Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Garden In December 2018

It's time for another tour of the garden. Let's start with the view from the hillside above. The big differences between the view now and the view from the last tour in November are a) clear blue sky, b) Fort Pepper is wide open, and c) the hillside is turning green.

Beds No. 1 and No. 4

Beds No. 2 and No. 3

The rest of the differences are in the details.

Bed No. 1

I cut down a few of the pepper plants that had overwintered and come back from 2017. And the weird setup around the trellis, a combination of hardware cloth and Agribon fabric, is what I put up to deter the birds from pecking my sweet peas into oblivion. Those are ornamental sweet peas not edible ones. I know that the birds love edible pea foliage but didn't know that they also love Lathyrus odoratus just as much.

The spinach has grown enough to provide another harvest soon. The cilantro that I planted in front of it got to be too big so I gave it a good hard whack. It should grow back again because it is very reluctant to bolt at this time of year.

Amsterdam Prickly Seeded Spinach
The small daikon radishes are in need of thinning again but I don't think that there are any sizable roots yet. Fortunately the greens of these radishes are not very prickly and are mild tasting so they won't be going to the compost.

Bora Bora and Mini Purple Daikon Radishes
Carrots are growing slowly but surely.

Short Stuff Carrots
I'm glad I put a few I'itoi onions into the garden bed because they are much happier than the ones that I have growing in fabric pots.

I'itoi Onions
I never got around to harvesting the potted I'itoi onions and now they are too crowded.

I'itoi onions

The lettuces are holding well in the garden and I'm harvesting them as I need them.

Queen of Crunch and Three Heart Butterhead Lettuce
Arugula is still resisting bolting.

Speedy Arugula

I had scattered some seeds of Rishad cress in an area and then decided to plant the Yellow Potato onions in the same area. The cress popped up around the emerging onions and the onions don't seem to be adversely affected by the cress, at least while it is small, but I've been thinning out the cress before it gets to be too big. In the past I've intentionally done the same thing when I used to grow bulbing onions, I would scatter seeds of parsley or Golden Corn Salad when I set out the onion seedlings and then harvest the young greens before they overwhelmed the growing onions. It's a good way to get 2 crops from the same space.

Yellow Potato Onions and Rishad Cress

Saffron crocus is the only other thing that I've got growing in this bed. It should continue to grow through the winter and then go dormant some time in spring or summer.

Saffron Crocus

There is a bunch of happy volunteer nasturtiums growing at the end of the bed. They will continue to grow vigorously until they get zapped by a hard frost.

Not a lot has changed in Bed No. 2. 

The Brussels sprouts and Kalettes plants are taller. I've been cutting the older leaves off, partly because they are getting powdery mildew and aphids and partly because it seems to be encouraging the sprouts to size up.

Brussels Sprouts and Kalettes
But I'm still waiting for the Brussels sprouts to reach a respectable size. Perhaps they never will get very large and I should just take what I can get.

The Autumn Star kalettes plant was the first to produce sprouts large enough to harvest and it has more nice ones coming along.

Autumn Star Kalettes
Snowdrop is the kalettes variety that is supposed to take the longest to produce sprouts. I've just noticed in the past week that the sprouts are starting to swell.

Snowdrop Kalettes

Mistletoe is the second of the three kalettes varieties to produce. I got one small harvest last week and there's more forming.

Mistletoe Kalette

Not much has changed inside the cages in Bed No. 2. The parsnips have nice lush foliage but the roots aren't quite big enough to harvest yet.

Gladiator Parsnips

The celeriac is holding well, the roots are slowly growing larger. There's no rush to harvest them.

Prinz Celeriac

The same for the carrots, there's some nice roots in there but I don't need to pull them all yet.

Short Stuff Carrots

And the beets are still just a runty now as they were last month.

Sweetheart and Badger Flame Beets

I think that the first rutabaga will be large enough to harvest pretty soon.

Improved Helenor Rutabaga

The chard made something of a comeback since I cut it back severely because of aphids and ants. After I took this photo I cut it back hard again because there were a lot of leaf miners. If it isn't one pest it's another. I did not manage to get an even halfway decent photo of the amazing multiple cropping fennel but you can catch a glimpse of it growing (again) in the cage behind the chard. It is growing much more slowly now but I think I'll get a few more small bulbs in the next few weeks.

Peppermint Stick and Italian Silver Rib Chard

Pink Plume celery has been one of the star performers in the garden of late. I managed to not screw things up this year and it's been very happy. Last year I kept the plants in little pots for far too long before I put them in the garden and they never recovered. My photo of them from this time last year shows a few stunted plants that look more like seedlings than the mature plants that they were.

Pink Plume Celery
Pink Plume Celery

The only other veggies in this bed are some sorry old broccoli plants that I didn't even bother to photograph. I can't believe it, but I'm buying broccoli from the farmer's market again. Broccoli used to be such a reliable veggie for me. I could harvest it almost all year long. But it's such a favorite of the rodents now that it's just too much of a bother to grow it because it's just a bit too large to be easy to protect.

Over in Bed No. 3 is just an odd assortment of things. If this was a normal year without a plague of rodents I would be completely clearing out this bed and preparing it to sow a cover crop. This would be the bed where I would be growing tomatoes and peppers next year. But I've decided that next year I will skip growing tomatoes again and grow just a few sweet peppers for fresh eating. That leaves most of the bed free for growing something else. What that will be I haven't decided yet. In the meantime I took an artichoke plant that has been growing in a pot for years and put it in the corner of the bed. The plant was never productive in the pot, only putting out an occasional artichoke that I allowed to bloom because they are so pretty and the bumble bees love them. It will be interesting to see if the plant will actually produce artichokes worth harvesting. To the right of the artichoke are some Bachelor Buttons and to the rear are the Nema-Gone marigolds that I hope are putting a dent in the nematode population.

This should be a patch of Cosmos but the birds decimated the plants. I've grown Cosmos before with no problems from the birds but I guess the birds didn't find much to eat in the natural landscape so they ignored the bird scare flash tape and zeroed in on the Cosmos. They were attacking the marigolds for a while but as soon as I put the cosmos in the garden the marigolds were pretty much left alone. Maybe I need to put something in the garden that the birds prefer to cosmos that I don't care about. Whatever that might be?

The rest of the bed has old things that I need to remove. This end of the bed is where I'll put the sweet peppers next year. For now there's a lingering Orion fennel plant that produced bulbs for me in 2017 and that I allowed to bloom this year. I harvested a lot of ripe green seeds that I dried and now I've got enough fragrant tasty fennel seeds to see me through a couple of years. Other than that there's a small patch of parsley and some lingering basil plants.

The basil is nearly dead.

And finally Bed No. 4, aka Fort Pepper. The last good rain event that came through came with some good wind gusts that tore into the flimsy Agribon fabric roof of fort pepper so it's now wide open. The main target of the rodents was the sweet peppers and those are all gone now so it's not a problem. And since I took these photos I also removed nearly all the side panels so the bed is wide open to whatever wants to have a taste.

Look closely and you'll see plenty of ripe peppers still hanging in there. I am really tired of dealing with peppers!

And to finish the tour I'll direct your attention to this handy metal box that has been the final destination for a number of mice. I figured out purely by accident that this area between the pots and the fence seems to be a mouse highway. I put that Ketch-All trap back there to get it out of the way and then found that it was repeatedly catching mice. I've lost count of how many.

That's the latest from my garden. Thanks for taking the tour.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Harvest Monday - December 10, 2018

The weather has finally settled into a more seasonable pattern of cool days, cold nights, and some rain, although the rain has dropped out of the forecast for the next week. Some of the harvests are looking more seasonable also.

I got another small harvest of Kalettes, this one is either Mistletoe or Snowdrop. I planted one plant each of three different varieties of kalettes that are supposed to have successive harvest dates and this was the first harvest from the second plant. I'm still learning how to grow this veggie and I think that next year I'll have to put in more plants to get a decent harvest. That harvest below was only 1.6 ounces which was barely enough for a single serving. They are really tasty and the rodents don't seem to be attracted to them so that makes them worth trying again next year.


Cilantro loses it's urge to flower during the shortest and coldest days of the year but it grows pretty vigorously so it's not unusual for me to get a big harvest like the one below. Now I have to find something to make that requires a large amount of it.

The celery is also loving the cool weather and rain. The knife in the photo is my No.10 Opinel which is 9 inches (23cm) total in length which should give some perspective of the size of the stalks that I'm harvesting now. Celery is also the subject of one of my latest fermentation experiments. I took a bunch of stalks and cut them into about 1/4-inch thick slices, placed them in a brine, and allowed them to ferment for about a week before putting them in the fridge for longer term keeping. They retained their crunch and have just a slight tang. The pink hue from the skins colored the brine and the flesh also picked up some of the color. I'm thinking that they would be a nice contrast in a potato salad or used instead of fresh celery in a classic Waldorf Salad. I've been making another salad lately that features celery, dates, pomegranate arils, Parmesan, and almonds and perhaps the fermented celery would be a nice addition to that. But they are also really good just eaten right out of the jar. I'm interested to see how well they keep in the refrigerator over the next weeks or longer. If they keep their crunch and good flavor for a long time it will be a good way to preserve some of the crop when the plants start to bolt in the spring.

Pink Plume Celery

I've started to clear out some of the plants that overwintered from 2017. That's the last of the Aji Angelo, Aji Golden, and Craig's Grande Jalapeño peppers from the 2017 plants. One Ethiopian Brown pepper decided to join the harvest but the plant remains in the garden and still has peppers that are ripening. The Aji Angelo plant still had a lot of green peppers left on it but after harvesting 10 pounds of ripe Aji Angelos this year I declared that enough is enough and removed the plant.

Craig's Grande Jalapeño, Aji Golden,
Ethiopian Brown, Aji Angelo

I cleared out the last of the sweet pepper plants from Fort Pepper and harvested more of the late ripening baccatum peppers.

Joe's Giant Aji Amarillo, Aji Cacho de Cabra,
Florina, Odessa Market, Topepo Giallo, Gogosar

That's the latest from my garden, head on over to Dave's blog Our Happy Acres to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Harvest Monday - December 3, 2018

Harvests were pretty light last week because there was enough rain to keep me out of the garden most days. I found a local weather station on Weather Underground that reported 3.32 inches of rain in the past week. That's not a lot of rain compared to what Dave has been getting at Happy Acres this year but it is enough to get things wet enough to make the landscape start to turn green again. And I've finally been able to turn off the irrigation system in my garden. And even better I think it could finally bring an end to the fire season.

The lettuce really seems to appreciate the rain, I harvested 2 beautiful heads of Three Heart butterhead.

The purple daikon radishes needed to be thinned which netted me a nice bunch of greens. I blanched these and chopped them up to add to cheese stuffed roasted peppers. The greens were very mild and made a good substitute for spinach. You can see from the photo that it will still be quite a while before I harvest some nice roots.

And there were and still are more peppers to be picked.

I've been slowly clearing out the pepper bed as the plants yield their last peppers. Most of the sweet pepper plants are gone now. I took out the Caribbean Seasoning plants even though they were big and bushy because they weren't really producing anything. And I also removed the Yellow Pointy peppers because I had more than enough of those. There are still some Habanada plants with quite a few ripening peppers left but I'm not sure how they will fare now that the weather has turned cold and wet. They are Chinense plants which don't hold up well in cold weather and always succumb to fungal diseases unlike baccatum plants which are much more resistant to cold weather and the diseases that come with it. There's still quite a few baccatum peppers left on the plants which could give me a few more harvests through the end of the year.

That's the latest from my garden, head on over to Dave's blog Our Happy Acres to find links to more Harvest Monday posts.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Harvest Monday - November 26, 2018

We are finally getting some real rain. The dust has been washed away and everything looks clean. It's so wonderful to have fresh air to breathe, it smells so good. And more rain is supposed to arrive starting Tuesday night through the weekend, hopefully not too much. The sun came out on Sunday so I had a chance to get out to the garden to do some tidying and harvesting.

It was a pretty good week of harvests especially considering it's the middle of November. First up is a new veggie for the season, some kalettes. These are a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale, and produce mini heads of kale along a stalk, kinda of like frilly purple and green Brussels sprouts. I just harvested those yesterday and haven't gotten around to cooking them yet.

Autumn Star Kalettes

Speedy arugula was ready for another cutting. I found one plant starting to bolt so I pulled that one but the rest seem to be resisting and with the change in weather to cooler and wet I hope they will keep from bolting a while longer.

Speedy Arugula

It's prime time for lettuce!

Three Heart Butterhead Lettuce

Queen of Crunch Crisphead Lettuce

I pulled a couple of Celeriac roots. They looked pretty gnarly before trimming.

Prinz Celeriac
But they cleaned up nicely and you can see in the shot below that they got to be a good size. The largest was over a pound after trimming the stalks down even more. I took the largest one and cut it into cubes (after more trimming of course) and roasted it in a cast iron skillet with a cubed purple sweet potato (not from my garden) and made something of a hash with shredded turkey leg confit, onions, Nero di Toscano kale (also not from my garden) and bulgur wheat. That was really delicious and satisfying.

Prinz Celeriac

I can't believe how much fennel I've harvested this year. Those 2 additional bulbs brings the total fennel harvest for the year so far to over 18 pounds. It's a good thing it holds really well in the refrigerator.

Orion Fennel & Short Stuff Carrots

And more celery too for an annual total so far of 20 pounds.

Pink Plume Celery

And there were yet more peppers too. I really won't have to grow more than just a few plants for fresh eating next year because I've got enough processed peppers to last a couple of years. There's jars of fermented hot sauce and pepper paste in the freezer, and lots of dehydrated peppers, and lots of dried fermented pepper flakes and peppers ready to be turned into flakes. I've also got a year's supply of preserved sweet peppers in the fridge. Crazy. And of course I still have to process the latest harvest...

Joe's Giant Aji, Sugar Rush Red, Sugar Rush Peach

Aji Cacho de Cabra, Baby Aji Amarillo
Ethiopian Brown, Aji Angelo
Aji Amarillo Grande
And there were actually a few other peppers that I didn't get around to photographing, including ripe Craig's Grande jalapeños, Urfa Biber, Florina, Gogosar, and Rosso Dolce da Appendere.

That's the latest from my garden, head on over to Dave's blog Our Happy Acres to find links to more Harvest Monday posts.