Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Gimmer of Hope

Usually the news doesn't make me happy. Just the opposite. But "Plant Breeders Release First 'Open Source Seeds'", put a smile on my face today. I don't think life of any kind should be patentable. A new process to create a GMO should be patentable, but the seed itself shouldn't be. Life is sacred and shouldn't be owned. We may not be there yet, but for now at least some people want create seed that is sharable.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I swear it was 69F yesterday.

At least the coating of frozen rain was pretty thin. I'm sure it will all melt out quickly. Boston does get snow in April every three or four years. But it isn't something that I expect.

I'm sure my little bunching onion seedlings didn't expect it either. Poor things. Luckily everything I have planted now can handle it. Even the onions seedlings above will be just fine even if they are mad at me for not taking them in last night.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Harvest Monday April 14th, 2014

The week started out with some nice soup. It might be the last major soup dish of the spring unless it gets cold again. Not much came from the garden. The Chinese cabbage was not mine. The carrots, celery , and onions were not mine. I think the only things that were from the garden were garlic and sage.

And speaking of sage, I used the last of the sage to make some homemade sausage. I figured if I couldn't buy premade sausage because they add a lot of nasty things, I'd just make my own. I don't have a grinder or anything, so I just used ground turkey (and not the low fat variety). A couple other seasonings like thyme and onion powder came from the garden too. The applesauce was homemade, but not from my trees. My husband has really been into applesauce recently so I even made more. This time with no sugar and no lemon so I can eat it too. I also ground up the peels to keep the fiber content high. My husband declared that it was good. My daughter complained it wasn't as good as the jars I made in the fall.

Kale, Sweet Potatoes, and Seasonings from the Garden
This seemed to be the week of eating sweet potatoes. I ate them most every day. Last week it was squash.

Sadly I only have three sweet potatoes left, though one of them is huge.

I often switch to sweet potatoes when the pureed squash runs out. And it had last week. So yesterday I made some more. I now have five nice containers in the freezer again. And only three squash left. Though as I walked by the squash (which I store on the stairs going down to the basement), I noticed that one is starting to rot in one small spot. I should have noticed that when I picked which squash to roast. Oh well. Maybe I'll roast up two more to freeze. It is about the time for that anyway as they only store so long.

So some of my stored goods are getting low and some have run out altogether already. I have noticed that my overwintered kale is starting to grow again. Some nice leaves are forming. I hope the rest of what is planted grows quickly. Fresh food would be so nice right now.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Onions Planted

Well I wanted to finish those onions. I didn't check to see if the bed was finally thawed. I just planted them. Today will almost get to 70F and tomorrow in the mid 70s so if it isn't thawed it ought to be by the end of Monday. I planted one flat a couple of days ago and had one flat left. These are Redwing and Ailsa Craig. You can see the red in the stems of the onions. Well at least in the front onions. The ones farther back are the yellow AC onions. Redwing is a keeper and AC is a large sweet onion that doesn't store well. It can keep for about two months.

It rained a little on me while I was planting. The ground wasn't muddy though as yesterday was warm and sunny. I left a one foot strip at the end by the fence. I'm going to plant lettuce there later in the year. It will get morning sun, but the fence will protect it from the afternoon sun.

I put in the supports for the netting, but haven't put the netting in yet. It was wet and I didn't want to get my bolt muddy. I'll wait until it drys. I don't need it in yet anyway. The protection is for the onion maggots. Typically the height of the spring flight is about the time the lilacs bloom. Or at 700 GDD base 40F. If you have never heard of the GDD I talk a little about it here and here. But the height of the spring flight is not the same as when the insects first come out. Something I learned the painful way with the squash vine borer. And that can easily be half the GDD for onion maggots. Right now we are at 207 base 40F. I know because I use my weather station and a spreadsheet to do the calculations. So I'll make sure to have that netting up soon.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Onions and Compost

Yesterday morning I was off to plant my allium bed. The garlic as you can see was planted last year and is up and off to a good start. The onion section of the bed was side dressed and aerated for the onion transplants.

My onion transplants were very nice this year. Some years I find the side leaves dying. but this year they were very strong and healthy.

I wanted to plant all my onions but I could only do the Copras. The Ailsa Craig and Redwing will have to wait for a day or two while the back end of the bed thaws out. Sadly it is still frozen halfway down the bed. The temperature difference is remarkable even in the top few inches of soil.

Then it was on to one of my most reviled chores in the garden. Once things have melted out I have to turn over the compost from the winter. I say compost, but what I really mean is the thawed mass of winter scraps from the kitchen.

We do put leaves on top as we put the scraps in. Well at least if the leaves are unfrozen enough to do so. But the reality is that it isn't really a compost pile over the winter. It is just frozen scraps. And when it thaws in the spring it is smelly and gross. And typically it goes anaerobic from too much moisture. So turning it over is pretty disgusting.

Not only that but the cats had started sitting on top of it watching the ground underneath. And yesterday the dog was barking at it. That could mean only one thing. There was a mouse in the compost pile. Now I put hardware cloth underneath the pile and the holes are too small for most mice on the side. But the mice are pretty good at getting in. The side has long narrow holes along to let air in. Well they had chewed through the plastic between two of the holes and it made it big enough for the mice to easily get in and out. Now I know mice are impossible to really keep out of any compost system. But I try. And with my kitty early warning system, I can clean it out and disrupt them enough to keep the place fairly free of mice. The other piles aren't nearly as attractive to them, as we only put kitchen scraps into the protected black one. I've never had a cat stalking any of the other piles.

So I turned the pile over into my main garden compost. I put a little of the goo from the black composter and lots of nice dry garden refuse and leaves to separate them. That ought to fix my smell. But what an icky job.

At least the overly moist compost at the bottom of the composter was filled with worms. Well really the whole container was filled with worms. Personally I think the worms attract the mice more than the kitchen scraps. I'm happy for all those worms though. I get a lot of worm castings in my compost every year.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spinach and Carrots

Another gorgeous day to be working in the garden and another bed prepped and seeded. This time I did the spring spinach bed. You can see above that part of the bed is in shade even though it was the middle of the afternoon. By the time I went inside at 4pm the whole bed was in the shade of my neighbor's house. As the sun gets higher the bed will thaw out more. And I do mean THAW. The first half of the bed was totally unthawed, but the other end was frozen about eight inches down. I could still prep the bed and seed as spinach is pretty hardy, but the bed does need to thaw still.

Sadly the overwinter spinach didn't fare well this year. Usually almost all of the plants make it, but this year I'd say only about half did. I'm still expecting a decent harvest, but I hope the spring spinach does well.

Next up was the carrot bed. The bed had already been prepped before, but since I was doing carrots I figured it didn't hurt to reaerate it. I put a row of bunching onions along the edge. This is hardly all of the seedlings, but I'll scatter more around the garden as I plant.

Usually I take about two feet of the front of this bed for lettuce but this year I want more carrots. I had to plant something in the first six inches or so since the bed depth near to the brick path is pretty shallow. This is the reason for the onions. But the rest of the area is all carrots (except for the back which is a foot long strip of peas). I planted 10 little rows of Mokum, which is an old favorite of mine. The other nine rows closer to the path are Yaya. I've never had these before so don't know how well they will do here, but I've heard good things about them. Both are fairly quick growers. I've always been disappointed in SugarSnax in the spring. It tastes great as a fall carrot and gets really big, but as a spring carrot it is bitter and not very sweet.

After it was seeded I put a double layer of old agribon (with holes in it) to cover the soil. Then watered it. This will keep the soil moist until the carrots sprout. And it also keeps me from washing away the seeds when I water. Unlike a board if the carrots sprout under it, the poor things won't be squished.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Over the Fence

Last year one of my neighbors asked for a rhubarb division. I gave it to him, but told him that it wasn't really the time to split rhubarb and it might not live. It didn't. Yesterday our soil was thawed out (I do have one shady corner that is still frozen about 7" down, but most of the garden is thawed) so it was a great time to dig up the rhubarb plant and split it.

I put the division into a bucket to give to him. He lives just over my back fence. But as we say in New England, you can't get there from here. There are no gates in our fence on that side of the house. We have thought about it, but have never put one in. So I had to go the long way around about two or three blocks. It seems so silly for it to be so long since our back yards touch. I told him when he was done with the bucket he could just toss it back over the fence. At least it could take the short route. He later emailed me to tell me it was planted. I hope it grows well for him.

Then it was on to planting. Yesterday I did the Asian greens bed. I prepared the soil and planted those early starts. From left to right I have bok choy, tatsoi, and mizuna. The bok choy is smaller because when I seeded it, I seeded it in the wrong cells. It was seeded with my parsley. I decided to let the parsley grow and reseeded the bok choy. I'm hoping that in a month I'll have a good harvest. The rest of the bed was direct seeded with bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna, and choy sum. I do have some transplants growing upstairs. We will see which is bigger in a couple of weeks. I might just use the transplants as I suspect they will be better than the direct seeded ones.

When I was done I put a netting row cover on it. Now they just need to grow. Grow little babies. Grow!

Last fall when my daughter came to stay with her dog, I wanted to be able to bring him into the garden. But dogs of course love dirt. And they love eating organic fertilizer. So I put up some bamboo and string to tell the dog where not to go. My daughter's dog is very trainable, but I found he does need a visual clue when he gets excited. He could easily jump over it, but it is just enough to remind him. I used some old bamboo that was breaking and small. I didn't like it much as all the sticks are of different size and some were sharp where they broke.

So I replaced them with some old stakes. These stakes used to be next to my beds. They were to keep the middle of each 4'x8' from expanding due to the pressure of the dirt. Well the reality is that the stakes never touched the side of the bed after the first year. So they weren't really doing anything. Yesterday I pulled them out and used them to hold up the string. It looks much better now doesn't it? I didn't have enough stakes for the whole garden. The west bed in the circle garden still uses bamboo, but all the other beds at least are nicer.

I had plenty of time to do more yesterday, but today is supposed to be a gorgeous day too, so I wanted to save one of my beds to dig up. Really the weather is supposed to be gorgeous and above normal temperatures for the next week. We might get some rain on Friday and maybe Saturday morning which would be nice. But other than that it will be mostly sunny and warm. We went straight from winter to late spring weather. It sure makes planting easier. Usually I'm out sowing and planting and freezing my butt off. I remember so many spring days planting spinach in a down coat with frozen hands. Planting with a light wind breaker and a sun hat is so much nicer. I just hope the soil in the spinach bed is all defrosted today.