Monday, March 2, 2015

Harvest Monday - March 2, 2015

The winter garden is really starting to wind down although I've not quite reached the "hunger gap" yet. Everything that I'm harvesting now was started last summer or fall. There's actually quite a few new veggies growing in the garden that were started through the winter months, but none of them are anywhere near harvestable size other than baby onions. It will be interesting to see how big the gap will be this spring.

One more bolting kale plant got cleared out. There's still two plants left and I am going to try to put off removing those for as long as possible. The plant that I most recently took out was being severely attacked by aphids, I actually tossed quite a few leaves into the compost because I didn't want to deal with the masses of sap sucking critters. The remaining two plants aren't so badly infested but I'll have to keep an eye on them. I used some sweet onions that I had grilled and preserved with vinegar and olive oil last summer to flavor one preparation of sauteed kale. It was really tasty, the agrodolce vinegar that I had used for the onions was a nice compliment for the kale.

Lacinato kale
The last two heads of Sweetie Baby romaine lettuce were developing "blowouts" on the side, not quite bolting but on the verge of it, so out they came.

Sweetie Baby romaine
The oldest of the volunteer Spanish Black carrots were getting to be quite large. The biggest one was more than 30 inches (76 cm) from the tip of the root to the tops of the leaves when laid out.

Spainish Black carrots
I'm still harvesting nice little bulbs from the fennel that I planted for spring of 2014, the second growth bulbs aren't as pretty and fat but they are tender and tasty. The celery is resisting bolting so I'm still harvesting stalk by stalk. And the celery root is also resisting bolting but the roots aren't growing much either. The small roots are good nonetheless, this harvest trio went into a mostly vegetable stew along with some of the last of the Romanesco broccoli and some shredded duck confit (how to stretch one remaining portion into 3 servings).

The Peppermint Stick chard that I sowed last October was getting to be quite big so it was time for a trim, actually the first harvest. The photograph really doesn't give a clue to the size of those leaves. That's over 2 pounds (nearly a kilo) of chard there. The leaves were amazingly tender in spite of their size. I prepared them simply wilted with some garlic, raisins, pine nuts and a dash of vinegar. I reserved the big fat stalks to make another preparation, probably a gratin (they're still in the fridge).

Peppermint Stick chard
The only other harvest last week was some baby onions that I thinned from the onion patch.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Spanish Black carrots - 12.6 oz. (trimmed of leaves)
Dorato di Asti celery - 1 lb., 7.6 oz.
Monatch celery root - 6.3 oz.
Peppermint Stick chard - 2 lb., 2.2 oz.
Romanesco fennel - 14.8 oz.
Lacinato kale - 1 lb., 3.4 oz.
Sweetie Baby romaine - 2 lb., 1.5 oz.
Spring onions - 1.2 oz.

Weekly total - 9 lb., 1.6 oz.
2015 to date - 70 lb., 3.7 oz.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Harvest Monday - February 23, 2015

This past week the harvests were light because I've been trying to use up previous harvests. But the last of the winter brassicas left standing are now bolting so I've started removing them from the garden. Here's the net result from cutting down one of the Lacinato kale plants.

Lacinato kale

There were just a few aphids on this plant, actually you can see a few of them on the stone at the bottom of the photo, most of them were hanging out near the base of the leaves. This batch of leaves was torn up and steamed in a pressure cooker for 1 minute. Some of the cooked kale went into a frittata along with some dried zucchini, dried cherry tomatoes, bacon, onions, cheese and seasonings. Another bunch of the kale was warmed with some of the lemony confited garlic that I mentioned in last week's harvest post, then piled on top of toasted rustic whole wheat bread spread with spicy hummus, the whole lot seasoned with a bit of agrodolce vinegar, coarse salt, and fresh ground black pepper. I'll mention another toast and hummus combo that featured a preserved veggie from the garden, I've still got a few jars of preserved sweet peppers from last fall, I cut some of those into strips and piled them on top of the hummus smeared toast along with some crumbled feta.

Tonda Musona Bianca spring onions
When I set out my seed started onions I spaced them about 2 inches apart alternating the smallest seedlings with the largest and now I've started thinning out the smallest ones to use as spring onions. The bunch above went into a coconut curry featuring one of the Honey Nut butternut squashes from my stash, celery from the garden, mushrooms, and tofu.

I've been trying to use up previous harvests, most notably lettuce - we've had a lot of salads and another round of lettuce cups, this time with shredded leftover chicken that I had lightly smoked in the Big Green Egg. And I've slowly been using up the Romanesco broccoli - one night I roasted some florets with brussels sprouts (to accompany the chicken) and another night some went into a souffle.

The only other harvests for the past week were a few big volunteer Spanish Black carrots and celery, neither of which were photographed.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past week:

Spanish Black carrots - 12.3 oz.
Dorato di Asti celery - 9.8 oz.
Lacinato kale - 12.6 oz.
Spring onions - 2.4 oz.

Week - 2 lb., 5.1 oz.
Year to date - 61 lb., 2.1 oz.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I mentioned a few posts ago that I had worked up a spread sheet that incorporated sowing, planting and harvests dates so here I'm going to share a sample of the 2014 document.
As I mentioned in that previous post I have been keeping very detailed records of my harvests for the past 5 years and I'm working on doing the same for seeding and transplanting dates. I was pretty good at keeping track in 2014 so it's the first year that I've been able to work up a pretty complete schedule. It took a long time to pull all that information together so I'm selfishly keeping the rest of the schedule to myself.

There's two lines for every single vegetable that I grew and/or harvested last year. The first line for each veggie shows the date that I sowed the seeds or set out the transplants. The second line shows each harvest date in brown. There's a separate column for each month of the year. There's also a column to show dates for vegetables sown the previous year and additional columns for veggies harvested in the next year. There's still one more month of data to input when February of this year is over and perhaps I'll add one more column to show harvests after February. It makes it easy to see at a glance how long it took from sowing or planting to the first harvest. I've included each harvest to indicate frequency of harvests. I toyed with the idea of adding one more column to show total harvest weights, but decided not to because that seems like TMI, I want to use this schedule for planning when to sow and how to plan successions, harvests weights don't really come into play for that.

My 2015 schedule is already set up and should be easy to keep up with on a weekly basis or so. One thing that I want to work on this year is adding a few more notes, such as disease or pest problems, things to look out for in the future, or unusual weather such as extreme heat or freezes. I think I should also add some tentative dates for when I should be sowing some crops, add another color to the line of sowing/planting out dates.

Here's another sample of my record keeping, I use iCloud Notes to record my garden activities, below is a cut a paste of January's notes. I have an iPad that sits on my kitchen counter most of the time and whenever I plan on sowing seeds I sit at the counter, make out my labels, and record it in my notes. When I come in from the garden I try to make a note of what I've done. I start a new note each month. This is the method that I use for keeping track of my harvests as well. Since the notes are kept in the cloud I can easily access them when I work on my desktop computer and input the data into my spreadsheets. At the end of the month I email a copy of the note to myself to keep a backup copy. Easy, really, it is.

January Sowing and Planting

Jan. 3
- Candy, Red Candy Apple, and Superstar onion seedlings set out
-- 1 row each of 22 plants, 4" spacing
-- 1 row, ~15 plants each, 2" spacing

Jan. 4
Spigariello Foglia Liscia - 4"
Broccolo Spigariello - 4" (none germinated, old seeds)
Purple Peacock broccoli - 4"
Atlantis Brokali - 4"
Pixie cabbage - 4"
Zebrune shallots - 4"

Jan. 13
Set out bareroot strawberries - 9 Albion & 9 Seascape
Pulled all carrots

Jan. 15
Set out Rossa Lunga di Firenza onions, 2 inch spacing

Jan. 16
Set out Tonda Musona Bianca onions, 2-inch spacing

Set out Zebrune shallots, 4-inch spacing

Jan. 18
Red Iceberg - 4"
Reine des Glaces - 4"
Rhapsody butterhead - 4"
Ruby Gem romaine - 4"
Sweetie Baby romaine - 4"

Jan. 24
Set out second round of Zebrune shallots, 4-inch spacing
Sowed cilantro by Favas
Scattered Golden Corn Salad between strawberry plants and around favas
Potted up Atlantis Brokali

Jan. 25
Removed Di Ciccio broccoli

Jan. 26
Removed Golden Sweet snow and Super Sugar Snap peas

Jan. 28
Potted up Purple Peacock broccoli

Jan. 30
Cleared out China Rose radishes
Cut back Speedy arugula nearly to the ground since it was bolting

I'm finding that the better I am at keeping records that the better my garden becomes. My memory is terrible, I can't possibly remember everything I've done in the garden or everthing that needs to be done and when, especially when. There's so many things I've not grown because I've missed the correct time to get them started. Going back through my blog is always interesting and informative, but it takes too much time, I hope that my new schedule will provide at-a-glance information to help me hone my gardening skills.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Winter Garden, Or How Quickly The Garden Changes

I haven't done a garden tour yet this year so I'm doing a bit of a catch up post. Looking back at the past month and a half I'm amazed at how quickly things can change.

First a look at bed #1 starting on December 31 of 2014

December 31
There was a trellis sporting some overwintered snap and snow peas in one corner (covered to keep the birds from pecking at the foliage), a patch of carrots, a couple of old Watermelon radishes, and bolting cilantro. The garlic which had been set out on November 19 was emerging at the far end of the bed (on the left below). In the foreground above I had just dug in a mustard cover crop. Normally I would mulch the area with newspaper, but I used the fabric because I was hoping for rain which would go through the fabric. And the other covered section that you can see below is where another patch of mustard was growing.
December 31
Garlic emerging, December 31
Seed sowing continues through the year in my mild climate. These are seedlings of onions, shallots, leeks, and cabbage that were sown in November and December and were destined to be set out in this bed.
December 31
It's not easy to see through the veil of tulle, but this section was planted with onion seedlings from Dixondale (January 3) and some homegrown onion seedlings. I covered the onions because the birds like to peck at them, they don't eat the onions but pull them out and make a mess of things.
January 16
The birds don't generally mess with the garlic though, which grew noticeably in two weeks. January was clear and warmer than normal all month so the veggies grew quite quickly.
January 16
By the end of the month I had cleared out the peas. The sections of the bed that are covered with Agribon had mustard greens dug into them. The worms were busy working their way through the feast of rotting greens. Some cabbage and Brokali seedlings that were to be planted in that space were sizing up in 1-quart pots (yogurt containers).

January 31
January 31
It's still difficult to see but the onions were growing like crazy.
January 31
And the garlic continued to grow. The other section that is covered with tulle is devoted mostly to shallots and a small amount of cippollini onions.
January 31
A couple weeks later, just a few days ago. The near end of the bed is now planted with some Express Red and Pixie cabbages and some Atlantis brokali. They are all covered with tulle to keep the birds from pecking them to death. I don't wait for the birds to discover new treats anymore, I just cover things up, it reduces the oh s#1t factor. This year I'm experimenting with interplanting some peas for pea shoots. I'm working on using more cover crops this year and interplanting is one way to integrate a cover crop. I may get a few pickings of peas or not, either way the peas will help to protect and build the soil and perhaps provide some nitrogen for the brassicas.
February 15
I'm thinking of naming my garden the Bridal Veil garden for all the yards of tulle and other white fabrics that are draped everywhere.  It amazes me how quickly the cabbages which were sown on December 17 got to be so big. They weren't coddled for very long. I sow my seeds in 4-inch pots and set them on heat mats indoors until the seeds germinate, then the pots go outside right away to get natural light. I bring the pots in at night for about a week until the seedlings are off to a good start but then they stay outside night and day. That treatment makes for some pretty sturdy plants. The Brokali was quick too, those seeds were sown on January 4.
February 15
This photo allows a better glimpse of how quickly the onions are growing. The Dixondale plants are in the foreground and my homegrown seedlings are beyond. This year I'm growing Candy, Red Candy Apple, and Superstar, all of which are from Dixondale. The onions started from seed include Rosso Lunga di Firenza, a red torpedo type, and Tonda Musona Bianca which should store better than the sweet ones from Dixondale, and Yellow Cippollini.
February 15
The garlic varieties this year are Lorz Italian, Mild French, Early Red Italian, and Chesnock Red. Shallots include French Gray from sets (which are not doing well) and Zebrune from seed.
February 15
Now let's take a look across the pathway at bed #4. There's been less activity in this bed. From the start of the year it has been devoted to two things. One side of the bed was sown with Extra Precoce Violetto fava beans and the other side with Kodiak mustard for a cover crop, both sown in December. The favas are growing in the bird netting draped cages and the mustard is growing under the protective Agribon.

December 31, 2014
 A month later you can see that the favas are well on their way and the mustard is filling in.
January 31
Just a bit more than two weeks later the mustard is trying to push out from under the cover and the favas are filling in. What you can't see in the photo is that some of the favas are actually starting to bloom. Most of the favas were sown on December 13 and the smaller plants at this end of the bed were sown on December 23.
February 16
 The mustard was starting to bolt so that meant it was time to cut it down and dig it in.
February 16
 I used some hedging shears to cut the tops down.
February 16
And then turned everything in. I had left the stumps and roots of the peppers and eggplants in place and those got chopped up and turned in as well. Next I'll be covering that section with sheets of newspaper to mulch it until I'm ready to plant the space with various types of bush beans in late March or early April.
February 16
There's been more activity in bed #2. This was where the overwintered brassicas and other winter vegetables have been growing. The tall plants with the big leaves are the Romanesco broccoli. In the foreground are the celeriac and celery plants. Off to the left where there's a bunch of water bottles are some new chard plants. The fabric draped over the side of the bed is heavy frost cloth because we had freezing nights in December. The other water bottles are clanking in the breeze to protect some Lacinato kale and Di Ciccio broccoli.

December 31
A couple weeks later not much has changed other than that I needed to cover the chard to protect it from, oh you know, the birds.
January 16
The only new activity was at the far end of the bed where I had set out some bareroot Seascape and Albion strawberry plants. The birds had discovered a taste for radicchio and escarole so, you guessed it, more tulle. The nice thing about the tulle is that it is lightweight enough that it can float directly on top of the plants. I covered the strawberry starts also because I was trying to coax a quick crop of Golden Corn salad between the berry plants and the birds devour the corn salad seedlings practically as they emerge.
January 16
The Tronchuda Beira plants were producing a lot of huge leaves, I was harvesting just the tender inner leaves by this time. The Romanesco plants are looming behind the Tronchuda Beira. There's a ratty tatty senescent Di Ciccio broccoli plant to the left.
January 16
The first head Romanesco broccoli was ready to harvest that day. After cutting it out I cut the plant down to a stump which you might be able to see in the photo below.

January 16
That's all the leaves from the one Romanesco plant. Note the sparse foliage on the broccoli in the bed just behind the big pile of Romaneso leaves. What a difference!
January 16
Two weeks later the broccoli plants had been cleared out, the strawberry slips were popping new leaves, the radicchio and especially the escarole were filling out, and I had to cover the remaining Romanesco and the Tronchuda Beira because, well, you know why...
January 31
 Look at the edges of the leaves on the Tronchuda Beira. It took the birds about 1 day to do that.
January 31
The Romanesco produced in a hurry and the Tronchuda Beira seemingly decided to bolt overnight, so I had the space that they had occupied cleared out by the beginning of February. About the only things in this bed that I didn't have to protect from the birds were the celeriac and celery plants. The clanking water bottles with the mylar strips seemed to be adequate to keep the birds off of the kale, which is great because every time I cover my Lacinato kale it gets terribly infested with aphids. The aphids haven't been a huge problem so far, although the kale is starting to bolt and the aphids seem to find the flower buds irresistible.
February 5
February 5
This past weekend I dug my usual amendments into the spot vacated by the Romanesco and Tronchuda Beira, set up a new Micromesh tunnel and set out new seedlings of lettuces - Red Iceberg, Reine des Glace, Ruby Gem romaine, and Sweetie Baby romaine. Those were all sown into 4-inch pots back on January 18. I also direct sowed some arugula, cress, chicory, and radishes. Then on Monday I prepped the spot where the broccoli had been and direct sowed more radishes, baby turnips, and baby leaf kale. That spot is protected by some Agribon covering the soil, I need to harvest some of the developing radicchios further down so that I can put up another tunnel.
February 15
Here's the radicchios and escarole. These were a gamble since I started them very late last fall (October 28). There was and still is a good chance that they will start to bolt before they form any proper heads. So far though they are sizing up and not showing signs of bolting. They are at least large enough now that if they do start to bolt I'll get something for my efforts.
February 15
And finally, the fourth garden bed, actually #3. This bed started off the year well stocked with lettuces, radishes, turnips, spinach, and other greens that I had sowed last fall, mostly in October.

December 31, 2014

December 31, 2014
Mostly lettuce in the photo above and Cilician parsley, arugula, radishes, turnips, rapini, and spinach shown below.
December 31, 2014
A month later it doesn't look like much has changed from this angle.
January 31
But the arugula had started to bolt and was cut down to the nubs, most of the radishes were harvested,   and the remaining rapini was bolting.
January 31
 The lettuce had formed heads and I was starting to harvest them.

January 31
It's difficult to see here, but there's more gaps in the lettuce patch and the rapini is blooming its heart out. I wish I could uncover the rapini to feed the good bugs, but you know what would feast instead.
February 15
And last and usually overlooked, one stray in the garden that is looking good this year. I've had an artichoke growing in a pot for years now, it's been there so long that I don't remember what variety it is, something Italian. It has always struggled along, generally neglected, often under watered, not always fed. Last year I gave it a shot of the mycorrhizal and bacterial inoculants that I've been applying in the garden, hooked it up to the drip system, and whoa mama, look how it has responded! Not bad for a rootbound specimen sharing space with a volunteer red fennel and who knows what else in that pot.

February 15

So, that's the "winter" garden this year. I won't claim that it is typical. A month of sunshine and warmth when it should have been cold and rainy made for a bit of gardening heaven. It will be interesting to see what "spring" has in store for us here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Harvest Monday - February 16, 2015

Weird Weather resumes. Truly, if the days weren't still short I would swear it's summer. Actually it's better than our typical summer. Highs around 80ºF and lows around 50ºF. My winter veggies aren't necessarily loving it, especially the lettuce. I'm in the process of clearing out the lettuce patch, trying to keep up with bolting heads and fungal diseases brought on by the warm weather while the garden is still drying out after the previous rainy weekend.

Rhapsody butterhead and Ruby Gem romaine lettuces
That's the last of the butterhead and Ruby Gem lettuces. The outer leaves on the butterhead were turning brown and the Ruby Gem was bolting and getting a bit moldy on the oldest leaves, most of the leaves were still very good.

Mikado turnips and stray radishes
The baby turnips are getting to be about golf ball size (just in time for the AT&T), but are still sweet. I sliced a few very thin on the mandolin to include in a salad of most of the Ruby Gem romaine, the last radishes from the garden, and shaved fennel. I experimented with a new version of my confited garlic by adding a small quartered Meyer lemon to the garlic. The salad dressing included one quarter of the confited lemon and some of the confited garlic, both minced and whisked with fresh Meyer lemon juice, part garlic oil and part fresh extra virgin olive oil, plenty of fresh ground pepper and a dash of Red Boat.

Romanesco fennel
The fennel patch is an interesting mix of new bulbs and bolting bulbs. The new bulbs aren't as fat as bulbs that would form on new plants (the plants were sown a year ago), but they are tender enough to shave and use fresh in salads. They're also good for cooking.

Not photographed last week was a big Spanish Black carrot, another celery root, and a few stalks of celery. I used the carrot and celery root in a braise that included some of the Romanesco broccoli harvested the week before.

It's a bit of a challenge at the moment to work my way through the glut of winter veggies that I've had to clear out of the garden. I'm almost through all of the Tronchuda Beira cabbage, I used a few of the largest leaves to make stuffed cabbage, I blanched the leaves and filled them with a mixture of sweet Italian sausage, rice, cheese, and seasonings and baked them in tomato sauce. You can find the recipe here. I've got just enough cabbage left to try Okonomiyaki, one of Daphne's favorites. There's still a couple heads of Romanesco broccoli to get through...

Here's the harvests from the past week:

Spanish Black carrot - 7.1 oz.
Dorato di Asti celery - 8.6 oz.
Monarch celeriac - 8.5 oz.
Romanesco fennel - 12 oz.
Rhapsody butterhead lettuce - 1 lb., 7.7 oz.
Ruby Gem romaine lettuce - 13.2 oz.
Helios radishes - 3.1 oz.
Selzer Purple radish - 1.6 oz.
Mikado turnips - 1 lb., 12 oz.

The total harvests for the past week were - 6 lb., 9.8 oz.
Which brings the total harvests for 2015 up to - 58 lb., 13 oz.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.