Friday, May 31, 2013

Sweet Potatoes

Even though we had one night in the 30Fs over last weekend, the forecast for this week was hot, hot, hot. Yesterday was to be the start of the 90 degree weather. The above bed was the baby greens bed. I needed it empty so I could plant the sweet potatoes in time for the heat wave. Sweet potatoes love heat. My greens don't. So I harvested everything that was ready and cleaned up the bed.

What was left was my kohlrabi. It was an experiment to see if they could bulb up enough to harvest before June 1st (my normal sweet potato planting time). They didn't quite make it but are close. I'll leave them in until the last of my slips are ready.

I started trying to spout my slips at the beginning of March. It worked for the Purple and Beauregard sweet potatoes.

But the Garnet sweet potatoes still hadn't really leafed out enough to root them. They were very, very slow. Last year I had trouble too. I'm either going to have to start them in January or February or overwinter some vines in the house next year if I want Garnets. If they get big enough I'll put them in the middle of the bed where the kohlrabi is now. Not the most ideal location as the other sweet potato vines might overwhelm them, but I hope it works. Maybe in a week I can get them into the ground. If I feel I can't, I have some more Purple and Beauregard to take their place.

This year I'm doing three rows across the bed and each plant about 16" apart. Last year I put them much closer and though they needed more room. I'll see if the yields are better this way or if I should keep them at the close spacing.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Constructing a Bean Trellis

Last time I showed my trellis someone wanted to know how I built it. So here here are the instructions. My beds are 4' wide and 8' long. In the past I've put one trellis along the northwest side of the bed and I've grown something shorter along the southeast side of the bed (the sunnier side). This year I'm putting in a trellis on both sides and will see if both sides will grow well or not.

I build this out of poles that are 8' long and 1" in diameter. I take three sets of two poles. Two sets will be put at opposite ends of the beds and one in the middle. One pole in each pair is placed along the edge of the bed and the other is placed 18" in front of it. I push them as far into the ground as I can. It is OK to have one pole stick up longer than the other.

Then I ggt onto my stool and tied the tops together. I leave a crossed gap at the top barely wide enough to put a pole through. I lay the top crossbar in that gap pulling down on it to make it tight.

I tie the top crossbar firmly down.

I suppose I should talk a little about string. I use jute. This trellis takes a lot of it. I find it much cheaper to buy my string in a huge roll that lasts for years. I like using string because at the end of the season I can just cut the whole thing down and compost it. When I do my tying I use about a yard at each joint for joints with just two poles. I use 50% more if there are more poles at the joints. I loop the string around multiple times and really pull tight.

After I have my top cross bar up, I put up two cross bars about a foot from the ground. One on one side of the trellis, and one on the other. As you can see I do one end first. Then I do the other end, then the middle. You may ask why I put them a foot above the ground and not closer to the ground. I find it easier to weed the bed if I don't have to go through a trellis. Also the beans can find their way up with no trouble at that height and it uses less string.

Then I add two diagonal bars to make the structure more stable. I start from the middle poles and tie two crossbars (one at a time) to the middle joint.

The other end of these diagonals rest on the bottom bar and are tied to the bars at the ends. I only put diagonal bars on the side of the trellis that faces outside. If you feel your trellis at this point it is pretty stable.

My site however is very windy. Over time the trellis rocks back and forth. The beans growing up are like a sail. First one side gets buffeted and then the other. Over time the trellis will lean into the bed. This is because my pathways have very solid soil from walking on it all the time and my bed has very loose soil. So the poles on the outside near the paths can't dig themselves farther in. While the poles on the inside of the bed get pushed farther and farther down. I fix this by adding a side brace. I can't show you as the one I built had two trellises on each side of the bed. But I put in one more supporting bar that is tied to the trellis at the two corners of the bed and is pushed against the wood of my raised beds at the other. I do it diagonally from the trellis side down to the edge of the bed.

But this time I made two trellises and connected them with a cross bar at the sides that just connects to each trellis. I'm hoping that is good enough. I get some pretty strong winds here. I've been here three years and have seen two wet microbursts so far. I don't know what wind speeds we had as my weather station has a broken wind meter but they can generate speeds over 140mph (we didn't see even close to that speed I'm pretty sure though it was destructive and brought down more trees in our town than Sandy took out and the microburst covered less than a square mile and only lasted about five minutes). They arrive very suddenly and don't last long and effect a very small area. I saw my bean trellises bending to about a 45 degree angle during one but it stayed up. The bamboo didn't break (go bamboo) and the beans survived. The rest of my plants were flattened except interestingly enough some corn that was planted between two of my bean trellises.

Now on to the strings. Because of my winds I've found that I need to keep the strings from moving sideways along the pole. I made a string with loops in it every 6". The string has a foot on either end without loops to tie it down to the top cross bar.

To put up the bean strings I take an end and put it through one of those loops and then over the bar. I tie one end to one bottom bar and the other end to the other. I will plant two bean seeds under each end of the string. So the beans are actually growing up both sides of the trellis.

The finished trellis.

The last trellis has those beans coming up. These are all Cherokee Trail of Tears. As you can see I've planted the beans in rows about a foot apart.

Sadly some of them have been laced. This one will survive. But others have been totally eaten. I'll have to seed some more today to replace them. I think the rolypolys have been at them. It might be slugs, but with the dry weather we had for most of the spring it is more likely not.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Picking, Planting, and Protecting

Yesterday I must have spent at least 3-4 hours in the garden. The morning was spent putting those footies on my peach tree to protect the peaches from insects. I've heard that they work great. I've also heard that they make the peach rot. So I've only covered 20 of the plethora of peaches. I always love a good garden experiment.

While I was out by the peaches my second soaker hose was delivered. So I placed it down. I thought two 75' soaker hoses would be too long, but the ends actually meet but don't overlap. So it is perfect. I haven't been able to link them together as the two way connector that I ordered at the end of April still isn't here. I'd cancel it, but I bought it from Amazon and got super saver shipping on it. If I cancel it would cost me more as then I'd be charged shipping on the other part of the order. So here I wait. Maybe I'll put together something from my irrigation parts.

The soaker hoses are for the rock wall garden and will water my fruit trees and strawberries. I had only my earliest strawberries protected from the squirrels. I decided to finish up the later berries too. Earlier in the year I had bought some more 9 gauge wire to make some hoops to support the bird netting I use. Right now the strawberries are scattered all over the bed, but after they fruit I want them to run in one line along the front of the bed. So I cut the wire into 3 1/2' lengths before I bent them into hoops. They are the perfect width for one strawberry plant. Right now I can't really use big hoops to protect what I have as the trellises for the trees get in the way of the netting. But at least the front part is protected.

In the afternoon I got around to planting things. But my spinach patch needed to be picked first.

After picking I pulled all the weeds and the remaining parts of the spinach. You might notice that I don't pick every leaf. I often leave the oldest leaves on the plants.

After it was cleaned up I planted my melons - 4 Halona and 4 Sensation. Last year I trellised the melons, but this year I'm just going to let them run. I'll see how it works.

I also got the first of the two sisters beds up. I planted the whole 4'x16' bed. In each end of the bed I planted two Waltham butternut squash. The middle 10' have corn that is grid planted one foot apart. When the squash start to run I'll train them to run between the rows of corn. I'll plant the other two sisters bed in a couple of weeks. That way the corn will be at least a little bit spread out.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Harvest Monday May 27th, 2013

My favorite harvest from last week never even got photographed. I was going out to take a walk and stumbled across it. The first perfectly ripe strawberry. I ate it on the spot.

The next day eight more were ripe. They didn't match the wonderful sweetness of the first berry. Still it is hard to beat a home grown strawberry.

There were a lot of harvests this week. I picked two baskets of salad greens.

Pounds of spinach came out of the first picking of the spring spinach. It will have one more picking this week before it gets pulled out to make way for the melons.

I dried a lot of thyme.

I picked more bok choy. Last week the photo really didn't show the color as the purple color is not on the bottom of the leaves. But here you can really see it.

Every week lots of roots are getting picked.

And I made a strawberry rhubarb crisp for a BBQ yesterday. The strawberries were the last of the frozen ones from last year. It is good to have finally finished them as the new berries are starting to come in.

  • Alliums 0.41lbs
  • Greens 5.86 lbs
  • Greens Asian 2.20 lbs
  • Herbs 0.58 lbs
  • Roots 1.97 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 11.01 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 29.16 lbs, -$272.84
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, May 24, 2013

Flowers, Chives, and a Rhubarb Martini

Yesterday I visited a friend and she asked if I wanted any lily of the valley as it was taking over. I laughed and said yes it is an invasive plant. But also yes I wanted some. I've loved lily of the valley since I was a small child. The smell is heavenly and the little bells are so cute. Caroline, one of my townhouse mates, said she wanted something under the bamboo that lines our very very shaded walkway. Not much can grow there. When I say shaded I really mean it. One side has a 6' solid fence. The other side has the house. Overhead are the pine trees blocking out any sun that might think of getting in. Things don't grow well there.

Caroline, one of my townhouse mates, really wanted something to fill in the ground under the bamboo. She has little patience for things growing. She always wants it filled now. And she doesn't like empty space. The lily of the valley will make her happy I'm sure. It can spread several feet in a year if it is happy. In two years I'm sure it will totally cover the place and it and the bamboo can fight it out. The bamboo we have really isn't that much of a spreader, but I do expect it to spread a little even in the poor conditions it lives in. It is bamboo after all. I think it can compete just fine. And the lily of the valley will be contained since it is surrounded by brick everywhere except one side which has a metal liner between it and the grass.

While I was out I also went to buy some flowers to place around the yard. I got 6 six packs. I decided this year to place a few annuals around the yard to see how it looks. I planted all of those plus the lily of the valley when I got back.

I checked on the weather report. I really should quit doing this as I never like the answer. It was going to be constantly wet for three days. My chive flowers were at their peak. Some hadn't opened, but the earliest bloomers really needed picking. I figured they were as dry as they would ever get as the air really felt like rain. So I started picking. Just as I was done a few drops fell.

Making chive blossom vinegar

Have you ever really smelled a chive blossom? You would think it would be all onion, but it isn't. To me they smell a little like lilacs. Last time I used a white wine vinegar to make chive blossom vinegar. I didn't like it all that much. It was too much of a clash between the two. So this year I smelled the chive blossoms and smelled all the vinegars I had. I felt all the fruity vinegars were just too sharp and overpowering for the chive blossoms. But the rice wine vinegar seemed like a perfect match. So I used that this year. I hope the floral scent come through. If not it will still be a pretty pink vinegar as the color of the flower bleeds out into the liquid.

A drink is a very nice way to end the day. So I read my book while having a Rhubarb Vodka Smash. Mine was slightly modified as I don't have a cocktail shaker or a martini glass.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mother Nature Hates Me

It was the 20th of May (last Monday) and we were two thirds of the way through May. I checked the weather forecast and it said we would have three days of 80F weather with a few 70s in the middle before it turned hotter again on the weekend. It certainly looked like summer had arrived. I planted my first two beds of beans. The first one was my beloved Cherokee Trail of Tears and the second my Tiger Eye Beans.

I knew something was wrong on Tuesday night. Tuesday was one of those hot and humid days. But I went outside Tuesday night and it was cold. It was supposed to stay in the 60Fs all night long. It was not in the 60Fs anymore. On Wednesday a day the was destined to be 82F never got out of the 60s. My weekend that was supposed to have a warming trend is now predicted to be in the low 50Fs. My poor beans. Beans won't germinate unless the soil is 60F. It did make it to that on sunny days. We won't see the sun until Monday. It is rainy. I think my beans might all rot in the ground. Mother Nature hates me. It's either that or the weathermen are playing tricks on us gardeners. But I'm going with Mother Nature because even with all the wet weather we still haven't gotten much rain at all. When it rains we get like a tenth of an inch. We still have gotten less than a third of our normal May rainfall.

I was going to make some flavored vinegar out of my chive blossoms. But they are were damp yesterday morning and are damp again this morning. Maybe tomorrow morning they will finally dry out enough to pick. I can't wait too long to pick them. The English thyme is ready to preserve too if it ever dries out.

Yesterday's chore was ripping out the old winter spinach bed. I had lot of volunteers in the bed - chamomile, cilantro, romaine lettuce, and dill. Oh and lots of Johnny-jump-ups. I swear they would take over the garden if I let them. I figured all the leaves would be horribly disfigured by now as the leaf miners are out and this bed isn't protected. But many of the leaves were fine. So I picked a small basket before ripping them up. My townhouse mates have taken in some stray college kids (including their own son) for the summer. They are vegetarian so are looking forward to veggies from the garden. I sent the spinach over with some salad greens, radishes, and turnips. One said he would work for food. My townhouse mates thought I'd put them to work in my vegetable garden. But I love taking care of it, so I just showed them weeds that need to come out in the other part of the yard.

I've noticed I took a few photos of food, but never put them on as I don't need the extra photos for Harvest Monday anymore. I'm getting enough harvests as it is. This is my typical lunch. I made a squash and black bean salad to add to my typical green salads. I sent half the black bean salad over to the college kids. The rest I'll eat over a few days.

When I cleaned out my pantry I noticed that I had some strawberry syrup still. So I made myself some blueberry pancakes and used up one of the small jars of syrup.

The first grilled burger of the year. With homemade mustard and relish and freshly picked lettuce. The sides are a garden salad and grilled bok choy.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I Have Condoms on my Apples

I've never done this before, but the books all say to thin your apples when they are 1/2"-3/4" in size. Most of mine had reached that size. Each spur had set about 3-5 apples and there are a lot of spurs on that tree. Some just a few inches away from another. The tree was just covered in little tiny apples. I picked the largest apple from each bunch and kept that one. Then trimmed off any that were closer than 6" apart. The books say 6"-8" apart. I tried for that.

Then I put on protection for the apple. I swear they look like condoms hanging off my tree though they are really footies. Not the nicest look, but I suppose they would be a conversation piece at a bbq. The little nylon footies expand well and breath. They also keep those nasty insects out. I used a twist tie to keep them on. I'm not going to spray poison on my apples if I can help it. I've also read that ziploc baggies work well if you cut the corners off of them. I don't like the look of them, but I did cover three of the apples with ziplocks. I'll see which makes the better fruit, but it would take a lot of difference for me to resort to the ziplocks on all those apples. Now it is a waiting game. Will I get good insect free apples this year? I've got my fingers crossed.

The apple that got protection is the Ginger Gold. The other apple tree in its third year is the Honeycrisp, but it has barely grown. It really struggles compared to the other. It had set two bunches of apples. I just took them off the tree. The tree really needs to get bigger. It is still only about three feet high. Then I went on to my three year old peach trees. One peach tree had set peaches already. I thinned the fruit, but the fruit is still a bit small to bag. I'll wait a few days. Like the Ginger Gold apple, the tree is covered in peaches. I had to take a lot of little peaches off. The other peach tree is still blooming. It was very late this year. It is right by the driveway and after the 2' snow storm we shoveled all the snow on around it. So the ground defrosted much later even though they are only a few yard apart. That one will need a lot more time before they get bagged.

I did get a couple of other chores done today. I got my Tigers Eye beans planted. I planted a whole 4'x8' bed up with them. I planted in rows 6" apart. But one side had the beans 6" apart in the row, and one had them 4" apart in the row. I want to see if there is a difference in production with them closer together. If not it uses a heck of a lot less seed which otherwise I could be eating.

The last chore was to cut back the French thyme and dehydrate it. I got a cup of dried thyme. Tomorrow I ought to do the English thyme.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Planting Some Beans and Picking Some Spinach

I didn't add strings to my trellis before because my hands were too sore from tying all the jute when I made the thing. But yesterday I finally got it done. I also did the typical soil preparation for planting. Fertilizing (with a low nitrogen fertilizer), loosening the soil, and adding compost to the top. I must say that I did it totally wrong. Do you know how hard it is to get your garden fork in to loosen the soil once you have a big honking trellis in the way? Well it is pretty hard. It makes all the spreading of things hard too. Live and learn.

In the morning I had started to soak my beans. I don't always do this. And sometimes I don't just soak them, I let them sprout a bit first. But they soaked for a good 4-5 hours before they were planted. As always for beans I sprinkled them with an innoculant to help them grow. Today's planting was some Cherokee Trail of Tears beans. I decided that I never grow enough. I'm not sure why I think that. I still have some left from last year's planting. But regardless, I'm planting a whole 4'x 8' bed of them. I've also never done a trellis with two sides before. I've always put the bean trellis on the northwest side of the bed. This time I have twice the trellis and they are on both sides of the bed. I guess I'm still experimenting with the best way to grow my beans. I hope both sides can get enough sun.

Someone asked me how I make my trellises. I have one more still to put up this week, so I'll try to do a post then.

My other big chore was to get my spring spinach picked. I picked off all the good looking leaves. I tend to leave the oldest leaves on and let the younger ones grow. But those middle leaves are perfect. This patch will have one more big picking next week before I have to pull it. I want to get the melons in this bed by June 1st. So far the spring spinach hasn't started to bolt. We have had really wonderful spring weather in the 60Fs and 70Fs. It is just recently that some 80Fs have started to show up. So I'm sure by next week they will be starting their bolt. Though I'm still surprised to not see them bolting now. Spinach bolts not just by heat but by day length. I figured out ages ago that that was May 15th at my latitude.

Since I got not quite four pounds of spinach and I didn't want to freeze this batch, I sent out an email to my extras list. I got two responses. So they got a quarter of the harvest each. I think I'm left with enough for this week. Maybe still too much, I'm just one person. But I think I can eat all that is left before my next picking. Then of course I made myself a salad for lunch and forgot to add spinach. I swear I'll remember today to have it for lunch. And I think I'll have some for dinner too. Maybe a spinach pizza. And my husband will be on a business trip starting on Thursday. That would be a good day for some spinach and mushroom quiche. Yeah I think I can use it up if I work on it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Harvest Monday, May 20th, 2013

The big spinach harvest was early last week (above is only half). Four pounds of winter spinach was picked, washed, blanched, and frozen. I still have the spring spinach to go. I'm contemplating giving lots of it away.

I filled my harvest basket with greens for salads. I had the first radishes of the season. I also picked some kale blossoms. Kale blossoms have been a mainstay vegetable this last week. I seem not to be able to keep up with them. But their season is really short.

I picked the first of the bok choy. I found the purple kind (on the left) not quite as good as the green kind. It is just slightly more bitter and also a bit tougher. Not much. They are pretty close. But enough so that I probably won't grow it again as it also grows more slowly.

I forgot to take photos of the kale harvest. But I chopped the last of the kale down to make way for beans. I blanched and froze all two pounds of it. I actually find frozen kale as good as fresh. I never eat it raw so having it precooked saves time.

I was going to a evening around the firepit with some friends. I gave our hostess some freshly picked spring spinach. So the giving away of the spinach has started. Last year I just preserved all the spring spinach too. And then I didn't need to preserve any chard. But I figure this year I ought to mix it up and freeze both. I have a whole bed of spinach. I'll work on eating it this week, but it won't last long as the weather warms up and there is just so much of it.

A nice big basket of oregano. I put some in a quart jar to make flavored vinegar, but still got a cup of dried oregano from the rest.

  • Alliums 0.13lbs
  • Greens 7.73 lbs
  • Greens Asian 2.69 lbs
  • Herbs 0.44 lbs
  • Radish 0.37 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 11.37 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 18.15 lbs, -$317.43
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, May 19, 2013

Preserving and Supports

Friday morning I spent watering the garden. I didn't know really what to do with my rock wall garden. I didn't have time to hold the hose on them and my soaker hoses hadn't come. So I put on the oscillating sprinkler on its narrowest setting and moved it down the row. Then that afternoon, wouldn't you know it, the first of the soaker hoses came. I put it in and it wasn't quite long enough. I ordered one 75' hose(the one the came) and one 50' one. Since I knew it was too short I went back online and canceled the 50' one and ordered another 75' one. I think they may overlap just a touch, but otherwise I'd be watering a 10' section by hand when we don't get rain. I'll also bring the hose out to the end of the bed more which will use up a little bit more length.

Then it was on to my supports. I got the fava beans supported. I only put the first layer of string up. When they get past that rung I'll do the top.

Saturday I only did some picking in the morning. I picked what was still good in the kale patch as I needed to rip it out. It all got frozen. Then I went hiking instead of gardening for the rest of the day. It was a beautiful day. I was so exhausted when I got back I couldn't bring myself to go out to do anything. Well I did pick a bit of spinach to bring to a friend's house in the evening, but nothing else.

Today was a morning work day. I had to rip out what was left of the kale plants.

And put up the trellis for the beans (it still needs some twine lines for the beans to climb). It is the start of the warm weather planting season. I'm going to be planting some beans this week. Putting up a trellis is hard work. And it is very hard on the hands as the twine I use to tie the poles together really rips them up. But I got this double sided bean trellis up. I've got one more to build in the future. But that will be later.

When I was coming in I noticed the lovely oregano. It really needed to be picked and dehydrated. So out came the scissors. The house smells wonderful now. I had so much that I decided to make some Italian seasonings vinegar. I'll put other herbs in the jar later, but for now it is just oregano covered by cider vinegar. Tomorrow I ought to pick the thyme.