With the help of my new planting cells, I’ve managed to plant more cool weather crops and in greater quantities than last year… and it really shows ! My plants this year are nearly three weeks ahead. The difference is pretty clear when … [ Continue Reading at http://itfarmersblog.com/?p=2580 ]
While the warm season harvest may be over, there is lots of work pertaining to the warm season left to do. One of the biggest challenges is organizing all of the food that was packed away. The canned items should be stored in a way that allows the cans to be inspected from time to time. A few cans will not properly seal, and if left to sit unsealed they are capable of making a real mess. You can tell the cans are no longer sealed when the center portion of the lid pops to the up position, as opposed to the downward position created by an internal vacuum. When the lids pop up, the contents should be discarded either in a compost pile or in the garbage. Out of over 100 jars of canned tomatoes only three have become unsealed.
The harvest may be over but it’s now time to collect seeds for future planting. I’ve found that the hot greenhouse makes harvesting and storing dry beans pretty easy. I start by collecting the bean pods and spreading them out on my tables in the greenhouse. The sun will then dry out the outer husk making the process of removing beans fairly easy, simply apply pressure to the outer husk and watch the pod crack along the seems. The dry beans inside can then be stored in a glass jar for planting next spring.
Lettuce seeds are also pretty easy to collect if they are allowed to dry in the sun. The plants will grow to about three feet in height, and will grow tiny seed pods after setting small flowers. I’ve been experimenting with the quickest way to harvest the seeds, but for now the best advice I can give is to collect each pod individually, and press the pods between your fingers to release the seeds within. You will then need to separate the seeds from the pods, or simply plant the pods with the seeds in the spring.
It’s nearly time to collect Pak Choi seeds as well. I didn’t get a large enough harvest to cook with this Asian vegetable, but I did try it raw, and it wasn’t bad, so I plan to save lots of seeds for next year. The plants seemed to put all of their effort into seed pods, so I may have planted them late in the season, but there will be plenty of seeds for next year.
Before collecting the seeds, wait till the pods turn a brownish color, and crack open easily. A few of the pods have already turned brown, but the majority are not yet mature.
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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….
The zucchini patch is doing much better these days. It seems the ground hog that I have yet to eliminate has decided to munch on only one of my zucchini patches, and leave the other alone. While I’m happy for something of a compromise for now, I will not loose to this beast, and I’ve got a long term mentality in mind. I realize this will be the location for my garden for years to come, and this family of rodents must be eliminated before all of my plants are as worn out as my aging checkbook.
The plants are still a bit small, but their ambitions must be appreciated. Most of them have three inch sized zucchini, pretty impressive for a plant which is less then two feet tall. One of these plants is sporting a double growth of produce.
I think the biggest reason for this turn around in my plants growth is directly related to the Miracle Grow I’ve been using to encourage life in these plants. I’ve sprayed a few gallons of the water/crystal mix on both patches of zucchini. It seems both areas are growing faster, and one will produce enough to keep the ground hogs away from the other. These rodents are also munching on the zucchini alone, and leaving the recovering cucumber plants alone as well.
Some of the first seeds I sowed in the garden were Waltham Butternut Squash, which are my second favorite winter treat, second only to Yukon Gold potatoes. I wanted to give these plants plenty of time to get growing well, but it didn’t seem to work. They have been popular snacks for deer and ground hogs, and most plants are shorter then the kitten that runs in my house every time I open the door. I’m going to make them a priority for side dressing and the blue water miracle grow mixture I’m using, as soon as I get some time.
Although the ground hog had trimmed my zucchini and with that action also trimmed my pride, I still have a good deal left. The front portion of the garden is growing very well. Here you will find two tomato patches, 7 rows of Yukon Gold potatoes, beans, celery, and onions. I’ve side dressed the celery and onions in an effort to kick start their growth, and I’ve applied lots of water on these brutally hot days. At least one day a week, I will cover the whole garden with four hours of sprinkler time.
The other end of the front row is also looking pretty great. My broccoli are slowly beginning to form heads, the colorful chard and lettuce are growing faster then I imagined and the beans are doing well enough considering the local deer populations appetite. My kohlrabi plants are still low to the ground at about 5 inches tall. These are cool weather compatible, so I’ve got plenty of time to get bushels of space cabbage. I’ve also planted a few pak choi plants near the kohlrabi, but they are still too small to see in the picture.
Just to note, the camera was about 15 feet in the air when I took these pictures, so the garden looks much smaller then it really is. The total length is about 250 feet long, and about 60 feet wide. I do tend to get carried away some times.
After detailing the war that has been ravaging portions of my garden in yesterdays post, I thought I would return my posts back to the bright side of things. The chard that I’ve been eating at least twice a week is doing great, still growing in wondrous colors. It’s very cool to pick and eat colorful food, and it’s an added bonus to an already healthy meal. The chard I planted last spring is just now going to seed, and I’m trying to help the plants with lots of water as they give their last energy to a new generation of possibility. I’ll do my best to collect as much seed as possible, and distribute it to fellow gardeners.
My seven rows of Yukon Gold potatoes are doing great. The first flowers have formed on a few plants. When the flowers disappear, the plants will begin production of my favorite spuds. There were three shorter rows of potatoes last year, and they lasted nearly to February. Seven rows should provide enough golden goodness to last all winter and have enough seed potatoes for next year.
This year I forgot to start some Tomatillo seedlings in the greenhouse, but Mother Nature decided to start some for me, and they are located all over the garden. The plants that do not get misidentified as weeds should grow to carry the green colored tomato-like food. I’ll then make it a point to save seeds this year.
My lettuce patch is doing great, and I really think the puppy within 30 feet of these leafy greens is the primary reason why. The endive I’ve planted further away is being nibbled down to nothing, so I know the critters have an appetite for lettuce. I’ve been trying to keep this area of the garden as free of weeds as possible. In the photo you can see how much trouble I’ve had controlling the grass.
I took a shot from one end of the garden, looking down towards the opposite edge. A good deal of the green in the photo is comprised of weeds, but I’m keeping them shorter then the garden plants, and many of my family members are beginning to help with the pest plant control. I even had help from two of my niece’s friends.
I stopped in at my sister’s house this weekend, and as usual, I wound up taking a bunch of pictures. Sandy and Davie didn’t plant much last year since they were helping so much with my garden. After missing their backyard buffet last year, they made their garden a top priority this season, and it shows. In the center of their garden they have a row of old tires with lettuce, herbs and chard, with a plum tree at the end closest to their driveway. The four tires shown provide all of the salad they care to eat, and then some. These plants seem to grow very well due to the warming effect the black tires have on the soil.
Sandy’s herbs are doing great, with basil and parsley stealing the show above. There are chives growing very well on the left of the picture, but they are hidden by this monster of a basil plant. Also included in the tire: an artichoke plant. When I brought over the herb plants from the greenhouse, I added a artichoke plant in the mix, and somehow Sandy and I must have had a case of miscommunication. She thought the little plant was sage, and added it to the tire of herbs.
Sandy and Davie have used a unique system of trellis to hold their cucumber vines up off the ground. The trellis is constructed of two parts, with the bottom section forming a upside down V, and the top portion standing above the V.
The cucumber plants will then climb up the v portion, and the cucumbers themselves will hang down from the trellis as shown.
The celery is also doing great, nearly twice the size of the celery in my garden. Since these plants are from the same seed starting date, I can guarantee that this mulch or soil is to blame for the distinctive vertical differences.
It wouldn’t be a visit to Sandy’s house without posting a picture of one of her many animals. Here is her last chicken, the grand-paw of many a colorful chicken, and father of my rooster.
I’ve tried in the past to grow a good selection of lettuce, and always regretted neglecting the plants. I’d usually end up spending my time tending tomato plants, weeding the cucumber patch, or pretending I was a fish in the local river.
My timing was never quite right most years, but alas, I think I’ve got the hang of it, and the salad above was all picked from my back yard buffet. It’s a diverse selection of greens, reds and even yellows consisting of lettuce, mesclun and chard. I cooked up some garlic bread sticks to go with my salad as an extra reward for all the work I’ve invested.
I’ve also managed to protect my peas enough to get a few for some stir fry in the near future. In the center of the photo is a small, and still thin pea. In past years the deer and ground hogs would have nibbled away the plants to nothing, but this year I’ve gotten serious with some heavy duty wire. I bent the wire in half, and placed it over the plants. They have since grown through the cage, and will require additional support, but at least this work won’t be in vain. I just hope I can harvest the crop before my sister then loves peas beats me too it = )