Sunday, May 22, 2016

Garden Update - End of May 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

Harvest Monday 16 May 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Planting Leeks

After planting my storage onions from Dixondale Farms, the next goal was to get the leeks, shallots and Purplette onions I started from seed into the garden beds. The fact I am planting my own leeks is a bit amazing. I decided to try starting my own this year instead of buying no-name plants purchased from a garden center. I chose Takrima, an F1 hybrid from Johnnys. I reported earlier that Takrima was a total failure, with just one seed emerging and then damping off. I continued to water my expensive failure and fully a month after planting the seeds, they started to emerge. In fact, they came up rapidly and caught up with the other onions. Happily I wound up with the nice pot of seedlings below.

The raised bed was prepared for the leeks by using a dibble and preparing large, deep holes in the bed, 5/square.

The pot of leeks was dumped out and individual plants were separated, carefully teasing apart the entwined roots.

A leek plant was then inserted into each hole. The trick was to get the plant and its roots into the bottom of the hole. Trying to use fingers or a stick to accomplish this tended to break the roots. I finally took the plant by its stem and pushed it down into the hole. The plant stems were stiff enough to accomplish this. The result was a plant with its roots at the bottom of a large hole. The soil will eventually fill in after several waterings and the result will be a leek with a long blanched white stem without trenching or hilling. I also planted a closely space row of these between the squares to pull as baby leeks.

Shallots were next but I did not bother to photograph them. This year I tried Conservor since Ambition is showing very poor storage life. Germination was fine but their longevity in pot was disappointing. It looked like they were going dormant. I do not have high hopes of these. I really miss the Saffron shallots which were ideal for my conditions and stored forever.

Next was the Purplette onions from Johnnys, a small-bulbed onion with a lavender blush used for fresh onions. These were robust germinators and growers and I had a beautiful pot of them to transplant.

I allocated two squares to these, planted 16/square. I plan to pull every other one first, allowing the remaining onions to get a bit larger. That space allotment only used half the onions. The rest will be tucked into corners here and there in the garden and pulled as fresh onions.

All of the alliums are now planted, a bit late but it is done. Next goal is to get the brassicas into the ground, cabbages/kohlrabi first, then the kale and broccoli.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Finally a little more progress ...

Saturday before last was our work weekend for the Bolton Community Garden, a day I (being garden coordinator) get to choose and command gardeners to show up and do community chores in the garden. It was a beautiful day but only a handful of my serfs showed up. Still, we accomplished a lot in cleaning up debris, turning the compost bins, and re-laying the weed barrier for the storage area in the garden. What I did not get to do is weed my own beds and get them ready to plant. That I planned to do on Sunday, but the rain showed up right on schedule early on Sunday morning.

Last week continued to be miserable with continual rain, gloom, and temperatures in the mid 40s F/ 6 C for six days. The heat in the house was still on and we have not yet raised the storm windows. It looked like we were getting a break for the weekend, but the updated forecast showed rain through the weekend. So when the sun came out last Friday for a period I decided it was time for some mud gardening. I headed off to the garden with my Dixondale onion plants, determined to get them into the ground.

The mild winter meant that weeds left in the garden last fall had a great opportunity to grow and put down huge roots. In the bed above, can you guess the row that had legumes growing in it?  Of course that row is scheduled to get the peas this year and it will probably take me a half hour to dig out those weeds.

At least the garlic bed is looking good, enjoying the blood meal feeding I gave it.

It took me over an hour to prep the beds for the onions, weeding and adding some bagged McEnroe organic compost and a generous measure of Garden Tone organic fertilizer. Planting the onion plants was relatively fast after the bed preparation. Above are the Red Wing red storage onions.

Next I put in the Copra yellow storage onions. The one advantage of being late to plant is that the onion plants had already started to break dormancy. The plants are shipped dormant, looking quite dry and pale. Last year I got them in the ground earlier and commented that it took weeks for them to start to green up and break dormancy. You can see that the plants above are starting to show bright green foliage, indicating they are no longer dormant.

While it rained, I did take the opportunity to pot up some of my tomato and pepper plants. Above are my Juliet tomatoes in Solo cups, and the Lemon Drop peppers in 4-inch pots. While I had germination problems with the peppers and particularly the tomatoes. I have somewhat recovered. I will give an update inventory in another post.

Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC