November 30, 2015

Harvest Monday, 11/30/15

Cima di Rapa, mostly side-shoots so they are a bit small.
From the left: Shogoin turnip, Amber Ball turnip, Golden Ball turnip, and Di Milano A Colletto Viola turnip.
This week's harvest is much the same as last week. I had planted several varieties of turnips all about the same time except Shogoin was in the ground 2 weeks earlier than the other turnips. It has been raining nonstop for a few days and one of the Di Milano A Colletto Viola turnips has split across the bottom assumably due to the wet squishy weather.

The Shogoin turnips were mild raw, but not sweet. I'm planning on roasting the rest of the turnips which is supposed to bring out their sweetness.

The lettuces are getting a little bit bigger, maybe by December we can start harvesting them. Does anyone else have problems getting red lettuces to germinate? All 3 red varieties had very sparse germination on the homemade seed tape, but the green lettuces did great.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I feel like I've been eating nonstop for days.

Join us at Our Happy Acres Harvest Monday, where diehard gardeners are consumed by their passion for gardening.

November 23, 2015

Harvest Monday, 11/23/15

I pulled three carrots to give them a try with Red Cored Chantenay on the left, Danvers #126 in the middle, and Kuroda 8 Inch on the right.
You can see just how tiny the carrots were, perfect size for a toddler.
Di Milano A Colleto Viola turnip
Sessantina cima di rapa (sprouting turnip)
Ta Mei Hwa radish
We've been harvesting the thinnings from the Sessantina cima di rapa (sprouting turnip) bed for quite some time and enjoying lots of tasty greens, and with diligent thinning the sprouts are getting bigger and I finally got a big harvest of turnip sprouts. 

The regular turnip roots and radishes are sizing up as well so I'll need to find more different ways to prepare their greens. Di Milano A Colleto Viola turnips are so lovely, wherever their roots are burnished by the sun they turn a very pretty pink. Too bad it's been a very very warm fall and the Ta Mei Hwa daikon radish roots are too spicy which makes me wary of the turnips that were planted close to the same time.

The last time I planted radishes in September/October it was a very cold fall and the radishes got huge and were so delicious. It's good I've been doing so many succession plantings this year, maybe I'll get a few tasty roots once it gets consistently cold. We actually just got our first hard freeze on Saturday, November 21st, which will be followed by a string of cold days but it's supposed to warm up into the 60's by Thursday, just in time for Thanksgiving.

I pulled 3 carrots from beds planted the last week of August. The 3 different varieties each had a distinctive flavor and texture. Red Cored Chantenay was crunchier with a complex flavor, Danvers #126 was sweeter and more tender, and the Kuroda 8 Inch which you could tell hadn't even colored up yet had a complex flavor but was milder than Chantenay. My husband and I shared bites of them and they were delicious but tiny. Tiny. And the beds are pretty much shaded all the time now so . . . We'll see what they do in the spring before my partner tills the whole yard.

There haven't been any harvest weighings for quite some time because the digital scale has found a permanent home in my husband's pottery workshop.

Is everyone ready for Thanksgiving in the US? I made ginger chicken with rice, lightly boiled cabbage, and a big pot of turnip greens to hold us over during the week before the feast.

On Thanksgiving we like to watch the dog show while eating light snacks and cooking. We are set to have green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cheesy potato casserole, mash potatoes and gravy, fried corn, turkey, ham, stuffing, biscuits, cranberry sauce, apple pie, and cherry pie. My husband is doing the casseroles the day before as you can tell he loves casseroles, otherwise it's just a turkey breast and tiny ham.

Please join us at Harvest Monday hosted by Our Happy Acres where gardeners far and wide share what's happening in their gardens.

November 19, 2015

Garlic Planted in November in Styrofoam Containers

Unknown red hardneck garlic variety. All 8 cloves, and 2 out of 3 tiny bulbettes have sprouted.
I finally planted the last of the garlic in styrofoam boxes last week. 50 cloves were planted in 4 boxes, I've been debating whether or not to plant another box of garlic.

4 garlic varieties were planted. Rossa di Sulmona is a pungent hardneck variety that I purchased online, my husband cooked some tomato sauce with leftover cloves and it was wonderfully sweet and spicy. Viola Francese is a softneck type that was also purchased online. There's an unknown red hardneck variety that was purchased at a grocery store in March which I remember to be exceptionally tasty, and the cloves being fairly old had just begun to sprout. And lastly there's an unknown white softneck variety that was purchased recently at the same grocery store, surprisingly the cloves looked like they might have started forming roots before being planted.

The garlic was planted about 2 inches deep and maybe 4-5 inches apart. The styrofoam containers are actually shipping containers that would normally get thrown away, so they are thicker and bigger than most styrofoam coolers. It's been raining the last 3 days so the boxes have been hanging out under cover. As an experiment I removed the papery skins off the cloves of the unknown varieties before planting.

And today it looks like all 4 garlic varieties have a few cloves sprouting out of the soil.

November 1, 2015

Voles Have Invaded the Garden

We've never had problems with voles before but their tunnels are everywhere. It all started in September. There must be a population explosion because they are in everyone's yard and I've seen a few lush lawns destroyed by them in neighboring properties. My coworker was saying how he's never seen anything like it before.

October 31, 2015

Weather Watching and Planting the Last of the Winter Garden

A row of beets flanked by two rows of spinach.
Chicory and a wayward asparagus fern.
Italian sprouting turnip needing to be harvested.
Flanked on both sides by tall sprouting turnips and sprouting broccoli, the carrots may never have had a chance.
Little lettuce starts that I finally planted in the ground, mainly Susan Green Oak and Arctic Crisp.
Turnips germinated in just 4 days, yayyy!
These are my two newly seeded/planted beds. On the left I tried Granny's homemade seed tape technique for carrots, turnips, and lettuce using paper towels and Elmer's glue. On the right is four regular rows of spinach, fennel, turnips, and radishes.
Fennel seedlings look very similar to spinach seedlings.
Basil still alive, although there are a few dark spots from when they were touched by cold.
Green eggplants still forming, there's 3 dangling fruits on this plant.
The wayward eggplant is in the asparagus nursery bed. The asparagus is looking great even for how late in the season it is.
On the other end of the asparagus nursery bed is a couple artichoke plants, and you can make out a few lemon grass plants.
The daikon radish are starting to form, so exciting.

Ah. Watching the weather with hawk-eyes, trying to outrun the cold and get some fall planting done. I finally got the last of the lettuce, spinach, Asian greens, radishes, carrots, beets and turnips planted about a week and a half later than I had planned but at least it’s done. I’m crossing my fingers and toes for a mild December like the weather people are predicting but we shall see. We’ve been eating lots of radish and turnip greens from thinning their beds, the radish greens are perfect because the stems cook up tender and thus they don't require de-stemming. The greens have been tasty sautéed with onions and garlic, a dash of Vietnamese fish sauce and sometimes finished off with a couple of eggs cracked over the top and cooked sunny-side up and then served atop rice. Sometimes I add a squeeze of lime but lately I've been eyeing the flavored vinegars at the grocery store.

The radish roots themselves have been pretty spicy with the warm weather, I’ve been giving them to a friend who enjoys the extra bite. The October planting of radishes should be wonderfully mild and crisp and grow to gargantuan size by early December.

And come to find out most of the carrot beds that were planted at the end of August are now pretty much shaded most of the day, so there’s little chance for those carrots to mature. The beds I’ve been planting this week get a lot more sun but it is getting way late in the season. Gardening in a new place does that to a person. Our old place got full sun all day long and everything grew and grew fast.

There's still 2 beds left that can be planted up but it's probably not going to happen. In the spring my husband is planning to till the whole yard and rake it flat, so garlic will have to be planted in containers.

October 29, 2015

Tomatoes Cleared Out And An Update On Late Summer Sown Vegetables

Finally cleared out the tomato beds. Such a chore. Getting the posts from the tomato fencing down was tough, my partner must have used a sledge hammer to pound them in the ground.

But it had to be done if there was any hope to get the lettuce, more spinach, carrots, turnips, and beets planted. I've been watering everyday by hand with the watering can while the newly emerging infant plants get established. It's been so dry this fall, we might have had one rain storm in September and a couple light rains in early October. The ground was so dry to begin with, the rain actually made the soil the perfect texture to dig. I'd been digging each bed as I got them cleared out and then planting them up one by one.

All the old seeds has been getting used up this fall which is so satisfying. If they don't come up I just seed something else in its place. A surprise was the ancient kohlrabi seeds from 2009 and 2011. All of them must have come up and now there's a 25 foot row of them. Hilarious. Especially since we've never eaten kohlrabi.

Carrots and radishes were planted together in a couple of beds. Never again. What a horrible mistake. When you pull radishes the carrot seedlings come up right along with them. It is so much trouble. But come to find out it's better to thin a bed when the soil is dry, I was able to carefully pull radishes without bringing up too many carrots along with them.

Did I ever mention they had a pitcher's mound in the middle of where the garden is now? A gigantic pile of sand. Huge. It's made the clay soil really friable in places, hopefully it'll make for long delicious carrots this winter.

They were predicting our first frost to be November 18th. We shall see. The weather had been in the 80's (26 degrees Celsius) the last couple of weeks, but has cooled down this week in the 60's and 70's.

Tomato, corn, and egg on top of rice. The tomato was picked green when the garden was cleared out and allowed to ripen on the counter. Not as flavorful as a sun-warmed vine-ripened tomato but still good with a nice crispy texture. The corn was picked at a friend's farm.
These carrots were planted August 27th, so they are definitely growing slowly, very slowly.
Shogoin turnips planted at the same time as the carrots, this variety takes longer to mature in general and they are just starting to head up.
The kohlrabi stems are starting to swell.
To the left of the turnips in the same bed are the kohlrabi which are being crowded by the huge turnip plants. The bed to the right contain late summer sown radishes and carrots, the radishes have been cleared out of the sections containing carrots.

September 28, 2015

Garden Share Collective: Seeding a Winter Vegetable Garden

Asparagus starting to change color signaling autumn, the asparagus was started from seed April/May of this year.
In the United States most of us are well into fall/autumn. I really wanted to do a big fall garden this year which means lots of direct seeding.

For the month of September I have been direct seeding in the garden:
  • radish 
  • daikon 
  • turnip 
  • beet
  • sprouting broccoli
  • sprouting turnip
  • spinach
  • chicory
  • radicchio
  • and lots and lots of carrots.
I love growing vegetables from seed. The whole process of plants popping out of the soil and watching them develop through their life cycle. But I love direct seeding so much, just sprinkle some seeds, a little dirt, and some water and you are done. Water once a day till the seedlings are up and you are well on your way.

Don't get me wrong. I like starting tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and broccoli indoors in seed starting trays but it's so much more work. Spritzing the soil twice a day with a spray bottle till the seeds germinate. Schlepping the seedling trays outside when its warm and inside on frosty nights, while still watering everyday. And then planting the 50 tomato plants, the 30 peppers or eggplants which takes days. Just thinking about it makes my back hurt.

I try to make the indoor seed starting as painless as possible by giving tomatoes only 4 weeks to grow and peppers and eggplants maybe 6 weeks before planting them outside. The seeds are started in trays, once they germinate they're pricked out and planted individually into larger containers. If it's remotely warm outside they immediately get set out, even before the seeds have sprouted, on a table protected from cold winds by a full privacy fence where they get 10-12 hours of full sun. Supposedly some peppers need light to help them germinate. When frost threatens they are brought inside at night (usually by a husband because I work late into the wee hours of the morning).

Plans for October:
  • Finish digging out the other half of the garden so planting can be finished.
  • Direct seed lettuce, fennel, kale, Asian greens, and garlic.
  • Direct seed even more carrot, beet, turnip, and spinach.

Radishes in the front bulbing up and soon to be removed to give room to the growing carrots and spinach. Turnips and kohlrabi growing well in the bed behind the radishes.
Lots of different things growing in this bed like sprouting broccoli, sprouting, turnip, carrot, beet, turnip, spinach, chicory, and radicchio.
Newly sprouted carrots.
Beets just forming their true leaves.
And spinach growing well.
Corno di Toro sweet peppers.
The mild to medium spicy Pablano peppers did very well this year.
This little Shishito sweet pepper made lots of peppers and is still full of blossoms, although it's starting to die back with cool weather.
It was a terrible year for tomatoes and eggplants which were in beds behind the peppers but have recently been cleared out. Flooding and lots of big rain storms in early summer battered and bruised the green tomatoes so when they started ripening they rotted on the vine. The excess water also caused the flea beetle population to explode which decimated the eggplants.

Hopefully next year will be better.

September 23, 2015

On Carrots and Juicing

My husband and I want to get back into juicing vegetables. Normally we juice a mixture of carrots, apple, and celery together. Just a single glass of fresh vegetable juice a day makes a world of difference in mental acuity, reflex speed, and just a wonderfully heightened sense of being in your body and a general physicality.

I'm very much in my head most of the time but the rush of vitamins seems to increase the senses and really brings the world into sharp focus.

Part of the reason juicing tends to come in and out of our lives is because of the waste of pulp that juicing leaves behind. All the fiber and apple peelings that juicing inherently creates which is kind of a mental turnoff. There's only so much soups and baking and feeding to the dog along with rice that a person can do with the vegetable pulp.

Much more often we tended to do fruit smoothies: strawberry, blueberry, pineapple, oranges, etc. all blended together with soy milk in the blender. But once we had a baby that completely stopped. I've been making tons of baby food in that blender and using it for fruit smoothies seems so... Ugh. I don't want to. You can't make me.

Plus with fruit smoothies you don't get that sharpness, although you do get a sugar high but with all that fiber you're consuming there's no hard sugar crash.

But the baby is starting to get away from pureed baby foods and just eating what we normally eat. So. Hmmm. Juicing and fruit smoothies are starting to sound enticing again.

So, in the garden I've been planting carrots. Tons and tons of carrots. In preparation for juicing. To be honest I've just ordered more carrot seeds so I can plant even more carrots.  If I could grow celery, I would because then I know what's in it and what's not in it.

September 20, 2015

An Early Fall Vegetable Garden in September

The bed on the left has carrots, radishes, and newly sprouted spinach. On the right is the kohlrabi, turnip and daikon radish bed.
Carrots and radishes intermingling, these were seeded on August 27th.
Where the carrots didn't come up, spinach was seeded amongst the already growing radishes on September 14th.
Kohlrabi planted September 5th are forming their first true leaves.
Shogoin turnips are leafing up well, planted August 27th.
 Ta Mei Hwa daikon radishes growing quickly, seeded September 5th.
This bed was newly seeded September 14th with spinach, chicory, radicchio, sima di rapa, cavolo broccolo, beet, turnip, and carrot.
Beet seedlings with their pretty red stems.
Teton spinach came up great but there is no hide nor hair of Harmony spinach to be seen.

We've been having some beautiful fall weather in western Kentucky. Lots of sunny days in the 70s and 80s (21 to 27 degrees Celsius) and today it rained for the first time in forever, a nice drizzle that went on for a couple hours. Now we are enjoying the humid aftereffects.

The fall garden is doing wonderfully. Although the directly seeded radishes are slow to bulb up, it's probably too warm for them but they'll need to come out in a week or two to make room for the carrots that are sharing the same space. In the beds where the carrots didn't come up due to ancient seeds, I've seeded some spinach which are already starting to emerge. Yay spinach. And yay to no slugs in the new garden.

I still haven't cleared out the tomato and pepper beds. Which will need to happen soon if I want to get some garlic, lettuce, and fava/broad beans planted, and maybe more carrots and turnips. On the Baker Creek seed packet for Kuroda carrots it states they generally plant carrots up to a month before they're first frost date, so I'm going along with that especially since we are close to the same latitude. I have another couple weeks to plant carrots and turnips even if it takes them till December to mature.

I've been purchasing winter hardy varieties of lettuce, spinach, chicory and radicchio. Hopefully I can get these planted in the next couple of weeks giving them about a month to size up before the first frost.

Is it too late to plant beets? Beets seem especially slow to get going compared to turnips, carrots and kohlrabi.

Our first frost is usually the very end of October or first week of November, so I'm wondering when will it be too late to plant beets. Do beets have the same winter hardiness as carrots and don't they take just about as long to mature?

Looking through my blog, in 2011 we didn't have a hard freeze until the week of November 22nd and I was still picking lettuce and radishes at the beginning of December.    

August 28, 2015

Fall Vegetables Garden versus Spring Gardening in Western Kentucky

It is very difficult to put a spring garden in Western Kentucky. The ground is usually too wet to rototill until April and by then it's already 80 degrees. And this year we had snow on the ground until the end of March.

Most people go straight to summer vegetables when they start planting. I've tried planting lettuce, radishes, peas, and potatoes in the spring with my first garden here. It got so hot so fast that the radishes were fiery hot, the peas didn't produce nary a thing, and the potato plants were huge and lush with not a single potato in the whole bed which can happen when there are periods of unrelenting heat. The only thing that was edible was the lettuce, and the White Icicle radish seed pods which I found to be interesting and delicious cooked. I do have friends who grow early spring lettuce, but they are windowsill or greenhouse grown.

Fall gardening is where it's at. The heat of summer dissipates in September leaving mild glorious weather till the first frost in November. But I am usually so exhausted from the hubbub of summer, all the cooking and preserving, that a big fall garden can seem daunting.

This year we didn't do any big preserving sprees. Just a lot of fresh eating and cooking from the garden, a little pickling and I made tons of baby food using garden produce. It was a really nice kind of casual summer gardening. Mostly due to the fact my tomatoes and peppers did so poorly this year. But that being said, it makes a fall garden seem fun and exciting.

So I've been spending what little free time I have cleaning out some of the garden beds. Yesterday I dug and raked and got the carrot bed planted out. A couple of the seed packets were ancient from 2009, carrot seeds are only good for 4 years and after that you're lucky if a single seed germinates, so it was good to get all those seeded out. I also planted radish, turnip, and beet seeds in the garden.

Then some more Brussels sprouts got started indoors because the plants planted out in June don't look too great, along with broccoli, kale, mustard, collard greens, Chinese celery, garland chrysanthemum, fennel, lettuce, and a whole bunch of Asian greens. Hopefully it's not too late to start Brussels sprouts or broccoli.

Clearing out the beds to get ready for fall planting:
Broccoli bed and summer squash bed have been completely cleared, and the bush beans have been cleaned out of the Brussels sprout bed. At the very bottom are artichoke plants.
The asparagus keep on putting out new ferns and they have 2 months to gain some size. Only 2 small artichoke plants remain, perhaps they didn't appreciate the exceptionally wet year we had and rotted out.
The pepper plants are starting to set some peppers. High heat can sterilize the pollen, keeping peppers from forming.

August 17, 2015

Harvest Monday, 8/17/15

I've started cleaning out the garden this weekend to get ready for fall planting. Cleared out the bush beans from the Brussels sprout bed and the Pinkeye Purple Hull peas from the asparagus nursery bed. Everything was in decline so it was nice getting things cleaned up.
On Thursday all the tomatoes were picked off the vines in preparation for the big garden clean up. I plan on making a half recipe of sweet and spicy green tomato pickle from Simple Daily Recipes. There's some little eggplants, Shishito peppers, red and green long beans, summer squash, and cucumbers.
Tried sautéing the Shishito peppers in olive oil with salt and some lemon juice added at the end. Not my favorite. The rest will probably end up in stir fries or pickles.
Summer squash, long bean, eggplant, tomato, and garlic stir fry with rice. Quite yummy and what we've been eating for most our dinners.

This week's harvest:

7.320 pounds green tomato
2.916 pounds ripe tomato
4.278 pounds cucumber
2.390 pounds squash
1.298 pounds Shishito pepper
1.042 pounds eggplant
0.924 pound long bean

Total weekly harvest: 20.168 pounds

Please join us for Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions where gardeners and garden enthusiasts from around the world share what they've harvested for the week.