Monday, July 29, 2013

Harvest Monday—29 July 2013



I finally cleaned and trimmed the German Extra Hardy garlic that was hanging in the shed. Given the torrid weather we had, like Daphne I wonder if I cooked my garlic. It seems OK. I used a small bulb from this batch and the cloves were rock hard and very flavorful. From a half pound of seed garlic I harvested exactly 2 pounds of dried and trimmed garlic. I don’t know if that is typical but I am pleased with my first effort growing garlic. The Red Chesnok was harvested a week later and will hang in the shed for another week. I set aside a half pound (5 bulbs) of the German for seed garlic.


On the subject of alliums, the Copra yellow onions are falling over and I have pulled some of them. It is not the best conditions for harvest since we just received over 2 inches of rain the past week and the beds are wet. I started to pull some of the onions and let them lie on the ground to start drying. The size of them is underwhelming, but I use more small onions than large so I guess that is OK. The Red Bull onions are starting to look like they are ready as well.




The tomatoes are finally starting to ripen, although some of these first tomatoes are suffering from blossom end rot (BER).  My first Gilbertie was rotten and dissolved in my hand when I tried to pick it (gross!), which I don’t think was BER. My first Pineapple has BER on the sides but I was hoping to be able to salvage part of it. Unfortunately, the rain last week caused it to split in multiple places. The photo below shows the Pineapple (upper left), my first Big Beef (lower left), and Juliet, Sungold and my first Black cherry tomatoes (a few of those didn’t make it home).




More chard and kale. These will appear weekly for awhile and probably are not worth a photo every week.




A couple of good sized turnips, finally. These have to be Golden Ball turnips, even though they do not look that golden. Finally enough to actually try them. I will be replanting these for a fall harvest.




The mustard greens are finally producing! I seeded these twice and they failed to germinate. I finally started them indoors and these leaves are from the transplants. That is Red Giant on top and Green Wave underneath. both great varieties. Pictured with one of the last lettuces (New Red Fire), some Broccoli shoots and a few Padron peppers.




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

Monday, July 22, 2013

Harvest Monday–22 July 2013



No, this is not the tropics, that’s a passion fruit flower at Tower Hill. But it felt like it, another week from hell in un-air conditioned New England, with daytime temperatures sometimes over 100 °F/38 °C, stifling humidity and no rain. I have found with the raised beds and these temperatures, I have to water the tomatoes and peppers every day or they get stressed. We were busy Saturday so I got to the garden late afternoon. It was threatening to storm, with black clouds and ominous rumbles, but I figured it wouldn’t really rain unless I wasted the time watering. I met a fellow gardener there with the same thought. We are both rational people, not the least superstitious, but we went through our rain dance with watering cans. Good thing, because it did not rain! At least the front provided some relief on Sunday. It is still brutally humid but temps are a little lower.




The garden is still making its transition from spring to summer crops. Yields from the garden are smaller but more interesting.  The Copra yellow onions are starting to fall over so I may be harvesting them this week.




Sunday, July 21, 2013

Storing Seed Garlic

There is lots of advice around on harvesting, drying, and storing garlic. My garlic has been pulled and is now hanging in the shed for final drying before I clean it and cut the stems off. They will spend their time in my basement where it will hopefully be cool enough so they keep until I want to use them. I will select the largest bulbs and set them aside as seed garlic for planting this fall. Are the storage requirements for seed garlic any different, since I only need to keep them a few months? It appears they are, and it was a surprise to me.


The July 18 issue of the UMass Extension Vegetable Notes has a section with the usual advice for harvesting and drying garlic, with an obvious tilt toward small farmers rather than home gardeners. Regardless, I find their advice useful. What particularly intrigued me was the advice on storing seed garlic. Obviously, seed garlic should be of highest quality, using the largest bulbs, with no obvious disease or nematode damage. But seed garlic should be stored at 50° F (10 °C) at a relative humidity of 65-70%.


The reasons for this requirement are, to quote them:

  • Garlic cloves break dormancy most rapidly between 40 to 50 °F (4 to 10 °C), hence prolonged storage at this temperature range should be avoided.

  • Storage of planting stock at temperatures below 40 °F (4 °C) results in rough bulbs,
    side-shoot sprouting (witches-brooms) and early maturity,

  • Storage above 65 °F (18 °C) results in delayed sprouting and late maturity.


Wow, so I need to store my seed garlic at 50-65 °F (10-18 °C) with 65-70% humidity! Off to find such a place around here with outdoor temps around 99 °F (37 °C), while I am sitting here writing this sliding around in my shorts.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Harvest Monday–15 July 2013

We got a break from the hot weather last week, with temperatures only in the 80s (°F), lower humidity and pleasant night time temperatures. I replanted some of the seeds that didn’t germinate (beans, squash and cucumbers) and most of them germinated quickly. Last Sunday I harvested the German Extra Hardy garlic and it is now hanging in the shed. Below  is some of the Red Chesnok, which got an extra week and was harvested on Saturday. It is now drying on the porch before being hung.




I let the cilantro go to seed (like I had anything to say about it). The bees love the flowers and eventually you get cilantro (aka coriander) seeds. If you harvest them green, they still have some of the cilantro leaf flavor but they also have a fresh citrusy taste and aroma. I got a good cup of seeds from this cutting, most of which I will freeze. Some of the fresh seeds will go into my refrigerator pickle jar, on the off chance that I actually succeed in growing some cucumbers this year. Another handful is being used to infuse some vodka for Cortinis. Got this idea from Willi Galloway’s Grow Cook Eat.  After a couple of days, the vodka has developed a sweet, candy or vanilla-like fragrance with some citrus overtones. I left some plants uncut so I get some brown, ripened seeds as well.




I picked what is probably the last of the fava beans. They are not liking the hot weather and I may remove them along with the peas to free up the bed. Some of the beans had some brown discoloration on the skins, but the brown spots were only on the skin and did not affect the bean itself. Some beans were used in a scafata of favas and chard, a good dish that did not require me to peel the beans and used up some of my chard. More beans went into a lamb tagine with favas and artichoke hearts.




The greens are about finished. Almost everything is bolting except the chard and mustard. I am getting a few heads of lettuce, mostly from volunteers or stray seeds outside the greens bed. See, it pays to be messy.. It will be a while before I get other vegetables because of all the delays in planting or poor germination, although the tomatoes and peppers are doing just fine. Tough year. Oh well, the fridge is still stuffed. My herbs are doing OK and  I need to start drying some herbs. I make a basil mix from Genovese, Siam Queen and Spicy Globe which is a lot more exotic than any purchased dried basil.






That’s what I harvested last week. To see what is happening in gardens around the world, please visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Field Trip



Last Sunday my wife and I visited Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in West Boylston. It was a hot day (air temperatures about 97°F/36°C). When we got out of the air-conditioned car, the heat radiating off the black asphalt made it an emergency situation. I was being broiled alive. We fled to the shade and lawn of the gardens where the heat was at least tolerable. Of course, my interest was in the demo Vegetable Garden behind the original farmhouse on the property. On several earlier visits this year, the garden was unplanted due to the lousy weather. Nice to see the professionals were just as flummoxed by the lousy spring conditions as us amateurs. The first thing to catch our attention was an interesting and attractive multi-celled vertical planter on the wall of the reception center, filled with lettuces, herbs and ornamental peppers, pictured above.


Then on to the gardens. The vegetable garden was pretty heat stressed, as I expected. Some things were doing fine, like the hot peppers. The lettuces were all bolting. What really surprised me was the poor condition of most, but not all, of the tomatoes. I think they suffered from the huge amount of rain we have received and needed a nitrogen kick.  It was interesting to see the garden and I always enjoy looking for new varieties of vegetables to try. Below I show some of the ones I found particularly attractive.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Harvest Monday–8 July 2013


I was travelling last week so my family took care of the garden. They did a pretty good job. They didn’t have to water because there were frequent thundershowers, but unfortunately that meant they didn’t spray. The weekly spraying with copper was missed and when I got to the garden, I found my eggplants covered with flea beetles. Fortunately the damage is minor. I have just about given up trying to grow eggplant. This year I am trying Ping Tung, an oriental eggplant, in the hopes it is more resistant to the beetles.


Below are a head of radicchio, starting to bolt in this hot weather, my first fava beans, and my one and only kohlrabi. I am a little concerned by the black specks on the favas. They are not black aphids but spots that start as little blisters on the bean and then turn black. They have not penetrated the shell and the beans inside were not affected. Looking up fava bean diseases, the only thing I found was chocolate spot disease, but no leaves are affected on my beans, just the pods, and it does not look like the photos I have seen.




These are the first tomatoes of the year, a few Sungolds picked on the Fourth of July, so I met the NE standard for first tomato by the Fourth. I would prefer it to be a big beefsteak tomato, but the Sungolds were tasty. I also grabbed a few stragglers in the garlic bed for some green garlic.




The chard is coming to its own after being shaded by the now spent lettuces. I am cutting Orange Fantasia, Flamingo, and Bright Lights. I also pulled a Rosso Lunga di Tropea onion for a salad.




The New Red Fire and Green Ice continue to be bolt resistant despite the hot weather, but not for much longer. The radicchio is also bolting so I have been removing it as it looks close to bolting.




The garlic is close to being ready and will probably be harvested next week, along with the rest of the fava beans, which are suffering in the heat. I am reseeding all of the items that didn’t germinate, like my Jade beans. The Provider beans germinated nicely and are now almost a foot tall but Jade was a failure, 3 seeds out of 54 emerged (and two have been eaten). Only half the Summer Dance cucumber seeds germinated, so those were also reseeded. After two sowings of mustard greens failed to germinate, I finally started them indoors and now have Green Wave and Red Giant growing nicely and being feasted on by he flea beetles. And all of my squash, which I usually sow directly, have spotty germination and the leaves of those which did germinate are being shredded by something. The only good thing about this is I may miss the SVB hatch that is going on now.


That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, check out Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tomato-Pepper Update–July 2013

So far it has been a mixed year in the garden, but not bad given the crazy weather. I had lots of germination problems, most with new seed stock seeded directly in the garden. One of 54 kohlrabi germinated, no mustard seeds despite planting them twice, 3 of 54 Jade bean seeds (and one was promptly eaten by something), half my Summer Dance cucumber, and all of the squash had spotty germination. One bright spot is the peppers and tomatoes, despite some disease problems. All of these were started indoors, of course.


A few weeks ago I was worried that I would lose all of my peppers to some disease that is still unidentified, but probably bacterial in origin according to the UMass extension. Whatever it was, copper spray fixed it and I have continued to spray weekly hoping to ward off the late blight that hit some of my tomatoes last year. I had to remove and destroy a lot of foliage but the peppers have bounced back nicely. Below I will show you how they are doing and I have a few questions for the varietal experts.


The picture below shows four Jimmy Nardello peppers in the lower left corner of the photo, with a row of Copra onions behind them and then a row of tomatoes trained up a trellis. Two of the Jimmy Nardellos are loaded with good sized peppers. and are still flowering. This is my first year with these peppers, so I assume I am going to let these turn red before harvesting them and doing that is not going to inhibit them from setting more fruit, right?






Look at the pepper in the back corner of the group, the one closest to the onions. Its foliage is a darker green than the other JN peppers, and here is what the fruit kooks like:




Even I know that is not a JN, maybe a sweet red cherry, which is another variety I started from seed. Hopefully it is not a Padron, because if I wait for it to turn red I will have an unpleasant surprise. My Padron have not yet set fruit so I have nothing to compare to, but I think the Padron pepper is slenderer and more yellow-green.


Here is another surprise. I started four Black Cherry tomatoes, selected the best two for myself and gave the rest away at the garden seed swap. One of the plants is much larger and setting cherries like crazy. The other, more petite, plant has now set some fruit and this is what they look like (and yes, I took care of that sucker in the foreground). I think this is Gilbertie, a paste tomato that produces 8-10 inch long fruit, which I am trying for the first time this year. You can also see some flea beetle damage on the lower leaves, something I have never encountered before with tomatoes.




I may have more surprises ahead. I labeled one of my four Padron peppers a mystery pepper because I wasn’t sure about its original location in the tray of soil blocks. I am now looking at one of my Lipstick peppers which seems to have foliage different from the other three. The problem goes back to my use of 3/4 inch soil blocks, made in rows of five blocks. Using that size block, I could pack a lot of blocks into a 1020 tray which was great because I only have a single heat mat. Labeling those tiny blocks is difficult, so I applied masking tape to the sides of the tray and wrote descriptions on the tape with a Sharpie. The trouble is the blocks, particularly the end blocks, tend to wander when the tray is handled, so I wound up with a few out of position. Next year I will have to try to be more careful. Hope the guy who got my Black Cherry tomato at the garden seed swap is enjoying my Black Cherry tomatoes.


One final item. My grafted tomatoes are healthy and doing fine, but they are dwarfed by their ungrafted control plants. Below is a photo of the grafted Juliet, which is about two feet tall and has set one truss of about five fruit. The next photo is the ungrafted Juliet, a monster plant that is suckering like crazy and has set multiple trusses of 8-9 fruit each. There is no comparison. Both are healthy right now so disease resistance is not a factor but may be later in the season. Right now I would have to say they were a waste of money.






There is a lot of gardening season still to come but so far my peppers and tomatoes are doing very well and making me happy, even dare I say, optimistic.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

During my recent trip to Missouri I was able to visit one of my favorite seed suppliers, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which is located on a gravel road about 5 miles north of Mansfield. The farm is open to visitors and has a restaurant, a reproduction  pioneer village called Bakersville,  and a seed store that are free to visit. I had no idea where Mansfield was until I looked at a a map and discovered it was about an hour east of Springfield where I would be visiting my sister. So I arranged to visit with my niece and we had a great time. It turns out that Mansfield is also home to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum, the author of the Little House on the Prairie. If you have a Little House fan in your household, the museum and Bakersville would make a wonderful day trip and it is only 90 minutes from Branson.


The first structure we encountered on entering the gate was the restaurant, housed in the simulated hotel, which was fortunate because my niece had missed breakfast and was starving.




The vegan meal we were served would certainly fill up anyone. They have a fixed menu and that day the meal was a vegan chimichanga with fresh salsa, Mexican rice, a garden salad with lots of sliced radishes, and steamed heirloom beets (golden and Chioggia), with a mason jar of three berry iced tea and zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting. Payment is by donation, putting what you wish into a jar up front. The meal was excellent (even if a carb bomb) and you would certainly have enough energy to plow the south forty after that lunch.




After lunch we toured the village. The stores were furnished with appropriate fixtures and merchandise that can be purchased. The apothecary shop had dried herbs and medicinals and home remedies for sale. The mercantile store had handmade girl’s gingham dresses with aprons and bonnets for sale, plus bolts of cloth and patterns. Anyone with an interest in Little House on the Prairie would love the place.






Following the road around the demonstration garden in the center brings you to the seed store, where you can pay for your items and browse through a large display of seeds. I purchased the Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook and some handmade pot holders, plus a couple of packs of bush beans for my sister’s garden.




The other side of the road has the buildings used in seed operations plus some of the trial fields. I did not see lots of fields planted to seed crops but I assume a lot of their production is contracted out to local growers. If everything looks hot and dry, it was hot and dry and the temperature that day was at least 97°F/36°. 




Baker Creek Seeds was founded by Jere and Emilee Gettle, a young couple that project an image of Ozark hillbilly but are actually very shrewd business people. They own the largest heirloom seed company and also own Comstock-Ferre Seeds in Connecticut and the Petaluma Seed Bank in California. I was suspicious of their large, glossy and expensive seed catalog (they print 350,000 copies a year), so I assumed they must have some corporate connection or inherited some money, but no, Jere and Emilee built their fortune on their own. Jere became fascinated with heirloom vegetables as a boy after reading about a tomato variety that was grown by Thomas Jefferson. He joined the Seed Savers Exchange, started trading seeds with other enthusiasts and issued his own price sheet in 1998 when he was 17. They are strong advocates for open pollinated, non-hybrid vegetables and strong opponents of GMO crops and Monsanto. They are the real deal and you can feel good buying seeds from Baker Creek.

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