Friday, February 26, 2010

Garden Tour on February 25, 2010

The weather was quite mild yesterday and I was able to take the camera out to the garden and take a bunch of photos. (This is a long post). So, let's take a tour of the garden to see how things have been growing.

The Portuguese Dairyman's kale is reaching toward the sky and starting to bloom. I'm trying to save seeds from this variety and I'm hoping that my 8 plants will be enough to produce some health stock. More plants would have been better, but there just isn't enough room. I've been diligently snipping off blooms of any other brassicas in the garden to prevent easy cross pollination.

The garlic is growing by leaps and bounds now. Just this week I started pulling some of the green garlic stalks to cook with. Garlic is so tender and mild at this stage that it's difficult to keep from harvesting loads of it.

Elsewhere in this bed I recently planted out some Sugar Magnolia Purple Snap Peas. They're doing well, except something got past my defenses and took one of the plants. At first I thought it was a gopher, but it seems that something just pulled out the entire plant and left a hole that neatly matched the size of the paper pot that the seeds were started in. I suspect a rat. Today I had to pull down the remay that I had draped around the trellis and staked into the soil because it was being blown around by strong wind gusts that heralded the storm that is drenching us at the moment. I hope I don't find more holes tomorrow.

A headless Romanesco Broccoli Plant. I've been cutting off the leaves to give to the chickens, they love them!

The last little head of Romanesco waiting to be harvested.

You can barely see that little thing buried in the middle of the leaves.

Purple Flowering Choy Sum under the water bottle cloches. The black nursery flats that you can see in the photo are supposed to be protecting some Bok Choy. The didn't work well, there's only 2 tiny plants left. Oh well, try again...

Across the path in a different bed you see a patch of Dolvi Celery Root.

And minutes later you see a patch of soil, no more celery "root".

Those big plants were starting to bolt. So I yanked them all out.

With nary a big fat root to be seen. So, they are all now on the compost heap. Too bad the chickens don't like this vegetable, there was a lot of it.

Let's hope the potatoes are better behaved. They look good in the photo, but after the gusty winds this afternoon they are all leaning towards the path. They look ok though.

And at the other end of this bed the Red Florence Fennel is starting to look a little more like Florence Fennel. I braised some it last night and found it to be tender and delicious, if a bit small still.

The Golden Chard had a huge growth spurt in the last week or so, I picked a bunch of that today. Behind the chard are small kohlrabi plants, not yet living up to their "Gigante" name. And behind the kohlrabi is the Red Fennel and the Hollow Pipe of Malines Cutting Celery. And there's a few small scallions on the right that are finally staring to grow.

The next bed is newly planted out with some Piracicaba Broccoli, Romanesco Natalino (a mini version), and a couple of Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage, all under critter proof (hopefully) water bottle cloches.

Inside the remay covered tunnel are Even' Star American Rapa (in the back), frisee, mizuna, and an Asian green that I can't remember the name of now and I'm not going out in the rain to check the label.

The only pepper plants that I haven't pulled out of that bed are the Pimento de Padrons. They still have quite a bit of life left in them.

This Pimento de Padron plant is doing particularly well.

Next to the Padrons  is a patch of Golden Corn Salad that was planted from various volunteers that sprang up in other areas of this bed. They didn't seem to mind being transplanted at all.

A well picked Olive Leaf Rapini Plant. There are still plenty of sprouts forming, although they are getting smaller.

There's all the Olive Leaf Rapini plants in the foreground and Monticello Poppies behind.

I finally got some Burpee's Golden Beets to germinate under lights with no heat indoors. They are starting to grow!

Here's the Golden Beets from Renee's Seeds that were started later and I think will fast overtake the Burpee's. I'll have to do a taste comparison, if the gophers don't beat me to it.

This is a seedling of a Devoy Beet, an English heirloom beet that is supposed to be dark pink.

The Chioggia beet seedlings look a lot like the Devoys.

Across the way are some lettuce seedlings growing under another remay covered tunnel. These are Butterhead and below are Noga and Cimarron romaine seedlings.

The rest of this bed is devoted to Fava beams. On the left are Early Purple and on the right are Early White. The smaller fava plants in the forground were a second planting of the same varieties sown a couple of months later. After the wind today they all are leaning well to the left, I hope they didn't get too pushed out of shape.

The first planting is in full bloom and was abuzz with beneficial insects yesterday. So far I haven't seen any of those nasty little black aphids that love fava plants.

The first little beans are showing.

I've let Sweet Alyssum run rampant along the fence inside the garden. The flowers are magnets for beneficial insects. This year I've seen the lowest populations of aphids in the vegetable garden and I attribute that to the Sweet Alyssum and other flowers that are attractive to beneficial that are blooming in the garden.

It's a little difficult to see in the small photo, but if you click on the photo you can see a nice patch of Shooting Stars blooming on the slope above the vegetable garden.

On the hillside above the house is an even nicer patch of Shooting Stars, with a few native Johnny-Jump-Up's in the mix as well.

And a few other natives. A few of the "Munch Bunch" sauntering by as I'm busy photographing the flowers.

That's half of the Bunch, there's a couple more does that hang out regularly and a couple of young bucks that visit as well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Harvest Monday - February 22, 2010

The only thing new in the harvest lineup last week was some shoots from the red fennel. I noticed one shoot was starting to develop a flower stalk and the rest of them are quite crowded with multiple shoots from the crown of each plant so I cut the bolting shoot and did a bit of thinning. I cleaned them and put them in the refrigerator and when it came time to put together a pot of soup with some freshly harvested vegetables and leftover duck confit, I forgot to use them. They'll keep until I put together another pot of soup, which I make frequently at this time of year.

So here's the harvest totals for the week:

Red Fennel - 5 oz.
Olive Leaf Rapini - 1 lb., 5.5 oz.
Diamante Celery Root - 2 lb., 4.75 oz.
Romanesco Broccoli - 16 oz.
Garlic Shoots - 1 oz.
Chervil - .5 oz.
Fava leaves - 1.75 oz.
Golden Corn Salad - 2.75 l oz.
Cutting Celery - 1 oz.
Red *Scallion* - 8 oz.

Total Harvest for the week - 5 lb., 14.25 oz
Total For the year - 24 lb., 8.25 oz.

Eggs last week - 11

Daphne is hosting Harvest Monday on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, so if you would like to see what other garden bloggers have harvested lately, head on over and check it out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Plottings of an Overambitious Home Vegetable Gardener

Or, true confessions of a vegetable seed junkie.

I've been enjoying reading all the posts by various garden bloggers about their seed acquisitions for the coming gardening year. And all along I've been busy collecting a bunch of new seeds myself and staying rather quiet about it. You did get a glimpse of my pepper program, and I was (and still am) quite proud of myself for not adding very many new seeds to that part of my collection.

But now...


The rest of the plot.

Here I reveal all the new seeds that I've acquired, so far...

And you will also see the return of some favorites that I already have seeds for...

But wait, there's more!

I've also dug into the seed collection to retry a couple of varieties from years past.

Here we go, and please keep in mind that I garden year round, this would be a hopelessly huge list of vegetables if I had a short growing season. I also grow small amounts of most vegetables since I aim for fresh consumption to feed 2 people and I don't do much preserving except for tomatoes and peppers.


Not too many new ones, I'm planning on far fewer tomato plants this year. Last year I picked 200 pounds in a 2 week period, and that's just the portion of the harvest I kept track of. Even though it seems like I'm constantly digging into the frozen, dried, and canned stash of 2009 tomato products, I seem to have hardly made a dent. So, I just don't need to grow as much this year.

New seeds:
--Aunt Ruby's German Cherry Tomato (Baker Creek)
--Galinas Cherry Tomato (Adaptive Seeds)
--Katja Tomato (Sustainable Seed)
--"Not Wes" Yellow Tomato (Christina)
Seeds on hand:
--Ananas Noir
--Andine Cornue
--Chocolate Stripes


The Diamond eggplant that I grew last year was an all around winner. It grew well in my cool climate, it produced lots of beautiful fruits, and the eggplant were delicious and never bitter. I did miss having a long Asian type of eggplant though, so that's the new eggplant for this year.

New seeds:
--Malaysian Dark Red Eggplant (Baker Creek)
Seeds on hand:


One plant should be plenty to meet my tomatillo needs this year. Last year I had two varieties, both of which were very good, but I'm opting for one plant of the less productive variety.

Old seeds:
--Plaza Latina Giant


I struggled a number of times with two fresh packets of seeds to grow Burpee's golden beets and just couldn't get them to go. So, when I saw a packet of golden beet seeds on the rack of Renee's seeds I took a look. There's no claim to being an heirloom (so they aren't Burpee's) but neither are they F-1 (Renee's always clearly labels the hybrids). So I gave them a try. It took only 16 days from the time I sowed the seeds in paper pots to the day I planted them out in the garden. A good start so far! The other new beet variety that I'm trying is a British heirloom that is supposed to produce pink roots.

New seeds:
--Golden (Renee's)
--Devoy (Adaptive Seeds)
Seeds on hand:
--Dewing's Early Blood


I have had a hankering to try Spanish Black Carrots ever since I read about them and saw a picture of them on the Carrot Museum's website. Unfortunately, they are just not to be found in North America. The only sources I could find are in the UK and they don't ship to the US. When Emma, who happens to live in the UK, emailed me about swapping some seeds I asked her if she could perhaps, pretty please, get her hands on some seeds and send them along. Bless her, that's exactly what she did. I'm going to have to learn how to save carrot seeds this year, or perhaps next year since they will probably need to overwinter.

New seeds:
--Muscade carrots (Baker Creek)
--Napoli Carrots (Jennifer)
--Spanish Black Carrots (Emma)
Seeds on hand:
--Rouge Sang Violette
--Amarillo Yellow


A new vegetable in my garden. I love parsnips but have never tried to grow them. In my usual fashion, I'm trying the unusual, a beet shaped parsnip.

New seeds:
--Kral Russian Parsnip (Adaptive Seeds)

Onions and Leeks

I'm hoping that I can get a semi-permanent patch of bunching onions growing on the other side of the deer fence. There's a patch just outside the garden where I've been trying to improve the gritty, crappy native soil with compost, old potting soil, chicken poop (fresh from the girls!) and the oak leaves that fall from the nearby tree. It should be as good to go as I can get it by the time my little seedlings are ready to plant out. The rest of the onions go into the protected part of the garden because the soil is much nicer there and should produce better roots.

New seeds:
--Flat of Italy Onion (Botanical Interests)
--Red Beard Japanese Bunching Onion (Kitazawa)
--Welsh Bunching Onion (Emma)
--American Flag Leek (Botanical Interests)
Old Seeds:
--none, they aren't germinating (and they aren't that old)


How could I resist a purple podded sugar snap pea? I also want to try some of the peas that I grew from a spring sowing last year as a late summer sowing this year to see how they over winter.

New seeds:
--Sugar Magnolia Purple Snap Vine Pea (Peace Seeds)
--Yellow Giant Snow Pea (Pam)
Old seeds
--Green Beauty Snow (Peace seeds)
--Magnolia Blossom Snap Vine Peas (Peace Seeds)

My Petaluma Gold Rush beans (an old California heirloom bean that is almost impossible to find seeds for) got off to a very slow start last year, but in spite of that I managed to get quite a few good quality seeds. Thank goodness, those were the last of the seeds that I received from an SSE member a few years ago. This year I hope to grow a lot more plants so that I can get enough for both eating and to be able to offer seeds. I also got new seeds for an Italian flat bean that I had grown before and really liked and then could no longer find a place to buy the seeds. So, I'll see if I still like them. Plus, an exchange netted me an heirloom bean with a very interesting story (I love vegetables with stories).

New seeds:
--Garrafal Oro Pole Bean (Seeds From Italy)
--Petaluma Gold Rush Bean
--Turkey Craw Bean (Nancy)

Lettuce and Salad Greens

Caesar Salad is a favorite around here and I'm really resenting have to purchase romaine lettuce these days. So when I spotted a mixed pack of red and green romaine lettuce on the Renee's seed rack I just had to buy it. Fortunately, one seed is black and the other white so I could sow an equal number of each variety in paper pots to be planted out later. I also received some lettuce in exchanges and I'm willing to give them a try. And there's a few other new salad greens to help fill the salad bowl. One thing that I harvest but never sowed seeds for is Claytonia, it grows wild around here and seeded itself in the vegetable garden, lovely!

New seeds:
--Caesar Duo Romaine lettuces, Noga and Cimarron (Renee's)
--Green Butterhead Lettuce (Jennifer)
--Orient Red Curl Lettuce (Pam)
--Gala Mache (Renee's)
--Mizuna (Baker Creek freebie)
Old seeds:
--Tuscan Arugula
--Olive Leaf Arugula
--Vit Mache
--Golden Corn Salad
--Pancalieri a Costa Bianca frisee


I'm going to try something new this year, a Chinese cucumber. Last year I started with Serpent cucumbers which are closely related to Armenian cukes. They were a dismal failure, all the plants succumbed to some kind of root disease before I could harvest anything. I dug into my stash of seeds and planted a Japanese cucumber which, even though I started them rather late, went on to produce a bumper crop of delicious cukes. This year I thought I would try something new (there still some seeds of old reliables in the stash, just in case).

New seeds:
--Suyo Long Cucumber (Baker Creek)


I'm returning to a zucchini that I tried the first year that my new garden was established. They didn't do as well as I would have liked, but to be fair, that season nothing in the garden did as well as I would have liked. Now that I've vastly improved the soil I'm willing to give them another try. The attractive feature of these zukes are that they are supposed to produce lots of male blossoms and fewer zucchini. My husband loves zucchini blossoms in any way that I present them to him, so this variety could be a winner. I also got new seeds for one of my absolute favorite winter squash.

New seeds:
--Marina di Chioggia winter squash (Baker Creek)
Old seeds:
--Zucchino da Fiore


I know it's probably not warm enough here to grow melons, but I can't resist trying, at least once. The variety that I've chosen is a California heirloom that has been grown for years by the same family near Santa Rosa. I know that area, grew up not far from there, and am pretty familiar with the weather there. My weather may be similar enough to give me a chance to ripen a melon or two.

New seeds:
--Crane Melon (Sustainable Seed)

Brassicas, non-Asian

I guess I'm stuck in a rut, nothing new other than a cabbage that I received in an exchange, although I did buy new seeds for my favorite kale. I'm also trying to save seeds for one of the kales I grew this year, a variety that I got from an SSE member who is not offering it this year, I'll put those under new seeds since I'll try sowing some late this summer.

New seeds:
--Cavolo Nero (Lacinato) Kale (Seeds From Italy)
--Portuguese Dairyman's Kale, aka Smooth Leafed Kale From The Azores
--Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage (Pam)
Old Seeds:
--Even' Star American Rapa
--Olive Leaf Rapini
--Piracicaba Broccoli
--Romanesco Broccoli
--Romanesco Natalino (really old but doing great)
--Azure Star Kohlrabi
--Gigante Kohlrabi

Asian Greens

I received a few Asian greens through exchanges this year and I felt inspired to expand on that selection when I came across the Kitazawa seed rack a favorite nursery.

New Seeds:
--Bok Choy (Josh)
--Green Rocket Napa Cabbage (Kitazawa)
--Hon Tsai Tai (Josh)
--Kosaitai Purple-Flowered Choy Sum (Kitazawa)
--Saisai Purple (Pam)
--Tatsoi (Josh)
--Thai (RW) Tender Amaranth (Baker Creek)
Old Seeds:


I'm inspired by Daphne's chamomile harvests to try growing some of my own since I do love chamomile tea. And the new basil variety from Renee's seeds is supposed to be bred to do well in containers and I thought it would be nice to grow to have closer to the kitchen or to give as gifts. The poppy seeds have a lineage going back to the vegetable garden at Monticello, and it seems that they don't grow it or at least offer the seeds to the public anymore so I'm honored that Christina passed some seeds along to me.

New seeds:
--Cameo Basil (Renee's)
--German Chamomile (Sustainable Seed)
--Gigante di Napoli Parsley (Seeds From Italy)
--Monticello Poppy (Christina)
--Turkish Parsley (Peace Seeds)
Old Seeds:
--Profumo di Genova Basil
--Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

Miscellaneous and Flowers

--Paragon Rhubarb (Baker Creek)
--Yellow Wonder Strawberry (Baker Creek)

--Chocolate Flower (Botanical Interests)
--Summer Snowflake Marigolds (Peace Seeds)
--Dwarf Powder Puff (Pam)
--Joe Pye Weed (Tatyana)

There are a few other seeds that I received in exchanges that I've elected not to list here since I just can't figure out where to squeeze them into the garden this year.

This is not the end of the story, I haven't had a chance to have some quality time with the new Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Harvest Monday - February 15, 2010

My harvests have been picking up, mainly because I've been harvesting the overwintered vegetables as they mature or before they start to bolt.

Pictured above is Romanesco broccoli and Olive Leaf Rapini. That's the largest head of Romanesco, coming in at about 15 ounces. In the past I've harvested heads that weighed up to 5 pounds. For me to get such large heads I have to start seeds in June or early July so that the plants can grow like crazy through the rest of summer and our long autumn. The larger the plants grow the bigger the heads will be. But the plants pretty much stop growing by December so an early start is critical. Last summer I lost my first round of seedlings sown on June 21 to birds or some other animal just as they were getting large enough to plant out. I lost most of the second round in the same way. I was extra vigilant and protective of the third round (sown August 24), but at that point there was not enough time for the plants to size up enough to produce large heads. The large head actually came from a survivor of the second planting. I harvested another head from the third planting that was only the size of a floret, less than 2 ounces.

The Olive Leaf Rapini is much easier to grow. I sowed the seeds in paper pots on November 2 last year. I didn't keep track of when I  planted them out, but it was sometime near December 1. There were 3 or 4 seeds in each paper pot and I allowed all of them to grow. I started cutting entire plants out of each cluster, repeatedly thinning out plants until there was only one plant from each pot. The plants grew slowly through  December and I didn't start thinning out the plants until January 2. Since then I've harvested about 3 pounds of leaves and shoots. The plants are now sending out numerous flower shoots that I harvest much the same as sprouting broccoli, cutting a shoot when there's a loose cluster of buds but before the flowers start to open. I cut the shoots just above the lowest node where a new flower shoot is developing. Each plant sends out lots of shoots from the crown of the plant. The harvest shown above is about 13 ounces and is mostly shoots and a few mature leaves. The leaves on the flower shoots are long, thin, and smooth edged which is what gives the variety it's name.

I also harvested all of the remaining carrots. One of them was starting to bolt and I was afraid that the rest would soon follow suit.

Here's the totals for last week's harvests:

Dewing's Early Blood Turnip Beet - 13.5 oz (incl. greens)
Afghan Purple Carrots - 1 lb 5oz
Daghestan White Carrots - 1 lb 5.75 oz
Early Scarlet Horn Carrots - 11.25 oz
Piracicaba Broccoli Shoots - 4.25 oz
Olive Leaf Rapini - 13 oz
Romanesco Broccoli - 1 lb 1 oz
Garlic shoots - 2 oz
Kefe Beinwil Snow Peas - 4.5 oz
Chervil - .5oz
Claytonia - .5 oz
Arugula - 1 oz
Fava leaves - 1 oz
Lettuce - .75 oz
Golden Corn Salad - 1.25 oz
Vit Mache - .75 oz

Total for the week - 7 lbs
Total for the year - 18.5 lbs

The egg count (4 days) was 13.

If you would like to see what is springing forth from other garden bloggers' gardens head on over to Daphne's Dandelions, the home of Harvest Monday.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

February Wildflowers

It must be spring, the wildflowers are starting to bloom!

Shooting Stars:

Johnny Jump Ups:

Blue Dicks:

Butter Cups:


Don't know what this is, it's probably not a native,
it is growing wild though...

Not a flower, but pretty.