Monday, May 30, 2011

Late May Veggie Blooms

The blooms you find in a veggie garden this time of year may not be as obviously spectacular as those in a conventional flower garden, but if you stop and look closely enough, there is still plenty of color and interest for the discerning eye. I realized this as I worked in the garden today. In no particular order:

The mizuna has bolted. Like most other brassicas, the flowers are yellow and remind me of little exploding fireworks.

My Seville orange tree is blooming. I'm crossing my fingers that we'll have some orange marmalade in time for Christmas since we won't have any Meyer lemons this year.

I've been meaning to pull up what's left of last year's scallions but haven't gotten around to it...

I'm glad I didn't because the blooms are really interesting and complex close up.

Last year's sage and thyme are taking over the herb bed and will have to be trimmed back.

The purple sage flowers remind me of lavender. I wonder if they are in the same family.

The crimson flowered broad (fava) beans have the most stunning blooms in the garden right now.

I can't get over how beautiful the crimson flowers are. The plants are stockier than the more common Windsor variety. I wonder if the beans taste any differently.

My white-flowered Windsor fava beans are growing vigorously now. I have to remind myself to water them everyday now that our daily highs are in the 80's. Last year, I didn't do so during a hot dry spell and had a lot of blooms drop as a result.

I read somewhere that fava bean flowers and shoots are very tasty. I could never bring myself eat them as I love the eventual beans too much!

Last year, I made some flavored vinegar from these chive blossoms. I have to admit that the flavor was a bit strong for my taste. Maybe this year I'll try something different and steep them in some olive or canola oil. This giant cluster of chives is growing alongside my cantaloupe, Imperial artichokes and relocated wild strawberries.

Finally, this may be the saddest looking flower of the bunch but who wouldn't be excited to see the first tomato blossoms of the year?

The End of May Harvest

It's only fitting that the end of May harvest should coincide with the end of our Spring greens. During the past few days, temperatures have reached into the high 80's and as a result many of our cool weather greens have started to bolt. This seems rather sudden considering that we were experiencing nightly low's down in the 40's only a couple weeks ago. Yesterday, I harvested all of our spinach and as much of the mizuna as I could salvage. I'm really happy with how the spinach performed this spring. The plants grew huge and we ended up with a ton of leaves to freeze.

I also ripped out all of our Asian greens. These will last in the fridge for a long time...hopefully until the snow peas come in. Some of the outer leaves are a bit hole-y from the slugs but these should be fine once trimmed up.

Our lettuces are coming in strong right now. We have to eat as much as we can before they begin to bolt as well.

Finally, the radishes are ready for picking. They are tasting spicy already. Most of them will go to Jonathan's grammy. Unfortunately, I've haven't been able to develop a taste for them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

At Work in the Back Garden

This past weekend, I spent most of Saturday in the back garden. Most of the work involved weeding, designing the space and building up the raised beds. It's amazing how much earth you can move with a simple garden rake. It helped that the soil wasn't too compacted. Instead of framing each bed with lumber, I drove wooden stakes into the ground and used string to outline the growing areas. Not only was this more cost effective, it also involved much less work.

A major difference from the before picture don't you think?

Here's a view from the opposite end of the garden....

DSC_0010 well as a semi-close up of the beds. I'm actually very pleased with how it all came together. The paths should be easy to weed with a stirrup hoe and once in while, I'll tidy up the edges of the raised beds with the garden rake.

Sunday was all about getting my summer transplants into the ground. It was a lot of work and I rushed to get everything planted before I had to catch my plane in the afternoon. I didn't quite finish but the rest can wait until when I get back. I didn't take any pictures before I left so I won't be able to post any until I return home late Thursday.

I hope you all are making major progress in your gardens!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Late May Harvest

Greetings from Washington, DC! I meant to write this post before I hopped on the plane last Sunday but never got around to it. Yes, we're eating plenty of Asian greens this time of year. And as you can see, the slugs are becoming more active. Some of our greens are now showing signs of slug damage. Upon closer inspection, it is mostly the work of baby slugs. Great. I guess it's breeding season. Time to break out the sluggo again. I'm afraid it might be too late for the Napa cabbage by the time I get back.

The radishes are still tiny but decided to pick a few anyway. Jonathan still loves munching on them straight from the garden. I was afraid that he might have outgrown his taste for this humble veggie. Apparently not.

Finally, I love this Winter Density lettuce. It's sweet, crunchy and perfectly-sized for a single meal. Our lettuce is growing very well this year. The slugs are leaving them alone and the cool weather has kept them mild tasting.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Waiting.....A Repeat of 2009?

I have about seven trays of heat-loving summer veggies waiting to be transplanted out into the garden. With the weather working against me, I'm getting anxious about getting everything amended, turned, planted and weeded this week - even if I have to do it in the pouring rain.

I'm really happy about my pepper and chili plants this year. They have grown to a size perfect for transplanting.

My tomatoes are looking good too. Part of me is REALLY annoyed that they are not in the ground yet. (I feel behind my fellow Massachusetts gardeners in this respect!) This year, I'm only growing 20 tomato plants, which is about half the amount I grew last year. For a family of three, this is more than enough I think. We are still consuming pasta sauce and salsa from last year's crop and we'll have enough to get us by until the first tomatoes come in. My goal is to grow enough so that we never have to buy jarred pasta sauce again!

My corn on the other hand is growing comfortably inside. They will have their first taste of the outdoors tomorrow. I'm growing a lot of corn this year and two varieties. This just the first sowing. I have two more to go.

I've also started a tray of long beans. I had really good germination rates from pre-sprouting the seeds in a paper napkin first before sowing them in cells. However, I had awful results last year planting pre-sprouted seeds directly in the garden.

In addition to these, I also have more Asian greens, a 2nd sowing of broccoli and cauliflower, cantaloupe, french melon, watermelon, strawberry, cucumber, zucchini, acorn squash and herb plants waiting to be dealt with. Needless to say, this will be a busy weekend.

Looking at the forecast for the next 10 days, I can't help but to wonder whether or not we're in for a repeat of 2009. Starting plants from seeds yourself definitely helps to mitigate the risk of blight and other plant diseases. So what do you guys think? Will this be a good year for farmers and veggie gardeners on the East coast?

Exploding Melons????

I don't know about you but I have no interest in eating these melons....even if they hadn't exploded...yet another reason to know your farmer!

China - Acres of Exploding Watermelons - NY Times

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Around the Garden this Week

The garden seems perpetually covered in rain drops this week. In some ways, I don't mind so much as I think the garden tends to be at its prettiest right after a rain storm. Here's a quick update on how things are looking this week. In no particular order:

On Sunday, I made a pea trellis out of wooden stakes and some leftover wire fencing. I like being able to recycle materials in the garden. Both my shell and snow peas germinated really well this year. In front of them, I sowed bush beans (Contender and Dragon's Tongue) and edamame (Envy) last week. With the cold and wet weather we've had lately, I don't have much hope that they will germinate well.

I also used some dead branches to prop up this planting of shell peas. I used this method last year and it worked out well for me. Plus, I think it looks pretty.

My broccoli and savoy cabbage are starting to really grow now. It always amazes me how certain plants will look for weeks as if they're not growing at all and then suddenly take off.

My overwintered scallions are sending up flower stalks. I'll be interested to see how they look.

My overwintered sage is also flowering at the moment. The beautiful purple flower buds also have an intense sage scent. Maybe I'll make a flavored oil or vinegar out of them.

The beets are growing rather slowly. I'm just glad the garden rodents and bugs are leaving them alone. I'm trying to do successive sowings to maintain a steady supply of beets this year.

Finally, I had planted some Seascape strawberry crowns a few weeks ago. Seascape is a day-neutral variety that should produce fruit all summer and into the fall. The plants are starting to flower already. However, I'll have to pull all of them off for at least the next six weeks so that the plants can put all of their energy into growing healthy roots and leaves.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mending Fences

Despite the awful weather, Jonathan and I were able to get some work done in the garden this past weekend.

Our first order of business was to move one end of the fence enclosing the side garden eight feet closer to the growing beds. This section of the garden doesn't get much light and the area had become neglected and covered with overgrown grass and weeds. I started by marking where the fence was being moved to and dug a narrow trench. Cutting and pulling up this section of fence was much easier than I'd expected since the ground is still moist and loose.

Once the fence was in place, I closed off the cut ends and replaced the sod. In total, this job took about an hour. All that's left to do now is to lay down some cardboard and straw to kill this narrow patch of grass.

Next, I had to tackle the fence enclosing the back garden. I'd put it up hastily last summer and with all of the snow we had this past winter, it was in really rough shape. Taking it down was the easy part. Digging the perimeter trench, adding several more stakes and putting the fence back up took all afternoon.

Thankfully, I think it turned out pretty well. Now that the bottom six inches of the fence is buried, I doubt the rabbits will be able to break through this summer. And the extra polls should prevent the wire fencing from sagging.

I even got around to building a new door for the back garden. Now I won't have to leap over the fence like a crazy person.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Idea of a Family Business

Meet Your Farmer - Chase Farm from Pull-Start Pictures on Vimeo.

If I could capture my dream for the kind of working life I'd like to lead in a seven minute video, this would be it. I have to admit that I've always been a bit envious of those who grew up working alongside their parents and siblings in a family business. Sometimes you just can't do everything yourself, especially when it comes to something like farming. Who better to rely on than those closest to you? The farming family featured in this video seem not only very driven but also very tight as a family unit.

It would be amazing to be able to start a business one day - one that fulfills my passion for food and growing things and one that can be passed down from one generation to the next. If you've started your own family business, I'd love to hear about it! I need all of the inspiration I can get!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This Week's Harvest

The Asian greens are just pouring in at this point. That's really all there is to say. I'm sure everyone is sick of seeing the same harvest. (Sorry guys!) At this point, it becomes a race to eat everything before these heat sensitive greens start to bolt. The tatsoi and mizuna are already heading that way. Luckily, most Asian greens still retain their sweetness even at the flowering state.

I'm growing two varieties of bok choy this spring. This is the mini white stemmed variety. I wasn't expecting it to be quite as large or beautiful. The slugs have stayed away but I can sense the little green worms are just around the corner. Asian greens will keep in the fridge for a very long time so I might just harvest everything at the first signs of trouble.

So what's next? You've guessed it - more Asian greens. These mini Napa cabbages mature rather quickly and should be ready in a week or two.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Around the Garden - A Slow Start

How Depressing....the weather forecast is predicting nothing but rain for the next five days. As I walk around the garden, I can't help but to compare this spring to last year's. Everything seems to be growing slower this time around. Is it just me or are my fellow gardeners living in New England noticing this as well? Hopefully it's just my imagination.

I caved this year and purchased a Asian permission tree. This is a non-astringent variety called Ichi-Ki-Kei-Jiro that is supposed to be hardy down to our zone 6. I have it growing in a pot that is the size of a half barrel. I know, I know - I'm not expecting much from it in this potted state but I couldn't find it in me to plant it in the ground. If we end up purchasing a new home within the next few years, I wouldn't want to leave it behind just when it was starting to produce. Call me selfish. As a result, it'll have to spend the next few years of its life in this pot. I will however plant two less-exotic fruit trees from Home Depot and leave them for all future owners of our home.

The only things seemingly unaffected by the weather are the wild strawberries. Hopefully we'll be able to pick some of these tasty little yellow and red nuggets of strawberry goodness soon.

My red onion sets are looking good. I have a feeling I planted them too close together though (about 4 inches apart). As you can see, some critter did away with two of my Brussels sprouts! I had to buy transplants today to make up for this loss.

My Napoli carrots have germinated very well - close to 100%! I'm excited to see how they will grow in my raised box. On the other hand, only 50% of my Paris market carrots germinated. I hate having to reseed gaps.

The fig trees I purchased last year are showing signs of life. I really hope we get some fruit this summer. To increase the chances of this, I really should move all of my fruit trees to a sunnier location.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Farms of New York City

New York Farm City from Petrina TV on Vimeo.

This probably has to be one of the most beautifully filmed short videos I've come across online. If only we could live in a world filled with as much color. Yet another reason why urban farming rocks!

(On an unrelated note, what's up with Blogger lately?)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This Week's Harvest

I can't believe it's been almost a week since I've posted anything. Truth be told, I was sick as a dog for the past few days and could do nothing but watch the grass grow. One of the things I dislike about traveling is that you become exposed to new germs and bugs from other parts of the country the moment you step onto the plane. It's times like these that make me extra paranoid about touching ANYTHING in the "public" space, which may prove rather difficult when you have to utilize public transportation every day.

Anyway, the garden is really starting to produce an abundant amount of greens. Our fridge is now stocked with kale, bok choy, tatsoi and spinach. The conditions have been ideal for growing Asian greens and we now have enough to eat for a least the next few weeks and hopefully until the snow peas come in.

I'm starting to harvest my lettuces as well. I have to remember to sow my heat tolerant varieties this week.

Finally, I picked a huge bowl of spinach the other day. This will provide for several meals at least. We've been lucky that the slugs and field mice have caused little to no damage to our spring greens this spring. Still no signs of the little green worms (knock on wood).

I'm growing a variety of spinach called "Regiment". The leaves are fairly large, semi-smooth and have a good flavor. As an added bonus, this variety is extremely hardy and rather quick to mature. I would highly recommend it.