Monday, December 30, 2013

My Meyer Lemon Crop



This is New England and it is December. My potted Meyer lemon tree is safely inside under a grow light and seems reasonably happy (no spider mites so far). The two lemons that survived the fruit drop have finally matured. Last year I actually got five lemons from the tree (a tiny harvest to you temperate climate gardeners lucky enough to have a full size Meyer lemon growing in your yard, but significant to me). The harvest this year is smaller but the lemons were large to my eye (2.75 in. diameter and 6.1 oz./176 g. weight). One was turned into a lemon meringue pie (recipe here) for our Christmas dinner. It was not chocolate so I expected protests from the wife, but it turned out to be a big hit. It was Christmas and my own lemon so I  ignored the carb content for the day and enjoyed it just as much. Now I have to find another use for the second lemon for New Year’s Day dinner.



Saturday, November 23, 2013

Roots, both Edible and Incredible

How do you know you are getting a bit behind in garden chores? When the 2014 seed catalogs start arriving and you have not completed cleaning out the garden beds! I was enjoying the newly arrived Pinetree and High Mowing  catalogs when I realized I have not finished my chores with this year’s garden. We already had a garden work day but I spent more time helping put a wood chip border around our deer fence to protect the fragile plastic mesh deer fencing fabric from the town’s mowers than cleaning up my own plot.


We always recommend gardeners pull disease-prone plants like tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers and dispose of them in the trash, the task I had yet to finish in my own garden beds. So today I headed to the garden with a black plastic trash bag. My first discovery was a pleasant one. I had left some Golden Ball turnips in the ground after pulling the larger ones and they survived nicely. I now have a nice batch of turnips to use for Thanksgiving dinner.




Next I pulled all the dead solanaceous and cucurbit plants. The plants were dead brown stems, the leaves long blown away. The biggest distinguishing characteristic was the roots, and how easy or hard it was to pull the plant. Particularly interesting to me was to compare the root structures of the grafted tomato plants to the ungrafted control plant. I have already declared the grafted tomato experiment a failure, and I won’t be planting them next year. Looking at the root balls, you can see why. Below is a photo of the Juliet tomatoes. The ungrafted tomato is the one at the top.




Alright, maybe I should have removed the fabric from the grafted tomato, but roots are supposed to grow through it and actually did. Also notice the size of the stems. The ungrafted Juliet at the top was grown in a 4 inch pot by a neighbor and was a beautiful transplant with a thick, stocky stem flushed with red. The grafted tomato was a mail order plant and arrived as a small, spindly plant and was never going to compete effectively with my locally grown ungrafted plant. Next I pulled the Big Beef tomatoes, shown below.




Again, the ungrafted Big Beef is the plant on the top. The Big Beef grafted plant was a bit more successful than the pathetic Juliet grafted plant, but did not compare well to the ungrafted Big Beef. So much for the theory that the rootstock used for grafted tomatoes is far more vigorous and  produces huge root volumes. In my case, that clearly is not true, but there must be a reason. Commercial growers are huge consumers of grafted plants, so it must work in the right conditions. For the time being, I will sit out the grafting experiment and go with ungrafted plants next year.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Planting Garlic 2013



I have finally completed planting out my garlic for harvest next year. I am a bit late (mid-late October would have been better for my zone), but stuff happens. At least it is done, and since I over-ordered the Spanish Rioja, I have the additional satisfaction of spreading the affliction to three other gardeners by giving them free garlic to plant.


In the picture above, you can see the 4x4 bed that was used to grow bush beans this year. It was prepared for the garlic by adding a bag of lobster compost along with a granular organic vegetable fertilizer and some bone  meal. Three rows have already been planted and you can see the spacing I am using. Each square foot of the row is marked out and I have spaced 9 cloves of Rosso di Sulmona garlic per square in a 3x3 grid. That gives a 4” spacing between plants.


Last year was my first year for garlic and I planted two hardneck varieties, German Extra Hardy and Chesnok Red. I got a good harvest and set aside some bulbs for planting this fall. The Chesnok Red has held fine and is a great garlic. I am a bit concerned about the German Extra Hardy. Four months from harvest and the bulbs have started to soften and some of the cloves have turned brown, and some are even moldy. From the bulbs I set aside for planting, I only got enough sound cloves to plant three squares. This may be the last year for that variety for me, since there are far too many varieties to try and not enough time for me to settle for mediocre results.


This year I wanted to add another variety, probably Spanish Rioja. While shopping around I encountered and became enamored of Viola Francese, a softneck popular in the south of France and in Italy, so I ordered a quarter pound. Then I encountered Rosso di Sulmona, touted as the best tasting garlic in the universe, and I also had to have some of that. Eventually I got back to thinking about Spanish Rioja. Many sources were now sold out, but I found it at High Mowing Seeds and (accidentally) ordered a full pound. So this year I am planting five varieties of garlic. Here are the new varieties this year:




Viola Francese above (purchased from Cook’s Garden) is a softneck artichoke variety.The bulbs were very large and so were the individual cloves. The “viola” apparently comes from the violet stripes on the skin, since the individual cloves are an orange-brown color with just a flush of violet. Two bulbs to a quarter pound planted 4 squares.




The beautiful garlic above is Rosso di Sulmona (imported from Italy by Seeds of Italy). I believe it is a hardneck but I have seen it described as a softneck. The garlic I received had a single row of cloves around a central stem, which seems to be a hardneck. Cloves were very large, with 6-7 per bulb. I planted 5 squares of it and hope it lives up to the hype.




Finally, the garlic above is Spanish Rioja, another hardneck variety. The bulb has a white skin and the cloves are brown with a rose colored blush. Cloves were very large, 6-7 per bulb. Since I over-ordered, I planted 6 squares of this garlic, and gave bulbs to three other gardeners to try their hand at growing garlic. Everything is now planted, fertilized and mulched and I am done with the garden for this year, except for a few turnips and escarole holding in the garden.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Grape Harvest 2013




I have not been blogging much lately but that doesn’t mean I am dead (yet). Just busy with things that intrude on gardening. Like picking grapes in exchange for food and booze. Today was our second season of wine grape harvesting at Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, Massachusetts. This year we we picked late, but it turned out to be a beautiful Fall New England day with temperatures in the 60s and deep blue skies. We were tasked to harvest the Cabernet Franc grapes. Because of the cold nights we had, the leaves were mostly dead so picking was much easier than last year. And no bunch rot to deal with.


Below is the row we had to pick, which was loaded with grapes and seemed to run off into the sunset.




The Cabernet Franc clusters were fat and ripe. It was easy to quickly fill one of the yellow plastic lugs, but it took a bit more time to tease out the clusters that were wrapped up in the support wires and vines so we could maximize the yield for our host and fellow Boltonian, Rich Pelletier.






So two hours later,  here we are behind a skid containing 28 lugs of luscious Cabernet Franc grapes, sticky but un-stung (by hungry bees) and ready for lunch! I’m the strange looking dude on the left, accompanied by some of my fellow Bolton Community Garden compatriots, Lynn Dischler and Rachelle Ayotte (and Rachelle is responsible for some of these photos). We harvested an estimated 4 tons of grapes and my back can attest to that!




Finally it is party time in the pavilion, with a chicken barbeque luncheon and apple crisp for dessert, along with unlimited pours of last years Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay!




Lunch was followed by a personal tour of the winery led by the owner, Rich Pelletier. It was fascinating to see how the grapes we picked would be processed into fine table wines. We each received a gift card that will allow us to buy a bottle of the wine we helped harvest in a year or two, but I really did not need that to feel good about helping a local farm winery prosper. Walking back to the car, I smiled while I watched swarms of people on a beautiful fall afternoon heading to the winery to taste wines I might have had a hand in harvesting.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Harvest Monday–23 Sep 2013

Slim pickings from the garden this week while waiting for the fall crops to reach harvest stage. The weather was moderate with a lot of daytime sunshine and cool nights, with an occasional rain storm. The squash and cukes are kaput, except for the Tromboncino squash which is still trying to put out a few more fruit. My peppers are rebounding and I got a nice crop of the Aconcagua frying peppers. Meanwhile I have been clipping some of the herbs for drying before they get killed by a frost.




The week was brightened a little by the arrival of some of the seed garlic I ordered last month. I grew two varieties last year, German Extra Hardy and Red Chesnok, and they are safely stored in my basement now, with some bulbs reserved for seed stock this fall. We have been enjoying it and it is amazing how much better tasting fresh hard neck garlic is than the spongy bulbs in the supermarkets this late in the season. Some of the supermarket garlic is actually imported from China so you have to check carefully.


Since the experience growing garlic this year was so satisfying, I went looking for just one more variety, maybe Spanish Roja which I considered buying last year. I found it but along the way was intrigued by Viola Francese, a softneck garlic popular in southern France and Italy, so I bought some of that. Then searching for reviews of the Francese, I kept encountering rave reviews about Rosso di Sulmona, a hardneck garlic from the Sulmona area of Abruzzo. That variety is imported from Italy by Seeds of Italy, and fortunately for me they receive their stock late because of USDA inspections and fumigation, so I was still able to order it this late. And they ship very quickly.




Above is the Rosso di Sulmona, nice big bulbs with large cloves covered with a purple-striped skin. Seeds of Italy is very generous, throwing in some loose cloves with the four bulbs to make sure I got my half-pound of garlic.




This is the Viola Francese, my first softneck artichoke variety, so I hope it does well in my climate. I got it from Cook’s Garden, which I guess is now owned by Burpee’s since it came in a Burpee’s box from Warminster, PA. You can see a tinge of the violet color on the wrappers, but the cloves themselves are an orange-brown color. I’m still waiting for the Spanish Roja from High Mowing Seeds, so still something nice to expect in the mail.


That’s what is going on in my garden this week. See what other gardeners around the world are doing by heading over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Harvest Monday–16 September 2013

The summer garden is winding down and yielding a few things here and there. This year I actually did plant some fall crops, maybe not as early as I should have. The hot dry, weather in August didn’t seem like the ideal conditions for starting radish and spinach seeds, but I did anyway. They are starting to put on some growth now with the recent rain and cooler weather. However, the squash and cucumbers are not liking the 50°F night-time temperatures, and also beleaguered with PM and bacterial wilt, are starting to shut down, capping a really lousy year for the cucurbits.




The beans are just about done except for a few stragglers here and there. The Dunja zucchini and Tromboncino squash are still alive enough to put out a squash or two a week but won’t last much longer. The tomatoes are ripening up their last fruit. Most of the plants have survived relatively disease-free and are showing some new growth, but they are doomed by the weather and the shortening day length. At this northern latitude, the sun is dropping lower in the sky each day and its strength is tangibly decreasing.




The peppers, while not liking the cold nights, are holding their own, with new growth and flowers. The Jimmy Nardello peppers are ripening the last of the mature fruit while still flowering and setting new fruit. My Padron peppers are starting to produce again. And the Aconcagua peppers (the long, skinny one above), a Cubanelle-type heirloom from Argentina, are now starting to produce heavily. Even my one Fish pepper has set a few of its variegated fruit and is flowering extensively. Both the Aconcagua and Fish peppers are known as late-season producers so it is a gamble to grow them here.


That’s all from the garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, head to Daphne's Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Harvest Monday–9 Sep 2013



Oops! It’s Tuesday and I completely forgot about Harvest Monday. It was that kind of a weekend. I would just skip it but I have a few things I want to show. Saturday was work day at the community garden. We did fence repairs and removed weeds and a two-foot strip of sod around the outside of the fence. We then laid down cardboard and covered it with wood chips. This will deter the weeds for awhile and make mowing easier and safer. We already had the mower come too close and rip off a six-foot section of fencing. With that big of a hole, more than bunnies can get through. After four hours of manual labor we all went home stiff and sore.


Sunday was the Patriots-Bills season opener (Patriots squeaked by with a win) followed by the garden pot luck dinner. Sunday morning I cut a huge bag of kale and turned it into a kale, white beans and sausage dish which was well received (and it got rid of a lot of excess kale). I also managed to clean up my Red Bull onions (above) and put them in storage. Five square feet yielded 8.5 pounds. A few big ones and a lot of small ones.


On to the harvest. Below, the zucchini at the top is my first (and maybe only) slightly-overgrown Romanesco squash. Unlike Michelle who has harvested something like 600 pounds of zucchini from her plants, I get one and the PM gets the rest. The Jimmy Nardello peppers are getting added to the string for drying.




More beans and another Green Fingers cucumber. A lot of beans were donated to the Hudson food pantry on Saturday, along with a large bag of kale. Lots of Portuguese in Hudson so hopefully people there know what to do with kale, which is a very healthy and nutritious vegetable.




Here is what I particularly wanted to show. The two Tromboncino squash below are my first and there is another ready for picking soon and lots of flowers. It’s nice to feel somewhat successful and these Tromboncino are making me feel good about my garden. I can grow something besides weeds. There also are a couple of my Tiburon Ancho poblano peppers, Spicy Globe basil for drying, and some decent-sized Purple Peacock shoots (now that I am following Michelle’s advice for cutting sprouts).




The Tromboncino are getting prepared tonight in one one of my favorite dishes. There is no recipe for this. The story is, long ago my wife and I took the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard with only our bikes and cycled to Edgartown. We stayed at a B&B and since we were hoofing it around town, we ate at a nearby Italian restaurant. It was a la carte and absolutely nothing came with the (already pricy) entrée. The waiter suggested a side of zucchini and it was fabulous. I don’t remember what the entrée was but I remember this dish. The zucchini was steamed but still bright green and crisp. It was covered with a  fresh tomato sauce with basil and oregano, thickened with bread crumbs and topped with shredded Parmesan.


That’s all from my garden, time to go prepare dinner. To see what other gardener’s around the world are harvesting  from their gardens, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Harvest Monday 2 Sep 2013



The weather has been moderate, with warm days and cool nights. The humidity has crept up to the point where it was really uncomfortable by the end of the week. It has also been dry, with some overcast days during which it looked like rain but never did. The beds have to be watered at least every other day, and really every day if I can get to the garden. The holiday weekend has been overcast and gloomy, with real rain supposed to come today. Loving it anyway is my Tromboncino squash. What you see above is a female flower just starting to open. Yes, it’s over a foot long before it is even pollinated!




The harvests from the garden this time of year are boring, mostly beans, squash and cucumbers. The Jade beans above have a heavy set of beans ready now. There are over a dozen beans ready to pick on just the two plants shown above. I now have lettuces, endive, escarole, choi, and broccoli transplants set out and pea, radish, turnip and spinach seeds have germinated. The beet seeds have not sprouted. I didn’t presoak them and I think the beds are just too dry down deep. We really need a long, soaking rain (not another monsoon, please) to saturate all the soil again, which hopefully will happen today.




Among the tomatoes above are a Gilbertie paste tomato and my first Green Zebra that was not cracked and rotted. This is my first year growing Gilbertie, an heirloom, and I picked the fruit above a little early so it wouldn’t crack when we get rain. Yes, it definitely is going to rain sometime soon.




More beans. Lots of the darker green Jade bean on the right.




Beans, a few beets, my second zucchini, peppers and cucumbers. The apple-shaped cucumber is Crystal Apple, a New Zealand heirloom that can be eaten without peeling if you don’t pick them too large.




And yet more beans, and another couple Gilbertie tomatoes.


That’s all from 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.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Peppers In review



While walking around in the garden inspecting my plants, I found my second hornworm of the season. The first worm was much smaller and firmly attached to a pepper leaf stem. I couldn’t pull it loose so I clipped the leaf and set it outside the garden where hopefully a bird made a meal of it. This one is full grown on a Sungold tomato. I was less worried about it because it is paralyzed by a wasp sting and parasitized with lots of wasp larvae, which will soon eat it alive from inside.


This year I decided to try a new strategy for growing peppers, which have been only partially successful in my raised bed garden. I outlined what I was going to try this year here, a strategy inspired by the pepper culture guidance in the Territorial seed catalog. Most of the advice was conventional and common sense: plant healthy, robust plants after weather and soil is consistently warm, etc. What was a bit unconventional was the advice to use a lot of fertilizer, particularly nitrogen, to encourage rapid vegetative growth. Most growing guides warn you to not over fertilize to avoid the vegetative growth that Territorial recommends. But common sense tells you, you are not going to get a large pepper harvest from small plants. The pepper plants need the root structure and vegetative backbone to support a large set of fruit.


So, what are the results to date? The bar is not very high from last year, when I got two Jalapenos and one Hungarian wax from all of my plants. I succeeded in growing robust, healthy pepper plants this year, versus last year's disaster using a coir-based starting mix.




Then weather intruded and cold, rainy weather delayed setting out the plants. I finally decided to go ahead and transplant since the plants were getting very leggy. The peppers did OK and seemed to be growing nicely, but then with continual cold, wet weather that frequently flooded the garden, the pepper plants were hit with an unknown, probably bacterial, disease. They were saved by copper spray, but removing affected foliage almost denuded them. Once weather warmed up and dried out, they did rebound but were obviously set back in development. We then encountered an extended period of temperatures in the high 90s °F (32++ °C). The pepper blossoms dropped and growth essentially stopped.


Finally, the hot weather broke and we have had temperate, almost typical NE summer weather, although a bit dry. The peppers are now growing and blossoming again and I am getting some new fruit set. This post is a request to the weather gods for another month or two of summer-like weather so I can see my pepper experiment to completion. Here’s some of the supporting evidence for the request.




Above is an Aconcagua pepper, an Argentinian heirloom that produces long, Cubanelle-type peppers for frying. Last year these were stunted and didn’t produce a single fruit. This year I have harvested a few small peppers, but now the plants have achieved enough size and are starting to flower again and set fruit. It would be nice to have a basket of these in the kitchen.




My Jimmy Nardello peppers above have been the most productive and definitely are on the list for next year. I’m letting a few of these completely ripen so I can try drying them ristra-style. After the first flush of peppers, they are starting to blossom again and it would sure be nice to add a few more to my ristra.




These are my Lipstick peppers and you can see another one starting to ripen. This is a small, corno di toro type pepper bred by Johnny's to ripen early in short season areas like NE. It is a thick-walled red pepper, ideal for preserving, and I wanted to try the method Michelle mentioned, developed by Hank Shaw. So far, not enough peppers to try this. If the weather gods grant my wish, I may get enough from my four plants to actually try this method. The plants are blooming again and setting fruit.




My Tiburon ancho chilies above (an F1 hybrid poblano from Johnny’s) are now huge, 3 feet tall, and starting to blossom and set fruit again. I had a few peppers early but most of them had rotten spots. The new crop look great and all I need is another month or two of summer so I can finally make some chiles Rellenos from fresh peppers. It would be even nicer to be able to freeze an extra bag of the stuffed peppers for the winter.




The Pimiento de Padron peppers above gave me a small harvest early on, enough for my wife and I to have a couple of treats. They are now starting to flower again and I sure would like to have some more of these.


So, all I need from the weather gods is 4-6 weeks more of moderate weather, with no heat extremes or really cold nights, please. And none of the usual tricks, like a killing frost the end of September followed by 4 weeks of balmy Indian summer weather in October!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Harvest Monday–26 August 2013



The Sunburst squash is continuing to produce a good supply of sunny yellow patty pans, but you wonder if it was named after the color of the fruit or the exuberance of its flowers. The other story in this picture is the persistence of the powdery mildew this year. I have sprayed with various organic-approved concoctions including Green Cure and Serenade, but the strain of mildew this year seems resistant to everything and does not go away and it is affecting even the “resistant” varieties like Dunja and Summer Dance.




Despite the powdery mildew plaguing most of the squash and cucurbits, I recorded four firsts this week: from the left, first Dunja zucchini, first Summer Dance cuke, first Green Fingers, and first Jackson Classic pickler, with more on the way if I can keep the vines healthy. The Crystal Apple cucumber has also set several fruit so I should be able to try those soon.




Every couple of days now I am picking a large pile of beans, so I won’t show all of them. Above are the four types of bean I am growing this year. Top from left: Provider bush, Trionfo Violetto pole, and Fortex pole. On the bottom are the Jade beans which are just now coming into production after almost all of the first planting failed to germinate. In this photo you can see the difference in color from Provider and Fortex. Jade is a much darker green and one of my favorites. Below is a close up of Jade (top) and Provider.




With all these beans coming in, there is pressure to do something to preserve them, even though a lot still go to the local food pantry. I don’t like freezing them. It’s a lot of work blanching them and I don’t like the mushy texture or even the taste, even when I vacuum sealed them. Forget canning them. Dilly beans are on my wish list but will probably not happen. I do make batches of stewed beans and tomatoes and freeze them, which works well. But then I ran across this article on freezing beans without blanching. It is simple enough, just trim the beans and throw in a zippered freezer bag.  I am trying this method this year as an experiment. I am also labeling the variety of bean so I can compare which type freezes better. Now I just hope we don’t have another week-long power failure this winter.


Finally, the Beedy’s Camden kale is prolific this year and is being used in many creative ways. My garden neighbor mentioned using it in a “massaged kale salad” and said her kids, who are otherwise allergic to the color green, like this salad. She described sprinkling chopped kale with salt and lemon juice and “massaging” it for 5 minutes, then adding olive oil. I’ll leave it to your imagination how you massage kale leaves, but I did try this classic method and it was very good. If you search the Internet for “massaged kale salad” you will find dozens of variations that can even turn it into a more substantial main dish. So there’s hope in getting through piles of kale like the one below.




This is a sampling of what came from my garden last week. Check out what other gardeners around the world are doing in their gardens by heading over to Daphne’s Dandelions, out host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Harvest Monday–19 August 2013



The garden is in a weird place, somewhere between spring crops and summer crops. The lettuces and greens are gone, except for kale and chard, but a lot of the summer crops are not ready yet even though it is mid-August. Above is a Sunburst squash which is finally producing but the zucchinis are just starting to flower. The cucumbers have lots of flowers and bee activity but only the Summer Dance has set even a single fruit. The tomatoes and peppers produced an early flush of fruit but the weeks of hot weather caused them to drop flowers. Only now after a couple of weeks of moderate temperatures have they started to show signs of growth and new flower buds. The garden is starting to look promising again but I think I will run out of time unless we have a very warm fall.


The Red Bull onions fell over, several weeks after the Copra onions, and I pulled them last week. They were a nice size and I’m pleased with the harvest. The onions are now drying in a tub on the back porch where they will be out of any rain.




Other harvests included beans, kale and the Sunburst squash. I finally got to taste the Trionfo Violetto beans. The texture is firm with a nutty flavor. I liked them a lot and will probably plant them again next year. They are way ahead of the Fortex beans planted at the same time.






So while I am waiting for the squash and cucumbers to start producing, I’m planting fall crops as I clean out the beds. I have peas, radish, turnip and spinach seed planted and I have started broccoli, lettuce, choi, and kohlrabi in cell packs. The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler. Just hope these new plants get established soon.


That’s what is going on in my garden. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their garden, take a trip to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tower Hill Garden Tour



This is Coleus Henna, part of the foundation plantings in a shady courtyard outside the Farmhouse at Tower Hill Botanical Garden. It’s beautiful but can you eat it? We were at Tower Hill to take a guided tour of the Vegetable Garden and vegetables were on my mind. Turns out you can eat some Coleus and it is actually a member of the mint family. It is also used as an herb in some eastern medicines.


The tour was conducted by Dawn Davies, Curator of the Vegetable Garden. She has the fun job of planning the garden and selecting the varieties, based on an annual theme. The Garden pays for the seeds and provides her interns to do the dirty work of weeding and picking insects. The garden theme this year was Cultivating Taste. Good taste in vegetables is certainly important and gardeners learn to do it by selecting cultivars, adjusting growing conditions, and timing the harvest.


The tour through the garden was very thorough, with Ms. Davies stopping at each of the beds to discuss what was planted and pointing out the characteristics of each plant and why it was selected for the garden. She even did what we couldn’t do but wanted to, she pulled beets, carrots and radishes out of the ground and picked some of the fruits for us to inspect. Since this is a demo garden and appearance is important, many of the varieties chosen for the garden were very colorful and attractive, just like the coleus.


Their garden is behind where it was last year, just like mine. One of the fruits she showed us was a Summer Dance cucumber, which I also grow. Here it is mid-August and that was the first cucumber from the Summer Dance vines at Tower Hill garden, run by a professional horticulturist! I’m happy that one of my vines has finally set a fruit, but unhappy to note that the vine right next to it just died from bacterial wilt.


What I particularly like about visiting Tower Hill is the chance to see new and interesting plants actually growing in a realistic garden setting, unlike the picture-perfect vegetables displayed in the seed catalogs, For example, unlike the catalog photos, every single Cherokee Purple  tomato I have grown has been butt ugly, but I don’t mind because of their taste. The curator of this garden is always looking for new and attractive varieties to try and you get to see the results in the field.


I mentioned some plants that I found really striking in an earlier post here. Below are some additional vegetables that Ms. Davies showed us that I particularly liked, with sources for the seed. I apologize for the lack of photos but we were in a large group and I didn’t have the opportunity to take any.


  • Radish Bora King (Territorial) – A radish is a radish and not particularly noticeable when you just stroll around the garden. But when she pulled one from the ground, it was a stunner. Bora King is a very large, elongated, plum-colored radish. She says it remains juicy and pith-free even at its large size and has a mild radish flavor. She was excited to find seed for it because Roger Swain used to grow these on Victory Garden but she could never find seed. This is a new offering from Territorial in 2013.
  • Onion Shimonita (Territorial) – This is a bunching onion from Japan. It is striking because it looks like a leek, short and squat with a thick white stem and blue-green tubular foliage. It is very mild and can be pulled young for scallions. Or, given enough room and left to mature, it produces a thick white leek-shaped onion.
  • Tomato Absinthe – This is a green-when-ripe tomato that was grown next to an Aunt Ruby’s German Green tomato. It was by far more robust than ARGG and the fruits larger and more attractive, which caught my eye. Turns out this tomato was bred by Alan Bishop about 2000, a cross between Emeraude, Aunt Ruby's, and Brandywine tomatoes. From the reviews I’ve read the flavor is great and productivity good. You won’t find this one carried by the large seed vendors. Look for it among the small companies that specialize in heirloom tomatoes.
  • Garlic Leningrad – Their garlic was harvested in mid-July but we were shown examples of some of the garlics grown. The knockout was a variety called Leningrad. It produces huge white bulbs which she said were even larger last year. Leningrad is a porcelain garlic with white wrapper and purple-striped cloves and excellent flavor, starting out hot and mellowing at the finish. Ms. Davies said you could spot it from a distance because the very large plants towered over the other garlics. A number of garlic vendors carry Leningrad.
  • Lemongrass – Ms. Davies showed us lemongrass planted in among lemon basil and eggplants. It was grown from seed, which surprised me. I thought lemongrass had to be grown from divisions, but you can indeed buy seeds from Baker Creek and other vendors. I’m not sure it survives winters here but if you can get it to useable size during our growing season, it may be worth trying. The trick is going to be getting it to germinate and grow. The seeds require heat, humidity and light to germinate and can take 10-90 days to germinate.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Harvest Monday–12 August 2013




The Trionfo Violetto pole bean finally has set some beans. This is the first of significant size but I should be able to start picking this week. The beans are a dusty purple color when mature but they start out green. You can see two immature beans above, the smaller one is green except for the tip and the seam. As it matures, it starts turning purple in patches. The shape is flattened, not round, and I sure hope I like them because it looks like I am going to get a lot.




The picture above has my first Sunburst patty pan at the bottom. At the top, the large tomato is my one and only Pineapple heirloom, with some splits due to the recent rain. The first fruit had a bad patch of BER and rotted so I removed it. The weeks of high 90s heat caused most of the larger tomatoes to drop their flowers. Ditto for the peppers. They are starting to flower again, so all I need is two or three more months of summer weather and some sunshine.




Some chard/silverbeet and another batch of Boro beets.




The mustards started bolting so I am harvesting what I can from them. I need to start some more and replant for the fall. The nice thing about kale and collard is that they are essentially biennials and need a winter before they bolt, so I can continue to harvest through the warm weather right into late fall.


I am cleaning up some of the beds and getting them ready for fall planting. I have lettuce, broccoli and kohlrabi seeds started and need to get more beets, carrots and turnips seeded into the garden. The Red Bull onions have dropped and need to be pulled before it rains again. They went at least two weeks longer than the Copra onions and it looks like there are some good sized ones.


Thanks for stopping by. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their gardens, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

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