Monday, June 25, 2012

Harvest Monday: June 25th

Harvest Monday is sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions and is an opportunity to share your harvests and what you do with those harvests with others.  Please stop by to see what other gardeners are doing this week.

This week I went strawberry picking at a local farm.  After picking and hulling 9 1/2 pounds of berries, I made 18 jars of freezer jam.  I don't think that 18 plus the 5 remaining from last year is going to last us a full year though.  The farm will have raspberries ready this week, so I will be out picking them and hopefully make up another 10 or so jams, so we'll have enough to last until next summer.

One of the week's harvests: broccoli, pearl onions, sugar snap peas, and carrots.
 Besides the farm picking, I brought in another 3 lbs. of strawberries off my own plants (yay! more strawberry shortcake! I am going to get SO fat.)  As well as several more harvests.  Mostly the harvests were of pearl onions, a few carrots, and some sugar snap peas.  I did get a couple good sized broccoli and one small cabbage, because I was impatient and couldn't wait any longer to pick one.  The peas, onions, carrots, and broccoli went into a stir fry.  My mom got a bunch of everything except the broccoli too.

Yum! Stir fry.
 The cabbage and remaining onions and carrots will be made into coleslaw for my husband; and any peas that come in will either be eaten as snacks or frozen for another time.

My daughter stretching out to enjoy the evening on the patio.
It's amazing how much arm-twisting goes into getting a 13 year old computer geek outside during the summer, so I was amazed and pleased to see my girly outside after our jam-making, enjoying a little relaxation in the night air.  This picture also makes it obvious that the patio could use some tidying up, so I think that will be my chore for the day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Garden Update: June 19th

Let's take a walk around the garden.

Coming in through the front gate we pass the strawberries, currently they are cranking out about a pound of berries daily. 
Tomatoes starting to perk up.
As we enter the gate to the left we see the remaining un-planted starts in their pots.  A scoop of compost in each pot, followed by a dose of fish fertilizer, and a dose of compost tea the next day has really improved the health of the tomatoes.  They have perked up, greened up, and kicked out a few healthy new leaves.  There is still some purpling but they are definitely improving, and hopefully with another boost of tea in a few days that too will fade.  I'm really surprised they are recovering so well, I was afraid I would lose them all within a week or two.

The remaining starts; tomatoes and a few peppers.
Turning to the left we see the first raised bed.  With the removal of the celery, broccoli, garlic, and remaining lettuce the bed is looking pretty thin.  Several tomatoes have been planted to replace the harvested plants, and all of the cucumbers as well.  The sugar snap peas in back are cranking out pea pods like crazy, though none have yet begun to bulge with seed development.  The first of these peas should be ready in a day, possibly two.

First tomato to develop.  Oregon Spring.
I finally have my first tomato beginning!  It's a bit late to be at this stage, but the Spring has been rather cool and wet, and I am happy to have anything right now.  Oregon Spring has proven itself to be a great producer in the past (for such a small plant), and judging by the 18 flowers on it right now I'm guessing it will be again.  IF the weather ever warms up.  The other tomatoes that have gone in the ground are green and healthy and obviously recovering well from their bout with malnutrition.

First nasturtium blossoms.
Further along the first bed we see a burst of color as the first nasturtium blooms pop out amid the blue-green leaves of the cabbages.  The Parel cabbages have firm but small heads and are nearly ready for harvest, Derby Day however still has a long way to go.

Graffiti cauliflower
 Surprise, surprise! Deep within the recesses of the cauliflower leaves are tiny but beautiful little heads of cauliflower.  Graffiti is ahead of Amazing by a few days, and the color is just incredible.  The one good thing about the cooler weather is that I may actually get summer cauliflower undamaged by heat.

Herb and bench area
 Moving past the first bed we see the bench area, the herbs here have exploded.  The lavender and sage doubled in size, the spearmint is spreading (and recovered well from whatever was eating it).  The catnip looks very sad, but that's to be expected since the cats flop down and roll on it, and then chomp the leaves off like it's an all-you-can-eat salad bar.  I'm surprised it's survived at all.

Bed #2
Just past the bench is the second raised bed.  The peas are not as tall here, but everything else has grown above and beyond.  In fact, I was forced to break off several of the largest broccoli leaves because they were shading out so many other plants.  A few little lettuces are tucked away here for later eating, and some beautiful dill is hiding in amid the brassicas.  Otherwise it is very similar to the first bed.  On the far end are the few peppers I planted after pulling the chard and kale.  I transplanted one chard plant and one kale plant into the pumpkin bed in hopes of a few more harvests.

Whiskey barrel and pots
To our left, at the end of the patio, sits the first whiskey barrel.  The barrel currently contains Alex's carrots, most of which are just sizing up before being harvested.  The eggplant, slicing cucumbers, and jalapenos were planted a few days ago.  There are also a couple bolted cilantro tucked into the barrel, and I plan to let them go to flower to help attract beneficials.  Behind the barrel are three large pots containing artichokes and my rhubarb.  They are all growing well, but there will be no harvests off of them this year.

Whiskey barrel 2 and pots
 Further to the left is the second whiskey barrel.  This barrel holds a few little lettuce plants that will be harvested soon, and the same eggplants, jalapenos and lemon cucumber combination as the first barrel.  The three large pots hold my potato plants.  Feeling down into the dirt beneath the potatoes you will find several long thin rootlets that will hopefully plump up into potatoes soon.  The small pot contains a spare kale that had nowhere else to go, it's struggling and I probably will never see a harvest from it.

Stepping into the yard between the barrels we face the shed and the rosemary and thyme planted in front of it.  Both are growing incredibly well and the tiny thyme flowers are always buzzing with insect life.  I didn't picture the third barrel here, but it sits along the fenceline billowing with flowers.  The delphinium has faded and gone to seed, so things look a bit shabby, but the bee balm is just about ready to bloom and the glads and lillies are popping up between the other flowers.

Pumpkin bed.
At the very back of the garden sits the pumpkin bed.  Beans fill most of this bed, both pole beans along the back, and bush beans throughout.  A massive zucchini has filled the corner near the fountain and will take over most of that side of the bed by summer's end.  To the left side of the bed, planted along the shed trellis are the pumpkin plants.  They are healthy and growing but haven't yet had enough heat to begin their stretch up the trellis onto the shed roof.  There are a few tiny basil planted at the front edge of the bed, but the slugs have happily nibbled them down to almost nothing and I will be surprised if they survive to provide me fresh basil this year.

Turning left and walking through the back gate we come into the previous blackberry patch.  It still looks pretty shabby back here.  Annual and perennial weeds are popping up throughout the yard, the lava rock path only extends a few feet before giving up, and the blackberries are popping out new leaves all over.  I go back there and trim them down to stubs every week or two, but haven't gotten up the time and energy to finish all the cleanup yet.  There is a small strip of cleared ground though that contains four small plots of winter squashes.  I have given up any thoughts of growing corn back there though, it is too late and the area still isn't ready for it.  The squashes are doing well for the most part, a few died (likely eaten by slugs) but the rest are starting to stretch their leaves out and expand into the area.  I can't wait to see them take over that space and make it a flowing carpet of squash leaves and flowers.  And eventually, fruit!

And that concludes our tour.  Please stop by the concession stand on your way out.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Harvest Monday: June 18th

My best harvest so far! Mostly because I decided it was high time to start pulling things so I could plant more tomatoes.  I even remembered to take photos this time.

Saturday alone I managed to harvest over 7 lbs. of veggies.

3 lbs. strawberries

A pile of celery

Some pearl onions that were starting to look like golf balls sitting on the dirt.

Garlic braid, I have no idea what variety this is but it doesn't seem to get very big, the tops had all fallen over.

The last of the Swiss chard and first planting of lettuce, and the first of Alex's carrots.
My garlic were ready according to everything I know (which isn't much), but the bulbs were very small and even the largest only appeared to have about 4 cloves to it.  Oh well, maybe next year I'll plant some other variety, these were given to me last year by a friend and i figured I'd give them a shot.

Alex is super excited about the carrots finally coming up, the Sugarsnax are fabulous and the first to arrive.  I think Little Finger and Atomic Red could wait a bit longer to harvest.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne's Dandelions and is a place to share your harvests and what you do with those harvests with the garden blogger community.

Next week, more strawberries, peas, onions and carrots (I'm hoping!).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Diagnosis: Malnutrition?

For those who haven't been keeping up with my posts, my tomatoes have been "under the weather".  Initially I thought this was due to a fungus of some type.  After some further research I'm not so sure any more.  I won't be able to take one to the Extension Service booth this weekend because I have other things to do that day. 

Looking into tomato diseases I found that most of the fungal infections have yellowing of the tissues surrounding the brown/gray/darkened spots.  My tomatoes don't have any yellowing until the whole branch has withered and is falling off.

Since they were clean seed, planted in clean soil-less mix, in clean pots, and were inside the whole time I've kind of ruled out any soil or pest-borne diseases. 

But! I did find out something I didn't know, probably because I've never started my own tomato seeds before and had them survive this long.  Purpling of the leaves is an indicator of phosphorus deficiency.  This makes sense, they have been in those little pots full of seedling mix forever, and only had fish emulsion for nutrition (high nitrogen, barely any phosphorus or potassium).  So if they are purple because of lack of phosphorus, maybe their are deficient in other things too... it turns out that potassium deficiency causes browning of the leaf margins and curling of the leaves.  In fact, many nutritional deficiencies cause some type of discoloration and leaf curling.

Sweet Million 4 days ago
So I gave each a scoop of compost to top off their pots, and spritzed with compost tea as planned.  Even if it really is a fungal disease causing the leaf browning and curling, improving the plants' overall health should help with that.  If it's not a fungus, the compost tea foliar spray will still provide fast nutrition.

Sweet Million today

One of the things that tipped me off was that the Sweet Million was transplanted just a few days ago and is now looking much healthier.

It's difficult to tell in the picture, but the earlier shot had a purplish stem and leaf color to it.  It's very obvious that it's a bright, healthy green now; though the leaves that had already curled are no better, the rest look great.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake!

This morning, after ignoring them for 3 days, I went out and picked strawberries.  Despite all of the slug nibbling, I managed to harvest 2 lbs. 4.5 oz. today.

Strawberries!! (and a scale, for scale)
Of course, the very best thing to do with my first decent strawberry harvest of the year... is to make Strawberry Shortcake!  My absolute favorite dessert.

There are three categories of strawberry shortcakes: Lazy, Simple, and Old Fashioned.

The Lazy shortcake maker mashes berries, buys a pack of little spongecake cups, or an angel food cake, or something similar, and tops it with spray whipped cream or CoolWhip.  This is tasty enough, super easy to make even if you live in a teepee, and you could do it while completely drunk.  It's more expensive though and is the least tasty option.

The Simple shortcake maker mashes berries with a tablespoon or two of sugar; takes out a box of Bisquik and makes up the biscuit recipe with a few tablespoons of sugar added; then tops it off with spray whipped cream or homemade whipped cream if they have none in a spray can.  This is the way I generally make mine, because I'm lazy and it's Simple.  It tastes better, is much cheaper if you keep biscuit mix around the house normally, and while you need an oven for it (can't make it in a teepee) it is still pretty foolproof.

The Old Fashioned shortcake maker mashes berries with a bit of sugar; gets out a proper shortcake recipe and bakes it up; then tops it with fluffy delicious homemade whipped cream that they've whipped with the sweat of their brow.  This is the BEST way to have shortcake.  I don't generally feel like putting this kind of effort into it... but when someone else does, I will eat it with much praise and delight.

I can't even truly explain the difference, but you know it when you try it.  I also can really appreciate knowing exactly what went into a treat like this.  Yes, buttery shortcake and heavy cream aren't exactly "healthy" foods; but it's nice to know there's no carageenan, guar gum, hydrogenated vegetable oil, or Red #5 in it.  Just organic strawberries, heavy cream, sugar, flour, eggs, salt, milk, butter, and baking powder.

So for those who want to give the experience of real shortcake (rather than little spongecake cups) a try at home here is my Old Fashioned Shortcake recipe:

2 1/4 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter (softened) or shortening (butter will give a crunchier crust, shortening a softer crust)

Mix together all of the dry ingredients.  Cut the butter/shortening in with forks or pastry cutter until it gets a crumbly texture.  Set aside.

1 egg
2/3 cup milk

Mix together the wet ingredients.  Pour into the crumbly mixture, and combine together carefully (it is a quick bread, similar to muffins and over-mixing will make it tough!) until ingredients are well-incorporated.  Press dough evenly into a well greased 8x11 or 9x9 baking dish.  Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, a toothpick inserted should come out clean.  Cut into pieces and serve with sweetened mashed strawberries (or other fruits or berries!) and whipped cream. 

Tip #1: don't accidentally read the recipe next to it in your cookbook and add way too much sugar. Like I just did. /facepalm

Tip #2: don't use a whisk to cut in the butter, like I just did, it will just get all of the butter stuck in the whisk and be a pain to get out.

Tip #3: don't forget to grease your pan, like I just did.

Wow, I'm just on a roll today.  If this shortcake comes out decent it will be through sheer luck!

...15 minutes later...

Amazingly, it turned out beautiful!
And that is how you make an old fashioned traditional shortcake.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Garden Update

 This week I pulled a lot of kale and a few broccoli and celery and finally got a chance to plant some more tomatoes.  I also put in a couple cucumbers, peppers, and eggplants.

Back to front: peppers, cukes, eggplants.
 All of this transplanting gave me a chance to see how the starts were doing in their pots.  Quite a few that were planted 2 to a pot were rootbound, so I divided them into the newly empty pots. 

Cucumbers and the largest tomato plants.
 Not long after posting about the health of my little plants, the tomatoes started having their leaves blacken and crisp up and then fall off.  I'm guessing it's some type of fungus; the grow room maintains a temperature between 68 and 82 degrees, but when it's hot and humid outside it becomes very humid in there.  So all of the plants got moved outside, for sunshine and cool nighttime temperatures.  I'm brewing some compost tea to spritz them with as well, and if that fails to improve things I'll try garlic water spritz too.  I'm hoping one thing or the other will help them to survive this.

Yellowing cucumber leaves.
 Strangely, all of my pickling cucumbers are still in good health but the Lemon and Marketmore 97 are having yellowing leaves and gray spots.  This always seems to happen to my cucumbers.  All the cucumber disease pictures online look pretty much the same though, so it's hard to tell what might be causing it.  I may take one of the plants to the Farmer's Market next weekend and ask the Extension Agents there if they can identify it.
Sweet Million afflicted by fungal disease.
 The Sweet Million was the hardest hit by the fungus, it has been transplanted into the garden now and I'm hoping it will perk up nicely.  At this rate I am beginning to doubt I'll even have tomatoes this year.

Cabbage head developing
 Meanwhile, in the garden proper, the cabbages are growing strong and have small but firm heads coming in.  The cauliflower are absolutely huge, but still show no signs of heading.

Pearl onions
 While the pearl onions are growing well and beginning to show their glossy white bulbs, the spanish white onions are not bulbing at all. 

Pea flowers!
 Finally the peas are flowering, they seem late to me, though it's probably just my imagination.

 My one and only zucchini is ridiculously healthy and putting out it's first male flower.  There are several female flowers on it as well but they are not quite ready to bloom.

Garden from the East side.  The thing above the fence is the butterfly bush.
All in all everything is doing well.  I'm concerned about the tomatoes, but I have faith that once they are planted they will recover well.  I am anxious to get them into the ground and be done with all this waiting.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Harvest Monday 6/11

Harvest Monday is sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions, and the letter B.

This weekend was a big harvest, but I am an idiot and failed to take pictures, the only one I have for this week is below.

Part of a harvest of kale, Swiss chard, and green onion.

This morning however, I got sick of waiting on things so I pulled up a couple lettuces, some celery, and green onions to take over to my mom.  Total weight 22 oz. 

I filled in my empty squares this morning with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants.  Just waiting on the rest of the brassicas to finish up before all of my second planting goes into the ground.  The tomato starts have been besieged by some sort of fungus and I'm really hoping that moving them into the garden where it's less humid and they get better nutrition will improve things.  /fingers crossed

Harvest 6/11: lettuce, celery, green onion, one tiny strawberry for mom.
I will have to post an update later today, or possibly tomorrow since I took a bunch of pictures this morning.  But right now, me and my little man are going to Grandma's and then to the playground to play in the fountain.

Have a lovely day everyone!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Canning Education

Today I took the National Center for Home Food Preservation free educational course on canning.  Since it was free I figured it was worth the time to learn something new and double check my knowledge of canning safety and standards. 

The reading was pretty brief and included safety information and links to canning competition judging standards.  It included how to care for and maintain pressure canners, and where to go to get pressure gauges checked; and water bath canning do's and dont's.  Considering it only took about an hour to do all the reading and quizzes, it was well worth the time to learn some new things.

If you have never canned foods, or are unsure of the hows and whys of canning safety, or if you want to branch out from water bath to pressure canning and aren't sure what you need please go sign up for the course.  It never hurts to expand your knowledge.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Seedling Review

Since nothing much is happening this week in the garden, other than the few strawberries I pick each morning, I thought I would give a quick breakdown of how my hot weather seedlings are doing. 

Fairy Tale and Prosperosa are both doing incredibly well.  They are large and healthy and looking great.

Cute Stuff - very healthy plants, growing better than any of the others, 100% germination.
Red Ruffled - lost a couple leaves but otherwise in great health, 5 of 6 germinated perfectly.
Rainbow Bell Pepper - these were seeds from Julie so not sure if they are a mix of varieties or if "Rainbow Bell" is the variety, also very healthy, no lost leaves, 5 of 6 germinated.
Jalapeno (Julie's) - not sure of the variety, but they have recovered nicely and appear to be in excellent health.

Bush Pickle - 100% germination, already flowering, no disease problems.  Very healthy.  Transplanted a few of these into an open square today.
National Pickling - 2 of 3 germinated perfectly, the third one sprouted late and is stunted.  All three appear to be very healthy, no flowers yet.
Marketmore 97 - 2 out of 3 germinated perfectly, third was late and is smaller.  Beginning to see spots on lower leaves.  Think it's alternaria leaf blight, but no leaves lost yet.  Lowering humidity may help control it.
Lemon - These were saved seed from my plants last year and may not even be Lemon, may be a Lemon/Marketmore, or Lemon/Wautoma, or even Lemon/Tigger melon cross.  Won't know until they fruit.  One grew well, another is stunted, and the third did not sprout at all.  They started out in good health, but are now showing signs of alternaria and lost leaves.

Tomatoes: (H=heirloom, OP=open pollinated, F1=hybrid)
(From Julie)
Siletz (OP) -  Health has improved greatly, but root system is small.  Transplanted to better container today to encourage healthier root development.
Roma (?) - very healthy after receiving adequate light, thick stalk, no disease.
Purple Prudens (?) - this plant was in the worst shape when I got it, it now has a very healthy few sets of leaves after being transplanted into a better container and receiving adequate light.  No disease.

(My seed)
Oregon Spring (OP) - these are out in the garden now, 100% germination, very healthy plants, grew quickly, producing flowers already.  No disease.
Beaverlodge Plum (OP) - Transplanted to garden today, 100% germ., v. healthy, fast grower, flowering now.  No disease.
Chadwick Cherry (H) - Transplanted today.  100% germ., v. healthy, fast grower. No disease.  This was the healthiest of the cherries I grew.
Indigo Rose (OP)- first planting failed to germinate, second planting had 50% germination.  Still very small, growing very slowly, but healthy.  No disease.
Zebra Cherry (F1) - first planting failed to germinate, 2nd planting had 50% germination.  Tiny, slow growing, healthy. No disease.
Sweet Million (F1) - 100% germination.  Slow growing, started out in good health.  Currently has disease, removed diseased leaves, waiting for recovery.
Beefsteak (OP) - 0% germ.  These were a free packet from a company I don't know well, planted 4 seeds, nothing even sprouted.  Not sure if it's because of the company, or the variety.
Black Plum (OP) - 100% germ.  Healthy, slower growing, strong stems.  No disease.
Pineapple (H) - 100% germ.  V. healthy, growing quickly, strong stems.  No disease.  These are the healthiest of the seedlings still inside.  Deep, strong roots too.
Cuore di Bue (OP) - 100% germ. 1 of the 4 is stunted, all 4 are in great health and growing quickly.  No disease.
Brandywine (H) - 100% germ. 1 of the 4 is stunted, all 4 are in great health and growing quickly.  No disease.
San Marzano Gigante 3 (OP) - 100% germ. Planted 8 and all are in great health, tall, leafy, and growing fast.  No disease.  Among the healthiest, along with Pineapple.

Everything is in pretty good shape, I'm not sure what is wrong with the Sweet Million.  It looks like it may be some type of fungus so the damaged leaves have been removed and the plant has been set out with the larger tomatoes to enjoy some sunshine.  I'm hoping the sunlight will dry it out some and I'll see some new healthy growth in the next week or so.  Whatever it is it doesn't seem to have affected the other plants.

So, of 15 varieties, only 4 have had issues.  Two of those four were hybrids; one was from a seed company I've never ordered from before, and probably won't in the future; the last was a very unusual blue variety, if it's germination is any indicator it certainly explains why this variety is so unusual. 

I was very pleased by the germination and health of the San Marzanos, since they are meant to be my primary canning tomatoes.  Hopefully I'll be able to make a report of the overall health of these varieties in the garden later in the summer, and a final report of their production and health at the end of summer as well.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

When Will It Be Summer?

This week has been a disappointment.  The continuing cool temperatures and rainfall have slowed down growth in the garden.  No sun = no growth.  For the most part things are in good shape, but the brassicas are taking their sweet time to reach harvest.  A few days of real sunlight would have me harvesting broccoli and cabbages.  Instead, I can expect the rest of the week to continue being miserable; and the brassicas will likely take a week or even two to be ready.  The peas haven't even started blooming yet, they are tall and healthy, but haven't even gotten a single flower.  Because of the slowdown, I have dozens of tomatoes in the grow room that are ready to transplant, or at least move into bigger pots.  Until I start removing the cool weather crops I can't start planting the hot ones, and until the larger hot ones are transplanted I don't have room to move them into bigger pots.  It's a conundrum.

Wretched Oregon weather, it seems to cause me problems every year.

Oh well, at least the strawberries are coming in, and the lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard are growing in like champs.  The cool weather has kept things from bolting too.  Except the cilantro, I just can't win with cilantro.

Hoping the weather is better where you are.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Harvest Monday: June 4th

Despite the muggy, overcast days and rain over night I have been harvesting quite a bit this week.  I really need to stay on top of taking pictures of my harvests though.  Over the weekend I harvested a few heads of lettuce for the house, and several more for my mom.  I also sent my mom a pile of kale, pearl onions, celery, and some fresh herbs.  All in all, she got a full reusable grocery bag full of veggies weighing in at just under 3 lbs.

This morning I got my very first harvest of strawberries too!  Three whole berries, one of which the slugs had already ravaged...but two out of three ain't bad.  I believe these are Benton strawberries, and they are delicious and require very little on my part, except picking.

First strawberries
In other news, I hit the jackpot at the produce market the other day.  Bought a 20 lb. bag of organic carrots for $11, and two pounds of white mushrooms for $0.99/lb.  I would have gotten more mushrooms but I bought up all they had.  I spent all day Saturday peeling, slicing, blanching, and freezing the carrots.  Now I have 21 half quarts of carrots in the freezer, all ready to be used in meals.  Best $11 I've spent in a while.  Those carrots will likely last us all year; and the ones in the garden will be for fresh eating.  I also washed, sliced, and sauteed the mushrooms to get 8 cups of sauteed mushrooms to put in the freezer.  I'm very happy about the mushrooms and will be on the lookout for more deals like that, no one in the house eats them but me and I find that they often go bad in the bottom of the fridge when I buy them fresh. 

Now if only the sun would come back, I could be outside working in the garden again.  The blackberries aren't going to chop themselves.

Harvest Monday is sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions.