Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Happy Holidays!

So to update my previous post, here is a picture of the new raised beds.  Well, this is a picture of 1 bed...there are 3 more just like it.  They are currently filled with leaves and dirt, and one is half full of garlic!


Also, we cut down our Christmas tree today!  And of course by "we" I mean Brad.  It's all lit up and everything now!  Honey is asking where the presents are.  Happy Holidays!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Fall planting and planning

Well, on Monday (October 29th) I planted my garlic.  3 heads gave us 30 cloves to plant in the ground, 1" deep and 6" apart.  This filled up half of one of my 4 new raised beds.  I also planted 100 purple crocus bulbs under a deciduous tree in our front yard, so hopefully we'll have a beautiful spring welcome.

Update:  my attempts at over-wintering things failed.  Something grabbed my tuberous begonias I wanted to overwinter and my pepper plants took a whack with the cold temperatures and never recovered.  There's always next year!

We have most of our winter-prep work done outside, the leaves picked up and grass cut short.  Ready for a long winter sleep.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Fall is here

Well, it's official. Harvest season is over. We had our first major Frost this weekend on Saturday, October 6th for those who are counting. The leaves are turning, and falling. Since my fall veggie plantings got nibbled up, it's time to clear the garden beds and get them ready for the winter.

We will pull up all the old, frost-killed plants, spread out the compost, and use the broad fork to work our leaves into the topsoil. The old plants and any extra leaves will go into the compost bin.

We do have a few things to go into the ground this fall though! I bought garlic that we will plant this fall for harvest next year, as well as some spring Crocus. Okay, by 'some', I mean I bought 100 bulbs!! Don't tell Brad...

They are going to go in the front yard underneath a tree where it is difficult to grow grass. Supposedly they will love it there. Hopefully next spring we will be welcomed by a mass of little purple flowers!

Both should go in the ground this week.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Frost Warning Tonight

The first frost warning of the season is projected for tonight, fall is officially here.  We will do a few things to prepare:
  • Water - everything will get a good dose of water this evening
  • Pots - the potted tomatoes and peppers will get moved into the garage overnight
  • Harvest - we'll pick anything that is ready (or close to ready)
  • Cover - we'll also take sheets out to protect the tomatoes, cukes, peppers and squash.
Check out Cornell's article, Understanding Frost, in my documents in the side panel for further info.

Getting the garden prepared for fall will involve a few things.  I had hoped to do a cold frame this year, but the rabbits ate all my fall plantings so nothing to put in the cold frame.  Next year we'll need to do smaller openings in the fence.  When the summer plants are done, we will use the broadfork on the soil and spread out this year's compost.  We will also put on a layer of mulched leaves when they fall.   The rest of the leaves and the remains of the summer plants will go in the compost bin.

On the patio, we'll bring in the two pepper plants that we put in pots this year - perhaps these will overwinter in the greenhouse.  The rest of the pots and barrels will all be emptied (except the one with the lemon balm - this one might come back next year).  I think I'll save the dirt in a pile to use on the potatoes next year.  I also have 3 tuberous begonia plants that I'm going to try to overwinter.  I think I'll try the following instructions:  http://www.ehow.com/how_6063655_overwinter-tuberous-begonias.html

 Yet to do this year - something with the peppers.  I think we will dry a bunch of the hot peppers this year to have flakes for seasoning.  We'll also probably make some hot sauce or salsa pretty soon - maybe next weekend.  Time to do some research for recipes!  Oh yes, and I want to try out some jalapeno jelly.

Thinking for next year, I'm wondering if I should add some more bulbs this fall (flower bulbs).  I'd like to put in some garlic in October too if we can find it.  I'm also planning on trying my root veggies (beets, carrots, kohlrabi) in containers next year to avoid the bunnies at all costs.  We'll see how they do.  I may also try my beans and peas in containers to try and save them from the rodents.  I may also plant some flowers like marigolds that may discourage the little buggers.  I also need to figure out how to keep the ants from going to town on my strawberries...

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Those rascally rabbits!

Yup, they ate off my beans and peas again.  And went back for the kohlrabi and beets that were trying to recover.  Sigh.

Good news is the tomatoes and peppers are doing well!  Maybe we'll have to do stuffed peppers this week.  We also have some summer squash coming.  We had 1 yellow one and 1 green one for dinner the other night which were yummy.  We've got some green ones growing and a few new blossoms.

The cucumbers are also doing okay.  I picked two little ones off the vine the other day just to try them.  Hopefully we'll get a bunch more.  They are now 5ft tall I'd say.

I tried a carrot yesterday.  It was about as round as a nickle, so not too bad!  It only grew about 4-5 inches long though, which I'm guessing is due to my soil not being loose enough. 

I'm not seeing much of the new seeds I planted, but the rabbits could be eating those off at the ground too.

I dug up a few more potatoes yesterday and made corn chowder with local sweet corn from the store - it was yummy!

That's all for now - more to come soon!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

What a beautiful day!

Today's weather was beautiful!  We have opened up the windows in the house for the first time this summer (or at least it feels like the first time).  The garden is also doing well - the beans and some of the peas have already sprouted.  Let's see if they can find the trellis this time!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Fall Plantings

I've never tried late summer plantings for a fall harvest, but we're trying this year.  The first fall frost is difficult to gauge in Minnesota, so we're trying right around August 1st this year and will see how it goes.

What's gone in the ground:
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Romaine (green and red)
  • Arugula
  • Carrots
  • Kohlrabi
  • Beets
  • Peas
  • Beans
Most of these like to germinate and/or grow in cool(er) soil, and our 90 heat right now does not seem overly promising.  However, the upcoming forecast shows highs in the mid-80s so hopefully with adequate watering we can get these plants to come.  Now, that doesn't mean they'll survive the bunnies.

We will send the remaining seeds to the greenhouse to see what we can get to grow this fall and winter.

Stay cool...

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Today's Harvest

Tomatoes


Pepper Row
As promised - pictures!  Here is what the garden looks like today.  The tomatoes are flourishing.  We've had some cherry tomatoes and 3 of the Zebra's ready to harvest.  I anticipate some Romas will be ripe soon.


The Peppers are also doing well.  We don't have any that are ripe yet, but most of the plants have multiple peppers on them and they seem to enjoy the heat and humidity! 

The squash are also doing well, but we don't have any fruit yet.  The blossoms have started to drop off, which I'm not sure if it's blossom drop or just normal fruiting.  Hopefully we'll get some yummy squash this year.  The cucumbers also got in late, but have taken to the trellis quite well and have grown 6" in the last few days.  The leaves are still small on the cukes, but there are tons of blossoms.




Squash
Cucumbers


The tomato plants on the patio are also doing well, here is a pic along with one of the pepper plants that has a pretty red pepper on it.  As you can see, the potted tomatoes look pretty tough but the tomatoes are sure delicious!




And finally, today's harvest!  All of the onions are up and you can see them below.  There seems to be different results across the different types of onions.  The yellows seem to have gotten the biggest with the whites up next.  The red onions didn't seem to do much (will need to research this over the winter!).  Also, the shallots did great and I'm very excited to have these in my pantry.  This is the second major haul of cherry tomatoes I've made.  The oval-shaped ones on the left are from the potted plant and the perfectly round ones are from my Matt's Wild Cherry plant in the garden.  The former are very sweet, almost like candy, while the latter have a much stronger tomato flavor.  The larger tomatoes are all from the patio except the one on the far right which if you look closely, you can see the zebra stripes!  For the potatoes, we had an issue with creeping charlie and it seem to strangle a few of the potato plants.  I pulled these up and dug up a handful of potatoes.  There are still about 6 or so plants left in the ground.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Rain today!

We had a nice, deep soaking of rain overnight and this morning (1.6" according to the weather channel!) and temperatures only got up to 82, which is a nice change of pace.  We, like most of the country, have been in need of some rain for awhile now.  There is a 50% chance of rain overnight and a 40% chance of rain Wednesday and Thursday, but I'm hoping to get back in the garden before too long. 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Update

This growing season has been a combination of goods and bads.  With this heat we've been having all summer, I feel like we've been playing catch up as we try to avoid the sun and humidity!  I feel like I'm getting close to caught up though, and have some "food for thought" pun intended on the garden thus far:

Tomatoes:
The tomato experiment with starting the 4 different kinds in the greenhouse this January seems to have been a huge success!  I have a ton of tomatoes from all of the plants that began riping late June (a solid month if not 45 days earlier that traditional transplants).  The negatives:  the plants themselves look pretty rough - like late season tomato plants already, and managing the moisture levels in the pots is difficult so we've had some blossom end rot, mostly on the first batch.  We will definitely do a few of these again next year, and likely add more dirt to the pot so they are as full as possible.  Also, the cages don't do much since the pots are round (not enough depth to get them to stand upright), so next year I think I'll try staking them.

Plant Review:
  •  Brandywine - delicious!  Best flavor I have ever had in a tomato.  I made a Caprese salad for some friends yesterday and got great compliments.  The fruit size is large and fills up your hand.  We will definitely plant more of these for next year.  Cons - the fruit are very globular and have started to split in this heat.  Again - a watering issue.  I likely need to be more vigilant about watering every day at the same time of day.
  • Red Grape Hybrid - very nice!  Good flavor and tons of production.  Again, the plant looks really rough but it keeps spewing out tomatoes.  Perfect little bite size snacks, and they ripened really early.
  • Debarao - overall, these are fine.  My next highest producer I'd say after the grape.  Flavor profile is okay, size is like a Roma but more round, less long.  I'll probably try and different type next year.
  • Moskvich - lowest producer so far.  These seem similar to the Brandywine but smaller.  I should have a few more to try in a few days so I'll be able to comment more on flavor then.
For the tomatoes in the garden - I've tried using stakes this year instead of cages.  My experience with cages seems to be that the plants end up knocking them over anyways, so we'll see how the stakes work.  I found green Velcro at Home Depot in the garden center to attach the vines which is great because you can adjust as the plants grow!  So far so good, even with the rain we've had.  I'll keep you posted as the season progresses.  We haven't had any ripe tomatoes yet, but there are plenty of green ones on the vines.  A few seem to have been snacked on by the rabbits (yes, they still like to eat away at the garden). 

Plant Review:
  • Matt's Wild Cherry - I'm going to do a review on this before the plant gets into full swing.  When they describe it as "Wild Cherry" they mean it!  This plant was taking over my garden.  I swear it now has 12 different stems full of grape-like bunches of cherry tomatoes.  The tomatoes are cute and round, again small (marble-sized maybe?), but I'm afraid of what this plant is going to do! 
The next step with the tomatoes in the ground is to prune.  I've never pruned my tomatoes, but I'll take before and after pictures and let you know if it seems to affect the plant/harvest.  By the way...the Zebra tomatoes are pretty cute with their stripes!

Peppers:
The peppers are in full swing and all doing well.  I have quite a few peppers on the vines, but none have fully ripened yet.  While weeding I knocked one off the vine and tried it - one of the Aji's - and oh my goodness was it hot!  I had to go inside for something to drink.  I heard that this heat is going to make the peppers even hotter...maybe our only use for them will be Brad's pepper flakes :)

Lettuces:
It was an interesting year for lettuces, I think.  My second plantings seem to bolt almost immediately - I didn't get anything off the plants - it was just way too hot.  There were mixed reviews on the others.  They've all been cleared from the garden bed, but I plan to put in a few more for a fall harvest in the next week or so.

Plant Review:
  • Spinach - This was an okay planting.  The flavor was good, but it seemed to be a favorite of the ants (or some insect).  With my fall planting I think I'll try a water-vinegar mixture to protect the leaves until it cools down a bit.  A few years ago I had tried a baby spinach variety that had smaller leaves (of course I don't know which kind it was), but I think I'll try and find something similar for next year.  The smaller leaves just have a sweeter flavor.
  • Arugula - This arugula was quite good, but with the heat bolted really early.  Lesson learned:  when Arugula starts to bolt, PULL IT.  It's too spicy to enjoy in a salad and if you leave it be, it becomes quite the weed.
  • Red & Green Romaines - Loved these.  They grew well and had great flavor, I really liked them in salad mixes.  We will do these again next year.
  • Butterhead lettuces - these also seemed to have been a favorite of the bunnies.  They got munched on repeatedly and never really had a chance.  Not sure what to do about these for next year, but I'd like to try them again.
  • Grand Rapids - did not have much success with these, though I don't think it was necessarily because they got eaten.  Probably won't do these again.
Others:
Again, we've had mixed reviews with the other plants this year:

Plant Reviews:
  • Radishes - I really enjoy the french radishes (and I'm not even really a radish fan!).  The key to these is to pick them while they are the right size.  Too big and they become hollow and more bitter.  I love the fact that they come up so quickly though!  Next year, I'll probably plant 4-5 at a time instead of rows so I can have a few ready to snack on each week.
  • Beets - a true favorite of the bunnies.  I have planted beets for 3 years and never gotten to taste a single one.  Next year, I think they will be grown in a container...
  • Carrots - first planting seems to be doing well, second planting never came.  The first planting took a long time to come up.  I'm going to try another planting here shortly.  I do have little carrot tops poking up though so maybe I'll at least get some baby carrots!
  • Kohlrabi - another favorite of the rabbits.  All I have is little stubs.  Another candidate for the containers next year.
  • Peas - oh the poor peas.  They got eaten off at least twice as they were starting to grow, not to mention the Mulberry trees have really flourished this year and covered the peas in shade (along with my tomatoes - they have now been trimmed).  They also didn't take too well to my lovely trellis.  I may try a late season planting using netting instead.
  • Strawberries - these seem to be doing well!  All of the plants flowered this year and I even got a few fruit (so did the birds).  My ever-bearing varieties have new blossoms on them too.  I have high hopes for these next year.
  • Asparagus - the Asparagus in the ground are flourishing.  I have high hopes for a good crop next year!  I still need to put my new seedlings in the ground, but hopefully this week.
  • Onions - They've just started to fall, which always catches me by surprise but I think the timing is about right.  Some of the bulbs came up while weeding and I seem to have a variety of sizes across the different kinds we planted, but we seem to have bigger onions than last year's harvest so that's a good sign.  In a few days, I'll pull them all up and have a better idea.  This winter I think we'll do some research on how to get the onions to grow larger.  The onions will need to dry/cure before we can use them, but last year's crop were good all through the winter!
  • Scallions - seem to be doing okay, but aren't quite to that typical scallion size.
  • Cucumbers - these went in the ground late, but I have a nice little four foot row.  The trellis is in place now so I hope they'll take off now that I've cut the branches down overhead.
  • Squash/Zucchini - these seemed to have come up well and are flowering nicely.  I thought maybe they would climb a trellis or something, but I don't think so.
  • Beans - another victim of the bunnies.  Oh well.
Next post will have pictures, I promise, plus an update on plantings for the fall harvest / overwintering.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Pepper Time

We have 17 pepper plants in the garden this year, which, now that I think about it, seems a bit excessive.  We have what I like to call, "Pepper Row" planted on the south perimeter of the garden with most of the peppers.  There is one that is supposed to grow quite tall that is in with the tomatoes.  There are also 2 on the patio in pots.

They include the following:
  • Lemon Drop (we tried these from my brother's garden last year.  They were yummy!)
  • Serrano Tampequino
  • Catarina
  • Chichimeca hot
  • Aji omnicolor
  • Aji amarillo
  • Satan's kiss
  • Brazilian Star Fish
The two on the patio are:
  • Sweet Cute Stuff
  • Tobago Seasoning
These are supposed to be especially good to raise in pots so we are going to try it this year.  I have read that you can bring pepper plants inside over the winter and they will do great, even keep their fruit, and be ready to go back on the patio next year.  We will try this with these two peppers and perhaps a few of the others if we like them.  Imagine, having peppers all year round?

These are all from the Hugo Feed Mill & Hardware Store.  They offered around 200 different kinds of specialty peppers difficult to find anywhere else.

We also have a few more traditional peppers that we purchased at the plant sale:
  • Thai Dragon
  • Jalapeno (2)
  • Gypsy
  • Poblano Ancho
  • Lady Bell (2)
Some of these peppers are hot and some are mild, and I have a couple of bell peppers planted for good measure.

Maybe we'll have to have a pepper tasting party to try them all out!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Let's talk tomatoes

First Tomato Bed
I have 17 tomato plants in the ground:
  • 1 Matt's Wild Cherry (plant sale)
  • 4 San Marzanos (plant sale)
  • 1 Cherokee Purple (plant sale)
  • 4 Big Boys (Mother Earth Gardens)
  • 4 San Marzanos (Mother Earth Gardens)
  • 2 Mountain Fresh (Mother Earth Gardens)
  • 1 Red Zebra (Mother Earth Gardens)
I have attached stock pictures for reference - we'll see if ours look the same!
Second Tomato Bed
Matt's Wild Cherry
San Marzano
Cherokee Purple
Big Boy
Mountain Fresh
Red Zebra










I also have 4 tomatoes in pots on the patio from our first planting this winter in the greenhouse, one of each:
  • Heirloom Tall Vine Moskvich
  • Hybrid, Red Grape
  • Heirloom Tall Vine Brandywine
  • Heirloom Tall Vine Debarao
I'm not sure which one is which, but I do know that the second one from the right is the grape plant because I have baby tomatoes growing!  They are still green, but they are growing and there are ton of flowers on all four of the plants.  I can't wait for our first tomatoes!


Tomorrow, we'll talk peppers.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Summer is here!

So it has been awhile since my last post, for which I apologize.  The first 2 weeks of May involved a holiday and a work trip, taking me away from the garden for 2 solid weeks.  Upon my return, the garden was a bit dry and the weeds had started to take over, but overall not too bad considering.  Now that I'm back in the groove, I will update in increments...including my foray into annual containers, the tomato experiment, the new additions from the plant sale and of course, the veggies.

But for tonight, a little inspiration.