Monday, April 30, 2018

Harvest Monday - April 30, 2018

Harvests picked up a little bit this past week.  That's the final harvest of radishes, perhaps for the season unless I get around to sowing more in short order.

Pink Punch Radishes

I harvested the first baby heads of Queen of Crunch crisphead lettuce. These were some of the extra seedlings that I planted amongst the ones that I'll allow to grow to full size. It lives up to its name. this lettuce is super crisp. I cut the baby heads in half lengthwise and scattered thin sliced radishes over them and then dressed it with dollops of blue cheese dressing and finished it off royally with crispy bits of bacon.

Queen of Crunch Crisphead Lettuce
That's the last of the winter sown Three Heart butterhead lettuces.

Three Heart Butterhead Lettuce

These were small heads of Three Heart Butterhead lettuces that grew from the stump of a head that I had harvested a while ago. It was easier to photograph these before I harvested them, but they are gone now.

Three Heart Butterhead Lettuce

And here's a big basketful of Speedy arugula that I finally got around to harvesting. Needless to say that salad has been on the menu a lot recently.

Speedy Arugula

And the snow pea harvests continue. There's some Golden Sweet snow peas joining the Frieda Worlds in the harvest basket now. The Frieda Worlds are showing signs of powdery mildew, you can see it on the small pods up to the right, it leaves dark patches on the pods. A little bit of PM on the pods is ok, but those ones ended up in the compost.

Golden Sweet &
Frieda Worlds Snow Peas

Golden Sweet Snow Peas

One other significant harvest that I forgot to photograph was a few of the larger plants of Special Baby Leaf chard. The three plants were not quite babies anymore with a total weight of 3.6 pounds. The weather of late has been unseasonably cool which prompted me to use some of the chard to make a delicious warming soup that also featured chickpeas, pureed roasted tomatoes (from the freezer), dried roasted sweet peppers (from the pantry), plus leeks and garlic (from the farmer's market), and other seasonings. The plants had some big fat stems that I blanched and are ready to be grilled. The rest of the leafy parts of the chard got blanched and divided up into 2 portions to go into the freezer.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Garden on April 25, 2018

Here's an update on what's going on in the garden lately. It's not a complete tour so it's not too long.

Bed No. 1
The favas are SO HAPPY! It's hard to tell from this perspective but when I walk down the path the tops are as tall as I am.

And there's lots of flowers and beans. This was the first plant to set beans. Most of the rest of the plants have smaller beans.

The Royal Snow purple podded snow peas are close to producing pods big enough to harvest.

Royal Snow Peas

The Golden Sweet snow peas were more quick to produce and I already started to harvest them this week. I sowed the Golden Sweets on January 23 and the Royal Snow on January 30 so both of them would probably have been ready to harvest at about the same time if I had sown them at the same time. Good to know for future plantings.

Bed No. 2
The Good News/Bad News Bed.
Let's get the bad news out of the way.

I thought that the 2-foot fence of hardware cloth surrounding the bed was keeping the Damn Rodents out of the bed but I guess they figured out how to climb in. I went out to the garden one morning and found that they had snacked on the cabbage plants that I had just a few days earlier freed from their cloches. The snacking stopped when I added a 2-foot cylinder of hardware cloth around each plant.

Filderkraut Cabbage
My mistake. I freed the Yellow Cabbage Collards from their cloches and then forget to add protection. The next morning I found that they had been munched. The minefield of traps was added after the damage was already done in hopes that the DR's would return to try to finish the job and get tripped up.

Trimmed Yellow Cabbage Collard

Not One Snap
The broccoli plants were enclosed in hardware cloth cylinders but one DR dug underneath and destroyed one plant. Actually, the damage wasn't quite that bad but I cut what was left of the plant and used it to bait a Ketch-All trap that sometimes works to catch rodents. No luck with that.

Once Upon A Time Broccoli
When I found that DR Destructo Incident I immediately went inside and whizzed up a batch of spicy chile concentrate and sprayed all the likely snack targets with a dose of burn your DR tastebuds solution. And then for good measure I sprinkled dried pulverized hot pepper cores on anything tempting. The rodents generally stop snacking when I dose things with hot pepper but the treatment washes away easily so I only use it if it isn't going to rain. I save and dehydrate all the spicy pepper cores that I extract when I process peppers just for this purpose.

Still Standing Broccoli with Chile Dust
Still Standing Cabbage with Chile Dust
Now for the Good News.

They Syrian Medieval Chard is bolting! Yes, that's good news because I want to save seeds for this very rare variety.
Syrian Medieval Chard
Look closely and you will see the first feathery new leaves of Orion fennel. Fennel is such a pain to get started. It takes weeks to germinate and more often than not the seeds that I sow directly in the garden don't germinate well and the spacing ends up wonky. This is my first experiment at sowing them in paper pots so it will be interesting to see how well they grow.

Orion Fennel and Italian Scallions
The beets that I started in paper pots back on February 14 are so slow to grow. Those are the ones on the right. I just set out some beets that I sowed in paper pots on March 30 and April 5, those are on the left.

Sweetheart, Golden, and Badger Flame Beets
The BEFORE shot.

The AFTER shot. Radishes are gone, arugula is harvested, and Tennis Ball butterhead lettuce seedlings are set out.

Salads waiting to happen.

Queen of Crunch and Tennis Ball Lettuces

Pai Tsai Chinese Cabbage
Baby Shanghai Pac Choi
Purple Pac Choi
Bed No. 3
Another happy to see bolter. Cilician parsley is my favorite variety of parsley these days. It's a rarity and the seeds are not easy to find so I like to save my own. I also like to sow the seeds with abandon. I've found that it's a happy companion to broccoli so I scatter the seeds around the broccoli plants and I can, or could, harvest both of them for months. My stash of seeds is dwindling and aging so it's time to renew.

I'm testing the early limit of when to plant Tromba D'Albenga squash. Last year I set the plants out on May 15 and the plants absolutely thrived so this year I'm experimenting with an even earlier start date. Last year I discovered how tasty the tender young vine shoots are and my harvest records tell me that I didn't take the vines out of the garden until December 19 or shortly thereafter because I recorded a harvest of 11.4 ounces of vine shoots on that date. My plan this year is to keep these rampant vines in check by regularly harvesting the vine shoots.

I started the plants in quart pots indoors to get them off to a quick start. Now they are under the protection of cloches to keep them cozy through our chilly nights (down to the low 40ºF's regularly) and to keep them from being snacked on by birds or rodents.

Tromba D'Albenga Baby
I'm devoting some space to potatoes this year. I hope these will be ready to harvest when there will still be time to grow some winter squash. If not the plan is to plant the winter squash close by and let the vines intermingle with the potatoes.

Potato Pot Holes
It hasn't been a great year for spinach. These are supposed to be small plants, but...

Bed No. 4 
I took no photos because nothing has really changed other than that the Frieda Worlds snow pea plants are declining because of powder mildew. I really can't expect too much more from a planting of peas that I sowed back on November 7 last year! Those plants have produced 8 pounds of peas, thank you very much.

And my parting shot is of the I'itoi onions that I'm growing in fabric pots. The pots don't seem to have been the best choice or I just need to be more diligent about watering because I think the pots dry out too quickly for the onions' liking. I'm trying to water regularly now especially since the rains seem to have taken a break for the foreseeable future so I'll see if they green up with some TLC.

I'itoi Onions
That's the latest in the garden. Thanks for taking the tour.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Harvest Monday - April 23, 2018

It was another slow week of harvests last week. April is not generally a big month in the garden but this year I have less than I might have had because of the rodents. They got my first broccoli plants, and other veggies that should be producing now. Anyway, Frieda Worlds snow peas continue to produce. I uncovered them a couple of weeks ago and the birds have not returned to attack them so I harvest a few handfuls of pods about 3 times a week. Powdery mildew is starting to attack the plants though so I suppose the end is in sight.

Frieda Worlds Snow Peas

That's the majority of the radish harvest. I pulled almost all of them to make way for other veggie starts that are ready to go into the garden.

And that was it for the week. What I'm missing most sorely this month is broccoli. I think it's going to be a terrible year for broccoli. The rodents are making their way through all my defenses and attacking the new broccoli plants just when they start to show the first signs of producing a head. I guess I'll just have to give up on growing broccoli and maybe cabbage too because the DR's got to my newest cabbage plants as well.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Harvest Monday - April 16, 2018

There isn't much to report for this Harvest Monday. That was the only photo that I took. It's a handful of Pink Lettucy mustard shoots and a head Devil's Tongue lettuce that volunteered. Other than that I harvested a tatty looking head of Three Heart butterhead lettuce and a few handfuls of Frieda Worlds snow peas and another small bunch of mustard shoots. And there isn't really anything interesting to report on happenings in the kitchen either.

So let's hope that there's more interesting harvests to be found over at Our Happy Acres where Dave is hosting Harvest Monday.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Good Bug From the Age of Dinosaurs

How cool is this? There are some good bugs at work in my garden whose forebears shared the earth and the skies with the likes of stegosaurs, pterosaurs, sauropods and the like. That's about 140,000,000 years ago in the early Jurassic, although I found another source that puts them as far back as the Permian period which is 250 to 300 million years ago. The fossilized ancestors of them look quite similar and this guy (it is a male) does look rather prehistoric in my opinion and according to that all knowing source Wikipedia they have been considered to be living fossils.

And what is it? The first time I caught a glimpse of one I thought it was some sort of mantid because of that long neck, but no, the wings are wrong and it lacks the highly developed forelegs of a mantid. Then I though lacewing because of those wings, but the long neck is all wrong. Then I a photo of a mantidfly, which has that long neck and lacy wings but it has forelegs that resemble those of a mantid, so wrong again. And that finally led me to a photo of a snakefly. Ta Da! That's it! The name snakefly comes from the long body, especially that of the female which for most snakeflies has a very long ovipositor which looks like a long stinger and it extends beyond the ends of her wings.

To get a sense of the size of a snakefly the one that I photographed is sitting of a mint leaf. Both larvae and adults are predators. The adults apparently like to chow down on aphids and mites which certainly makes them welcome residents in my aphid infested garden. The larvae seem to prefer the eggs and larvae of various insects. The larvae are fairly long lived, typically 2 to 3 years and as much as 6. The female lays her eggs in crevices in bark or rotting wood. I am pretty sure that I've spotted the larvae in my aging oak trimming based compost. According to  Probably only a smaller part develop under bark; in most spp. larvae live in top layers of soil, particularly in the detritus around the roots of shrubs, sometimes in rock crevices (H. Aspöck, "The Biology of Raphidioptera")

They are not uncommon and are found in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. In North America they are found only west of the Rocky Mountains and in Texas.

Additional good information about snakeflies can be found HERE on

It's fun to be able to add another species to the host of good bugs that I've found in and around my garden.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Harvest Monday - April 9, 2018

There was nothing new in the harvest basket last week.

Pink Lettucy Mustard produced more shoots

Pink Lettucy Mustard
Pink Plume Celery harvests came to an end.

Pink Plume Celery
Like I said, Pink Lettucy kept it up. And Frieda Worlds snow peas gave another but smaller harvest of pods.

Frieda Worlds Snow Peas and Pink Lettucy Mustard
And that was it for the week.

Oh wait, I forgot because I didn't photograph it because it was ugly, one more head of Red Iceberg lettuce came in from the garden. It was too loose and aphidy to use to make a classic wedge salad but it cleaned up well enough to include in a chopped salad that also featured the Pink Plume celery and sliced Frieda Worlds snow peas which I dressed with homemade blue cheese dressing.

We are still feasting on vegetables from previous harvests. I made a big pot of soup that featured favas, green beans, roasted peppers and tomato puree from the freezer, plus dried fermented mustard greens from the pantry, along with carrots from the fridge and some other veggies from the farmer's market. And I had to cut into another big Terremoto squash that had developed a soft spot. The first quarter of the squash went into a Panade and more of it is sitting on the counter fermenting.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The Garden on April 5, 2018

It's another long post with not a lot of pretty pictures but packed with useful information for me.

First the overview shots from the hillside. Favas dominate Bed No. 1 and cardboard dominates bed No. 4. Of course the cardboard covered bed is a magnet for accumulated stuff already.
Beds No. 1 and 4
Bed No. 2 is dominated by the hardware cloth cage and yards of hardware cloth surrounding the rest of the bed. More cardboard is laid out over Bed No. 3 which is protecting the parts of the bed that I cleared out and where I dug in amendments and compost this past week. The much anticipated atmospheric river is finally just this afternoon starting to unload some of its load of moisture on us which is why I covered the soil. I didn't want heavy rain splashing the soil all over the place and pounding the surface. One of the interesting things I learned about atmospheric rivers is that they can carry vast amounts of moisture aloft and over your head but just because they are passing over doesn't mean that a drop of rain will necessarily fall on your head. It requires a combination of factors that I can't explain to force the moisture out of the airborne river and in the earthbound rivers. So even though the AR flowed our way last night it didn't give up an appreciable amount of rain until this afternoon.
Beds No. 2 and 3
On with the tour.

Bed No. 1
This is where the tomatoes and peppers grew in 2017. There's still a few lingering pepper plants in one corner including Aji Amarillo Grande, Aji Golden, Joe's Giant Aji, Baby Aji Amarillo, and Aji Angelo. The Aji plants, all Capsicum baccatums do tend to be quite hardy and will often overwinter with a little protection. I've found that there are some Capsicum annuum peppers that can be overwintered also and there's a few here also including an Ethiopian Brown and a couple of Craig's Grande Jalapeño.

Aji Angelo is particularly ready to get growing again. I cut back all the pepper plants last week, scattered a bit of my usual amendments on top of the soil and covered it all with some sifted compost. I also gave the plants a diluted shot of liquid fish fertilizer and Azos bacterial inoculant and then sprayed them with Serenade to hopefully kill off any overwintered fungal spores. And then they got a shot of Pyganic and Azadirachtin for aphids when I treated other plants in the garden for aphid infestations.

Aji Angelo
And then I gave the Piccolo Dattero cherry tomato plants the same treatment. This is the first time ever that I've left tomato plants in the garden through the winter. I have no idea if they will get growing again but it's fun to see what will happen. I'm just amazed that there's any life left in them at all.

Piccolo Dattero Tomato Blossoms
The fava beans are growing and seem to be right on schedule. I'm really pleased that they don't seem to have been at all set back by being started in paper pots. Actually, I think I'll be starting them in paper pots again next year because they germinated much more quickly and I lost not one single seed to rot nor a single emerging seedling to sow bugs. The flash tape seems to be doing the intended job of keeping the birds from snacking on the tender young leaves too.

The plants are covered with blossoms.

And I spotted the first baby bean!

The Golden Sweet snow peas that I planted along the other side of the trellis are starting to bloom too. So far so good for my experiment of growing the two together. The biggest problem has been protecting the young pea seedlings. Most of the pea plants at the other end of the trellis got munched pretty hard by birds and/or voles and perhaps a rat.

Golden Sweet Snow Peas

I'm trying chick peas again this year. I first tried them back in 2015 when I sowed them in paper pots on May 13 and set them out in the garden on May 20. This time I got them started much earlier, this round went into paper pots on February 14 and then of course I forgot to note when I set them out into the garden, but they were in the garden by March 13 when I took a photograph of a plant inside its cloche. They spent a couple of weeks at least under water bottle cloches and when they started growing out the tops of the cloches I had to find the time to set up yet more hardware cloth to, yeah, you know...
Pico Pardal Garbanzos (Chickpeas)
Huh?  A patch of dirt? Click on the photo and look closely, it's Bac Lieu cilantro seedlings finally emerging! I have to start my cilantro under cover because, well, you know, critters...

Also in the critter resistant cage - Little Crunch snap pea plants slowly growing.

And Royal Snow Pea plants growing a bit more quickly.

Next up.
Bed No. 2

Not much has changed in this corner. There's still a couple types of cabbage under the cloches and Pink Lettucy mustard pushing out shoots in the corner, surrounded by baby Cilician parsley which is just getting to be big enough to harvest. The other cloches in the back are new, those are protecting seedlings of Yellow Cabbage Collards which took the place of the Pixie Cabbage that I harvested last week.

Inside the cage are the last heads of Three Heart butterhead and Red Iceberg lettuce and a volunteer head of lettuce that I'm not sure what it might be, Devil's Tongue perhaps, I let it go to seed once upon a time and find it popping up now and then.

And coming along are a bunch of Queen of Crunch lettuces and a couple of Tennis Ball butterhead lettuces.

Speedy arugula is getting back up to speed with the warmer weather and longer days and a bit of rain doesn't slow it down either. The Greek cress is just poking along though. And a volunteer parsley plant that I left behind when I cleared out the bed before is bolting - gotta go.

Sorry looking radish patch with patchy germination and nary an interplanted fennel shoot to be seen.

Beets seem to be happier after a spritz of aphid killing Pyganic and Azadirachtin.

I might get a few Italian Scallions soon. There's a second succession on the right. I set them out in trenches that I fill in as they grow to force them to develop longer shanks. I just sowed a third succession in a pot a few days ago.

Ho Mi Z/Dragon Tongue mustard is a bit crowded but I think it's still ok.

Double protection for the new Batavia broccoli seedlings. The Beni Houshi mizuna is less of a target for the birds but it didn't seem happy in the heat that we had last week.

Batavia Broccoli Seedling

Another Pixie cabbage from the reserve plants. It got a bit stunted from being in a 3.5-inch pot before I put it in the garden but it's forming a head and I've got it inside a hardware cloth cage to keep the birds from pecking. Critters!

The birds also attacked the first Pai Tsai Chinese cabbage that I set out so I put the reserve plants in the garden with extra protection and wouldn't you know it, they decided to bolt already. Oh well, that makes room for something else.

Still waiting for these to bolt. Funny how when you want something to go to seed it seems to take forever.
Syrian Medieval Chard

Bed No. 3
I'm working on getting this bed cleared out and ready for mostly curcurbits and it also seems to be the bed where the potatoes are going to grow. The greenery sharing space with Sweet Alyssum in the corner is Cilican parsley that shared space for most of a year with Batavia broccoli. I forgot to mention that I just scattered Cilican parsley seeds around the new Batavia broccoli plants in Bed No. 2, it seems to be a happy union.

Anyway, the parsley is finally bolting so I should be able to renew my stock of seeds. I love that parsley.

Chard is slow to bolt in the spring here. This patch of Special Baby Leaf chard will yield one last generous harvest when I clear the plants out, hopefully next week.

I keep whacking back this Orion fennel and it just keeps coming back. There isn't time left for it to form another bulb before I have to dig out the root. But, hmmm, what if I just left it there and planted around it? I'll figure that out when the shovel hits the dirt next week.

One more lingering overwintered veggie got spared. These Kalettes weren't too hideously infested with aphids so I gave them a good trim and a spritz of aphid treatment and I'll see what happens. If nothing else I think the leaves might be used like kale.

And in another corner of the bed are some Pink Plume celery plants that are growing from side shoots that I pulled off of the main plants and just stuck in the ground a couple months ago. They are growing and aren't showing signs of bolting like their parent plants did.

Bed No. 4
As I said before this bed is dominated by cardboard which is covering the mustard based cover crop that I whacked down a while ago. But one end of the bed is home to the overwintered Frieda Worlds snow peas. There's a bit of yellowing going on in one section but other than that the plants are still looking good, blooming, and setting more peas.

Oh these have been so good. I definitely have to try overwintering more of them again next year. I also tried overwintering low growing peas but they didn't do as well, although I did get a few harvests of pea shoots. Next year I'll grow a short variety strictly for shoots.

Ok, the only thing left is a look at the I'itoi onions which seem to be slowing down a bit and showing signs of yellowing. I gave them some food and extra water and will see what happens.

I'itoi Onions