Gardening update

I love Sundays, especially early in the morning, when no one is really awake. They’re so peaceful and simple.

10294470_10101896043640312_2809316839750802942_n

Noli and I went out this morning to check on the garden and make sure everything was going well, here’s an update on everything we are growing!

Basil: I wasn’t thinking and didn’t harden it off. Dummy. Soooo, it’s growing still, but it’s looking a little rough. But I think it’ll be fine. I might pick up a few plants just to be on the safe side. You can never have too much basil!

Beets: Attacked by the Spanish Leaf Miners. *insert crazy gardening lady with clippers and a spray bottle filled with soapy water*. Good news, although the leaves might look a little rough, the roots themselves are good and growing strong!

Cantaloupe: Still no sign..I didn’t keep track of when I planted it, although it was the same time as corn. (2 weeks ago?) I’ll give it a few more days and replant it.

Carrots: Carrots, you never fail me. You are delicious. I love you. (They are growing amazingly well, of course).

Celery: I’m not sure how this is going. It’s growing. It’s small..there’s no guarantees it’ll make it. I’m not placing any bets.

Cilantro: Harvested 3 HUGE bunches of this. We cut back the plants to the base and are waiting for more to sprout before it gets to hot and bolts.

Corn: It has started to pop up! Thank goodness! I felt like that took forever! Something about growing corn makes me feel like a real farmer.

Garlic: Everything is looking good so far. This is definitely one of the harvests I’m looking forward to most. Unfortunately we had to harvest one a little early (someone, or some furry black dog named Charlie, stepped on it).

Green Beans: I started these outdoors last-minute, in a spot that wasn’t even intended for anything. But they are growing great and I’ll be glad I planted them.

Horseradish: My one regret, NEVER GROW HORSERADISH IN ANYTHING BUT A CONTAINER. They will take over and conquer. The good news is, horseradish is delicious.

Hubbard squash: This beautiful plant has popped up and is looking strong and handsome. Has anyone else grown it? If you like pumpkin pie, grow this. Pumpkin doesn’t hold a candle to Hubbard.

Kale: Kale is doing beautifully, already harvested 3 HUGE bunches.

Potatoes: Wowee. These guys. They sure know how to grow. Handsome little taters.

Snow Peas: Growing STRONG, but….it’s getting hot. Like really hot. So I don’t think they’re going to be very tasty. But we’ll see!

Spinach: Damn Spanish Leaf Miners.. but overall it’s been a good harvest so far. Probably about 2 big bunches/or 3 salad bowls full (I’m going to get a better system down this week).

Strawberries: I’m so glad we have strawberries. If you don’t have berries in your garden, you need to get some. Your gardening life will never be the same. I think next year I’m going to double and/or triple our strawberry plants.

Tomatoes: This year I started my tomatoes indoors, and although they did great in the beginning, they became spindly from lack of strong light (we were using shop lights). Next year I’ll definitely build a mini green house, just for the tomatoes and peppers. I think they will do fine since we re-planted some of them sideways to give them more roots. A few we left as is to see if it made any difference. (8 in total). AND they are flowering which is a good sign!

Zucchini: I bought an heirloom plant of this about a week or so ago. I didn’t think I wanted zucchini this year, but when I went to the store and had to pay .69 cents for ONE zucchini squas. I about died, and immediately put a plant in the ground.

Things I wish I had room for: Cucumbers, broccoli and raspberries. And about a billion other plants. But these were the top 3.

Is anyone keeping track of their harvest this year? I decided to see how much money I’m saving this growing season and I’m keeping track of the number and weight of my produce! So far I’ve harvested: 1 lb of organic spinach ($4.12 per lb), 10 oz of organic garlic scapes ($7 per 1/2 lb), 1 lb 8 oz of organic cilantro ($1.46 a bunch), 3 lb of organic kale ($1.97 a bunch), 1 German Red organic garlic head ($3.50 ea), and 3 organic strawberries!
Estimate savings price for May: Est. $27.91
Total savings to date: Est. $27.91

So far so good.

And…I’ll end with a few pictures!

20140601-110438-39878434.jpg

Hey tomato flowers, lookin’ goood!

 

20140601-113858-41938489.jpg

My daughter already ate all the partially ripe berries. She knows what’s up.

20140601-113900-41940157.jpg

Bouquet of cilantro.

20140601-113901-41941104.jpg

Potatoes aren’t wasting anytime!

20140601-113859-41939555.jpg

Had to harvest this guy early, got trampled. Not sad one bit!

Advertisements

Beets

 

c33233da4795216aa2f3146a10929f5df94d00ec1898e542fbeeef8b7b7ad345

So I just planted my beets the other day, and in celebration I bought some from our local grocery store. I cooked them for about an hour in the oven and then chopped them up with some pears and nuts and put them in some mixed greens. It was a day to remember.

This is my first year growing beets and I decided to grow the Early Wonder variety. It’s a old heirloom variety dating back to pre-1811. Must be good if they’ve been haulin’ them around this long 😉

Here are some  facts about our little mediterranean native:

  • They are packed full of: potassium, folic acid, manganese, fiber, vitamin a, c, calcium, and iron
  • They are biennial- meaning they flower and set seed their second season
  • VERY cold hardy.
  • Sow directly into the ground, but soak the seeds in warm water for a few hours before placing in the soil. Helps with germination. (Which I didn’t do…shoot)
  • Each seed is actually a cluster of 2-6 seeds
  • Plants that reach maturity during hot weather will have less color and flavor. Dress your plants with compost and plant in the shade of another plant to secure your chances of a good harvest

Growing beets:

  • First off, pick a nice sunny location that has well drained soil
  • Amend your soil with organic material working it in to a depth of 8-10 inches
  • Sow seeds 2-4 inches apart, water well and add a thin layer of dressing. This helps to moderate soil moisture and temperature. *Keep beets watered well and you will have happy gardeners and happy beets*
  • Beets require lots of phosphorus to grow healthy large roots. If you run a soil test and you find in lacks in phosphorus give your plants a side dressing of bonemeal or rock phosphate. (Favored pH range for beets is 6.0-7.0)
  • Stop sowing seeds once the temperatures reach about 75 degrees, but start again 8 or so weeks before the first fall frost, for a late season harvest

Harvesting beets:

  • Beets taste best when they are 1.5-2.5 inches in diameter. After that they start to lose flavor and the texture becomes unappetizing
  • Beet greens can be harvested as soon as plants are an inch or two high. Older greens are best when steamed or sauteed.
  • When beets are ready to harvest, pull or dig them out then remove the tops by twisting them or cutting them off, being careful to leave a few inches of stem on the root to keep them from bleeding and losing their moisture. They can be stored this way, in the fridge for up to a week
  • For long term storage, layer the beets in damp sawdust or sand and keep in a moist cold root storage until ready to use

 

  • Beet seeds

 

 

Potatoes

After taking two hours to put my toddler down for a nap, I’m finally able to get this post out! She’s in the beginning stages of switching from a crib to a bed, so it’s been all sorts of fun. But I’ve been thinking about how wonderful spring is. Children are outside more, stretching their legs and running full speed on the play ground. It seems Mother Nature is cleaning the earth of the dark cold layers of snow and ice, with heavy rain falls interspersed with warm sunny days. Worms are making there way towards the surface and the flowers are starting to bloom. It’s just hard to be sad when the earth is so alive!

This past week we’ve been working really hard to expand our garden and get things planted. We should be about doubling the space, which will be especially nice since I’v been wanting to grow corn, potatoes, Hubbard squash and cantaloupe this year, and those things take up so much space! We put down probably about an inch of compost over the entire area along with some peat moss and vermiculite. We got our lettuces, spinach, kale, cilantro starts, and soon our beets, peas and carrots planted.

 

10150592_10101801697440852_1348572475_n

 

I also just got my *very first* shipment of potatoes today. I decided to grow La Ratte and Yellow Finn. They look beautiful, if you’re into tubers 😉 I set them out to get a bit of heat and light, so hopefully they will be ready to go into the ground in about a week or two.

 

1453455_10101805120725562_1920428281_n

 

1972528_10101805146304302_772488229_n

Seed Savers has some great tips on growing potatoes! This was taken straight from their Blog and the flyer they sent me with my shipment:

TIPS FOR GROWING POTATOES

General Advice

Potatoes always do best in full sun. They are aggressively rooting plants, and we find that they will produce the best crop when planted in a light, loose, well-drained soil. Potatoes prefer a slightly acid soil with a PH of 5.0 to 7.0. Fortunately potatoes are very adaptable and will almost always produce a respectable crop, even when the soil conditions and growing seasons are less than perfect. Always keep your potato patch weed-free for best results. Potatoes should be rotated in the garden, never being grown in the same spot until there has been a 3-4 year absence of potatoes. If you are new at growing potatoes, ask around; chances are there are many older gardeners in your area who have years of gardening experience.

Planting Times

Potatoes may be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring, but keep soil temperatures in mind. Potato plants will not begin to grow until the soil temperature has reached 45 degrees F. The soil should be moist, but not water-logged. Potatoes can tolerate a light frost, but you should provide some frost protection for the plants if you know that a hard, late season freeze is coming. If you want to extend storage times, and have a long growing season, you can plant a second crop as late as June 15 and harvest the potatoes as late as possible.

Cutting Potatoes Before Planting

A week or two before your planting date, set your seed potatoes in an area where they will be exposed to light and temperatures between 60-70 degrees F. This will begin the sprouting process. A day or two before planting, use a sharp, clean knife to slice the larger seed potatoes into smaller pieces. Each piece should be approximately 2 inches square, and must contain at least 1 or 2 eyes or buds. Plant smaller potatoes whole. A good rule of thumb is to plant potatoes whole if they are smaller in size than a golf ball. In a day or so your seed will form a thick callous over the cuts, which will help prevent rotting.

Planting in the Garden

We find that potatoes are best grown in rows. To begin with, dig a trench that is 6-8 inches deep. Plant each piece of potato (cut side down, with the eyes pointing up) every 12-15 inches, with the rows spaced 3 feet apart. If your space is limited or if you would like to grow only baby potatoes, you can decrease the spacing between plants. To begin with only fill the trench in with 4 inches of soil. Let the plants start to grow and then continue to fill in the trench and even mound the soil around the plants as they continue to grow. Prior to planting, always make sure to cultivate the soil one last time. This will remove any weeds and will loosen the soil and allow the plants to become established more quickly.

Water Supply

Keep your potato vines well watered throughout the summer, especially during the period when the plants are flowering and immediately following the flowering stage. During this flowering period the plants are creating their tubers and a steady water supply is crucial to good crop outcome. Potatoes do well with 1-2 inches of water or rain per week. When the foliage turns yellow and begins to die back, discontinue watering. This will help start curing the potatoes for harvest time.

Harvesting Your Potatoes

Baby potatoes typically can be harvested 2-3 weeks after the plants have finished flowering. Gently dig around the plants to remove potatoes for fresh eating, being careful not to be too intrusive. Try to remove the biggest new potatoes and leave the smaller ones in place so they can continue to grow. Only take what you need for immediate eating. Homegrown new potatoes are a luxury and should be used the same day that they are dug. Potatoes that are going to be kept for storage should not be dug until 2-3 weeks after the foliage dies back. Carefully dig potatoes with a sturdy fork and if the weather is dry, allow the potatoes to lay in the field, unwashed, for 2-3 days. This curing step allows the skins to mature and is essential for good storage. If the weather during harvest is wet and rainy, allow the potatoes to cure in a dry protected area like a garage or covered porch.


Storage Conditions

At Heritage Farm we are able to store potatoes well into the spring in our underground root cellar. Try to find a storage area that is well ventilated, dark, and cool. The ideal temperature is between 35 and 40 degrees F. Keep in mind that some varieties are better keepers than others. Varieties like Red Gold and Rose Gold are best used in the fall, and others like Carola and Russets are exceptional keepers.

Saving Seed Stock

Home gardeners can save seed for several generations. Save the very best potatoes for planting. You may find that after several years the size begins to decrease; this is typical. Potatoes are very susceptible to viruses. If you are looking for maximum yields it is best to start with fresh, USDA Certified Seed Stock every year.

Browse SSE’s organic seed potato varieties in the online store

Is anyone else growing tubers this year? What varieties are you growing? 

Gardening Trays

Every year in my garden I weed, I pick, I pull, I trim and I harvest. I end up with handfulls, armloads, bucketloads of plants and produce. How do I move it? I use my hands, I use my shirt, I use bowls from the kitchen, I use the baskets that normally hold the throw blankets in the living room. Really anything that could hold something.

None of these things were really working well for me. I’d leave my kitchen bowls outside for a few days, my good shirt would now become another…gardening shirt. (Why do I always forget to put on the ratty shirts when gardening?!) My hands could never hold enough, and a few delicate tomatoes would go tumbling down the steps, and my basket used for blankets would eventually be covered in dirt and leaves because I would forget to clean it out before returning it to it’s rightful place. But the gardening stores around here never really had anything I liked. They had totes and cute baskets for holding fancy tea towels in..but nothing I wanted to fork out 30+ dollars for that was practical.

We’ve been tossing around a few ideas for gardening trays that would be useful in the garden. You could rinse your produce in them, shake off dirt, use them to hold your weeds or carry gardening pots outside with them (and whatever else you could imagine using them for.) Here’s our first draft.

Sketching out the ideas

Sketching out different ideas and measurements

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Beautiful oak

Beautiful oak

Sawing sawing sawing

Sawing sawing sawing

Oak box and a poplar box

Oak box and a Poplar box

So there they are! This is definitely the rough draft, things weren’t quite even in some places, and we are still working with what type of screws/nails to use on the boxes, especially the Oak boxes. I like the idea of using Poplar, they are easy to put together and affordable. We will definitely need to put a linseed finish on both of them (or something similar.) The Oak boxes are very sturdy and they just feel good in your hands. They are a bit heavier than the Poplar, but will withstand weather and use for a very long time. They aren’t as affordable as the Poplar, but I think they will be worth their weight in gold once finished. Also, I think we’ll do a couple different varieties and sizes. Make the Oak one with a mesh bottom and the Poplar one with wooden slats, maybe do a few smaller varieties for those that mostly have berries and herbs. Let me know what you all think! 

Seed Starting

It’s February!

Doesn’t it feels like the end of winter? It’s still cold, it still snows, but you can see the flowers, and the tree buds in the distance. The birds have started chirping more and the days just don’t seem as gloomy. And just because it’s 45 days until spring doesn’t mean you will be waiting until then to start planting!

Before you get started on all your glorious gardening plans, check to see what gardening zone you are in. The zone you are in will highly affect when you plant all your vegetables and fruit. For instance, if you lived in zones 7-8 you can start planting your gardening pea’s in January, whereas if you lived in Zones 5-6 you can’t start planting them until March! Planting zones really do matter! No one wants to have frost bitten peas, I can tell you that!

So for all you folks that live in Zones 5-6, seed starting is coming up! Here is a few tips for starting your seeds indoors.

1- GOOD Potting soil. I really like this company because it’s organic and has no artificial polyacrylamide.

Ecoscraps

2-Seedling containers. You can use anything from clay pots, plastic containers divided into cells, rolled newspaper, paper cups or even egg cartons. Although, I wouldn’t really recommend the egg shell/carton one, the cells are usually too small for most seed germination and long term growth. I think this year I want to try out the rolled newspaper method, it’s free and they compost well. But with any of these methods just make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom, or a way for excess water to escape.

seedgrowing

3-Light and warmth. There are a couple different ways you can successfully do this. You can use the window sill on a sunny side of the house, although you want to make sure the windows aren’t too drafty. If you are starting your seeds in late winter/early spring, make sure that they get enough strong sunlight. You can put them outside in a green house. Or, what we do, you can get one of those plastic or metal shelving stands and tie shop lights under each shelf with wire, and even have heating pads under them (No need to buy the specialty heating pads, just a normal one that has low settings). This specific method works beautifully for us.

4-Growth. Once your seedlings have sprouted make sure they get between 12-14 hours of light a day, keeping the light as close to the sprouts as possible, with out actually touching the leaves. Make sure you take off any sort of dome or plastic covering so the plants get enough air and don’t succumb to fungi. During this growth period trim off any additional seedling sprouts that appear in each sell or pot with a small pare of scissors. Pulling on the excess sprouts can traumatize the root system and weaken your main plant.

5-Transplant. If you started out using small cells or eggshells for your germination process, you’ll need to transplant them into bigger pots once they start to outgrow their environment. Simply peal the outside of the paper off if using newspaper, lift with a utensil or turn to its side if using plastic, or break off the shells if using eggs. Be very careful and gentle during this process, you don’t want to traumatize the plant and send it into shock.

6-Feedings. After about 3-4 weeks, the nutrients in the potting mix will be gone, so you will need to supplement the seedlings to make sure they get all the nutrients they need. Up until this year I have yet to use any type of liquid fertilizer, and always got decent results. But I’ve realized that certain plants never did that well from seeds, especially tomatoes and peppers, and it’s because I didn’t supplement the soil. All gardening stores will offer liquid fertilizers, but if you aren’t into spending the extra money there are ways to make your own: Homemade liquid fertilizer. Just remember, if using liquid fertilizers, double the dilution to water ratio. Seedlings are small and don’t need as much nutrients as full grown plants.

7-Patience. This is sometimes the hardest part. Waiting. But growing plants from seed is one of the most rewarding experiences. Take care of these little seeds and plants in every stage of growth and you will be rewarded with beautiful juicy produce all summer long.

Horseradish

There’s a surprising number of people who are scared of Horseradish. Don’t get me wrong, it’s weird stuff and smells funky. But when you put it on a warm roast beef sandwich, *mouth salivating*, it’s just about the best thing the world has to offer.

Just give it a try, if you haven’t already.

Seriously. Right now.

….

It’s also SO EASY TO GROW! It grows everywhere and in almost any climate, (up until Zone 3.) People often grow it separately from their main garden plot because it’s pretty much impossible to get rid of. Every tiny piece that breaks off in the soil when harvested WILL turn into a new plant. Talk about fertile 😉 So consider planting your horseradish in containers.

Unfortunately, I didn’t plant my horseradish in a container and I totally broke up a ton of pieces in the soil…good thing we’re living in a rental!

Growing Horseradish:

In the spring find a very sunny spot in your garden for your horseradish. They can flourish in almost any type of soil but waterlogged soil. So if you are using a drip system in your garden for your water loving greens consider planting them in a separate part of the garden OR in a container.  There, I’ve said it twice. I’m going to listen to my own advice next year.

Once you’ve found your spot, add all your compost and manure and work it in about a foot deep.  Place your root (with the buds facing up towards the surface) at a 45 degree angle or straight down. Cover with 2-3 inches of soil and give it a good water. After that you only need to water during really long dry spells.

Harvesting Horseradish:

Horseradish needs about 12-18 months to reach full maturity, but if you live in Zones 4-6 and you planted it in the spring you can harvest a decent root for your fall dishes. Make sure you harvest the roots when they aren’t actively growing! That means in the fall  after the first hard frost or early spring.  Examine all your horseradish and use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the plants that are at least 1 inch in diameter. Once you remove the roots cut off the tops and side shoots and replant in the same spot, adding in compost along the way.

Eating Horseradish:

Scrub all your roots and peel with a potato peeler. Cut into small chunks and toss into a food processor or blender and grind up to the consistency you like. Add 2-3 TBL of vinegar to every cup of horseradish. To have a milder horseradish, add the vinegar in immediately, and for a stronger horseradish wait 3-4 min and then add in the vinegar.  Then, ENJOY!

photo (22)

Garlic!

So I’m a dog person. I love dogs. All dogs. Except maybe the hairless ones. But every time I see a homeless dog my little heart aches and I call my husband and beg him to let me take another one home. He of course talks reason into my bleeding heart and tells me that we already have one, we don’t have room, ‘think of the dog hair!’ ect ect ect. There’s really no moment in my life where I couldn’t picture having a dog in my life.

Until they get into my garden, this time digging up my garlic.

At that exact moment, horrible thoughts flood into my brain: ‘CHARLIE, YOU BETTER RUN AND HIDE!’, ‘NO MORE! CHARLIE, PACK YOUR BAGS!’, ‘I’M TAKING YOU TO THE FARM, CHARLIE!’. The threats continue for a few more minutes, until I see his sad eyes and of course I go over and cuddle with him and tell him it’s okay.

Anyways, enough about that! We’re here to talk about GARLIC!

This year we grew a few varieties of garlic: Ukraine, Music, Siberian, and German Red.

1377455_10101467075136632_1298903374_n

Everyone has different opinions on when to start garlic. Some say a few weeks before the first frost, others say after the first frost, and some even say it doesn’t matter as long as they reach their full maturity, which is 9 months. I think it really depends on where you live and the climate. Here in Utah it’s a good idea to plant anywhere within the first week of frost when the soil is nice and cool. You can also plant after the last frost when the soil has started to thaw, but you will get bigger and better bulbs if planted in the fall. (Or so I’m told by most gardeners. I’m going to plant a second set this spring to see how it works in Utah).

Three things I love about growing my own garlic:

1) It’s so easy! And I can grow them for the fraction of the price they sell them for in the store.

2) SO much variety. You really can only buy 1 or 2 types of garlic in the store, but when you are planting your own you can grow dozens of different varieties! YAY!

3) Taste. Garlic is packed with more punch and flavor (especially when it’s heirloom!) when it’s grown in your own soil.

Try growing your own garlic this year! Even if you don’t have a plot, you could always build a box or buy one!

There are three types of garlic:

Softneck: Grows best where winters are mild (tolerant till Zone 5)
Hardneck: Extrememly cold tolerant! Great for really cold bitter winters.
Elephant: A hardy garlic that can withstand winters till Zone 5 if heavily mulched

I would definitely experiment with a few different types and varieties when you get ready to plant. Every one is different and you might be surprised with what grows best in your area and what ends up being your favorite!

Growing garlic:

This year I broke up my cloves and let them sit in some water over night. Some people recommend a mixture of liquid seaweed and baking soda to help prevent fungus, but I didn’t have any and we really don’t have problems with that here in Utah.

Start by loosening the soil a good 12 inches and working in some well rotted compost.
Place the cloves 4 inches deep and between 6-8 inches apart. Make sure you place the pointy top up and the flat part down. Cover with soil and place 3-5 inches of mulch (hay, straw, or leaves) over the top.

Viola! So easy, right?

As you can see, I still need to mulch mine…

1452119_10101526265608452_1492324153_n

Harvesting:

I didn’t know this about garlic but it bruises easily! So when you are harvesting them do so very carefully. Loosen the soil with a gardening fork or shovel before pulling them out. Lay them out to dry in a nice warm spot away from harsh sun light and rain. After a week or two, brush off the soil and cut the roots to about half an inch long. Wait another week and cut off the stems of the hardneck varieties, and trimming and braiding the softneck varieties. Hang your garlic in nice mesh bags or if you have braided your garlic, hang in a nice cool dark place, like a garage or basement.

And that’s it! Lots of great garlic all year long. Also, make sure you don’t peel the papery outer wrappings, it keeps the garlic from rotting or sprouting.

So go on now! Go plant some garlic! 😉