I’ve finally gotten my first cool Broccoli and Cauliflower that I’ve grown from seed this year. I usually don’t like broccoli, but I did enjoy the few small pieces shown above. Next year I’ll make it a point to grow more of these plants.
I haven’t yet tried the cauliflower, and I’ve been told I need to place a rubber band around the white flower on this plant. I’m not sure why the rubber band is needed, but I’d be willing to bet someone will tell me = ) It can’t be a deal breaker if I forget to place one, since I imagine this crop was around long before man discovered how to turn trees into tires and springy projectiles.
The garden is so very big that I often don’t get to see whats growing in the different area everyday, and sometimes I may miss a portion for weeks at a time. I was having a pretty bad week for a number of reasons, but after spending some quality time checking out what I had been missing in the garden, I’m back to my normal calm self. I’ve found a single pumpkin growing in a abandoned compost pile beside the garden. It’s not the biggest, nor smallest pumpkin, but it was planted with no effort of my own, and I’m sure the kids will have fun with it.
I haven’t been paying much attention to the cabbage plants that I put in long ago, but while taking a look at the garlic I planted, I noticed that three of these plants look very promising, and I may just get some sauerkraut from them.
One of the first things I planted this spring was a row of directly seeded cabbage. It was supposed to be a mix of different cabbage plants that would grow and form heads at different rates. Unfortunately, only one of those seeds would grow into a plant, and there it is, the first plant of 2011.
Some time ago, my favorite cat “Boots” quit arriving for his nightly meal. Since he was a wild cat, and a male, I’m hoping he simply decided to “rough-it” and live off the land in the woods. Since he has been gone for about a month, I’m contemplating keeping this black and white kitten that has been following me around in the garden. His name is joker, and he really likes chicken and cheese.
Above, Joker navigates the space between a Swiss chard plant, and my now 4 inch tall Pak Choi plants. He didn’t stray further then a foot from my feet the whole time I was taking pictures.
In total, I think I’m doing pretty good for the season, with unexpected cabbage, broccoli, and even some potential Pak Choi soon to be on the menu.
You might notice that I’m not very good at weeding the garden, and I really don’t think it’s good for the soil anyway. I tend to let the majority of non invasive plants grow, so long as they don’t choke out mine. I will let some plants grow unchecked, such as clover, mushrooms, most non clumping grasses, and a good selection of plants I don’t know by name. I’ll pull up any pig weed I spot, as well as a few other difficult to pull weeds. I do this to help the soil retain the nutrients it contains in an active life cycle. I also leave pulled weeds to rot in the rows between my plants.
I believe this lazy method allows the cycle of life to constantly spin, with the decomposition cycle occurring at the same time as the growth cycle. I also believe the weeds will absorb some of the excess chemical fertilizers ( Miracle Grow plant food) and hold them in limbo until the plant is pulled up, and left to rot. The rotting plant matter will feed the soil slowly rather then running off as a pure chemical would.
In other words, I think of the weeds like little catch basins. As the chemicals I spray run off, they can be trapped by the weeds which then grow faster. When I pull the weeds from the ground those chemicals from the fertalizer feed the decomposition cycle, and to make a long story short, more of the chemicals are locked into the soil in a active life cycle. I realize I may be dead wrong in these assumptions, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
So here are the junior farmers that helped me pull weeds, and leave them to rot back into the life cycle. The lettuce is one area of the garden I try to keep free of weeds out of simplicity’s sake. It’s much more difficult to sort out the weeds after you bag up lettuce then to simply keep the area weed free in the first place.
So how did I get that first shot from such a high angle ? I climbed up the side of the greenhouse like Spider Man….. o.k., well maybe not with spider silk.
Kids and Adults, don’t try this at home.
I propped a ladder up against the greenhouse at the same angle as the roof, then carefully climbed to the top. Now that I know this method works, I’m hoping to find a longer wooden ladder….
I’ve been working on quite a number of things which seem to consume my daylight hours, so I didn’t get to look through the garden till after 10 PM. I have two very small LED lights which I use to navigate my way through the growing micro forest, and locate the treats that fuel my gardening habit.
I’ve finally started getting a good supply of Chablis peppers, and I’m picking them early before they are ripe. I also found a Brandywine or Cherrokee purple tomato that is beginning to ripen, and I won’t know which it is until the color fills in. These two crops are just beginning to reward me for my hard work tending to their needs, and sprinkling them with nutrient enriched water. I’m still finding more Red Alert cherry tomatoes then I can eat, which always makes a happy gardener while giving away the surplus.
The lettuce just keeps growing as if it’s some sort of magical plant. I give away large zip lock bags full of it one day, and the next day the plants seem undisturbed and taller then ever. I’ve gotten so much lettuce that I’ve been eating it almost daily on my lunch break. Why should I pay $5-$10 for fast food that is no good for me when I can have a free salad that is homegrown, healthy and most of all tastes better ?
The zucchini plants continue to recover from the early summer ground hog onslaught, now that some of these animals have… err… moved on. The small plants which bore the brunt of the attack are beginning to grow very fast, and the zucchini and cucumber seeds that I planted in mid-july are popping out of the ground almost in victorious celebration. I planted far more seeds then usual, hopping to balance out the ground hog side of the equation. Now that the ground beasts are missing in the math, the equation will hopefully be out of balance in favor of lots of veggies for canning and freezing.
While I was wondering around in the moon light free darkness, I spotted something I would have dreaded as a child: Broccoli that looks edible. These days I’ll be happy to try it out, hopefully smothered with cheese and free of those pesky green worms I always seemed to find in store bought heads. Perhaps if I slice them thinly and fry them in butter with garlic and salt they will taste like broccoli chips.
Here is my most promising cabbage plant to date. It is also the one of the very first seeds to find it’s way into the soil this spring. I had planted a row of mixed cabbage seeds, and this was the only seed to poke it’s way through the soil. As a child, these green leaves would have haunted my dreams like a water sourced monster reaching out to pull me under. The adult however sees this plant as a large bowl of sauerkraut, something I enjoy, and hope to ferment the cabbage from this plant into.
I’ve been trying to expand my gardening skills to include cooler weather crops, or in other words the items that I didn’t like to eat as a child. I’ve had to adjust my thinking about the growing season to get the plants going, but I think I’m on the right track. I planted my broccoli weeks before the garden was roto-tilled, using a pick axe to turn over and smash up the soil. The plants were tiny then, and after a few visits from some ravenous critters, I wasn’t sure if they would make it, but here they are, growing quite well.
I’ve found a few peas that are ready to be tossed in salad even though they were planted late. I’ve also found that the squash plants that have invaded my strawberry patch are quite good, although they don’t seem to taste like zucchini. They carry a nutty flavor, and light colored stripes. I’m going to assume they are a cross over mix of many of the squashes I grew last year. Either way these plants must have gotten a very good jump on the season, as the rest of my zucchini plants are shorter then the veggie shown.
I’m not the only gardener thinking about the late season possibilities. Over the Fourth of July weekend, while visiting the whole family and enjoying my birthday cake, my Mother and I began conspiring to plant cooler weather crops, and so we planted seeds for broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I hope to add cool season kohlrabi to the mix if I can locate seeds soon. We decided to leave the seedlings on the steps to allow them to grow up in full sun.
The peppers and tomatoes seem to be right on track now, after some heavy watering with my new water cannon. The peppers shown still need some help from the compost pile, but in due time they will be growing like the bean in the fabled jack in the bean stock story.
The honey berries that I planted in the field are doing really well. They have begun their vertical reach, and are nearly 8 inches tall. I wasn’t sure how well they would do in my neck of the woods, but daily trips out to the edge of my yard with a gallon of water have paid off very well.
I’ve finally taken the plunge and moved out my tiny goji berry plants. I’ve added a layer of safety just to be sure the sun would not cook them while they were taking root. I placed a green mesh over the plants to block out about half of the sun’s day time rays. I was mainly trying to block the hot rays the sun beams down during the middle of the day, as they seem to be the most damaging. I moved one of the plants out to the field last week using the same setup, and recently added the second. The shade will be in place for about a week just to be sure the plant gets a good grip on it’s new soil.
I’m still waiting for my paw-paw tree, which won’t be shipped until September or October. I find the timing of shipping to be odd, as most plants arrive in spring, but when it comes to paw-paw trees, I’m the still the amateur.
I still need to call the Rototiller guy and schedule and appointment, so for now I need to work the soil the old fashioned way: By hand. I was using my garden hoe to level dirt as part of my chicken coop project, and couldn’t find it when I was ready to get started, so I used the rock pick in the photo above. I am so impressed with how well this pick works that I will be using it from now on to work the soil in the first pass. The tool is somewhat heavy, so once you lift it off of the ground, gravity kicks in and propels it deep into the soil, much easier they a hoe.
I planted some De Cicco Broccoli right next to my already thriving Swiss Chard. This is my first year growing broccoli from seed, and with all of the spring rains, I’ve just now gotten it planted outside. Hopefully I haven’t ruined the taste of the produce by exposing these young plants to temperatures above 90F in the greenhouse. I guess it really doesn’t matter, as I’m not a big fan of most cold weather veggies. I’ll just smother these broccoli heads in cheese, or chop them up real small and add them to macaroni and cheese or spaghetti for nutritional value.
So here’s the progression of my cold weather crops plot, with Peas on the far left, Cabbage and Cauliflower in the second row, Swiss Chard growing like mad in row three, and Broccoli on the right. The Chard is doing so well, that I’ve had to use a plastic barrel to hold my sprinkler high enough off the ground to hit all the transplanted seedlings.
There is one cool weather crop that I have a fond taste for: Strawberries. I used to spend hours in the fields of Sullivan County, PA collecting the smaller wild versions of these. I would return home at a young age with my shirt held out holding a large collection of berries witch surely stained my shirt. I couldn’t return without enough to share with the rest of my family, and my father would usually look at my filthy stained shirt, smile while shaking his head and hand me a large bowl, to which I’d return once again filled. This was once my favorite activity, with Blackberries and Raspberries also in abundance. Now that I’m older, I hope to build a more complete collection of edibles on the farm for my nieces and nephews to pick. I’ve got everything from Gooseberries and Apache Blackberries to Honey-berries, Strawberries, Grapes and Cherries so far…. I guess if I’m not conning myself these berries are as much for me as the children.