Monday, January 30, 2012

Harvest Monday - January 30, 2012

Again I've got no harvests. I have been eating up my stores. I finished the last of the bok choy that was picked before Christmas so it lasted a long long time in the fridge. I'm still working on the tatsoi. I expect it to last until mid February before I need to have eaten it all. I've found the best way to store such things is in a sealed container that just fits them without squishing them with a towel on the bottom. The towel keeps them from rotting and sliming out on the bottom and the container keeps the air at 100% humidity. Greens last a very long time stored this way.

I also ate some tomatoes for the first time since August when I found out I had solanine poisoning (nightshade poisoning). I made some beef stew. Well I can't eat them yet. I can have trace amounts without reacting, but not a meal that has the solanum family as a core ingredient. It did taste delicious though. I miss tomatoes so much.

So instead of me eating it my son got to eat the rest and I put some in the freezer for next time he is here. It had a lot of garden ingredients. It had tomatoes, carrots, shelling beans that I had frozen, onions, celery, and rosemary.

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.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Mother In Law is Cruel

At the beginning of the month I turned 50. My MIL gave me a birthday gift. It was a check for $500 with a stipulation that it be spent on something I wouldn't already buy. Now you might not see that as cruel, but as I'm sure you could guess, my mind immediately went to the garden. I started thinking about irrigation systems. Then I started to think about whether it was really worth putting one in or not. Oh the dilemma. I've been doing calculations and debating this in my head for weeks.

Monetarily it is a bad choice. I did the math. I'm guessing that I water the garden overhead about six times a year. We get rain here. It is not a dry spot. Our average rainfall is 4" per month, with a high of 4.5" and a low of 3.5". So I have to water on occasion, but not a whole lot. A quick back of the envelope calculation says that if I water 6 times a year I pay about $46 per year in water (which I might point out has never been calculated and never put in my tally - ah well I'm not perfect). If I had an underground watering system it may (or may not) save me about half. Say $20 per year. The inexpensive systems will cost me over $200. I haven't done the math there, and it might be more like $400. The plastic only lasts for about 8 years or so left outside. Some of the items like soaker hoses and T-tape lasts much shorter. So it is cheaper not to put one in.

The additional plastic in my gardens is always a negative too. Since it has a real time limit (the T-tape especially doesn't last long) replacements would always be coming. I'll do that for row covers as row covers save me so much time in spraying Bt, but I'm not sure it is worth it for the little watering I do.

In addition it doesn't save me any time. The system requires maintenance and construction. Setting up an overhead sprinkler is so easy. It does help with watering one section more than another. Which right now I can't do unless I do it by hand. Is it worth the aggravation and upkeep? Probably not. It might be worth it to do a small section. The circle garden and the herb garden along the house might be nice. Then I don't have to water the 3' brick path all the time (which had to be done to include that in the watering). So maybe I'll be doing about 1/8 of the garden in soaker hoses of sorts. And I do want irrigation for my rock wall garden. That place is impossible to water and takes forever to do by hand. So I'll probably put a small bit into irrigation. And I'm going to buy a really expensive but highly rated sprinkler whose width can be switched. Then I'll be able to water my whole raised bed area at once (minus the circle garden and the herb garden along the wall). Cost $89. Yes a damn expensive sprinkler. But hey I'm supposed to be buying things I wouldn't already buy.

Then there is the idea of a rain barrel. I've been thinking about a pretty one. They make lovely fake terra cotta ones with planters on top. So pretty. But then I thought about my roof. My roof is an asphalt roof. Asphalt has a ton of really nasty toxic chemicals in it. Do I really want to water my garden with that? Before I bought the house, my dream was a roof that had a material that you could drink from and an underground cistern. But I'm not about to replace the roof. And even if I wanted to, I couldn't get it past my townhouse mates. It would be very costly and their dreams are hardly the same as mine. And what a waste to throw out a new roof. I would only have done it if we had renovated an old house. So anyone know the answer? Is the water coming off an asphalt roof toxic? See the problems my MIL has caused?

An easy thing to spend it on is row covers. I've been drooling over the Veggiecare ones from Australia for years. I'd love to have about three of them for half beds. So three that would cover an 8'x4' bed. Plus I'd love some clips. Price $220 to $270. Now there is really something I wouldn't buy myself. That is a ton of money. Supposedly they last longer (about 8 years). I hope so. I hate the Agribon. With our winds it rips too easily. And the heavier stuff gets too hot in the summer and blocks too much light. This one is similar to Agribon 19 in light transmission. I'll still use the Agribon I have, but I'll use it for temporary things. Things that are there for a long time I'll use the new stuff.

Oh and I'm loving the company already. I asked them which of the clips I should be using as my pipes are not 3/4" or 1". They said they would send me a sample and I should test them. So I will. That is why there are two prices. If I get the Jumbo clips it is much more expensive.

I'm still debating in my mind but for now I think I'll ignore the rain barrel since I don't trust my food to be watered from it. I'll get the sprinkler. I'll get the Veggiecare row cover (and maybe some clips). And I'll start with a small irrigation system for the hard to water rock wall garden and the herb garden by the wall. And I'll think about the circle garden.

What would you all buy if you were given such a nice gift?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Gardening Season Has Officially Started

All cleaned up

Tuesday I finally got off my derriere and started cleaning up after last year. All the trays I use to hold my soil block were still dirty. I always mean to clean them up in the summer and fall when I'm done with them, but of course that never happens. I always put it off until the last minute. I don't use chlorine. I know all the gardening experts tell you to. But I hate the stuff and I just use dish detergent and water and a lot of scrubbing.

I finally got them clean because when I was making my schedule I looked at last year's records. My onions turned out great last year. I had planted them on January 21st. It is already past that date. So I had to get a move on. I wanted more onions than I had last year. On Wednesday I planted two and a half flats of 1 1/2" soil blocks. There are 72 in a flat, so that was 180 blocks. I probably don't need that many but it can't hurt to have them. I'm pretty sure I will still have enough room under the lights.

The tops of my blocks always look a bit strange. I like to put cinnamon on the surface to help prevent damping off. I also cover the seeds with vermiculite so it will be easier for the seedling to push up. Then I cover them with plastic wrap until I see the first sign they are germinating.

There they are - the first three flats off and running. Some of the seed is a year old but it should still germinate. I didn't do a germination test. But if they don't germinate in a week, I'll reseed with newer seed. I do store my seed in an airtight container in the fridge. So onion seed usually lasts more than a year.

Just to record the varieties: 54 Copra, 54 Redwing, 36 Alicia Craig, 36 Varsity. The yellow storage onions are Copra and Varsity. I grew them last year and they are just starting to have some problems. Some are rotting; some are sprouting; but most are fine. I'm sure for not much longer since I keep seeing more with problems. The Redwing is a red storage onion. I've not lost one of them yet. They will be the last onions eaten since they store so well in my questionable storage area. I keep the braids at the top of the stairs to the basement. It is cool there, but not really cool enough. Next year I ought to store the braids at the bottom of the stairs where it is much colder.

And since I usually get questions about blocks. I'll leave you with a link to my last post on soil blocks.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Harvest Monday - January 23, 2012

Yup I've got nothing again. Which isn't too surprising. The ground is frozen solid. All my tunnels are down.

And the garden is blanketed in a layer of snow.

It is pretty, and I know my spinach will be happy for the blanket, but it doesn't make for good harvests. I am using up things from the pantry. My son has been home so I've made him ham and bean soup, with dried beans, carrots, onions, celery, and herbs from the garden. He does love soups.

I think today or tomorrow I'll make some beef stew with some of my canned tomatoes. I've been eating small bits of tomatoes and peppers recently and have been OK. (For those that don't know, I've had solanine/solanum poisoning since last August.) I do have trouble if I breath in a lot of it. I made chili for my husband one day and reacted rather strongly. But a few tomatoes in some stew ought to be just fine.

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.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I go through a lot of planning stages before spring. The first thing I do is go through my seed catalogs and buy seeds. I showed you my Fedco order before. I've since placed an order from Pinetree for seeds that I don't really need, but would be fun to have. I bought the following: Summertime lettuce, Ambrosia melon, Big Red Pepper (got to love that name), Alma Paprika pepper, Early Butternut, Soloist Chinese cabbage, Tetsukabuto winter squash, epazote, Masai bean, Jersey Supreme asparagus.

The last I actually needed. Quite a few of the asparagus I planted last year died. So these are a replacement. Sadly they have changed their shipping policy. It used to be a flat fee for everything. But now it is a flat fee for seeds and another fee for live plants. So sad. The shipping costs as much as the plants.

So my seeds have all been ordered. I hope I didn't miss anything. The next planning stage is getting the list of seeds together that I'm actually going to grow. I have sheet in my garden spreadsheet that can calculate the date that they need to be planted and the date they need to go into the garden. It assumes a last frost date of May 1st. I tell it how many weeks old the transplant should be and how many weeks before or after the last frost date it should be planted. I get it all compiled on another sheet in printable format. I copied it to the web so you could see it in its current state.

The first set of plants are the ones that will be done as transplants. The later ones are ones that are direct seeded out in the garden. I might do more direct seeding of things like Asian greens and lettuce, but I haven't made up my mind yet. At least they are on the sheets. This keeps me from forgetting them if I do want to start them indoors. I find that if I don't have these sheets I never know when to plant. I do not follow the sheets perfectly, but they give me an idea.

My next chore is to lay out the garden and figure out how many transplants of each variety I need. If you notice that information has not yet been added. I usually grow more of everything just in case of seedling failure, but I don't grow many more. So it is time to get out my graph paper and start figuring out where my plants go.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Harvest Monday - January 16, 2012

I checked on my tatsoi on Thursday. We were predicted to get some really cold weather for a change. Saturday and Sunday nights were predicted to be in the single digits. Brrrr. The tatsoi is pretty good at withstanding cold weather, but I found out last year that it doesn't like weather that cold and after a while the freeze/thaws would be too much for it. Last year I told myself I'd pick it all in December, but with the abnormally high temps we have been getting I picked all the Asian greens except the tatsoi in December. I was thinking it might make it until the first January thaw.

This is what the bed looked like. Very pretty for this time of year. Except if you look underneath all that there is a lot of rotting going on. Some heads were all rotted through in the middle. Some just had a few outer leaves. So I picked it all and cleaned up the bed.

It weighed in at 1.96 lbs. I'll be eating this over the next few weeks.

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.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Harvest Monday - January 9, 2012

This last week I had no harvests. I did however start having expenses for the year as I put in my first seed order.

Fedco: $55

In addition I finally got my sidebar tally caught up to 2012. If you will notice I'm in the hole by over $400. Except for the seed above, these are not things I've bought this year. When I started the garden I amortized the cost

When we moved into the house I had a lot of expenses putting in the garden. Our yard was subsoil. I elected to add expenses to my tally that would occur only because I was putting in a vegetable garden. For instance the soil to ground level and brick path were not added as I would have had to put them in anyway to put in lawn. The path itself goes from driveway all the way around the back of the house and up the other side to the road. It would have gone in even if I hadn't had a garden. It might have been placed a bit differently, but the expense would still have been there. The white picket fence with the arch was something I've always wanted. I love when I see arches with the old fashioned roses growing over the top. So I swore I'd have one when we moved. The arch is actually extremely expensive, but even without vegetables in my garden it would have gone in.

That that defined what was amortized. As to how long they are amortized, I guessed as to how long they would last. So here is a list of things that I amortized.

  • Fertilizers, soil amendments, 2 years, $197.26/year
  • Bamboo 100 8' tall and 50 4' tall, 4 years, $65.37/year
  • Wood and hardware for cedar beds, 5 years, $106.22/year
  • Composter, 10 years, $5/year
  • Tomato cages (really good ones), 20 years, $18/year
  • Soil, 30 years, $7.44/year
  • Concrete bricks, 30 years, $0.81/year

Now 30 years might be a stretch. The plan is to live in this house for 20-30 years. Basically until we have enough health issues and want to move into assisted living or our knees get bad enough we don't want to live in a non-ranch house (though the stairs are very wide and we could have a stair lift put in). Now the bamboo will probably outlive its four years and the cedar probably will out live 5 years, but it is hard to say. Basically I did the best I could on guessing the life span of the items bought.

The above basically adds up to $400/year. Half of that is the soil amendments and other things which will expire after this year. I placed a large order with NOFA (Northeast Organic Farmers Assoc) last year. I bought things like a general organic fertilizer, greensand, azomite, orchard netting, Fort V potting soil, bone char (our soil was really low on phosphorous), a planting mix for our fruit trees, fish emulsion, Sluggo (5lbs so enough to last a while) and worm castings. I shouldn't have to buy much of that kind of thing this year. Though I did use more than half of the potting soil, so I'll see what happens there. I'd like to see if I can do more direct seeding this year and less growing of transplants for things like greens.

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.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard

Well it was tea time in my house last week. I had a cold all week long. Colds mean I drink a large amount of tea. Some is purchased, but some comes from the garden.

This is my favorite garden combo. Chamomile blossoms and Chocolate Mint. I mix them half and half. I've tried other mints with chamomile, but none are as good as Chocolate Mint.

Does anyone else drink tea from the garden? If so what are your favorites? I love lemon balm tea but lemon balm doesn't dehydrate well. That wonderful lemon scent evaporates. I'd love to find some new teas to grow.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Seeds from Fedco

Usually I do my seed orders at the end of December. This year I'm slow. I was traveling a lot of December then I got a cold that just wiped me out. The last thing I want to do is to try to make up my seed order when my brain isn't working quite right. In November I went through all my seeds and made up a list of what I needed (winter squash, cantaloupe, cucumber, sweet pepper, tall choy, cabbage, late broccoli, spinach, corn, radish, onions, bush dried beans).

I ordered all that I needed from Fedco except the bush dried beans. I'll just buy some beans from the local bean farmer (Baer's Best Beans), and plant those. I've done it in the past and then I have as many as I want and lots of beans to eat. They sell a lot of different kinds of beans, like Vermont Cranberry, Soldier, Boston Roman, Jacob's Cattle, Calypso,Yellow Eye and Black Coco, along with all the "normal" beans. Now the stores (Wilson's Farm and Russo's) never have every kind they grow, but I ought to be able to pick up a couple of heirlooms.

Since I found Fedco years ago I've been a die hard fan of them. They aren't a for profit company, they are a co-op of growers and buyers. So the seeds aren't terribly expensive. In addition they are a co-op for New England farmers, so what I buy will grow here. The seeds aren't southern seeds that need a lot of hot weather to grow. They even sometimes say that the seed will grow better in the southern New England area or visa versa. They tell you where your seed comes from be it a small seed farmer all the way to a big multinational that does genetic engineering. They don't sell Monsanto seeds or seed from any of their subsidiaries. I'm guessing because of this they occasionally have trouble getting seed when things run out, or a supplier has problems. Once I ordered Varsity onion seed from them (in December mind you not late) and it ended up being back ordered. I finally got it around the end of February (too late to plant to get onions here). You can tell them to substitute, but I never do. Oh and I'll end on a positive note. If you order at least $30 of seed from then shipping is free.

My Fedco order for a total of $56 or $55 in the tally for the vegetable garden. I don't count the flower seeds.

298 - Windsor Fava Bean ( B=8oz) 1 x $4.00 = $4.00
582 - Ambrosia Bicolor Sweet Corn ( A=2oz) 2 x $2.40 = $4.80
798 - Legume Inoculant ( A=treats 8lb) 1 x $4.50 = $4.50
1049 - Hannahs Choice Muskmelon ( A=1g) 1 x $2.40 = $2.40
1232 - Calypso Pickling Cucumber ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
1234 - Cross Country Pickling Cucumber ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
2086 - Mokum Carrot ( B=3g) 1 x $4.20 = $4.20
2094 - Sugarsnax Carrot ( B=3g) 1 x $3.50 = $3.50
2248 - French Breakfast Radish ( C=1oz) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
2488 - Varsity Onion ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
2491 - Redwing Onion ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
2510 - Space Spinach ( C=1oz) 1 x $3.50 = $3.50
2555 - Giant Winter Spinach ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $2.40 = $2.40
3273 - Joi Choi Pac Choi ( B=2g) 1 x $3.20 = $3.20
3313 - Fiesta Broccoli OG ( A=0.2g) 1 x $2.30 = $2.30
3339 - Gustus Brussels Sprouts ( A=0.5g) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
3355 - Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage ( A=2g) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80
3392 - Gunma Cabbage ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.70 = $1.70
3463 - Winterbor Kale ( A=0.5g) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
3624 - Ventura Celery OG/BD ( A=0.1g) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
4616 - Sweet Marjoram ( A=1g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
4674 - Winter Savory ( A=0.1g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5141 - Sensation Mix Cosmos ( A=1.4g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00

If you notice sometimes I buy a lot of seed. "A" packets are their smallest. I bought a "C" packet of French breakfast radishes. The seed will keep for years and years, so I won't buy this variety again for quite some time. I bought two "B" packets of carrot seed. Carrots keep for about 2-4 years, but I use so much of it and they always do better with seed that isn't more than 2 years old. I'll use up my old carrot seed this year (which I don't have much of) and start on the new seed. I always buy carrot seed every year.

I bought a lot of spinach seed too. I find spinach hard to germinate and keep up in the garden. I have so many rot diseases that it takes the seed down fast. So I often resow. Plus I sow a whole 4'x8' bed in the spring and one in the fall. That takes a lot of seed.

I chose two different pickling cucumbers. I didn't like Little Leaf from last year. I like to trellis my cucumbers and it wasn't much of a climber. It also had very tough skin. So my refrigerator pickles weren't as good. The canned pickles were delicious, but I like the refrigerator ones best. So I'm going to try to more picklers as see how they do. I might have to break down and buy my favorite which neither of the two places I'm ordering seed from have.

I also got two cabbages. One is a spring cabbage and one a good storage cabbage for fall. The Early Jersey Wakefield is a pointy cabbage. And the Gunma is a flat cabbage. So neither are round cabbages. I'll see if they grow. The red savoy I tried growing last year never headed up and just sat there staying tiny all spring and summer.

Last year I grew three kinds of broccoli, but they were all early types. I decided I wanted to try a later one. So I'm trying Fiesta. It is supposed to just keep producing. I hope so. I'll put these plants at the edge of the bed so when I rotate the rest of the brassicas I can cover these with a small section of remay.

And for the first time I'm hoping to get some Brussels sprouts up. I might succeed. I might not. You never know. I've never succeeded before, but I so rarely try to grow them. They take such a long time and so much space. I figure I have space though, so I'm going to give it a try.

I still have a Pinetree order to get in. It will be small as I have all the seeds I need. It is just a few seeds I want that I'm going to get from them. I probably should have crossed checked what each of the companies sold and bought from the cheapest, but I didn't think of that until I'd already placed my Fedco order.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Harvest Monday - January 2, 2012

Happy New Year everyone! Another year to keep track of. I haven't started a new spreadsheet for 2012 yet, but I will. For now I'll record it all here.

The spinach was looking rather good after the warm weather we had. We are going into some bitter cold weather soon so I figured I'd better pick it. I didn't pick it all. I want it to survive the winter for spring spinach. But it was nice to take a leaf or two from all the plants.

And while I was out I noticed the cilantro. I have three beds like this that have cilantro just popping up all over. I love self seeded beds. Not that I need three beds of cilantro, but I'm calling it a cover crop.

If you notice in the harvest basket I also have some rosemary. I didn't dry nearly enough during the year. I'm just hoping the plants survive which is an iffy proposition in our zone 6 climate. I wanted to wait to trim it until it was very cold because I didn't want the plant to think it should start growing again.

  • Spinach 5.9 oz
  • Rosemary 3.7 oz
  • Cilantro 0.6 oz

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.