Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Garden on January 14, 2014

It has been taking me a few days to pull this post together, there's just too many distractions at the moment.The garden is looking a bit ghostly and like it's been abandoned lately, but I've actually been doing quite a bit of work when I can spare the time.

Much of Bed #1 is shrouded with Agribon, not for protection from the cold, but to keep the birds from pecking things into lacy oblivion. In the foreground is the carrot patch that has been the source of the recent carrot harvests. Just beyond the carrots are the celeriac and celery.

Here they are - Monarch celeriac on the left, just getting to be large enough to harvest, and Dorato D'Asti celery on the right. I've been harvesting the celery on a cut-and-come-again basis. There's a glimpse of what is left of the napa cabbage on the right, under it's shroud of Agribon. The cabbage needs to be cleaned out and then I'm going to slip in a few more carrots in there.

The next shroud is protecting the Di Ciccio broccoli.

Ta Da! Some pretty healthy looking broccoli plants with an accompanying patch of cilantro (coriander). The cilantro in the rest of the garden has been cleaned out by the birds.

There's some nice shoots developing in there and so far the aphids haven't been too much of a problem.

This shroud is hiding the Romanesco broccoli from the birds.

The damage from the freezing nights back in December was minimal and the plants have been growing nicely. However, the aphids have taken up residence in the developing heads so I need to take care of that.

The back side of the bed is where the tomatoes grew last year. I've figured out a rotation that worked well last year and I'm trying again this year. When the tomatoes are done I pull them out and plant favas (broad beans) and then replace the cages. The cages prevent the mature fava plants from flopping over when they become heavy with beans. The cages also provide a handy scaffold for draping bird netting over the young plants to protect them from the birds. I cleaned out the tomatoes in two stages, the first plants came out in late November or early December and I planted the beans right away (although I didn't record the date). These plants are from the first sowing.

Here's the plants from the December 14th (second) sowing.

The plan for bed # 1 is to transition to corn, beans, and curcurbits starting around the end of April and into May and June.

Bed #2 isn't looking like much at the moment, but it's full of potential. The lower left, extending about half the length of the bed (about 10 feet) is planted with three varieties of day neutral onions - Candy, Red Candy Apple, and Supersweet. I went the easy route and purchased plants instead of starting from seed. To the right of the onions are the emerging garlic shoots. This year I've planted out cloves from a couple of the best heads of the garlic I grew last year - Lorz Italian and Red Janice. And I also purchased a couple of new varieties - Inchelium Red and Spanish Roja.

Inchelium Red is the speedster, it was the first to emerge and is growing quickly. Next fastest is Red Janice. Red Janice is the variety that I'm using up first in the kitchen, it's developing shoots much more quickly than Lorz Italian. The Lorz Italian is the slowest to emerge, it's in that seemingly empty patch in the lower right in the photo above.

Inchelium Red

This year I'm trying shallots for the first time, these are the new shoots of French Gray shallots.

More Agribon bird protection for another new experiment in the garden. The far end of the allium bed is planted with an heirloom variety of wheat that used to be widely grown in California.

These are the emerging shoots of Sonora Wheat, a soft white wheat that makes great whole wheat pastry and is also supposed to make excellent tortillas. I've also read about a pizzeria that is making great pizza dough with Sonora wheat - another kitchen experiment to indulge in one of these days.

My wheat "seeds" came from a quantity of Sonora wheat berries that I had purchased after I invested in a grain mill for grinding my own flour for my occasional indulgence in home made bread or pastry. When I learned that this variety of wheat had been grown for a long time in California the gardener in me made the mental leap to "wheat berries = wheat seeds".  After a successful sprout test I immediately set to work to get a patch going.

In mid summer my plan is to transition bed #2 to more beans, perhaps snap/snow peas, and fall/winter brassicas, celery, celeriac.

That's two varieties of wheat passing the sprout test, and across the path from the Sonora wheat you can see another swath of Agribon which is protecting a newly emerging patch of Red Fife wheat. Red Fife is an heirloom hard red wheat that makes fantastic bread. By the way, the sprouted wheat berries were excellent raw in salads.

There's the wheat patch in the foreground of bed #3. The old Gigante bean plants are on the left. I haven't decided if I'm going to try to transplant those plants or just start anew for this year.

Beyond the Gigante beans are a couple of shrouded trellises supporting snap and snow peas. My record keeping fell apart this fall so I don't remember exactly when these were planted, but the snap peas were well along and starting to produce before we experienced freezing nights in early December and the snow peas had been recently planted out just before the freeze. I added an extra layer of heavy Agribon frost cloth before the freeze so the plants survived for the most part. The frost cloth is gone now but the row cover remains (need I say why?). The snap peas are in the foreground.

Some of the plants have recovered enough to produce a handful of tasty pods and there's a few more pods on the way.

The snow pea seedlings sailed through the freezing nights and have recently started to climb their trellis.

Oh they look happy! I spied the very first flower buds developing just the other day.

Along the backside of the snow pea enclosure are some extremely mature Spanish Black carrots. I sowed the seeds for these carrots nearly a year ago. They were in full bloom when the freezing nights struck in December. All the flowers died. But the roots survived so I cut all the top growth off and there's new growth. Perhaps I'll get some seeds after all!

The rest of the bed was the pepper patch which was wiped out  by the freeze. I finished cleaning out the pepper patch last week and prepared the bed for new plantings, one of which is a row of Seascape strawberries along the edge of the bed. I've got some spinach, beets, chard, and pea shoots starting in paper pots which will be planted out soon.

My plan for bed #3 through the year is to grow a variety of greens and roots there. I've ordered seeds for a few new Asian greens. I'm going to be sowing some corn salad seeds soon, as well as lettuces, and other salad greens. Later in the year I'll sow carrot and parsnip seeds. I hope to be able to keep a succession of greens and salad goodies going through the year.

Bed #4 is the most desolate looking. I'm still in the process of cleaning it out. Some of Stefani's runner beans still had nice fleshy roots when I dug them out so I've been potting them up and hope that they will survive long enough to be planted out into bed #1 after the favas are done.

There is one veggie in this bed that is still producing.

Lacinato kale, hiding from the birds under the Agribon. I'm so happy that I invested in a 250' roll of Agribon a few years ago. I just got to the end of the roll last week when I had to cover up the wheat. I think it may be time to order up again.

There's one more plant in this bed that I'm keeping an eye on, the frost smacked volunteer Aji Angelo pepper plant. The crown of the plant looks like it's still alive and I've had C. baccatum plants regrow that looked worse than this. I'm going to leave it in place for now.

Bed #4 is going to be the solanum bed for 2014. I'm going to really control myself and limit the number of peppers that I'm going to grow to this bed and they will have to share space with the tomatoes and eggplant (fewer eggplant this year too). I have learned that it doesn't pay too plant my solanums too early, the beginning of May is early enough and the end of May isn't too late. This year I've decided to plant a cover crop in this bed. If I get the cover crop sown at the beginning of February it should be ready to dig in by the end of March which will leave at least a month for it to decompose.

Those of you shivering back east may be envious of the warm weather we've been having here in California and the rest of the southwest. It's really strange to see a reading like this:

Almost 80ºF (26.5ºC) on a January afternoon. Yesterday it got up to 87ºF (30.5ºC) and today is forecast to be about the same. I'm taking a guilty pleasure in the warm weather. We've had about 2 inches (5cm) of rain in the past year, the driest year since record keeping started here back in 1850. There's no rain in sight through the end of the month, at least. It's frightening. The warm weather is nice, but I wish it was cold and rainy right now.

To end on a happier note, at least the super resilient rosemary is blooming. The bees are buzzing about the flowers and the little birds are munching on the seeds and I have something pretty to look at.

Stay tuned, my seed orders have been placed and I'm working on a post to evaluate what I grew last year and what I've got planned for the coming year. But first I've got to get out to the garden and finish cleaning up bed #4.


  1. Your garden looks lovely. Even bed 4 looks better than mine does right now. At least you have kale producing. My kale is shivering. It ought to survive the winter if the huge weather swings don't come back.

  2. You've inspired me to start seeds for the spring garden, will be growing mostly beans and peppers, not much care is needed when I'm away.

  3. That is a very comprehensive tour of your garden - and I'm impressed with what I see! I just love the photo of the Lacinato kale covered in the Agribon - it looks like something left over from Halloween! The Spanish Black carrots are unusual. I don't think I have come across those before. Do they taste just like the orange ones?

    1. I haven't had a chance to taste the black carrot yet. I had a very limited very hard to get supply of seeds so I wanted to grow them out for seed. My understanding is that they are not as sweet as orange carrots, they are more savory and best eaten cooked. BTW, you should be able to get seeds, Thomas Etty carries them.


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