Thursday, April 28, 2011

Getting Ready for the Big Planting.

I had some unexpected surgery on the 6th of this month. I'm still on the mend, but I'm doing fine. My son Jonathan knew I needed the garden tilled so I could get my seeds put in. He came over and tilled it for me, even though it was 93 degrees outside. I sure appreciated his help!

Before he tilled the area, he picked the last 10 ounces of broccoli from it. He also harvested the remaining rainbow Swiss chard that weighed in at 2 1/2 pounds.

This is the tiller my wife bought me three years or so ago for just $199.00 from Home Depot. What a deal!

After the tilling was done the next item to check out was the irrigation source for the crops. This required an expert's evaluation of my system.  Jonathan's almost two year old daughter Celie was the expert I selected. It's a good thing it was 93 degrees!

Her question was: "Is it cold?"


Jonathan is tilling between the bean rows to get the area ready. I'll be planting the reliable stringless Fortex green beans from Johnny's selected seeds in Maine. I bought 2,000 seeds for $56 this year. I plan to harvest my own seeds at the end of the season. Notice how nicely the tiller fits in the 36 inch row spacing. I'll use that for weeding purposes again this year. It worked wonderfully last year. When the beans grow up, they shade out the weeds. This makes it easier to control weed growth.

Here are a couple of shots of the bean rows after I finished preparing them for the seeding. Notice the wide row bed. I used this idea last year after the fact, but this year, I plan to water my beans throughout the gardening season by flooding the row beds. I won't be doing overhead watering of the beans this year.

This resembles raised bed gardening, but my rows are narrower than what I see referenced in the books on raised beds. When I plant my bean seeds, each row will have a double sowing of seed. In addition to that, I plan on using the succession method and replanting all the rows about every three to four weeks. That's why I bought so many seeds ahead of time.

Grandaughter Celie is helping me tie up my grape vines so the wind won't break them off. She's a great helper!

As you can see, the broccoli seed pods haven't turned brown yet. The large size is very interesting though. Some plants are beginning to lay over but are still green. They are not as lush a green as they once were. My tomato seeds aren't germinating too well, so the broccoli will get a few days reprieve from being pulled. I have read that if you pull the broccoli plants up by the roots and hang them upside down, you will get viable seeds from the pods. Unfortunately I only read that in one place. Does anyone out there have any experience they'd like to share about harvesting broccoli seeds?

That's all the news about our garden for this posting. Thanks to all my visitors and commentors for stopping by.

Have a great vegetable gardening day and take the time to teach a child about growing vegetables. What you share with them will be remembered later in life if not now. It might make the difference in them becoming a wonderful vegetable gardener!

Veggie PAK

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Our Garden Continues...

First of all I hope everyone is safe and secure after the violent weather we've had in the last few days throughout the gulf states and the east coast. Mother Nature has sure been flexing her muscles!

Now back to better things. I've run into a few delays on getting my garden started when I wanted to this spring, but now I'm on my way with it.

These are 3/4" mini soil blocks all made up and put in a flat ready for the seeds to germinate.

The upper flat in the gray plastic tray contains Swiss Chard Bright Lights seed in 2" soil blocks. The lower flat contains seeds for dill, red, yellow and orange bell peppers, common sage, and san marzano tomatoes. Old bread truck trays make excellent holders for two flats at a time. They're stackable, which is very handy when bad weather is on the way. I load them onto a flat hand truck and roll them into my shop. When it has cleared, I roll them back out into the sunshine and unstack them. Of course I won't be able to stack them when they sprout, but they are still easy to carry in to safety in case of bad weather.

The top flat in this picture contains 46 each 2" soil blocks with dwarf french marigold seeds sown in them. I harvested those seeds last year when I had the marigolds throughout the garden to help deter  various types of pests. The flat in the lower portion of the picture contains 40 each 2" soil blocks of Petaluma Gold Rush Bean seeds (Thanks Michelle!).

The following three pictures are of my high bush blueberries that are going into their fourth year. Each of the buds that you can see in the pictures will be a blueberry. You can see the blue color at the base of the buds. In addition to those branches in the pictures, there are new ones sprouting all over the bushes, so I anticipate a plentiful harvest this year.

I can't wait 'til they're ready to pick!

Early last year I planted a Brown Turkey fig tree next to the fence in our back yard. Here is the very first fig that it is producing for us.

My Glenora grape vines appear to be just beginning to show their new spring growth for this year. Upon closer inspection, I was suprised to find... baby grapes! On the very few green leaves and vines that are showing growth, there are nine clusters of grapes forming! I can hardly wait to see what the full vines will be bearing this year!

I need to plan now for installing bird netting before they begin tasting the grapes when they are ripening. If I don't, I'll lose a lot of the grapes.

The broccoli has gone to flower and is going to seed. Some of the yellow flowers are visible in the picture. When the flower petals dry and fall off, little green pods are left that develop into the actual seed pods. You can see the seed pods here that actually look a little like small green beans. If you click on the picture, it will show you a larger view. (Use the back arrow to return to the blog.) They look like crooked little green candles.

Here is a later picture of the same broccoli plant. You can see that the flowers have browned out and most of them have formed into seed pods that are larger than those in the previous picture. Click on the picture and you can see that the main stalk is becoming distressed and is shriveling as indicated by the indentations developing along its length. That means the seeds are growing just the way they are supposed to. If you look close at the pods, you can see the bulges of the seeds in the pods.

With a little luck, the weather will cooperate and I'll be able to do the final tilling of my soil this week before I can plant seeds in my garden. That's all the high points from our garden for now.

Everyone have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Monday, April 11, 2011

Harvest Monday for April 11th, 2011.

I was able to assemble a meager harvest for this week's efforts. I pulled the salsify that has been growing for five months and also picked some broccoli florets.

These are the roots of the five month old salsify that weighed in at only 4 ounces. They don't even reach all the way across the tray of my table scale! By the time you clean them, there may be a tablespoonful left to cook. Sounded easy enough on the seed packet directions, but that shows that you can't believe everything you read! The packet pictures made them look like large white carrots.

Nine ounces of the small broccoli florets were pretty nice to get this week. Most of the plants are already flowering and going to seed. But that's a good thing! I'm keeping an eye on them so I can harvest the seeds. From the information I have reviewed, the seed pods MUST dry out on the plant while it is still in the ground. Even if you pull the plants out and let the pods dry, the seed will not be viable. Does anyone have any experience with saving broccoli seeds?

This is something I usually don't put on my blog, but it was so good that I had to share it with all of you. I used a bag of Mrs. Wages Dilled Green Bean mix last fall to make a few jars of dilled green beans. Well, I like how it turned out because I like dill and I like green beans, so I couldn't lose on that one. Today for lunch I gave my wife a sample of the dilled beans and she liked them too. Then we thought, "What can we make using these dilled beans?"  We had a can of chick peas/garbanzo beans in the pantry so we put them in the mix. We had a sweet red bell pepper in the fridge so I diced that up and mixed it in. For some extra juice, I poured the liquid contents of one of the two pint jars we used into the bowl, mixed it up and it was really great! It reminded me of a three bean salad, except this was a two bean and a pepper salad! I will be using many bags of Mrs. Wages Dilled Green Bean mix this year!

That's it for this week, and that just about depletes the garden of any future harvests from plants that are out there at this time. It's tilling time for the last time before the seeds go into the ground. I'm anxiously sitting here with 2,000 Fortex green bean seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine. I can't wait to get them into the soil! I plan to use intensive gardening methods and succession planting for them this year.

Happy vegetable gardening and good weather to everyone!
Veggie PAK

Monday, April 4, 2011

Harvest Monday for April 4th, 2011.

This week's harvest was a little better since the weather has warmed up so much. Today was in the low 80's.

The schav, or sorrel as it's known around here, looked pretty good so I decided to harvest it in order to make some potato and schav soup. I was able to get 5 ounces of it.

The Detroit dark red beets are the same size as they were last year with no bulbs to speak of. The root might be as large as the diameter of a wooden #2 pencil, that's it. They were planted on October 29, 2010, and this is as far as they have grown during that length of time.

My green beauty garden peas (courtesy of Michelle of CA) are doing nicely.

The salsify is actually growing this year. It was planted the same time as the Detroit beets.

This is the ruby red swiss chard that my grandaughter planted for me a while back. I'm going to transplant them into the garden so they can flourish.

These are Bachelor Buttons I planted for the bees and butterflies. They are supposed to really like them. I'll be transplanting them throughout my yard.

This is my French Tarragon. It is really starting to grow vigorously.

Here is some Tuscan Arugula (courtesy of Michelle of CA). It is growing very well. I'll need to move them to bigger pots.

These are three pictures of some of my heritage red raspberry plants. The smaller ones have sprung up from the root of the parent plant. Hopefully, more will be showing up.

Two new plants have come up near the house foundation.

These raspberry plants seem to be growing very well in this area of my yard. It's just the strip between the house and the concrete driveway, but they look happy there. I'll be happy to pick the raspberries they produce.

The Swiss chard did pretty good over the winter considering the snow that was on it for so long. I was able to pick 1 1/2 pounds of it for this week's harvest.

The Vates collards were picked today for the last time. I pulled them out as I picked the leaves off. I had a total of 7 1/2 pounds of collards for this week's report.

The broccoli has produced all that it could for this year. I have to pull it out to make room for the new plants. I picked 8 ounces for this weeks harvest.

My broccoli was the Waltham 29 type for this year. It did pretty well considering the harsh winter it went through. Since it bolted, I thought I would give seed saving a try. At first I thought something had gotten into it and eaten the parts where the seed pods would form. Thankfully, I was mistaken! If you look near the points of the yellow arrows, you can see the lighter green seed pods that are forming. I didn't realize that is what they were until I got very close to them and then could see the individual seeds in each pod. This is the first time in my life that I am saving broccoli seeds from my own plants.

Well, that does it for this week's report. I hope everyone is enjoying warmer temperatures and adequate rainfall.

Thanks for visiting!
Veggie PAK