Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Garden on February 22, 2014

Time for a late February garden tour. I'm always amazed at how quickly vegetables grow when the weather warms up and the days start to lengthen. In December and January it seems like the garden just hunkers down and everything but the weeds go into hibernation. Then in February it seems like I can almost watch the plants grow. Uh, maybe, if  many of them were not covered with protective fabric most of the time.

Bed #1

Here's the carrot patch, under cover to keep the birds from pecking all the foliage away. There's also a few parsnips in there - the only ones that germinated from an old packet of seeds that I tried to get going before I resorted to carrots. Look at the favas that I sowed back in November, they're in full bloom already. The unusual warm weather that we've been guiltily enjoying this winter has prompted them to bloom extra early.

There's two celeriac plants remaining on the left and the Dorato D'Asti celery is on the right.

I'm experimenting with wrapping the stems of the celery, some with Agribon and others with newspaper. I've been harvesting the stalks on a cut-and-come-again basis and the stalks have been splaying out which exposes them to more light. The stalks were staying short and getting rather green so I gathered them up and wrapped them which is helping them to lengthen a bit more and is blanching them to the pale green/gold color that their name implies.

Here's one of the bunches showing that green/gold hue. My main concern with tying them up like this is that it would make a nice comfy home for earwigs or other critters but that hasn't been a problem yet.

Further down the bed is the Di Ciccio broccoli that I started back in July for fall and winter harvests.

It's just about finished now, here's a few shoots that were harvested just after I did the photo shoot for this post. I picked every single shoot that I could find on the plants.

Finally, the last Romanesco plant left to be harvested.

Here's a view of the funky "head", really just a loose collection of shoots. It looks weird but it's tasty.

Moving along to bed #2. The Sonora wheat remains under protective bird netting. Look at the brown grass on the hillside. If this were a normal winter the hillside would be covered with green grass and there would be wild flowers. This year there is barely a hint of green grass struggling to grow and nary a flower to be found.

I laid newspaper down between the rows of onions and garlic to help suppress the chamomile that insists on growing in there. Note to self - don't let the chamomile bloom so profusely and drop its seed everywhere again. It seemed like a never ending task to keep weeding it out. On the plus side, the newspaper should help to conserve soil moisture - oh so important this year. That bare looking patch boxed in between the wheat, the black nursery flats, and the garlic is the struggling shallot patch. I waited too long to plant the sets out and they were not in good shape. I may just clean that out and plant some runner beans. The flats are covering some poppy seedlings.

I set out about 60 onion plants to harvest as hopefully mature onions and then I had extras so they are bunched together to harvest as young onions.

Bed #3. The Red Fife wheat is coming along nicely under its netting. I set up another Micromesh tunnel to protect newly planted out saladings.

There's three varieties of beets - Golden, Chioggia, and Red Baron. Plus one very small planting of Yu Choy (edible rape). My Yu Choy seeds are a bit old and I didn't get great germination so it's just a tiny patch. The beets were started in paper pots and planted out when they had a couple of true leaves.

Pea Shoots (Dou Miao)

Sweetie Baby Romaine

Rhapsody and Kagraner butterhead lettuces

Snow pea plants that were sown in paper pots and set out last fall (November?) have really taken off now. I have to keep the plants under wraps to keep the birds from devouring the foliage.

They are in full production now.

The other Micromesh tunnel has been doing an admirable job of protecting the first round of saladings that I sowed through the month of January. The Tuscan arugula which was direct sown on January 16th is a lovely patch of baby plants perfect for harvesting now. I thought that I had sown them rather too thickly, but now that I've found I love them harvested as babies I've decided that this is the way to grow. These plants were sown from seeds that I saved.

Looking further down the tunnel is first a bare looking patch where I sowed Golden Corn Salad. I think I covered them with too thick of a layer of fine compost. The seeds are germinating nicely all around the edge of the area where the compost is thin but only a few seedlings are emerging where I wanted them to grow. (Another lesson learned). Beyond the corn salad is another variety of arugula.

This is "Speedy" arugula, a variety with the attractive lobed leaves of wild arugula but the more mild flavor of the smooth leafed cultivated varieties. I tasted a few leaves when I took these photos and it is indeed nice and mild, just the way I like it. And it is indeed  speedy, these plants were direct seeded on January 20th. I managed to sow these seeds more thinly than the Tuscan arugula, a feat made easier because the seeds are quite pricey. This is an open pollinated variety so I'm going to let these plants go to seed and collect them so that I can grow as much as I like.

The next patch was sown with Ruby Streaks Mizuna and Purple Pac Choy on February 5. Both of these are quick maturing varieties that are good harvested as baby vegetables and both are supposed to be good as salad greens.

Purple Pac Choy (front) and Ruby Streaks Mizuna (back)
The quick maturing Early Rapini should be ready to harvest in a few weeks.

The same goes for the Green Fortune Pak Choi.

The four varieties of chard won't be producing for a while. Clockwise from the top left are Flamingo, Italian Silver Rib, Golden, and Peppermint Stick. Beyond the chard are fennel seedlings amongst a few weedy things.

I've got three rows of spinach going, each row a different variety - Summer Perfection, Verdil, and Monstreux D'Viroflay.

And finally, bed #4, recently sown with a cover crop blend.

I will allow this mix to grow until about mid-April and then turn it in as a green manure. It should have enough time to break down so that I can plant my solanums in this bed sometime around the end of May or the beginning of June.

That's the garden at the end of February, perhaps a bit further along than it would be if we were having a more normal winter. I think it's in much better shape than it was at this time last year, however, I was traveling for the last week of January and the first two weeks of February last year so I wasn't around to get an early spring garden going. Back in February 2012 I was clearing out my beds and moving soil aside so that I could have the old planting beds replaced with the big boxes that I have now. 2011 was a rather mixed bag in the garden with more overwintered vegetables but fewer new starts - and big surprise, we had snow in the first week of March (I forgot about that, that's one reasone it's fun to blog about the garden). 2010 had somewhat normal rainfall and the vegetables were growing without any supplemental irrigation. 2009 was a wet one and it seemed that a river ran through the garden. It seems that I didn't really have much by way of spring sowings going in February that year - probably too wet to get out to the garden. And that's about as far back as I've done garden tours and it seems that I really don't have a "normal" year to compare to!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Harvest Monday - February 24, 2014

It's feeling rather spring-like in the garden, other than the fact that much of the natural landscape is an unspring-like dirty brown.

I harvested the first arugula a mere 5 1/2 weeks after direct sowing the seeds in the garden. I love that I got a such a quick crop from this sowing. It's very young - you might be able to see that I harvested entire plants and did not do a cut-and-come-again harvest. These plants were encroaching on a couple of my new strawberry plants so I harvested enough to create some elbow room for the berry plants. These baby arugula were tender and mild flavored. I have to admit that I don't love really peppery arugula so these were perfect for me. I do believe that I'll harvest the rest of the patch in the same manner and then immediately sow another patch. I'm going to have to try to get on a 2 or 3 week sowing schedule. Another thing that I love is that this one picking is half of a clamshell container of commercially grown organic baby arugula at a fraction of the cost in both economic and environmental terms. I have been purchasing at least one of those containers every week for a while so now I can free myself of that habit, at least for a while.

Tuscan Arugula
This is probably the final harvest of Di Ciccio broccoli. I harvested every shoot I could find regardless of size. And in the left side of the basket is a nice harvest of snow peas. The photo doesn't do the harvest justice. I used the smallest of the broccoli shoots and all of the snow peas along with some slivered red onion in a tasty stir fry flavored with some Thai green curry paste and fish sauce - just enough for the two of us.

I got tired of the gopher raiding the parsley patch so I pulled all of it out and salvaged what I could for my own consumption. I also trimmed the nearby Syrian Oregano which is growing in a wire basket which I hope will protect the roots from the marauder.

I know that the gopher would have gotten around to "harvesting" the nearby onions too, so I cleaned out those as well - there were just a few of them.

More snow peas, another "head" of Romanesco, and more celery. The Romanesco was blanched to get rid of the aphids and then cooked with a variation on my latest favorite garlicky sauce - I gently cooked a few cloves of chopped garlic, chopped capers, and an anchovy filet in some butter and a splash of white wine for a few minutes in a saute pan, then tossed in the blanched and cooled Romanesco, let it steam/saute in the covered pan until tender.

We (or rather, I) have been eating a lot of celery, mostly in my lunch salads.

Another celeriac and a few Circus Circus carrots. The celeriac and that bunch of celery shown above went into a sort of vegetable (not vegetarian) stew/chili along with some canned tomatoes, bacon (everything is better with bacon), and brown Tepary beans. It was seasoned with ground red chile peppers from the garden, cumin, dried green coriander seeds, Mexican oregano, and I can't remember exactly what else, but definitely a chili type theme. My husband finished off the last little bit yesterday for lunch and expressed a longing for more...

The weather has been mild and DRY. However, the forecast for the coming week is for RAIN, real rain, not just the teasers that we've gotten lately. It's hard to believe that we've received only 3 inches (7.6 cm) of rain for the hydrologic year (July 1 to June 30). (There's a burp in the reporting which is responsible for the seeming warm night mid week).

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Tuscan arugula - 2.8 oz.
Di Ciccio broccoli - 15.3 oz.
Circus Circus carrots - 2.9 oz.
Dorato di Asti celery - 1 lb., .6 oz.
Monarch celeriac - 1 lb., .5 oz (trimmed)
Oregon Sugar Pod II snow peas - 8.8 oz.
Romanesco (broccoli) - 13.9 oz.

The total harvests for the week came to - 4 lb., 12.8 oz. (2.2 kg.)
Which brings the 2014 harvest totals up to - 26 lb., 8.5 oz. (12 kg.)

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 17, 2014

Harvest Monday - February 17, 2014

The harvests keep trickling in and I'm loving each fresh bite. The Lacinato kale is starting to bolt but the leaves that remain are still good and soon I'll be harvesting the shoots. The celery is tolerating a lot of cut-and-come-again harvests. And I've been harvesting a "head" of Romanesco each week. Most of the Romanesco plants didn't form proper tight heads, they are more like a bunch of shoots, but they are still tasty. This basketful of goodies went into a pot of soup.

I've been harvesting a fair amount of parsley like this, but that's going to come to an end soon, not because it's bolting but because the birds and a gopher are attacking my plants.

I get a handful of snow peas every few days, and a couple of carrots now and then, plus all that crunchy celery. All good stuff to put into my lunch salads.

I put out a few pea plants for shoots recently and here's the first trimmings. And a few more snow peas. And more celery...

The weather was been making a half-hearted attempt at "winter" last week, but we are still falling far short of normal rain amounts and the temperatures in general are pretty pleasant.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Di Ciccio broccoli - 10.9 oz. (almost done)
Circus Circus carrots - 3.1 oz.
Dorato di Asti celery - 1 lb.
Lacinato kale - 5.3 oz.
Oregon Sugar Pod II snow peas - 2.9 oz.
Snow pea shoots (Dou Miao) - .2 oz.
Romanesco - 2 lb., 8.2 oz.

The total harvests for the past week came to - 4 lb., 14.6 oz. (2.23 kg.)
Which pushes the total harvests for 2014 up to - 21 lb., 14.5 oz. (9.94 kg.)

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.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Last in the Series - What Was and What Might Be

Last but not least, let's see what grew in bed #4 in 2013 and then I'll reveal my plans for this bed for 2014.

Oh my, what an ugly mess it was on February 16. Just chock full of nearly dead pepper plants and a few other odds and ends off in one corner.

February 16, 2013
 But by March 3 it was mostly cleaned out and nearly ready for spring planting.

March 3
March 14, one corner still had some lingering overwintered greens and another had newly planted out peas protected by the omnipresent Agribon.

March 14

March 14

And I had also set out some seedlings of peas grown for their leafy shoots - Dou Miao.

March 14

April 12, and I had already added a couple of zucchini plants to the bed.

April 12
Zucchini Romanesco and Ortolano di Faenza

Plus a few cucumbers seedlings where the overwintered kale had been cleared out.

April 12

And look, just beyond the zucchini were some Fagiolo del Purgatorio (Purgatory Beans) struggling to get established. This planting never did well, I tried to start them far too early.

April 12

The overwintered chard was just beginning to bolt on April 25. It held off from bolting for far longer than the Lacinato kale that used to be next to it.

Flamingo and Golden chard, April 25

May 22 and the snap peas are producing but struggling, the plants were dying off, possibly because the drip line got kinked and they were drying out.

May 22

The snow peas were struggling along also and you can see the struggling Purgatory beans as well. In general it wasn't a great year for legumes in this bed, they didn't always get enough water and my timing was really off. I was really trying to push the start dates for the beans and I learned that they just don't like that, the later starts were far happier.

May 22

Except for the St. George runner beans. I got pretty good harvests from these plants (the bi-colored flowers). The Moonlight runner beans on the right never did well.

St. George runner beans, May 22

The zucchini seemed to be far more tolerant of an early start and they were already starting to produce, just the beginning of an amazing year for the Romanesco zucchini. The Ortolano di Faenza zucchini were quite productive also, but they had to compete with their overacheiving neighbor.

Romanesco zucchini, May 22
On the other hand, the cucumbers thoroughly resented an early start, they were just sitting there. Ah, but I almost forgot, the Tortarello Abruzzese cucumber was happy, see it just starting to take off on the far side of the trellis?

May 22

August 9. Some Pavoni runner beans were blooming where the peas had been earlier in the year. These produced ok but didn't really thrive.

August 9

The lacinato kale next to the runner beans was happy enough though.

August 9

And further down the bed I managed to get some Musica romano beans and French Gold filet beans to do well. Proper timing and adequate water seems to have made all the difference for this planting of beans. And the St George runner beans were thriving as well. The yellowing foliage in there were the sorry Moonlight runner beans.

August 9
The cucumbers had made something of a recovery. I gave up trying to train them up the tower, but they sprawled over the edge of the bed and were happy to soak up the heat along the side of the bed and along the path.

August 9

The Tortarello Abruzzese cucumber was never unhappy and was pumping out more cucumbers than I could eat.

Tortarello Abruzzese cucumber, August 9

This bed did pretty well through August and September but by October 24 it was looking rather tired.

October 24

October 24

October 24
By early December I had cleaned most of it out and what was left in the bed, other than the Lacinato kale was finished off by some freezing nights.

On to 2014.

This was most of what remained in the bed in mid-January. A zapped volunteer Aji Angelo pepper plant and the Agribon protected lacinato kale.
January 14, 2014
Still there in mid-February. I've harvested pretty regularly from the lacinato kale and it just started to bolt recently.

February 14
A week or so ago I replaced all the irrigation lines and the other day I sowed a cover crop blend. I don't dare leave the emerging seedlings unprotected from the birds. The poor critters are eating nearly everything in the garden that is green. The only things that aren't protected at the moment are alliums, celery, and poppies. My plan is to let the cover crop grow until about mid-April and then turn it in, let it rot for a few weeks and then I'll plant this bed with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

February 14
The solanums will occupy this bed until freezing nights or diseases do them in at the end of the year. I'm going to really restrain myself and reduce the number of pepper and eggplant plants from seasons past. The number of tomato plants will be about the same.

The left hand side of the bed in the view above will be planted with tomatoes and the peppers and eggplants will have to share the right side of the bed.

Here's the varieties that I've chosen to grow this year:

Tomatoes: (One plant of each except as noted)
Amish Paste, 2 plants
Black Krim
Chianti Rose
Jaune Flamme
Potiron Ecarlate
Isis Candy cherry
Sweet Gold cherry

I'm going back to Amish paste this year because it did so well for me the two years previous to last year. The only reason I did not grow it last year was because my saved seeds didn't germinate. This year I bought fresh seeds from Fedco.

Amish Paste

Black Krim is new this year. I wanted to try a new "black" tomato and I've been considering this variety for a few years. This will be the year for it to show me its stuff.

Sweet Gold cherry tomato is also new this year. Last year I planted out one of my all time favorite yellow cherry tomatoes - Galinas, which turn out to be a dud, the plant just refused to grow. This year I want to try a new yellow cherry.

The rest of the tomatoes were in the garden last year and I was quite pleased with all of them so they get to return.

Jaune Flamme

Potiron Ecarlate

Isis Candy


Sicilian (two variations) and Bonica


The eggplant are the same varieties that I grew last year. They were all fabulous. The only change this year is that I will be growing fewer plants overall.

Sonora Anaheim
Tarahumara Chile Colorado
Pimento de Padron
Topeppo Rosso
Piment doux long des Landes
Lady Bell Hybrid
Odessa Market
Shephard's Ramshorn
Stocky Red Roaster
Aji Angelo
Christmas Bell

I loved the Sonora Anaheim last year and the year before. It's a big fleshy mild pepper that is wonderful harvested green and roasted.

Sonora Anaheim
Tarahumara is one of the chiles that I tried last year and it also is fairly fleshy and is mild and flavorful either green or red and is lovely as a dried red pepper as well.

Tarahumara Chile Colorado

Pimento de Padron has been in my garden every year for I don't know how many years now. If I had room for only one variety of pepper this would probably be the one.

Pimento de Padron

I didn't get enough of the Topeppo Rosso last year so it's back again this year. And I didn't get enough of Piment doux long des Landes either - a sweet frying type pepper from France that is delicious fresh either green or ripe. I like the thin fleshed frying peppers sliced up and added fresh to salads or panfried as a side dish or incorporated into a mixed vegetable sauté.

Piment doux long des Landes

Lady Bell is a tasty sweet bell pepper that does remarkably well in my climate. I often have a difficult time getting large bell peppers to do well in my cool climate and Lady Bell has proven itself to be a winner so it is back again.

Lady Bell

Odessa Market and Shephard's Ramshorn are thick fleshed sweet peppers, pointy rather than bell shaped. Both are very good tasting either fresh or roasted. Shephard's Ramshorn seems to be particularly productive.

Shephard's Ramshorn
Odessa Market

The only new pepper in the lineup this year is Stocky Red Roaster. I'm very fond of fleshy sweet peppers that are tasty raw or roasted, so how could I resist a pepper with that name? This lineup should fill the pepper/eggplant side of the bed. The only addition I might consider would be if I can find a nice sweet fleshy yellow pepper.

The other two peppers are two of my favorite mild baccatum type peppers. Aji Angelo is a mildly hot pepper that is good fresh or dried, green or ripe, I particularly like it dried when ripe and it tends to be the pepper flakes that I reach for the most often. Christmas Bell is a pretty pepper that resembles a Bishop's Cap pepper but it is most often almost completely sweet - I've only had one plant come out somewhat spicy for me. What I love about baccatum type peppers is their complex aroma and flavor which is more reminiscent of mild habaneros (chinense type peppers) than ordinary annuum peppers such as jalapenos or serranos. The baccatum peppers are later producing but more cold tolerant than annuum peppers so I like to grow them in large pots and keep them in protected spots near the house where they may produce for a few seasons.

Aji Angelo

Christmas Bell

So that completes the look back at the 2013 vegetable garden and the plans for the 2014 garden (subject to revision, of course). If you want to know where I got my seeds for these and other vegetables that I'm growing in 2014 you can find that information on my 2014 Planned Veggies page.