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

Monday, April 2, 2018

Harvest Monday - April 2, 2018

All of the runty Brussels Sprouts that I could salvage hit the harvest basket this week. It all came out to about 2.5 pounds of useable sprouts. I used the largest ones, about a half poud, to make the Raw Brussels Sprouts with Lemon, Anchovy, Walnuts, and Pecorino from Joshua McFadden's book Six Seasons, although I did use Parmesan instead of Pecorino. And then I used another half pound in a dish that I concocted using Freekeh and Lentils with Shredded Brussels Sprouts. And now I need to figure out the best use for all those marble sized ones that are left. It was a very disappointing year for Brussels Sprouts but what I did get were good tasting.

Gustus Brussels Sprouts and Cilician Parsley
The winter lettuces performed much better than the sprouts and we've been enjoying a number of salads lately.

Three Heart Butterhead Lettuce
The Pink Plum Celery is starting to bolt so I've been cutting it down. That basket below contains half of the plants, plus some more Pink Lettucy mustard shoots, and the Pixie cabbage that was determined to make a head in spite of the depredations of voles and birds. The cabbage wasn't as large as they usually get and perhaps it would have filled out a bit more given time but I needed the space to set out some collards that were becoming pot bound.

Pink Plume Celery
Pink Lettucy Mustard
Pixie Cabbage
My experiment with overwintering snow peas on a trellis has been quite successful. I wasn't expecting much from the latest harvest because I had picked the plant over quite well the week before but I got another 1.2 pounds on Sunday. I should have picked a couple of days earlier though, the warm weather that we've had for the past week made the peas mature more quickly and a lot of them had fattened up a bit too much. So far the plants have produced over 6 pounds of pea pods.

Frieda Worlds Snow Peas

I still have lots of vegetables in storage so I keep trying to find new ways to use them. The dish below is Prosciutto that I rolled up with ricotta, Parmesan cheese, and dried shredded Tromba D'Albenga squash and then I baked the rolls in a couple of cups of tomato sauce from the freezer. Dave declared it a winner so I wrote up the recipe which you can find on my recipe blog HERE.

The Allen's/Rufous hummer that has dominated the feeder by the Meyer lemon tree outside my kitchen window is still here. I managed to get a little better shot of it last week. And I saw the male or perhaps a different male vying for position at my other feeder on the other side of the house and I think I saw another female out there too. It's hard to tell sometimes because they are so FAST, perhaps it was the same bird that zipped from one feeder to the other faster than me.

And speaking of Meyer lemons, my poor rodent ravaged tree still managed to produce a good crop of really nice lemons which I've been trying to not let go to waste. I mentioned in a previous post that I have a couple of jars of them fermenting and then a friend told me how she has been slicing them and dehydrating them to use in drinks. I have a stash of those in the fridge now and I've gotten into the habit of adding a slice to a cup of hot herbal tea. And then I went a step further with the dehydrated lemon idea and sprinkled the slices with sugar before dehydrating them to a crisp. I originally made those to garnish some Meyer lemon buttermilk panna cottas that I served to guests, but the garnish turned out to be a tangy treat all on their own so I made another batch to have on hand.

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.