control. I spent several days taming the tomatoes, weeding and grooming. The only thing bolting was the Dragon Tongue mustard. The other lettuces and greens look good for awhile, but I harvested and froze a lot of greens.


Below is tomato Jaune Flamme which I started from seed, so I would like you to notice the extremely vigorous, healthy plants. The tomato truss in the photo has at least 10 tomatoes and others have as many as 12. They get 1.5-2” in diameter and have an orange color and supposedly terrific taste. Michelle has grown these for years and I am finally trying them and I have high expectations.




I again planted a couple of Juliet tomatoes, below, plants grown by my neighbor, Jem Mix. While Juliet is always the standard for gonzo, out of control tomatoes, this year they are being challenged by many of their neighbors in the garden. This shows a nice truss of 10+ tomatoes.




For example, below is Sunkist, another tomato I started from seed. Sunkist is an orange slicer with 8-10 ounce fruits developed by the University of New Hampshire and exclusive to High Mowing Seeds. The plants are stout and vigorous and already setting a lot of fruit but they don’t sucker as bad as Juliet.




Speaking of gonzo tomatoes, below are a couple of Blue Beech paste tomatoes from my neighbor, Jem Mix. I bought these from Jem because I killed my Opalka starts. That is why I am so proud of my Jaune Flamme, Esterina, and Sunkist plants, which are obviously hardy plants tolerant of a little spring time neglect. Blue Beech is a paste tomato collected from Blue Beech Farm in Danby, Vermont and sold by Fedco. Seeds originally came from Italy over 50 years ago. It should be well adapted to our crazy New England summers by now and will hopefully do better than my past trials with Roman Striped and Gilberties. While I was away, these guys suckered like crazy and it took a lot of time to clean out the mass of foliage to allow better air circulation.




Below is a truss of Blue Beech tomatoes already set. This is a 90-day tomato so hopefully we have a late Fall to let these guys fully ripen.




Another experiment this year is growing shallots from seed rather than bulbs. Last year I planted $20 worth of bulbs in the fall only to find every single one rotted over a tough winter. Below are my Saffron seed shallots looking pretty good. The shallot stems are thickening and looking like they are going to be putting energy into bulbs. This is just like growing onions from seed, each plant produces a single shallot bulb.




Some people didn’t return to the community garden this year, so some extra plots were available. I am splitting an additional plot with another gardener. Below is my half, planted to tomatoes and peppers, with a couple hills of summer squash. This allowed me to plant some heirloom tomatoes I wouldn’t have room for in the raised beds. Below are 4 Pineapple, 4 Brandywine, a Cherokee Purple, and another Sunkist.




So I am back and the garden is looking great. Today is July 4 and a traditional barbeque day. I have St. Louis-style ribs rubbed up and waiting for a chance to start a fire between the rain showers. A head of bok choy is going into an Asian-style slaw, which will get another large volume out of the refrigerator and make my wife happy. Probably no fireworks today because of the rain. Hope you have a great Fourth if you’re American, and otherwise have a great weekend.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Harvest Monday 23 June 2014



Last week I complained of no garlic scapes for poor  me. Then the  Mass Extension newsletter arrived Friday with the news that farmers across Massachusetts were harvesting (or sadly in some cases, composting) garlic scapes. Sure enough, a trip to the garden showed I do have scapes, shown above, which appeared almost overnight. I will be enjoying my scapes and not composting them.


The Mass Extension newsletter had some more advice on garlic culture:

  • Garlic is forming bulbs now and needs adequate moisture, at least equivalent to 1” per week of rain.
  • Likewise, removing competing weeds now is vital to maximizing bulb size.
  • Removing the scapes also helps increase bulb size.
  • It is way too late to fertilize garlic now, after the summer solstice. That should have been done in the spring.
  • Finally, remove any runt, deformed or discolored plants now, since they may be diseased and even if not, they will not be producing useable bulbs. The garlic above is a stunted plant removed from my Viola Francese row, so I will have some green garlic to add to a dish.




So, the garden goes from promise to bounty in a week. Above are, left to right, Green Wave and Dragon's Tongue mustards and Beedy’s Camden kale  These were blanched and frozen.




The Win-Win choi is doing well and I harvested a couple of heads, which will be used in a stir fry. I also pulled more radishes, Zlata and Cherry Belle, some of which were starting to bolt. I also pulled a few Hakurei white turnips which I didn’t photograph. And I have also been picking lettuce which I didn’t photograph.


Of course, just as the garden decides to pick up and needs attention, we are leaving for a week. My son is going to water for me and harvest the garlic scapes. Hopefully it doesn’t get real hot so things can hold until I get back. I have never figured a good time to be away during gardening season.


That is all from Bolton this week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their gardens, visit our host for Harvest Monday, Daphne's Dandelions.

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