Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Garden At The End of June 2015

I've let a month and a half slip by without doing a garden tour, so let's see what the place looks like at the end of June.

Here's a look at Bed#1 which has been devoted primarily to alliums and brassicas since the end of last year.

Shown below on the left is Spigariello Foglia Riccia, quite similar to the Spigariello Foglia Liscia that I was harvesting earlier, the main difference being that Riccia's leaves are indented rather than smooth. The new plants are Di Ciccio and Batavia broccolis which replaced the Spigariello Liscia and Purple Peacock broccolis which had become aphid factories. The Spigariello Riccia was hosting quite a growing population of aphids as well and I ended up giving it a good dose of Pyganic which may have saved the plants from a premature trip to the compost bin.

That's the leek patch on the other side of the bed. The good news is that I've not spotted any new bolters.

The onions are still producing a flower stalk on occasion.

With the exception of the Red Candy Apple onions which are bulbing up nicely. Their stalks are starting to get weak so I've been pushing them over. The Rossa Lunga di Firenze onions are mostly behaving also, they are bulbing up and not bolting, although a number of them have produced splits.

That's seed grown Zebrune shallots on the left and the last of the garlic on the right. I trimmed off much of the foliage from the garlic to remove as much rust as possible. I doubt that they will get much bigger but they are at least keeping fairly well in the garden so I don't have to deal with them yet.

On the other side of the bed are newly planted Candystick Dessert delicata squash plants. I've never grown delicata squash but I'm assuming that I'll be able to train them up the trellis. That's one little Corsican basil plant in the foreground. And on the other side of the trellis are French Gray shallots which are actually doing far better than I thought they would since they got off to a really slow start.

I interplanted pea plants in and around this bed this spring. This variety is a snow pea that is grown for its young shoots rather than the pea pods, the shoots are delicious and the pods are not. I've allowed some plants around the edges of the bed to go to seed which I'm saving.

Bed#2 is where the eggplant wound up after I got greedy about the number of peppers that I decided to grow and the eggplant got elbowed out of the solanum bed. The other side of the bed is home to some Honey Nut butternut squash that will be trained up a trellis. And the cucumbers (Green Fingers and Tasty Treat) ended up in this bed as well.

I've got a couple of tunnels set up for growing greens that need protection from birds and/or sun. The area covered with Agribon is a newly seeded patch of Thai Tender and Tender Leaf amaranth greens. Then there's one Italienischer lettuce volunteer, Winter Density lettuces, various radishes, and what should have been "baby" Tuscan kale.

Next down the line is the Di Sicilia Violetto cauliflower which is showing signs of wanting to flower. (Please don't button...)

These pretty seed stalks belong to Rishad cress. It's a variety of land cress from Iraq which William Woys Weaver describes in his book 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From. It's leaves are ferny like carrot greens, but I barely got to see that characteristic because I sowed my seeds rather late in the season so the plants promptly bolted and I barely got a tiny taste. I'm looking forward to a chance to grow these later this year.

The other tunnel is where a planting of Red Sails and Kagraner Sommer lettuces are too quickly sizing up.

A planting of various beets are coming along at the other end of the tunnel.

In a pot nearby is a volunteer red fennel plant that is home to a Swallowtail caterpillar. I always love finding these pretty critters.

Bed#4 is devoted almost entirely to tomatoes and peppers. There's a 5-foot tall trellis running the length of one side of the bed. I'm liking the setup so far. It's more work than my old system of cages with one plant per cage since I do need to trim and tie about every other day. But it's not that difficult to tie the plants to the trellis and it's easier to get to the plants to trim out excessive foliage and suckers.

All of the plants with one exception are indeterminate growers. One variety is semi-determinate, which you can see at the end of the line.

That's Spike, and here's a cluster of Spike tomatoes. These are supposed to ripen to a rust color with green to golden stripes, the interior is supposed to be purple and green. I can't wait to try this one.


The earliest tomato to ripen last year was Jaune Flamme, in 2013 it was hard on the heels of the first cherry tomatoes to ripen, this year it looks to be one of the first again.

Jaune Flamme
The only other thing that's growing in this bed that's not a solanum is cilantro. This is Rak Tamachat, a Thai variety that is supposed to produce huge leaves.

Rak Tamachat cilantro
There's a whole line of it along the length of the bed. I was hoping that it might be bolt resistant, but the first little plants are already stretching upward. I'm pulling the first bolters and will let the last ones that want to bloom do their thing and try them again.

It's not easy to see in this photo, but I'm trying an experiment with the pepper plants. I snipped out the central leader on all the plants along the outer row of the bed to try to force them to branch out more and perhaps to make them produce a bit later to stretch out the harvest. The three plants on the left are Padrons and the three next to them are Mareko Fanas.

Four peppers are growing in containers. These are baccatum peppers which are more cold tolerant that annuums. If I put them in a protected spot through the winter they will probably come back next year. They won't produce through the winter, they will actually die back quite a ways, but most baccatums that I've protected through the winter have come back for at least one year and sometimes more. Growing them in 10-gallon pots gives them plenty of room to grow but makes them relatively easy to move. These are Aji Amarillo and Peppadew.

I realized as I looked through my list of peppers that I've got quite an international collection this year:

  • Aji Amarillo - Peru
  • Criolla de Cocina - Nicaragua
  • De La Vera and Padron - Spain
  • Shephard's Ramshorn - Spain via Italy
  • Florina - Greece
  • Giallo di Cuneo and Rosso Dolce da Appendere - Italy
  • Gogosar - Hungary
  • IPK CAP 268 - Chile
  • Long des Landes - France
  • Mareko Fana - Ethiopia
  • Odessa Market - Ukraine
  • Peppadew - South Africa
  • Rezha - Macedonia
  • Syrian Three Sided - Syria
  • Lady Bell, Sonora Anaheium, and Yumy Belles - American hybrids
  • NTR - my mystery pepper from a packet of Topepo Rosso

It's amazing to think about how peppers started in one part of the world and have spread around the globe taking on various sizes, shapes, colors, flavors, heat levels, and uses.

On to Bed#4. I guess you could call this the Three Sisters bed, although the sisters are not grouped in a traditional way. The Pico Pardal garbanzos (a foreign step sister) seen in the foreground are filling in their space.

And they're starting to bloom.

The bush beans are next, one end of the planting are snap beans. I sowed 18 plants for snap beans - Royal Burgundy and Slenderette. That many plants don't produce a huge amount of beans, but definitely enough for fresh eating which is all I want. Frozen snap beans tend to sit in the freezer until they get too old to eat.

The rest of the bush bens are Fagiolo del Purgatorio (Purgatory Beans). It's a small dried white bean that is perfect for bean salad. I tried growing these out in 2014 and 2013 with limited success. I had problems with birds, spider mites, sow bugs, damping off, you name it. This year the bean gods seem to be with me and the plants are growing, blooming and producing plenty of green beans - just a couple more steps to go, mature and dry...

This trellis has three varieties of snap beans starting to twirl their way up. Rattlesnake beans are green streaked with purple, Purple are, yes, purple, and Stortino di Trento are an anellino type (curved) that are green streaked with red/brown. I hope I got my timing correct so that they will start producing as the bush beans finish.

Next to the bean trellis is Mandan Parching Lavender corn. Parching corn is harvested dry and the kernels are roasted so that they puff a bit. They are supposed to make a delicious snack something like corn nuts, but better. It also makes good cornmeal. Mandan Parching Lavendar (aka Mandan Red Clay) is extra early and extra small. Adpative seeds says it takes 70 to 80 days to harvest and gets to be about 4 feet tall (1.2 meters).

I direct sowed the seeds on May 18 and last week I spied the first tassels developing. This is going to be an interesting one to watch.

Next down the line is the trellis supporting the Monachelle di Trevio beans, the ones that I had damping off problems with. I filled the gaps with new seedlings, all but one of which is still alive, but the new plants are taking their good old sweet time growing. The original 6 survivors are happily climbing the trellis.

I'm growing one other variety of flour corn this year. Taos Pueblo Blue should get to be at least 3 times as tall as the Mandan Lavender. Both varieties were sown at the same time and Taos Pueblo Blue is already about a foot taller than Mandan Lavender and a long way from tasseling. I don't have any idea how long this variety will take to mature.

I'm taking advantage of this corn's height and shade to try another interplanting of Speedy arugula between the rows. It looks like I could give the arugula a trim.

And finally, the squash part of the Sisterhood. The trellis in front is for a couple of Tromba D'Albenga  vines. Beyond the trellis you can see the already huge Romanesco zucchini. I've already harvested over 12 pounds (5.4 kg.) from that one plant since the first harvest on May 16. The plan is to pull out the Romanesco when the Tromba squash start producing. (We'll see...)

 That's my veggie garden as June turns into July, I hope you enjoyed the tour!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Harvest Monday - June 29, 2015

Last week was still light on harvests but there was a bit more variety. The Royal Burgundy bush beans produced the first couple of handfuls of beans.

Romanesco zucchini and Royal Burgundy beans

I prefer to grow pole beans but don't have space in the garden for them until some time in May. Space opens up for bush beans much earlier, as early as late March if I I want to take a chance on an early planting. This year I waited until mid April and got lucky because they had a chance to get established before the May Gray extra foggy extra cool weather set in. So now, just as my pole beans are just starting to climb their trellises I'm harvesting the first snap beans.

Royal Burgundy beans
Not the best photo below with the white onion and purple basil. They may not make good photo mates but they do play well together in the saute pan.

Superstar onion, Romanesco zucchini, Corsican basil
The bolting cipollini onions also played well with the Romanesco zucchini and blossoms in Scarpaccia (Zucchini Tart).

Cipollini onions and Romanesco zucchini
Here's the rest of the Cipollini onions after trimming. I sliced the bulbs and roasted them to freeze and use later in soups. The tender parts of the stems went into a batch of onion cream, based on my green garlic cream. The recipe is on my recipe blog. I've got one jar of the garlic cream in the fridge that I've been using in various dishes. I used a dollop of it in a dish of fresh zucchini and onion, frozen roasted sweet peppers, and Gigante beans, all baked together with a topping of feta and bread crumbs.  I used another dollop of it with some minced rosemary, fish sauce, and white white as a marinade for lamb chops.

Cipollini onions
 I've been pulling the bolting onions and using them as I need them.

Superstar onion
The lettuces are growing so quickly that I can hardly keep up with them. The Winter Density lettuces are demanding my attention now. This one was just starting to bolt but in spite of that it was incredibly sweet. This is another variety that was recommended to me by a local gardener, along with the Italienischer, and his advice was spot on, both lettuces are winners. The huge Italienishcher lettuces that I showed last week are keeping quite well in the fridge. I've been cutting leaves from the heads almost every day and enjoying them in salads.

Winter Density lettuce
I only managed to coax one head of butterhead to germinate for this succession of lettuces and here it is. We've got some lettuce cups in our dining future this week.

Rhapsody butterhead lettuce
The only harvests not photographed were a few radishes.

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

Royal Burgundy bush beans - 6.5 oz.
Rhapsody butterhead lettuce - 13.4 oz.
Winter Density lettuce - 13.7 oz.
Cipollini onions - 5 lb., 3.3 oz. (I weighed only the parts I used)
Superstar onion - 10.3 oz.
Helios radishes - 1.2 oz.
Pink Punch radishes - 1.3 oz.
Romanesco zucchini - 3 lb., 14.6 oz.

Total for the week - 12 lb., .3 oz. (5.5 kg.)
2015 YTD - 361 lb., 13.4 oz. (164 kg.)

Dave was asking me this weekend how my harvests this year stack up to the harvests at this time last year and I had no idea, but I can see now that I'm about 56 pounds ahead of last year. I'm not sure what the differences are, I'll have to take a look at that later.

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.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Et Tu Allium Ampeloprasum?

Leeks, are you joining your onion cousins in the blooming brigade?

Leek Scape
I obviously have a lot more to learn about growing alliums.

There's plenty of this going on in the onion patch...

Decapitated flower stalks. The Candy and Superstar sweet onions just keep pushing them up. I've learned that if I just remove the flower head that even though the stalk keeps growing and fattening...

that they don't entirely interfere with the development of the bulb. Common advice is to just pull the bolting onions and enjoy them right away because the bulbs won't get any bigger. But that's a lot of onions to try to enjoy at one time, and as I said, the bulbs have continued to grow a bit. The best strategy for me seems to be to keep the bolting onions in the garden as long as possible. They seem to be keeping just fine so long as I remove the flower heads as soon as I see them. At first I was cutting the flower stalk as low as possible, but the problem with that is that the stalk is hollow and water collects inside of it leading to rot in the bulb. Now that I've learned that lesson I'm careful to just snip off the top. It will be interesting to see just how long I can wait before I have to harvest the bolters.

I did make an exception when I found that my small planting of cipollini onions were bolting. I pulled all of them. There really wasn't any hope of them turning into nice little flat bulbs. They were all too big, shading the shallots, and a lot of them were behaving more like bunching onions than bulbing onions, so out they came.

Bolting Cipollinis
Now, I'm finding that the onions that I had hoped would be my storage onions are bolting as well. These were one of the varieties that I started from seed way back in November. Seven months devoted to growing them and now they decide to bloom.

Tonda Musona onion starting to flower

Blooming onions. Blooming leeks. What the heck is going on?

I was really quite careful to choose intermediate day length onion varieties that should be suitable for the latitude here. But day length isn't the trigger for blooming in alliums. Alliums are biennials, they do most of their growing in one year and bloom the next. For many biennials day length is the trigger to bloom, but for onions day length triggers bulb formation, which to the plant means that they are storing food to get them through the winter and provide energy to bloom in the spring. Vernalization, which is exposure to a certain number of chill hours, triggers flower production in alliums. Alliums can be fooled into thinking (do onions think?) that they have been through winter if they are exposed to a period of warm weather followed by cold weather. And that is the likely trigger for the blast of blooms in my onions and leeks. We had an exceptionally warm winter this year, days on end from January through April with temperatures in the mid to high 60's into the 70's and even into the 80's (18-27ºC). And then we shivered through the month of May with temperatures that barely made it into the 60's. It turned out to be one of the coolest Mays in years.

So my challenge now if I want to continue to grow onions and leeks is to find varieties that are resistant to bolting. This is the second year that we've experienced an exceptionally warm winter, although last year the spring weather wasn't quite as cold. Is this the new normal? Who knows. But it's really not unusual, it's almost expected, that we will have some warm weather in winter. We also tend to have fairly cool spring weather when the fog starts to roll in. So I think I need to find alliums that are resistant to bolting when subjected to swings in temperature.

One of the sweet onions that I'm growing seems to be resistant - Red Candy Apple is one of the trio of onion seedlings that I purchased from Dixondale. This is my second year with this trio and my experience this year is the same as last year. We had really similar weather conditions and both the Candy and Superstar onions bolted and Red Candy Apple did not and has not. Red Candy Apple is a keeper.

I grew another three varieties of onion from seed for this year, two of which I've already mentioned as bolting. The third variety is a red torpedo type, Rossa Lunga di Firenze, which is starting to form bulbs now, and so far I haven't found a flower stalk, not yet, but that doesn't mean they won't appear. I've got my fingers crossed that it will be resistant. If Rossa Lunga di Firenze doesn't bolt I'll give it space in the garden next year. The problem with RLF is that it doesn't keep well. I need to find a storage onion suitable to my climate.

Here's a few intermediate day length storage onions that I think I will trial next year, click on the links to go to the seed seller:

Australian Brown - heirloom
Giant Zittau - heirloom
Talon - hybrid
Whitewing - hybrid
Expression - hybrid, not a storage onion, but similar to Candy which I like, it keeps a few months
Great Western - hybrid, not sure it's for storage, but it's suited to my latitude
Mt. Whitney - hybrid, another one suited to my latitude

Here's a couple more tidbits of advice to keep your onions from bolting, courtesy of Dixondale:

Be careful not to over-fertilize, too, because overly vigorous growth may result in bolting. So can soil that is too loose; if the plant thinks the ground has been disturbed, it may respond by trying to spread its seed.

That sounds reasonable but I doubt that either was part of my problem.

I would love to hear if anyone has any suggestions for a great onion that will grow at 36º30' latitude with a longest day of 14 hours and 49 minutes. Long day varieties require 14 to 16 hours to initiate bulb formation so some of them will work here. The challenge when considering long day varieties is that there often times isn't any information about just how many hours are required or which latitude is appropriate. I've passed on a number of long day onions because that information isn't provided.

Back to the leeks. I'm growing two varieties - Blue Solaise and Lungo Della Riviera. So far it's just the Lungo Della Riviera which are bolting. The Blue Solaise are compact and fattening up. The LDR's are more tall and thin, the tallest and thinnest are the ones that are bolting. So I'm hoping the Blue Solaise may resist bolting. I had already decided that the Blue Solaise seem to be better suited for my garden because they have been more resistant to rust than the LDR's, so perhaps they will be keepers.

With all this bolting going on in the onions and leeks I've started to more closely inspect my Zebrune shallots. So far, so good.

One more tidbit about growing bulbing onions. I've noticed that a number of my onions are splitting, as in multiplying, two or more plants form from one seed or seedling. Dixondale advises that it may be because of a number of things including genetics, spacing too far apart, temperature fluctuations (especially below 20ºF), planting too deeply, over fertilization, and uneven watering. Phew, I'm not sure what I can blame for that problem.

Enough of my stinky lily problems. How are your onions doing?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Harvest Monday - June 22, 2015

A hunger gap in June? It almost seems like it. My harvests are quite light right now. If it weren't for zucchini and lettuce we would be a bit hungry for fresh produce from the garden.

I cut the last 2 Italienischer lettuces because they were getting to be huge. I wonder how large this variety gets before bolting, neither of these heads were showing signs of it. Each of the heads was close to 2 pounds after trimming off the only slightly yellowing or tough outer leaves.

Two heads of Italienischer lettuce
I've been experimenting with using a warm bacon dressing on this lettuce and liking the results. The soft parts of the lettuce wilt a bit but the crunchy ribs retain their crunch.

Romanesco zucchini
I am glad that I reneged on my promise to not grow Romanesco zucchini again, it's definitely helping to fill the harvest gap between spring and summer crops. We've started our annual parade of favorite zucchini dishes - last week it was Zucchini in Agrodolce.

Chesnock Red garlic
I pulled all the Chesnock Red garlic early. It was so infested with rust that it seemed unlikely to produce any good heads and I wanted to use the space to grow some Delicata squash up a trellis - so out it came. I used the whole crop to make another batch of Crema di Green Garlic (now on my recipe blog).

Zebrune shallot
I keep watching my seed started Zebrune shallots and wondering when or if they will develop bulbs. I pulled one of the green plants to use in my first go at a warm bacon dressing. It didn't look too promising to begin with, but when I cleaned it up I found two nice stalks, one of which did an admirable job of flavoring the dressing. The other stalk found its way into a red cabbage slaw (amazing how well the cabbage keeps in the fridge).

Zebrune shallot and Romanesco zucchini
The only other harvests were a bolting onion, some rather large but still edible radishes, and a handful of arugula.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Speedy arugula - 1.2 oz.
Chesnock Red garlic - 8.5 oz.
Mixed green garlics (from the previous week) - 8 oz.
Italienischer lettuces - 3 lb., 14.1 oz.
Superstar onion - 15.1 oz.
Helios radishes - 6.4 oz.
Zebrune shallot - 6.8 oz.
Romanesco zucchini - 2 lb., 1.3 oz.

Total for the week - 8 lb., 13.4 oz.
2015 YTD - 349 lb., 13.1 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.