Rain Delay

Wednesday I was able to work in the garden and get a short row of Derby bush beans planted. I had thought about sprouting them inside, but the soil temperature was 70°F so I decided to go ahead and sow them directly in the garden. It was a bit of a gamble, but I have plenty of seeds for backup in case I get spotty germination. I had hoped to get out in the garden today and get the bush squash plants in the ground, but it turned out to be cold and rainy, so I decided to wait. I still need to amend the soil before I plant, and I believe the weather will be more hospitable tomorrow.

garden bed ready for planting

garden bed ready for planting

I started the squash in 24 cell Pro-Tray Cell Flats. I’ve been using these for a number of years now for the cucurbits, and they let me get a jump on the season and avoid germination issues I often have with sowing the seeds directly in the garden. The cells are round and flexible, and when it’s time to plant the seedling can be plopped out by a little pressure on the bottom of the cell with minimum damage to the root ball. In the below photo it’s a mix of winter squashes like Bush Delicata, Metro and Early Butternut plus the 2017 AAS Winner Mini Love Watermelon, which is a red-fleshed icebox type melon. I like to set out the plants about three to four weeks after sowing, which gives them time to get a nice root system established but not so long that they start to get leggy. Last year I was harvesting summer squash just 30 days after setting out the plants, so it really does help get a jump on the season.

squash plants in Pro-Tray

squash plants in Pro-Tray

In other garden news, the brassicas I planted back in mid April are growing fast, but one of the Gypsy broccoli plants is buttoning and prematurely forming a small head. There are various causes for buttoning, but I believe in this case it was due to the seedlings being exposed to cold weather. Also, some varieties are just more prone to buttoning than others. I guess I will harvest the little head and leave the plant to see if it will grow any side shoots, but I won’t hold my breath. There’s no sign of buttons yet on the other 15 broccoli plants, which is a good thing, since all the plants had to deal with the same cold snap before they were planted.

broccoli buttoning

broccoli buttoning

And speaking of harvests, the early garlic cultivars are sending up scapes. That’s Red Janice in the below photo, one of the earliest to mature in our garden. I’m looking forward to having fresh scapes again, which are certainly a seasonal treat.

garlic scape on Red Janice

garlic scape on Red Janice

I hope you have enjoyed a look at what’s going on here in the garden. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Harvest Monday May 8, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The asparagus is still our #1 harvest, though the cold and rainy weather last week slowed it down a bit. We have harvested about 14 pounds so far this year, and it has showed up in a lot of meals. Last week I steamed a batch to go with a Rio Zape Bean and Sweet Potato Salad. I used one of our Purple sweet potatoes from storage for the salad, cut into chunks and roasted in the oven in a cast iron skillet until they were browned and crispy. Fried fresh sage leaves from the garden (Holt’s Mammoth) and toasted pine nuts top the salad, which is tossed with a vinaigrette dressing. The first time I made this it seemed like an unlikely combination of ingredients, but they go together amazingly well.

asparagus with Rio Zape Bean and Sweet Potato Salad

asparagus with Rio Zape Bean and Sweet Potato Salad

We also got our first taste of the fermented asparagus. For this first batch I added three cloves of smashed garlic, two dried mildly hot Aji Angelo peppers, and a bay leaf to the jar. I let it ferment for 5 days on our kitchen counter, and at that point decided it was ready for eating. The asparagus turned sort of an olive drab color, almost like it had been cooked. Amazingly though it stayed crunchy, with a tangy and tart flavor I find reminiscent of a cucumber pickle. It was tasty enough I started a second jar on Saturday, this time seasoned with the same amount of garlic and a few sprigs of fresh dill weed. I think it’s a good use for the small to medium size spears we get from the asparagus patch. Like many fermented veggies it is supposed to keep for a year in the refrigerator, but I predict this first jar will be lucky to last a week!

fermented asparagus pickles

fermented asparagus pickles

Some of the asparagus also wound up in a frittata I cooked for lunch yesterday. The asparagus was joined by some of our dried tomatoes and sweet peppers (rehydrated), and a few leaves of arugula and mizspoona from the greenhouse. I sprinkled a little homemade mild paprika on top before baking to give it a little extra color and flavor. I love how versatile frittatas are in the kitchen, and such a good way to use so many different garden veggies.

frittata

frittata

I cut a bit of lettuce from a salad box in the greenhouse for salads. I believe this is mostly Tall Oaks, an oakleaf mix from Wild Garden Seeds, plus a few leaves of Jester. There’s plenty more lettuce coming on, though the recent cold spell had me wanting soup and not salad.

Tall Oaks lettuce

Tall Oaks lettuce

Of course for me soup always calls for bread. I had some rolls in the freezer, but I also baked up a loaf of my Rye and Whole Wheat Bread last week for sandwiches. I recently ordered some grains from Bluebird Farms in Washington state, and I was anxious to try them out. They specialize in growing certified organic ancient grains like emmer, spelt and einkorn, as well as some heirloom varieties of wheat and rye. I made this loaf using their Pasayten Hard White Spring Wheat and their Heritage Dark Northern Rye, fresh ground in our Nutrimill, along with King Arthur bread flour. It had a wonderful flavor, and I will be looking forward to baking more bread with these grains in the future.

Rye and Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Rye and Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

And yesterday I made a batch of sourdough pita bread using their emmer wheat. I followed my recipe for Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita Bread, substituting emmer flour for the whole wheat and making a separate emmer levain from my six-year-old mother starter. I mixed the dough up and retarded it overnight in the refrigerator to accommodate my schedule, which worked out nicely. The dough was a bit tricky to work with, fragile and prone to tearing, and the lower gluten content was pretty obvious. But they puffed up nicely when they hit the hot pizza stone, and had a sweet, nutty flavor. I also want to try the Whole Emmer Sourdough Bread recipe at Breadtopia. The emmer should also work well in quick breads.

sourdough pita bread made with emmer flour

sourdough pita bread made with emmer flour

The weather is supposed to be dry and warm early this week, so I hope to get back out in the garden and do some planting. I want to get a small spot of bush beans planted, and I have the bush squash plants pretty much ready to go in the ground. I am so glad I got the garlic and brassica beds mulched before the rains came. I put down sheets of newspaper and then covered with wheat straw. We’ve had over five inches of rain the last two weeks, and the mulch surely kept the soil from washing out. The plants are loving the rain, and have grown quite a bit since the below photo was taken earlier last week. Hopefully I can get more plants out there this week to join in the garden party.

brassica and garlic beds after mulching

brassica and garlic beds after mulching

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save



Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Harvest Monday May 1, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The asparagus season continues, and we are harvesting it daily now, other than Friday when it rained most of the day. We grilled it several times last week, one day for lunch where we served it up with a tuna salad sandwich on homemade whole wheat/rye bread. My wife was jonesing for tuna salad, and I had already baked up the loaf of bread, so it seemed like a great menu combo. I jokingly told her my bread deserved nothing but the best, so she found some tasty Italian tonno for the salad.

grilled asparagus with tuna salad sandwich

grilled asparagus with tuna salad sandwich

Also in the salad department, I had quite a few leftover lettuce seedlings when I finished planting the cold frame beds, so I let them grow on in the plug trays. Once I was certain I didn’t need any more plants, I cut the leaves for a harvest of baby lettuce. It is truly a mix of varieties and colors, and the lettuce was tender and mild tasting. I have other lettuce that could be cut, but I hate to let this go to waste. Why pay big bucks for organic baby lettuce at the grocery when you can have the homegrown version!

baby lettuce

baby lettuce

I finally cut one of the overwintered Wonder of Stuttgart lettuce plants. The outer leaves have a little wear and tear, but the main head is big and relatively clean. It weighed in at a respectable 12 ounces, which is bigger than most of the lettuce I manage to grow. I decided those big buttery leaves would make good lettuce cups or wraps, so I put that on the menu for a couple of meals this coming week. It made a good wrapper for taco filling, and I can see some stuffed with a Tuscan style tuna and white bean salad.

Wonder of Stuttgart lettuce

Wonder of Stuttgart lettuce

Since the asparagus is coming on strong, I decided to try lacto-fermenting some of it to make pickled asparagus. I cut the spears into 5″ lengths, then packed them into a quart jar along with a few cloves of garlic, a couple of dried Aji Angelo peppers, and a bay leaf. I made a 3.5% brine solution and poured that in the jar to cover the asparagus. I’ll leave it sit out for about a week before refrigerating, though it might be ready earlier that that. I love pickled asparagus, but this is my first time fermenting it, so I am anxious to see how it turns out. I used the cut off ends of the asparagus in a stir-fry yesterday.

jar of lacto-fermented asparagus

jar of lacto-fermented asparagus

And I’m still cutting overwintered kale in the greenhouse. This is True Siberian, which is bolting and won’t last a whole lot longer. I have surely enjoyed all the greenhouse kale though, and kale is a great performer in our winter greenhouse.

harvest of True Siberian kale

harvest of True Siberian kale

I’ll close with a wildlife update. Something happened to the female bluebird of our nesting pair, and the male had to take over all of the parenting duties. We watched him feeding them, and he worked diligently to keep the babies going. They fledged the nest last week, and we had a ringside seat on our covered porch as they made their first appearance out in the world. I got a pic of one of them as it was huddled at the base of a currant bush. The male has been singing and looking for another female, so hopefully he will find one soon. We have two nest boxes ready and waiting if they choose to use them.

just fledged baby bluebird

just fledged baby bluebird

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save



Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

In the Garlic Patch

I managed to finish mulching the garlic bed yesterday before the rains came. We needed a bit of rain, since we are actually running behind the averages so far this spring. Before mulching I weeded around the garlic, a job I did mostly on my hands and knees. The worst weeds in the main garden this spring are purple deadnettle and chickweed, and both are worse than usual no doubt due to our mild winter weather. I mulch the garlic primarily to keep down weeds, though it also helps conserve soil moisture.

garlic bed after mulching

garlic bed after mulching

I also fertilized the garlic before I spread the straw. My strategy is to amend the bed before I plant the garlic in the fall, and then top dress with a bit more fertilizer in spring. My bed is 4 feet by 40 feet, and for this second application I used 3 pounds of Happy Frog All-Purpose fertilizer (5-5-5) for primary nutrients and 1 pound of kelp meal (1-0-2) to supply trace minerals. I plan on watering the bed tomorrow with a liquid fish and seaweed fertilizer to give it a quick boost now. The general wisdom is to avoid fertilizing garlic too late in spring since the nitrogen can promote vegetative growth and delay bulb formation. Since I usually start harvesting the early garlic in late June, my own cutoff for fertilizing is pretty much May 1st.

Simonetti garlic plant

Simonetti garlic plant

Overall the garlic is looking great, though I lost 9 plants out of the 172 bulbs I planted. That’s more than I normally lose, but it still leaves plenty of garlic for us to eat. I have found that a big stem on the garlic plant generally predicts there will be a big bulb growing underground. Last year the biggest bulbs were produced by two artichoke types called Red Toch (aka Tochliavri) and Simonetti. Both of these are looking big already, so I am hoping this leads to a repeat of last year’s performance. That’s Simonetti in the above photo, which has consistently done well for me since I first planted it back in 2011. I got my original bulbs from WeGrowGarlic, but I’m not sure if this one is even available commercially anymore.

Conservor shallots growing

Conservor shallots growing

At one end of the garlic bed I planted a few shallots last fall. It’s my first time growing them in many years, so it’s a fairly small test planting to see how they perform. I have two cultivars planted here, Conservor and Dutch Yellow. I set out 16 and they all survived, so I am pretty happy with those results to say the least. I also have more shallots planted in the kitchen garden area.

brassica bed

brassica bed

My next chore in the main garden will be to mulch the brassica bed. You can see it is right next to the garlic in the above photo. I also need to take up my planting string I use to keep me straight when planting. I weeded it yesterday, and if I can get it mulched soon enough I should stay ahead of the weeds. I plan on putting down newspaper between the plants and then covering with straw.

Corne De Belier peas

Corne De Belier peas

Another task on my to-do list is to mulch around the peas. I’ve already started on that, and the above photo shows Corne De Belier peas mulched on one side only. The peas are looking good and should be starting to bloom soon. I’m growing all edible podded types, though I guess some could double as shelling peas. Pre-sprouting the seeds indoors really helped me get a good stand. I also hope to get out some early bush snap beans (Derby) and I may try pre-sprouting them too, depending on the soil temperature at that point. It has been running about 65°F, which is not exactly optimum bean germination conditions. They would prefer it to be at least 70°F if not 75°F. I will take another reading when I get the bed ready and take it from there.

early garlic varieties

early garlic varieties

I hope you have enjoyed a look at what’s going on here in late April. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments