Thursday, May 10, 2012

Delicious and Nutritious.

Last night was one of the first meals in a long time that was largely made from the garden.  Frittata with home grown chard, leek and garlic (plus store bought eggs and asparagus) and a salad with homegrown radishes and dressing made with homegrown garlic and shallots.  The lettuce could have come from the garden, but I still had a store bought head in the fridge to use. 

It was delicious and nutritious.  In my forming tradition, I planted too much lettuce at once again this year.  There are a lot of salads in our near future.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Body Fuel.

Gardening is hard work!  After a good session I usually end up shaking and noodley.  I finally figured out a good snack to grab each time I step inside to keep going.   Almonds mixed with raisins and currants keep the body fueled. 

I spent over four hours on Saturday working in the garden.  It was the first big gardening weekend of the year.  I put out the lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower starts as well as planting seeds for beets, onions, more lettuce and some herbs. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Surprise of Spring.

I've complained a lot about the poor production last year. Summer lasted about two weeks. This winter was very mild too. Although earlier this year it seemed spring would never reach us, we finally made the switch. Temperatures are at least in the 50's now and we are having sun breaks nearly everyday. Even yesterday, which had a terrible bike ride in steady rain and gusty winds in the morning, resulted in a pleasant ride home with light sun and scattered clouds. It's getting nicer and the garden knows it.

There were a lot of plants I just left at the end of last year out of frustration. I didn't even want to deal with them and they could die slowly over the winter and do what they do. Turns out, they didn't die over the winter and we are already harvesting! Let's have a look around:

Little broccolis that never made it over a couple inches last year have revealed themselves as purple sprouting. The heads aren't large, but for being ignored and unweeded for the winter, I'm pretty happy with that.

The chard survived with flying colors. The red chard last year never got very large and we didn't harvest much, but they have suddenly swelled this spring. I gave them a nice thinning last weekend and it looks like we could start harvesting more leaves already.

I bought this rosemary back when I lived in big house with a bunch of roommates and I started my first real garden on my own. I kept the rosemary in a pot on the back porch and it moved here with me. The pot broke and half the root system of the rosemary was exposed. It sat like that for an entire season because I didn't know where to put it (and I was lazy). We finally settled with a spot on the corner of the house and it did well in the ground for a bit. We aren't sure what happened, but half the plant died. Perhaps it got waterlogged over a wet winter, I'm not sure. Rosemary is a very hardy bush and grows well here. People all around have four foot and more diameter rosemary bushes in their yards. I'm hoping the flowering is a good sign and it will grow big and strong and odorous this year.

Speaking of perennial herbs, the oregano is returning. I also bought this oregano when I lived in the big house with roommates and it has traveled with me and received equally poor treatment as the rosemary, but it keeps coming back. I put it in the ground last year, but it had been potted its whole life prior. It seems to like the extra room.

There is hope yet that I will successfully grow a cabbage. These should have been harvested last fall, but they never grew more than a few inches. Looking good so far for a late spring harvest.

We might even get a harvest from our cover crop. I put out clover and fava beans as a nitrogen fix to cover the bare areas at the end of summer last year. The fava beans took hold well and they are now flowering. It would be a nice surprise to be able to get a small harvest from something unintended.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Blog Break.

I took a bit of a break from the blog the last couple months. I was starting to feel like I wasn't doing anything new and a lot of the things I have written about were becoming the norm. That's a good thing! What's the point in writing about making yogurt....again? That's become a monthly weekend ritual that I don't even really think about anymore. My standard Almost-No-Knead Bread is a last minute thought at 1:30am (really, I did that last weekend) to throw together before I go to bed. But, in reality, there are a lot of new things I'm doing. Here's the first:

New seed starting set-up! The last two years I have started my seeds in the living room in the front window. We had built-in shelving in the window, which was also southern facing. Win-win! Except it was single paned glass and covered floor to ceiling pretty much the entire living room wall. So, in the effort of energy efficiency and home value appreciation we upgraded our windows and lost our shelving. I didn't really know what to do with my seeds this time around. I considered setting them up in the back bedroom somehow, but we really didn't have space and I was worried the cats would eat them. We have a hallway closet that once housed the worm-bin, but doesn't have any electrical access and would necessitate lots of rearranging of storage items. We finally decided on setting up the seeds in the garage.

(Please excuse our mess.) The work table on the right was another "free-box" find from neighbors the next block down. It's sturdy and has a wooden top and metal legs and a shelf underneath. We bought a seedling heating mat for the lower shelf and hung two light fixtures with daylight wattage bulbs from the underside of the wooden top.

Even with the heat and light the seedlings have been off to a slow start. The mat is supposed to bring the temperature about 20 degrees above ambient temperature for the seeds. So, for the most part that means soil temperature has been around 60-70 degrees so far. We are still struggling to get into the 50's during the day around here. It's another slow gardening year for the Pacific Northwest.

I'm liking this set-up because I am properly labeling all my varieties so far. I have been bad about that in years past and ended up with a lot of mystery varieties. As you can see above we have broccoli, lettuces, cauliflower and onions and leeks in the back. There is another tray almost entirely filled with tomato starts and peppers go in this weekend. No matter how many times I waste my space trying to grow peppers here, I just keep trying.

These pictures were taken on Monday when I did a good thinning. I checked on them last night I swear they have almost doubled in size!

As far as the outdoor garden goes, it goes slowly. There are radish, spinach and kale going....but there's no point in taking a picture of those just yet. All of you in the rest of the country who are already headed into summer, send some of that warm, dry weather this way, will you?

Monday, February 6, 2012

February Garden.

A quick glimpse at one of the only keepers in the February garden. Leeks planted last Spring are still holding strong.

I put them in between tomato plants and rows of carrots. The tomatoes got so large that they blocked out the sun to the tiny leeks and they never did grow. The leeks looked the same as the day I put them in the ground when I went to pull out the tomatoes in the Fall. I've let them keep going over the winter and I think we'll have some Spring leeks in the end.

On a sad note, we've finally eaten through our carrot supply and I've gone back to buying carrots at the store.

A small victory on Sunday morning, however, when we wanted to make a nice breakfast but didn't have anything more than eggs and potatoes in the house Mike went out and snipped a small bushel of red chard that has survived our cold temps this winter better than its yellow chard neighbor and we had a delicious breakfast with a serving of veggies. It gives me hope for a good garden this year.

New Trees.

As I mentioned previously, our plum tree died. We are in the process of having it removed and doing some other tree-related work around the house. We have two vacant spaces for street trees, and another three dying street trees that need to be removed.

This weekend I spent part of my Saturday planting trees with Friends of Trees. In addition to planting two new street trees at our house in the empty spaces, we planted another 10 or so to other nearby neighbors.

All in all the organization put in about 250 trees in the Woodlawn and Piedmont neighborhoods on Saturday. And now I know how to plant a tree! The hardest part will be the waiting. I don't know how big we will get to see these trees grow. Maybe we'll never move and get to see them to 20 feet high.

Monday, January 16, 2012

No plums for you.

In keeping with my To Do list for the year, one of the first orders of business around the ranch was to remove our dead and dying street trees and replace them with healthy saplings. While we're at it, we've got a large stump in the front rose bed we're looking at removing, our cherry tree is quickly growing too large and needs a professional pruning and the apple and pear in the front could probably use a good pruning by a trained eye as well.

As for our plum tree, you may remember last year that it never grew. It briefly budded late in the season, but then went dormant. The first year we were in our house the plum tree was beautiful and gave a hefty harvest. In fact we still have some canned whole plums and plum jam from our first summer in the pantry. One day when I was out working in the yard a woman stopped while driving by to let me know her niece used to live in our house and that the plums were delicious; they enjoyed them every year. But then, this last year - no plums. No flowers. No leaves. We've had two arborists confirm, the plum tree is dead. I'm very upset by this. If one of the trees was going to die, why couldn't it have been the cherry tree? It's almost too tall to harvest from anyway!

Moving forward we will have to make a new plan for future trees on our lot. I have been wanting to get some of the multiply-grafted fruit trees. Several varieties of one fruit, ie apples, plums or pears, are grafted onto one tree. Then from one tree, each branch grows a different variety of the same fruit. Maybe we will put in a small studio in the backyard where the plum tree used to be. Though this opens up space for new possibilities it is so sad to see a mature tree that had spent so many years to get to the point it was at, have to go. We will be doing the tree removal in a few weeks and then start replanting.