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Storage and Seeds

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment
Canned Tomatoes

Canned Tomatoes

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.

Giant Speckled Lima Beans After Drying

Giant Speckled Lima Beans After Drying

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 Seed Pods

Lettuce Seed Pods

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.

Pak Choi Seeds Not Ready

Pak Choi Seeds Not Ready

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.

Pak Choi Seeds Ready

Pak Choi Seeds Ready

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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Life Beyond Tomatoes

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Cart Full of Tomatoes - Photo by Sandra Macpherson

Cart Full of Tomatoes - Photo by Sandra Macpherson

The valley is awash in a sea of ripening tomatoes. At one time it was acceptable to pick tomatoes every week or every 4 days, but that time has come and past. It’s become one of those occasions when all hands are required on deck, to pick, and pack this win-fall of healthy food. I try to help as much as possible, but the work continues even when I’m at work. My Mother, Sisters and Davie have been picking and washing off the tomatoes the last few days, and the cart above is full of tomatoes thanks to their effort.

I was told that if I would have stopped by while everyone else was helping, they were planning to pelt me with mushy red projectiles as I headed towards the front door. I’m reasonably sure the statement was in jest, but I’m glad I didn’t get to find out first-hand.

Jessica Looking at a Lot of Tomatoes

Jessica Looking at a Lot of Tomatoes

I was showing my niece, Jessica, and my nephew, the little gardener, just how much food we had produced in our garden. I’m sure both of them were just as amazed as I was to see sooooo many tomatoes.

Some of these tomatoes still need to ripen, while others have already been packed away in jars. The boxes on the floor to the right contain mostly canned tomatoes, some spaghetti, and a few boxes of other things.

The blue box labeled “Light” contains Pennsylvania home grown plums. They were a gift from a neighbor, and I hope to start a bunch of little trees from the pits.

Peppers

Peppers

There is life beyond tomatoes however, and it starts with my other big crop for the season: Peppers. The ones shown are still a bit young, but I picked them anyway. There was a tiny chance that a frost was coming our way, and I didn’t want to loose out.  While picking, I may have found a pepper plant that rivals Chablis Hybrid peppers in production. I don’t know what the name of these peppers are, but I planted them at least two weeks after the rest, and they are producing comparable amounts of peppers. I’ll be saving the seeds from these long green peppers and replanting them next year.

Saving Seeds

Saving Seeds

I’ve also been busing saving even more seeds. The peas that died a month or so ago left lots of seeds behind in dry, blackened pods. The trick to saving them for next year is simple. Take them out of the pod and keep them dry. I’ve been doing the same thing with my Ying-Yang Beans and Brown Crowder Beans. The Ying-Yang beans have been more of a pain to shell and so, I haven’t yet freed them from their pods.

"Dwarf" Bananas

"Dwarf" Bananas

My “Dwarf” Bananas are still growing very well, but with no sign of edible bananas. One of the plants is about four feet tall, and the other is at least five feet. They collect more light in my kitchens bay window they they let past, and I’m wondering what I’ll do in a few years when they have grown to the ceiling ? I guess I’ll have to add on a new tall sun room.

Opportunity Salad September Edition

Opportunity Salad September Edition

The best part of a garden is the hope it gives you in the spring, and the reward it provides you in the fall. I wanted to eat something good the other day, but I’m about sick of lettuce, so I decided to make a salad without lettuce. Instead, I added some Swiss Chard, colorful tomatoes, cucumber, celery and onions. Add to that a touch of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and you’ve got yourself a snack that would make any gardener smile. I was quite proud to notice that only the olive oil was from the store; I planted the seeds that grew the rest.

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Next Year’s Garden ’12

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment
Saving Tomato Seeds

Saving Tomato Seeds

It’s that time of year when storing away garden goodies isn’t the only priority. This is a ripe time to save seeds for next years garden, and if you’ve looked through a seed catalog, or lived anywhere other then below a large rock, you too may have noticed just how much seeds are selling for these days. If I had to buy seeds to replace the four varieties shown in the picture, I’m sure I would spend at least $10 on seeds, and I would probably get about 120 seeds for my money. Saving these seeds took very little time, and I’ve probably got about 500 seeds on the four trays.

Saving Tomato Seeds:

Cut open a tomato, and allow the seeds to drain onto a layer of newsprint, then simply let the seeds dry. When there is no more moisture, carefully peel the seeds from the paper, and store them for the spring.

Next Year's Seeds

Next Year's Seeds

I’ve also purchased quite a few seeds packets. I ordered the seeds on the right as our government was foolishly debating raising the debt ceiling. I was going to order them later in the season anyway, but I decided I would sleep easier if I ordered them before the debt deadline. I tend to sleep easy when I’m prepared for an outcome that is far worse then what I expect.

New Garden ?

New Garden ?

I’ve also been kicking around the idea of making a new garden area. It’s more or less a rough idea at this point, but the dirt is nice, the slope is less steep then the current plot, and there is lots of water nearby. It could be an additional garden, or maybe a replacement. I guess I’ll see where the world is headed during the winter months, and figure things out from there.

Timing and Progress

July 6, 2011 Leave a comment
Broccoli

Broccoli

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.

Zucchini

Zucchini

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.

Winter Seedlings

Winter Seedlings

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.

Peppers

Peppers

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.

Honey Berries

Honey Berries

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.

Goji with Shading

Goji with Shading

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.

Direct Seeded Plants & Rock Garden Status

June 3, 2011 2 comments
Watering with a Sprinkler

Watering with a Sprinkler

On Tuesday I started planting Tomatoes, so by Thursday I decided it was time to switch gears to direct seeded plants. I started with some Lettuce, then Purple Kohlrabi, two flavors of Mesclun then I finished up with some Green Beans. I’ve been trying to pace myself so that I’m not too warn out for working the next day, and I now have 9 whole days to finish the rest of the planting before going back to work. You heard it right, this IT guy is going into full farming mode for over a week !

Direct Seeded Crops

Direct Seeded Crops

Here are the seed packets for the items I’ve planted as seeds.

When I was planning what to plant the other day I couldn’t find the Kohlrabi seeds I ordered, so I went to Home Depot to find some. Their seed selection was still pretty healthy, but there was only purple Kohlrabi available, so I bought three packets. When I finished planting that day, I found the original white kohlrabi seeds.

The table under the seed packets is a side project I’ve been constructing from locally grown/harvested rough cut lumber. You may notice the pattern at the bottom that was left by the sawmill when the giant blade cut this tree into slices. I decided to leave these lines slightly visible to give the piece some additional character. When it came time for staining it, I used a combination of Oak and Birch stains, which have turned out beautifully. I’d really love to be a full time farmer / furniture builder some day.

Goji Berries

Goji Berries

I’ve finally gotten my Goji berry plants, but I must admit I’m kinda upset with them. These tiny plants cost me $12 plus shipping and handling. I’ve always been one to hold my tongue and not complain, but that is quickly changing. I’m realizing that when things are unfair, light must be cast upon the shadows. I’m planning on calling the company in question and asking if my generously filled out order forms do not merit 5 living plants.

Rock Garden

Rock Garden

On a more positive note, my Rock Garden is starting to come together nicely. Most of the larger stones were in place when I started this project, and I’ve fitted the smaller rocks around them to build a set of steps. I’ve worked this area as an artist would swirl paint on a canvas, letting the end result be more of a product of the initial state, rather then my own will. I guess it would be simpler to say I’m building around what I’ve been given, and not forcing the project to a particular design.

After constructing the steps, I moved many of the larger stones in the foreground to build a planting area for my herbs. I have Basil, Parsley, Sage and Chives planted here. Behind the apple tree trunk shown, I hope to construct another planting area. Here I would like to place some of the wild Spearmint plants that grow all around the farm.

Seeds – Rearin’ To Grow

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment
2011 Seed Supply

2011 Seed Supply

There it is, my supply of seeds as I head into the 2011 growing season. I’ve got all the essentials, including Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Beans, Zucchini, Winter Squash, and lot’s of things which are new to me such as Artichokes and Eggplant. I have my schedule of when to plant each item ready to go so that on June 1st I’ll have hundreds of little plants ready to be moved out of the greenhouse and into the garden. The only thing standing between me and this years growing season is about 3 inches of snow, 6 weeks of time, and the new mess I’ve made in the greenhouse. (I really need to build a workshop for my woodworking hobby).

So here’s the breakdown of my seed collection:

The shoe box on the left contains mostly seeds that have been saved from past gardens. In here I have mostly peppers, squash, and tomato seeds of various flavors, sizes and growth habits.

The box on the top of the photo contains all of the seed packets which I’ve purchased in past years. I’ve got hundreds of tomato seeds, flowers, lettuces, even turnip seeds.

The individual seed packets in the photo are items I’ve purchased specifically for this growing season. Here’s the breakdown:

Squash
Black Beauty Squash
Bush Baby Squash
Gold Rush Squash

Beans, Dry and Soybeans
Cannellini Lingot Bean
Etna Bean
Sayamusume Bean
Tiger’s Eye

Cucumbers
Marketmore 97 Cucumbers
Mcpick Cucumbers

Artichoke
Green Globe Improved Artichoke

Carrot
Cosmic Purple
Rainbow

Brussle Sprouts
Long Island Improved

Celery
Utah Celery

Lettuce
PineTree Lettuce Mix
Gabriella
Oakleaf

Kohlrabi
Early White Vienna

Chard
Orange Fantasia
Bright Lights

Eggplant
Pingtung Long

Cabbage
Pinetree Cabbage Mix

I’m sure I’ll add to this collection as I spot seed packets at various stores I frequent. It’s nearly impossible for me to walk past a seed display without picking up at least three new seeds.

 

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So Much for My Social Life

August 4, 2010 1 comment
Tomatoes

Tomatoes

It’s Time ! If you’ve been following my posts for long, you probably know that I have well over 300 tomato plants in my garden. This spring I planted 20 + varieties, and had over 600 plants in the greenhouse. I selected the best growing plants, and moved them out to the soil with quite a bit of help. On the second day of tomato planting, with five helpers, we managed to plant 180 in one hour.

The tomatoes in my garden should be as varied as the people in time square. I have red, yellow, purple, pink, and white tomato plants. There are canning varieties, stuffing, plum, and sandwich sizes.

Now comes the hard part. What to do with thousands of tomatoes, all starting to ripen at the same time. I better finish that produce stand !

Saving Seeds

Saving Seeds

For now though, as I wait for the massive onslaught, I’m saving the seeds from the largest of the early tomatoes. This will encourage future plants to grow larger fruit, at a quicker pace. Above I’ve saved Amish Paste, Garden Peach and Yellow Brandywine. I hope to save more of my own seeds, not just to save money, but more to the point: I want to get a set of seeds that are particularly suited for the environment in valley where I grow them. Plants that grow well in the garden, are more likely to set fruit containing seeds which will grow well next year. It’s really a long term investment of sorts.

Saving Seeds is simple. Find any garden produce that you like. Next, a napkin or paper towel should be placed on a table or counter. Cut open the ripe tomato, cucumber or whatever you’ve selected. Place the seeds on the paper, and leave them there to dry. It may take several days, but ensure the seeds are completely dry. It may help to place them in a well lit area. When they are dry, label an envelope with the variety, and place the seeds inside for next year.