Too cold?

Well, I left things in the ground a couple weeks too long. Should have dug up by middle of November because we had a record cold spell this past couple of weeks and my veggies froze, then wilted. Note to self, even the kale froze. Next year, more root veggies and I will insulate the corner room in the cellar for storage.

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Greed for Greens

Week before last I was able to share some of my arugula, mustard and pak choi crop with a friend of mine. Last week I did the same with yet another friend, plus a jar of plum preserves and raspberry jam.  Sweet! Towards the end of this last week we had some hard hail. The crops all took it amazingly well, only some of the outside kale branches bent over and broke. I considered this advice from above to eat kale for dinner, which we have for the past two days.  It is sooo wonderfully delicious and not at all like the greens I have purchased in the store.  I am excited to see just how long into the fall/winter they will continue to grow!

As we approach the darker part of the year, it is time to plan for my spring plantings. Dr. Erickson, a friend of mine a loooong time ago has some excellent, clear advice on just how to start your seeds indoor.  Much simpler instructions than many books I have read.

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Winter Garden 2009

onions1109Yeah, it is November and really chill (but not freezing).  For our dining pleasure, we have about four mustard plants, both white and red kale, a variety of spinach, leeks I planted last spring (right side) and pac choi.  (For some reason the fuchsia is still blooming too.) Beyond and over, where the squash used to be I’ve planted two long rows of bunch onions. Can’t wait to see exactly what they are. Also in what would be the foreground bottom left there is a row of garlic where the peas were.  Will be interested to see if they grow.  Always an adventure. So far the terraced natives down front have been catching the stormwater during our recent heavy rains. Soon I must plant the fava beans. A more experienced gardner said they are to die for, especially compared to eating them canned or dried!  In the back yard is some arugula, not sure if it will stay long. I don’t intend to cover the plots unless torrential rain is forecast of hard frost.

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Strawberries into November!

Last May I binge purchased a few Alpine strawberry plants and stuffed them amongst my evergreen, non-fruit bearing beach strawberry plants.  They have a nice compact mound shape to the plant and I thought the fall leave color change would be in nice contrast to the flow of evergreen ground cover. Little did I know what little work horses these plants really were! Though the fruit are tiny, they are sweet and have been growing from June onward. Yes, I picked half a dozen this morning and ate them! The snails don’t seem to bother them as much as the commercial varieties either.

Cascade Cuts, you will seem me again next year at your annual sale for more of these! Thanks to Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale, I knew who you were and thanks Sustainable Connections for posting your sale on their events calendar.

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Farmer Dad, Happy Birthday!

To my Dad on the occasion of what would have been his 75th birthday.

081109cropsI was clearly wrong to have left farming.  If you could see what I’ve done with my wee 80 square feet you’d be proud.  Here is tonight’s side dish: Lettuce of a variety we’d never have raised, Grandpa never would have freighted in for sale at the Williams Bros Produce house it has such delicate leaves.  But oh, what sweet taste it has.  Tomatillos, a hidden treasure we never heard of, imported only in a canned sauce or relish…for how could one harvest it economically when every little balloon dress needs squeezing to tell if the fruit has filled each little sack, not quite ripe and thus ready to pick? Or these berry sweet yellow cherry tomatoes, that have such thin skins and ripen at orange yellow, never red? …and those red Nasturtium flowers, we never considered there were flowers one could eat! These grew much more easily and far less labor than our Iris.  They’d have grown on that same sandy soil, loved the dry summers and given us an abundance of salad decoration.  Wonderful peppery accents, they. Of course, we’d of had to figure out how to package them up to take to market.  Or perhaps just run another flower stand out front.

Miss you Dad.  Loving farming (finally!).

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Plz buzz me when ur in town

beepoppyLast week I got to wondering exactly who were these winged insects visiting my flowers? After extensive examinations and futile photographic attempts I found that only two types of my wee visitors were actually gathering pollen.  The honeybee and our own Western bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis). Can’t tell if the honeybees are domesticated or wild (they have no tags). Turns out most of the others are some sort of fly.  Our urban environment is not known for its bug diversity, but our yard is now the poster child for how to turn it all around.  Two easy add-ons and one ‘don’t do this at home’.

  1. Dig up lawn and amend soil with compost from local recycler.
  2. Plant herbs, veggies, native plants and allow volunteers (poppy) to fill in the blanks
  3. Don’t use pesticides or herbicides to remove something.  My one exception to this is use of a slug/snail bait at the beginning spring, a relatively non-toxic one consisting of iron phosphate (naturally occuring mineral).  The raccoon seems to keep on top of them the rest of the year.

Now, this may not be the best or the purest advice.  If you are in Seattle I suggest you contact Seattle Tilth for their Maritime Northwest Guide and Washington Toxic Coalition for pest control methods. That said, my front yard is a buzzing!

Note: Beware honey laundering! Honey is best bought from really local, small source bee folk such as Timmons Honey in Graham, WA. That is where my last jar came from.

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Harvest Distractions

tromboni072509I realize I have been posting more to my Facebook page about the vegetables I’ve been harvesting.  We’ve been eating broccoli, peas and kale for at least six weeks now.  Started pulling up Walla Walla sweet onions last week, a couple of leeks as I thinned, several nights of zuccini and crook neck squash all this July.  Looks like we will be eating tromboncino squash next week.  Sure hope it tastes good, we are having a bumper crop off of one plant (which I trellised, thank goodness!).  Tomatoes in container are forming, but not yet ripened.  I madly dashed to plant some lettuce starts in a cooler part of the garden so we would have some salad greens to eat with the tomatoe crop.  We are not big tomato eaters and prefer less acid vegetables so I only planted non-red varieties.  Aunt Ruby (green), Taxi (yellow) and Sungold cherry tomatoes (orange) in hopes they are less acid, yet just as flavorful.  We also have tomatillos, something I have never eaten but hear are tasty.  Guess like Tromboncino they are a veggie that never makes it to the store.

We are very fortunate to have a plant lady neighbor who gave us 1) the raspberry canes 2) three tomatoe plants 4) her extra tromboncino squash 5) and the tomatillos. Oh, and the nasturtiums.  Next year I need to plant salad greens earlier so I can enjoy adding nasturtiums to our salads.  Sort of ran out of space this year.  Looks like we will be having beans, squash and remainder of kale for August.  I just planted a strip for late August/September of spinach, arugula & orach.  All varieties I have never eaten before.  Surprising enough, the little 4″ pack of winter onions I never got into the ground in time have continued to grow.  So, I am starting a 3×3 onion bed in the next couple of days for planting after this heat wave passes.  Maybe I will get lucky.

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