Monday, September 22, 2014

Harvest Monday 22 September 2014

I've been eating about a pound and a half of carrots every week. It has been a good year for carrots so far. Which makes me happy as I just love them.

I picked enough kale to freeze. I picked all the lower leaves off so that when I sprayed for the second time I wouldn't have as much to cover. Then of course I haven't gotten around to the second spraying. I really need to do this as curly kale is hard to wash. Also in the basket is the first of the fennel seed from the first sowing of fennel. It had better hurry to ripen up the rest of the seed. There is a LOT of seed on the plant that just looks green and is staying that way. I can still pick it for eating, but I do want to save a good bit for future plantings.

I hadn't noticed how large this later planted fennel had gotten. I really need to keep a better eye on them as they are better small.

My sole zucchini. I wish I had more. I've loved putting it in about everything. I do hate how little I got this year, but I do love the taste of this zucchini. Sadly I haven't been freezing any recently.

Beauregard, Garnet, and Pruple

And as I showed you yesterday, I picked half of the sweet potatoes. The Purples did fabulously. The Garnets did well. And the Beauregards were a flop this year.

  • Carrots: 1.56 lbs
  • Greens: 3.42 lbs
  • Herbs: 1.51 lbs
  • Squash, Summer: 1.07 lbs
  • Sweet Potatoes: 19.45 lbs
  • Weekly Total: 27.01 lbs
  • Yearly Total: 483.67 lbs
  • Yearly Tally: $755.92

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, September 19, 2014

Sweet Potatoes

Half dug up, half for later
Usually I dig up my sweet potatoes at the end of September, but with the temperatures getting cooler I wondered how much they were actually growing. You can't store sweet potatoes at temperatures under 55F. How could they grow when the air temperatures get down to the 40Fs every night? And tonight it is supposed to be in the 30Fs. I'm guessing the potatoes might be better if harvested earlier. So I dug up half of the sweet potatoes. I'll dig up the other half at the usual time. I'll find out if there is any appreciable difference between the two.

Beauregard

I have three types of sweet potatoes. The first contender is Beauregard. It is a typical sweet potato you find in American markets. I should have dug up three plants. I found one. The other two had died. The problem was this spring. I planted one week earlier than before and we got a cold snap (usually I plant on June 1st). It got down into the 30Fs. There wasn't a frost, but the Beauregard potatoes did not like it. I think it made them too weak to compete with their neighbors. The one plant that did survive produced very small tubers for a total of 8.9 oz. Pretty pitiful for the space of three plants.

Garnet

Garnet had five plants and they mostly produced. I have a range of decent, but not big tubers and tiny little ones. The tiny ones were made by vines that had rooted as they grew, so not the original plant. Typically in our climate these won't produce anything at all. Extension services in New England usually tell us to put down black plastic and plant them a foot apart. In the south you can plant them three feet apart and they will spread into the whole area. The vines will root and produce decent tubers from that. This year I placed them a bit farther apart than normal to see how they would grow. Well Garnet obviously used the extra space to root. They produced a total of 9.14lbs. For 1.8lbs per plant which is decent but not stellar.

Purple

Next on the contender list is Purple. I got these a few years ago from Norma and have kept growing them every year as they do so well here. In other years they have made long snaky tubers that are a little hard to use, but this year they made huge monstrous tubers.

The biggest was 1lb 7.4oz. Purple did not root like the Garnets did. They just produced a lot in the area they were planted. I pulled three Purple plants. They produced 9.76 lbs for 3.25 lbs per plant. Wow that is a lot of poundage.

I had 21 plants total in the bed if they were all this productive I would have a harvest of almost 70 pounds in a 32sqft area. Of course I don't want to plant all Purple sweet potatoes. I like about half purple and half orange.

In the past I've had extensive insect damage that makes the skins inedible. I had to peel to eat them. The flesh was fine, but it meant I couldn't just roast a sweet potato to eat it. The Beauregard are the worst affected with the Garnet being the least. This year there is very little damage. A couple will have to be peeled, but most can be eaten anyway I like them. Whoohoo! I wish I knew why it was so much better this year. I haven't a clue what eats them. Maybe the sow bugs? But I'm sure I'll have bad years again. I was thinking of dumping Beauregard anyway and now that I've found it can't handle cold snaps in the spring, it has sealed its fate. I'll probably split the bed between Garnet and Purple from now on. Though if I can get my hand on some Covington slips I would love to try that one as they are supposed to grow well here.

The total harvest from this half of the bed was 19lbs 7.2oz. Since half the bed is about 16sqft this was a pretty good harvest even with Beauregard not pulling its weight. Last year I grew them in the wooden raised beds. This year they are in the brick raised beds which are warmer. Last year half a bed produced 15 pounds, so I'm happy with the added production and will keep them rotating every other year in the two brick beds. I can't wait to see what the rest of the harvests brings. It might be more. It might be less.

After they were harvested I put them out on the brick path to dry out for a bit. Then turned them over and let the other side dry. After wiping the dirt off with a dry rag I packed them up into a clear plastic box. Farmers here use greenhouses to cure their sweet potatoes, and my clear plastic box is like a mini greenhouse. I spread the potatoes in multiple layers separated by a couple of grates.

The reason for the greenhouse is that sweet potatoes are supposed to be cured at 80F-85F and 90%-95% humidity for 4-7 days. I don't have those conditions. So I do it in a plastic box in the sun. I don't close the lid all the way though as that would get mold to form. And I'll cure them for a longer period than a week as they only get warm enough for a short time during the day. It isn't perfect, but it works. My sweet potatoes always last until basement starts warming up in the summer. If I have any leftover then I cook them up and freeze them.

Now the long wait before eating them begins. I hate waiting. But they won't develop their sugars until after they are cured and stored for a few weeks. I might break into them earlier as they are still good starchy and not sweet, but not quite as good.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Compost Time

I finally got my butt in gear yesterday and started to turn the compost pile. Well it isn't just one compost pile. First I had to play musical chairs with the other bins and sift out the finished compost along the way. Typically bin 1 (pallet bins numbered from the left to the right) has the most recent garden waste in it. Bin 2 has older garden waste that was turned over from bin 2. Bins 3 and 4 are leaf holding bins. Some Years I can wait until I need compost to turn over the piles but bin 1 was bursting at the seams and needed to be turned.

Since Bin 3 still had some leaves in it I moved them to bin 4 sifting out any finished leaf mold as I went. Since Bin 2 was a mix of finished compost and things that hadn't decomposed, I sifted through it. All finished compost went into Bin 3. All decomposed items went into the overflowing bin 1. I did part of that yesterday and part today. But finally bin 2 was empty.

Once it was empty I noticed that a lot of compost had fallen in back of the bin over the years. I have my cedar fence back there and I don't want that to decompose on me, so I took out the pallet and scooped up all the excess. I'll do that with the other bins when I get them empty next time. Though the fence looked fine as it wasn't really buried, the bottom board of the pallet had decomposed. I flipped the pallet over and around so the undecomposing boards will be in toward the compost. These have been here for about 3 1/2 years. And considering they are cheap wood, they have held up pretty well. If I can get seven years out of the pallets I'll be really happy. I can get free pallet easily enough just by asking around, but dragging them back and taking apart the piles to replace them is a PITA. I'd rather they last a long long time.

Once bin 2 was empty I started turning bin 1 over into bin 2. The top part is all new additions that are getting turned. As I turn them I'm adding a bit of eggshell that I've collected from the kitchen (the bag on top of the compost). And that is where I left it. I'll have to finish turning. And once I get down far enough I'm sure I'll find more compost to sift through. Hopefully it will be done before the weekend.

In totally non-compost non-garden related news, the Macintosh apples were in at the farmers market. I picked up a few to make my husband some applesauce. I'm going to be canning every week I can get my hands on more apples. He doesn't eat a lot of fruit and applesauce is one that he loves. I make it very healthy when I make it for him. No sugar and I use a stick blender to blend the peel into the sauce. I think if I make 75 jars he might be happy for the year. I'm not sure I'll have time for that many, but I'll try. I would also love some applebutter for me.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Harvest Monday 15 September 2014

This was my only full mixed harvest basket of the week. I had to pick the kohlrabis as they were getting too big. I think I have one more that is desperate that I'll get to this week. I figured they might have woody spots and I was right. But they were small and easy to cut around. The Chinese cabbage wasn't so great and I only added in half the weight as I had to cut so much out.

This may be the last year of growing Napa in my garden. It never keeps and has all sorts of trouble from insects to disease to growth problems. The Michihili is almost always good. I had one in my fridge for about two months over the summer as I ate a leaf or two at a time (the leaves of Michihili are just huge). The only flaw with that kind of cabbage is that it is really tall and I can't keep it in my regular plastic storage containers. I need to use two plastic shopping bags, one on either end, to contain it in the fridge. Next year I might be trying more varieties of Michihili if I can find them. Napa is easy to find but the taller cabbage, not so much.

My zucchinis are finally in the swing of things, just in time for the weather to cool down. I hope they keep pumping out a few every week like they have been though. Then I can eat two and freeze one or visa versa.

Though the summer beans are gone, the fall beans are producing well. These are Kentucky Wonder. It is another variety that I think I won't grow again. Golden Gate was so much healthier.

Remember the spring carrots I picked and put in separate containers so I could eat them at the right rate before the fall carrots came in? Well it worked out perfectly. I had carrots to eat all summer long. And once they finished up I could go out and pick the first of the fall carrots. These are Mokums and one of them got 9" long. I've never had one longer than 8" before and usually they are shorter for me. One of the reasons these did so well is they were put after the spring brassicas. I have nematode problems in my garden. Whatever kind of nematodes I have don't like the brassicas. I know mustards actually fumigate the soil of them. Next spring I HAVE to put them after the mustards. These carrots show no sign of nematode damage at all. I'm a little worried about the storage carrots though. I grew them after the fava beans. I just hope they won't be too infected and not grow well.

As you can see the harvest has gone way down this week. I pretty much photographed everything and I only had four photos. The weights are back into the single digits. I will have some big harvests this fall as I harvest storage crops - sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots. But except for those weeks, the harvests will be steady (hopefully) but lighter.

  • Beans: 0.91 lbs
  • Carrot: 1.33 lbs
  • Greens: 3.17 lbs
  • Greens, Asian: 1.06 lbs
  • Herbs: 0.06 lbs
  • Squash, Summer: 1.97 lbs
  • Weekly Total: 8.49 lbs
  • Yearly Total: 456.66 lbs
  • Yearly Tally: $668.82

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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.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Condo Work Day

I tried to find a before photo, but I haven't taken a lot of photos of the area recently. This was the best I could do. It is really a photo of the peach tree that died. About half the blueberries died too last winter. Even with them, the area was never very pretty. It is right in front of my door and what you see as you enter our yard. So when the blueberries died I decided I wanted a perennial garden in that spot. The blueberries that lived can stay. But the whole corner near our walk is empty. I ran the idea by my condo mates and they agreed, so the project was started.

I'll be planting in the spring, but I wanted to get the hardscaping done this fall. This consisted of a lot of cobblestones. To get it done we scheduled a work day. Which ended up being 10-12. We had trouble scheduling but got all six members of the condo to come. For those that don't know, our lot has a pair of townhouses on the land, two people are on our side and four on the other.

Above is the finished product from my front door. As you can see I put rings around the trees. I don't want any plants within four feet of my precious peach trees. I LOVE those peaches. It also denotes where my townhouse mates can weed. Anything green inside the circle can be taken out. Easy. I'll probably end up weeding the perennial bed in the spring. I know what is plant and what is weed and no one else in the condo can do that.

Here you get a good idea of the spots I have to work with in planning the perennials. These won't be edible - though you never know if one will slip in our not. The area down by the road still has living low bush blueberries - not that you can really see them - so I'll leave those alone. I also have one living blueberry by the end of the path in front of my door.

And we added a little extension from the drivable grass to our path. I've always wanted a path like this with a green river inside. So I'm going to see if I can grow mazus as a ground cover in between the cobblestones. I might pull it off. Maybe. Either that or it will escape its designated spot and take over the world. BTW the bush that you see there is one of my gooseberries. I have two next to it on either side, but I'm trying to grow them as standards and they really don't like me for it. They are growing very slowly and are still small.

All in all the work went pretty quickly. Though I did lay a few cobblestones, mostly I fixed errors in laying. When I told them 4' from the middle of the trunk, I really did mean 4' and not 4' 3" or 3' 10". I don't even need a tape measure to see those errors. When the curves are off it just looks bad.

We did hit one snag along the road. When we moved in the landscapers cut the curve to our driveway and out in the road. Well that section wasn't cut all the way through. Mostly it was fine, as it was far enough down and the cobblestones don't go far into the soil. But in sections it was too high up and we couldn't break it off. So there is a slight change in the curve. It will probably bother me for the rest of my life. I'm not terribly obsessive compulsive, but the artist in me objects to the curves not being correct. `

Kale in the afternoon shade - My garden is shady in the fall

In vegetable garden news it has been pretty slow. I finally got out this week and sprayed the kale and broccoli with a soap spray. I'll have to do it again this week. If I don't, I'll lose my fall harvest of these plants. The kale would still live over the winter and provide food in the spring, but I could use more kale in the freezer. Other than that nothing is happening. It has been a very slow week in the vegetable garden.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Harvest Monday 8 September 2014

The beginning of the week had the same old same old. Beans and cukes. But then I pulled my beans and cukes. So of course the fall beans started to produce in a big way. But I swear there will be no more cukes anymore. All of them are out of the garden.

I did however get more zucchini since the zucchini plants have more sun now. Not a lot. They are shaded in the morning and midday. But at least they get the late afternoon sun and a brief peak earlier. This is pretty typical for the garden in fall, but they are in probably the shadiest spot. I'm glad they are producing even without too much sun as I have plans for my zucchini this winter so I need to be able to preserve some.

And it was a good greens week. Not only did I water the garden, but mother nature did too. And the greens really responded. Especially the chard. Of course the chard was also happy to have the beans ripped out. The beans really shaded them and stole their moisture. But now they are gone and the chard is in heaven. Last week when I picked chard I was thinking it was getting tough and not tasting as good. But this week it was tender and delicious again. I'm glad those beans are gone.

Alvaro

Halona

And then there are the melons. It was a good melon week in a good melon year. And sadly the last melon week as the plants are pulled and I planted some spinach in their spot. And now that all the numbers are in I can do a little evaluation. I grew three varieties of melon - three plants of Halona (22.41 lbs, 7.5 lbs/plant), three plants of Sensation (17.97 lbs, 6 lbs/plant), and two Alvaro (10.43 lbs, 5.2 lbs/plant). Halona was the clear winner in taste and production. Sensation was nice for its difference and also tasted pretty good. Alvaro was the bottom in all categories.

The one thing that was nice about Alvaro was its late production. If all my melons got harvested in the same week I'd never be able to eat them. I did give 2.5 melons away over time, but most of them I ate (or will eat this week). Melons are a major treat from the garden and I don't like missing them. I give them away if I have more than two melons at a time in the fridge. I tend to eat half a melon a day. So that works out pretty well. Though Alvaro was OK. It certainly was very sweet. I obviously don't like the charentais melon taste as much as the cantaloupe taste. I just need to plant a later cantaloupe I think. Or try a different kind of melon that is later.

With the melons being pulled it marks the transition from the summer crops into the fall crops. Though I've picked small bits of fall crops over the last few weeks, next week I'll be picking Asian greens again. I've noticed a large Napa that needs picking soon. But I will really miss the summer fruit. The only fruit I'll get is little handfuls of raspberries this fall. I got them this week, and I'm sure I'll continue all through fall.

  • Beans: 2.14 lbs
  • Broccoli: 0.94 lbs
  • Cucumbers 3.09 lbs
  • Greens: 2.33 lbs
  • Melons: 15.89 lbs
  • Squash, Summer: 1.85 lbs
  • Weekly Total: 26.24 lbs
  • Yearly Total: 448.17 lbs
  • Yearly Tally: $649.02

  • Fruit
  • Raspberries: 0.38 lbs

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.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cooler Weather

Last night the heat and humidity broke with an intense storm. Since most of the tall things were out of the garden there wasn't a lot of damage. This sunflower bit the dust. It isn't just tipped over. The two inch thick stem is broken off.

The broccoli above and the kale are a bit tipped. I fixed the broccoli this morning. I saw one head forming down in the tip. I really hope we get a good broccoli harvest this fall.

While I was under I decided the other side needed cleaning out too. I cut out a lot of side shoots to eat and left only a few to keep going. The aphids have started to invade and I wanted to get the worst of them out. One broccoli plant was removed a while ago and I removed another one today. So now I just have the three old broccoli that have been giving me food all summer long. And of course the five new ones that I hope give big heads in a month. I think I left it clean of aphids, but I'll have to spray with soap (along with the kale) sometime soon or I'll lose the forming broccoli heads. This is a big problem here with broccoli in the fall. The kale is almost as bad. Last fall I quit eating it because it was just too hard to get the mass of aphids off. Blech!

Next up was my melon patch. I picked the last two melons yesterday before the rain hit as I didn't want them to split. There were actually two little melons that would take a couple of weeks to ripen, but I wasn't sure it was worth it to leave them there. Fall ripened melons just aren't the same as summer ripened melons. I tried to untangle the mass enough to save at least one while still cleaning up the rest of the bed. I had succeeded and had just the one line of vine left. Then as I moved it back I put too much pressure on the branch and it broke off. Oh well. I did try.

But I needed the space to get my spinach in finally. I hope to get some harvest this year, but the odds are slim as the sun gets lower in the sky. I sow spinach seeds in rows 6" apart and put the seeds about 2" apart. Last year I put in Winter Giant, but it didn't perform well. So instead I sowed my trusty Space spinach until I ran out of seed. Then I filled the last spot with Winter Giant in the northern corner. If it doesn't do well this winter, I won't grow it again. Space is such a nice spinach for me that I don't mind just the one variety.

I had a bit of a problem with the row cover. The leaf miners will still be active for at least a month or a month and a half. But I couldn't find a used row cover that was large enough to cover the whole thing. So I cobbled two of them together. I hope it will hold for a while. The white one really needs some patching as it was from last year. The netting is so nice as it lets in the rain, but it is fragile. It isn't quite as bad as the really thin agribon, but still it gets holes fairly easily.

And this is my compost before all the additions. You can barely tell it is a compost pile at this point with all the morning glories climbing all over it. But they will have to be pulled soon so I can get to the compost to put on the soil for next year. I probably should have put some on the spinach bed before sowing, but didn't even think about it. I guess it will get its layer next spring when the spinach is pulled.