Friday, March 24, 2017

Dear Garden, How Did You Fare While I Was Away?

My poor veggie garden was on its own for over three weeks while Dave and I were away tramping the trails in New Zealand. I expected to find a total mess when I got home. Visions of bird pecked, rat ravaged, mouse bitten, bug infested plants filled my head. I figured I would find blooming Brussels Sprouts and a host of other bolting overwintered plants. The wild wet weather of January and February gave way to warm sunny dry days as soon as we left, so I added parched puny seedlings to the list of woes because I was counting on rain and hadn't turned the irrigation system on. Would there be anything left that was edible?

Much to my relief, the worst of my fears didn't materialize.


The cover crop in Bed #1 was just getting going at the end of February. I removed the protective Agribon cover the afternoon that we left which left a lot of small tasty seedlings at the mercy of the birds. I guess the abundant rain this winter has provided the birds with enough natural greens that they don't have to come to the all-you-can-eat buffet that my garden provided during the past few dry winters.


Even the tender new pea shoots that are usually a favorite bird snack have been spared. I'll be plucking these tender greens for myself.

Fava leaves also tend to be bird fodder every spring, but so far the plants are intact. I usually have to cover the plants with netting or fabric almost as soon as they germinate, but this year it hasn't been necessary, so far...




Some of the early planted Robin Hood Fava plants even have beans that are mature enough to harvest! I usually have to wait until the end of April or early May for the first favas. Not sure what is going on with that foliage, but it isn't affecting all the plants so I'm not concerned.

Robin Hood Fava Beans

The overwintered Aji Amarillo plants are looking quite shabby but still have a lot of life left. I removed the top cover before I left because the chance of frost was nearly zero and I wanted them to get more light and rain but didn't have time to dismantle the entire protective cover. I'll wait another few weeks before I trim them back and move them.

Over in Bed #3 things are coming along better than expected.


The broccoli plants are protected by hardware cloth and fabric. The plants produced their main heads just before I left, I had to harvest them on the small side and give them away because I didn't have time to either eat or preserve them.


Hidden away in all that foliage I found three really nice side shoots and there should be more to come.

Batavia Broccoli




Merlo Nero and Gangbusters Spinach
The spinach seemed to fare well. A brief look revealed a few bolting Merlo Nero plants and some super sized leaves of Gangbusters spinach. The few Golden Corn Salad plants that I left between the rows have filled in the gaps between the Merlo Nero and been overwhelmed by the Gangbusters.


There were just a few weeds growing amongst the onion seedlings. Most of what is growing with the onions is baby Cilician parsley plants that I plan on harvesting as babies. The onions don't seem to mind the competition so far but I've already started to cut the parsley plants that are closest to the onions.



Shallots in the foreground are doing ok. They are still small because I planted them rather late.


There were some casualties in the I'itoi onion patch. I planted them too close together and all the rain knocked them over and the plants that were most crowded in the center started to rot. I cut all the plants down to a couple of inches the week or two before I left, but it wasn't enough to save some of them. I hope I'll get enough good bulbs to make a better effort at growing them again next season.

Bed #4 is where most of the messes are.


There's good and bad in the Brussels Sprouts. The Gustus variety held up the best with a number of decent sprouts ready to harvest. There were lots of aphids in the plants, especially in the leafy tops, but there are also quite a few hoverfly larvae chowing down and helping to clean up the mess.


The Hestia variety didn't fare quite as well, the remaining sprouts aren't quite as nice and this one plant is definitely bolting and suffering from some rotted greenery, but I think there's still sprouts to salvage.


The chard looks good but I noticed that the Syrian Medieval chard is starting to bolt. That's ok, I'll use it first and then move on to the Golden and Peppermint Stick chards which usually bolt later in the spring. The shoots of the Syrian chard are supposed to be good eating also.


There is some bolting happening in the celery patch, one of the plants is starting to go, but the other plant still has some excellent stalks. It's time to sow the new round of seeds, the celery that I'm harvesting now was sown on March 2 last year.


Another holdover from last year is the Dazzling Blue kale. There's 2 plants there, only one of which is bolting.


Another bolter is the Tronchuda Beira cabbage/kale. It started to bolt back in February at which time I cut out the main stem and all the large leaves and left some side shoots that I would have harvested if I had been around to do so.


The good new is that the parsnips haven't bolted.


And neither have the remaining carrots.


The carrots that I sowed just before I left are pushing at the Agribon covering.


Radishes that I sowed are also looking pretty good.


Late started radicchio is looking better than expected.


But I am a bit disappointed at the kohlrabi which seems to be rather slow to size up. But at least it's alive and not totally infested with aphids which were starting to colonize when I left.

So that's the state of the garden after more than 3 weeks of complete and total neglect. Not as bad as expected. Now I have to get cracking on sowing spring vegetables, tomatoes, and peppers. Oh and there's a boat load of weeds that need to be dealt with too.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Harvest Monday - February 20, 2017

It's a Pineapple Express day today. The current atmospheric river which is dumping rain on us today and prompting the National Weather Service to issue flash flood warnings took dead aim at California from directly over the Hawaiian islands. A Big Sur blogger that I follow has posted some photos of the damage wreaked in my area by the previous storm so if you are curious to see what 86 MPH winds can do to trees weakened by drought then check out Big Sur Kates post. Fortunately the storm coming through today is much less windy.

I've had a few chances to do some harvests between storms.

Tronchuda Beira Cabbage
I cut the leaves and flowering top from the second Tronchuda Beira Cabbage plant. I dehydrated most of what I harvested from the bolting plants but saved enough to make some Okonomiyaki pancakes. The recipe calls for regular cabbage but the Tronchuda Beira has a sweet cabbage flavor that I think should work well in the pancakes.

I'itoi Onions
The Okonomiyaki recipe also calls for a bunch of scallions which I don't have in the garden right now, but the I'itoi onions need to be trimmed because they are getting matted down by the wind and rain so I cut a few bunches of them. Most of those also got sliced and dehydrated. The house is quite fragrant right now even though I had the dehydrator in a room with an exhaust fan running.

I'itoi Onions

Syrian Medieval Chard
Some of the chard also needed a trim.

Aji Amarillo Grande Peppers and Gustus Brussels Sprouts
The last of the Aji Amarillo Grande peppers finished ripening so I got another round of those making an odd couple companion in the harvest basket with another big bunch of Gustus Brussels Sprouts. The sprouts tally from the current plants has hit 26.5 pounds so far! And the Aji Amarillo Grande plant provided a total of 3.8 pounds of peppers. Another 1 1/2 pounds of that haul of sprouts got shredded and dehydrated. My dehydrator has gotten quite a workout lately! And I need to get those peppers into the dehydrator next so that I can make some pepper flakes.

Gladiator Parsnips
 I pulled a few more parsnips and more carrots (which didn't get photographed). I shredded a couple of the parsnips to include in a saute with some shredded carrots and Brussels sprouts.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Garden on February 18, 2017

Well, I really can't get ANYTHING done in the garden right now, it's been raining and raining and raining. The wind blasted early Friday morning bringing down trees all over the place. Power was out for about 14 hours and the internet over 24 hours. Everything is soaking wet and looking whipped. The gopher tunnels have turned into underground streams. Pretty much every drop of rain hits the ground and starts running these days.

Don't know if the video below will work, but it's the exit point for what used to be a gopher run but is now a spring. I'm pretty confidant that there's no gophers in residence at the moment.

video

So if I can't actually work in the garden then I'll write about it. I am overdue for a garden update tour anyway, but on the other hand there hasn't been much going on out there lately. The rain let up long enough to allow me out in the garden with my camera and waders (just joking), but I did have to cut the photo session short to spare my camera from another shower.

So here's the latest. First Bed #1.

Bed #1
I'm later than usual to get a cover crop sown in the future tomato and pepper bed. The wet weather kept me out of the garden a lot in January so I didn't get the bed cleared out until mid month. The soil was too wet earlier in the month to dig so I covered the entire bed for a couple of weeks with a huge sheet of heavy duty greenhouse plastic. Then when I finally started to turn the soil in preparation for sowing the cover crop I found that oak roots had invaded much of the first third of the bed so I had to spend extra time digging around the perimeter of that end of the bed so that I could put down a more adequate root barrier. Finally, about 10 days ago I managed to turn the soil and raked in some cover crop seeds including  Kodiak mustard, some really old olive leaf rapini seeds (better than simply throwing them in the compost), pea seeds that I had collected and not labelled so I didn't know what they were, and a mix of another type of pea and oats. I sifted a thin layer of compost over it all and then covered the entire bed with lightweight Agribon fabric to provide protection from both birds and pounding rain.

Emerging Cover Crop
I'll cut down and dig in the cover crop at the end April and then wait until the end of May to finish prepping the bed for planting out the tomatoes and peppers around June 1.

Bed #2 is the former tomato and pepper bed.

Scraggly Aji Pepper Plants
I removed the frost cloth from the top of the enclosure that I set up around the Aji Pepper plants for protection from freezing weather in December and January. I harvested the final round of peppers this past week and now that the danger of freezing weather is minimal I removed the frost cloth from the top and then the wind took care of the plastic sheeting that I had under that. The plants look scraggly but otherwise good considering they've spent the winter outside.

Robin Hood Fava Beans
The rest of that side of the bed is planted to Robin Hood fava beans. They've been pushed around quite a bit by the wind, but I think they're ok, I didn't see any snapped or crimped stems. They have been blooming for quite a while and have set some beans.


The other side of the bed is planted to Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto and Aguadulce fava beans. They are just getting started and are nowhere near blooming. I've been cutting the Kodiak mustard greens that are flanking the Robin Hood favas and laying the greens on top of the soil along the row of other favas as a sort of green mulch. Some of it got covered with cardboard and some didn't.


Over in Bed #3 things are still in transition. This bed is going to be where I'll be growing brassicas, greens, and salad greens, and eventually carrots, parsnips, radishes and such later in the year.


I've got the first round of broccoli going in one corner. It's surrounded by a fence of 1/4-inch hardware cloth draped with fabric to keep the birds and bunnies out.

Batavia Broccoli
The first heads of broccoli are starting to form.


Further down the bed I've been putting up the hardware cloth screens that I'm building to make cages rather than making tunnels of fabric draped over hoops. I've covered part of the cage with heavy duty plastic in an attempt to keep the soil dry enough to do some planting.


The newly dug area is where I had corn growing last year and I'm trying to get the root balls of the corn to dry out a bit so I can run them through the chipper/shredder and return them to that spot as mulch.

Spinach and Golden Corn Salad
The rest of the cage is occupied by spinach that I set out back in November and some Golden Corn Salad that I allowed to volunteer around the spinach. The rest of that side of the bed is occupied with a couple of empty trellises where I had hoped to get some early peas started but I've given up on that idea, it's just too wet and windy.


Most of the rest of the bed has got a bunch of onion seedlings growing. This section of the bed got covered with plastic for the first half of January to keep the soil dry enough so that I could plant out the onions. I planted most of them on January 17 and 18 and now I'm hoping for a bit of a dry spell so I can plant more seedlings that I started later. Fat chance, it seems like it's going to continue to rain until at least mid week and from what I've read March will be soggy also.

I'itoi Onions
The poor little I'itoi onions keep getting bashed down by the wind and rain but I think they're ok.

Zebrune Shallots
The only late started allium that I managed to slip into the garden in a relatively dry spell was some Zebrune shallots. They look puny, but they are still very young.

Bed #4 is where most of the action is now. It has a lot of holdovers from last year still and a few quick croppers that should be done by the time I plant the bed primarily with curcurbits this spring.

Blooming Calabrese Broccoli
I've allowed the Calabrese broccoli to bloom. I didn't really need the few shoots that it was providing and the good bugs and bees needed a little something.

Dazzling Blue Kale
Dazzling Blue Kale
My 2 Dazzling Blue kale plants are still providing all the kale that we need. It certainly doesn't mind all the rain.

The Brussels sprouts don't mind the rain either but the wind keeps ripping their leaves off. They look like palm trees now. And there's still plenty of sprouts growing. I can't believe that I've harvest 26.5 pounds of sprouts so far from these plants.

Hestia
Gustus
The Chard Cage


I suppose all the greens are loving the rain, the chards included.
 
Pink Plume Celery
The celery says "me too, me too!". It's growing like crazy and sweeter than ever.

I've got a cage running the length of the other side of the bed.

Tronchuda Beira
The first bolter amongst the overwintered greens is the Tronchuda Beira cabbage/kale. I cut all the large leaves off of the plants and cut the tops off. Next I'll harvest the side shoots as they try to bloom.


Keeping company with the Tronchuda Beira are seedlings of arugula, cress, mizuna, and some transplanted Bucks Horn plantain.

Mizunarubasoi
Quick cropping Mizunarubasoi (Mizuna x Maruba x Tatsoi) is already providing sweet greens.


I tried to get some cilantro started inside some cloches which I just traded for sleeves. The experiment is only partly successful.

Carrots and Parsnips
 Almost done now - carrots and parsnips.


Newly sown and protected by fabric are more carrots and some radishes. That shot above gives an idea of my cage design. All the panels are the same size, although I do have to shorter panels for end panels where I want more narrow cage. They are intended to be easily removed and set back in place. The top screen has only two boards which makes them lighter and more flexible than the side panels. It's much easier to get into the cage than it was to get into a fabric covered tunnel. It's also easier to cover the cage with plastic sheeting to keep out the rain or fabric to provide shade. The panels, even though they are made from cheap kiln dried pine, will last a lot longer than the UV resistant fabric that I've been using the last couple of years and I think they block less light than the fabric. I'm happy with them so far.

Palla Rossa Radicchio
Late sown radicchio are growing, but will they form heads before they bolt? We'll see.

Kolibri and Kongo Kohlrabi 
I have more confidence in getting some kohlrabi.

Kongo Kohlrabi
That's the latest from my garden, thanks for stopping by.