In The Berry Patch

I often get questions about the various berries we grow here, so I thought I would talk a bit about them today. When we bought Happy Acres back in 2007, it came with three mature blueberry bushes. Since then we have increased the blueberry planting, along the way replacing two of the original bushes, and added other fruits like blackberries, raspberries and gooseberries. My wife and I share the duties taking care of all these fruits. We are certainly not experts on growing berries, but have learned enough to keep us fairly well supplied over the years, and often enough to share with friends.

row of blueberry plants

row of blueberry plants

We now have a total of nine blueberry bushes planted, with six of them at bearing size and age. One plant was here when we arrived, so we don’t know the name of that variety. The ones we planted are Chandler, Elizabeth, Patriot, Nelson, Elliot and Blueray. The yield of these has steadily increased, and last year we harvested over fifty pounds of them in total. Actually, my wife harvested them, since she is in charge of that operation. Last year they began bearing on 6/12, and continued for almost eight weeks until the last harvest on 8/3. When they are bearing, we eat blueberries every day, and freeze the extras for use throughout the rest of the year. Chandler makes the biggest berries for us, and they have a nice flavor as well.

Chandler blueberries

Chandler blueberries from 2014

We planted them about five feet apart, in soil we amended with copious amounts of compost and peat moss. We mulch the blueberries annually with pine bark chips. I test the soil around them regularly with a pH meter, and add elemental sulfur as needed to lower the pH. I also fertilize the bushes using a blend made for acid loving plants. This year I am using Happy Frog Acid Loving (6-4-4) fertilizer. I split the total amount into two applications, one in early April and the second in June. The blueberries have been flowering for a couple of weeks now, with the flowers coming in clusters that will eventually turn into blueberries.

cluster of blueberry flowers

cluster of blueberry flowers

There were no blackberries here when we moved in, though I did dig up a few from my old place and move them here. We’ve tried a number of different blackberry varieties since we moved in, trying to find ones we like best. In that time we’ve grown Triple Crown, Apache, Arapaho, Navajo, Ouachita and Natchez. At my old place I grew some of the same ones, plus older varieties like Hull and Dirksen. After much taste-testing and comparing yields, we have settled on Apache and Natchez as our favorites. Both make large, sweet berries here.

Natchez blackberries from last year

Natchez blackberries from last year

Apache and Natchez are both varieties that have erect growing canes that don’t need trellising. We planted those about three feet apart, after amending the soil with some compost. During the first couple of years, the plants put out smaller canes that may flop over on the ground. In the below photo you can see a Natchez plant that was set out last year. The larger round canes grew last year, and will bear this years fruit up further on the cane. The new growth just coming out of the ground will grow into canes that will leaf out this year, overwinter, then bloom and bear fruit next year. In early spring I fertilize the blackberries, usually using Happy Frog Fruit and Flower (5-8-4). And no, I am not getting kickbacks from the Happy Frog makers at FoxFarm, but I do like their products and I can get them (almost) locally from Worm’s Way in Bloomington.

canes of one year old Natchez blackberry

canes of one year old Natchez blackberry

To help the canes branch out and bear more fruit, we will ‘tip’ the new canes by pinching out the terminal growth when they get to about 42-48 inches tall in summer. That will cause them to put out lateral shoots. More shoots mean more bearing wood next year and that means more berries. As the plants get older, the canes get bigger. Some of the Apache floricanes are almost an inch in diameter, like the one in the below photo, and stand up quite straight even under a full load of heavy blackberries. We mulch the blackberries too, usually with straw. In the below photo, the new growth coming out of the cane is what will flower this year and bear fruit. That whole cane will die back to the ground after fruiting, and we will remove it. OSU has a Fact Sheet that explains the whole pruning process in detail for erect blackberries. It’s really not that complicated once you get the hang of it.

one year old cane of mature Apache blackberry plant

one year old cane of mature Apache blackberry plant

Last year we ripped out some of the older blackberry varieties, to make room for gooseberries and rhubarb. While botanically speaking rhubarb is a vegetable, it is most commonly used like a fruit, and since it is perennial it really benefits from having a permanent location of its own away from our main vegetable garden. In our case, it made sense to share a spot with the berries. So the area we replanted wound up with four gooseberries and four rhubarb plants. The gooseberry varieties are Captivator, Invicta, Amish Red and Hinnomaki Red. I have grown gooseberries in the past, but never these varieties, so they are all new to me. We should get a taste of them this year, with full production in another year or two. Last year the Invicta plant didn’t make it through the summer, so I had to replace it this spring. We recently mulched those plants with a cypress bark mulch, and they got a helping of the Happy Frog 5-8-4 fertilizer.

young gooseberry plants

young gooseberry plants

I planted three Green Victoria and one Crimson Red rhubarb. I have a few plants in another location, and so far the Green Victoria has been the most productive. Rhubarb can be a bit tricky to grow in areas with hot summers like ours, so it may not like the sunny location we gave it. If so we will have to find a spot with a bit of shade. I do know of other local gardeners who grow it successfully, so it is not too difficult here. We should get some stalks to cut this year, with more in years to come. I’ve been fertilizing it with a blend higher in nitrogen, like the organic pelleted chicken manure I use called Chickity Doo Doo (5-3-2). It too is available locally, and I use it for a number of things.

one year old rhubarb plant

one year old rhubarb plant

It’s only the stalks that are edible on the rhubarb. The leaves contain poisonous substances, including oxalic acid, and are not eaten. Supposedly the green stemmed varieties like Victoria are more productive, which has been the case here so far. Those in the below photo should be ready for cutting soon.

stalks are the edible part of rhubarb

stalks are the edible part of rhubarb

We also have a test planting of raspberries. I planted three varieties, two reds (Autumn Bliss and Caroline) plus one yellow one called Anne. All three of these bear on the new growth (primocanes) in late summer to early fall, with a few berries coming on the overwintered canes if you don’t cut them down in spring (or earlier). In my experience, raspberries do better in areas with cooler summers, but they do produce for us here. I have not trellised these yet, and if we decide to keep on growing them I will need to set up some sort of a support system. Until then they are sprawling, as unsupported raspberries will do. The below photo serves as a ‘before’ shot – before the plants are weeded and thinned. Hopefully it will look better after a bit of work, once the soil dries out a bit and I can get in there. After the weeding and thinning I will mulch them with straw. Raspberries spread quite readily and that’s what the planting looks like just two years after I set out a dozen skinny little plants.

raspberries before cleanup

raspberries before cleanup

We do have a couple of currant bushes in another area, one white variety (Primus) and one red (Cherry Red) that are just now getting big enough to bear a full crop. You can see in the below photo that they are loaded with little currants this year. They are experiments, and we will know more about them later after the harvest.

currants in early spring

currants in early spring

Perhaps conspicuously absent in my list of berries is the strawberry. I did grow them here briefly. In fact, the beds I made for them is where the raspberries are growing now. But in my opinion, strawberries are the most labor intensive of all the small fruits. It’s true, homegrown ones are tasty. But the beds need a fair amount of work to keep them productive and weed free, and the plants need to be replanted every two or three years.

It doesn’t help that when I lived on the farm I grew about 1/8th of an acre of them for sale. I picked them and sold them to neighbors and family, and ate my fill of them every day. That went on for six or seven years, and I guess I pretty much got tired of growing and harvesting strawberries during that time. So I don’t want to discourage anyone else, I just don’t want to grow them myself anymore. We have a lovely berry farm about a mile from the house and I am happy to buy their strawberries – already harvested!

I hope you have enjoyed a look at some of the berries we are growing here, and how we grow them. I’ll be back soon with more adventures here at Happy Acres.

Shared at Green Thumb Thursdays.

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Monday Recap: April Showers

It has been a rainy April this year, which isn’t that unusual here in our area. We’ve had over six inches so far, and it has rained thirteen out of the twenty days. It’s the season for many green things like spinach, kale and asparagus, and they all seem to be loving the rainy weather. It’s also the season for green garlic – those young garlic plants harvested before they start to bulb up. I planted some sprouting cloves of garlic last November, and the plants are now giving us lots of flavorful green garlic. It goes well in many dishes, wherever you might use onions, scallions or garlic cloves.

green garlic fresh from the garden

green garlic fresh from the garden

Green garlic and asparagus go quite well together, and they have been seen on more than one plate here lately. In the below photo they were stir-fried, and join a baked Beauregard sweet potato and some curried chicken salad my wife made.

asparagus stir-fry with sweet potato and chicken salad

asparagus stir-fry with sweet potato and chicken salad

The green garlic also joined a big bunch of the overwintered greenhouse parsley to make a batch of pesto. Along with the parsley and green garlic I added some Umbrian olive oil, pine nuts, salt and one clove of crushed garlic. I made this pesto to go on sandwiches I was planning for lunch yesterday. But I made the pesto on Saturday, and of course it needed to be tasted ASAP. So I spread it on a seeded Kracker where it made a great snack.

fresh parsley pesto

fresh parsley pesto

More spinach in the greenhouse is starting to bolt, this time the Amsterdam Prickly Seeded variety. I pulled the plants, blanched the leaves, and my wife used it to make a Spinach Pie. She steamed a bit of asparagus to go with it. And I did have more than the three spears in the below photo! I just didn’t want the big pile of asparagus to block the view of the spinach pie. I generally get to eat my fill of asparagus during the months of April and May when we are harvesting it daily. We’ve harvested six pounds in the first two weeks, and I for one have been enjoying it.

Spinach Pie with asparagus

Spinach Pie with asparagus

Though it was my wife’s turn to cook last week, we collaborated in the kitchen to make a three bean salad. I cooked a batch of garbanzo beans using the pressure cooker, and then fixed a pot of Runner Cannellini beans slowly simmered on the stove. These are big beans, more like a Corona or Gigante bean in size and much bigger than the usual cannellini beans. They held their shape well for the salad. The third bean was the very last bit of our 2014 Good Mother Stallard beans I had cooked up earlier and froze. The salad made for a great meal, along with some crusty whole wheat rolls I baked up. A little fresh parsley added a nice flavor, and a bit of chopped celery added some crunch.

Three Bean Salad

Three Bean Salad

It is my turn to cook for the next two weeks. I started off yesterday with some grilled sandwiches I made from a freshly baked loaf of bread (Ken Forkish’s Overnight 40% Whole Wheat). I spread some of the parsley pesto on the bread and then added Canadian bacon plus Swiss cheese for my wife’s version. I grilled the sandwiches along with a batch of my Grilled Asparagus.

grilled asparagus with sandwhich

grilled asparagus with sandwhich

In other news, the carrots I sowed back on 4/9 started coming up in about nine days, and I removed the row cover material on Saturday. They’re still coming up, and it looks like I got a good stand of them. I sowed a few radishes at the same time and they came up in about five days and now need thinning. I’ll wait a week or so to thin the carrots.

spring carrots sprouting

spring carrots sprouting

And in the greenhouse, Speedy arugula is certainly living up to its name. This is my second planting of it in a salad box, and I have more young plants waiting in the wings. Though it looks like a wild strain of arugula, the flavor is mild and sweet – unusual for arugula! This one is a keeper for sure. The seeds are available from a number of sources.

Speedy arugula

Speedy arugula

Today the weather forecast is for cool and rainy, at least for most of the day. So it sounds like a good day to bake pita bread and replenish our supply in the freezer. I plan on making a green garlic dal soup using some split yellow Pigeon peas (aka Toor Dal). The fresh baked pita bread will go well with the soup (though some naan would too), and it should make for a warming meal on cool spring day. To see what others are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA.

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Nesting Chickadees

I was pleased today to learn the true identity of the birds nesting in one of the PVC nest boxes in our back yard. I had posted the below photo on my FB page on Saturday, after I was convinced it was a Tufted Titmouse nest. Two small speckled eggs are hidden in the bottom of the nest, covered with what appears to be rabbit fur. I did wonder about the fact I hadn’t seen any birds around the box, but that’s not always unusual since they often come and go quickly and discreetly to avoid drawing predators to the nest.

nest  in bottom of PVC nest box

nest in bottom of PVC nest box

Today when I checked on the nest, the fur was pulled back and the eggs were visible. And as I examined it, there was a Black-Capped Chickadee perched on the nearby Black Cherry tree. It was singing and chirping as only a chickadee does, so there was no mistaking its identity. Perhaps I was a bit hasty in my earlier ID of the nest? I went back in the house to do a little research, and decided it was likely a chickadee nest. That was confirmed when I went back out with my camera, and a startled chickadee flew out of the box!

chickadee eggs

chickadee eggs

At this point there are six tiny chickadee eggs in the nest. According to Sialis.Org, 6-8 eggs is the norm for Black-Capped Chickadees, though as many as 13 have been recorded. Incubation lasts for 12-13 days. It also mentions the egg covering behavior of the female after she leaves the nest. The nesting material serves as a blanket to help insulate the eggs. I’ll keep monitoring the next few days and share any developments. Hopefully the next news will be the successful hatching of the eggs.

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Monday Recap: Speared, Sowed and Bolted

Every year about April my wife and I begin our annual Asparagus Watch. What we’re watching for are the first signs of the spears shooting up out of the ground. That’s the beginning of asparagus season, and this year it happened on April 7th. I spied the first ones, and ran to the house to share the good news with my wife. I’m not sure what biological clock awakens the asparagus, perhaps a combination of soil warmth and moisture. At any rate, those first spears were followed by more, and in a few days we had our first pound of asparagus.

first asparagus of 2015

first asparagus of 2015

Those first spears wound up in a stir-fry dish. I’m sure later ones will be grilled, roasted, steamed and eaten raw. We generally harvest between 25-30 pounds of it every year during an eight week harvest season. After that we let the ferns grow to replenish the roots for the next year.

asparagus weigh-in

asparagus weigh-in

Even as the asparagus season was starting, some of the spinach began bolting. This year it was the Giant Winter variety that bolted first in both the greenhouse and the cold frame bed, so I pulled the plants to make room for something else. I had some young spinach plants to put in the cold frame beds. The spot in the greenhouse will be occupied by cucumbers when those plants are ready. There’s more spinach still growing, so I blanched and froze the ones I pulled. The bolting plants are on the right of the bed in the below photo.

spinach bed with bolting plants

spinach bed with bolting plants

You can see the flower buds on the spinach in the below photo. For those that don’t grow spinach, the leaves are still edible, but they will start getting bitter and tough as the plants flower. So they wound up in the freezer and we can enjoy them later on.

Giant Winter spinach bolting

Giant Winter spinach bolting

I took advantage of a break in the rain and got some carrot and radish seeds sown. Since carrots generally take one to two weeks to germinate, I covered the seed bed with a doubled over piece of Agribon row cover material after sowing. That will help keep the soil moist, and help keep it from washing away until the seeds germinate. I’ll remove it once I see signs of the seeds coming up. Last year the spring planting came up in nine days, but the speed of germination is very much dependent on soil temperatures, with higher temps making for speedier emergence. The carrots wound up in two different beds this time.

carrot seedbeds covered with row cover material

carrot seedbeds covered with row cover material

In other news, we have been enjoying the spring lettuce. I cut two big heads of Simpson Elite from the greenhouse beds last week. Greens grow lush and tender in there, at least until it warms up and gets too hot.

Simpson Elite lettuce harvest

Simpson Elite lettuce harvest

It was my wife’s turn to cook and she made some wilted lettuce with them. The lettuce gets tossed with a hot vinegar and oil dressing, which wilts it slightly. This was a family favorite at my wife’s house when she was growing up, and now it is a favorite here too! She tops it off with a bit of bacon, which adds a little salty and smoky flavor to the sweet and sour from the dressing.

wilted lettuce salad

wilted lettuce salad

I also cut more salad greens from in and around the greenhouse, including the volunteer Golden Corn Salad that sprouted just outside the greenhouse door. You can see it hanging out with spinach and Winter Density lettuce in the below photo.

salad greens

salad greens

That’s a look at what’s happening here. To see what others are harvesting, sowing and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy acres.

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Starting Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods to eat and to grow. While most vegetables are grown from seeds, sweet potatoes are grown from rooted cuttings called slips. You can buy slips from many garden centers and from mail order sources, but starting them yourself is easy and economical and many gardeners prefer to go that route. All you need to get started is a sweet potato. You can use ones from the grocery, but you likely won’t know the variety. It’s better to start with a known variety and one that is suitable for your area. If you’ve grown them before, you can start with one from storage. If not, ask around and see if a friend or neighbor has one you can use.

There are several different ways to start the slips. One way is to cover the sweet potato with soil or sand in a container, and supply bottom heat until they start sprouting. The method I’m using is to suspend the sweet potato in water until it roots and starts sending out sprouts. Then I’ll twist off the sprouts and put them in water to form roots on them. At that point they are ready to set out, or if it’s not time to plant yet they can be potted up into individual containers.

purple sweet potato starting to sprout

purple sweet potato starting to sprout

It’s a great use for any small sweet potatoes you might have. I bring them up from storage into a warm room for a couple of weeks, and they will usually begin to sprout, if they haven’t already. Then I use toothpicks (or pieces of bamboo skewer like the below photo shows) to suspend the potato in a glass jar filled with water. I change the water every couple of days, and the sweet potato will start to send out roots in a matter of days. Sitting the jar in a sunny window will speed up the process. I started mine rooting about a week ago. If the sweet potato is too big to fit in the jar, you can cut it and put the cut end down in the water.

rooting sweet potato in water

rooting sweet potato in water

Sweet potatoes are generally an easy to grow vegetable, but they do need warm growing conditions to perform well. We have long hot summers here, and sweet potatoes thrive. I usually plant mine out in late May or early June. Most varieties take from 100-120 days to mature. Last year I planted on June 2nd, and dug them on October 9th. This year I am growing four varieties: Beauregard (orange skin and flesh), Bonita (tan skin/white flesh), and two purple varieties with purple skin and flesh. One purple is just called Purple, and I got that one from Norma, and the other is an unknown variety I got from Carla. Last year I grew a white skin/purple flesh variety called Okinawa, and I decided it wasn’t productive enough to grow again.

Carla's Purple sweet potato plant from 2013

Carla’s Purple sweet potato plant from 2013

Last year I bought my Beauregard slips from a local source. While the sweet potatoes did fine, they apparently were infected with a fungus (Monilochaetes infuscans) that causes a discoloration of the skin called scurf. Only the Beauregard variety was affected, so I know it didn’t come from the soil. It’s harmless to the sweet potato, though it can cause marketing problems if you are selling them. And though it can supposedly make the potatoes lose water faster in storage, mine are still in fine eating shape. The LSU Ag Center has an informative bulletin about this disease: Scurf of Sweet Potato. The fungus can live in the soil for 1-2 years, so I will be sure my sweet potato planting is not anywhere near the spot they were grown last year. It’s always a good idea to rotate crop families, something I do regardless of any problems I might have.

Beauregard sweet potato with scurf

Beauregard sweet potato with scurf

As a result I will not be using my Beauregard potatoes to make slips. I decided to buy from an online source this year, the Steele Plant Co. While browsing their selections I saw the white fleshed Bonita, and ordered some of those too. For years all I ever grew and ate were the orange fleshed varieties. Now I enjoy the purple ones too, and it will be fun to add a white fleshed variety to the mix.

Shared at Mostly Homemade Mondays and Green Thumb Thursday

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Planting Brassicas, Round One

I took advantage of a break in the rain yesterday to get a few things planted. I had prepped one cold frame bed on Monday by cleaning it up and amending the soil, and since the plants were ready I decided to get them in while I could. I planted that bed with a mix of broccoli raab and kohlrabi. I’ve grown broccoli raab (aka rapini or Cima di Rapa) before, but not enough to really determine if I liked eating it. So I decided to give it another go this year. There’s very few veggies I don’t eat (none I can really think of) so I think it’s going to be a matter of experimenting, which I love to do in both the garden and the kitchen.

planting of rapini in cold frame bed

planting of rapini in cold frame bed

I’m trying three varieties, one I’ve grown before (Sorrento) plus two Seeds from Italy selections called Quarantina (a 40-day variety) and Maceratese (a variety from Macerata). Both Sorrento and Quarantina will form edible flower buds, while Maceratese is grown for its leaves and stems. Seeds from Italy has an informative article titled “How to Grow Cima di Rapa” on their website. They recommend direct seeding since it is a quick grower and transplants are likely to bolt. I had already started the seed indoors before I read it, so I decided to try a mix of both methods.

flower bud on Cima di Rapa Quarantina

flower bud on Cima di Rapa Quarantina

As the article predicted, the Quarantina developed flower buds before I managed to get it planted. I will probably cut the buds before they open and hope they branch out and form secondary shoots. I set out the plants fairly close together, then sowed seed between them for a succession planting. The Franchi Seeds that Seeds from Italy sells have a generous amount of seeds, so I should be able to sow this one multiple times if I want to. I also set out Maceratese, which will hopefully not be bolting since it is grown only for its leaves. I sowed the seeds and covered with some potting soil, which you can see in the below photo.

cold frame bed after planting

cold frame bed after planting

In the rest of that bed I set out kohlrabi transplants. The varieties I planted are Winner and Kolibri, two I have grown for several years now. I have more plants ready, including the large Kossak variety, that I will set out in the main garden area. That spot is way too wet at the moment, since it is downhill from the house and gets runoff from higher ground.

young White Russian kale plant

young White Russian kale plant

Right next door to that bed is another one that had overwintered kale in it. I harvested most of the Beedy’s Camden and pulled the plants to make room for some White Russian kale seedlings. This kale was bred by Frank Morton, and is a ‘sister’ variety to Red Russian. Hopefully it will give us a bit of kale after the overwintered plants start bolting. I left the Red Ursa plants in the same bed, and they should give us more to eat before they bolt. I’m not seeing any signs of flower buds yet. After planting I spread Sluggo Plus on both beds to control the slugs and sow bugs who are likely waiting to devour the young tender leaves on the plants.

overwintered Red Ursa kale

overwintered Red Ursa kale

Whenever the main garden dries out, I still have plants of broccoli, cabbage, rapini (Sorrento) and kohlrabi to set out. There’s still plenty of time, though of course the sooner I get them in the ground the sooner they will be giving us something to eat. I also need to weed and fertilize the garlic bed, which is growing lush with all the rain we’ve had. And I need to sow carrot seeds.

garlic bed in waterlogged garden

garlic bed in waterlogged garden

As it turned out, I got the planting done just in time before rain and thunderstorms arrived. I took the above photo afterwards, and you can see the area to the right of the garlic has standing water (again). That’s the spot where the rest of the brassicas will go, if the soil ever dries out. With more rain forecast for the next couple of days, it may be next week before I dare to go in the garden.

 

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Monday Recap: Seedlings and More

March and April are usually busy months for me with lots of seed starting activities. By early April, many of the seeds have been started and transplanted on to larger containers. Ones that can take a bit of cold are moved out to the unheated greenhouse, while the heat loving veggies stay inside under lights. Many of the pepper plants are showing several true leaves by now. That’s a trio of Italian types in the below photo, Italian Red Heart, Stocky Red Roaster and Corno di Toro Rosso. Right now they are in 6 cell packs (#806), and I can get 48 plants in a standard 1020 flat. I’ll pot them up one more time into 3.5″ containers before they get planted out.

pepper seedlings

pepper seedlings

Tomatoes are coming along nicely too. They’ll get the same treatment as the peppers, and I’ll pot them up into 3.5″ containers in a couple of weeks. That’s Green Tiger and Golden Sweet in the below photo, two small-fruited types.

tomato seedlings

tomato seedlings

I still need to start seeds for basil, calendula, and all the cucurbits. The parsley I started over a month ago now has true leaves showing. That’s a curly leaf variety called Forest Green in the below photo. I also grow the flat leaf Italian parsley. I usually plant parsley in the greenhouse beds for our use and outside in the Wild Garden where I let the swallowtail caterpillars have it. If they show up on the greenhouse plants I carefully move them out to the Wild Garden.

Forest Green parsley

Forest Green parsley

I start salad greens periodically throughout the year, so I can always have a few plants to tuck in whenever there’s a bare spot that needs filling. That’s Jester in the below photo, a crispleaf type from Wild Garden Seed I’m trying this year.

Jester lettuce

Jester lettuce

And speaking of lettuce, I have started cutting lettuce from the greenhouse beds. In the below photo is a head of Red Sails that decided to grow upright like a romaine. It was colored like Red Sails, but definitely not the usual spreading loose leaf head that it normally makes. The rest of the plants (so far) look like they usually do.

Not Red Sails lettuce

Not Red Sails lettuce

It was great for salad though, combined with some Giant Winter spinach, and I found a small Purple Haze carrot from last year to grate up on top.

salad with lettuce, spinach and carrot

salad with lettuce, spinach and carrot

Speedy arugula is living up to its name. I set out transplants about three weeks ago in one of the mini salad boxes, and it took right off growing. A couple of the plants are ready to bolt. A round leaf variety called Apollo from SSE is also planted in that box, and it is starting to bolt too, so I started some more seeds of both for the next round of arugula. After the photo op, I cut quite a few of the leaves to use on a pizza one night.

Speedy arugula

Speedy arugula

The pizza was the crunchiest food I’ve eaten since my periodontal surgery, and it really tasted good to me. We used Whole Grain Spelt Pita Bread for the crust, and baked it on a hot pizza stone. Yep, it was crunchy all right!

pita crust pizza

pita crust pizza

Also out in the greenhouse, the petunia seedlings are looking good. That’s Tidal Wave Pink in the below photo. They’ll be showing buds by the end of the month, and usually start blooming before I set them out in May.

petunia seedlings at 4 weeks

petunia seedlings at 4 weeks

In other news, our latest soap creation was ready for testing last week. Mocha Java Hand Soap combines two of my favorite things, coffee and cocoa. It’s naturally colored with Coffee Infused Oil and cocoa powder, with cocoa nibs added for scrubbing power. We left it unscented so we could see how much of the coffee scent remains after saponification. It wound up being mildly scented with coffee and chocolate. This was definitely one of those ‘will it work’ projects and I have to say it worked pretty much as I expected. We poured this one into a Wilton silicone muffin pan that I bought for soap making, which made slightly smaller than usual bars that will be great for hand soap.

Mocha Java Hand Soap

Mocha Java Hand Soap

I managed to get onions and potatoes planted last week just before another rainy period started. I didn’t get the carrots sowed, and I’m glad because they likely would have gotten washed away. I hope to be able to work on them sometime this week. We wound up with almost 3 inches of rain in a 24 hour period.  Last year it was rainy in April too, and we got nearly 13 inches that month. I hope this year is not a repeat of that, since the soil was too wet to plant anything for weeks. Thankfully our soil drains well and the standing water in the below photo was gone in a couple of hours. That’s the bed where I planted onions and potatoes. It’s safe to say they won’t need watering for a while!

standing water on kitchen garden bed

standing water on kitchen garden bed

That’s a look at what’s happening here in early April. To see what others are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy acres.

 

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