Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Planting the Cabbages

Last fall I sifted through my compost and prepared as many beds as I could. Sadly six of the beds didn't get covered in compost. I just didn't have enough. i will have to buy some more this year. But I decided to try something else too. I'm experimenting with biochar which I got through the Northeast Organic Farmers Association bulk buy that they have every year. Biochar does a lot of what compost does. It help prevent leeching of nutrients and helps retain water in the soil. It also makes the soil more alkaline. Which here in the northeast with our acidic soils, is a good thing. Hopefully I'm not raising the pH too much. I tried to look up application rates and people are all over the board on how much you ought to apply.

Interestingly enough I've used a kind of biochar in the past (and still do). I don't use regular bone meal. I use bone char. It is a slower source of phosphate than most fertilizers and doesn't leach out as much as most phosphate fertilizers do. When I tested my soil when the garden was first put in, it was very low in phosphates. I wanted to be able to put something on the garden that would last and not leach out to contaminate our local water sources. But I wanted the plants to have plenty of phosphorus. Bone char fills both needs.

I usually don't turn the soil over much, but I wanted to incorporate the char into the top 6" of soil. So I mixed it up pretty well. In addition I added a little high nitrogen fertilizer as cabbages are heavy feeders.

Every year I remake my measuring stick. I put in marks at 4" and 6". The stick is 3' long. Since I keep it outside in the garden the marks fade every year and have to be reapplied. I measured out the sections that I was going to plant.

And then planted them all. I planted three michihili Chinese cabbages (2 Green Rockets and one from old seed from Mac). These each got a section that was 2'x3'. The plants are huge. I wish I could find a slightly smaller michihili cabbage, but they all just seem to grow big. I planted three Optiko Napa Chinese cabbage, five Early Jersey cabbage, and five winner kohlrabi. I swore last year I'd grow more kohlrabi, but somehow that didn't happen. The row of choy sum in the foreground was an afterthought. I had the seedlings and didn't have a space to put them. I think they will produce before the big michihilis will need the space.

Then I put on my row cover. I noticed the first cabbage butterfly out yesterday. I hope it didn't lay any eggs on my plants. I had them just sitting out uncovered while they were getting hardened off.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Unwrapping the Figs

Yesterday was a beautiful day. I wasn't really quite physically up to doing gardening chores, but I really wanted to go out and unwrap the figs. So I went out anyway and then came back in and collapsed when I was done.

Figs are not hardy here. They would die back to their roots every year if they weren't protected. So I protect them. I cover them in leaves. Add insulation and then for one fig tree I added more leaves and a tarp. I'm experimenting with the more well wrapped one. I'm hoping I can keep enough of the branches alive to get a first crop. Last year all the breba crop dropped off last year. It might not be possible to keep the branches well enough protected to get one. But it never hurts to try.

The main crop grows off of new growth. So I keep the main trunk of the tree growing horizontal along a supporting pipe. It is very low to the ground which makes it easy for me to insulate. And the new branches will go up the wires. The fig certainly puts on fruit well this way. But in our short and coolish summer it is really iffy if I get a crop. Last year I got a handful of figs. They weren't as sweet as figs grown in a climate made for them, but it was something. Some year I may give up on them but not yet.

I won't really know how much of the trees survived our bad winter until they start to leaf out. I can see some winter damage, but I really can't tell the extent of it yet. My main hope is that the trunk survives. With that, the branches will shoot up quickly.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Harvest Monday April 21st, 2014

Imagine my delight when I saw this last week.

Whoohoo! My first harvest of the year. It wasn't weighed or recorded. It wasn't really big enough for that.

Since I was trying eggs on my elimination diet, I put the chives into some eggs. Yum.

And I am still eating from my stores. I had the flu last week so I ate a lot of rice and fruit and not too much from the stores. I have a lot of greens to still eat up. But sadly just one sweet potato is left. Though it is a huge one.

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 show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Weeping Plum

Yesterday a package showed up at my door. It was my Weeping Santa Rosa Plum tree that I ordered last winter. I'm a bit under the weather right now as I have the flu, but that didn't stop me from going out to plant it. I don't have a lot of space in the yard for more trees. But this one is a small plum it only gets 8'-10' tall. It doesn't produce quite as well as a Santa Rosa but most people think the plums are tastier. It isn't supposed to require a pollinator which is good as I don't have another Japanese plum.

The space I'm growing it in is just three feet wide and the first half foot doesn't really have any soil as it is by the brick path. But it has a nice long area it can spread out into. So I put the roots going along the long part. This section used to contain my self seeding sunflowers. But I've grown a little bored by them especially since I don't really eat sunflower seeds all that much. I was really just feeding the annoying squirrels. I probably will have one sunflower growing though near the corner of the house. At least if the transplant takes.

I'm not going to prune it like a normal tree. It really has to grow linearly so it doesn't block the path. I'm going to try to prune it to two side branches that stay over the bed and not in the path. So it will be interesting to see if I can do it. Trees always reach for the sun which would be the direction of the path. I've put in some T-posts that I'll use to train the main branches and keep the tree growing upright. But I'm not putting in a full trellis. Hopefully it will work.

I figured that I wouldn't want to be outside long as I was coughing and the weather was cool. But my lungs seemed to like it so I did another chore that I hadn't gotten around to.

I wrap up my bamboo in the fall to keep it dry and put it on one of the beds for storage. I had to take it apart and put the poles by the shed so I can use them when I need them. This small chore left my muscles aching and me very tired. I really shouldn't be working outside with the flu. So I spend a few minutes exploring the garden before going in.

The good weather earlier really warmed up the soil and my peas are starting to come up. I'll have to take the netting off soon so they don't get tangled.

The radishes came up a few days ago. I'll have to thin them out soon. Though I didn't sow them too thickly so it shouldn't be too much of a chore.

My romaine lettuce has really grown well. If it would warm up again (and it is supposed to), it won't be long before I can steal a little.

And I was ecstatic to see how well this sage was doing. Sage doesn't like to grow here for some reason. So I think I put five plants in the garden last year. I was hoping to find a place that it would be happy. I seem to have found two places where the sage is growing well. Which is good. I ran out of sage the other day and really need to be able to pick more. This seems really healthy and pickable. I was afraid I'd have to go buy it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Gimmer of Hope

Usually the news doesn't make me happy. Just the opposite. But "Plant Breeders Release First 'Open Source Seeds'", put a smile on my face today. I don't think life of any kind should be patentable. A new process to create a GMO should be patentable, but the seed itself shouldn't be. Life is sacred and shouldn't be owned. We may not be there yet, but for now at least some people want create seed that is sharable.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I swear it was 69F yesterday.

At least the coating of frozen rain was pretty thin. I'm sure it will all melt out quickly. Boston does get snow in April every three or four years. But it isn't something that I expect.

I'm sure my little bunching onion seedlings didn't expect it either. Poor things. Luckily everything I have planted now can handle it. Even the onions seedlings above will be just fine even if they are mad at me for not taking them in last night.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Harvest Monday April 14th, 2014

The week started out with some nice soup. It might be the last major soup dish of the spring unless it gets cold again. Not much came from the garden. The Chinese cabbage was not mine. The carrots, celery , and onions were not mine. I think the only things that were from the garden were garlic and sage.

And speaking of sage, I used the last of the sage to make some homemade sausage. I figured if I couldn't buy premade sausage because they add a lot of nasty things, I'd just make my own. I don't have a grinder or anything, so I just used ground turkey (and not the low fat variety). A couple other seasonings like thyme and onion powder came from the garden too. The applesauce was homemade, but not from my trees. My husband has really been into applesauce recently so I even made more. This time with no sugar and no lemon so I can eat it too. I also ground up the peels to keep the fiber content high. My husband declared that it was good. My daughter complained it wasn't as good as the jars I made in the fall.

Kale, Sweet Potatoes, and Seasonings from the Garden
This seemed to be the week of eating sweet potatoes. I ate them most every day. Last week it was squash.

Sadly I only have three sweet potatoes left, though one of them is huge.

I often switch to sweet potatoes when the pureed squash runs out. And it had last week. So yesterday I made some more. I now have five nice containers in the freezer again. And only three squash left. Though as I walked by the squash (which I store on the stairs going down to the basement), I noticed that one is starting to rot in one small spot. I should have noticed that when I picked which squash to roast. Oh well. Maybe I'll roast up two more to freeze. It is about the time for that anyway as they only store so long.

So some of my stored goods are getting low and some have run out altogether already. I have noticed that my overwintered kale is starting to grow again. Some nice leaves are forming. I hope the rest of what is planted grows quickly. Fresh food would be so nice right now.

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 show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.