Monday, October 28, 2013

Harvest Monday October 28th, 2013

Did you know I've never had a fresh fig before? Well except at a restaurant. Now I've got to figure out what to do with them. the first I ate with some cheese. I'd like to cook the other three, but not sure about recipes. I guess I'll have to look some up.

I picked the first of the fall beans and maybe the last. There have been three frosts in the neighborhood this last week. For some reason my garden hasn't frosted over. Even when we got down to 30F. Not that I'm complaining. The beans are still alive. Tonight is supposed to be in the 20Fs. I can't imagine they will survive that.

I picked all my celery and froze it for the winter. The bucket of greens went into the compost pile. The cleaned up celery in the basket got weighed.

But today is mostly about my seed harvest. I winnowed and weighed my coriander and dill seed this week. And the dried beans were all dry and ready to weigh.

These are all the beans I picked this year (well the ones I haven't eaten already). Some were weighed in other weeks. But it is my dried bean stock for the winter. As you can see I've picked out the seeds for next year already. From left to right I have: Cherokee Trail of Tears black beans (first two jars), Jacob's Cattle, Mexican Pinto, Tigers Eye, and Tarbais. The last jar is also from Tarbais, but it had obviously crossed with another bean. I'm saving only the most perfectly Tarbais like beans for seed for next year.

Bean yield was down this year. I only got about 2/3rds of what I normally get. I always have trouble with rust here, but I had much more trouble than usual. I blame that on my experiment. I really like pole beans better than bush beans. They produce about three times as much in a given area. Though to be fair they do take the spot for the whole year, where bush beans could have a fall crop grow after them. So this year I tried to grow two rows of pole beans along the bed. One in front and one in back. But it just didn't give them enough airflow. So I'm going to have to go back to the chalkboard. I'm going to redo the rotation schedule for next year and see if I can get in more pole beans or not. The problem is that I can't grow summer crops at their foot as they block the sun too much. I wish my beds went east to west like at my last house. Then I could put the pole beans on the north side and not block anything. But the beds are square to the house and south is directly in the corner. The best I can do is plant them on the northwest side of the bed.

Yields lbs/sqft 2013 2012 2011
Trail of Tears 0.20 0.27 0.38
Tarbais 0.17 0.37 0.37
Mexican Pinto 0.17 na 0.31
Tiger Eye 0.04 0.10 na
Jacobs Cattle 0.070.09 na

You can tell from the above chart that dried bean yields are not very high in general. It isn't a crop people usually plant as your value per square foot is pretty low. It is a fun crop though and something that is easily stored over the winter. I even grew them at my last house where I was pressed for space (though not nearly as many).

  • Alliums 1.96 lbs
  • Beans 4.71 lbs
  • Greens 1.78 lbs
  • Herbs 0.41 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 26.25 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 473.86 lbs, $942.84

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.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Garlic Planting

Celery Ready for the Freezer

Yesterday I was going to take down the whole lettuce bed. It also contains some herbs and celery. I did get the celery down before I was distracted by the garlic.

I decided since it might be the last really nice day it would be a good day to plant my garlic. The weather was just lovely, in the mid 60Fs. I had put aside a paper bag of garlic specially picked for planting. The cloves on the bulbs were big and perfect. I've done this for years. But this time when I opened the bag, the garlic was moldy. Ack! I obviously hadn't dried it enough. I only dried it for just over two weeks in the bike shed this year and usually I do it for three. But the weather was so hot in there this time I thought they would be fine. The ones in the basement in a mesh bag had no mold issues. So I tossed my beautiful big heads and used my others. Too bad. I still have plenty of garlic to eat this year. But I'm sad my bulbs with big cloves are gone. The big cloves really give the garlic a jump start on growth.

Looking East

The beds are really starting to look bare as I slowly pull things out. Do you see the string running along the beds? Well my daughter's dog understands that he is not supposed to go into the beds and is usually pretty good. But if something is in the way (like a person), he ignores it and just walks across them to get where he wants to go. Or cuts the corner if he is in a hurry. So I put up the string to give him a boundary. I'm no longer letting him down the long paths. He wasn't happy about that. But my newly planted garlic will thank me.

Looking West

This view is even more bare, but it is deceptive since there is a full bed of Asian greens and some beans past the row cover. And under that row cover are my cabbages and kohlrabi.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Yesterday was all about getting my seed harvest sorted out. I keep paper bags in the corner of my dining room full of seeds of various kinds. The beans had already been sorted out, but I still had mache (which I forgot to plant this fall), three kinds of lettuce, coriander, dill and mustard seeds to deal with. I got all but the mustard done. Sadly the lettuce seeds I didn't label. So I have three kinds of lettuce seed - Red Sails, Little Gem, and Deer Tongue - in bags, but they just read lettuce. Oh well. I'm going to plant them all next year at the same time anyway. The coriander and dill, which you see above, are also saved for eating. I use a lot of dill seed in my pickles every year. I use some coriander and cook with coriander too, but I won't use nearly half of what I picked. I really should start doing less. Winnowing seeds is hard work. I wonder if my townhouse mates want any.

I have two patches of mustard growing for seed. Both are really experiments to see if they can be grown in another season besides spring. The above patch was planted in early August. I'm not sure it will have time to produce anything. We are going to start getting frosts soon. Typically by the middle of November the ground is frozen. The other patch was planted in late June. I picked some of the seeds on Saturday. I'll let them dry in the paper bag for a week to make sure they are well dry before I try to break open the pods and winnow them out. So the summer sowing was a success. The fall sowing not so much. Next year I've got the rotation set up so they can go in after the garlic which gets pulled about the first of July. I think that will work out well. And I'll have more space than I had this time.

And in other spice news, I finished drying the garlic and ground it up.

Then dried an onion and ground that up too. I love the smell of freshly dried onion. It smells like onion dip.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Harvest Monday, October 21st, 2013

The carrots are rolling in. I pick them whenever we run out in the house. Then I make them into carrot sticks so we always have something to munch on.

I picked the last of the winter squash. The second bed only had about 2/3rds what the first bed had. But a total of 50 pounds is pretty good for eating over the winter. Since my daughter is home I'll end up pureeing most of this. She likes her squash casserole. I make it about once a week for her. I also think it is about time for pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. I'll probably make that when my MIL and son are in town at the beginning of November. Then I'll have lots of people to help me eat it.

Again I picked cucumbers. I still can't get over cucumbers in mid October. It is the last of them though as I pulled all the plants.

I did a small picking of the chard. I think I have one picking left before it gets pulled out. There is no sun at all on the bed anymore. So I doubt it will grow. It is just being held until I want more chard. But I'll pick it before the ground totally freezes up. That way I can clean the bed out before winter hits.

And I picked some more spinach. The spinach bed is really taking off. Since the spinach is in the circle garden it does get some sun during the day. And I covered it with netting fabric, so it was protected from the leaf miners (which really slow the plants down when they are small), but the netting lets a lot of light in compared to something like remay. Now if I can remember exactly what I did this year to repeat it next year. I like having fall spinach.
  • Broccoli 0.13 lbs
  • Carrots 2.41 lbs
  • Cucumbers 1.83 lbs
  • Greens 1.73 lbs
  • Winter Squash 19.84 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 26.25 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 473.86 lbs, $942.84

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, October 18, 2013

Garlic Powder, Bean Burgers, and Double Digging

I've been busy the last couple of days. I ought to put all this in a couple posts, but I'm just going to get it all out quickly. This morning I started the process of making garlic powder. I sliced some garlic thin with the mandolin and put it in the dehydrator. I'll grind it up once it is dry. I used up the last of last year's garlic powder yesterday when I made some chicken and mushroom marsala. So it really had to get done.

Black beans and onions from the garden.

Also in the kitchen I made some bean burgers. I doubled the recipe though and used a bit more mushrooms and about twice the cilantro. Somehow I forgot to photograph the cilantro and it didn't get added to the tally.

I froze the burgers uncooked.

I did cook up one for lunch. I just love these bean burgers. They are so tasty. They don't hold together as well as your typical tvp veggie burger, but I like the texture. As you might suspect, that is not ketchup on my burger, but my homemade plum sauce. Maybe I will end up using all those black beans I harvested this year. Just the plain black beans were so yummy before they were put in. I still have a lot of mushrooms, so maybe tomorrow I'll make a black bean, mushroom, and beef soup.

I have no photos of the real work I've been doing in the garden. It is pretty boring to look at. Empty beds with compost spread on top. But I have been working. I decided when I started the garden that I would double dig one of my double beds each fall. I got one half done yesterday and the other done today. They were both spread with freshly sifted compost. I also spread compost on two more beds. One of the beds was the zucchini and cucumber bed. I decided they were through for the year. I did pick more cucumbers before ripping them out. Cucumbers in October is just weird, but I'm not complaining. I've enjoyed the long season.

I've got to get the rest of the compost sifted and out of the bins. I've got about two weeks before the big leaf fall. I've done two and a half of the bins and I have one and a half to go. Sadly I don't have many spots harvested to put it. My lettuce is all bolting now, so I'll probably be ripping that bed out next. My cabbage bed is getting harvested slowly. As is the carrot bed. I won't pick the last of that until November once the ground gets close to freezing. Not much is actually growing anymore. I went out just after noon today and the garden was in total shade. When I left at three it was still in total shade. I think it gets a tiny bit of sun at the beginning and end of the day, but very very little at this point. The sun is behind the trees and the neighbors' houses. So it is the end of the growing year, if not yet the harvesting year.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Harvest Monday, October 14th, 2013

My daughter got really excited about this harvest. She wants to eat her vegetables, but most greens aren't her thing. Carrots on the other hand she loves. So I picked a nice batch to eat this week. I'll be picking carrots every week for a while until sometime after the first frost. Then I'll harvest them all to store for the winter. The above carrots are Mokum. I also have SugarSnax in the garden, but they take longer to mature. They are full length, but still very narrow right now. I like it when they get about an inch in diameter. I hope they have enough time to fill out.

And I picked the first butternut squash this week. It was a good harvest in that bed. The other bed however had trouble germinating at the beginning of summer. So it is late even though it is Early Butternut. I hope it gets ripe enough to taste good. I've got about the same number of butternuts, but those are about half the size as Early Butternuts are small.

Though my broccoli has been disappointing this year I did get a few spears.

I did have a surprise harvest. I never thought my zucchini and cucumbers would produce anymore this late in the year. Who would have thought I'd get cucumbers in October? Needless to say I wasn't checking the zucchini so that big one got away from me. I see zucchini bread in my future.

The overwintering spinach was big enough to pick a small bit. I had it in a salad. Yum. I don't usually get spinach in the fall. Usually I put it in the ground too late for that, but it was seeded earlier that usual and the seed came up in the heat. I hope the larger plants will overwinter as well as smaller plants.

And last but not least were some kale, herbs, and kholrabi for my townhouse mates. The herbs were too small to really weigh. I tend to only weigh herbs when I pick a large amount.
  • Broccoli 0.31 lbs
  • Carrots 1.56 lbs
  • Cucumbers 4.74 lbs
  • Greens 1.73 lbs
  • Summer Squash 4.61 lbs
  • Winter Squash 31.11 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 44.07 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 447.61 lbs, $888.48

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, October 10, 2013

Starting the Fall Compost

One of the big chores every fall is dealing with the compost. It isn't a chore that is done in a day, but takes a while. And won't be done until my leaf bins are filled in November. I have two black plastic bins. The first is where our kitchen scraps go. When we add scraps we cover them with leaves to keep the flies away. The leaves also add carbon to the nitrogen rich scraps. The second plastic bin is for any finished compost at the end of the year. I have a small bit in there now, but I hope I have enough to fill it up when I'm done.

Then there are four pallet bins. The first two on the left are for making compost. Mostly with garden waste, lawn clippings, and leaves. The second two are mostly empty right now but are filled up every fall with leaves. Most of them will be used to add to the other bins as compost is made, but the excess is often broken down by our worms. At my last house this process would take about two years, but here it only takes one year. Technically it is leaf mold, but I use it just like compost. It won't have the mix of nutrients real compost has but it still is good organic matter. I don't make enough compost for all my beds, but with the extra leaf mold I can get close.

So I have a lot of different bins that have compost in them that have to be sorted through. Many people screen their compost, but I tend to just pick out the large pieces of undecomposed sticks or leaves and toss those back into the bin to be composted some more. I've already gone through the second pallet bin. Once the second bin was empty I started to turn over the first bin adding water as I went. Much of the bin was too dry as we haven't had nearly enough rain this summer or fall. I also added the top of the kitchen scrap bin in layers. The kitchen scrap bin is very wet as it has a cover and kitchen scraps are very moist. And the bin is always just filled with worms. It doesn't compost as much as it gets eaten by them. I don't add worms or anything in the spring. They just live here and multiply once it gets warm enough. So I layered that through the pile. I'm hoping the worms will take up residence in this bin now that it is wet enough. And then they will start to break it all down.

I didn't get it all done today. Right now I have four 4'x8'beds spread with compost. I've turned over most of that huge towering pile. I think it is supposed to rain tomorrow, so hopefully the rest of the pile will be turned on Saturday. Then I'll just have the leaf mold pile to sort through. As I put compost on the beds I clean them up. Many still have plants growing in them so that last pile will take a while to get all cleaned up. Occasionally I need to make a pile somewhere else in the garden to hold the compost. Because it all needs to be empty when the leaves start to fall. In the past I've found the best times to collect leaves from the neighbors are the first two weekends in November. So timing is always an issue since not all my crops will be out of the ground by November. Some crops even over winter. But their compost will be stored in that second plastic bin.

I knew I'd be adding compost to the two sisters beds. So the first one was picked and laid out to cure. It was nice and dry earlier this week but I had to bring them in this afternoon as we are getting rain. Where to put them is an issue now. I used to just put them on the floor of the dining room to cure. But the dog is too interested in them. So I've got them on the edges of the counter and my mantle. I'll need more space when I pick the second bed of squash.

And did you see the spinach in my overwintering bed? I've never gotten such nice fall spinach before. Ever. I planted earlier than usual. I hope it isn't too big and still overwinters well. But I'll be out picking that spinach soon. It looks so yummy. I do have gaps in that bed. I filled them in with some later planted seed. That is all up and I'll need to think the little plants out before they get much bigger.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Harvest Monday October 7th, 2013

My most interesting harvest this week is the sweet potatoes. I grew three kinds - Purple (left side, both top and bottom), Beauregard (top right), and Garnet (bottom right). I had 7 plants of Purple, 6 of Beauregard, and 4 of Garnet. As you can see the Purple yielded the best (2.5lbs/plant) and the Garnet the least (less than one pound/plant). Beauregard was in the middle (1.5 lbs/plant). My biggest sweet potato was a Beauregard which isn't in the photo as it was just outside the frame and it was 1.8 pounds. Purple came in second with 1.7 pounds. So some of those sweet potatoes are huge. The photo can be deceptive as it is such a wide view.

Last year Garnet yielded the best. I had trouble early on with the Garnet slips. The sweet potatoes are very slow to sprout in the spring. I finally got smallish slips rooted about a week later than the others were planted. So they were always behind. I tried to keep the other two from smothering the Garnet plants, but eventually I gave up. I think next year I'll start trying to root their slips very early on. Maybe in January instead of the beginning of March. I know they can do better than they did this year.

The other big harvest was the first of the kale. I froze most of it for the winter.

I also had a couple of harvest baskets with Asian greens.

One even had the first of the kholrabis in them.

My tally below also shows beans, though I have no photo. The first of the Jacob's Cattle beans were dry. When the rest are all dried out, probably in a week, I'll take a photo. They are very pretty beans. And I broke 400 pounds this week. My goal every year is one pound per square foot. So I try to get about 565 pounds. I have a feeling I'm just going to miss it. I've been behind all year long. And have gotten even farther behind as the year went on. I'll have to look closely at the tallies later in the year, but I know my zucchini, broccoli, spring cabbage were all disappointments.

  • Beans 0.23 lbs
  • Greens 5.45 lbs
  • Greens, Asian 2.61 lbs
  • Sweet Potatoes 30.15 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 38.44 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 403.54 lbs, $797.92

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, October 6, 2013

Sweet Potatoes

Well the weathermen finally got their act together and agreed it was getting cold and not warm. Sweet potatoes don't really like the cold and the roots can start to degrade in temperatures under 55F so it was time to harvest. When I went out to harvest I found a friend on the sweet potatoes. I've never seen a praying mantis in any of my gardens before. I was wondering if they even existed here in Massachusetts. But as you can see they do. I wonder if he will come back in future years. Before taking apart the bed I moved him into the mustard patch.

My first chore was to remove all the foliage so I could get at the ground. The foliage was very very thick.

Then I had to dig them all up. The Beauregard and the Garnet grow like you would expect. With sweet potatoes growing down from the crown of the plant. But the Purple is very different in growth habit. It winds its way all over, often horizontally. There are often no sweet potatoes under the original plant at all. But they go everywhere. For some reason they liked to follow right under the board of my raised bed.

Though some even escaped their box and went into the mustard box. The left side is where that sweet potato started from. The right side is the mustard bed. I found a lot of purples just over the border in the mustards and even some in the path. They also often don't grow like most sweet potatoes in that they are long and thin. The longest was about two feet long and two inches wide. I did break it into several sections as cooking a long sweet potato like that seemed ridiculous. And after curing it will keep just as well.

And here is the final pile. I harvested almost 30 pounds in a 4'x8' section. Last year I got over 60 pounds in about twice that much space, but then I was trialing varieties and many of those didn't perform well. These are the varieties that did well last year, so I expected about 40 pounds. I'll probably talk more about what did best on Harvest Monday.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Applesauce and Gleaning

You might think that applesauce and gleaning go together, but not this time. They are two separate events. The applesauce made above was finished yesterday. Already one and a half jars have been eaten. I think I need to put up more this year as my daughter can go through a lot of applesauce. Between my husband and myself we go through about 20 pint jars a year. With her added I'm sure 30 would be a good amount to shoot for. I know a lot of you non-applesauce eaters think it might be a lot, but it is just a serving every other week. And unlike some of you we love it just plain as a snack, or a side for lunch.

The gleaning would have been nice if it were apples, but it was greens. I volunteered through the Boston Area Gleaners, who glean produce from farmers and it gets sent to area food banks and shelters. This time it was bok choy and chard. We could have picked as much as we wanted to take home too, but I really don't need more chard or bok choy. Obviously I should have volunteered to glean apples. Apples have been gleaned over the last couple of weeks, but I've been busy those days, so couldn't do it.

And who would have guessed that I was good at it? Our leader was shocked when my first box of bok choy was packed so quickly. Yup I'd make a good migrant farm worker. I can pick, clean off the dead leaves, and pack in no time flat. We needed 10 boxes packed up and I had 2 done and had started on my third when he said we should consolidate our boxes as we had enough. And I could fit them in better than most with no space wasted. We had 45 boxes of chard to pick. I ended up picking 8 of them. Somehow I don't think my back would stand up to the labor for very long though. We only had to be at it for a short time, but a real worker would be doing it all day long.

And it was fun. People quickly learned I knew my veggies and started asking me gardening questions. One person grew paw paws in his yard and brought some for us to try. I had wanted to plant paw paws in my yard here, but they are all a bit too big, no dwarfs and you need two for cross pollination. Now I finally got a chance to try one. It was delicious. I think it is a really under used plant. It doesn't have pests like apple trees do, so is easy to grow. No one really knows about them because they are soft and can't be shipped. So you can't buy them from a store. Sadly there is really no place to put them here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fall Gardening

In fall I'm working on two things - cleaning up summer crops and harvesting and preserving my fall bounty. One of my big summer crops is my sweet potatoes. Last year I harvested them at the end of September. This year we have been taunted by our weathermen. They have been telling me that this week we would be in the 70s and 80s. So far it has been in the 60s and 70s. I didn't want to harvest the sweet potatoes if we would indeed see 80F weather again. But they keep telling me it will be warmer than it gets. Today the predictions are in the low 80s again. Will it get there? Will the long range forecast turn out warm or cool? Right now they split with some saying sixties in a week and some saying we might hit 80F again.

Sweet potatoes taking over the garden paths.

I'm leaning toward the harvest since I do want to start actually eating the sweet potatoes. I also want to see how they did. Last year they did fabulously in the brick surrounded circle garden, but this year they are in the regular section with wood sides. I really want to see how they do. Though in future years I'm thinking of reserving the circle garden for sweet potatoes on one side and melons on the other. They are my most heat loving crops and do very well there. A two year rotation isn't a very long rotation but I think it will work out.

I finally got out and trimmed up my kale. Last year I let the old kale leaves sit on the plant over the fall until the first frost. Many of the lower ones yellowed up and weren't edible then. So I trimmed all the lower leaves off the plants. I want to eat the kale not lose it. I harvested over three pounds so I blanched and froze it for the winter. Though these plants will survive our winter (for the most part - I do lose a few), and produce again in the spring, they don't grow over the frozen winter. So I can't really harvest much then. A few leaves here and there are fine once it freezes up, but I need to leave enough green leaves on them for them to survive until spring. And to make sure the survive the winter better this year I put up some stakes and started to tie the plants up. Last year the snow was so heavy it pulled the plants down and broke the stems. I'd rather have the leaves break off than the stems crack.

I have two rows of kale, dwarf curled kale and winterbor. I've found over the years that both can survive our winters. I really like Red Russian kale. It is just so pretty. But it only survives our winter if we have a very very mild winter (zone 7 instead of our typical zone 6 winters). It doesn't survive well if the temperatures get below 0F. So sadly I quit growing it. I suppose I could grow it just for the fall, but it is very susceptible to our aphids in the fall. The curly type kales seem to resist them more. I did find a few patches of aphids on the leaves I harvested, but barely any.

I also started cleaning up the garden. I haven't gotten very far, but I took down one of the bean trellises. I haven't cleaned up the ground there yet or put on compost. I'll get to that soon enough. I don't like to leave leafy residue on the garden because of the slugs. I find I have fewer problems if I clean every thing up very well and cover the surface with compost. Totally bare soil over the winter is bad as it can break down the soil structure. So I use compost that the slugs don't seem as interested in. Last year I would have put on a cover crop, but I found those sections totally covered in slugs and cutworms. So I'm going to forgo that route for now. Which is too bad as a cover crop will hold in the nutrients over the winter and add carbon to the soil.