Monday, October 29, 2012

Harvest Monday

The storm is on our doorstep, so I am putting up a quick Harvest Monday post before we inevitably lose power. So far there is steady wind out there and clouds, but not much more yet. A neighboring town has already experienced some outages.
I don't have a lot of harvest to report this week! Just some few fall carrots and French breakfast radishes. I have quite a few carrots out there in the garden, but am leaving them to get bigger while they still can. They are looking quite a bit nicer and larger than any of my spring grown carrots, which is a pretty nice surprise! Hope the voles don't discover them. And I'd just about given up on the radishes when almost overnight they formed nice crunchy bulbs. I still have lettuce growing, but it is a bit small and I'm hoping it will get a little larger before harvesting it.
 Did also harvest a bit or flat leaf parsley, which came in handy for some kale and bean soup I made.
 And, I almost forgot, I harvested another pound of broccoli shoots. It is incredible to me how that broccoli keeps on producing so well. The weather people like to use the work "unprecidented" and that's a good word for what this year's broccoli production seems to me!

As I sit here typing I heard a huge flock of starlings settle in the trees around the house, cheeping away as they rest and reconnoiter before heading to the south (and safety, I hope.) Our hill seems to be a favorite stopping place. I wish them well and am sending out prayers and well wishes for safety to all those who are going to be affected by this big storm that's going on out there. Stay safe everybody! And head on over to Daphne's Dandelions while you still have power to see how the harvests are going with gardeners the world over!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Are We Ready For the Storm?

The weathermen are carrying on about Hurricane Sandy, which is supposed to be chugging up the east coast this weekend and getting everyone all worked up about it. I suppose since we had two nasty storms last fall there is sense in preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. No matter which way the storm goes, it looks pretty certain that I won't get much done in the garden next week because it looks like at least four days of steady rain is coming. And unfortunately, this week it's taking me longer to recover from the wedding in New York than I thought and other than doing a bit of harvesting, I haven't accomplished much garden clean up  and prep at all.
 If high winds and heavy rain are coming, this may be the last weekend to really enjoy the fall colors and leaves. They are coming down in droves already and wind will take them all off! Now that I have use for them in compost I don't mind raking as much as I used to! I'll soon be settling into the "zen" of raking and shredding.
 I'd hoped to post a picture of the last growing bed that I'm digging in the garden, but I can't seem to find that photo anywhere in the picture library, drat! Well, since I haven't done much digging lately it can wait. I sincerely hope to start my planting next spring with the garden expansion a hundred percent finished at last. I only have about ten more feet of a three foot wide bed to dig. Pictured above is my husband's little herb garden.
Anyway, I suspect there will be the inspection of our small generator this weekend, so it will be working and if necessary we can keep my two freezers full of vegetables and food going. Last year we lost power for eight days, which seemed eternal. We really do like our electricity! Today's the day to stock up on bottled water and to get gas and batteries. But I hope, in the end, that it's much ado about nothing!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Late October Harvest and An Extraordinary Week

It has been quite the busy week around here so that I missed Harvest Monday entirely. Last Tuesday my aged parents arrived here from Florida and on Thursday we all trekked down to New York City to attend my son's wedding which was on Friday. It was a crazy time, since we stayed in lower Manhattan but the wedding was across the river in Brooklyn. The bride and groom had family coming in from Oregon, California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, western New York and all for a very small wedding of only about 45 people. We enjoyed seeing family that is so far flung, even though it was only for about 2 days and involved a lot of taxis, subways and walking! I think it will take me a few weeks to feel normal again!
Still, I did manage to get in a little harvest this week and I fully plan to devote next week to garden clean-up and prep for next year.
 This basket holds my first harvest of brussels sprouts. They weren't the tightest little sprouts ever, but they sure tasted good. The other half of the basket has broccoli shoots, which I'm still getting. After that first killing frost we had last week, it has stayed above freezing.
 More broccoli above, and below are two of my little fall carrots with a few French Breakfast radish that managed to bulb up. I doubt I'll get many more of those.

 Here's a glimpse of our yard in autumn. My niece from Chicagoland stayed with us for a day after the wedding in NY because she wanted to see the New England fall colors. My husband and niece are far better photographers than I am and I should have had them take the picture, but I just wanted to get the flavor of autumn here. Our peak for foliage colors is probably next week, because I'm still seeing a lot of green out there. It seems a little late this year.
My best harvest of all: my younger son Matt and his bride Abby overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a misty rainy day, but that didn't dampen anyone's spirits. They are both creative and talented artists and I hope they have a wonderful life together.
Looking forward to garden time this week, oh yeah!!!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Harvest Monday

This week saw the end of the "summer garden" with the first freeze on Friday night/Saturday morning. I brought in the remaining peppers, green tomatoes and green beans. The harvest this week pushed my October total above last year's, so now I can say I've had the most productive garden I've ever had. At the end of the month I'll tally the total, but I know it is over 500 pounds at this point, which makes me very happy.
 I picked a pound of broccoli shoots, probably the last I'll get, although the plants survived the frost, so you never know!
 My flat-leaf parsley didn't do too well, but I was able to get a little bit to pop in the freezer. I still have some growing in the garden.
Kale will likely be the majority of the harvest for the next month! I turned this into a really tasty stew made with pinto beans and smoked pork shoulder. I based my recipe loosely on several I found online and really liked it, so it is something I will surely make again.
 I've never done so well with peppers before! I only wish I'd gotten a few more red ones, but no complaints really. We have plenty in the freezer now for winter meals.
 Here are the very last of a phenomenal green bean harvest. As with peppers, there are plenty in the freezer to make sure we get our veggies all year round.
 Brought in a few more of my skinny leeks. About half of the leeks are still out in the garden and will stay there until I need them. Last year I had a few that overwintered, so maybe I'll have the same this year.
And lastly, I picked a colanderful of salad greens. This is a mix of chard, various baby lettuces, komatsuna, mibuna, arugula and tatsoi. I prefer a more lettuce based salad, but my husband is perfectly happy with this mix for fresh salads. After this week I think the harvests will slow way down.
Hop on over to Daphne's Dandelions where she host's Harvest Monday to see what other gardeners around the world have brought in this week!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Visit From Jack Frost

We were warned and he is here. Jack Frost came to us a full eighteen days sooner than last year. I admit it, I was spoiled by last year's late first frost on October 31 and the old timers around here tell me they were used to first frost coming more around Oct. 1, so to them this is late. I will take every extra growing day I can get! Aren't we lucky to live in an age when the weather forcasters give us good warning of the coming temps as opposed to having to make our best guess? They are not always accurate, but it sure does help!
 So yesterday I picked every last pepper, green bean and green tomato that was still out there. Now I need to make the time to process them. The timing of this could have been worse; later this week I'm off to New York to my son's wedding, so I guess I'm glad the freeze happened today and not next Thursday or Friday!
 You can see the rime on this kale plant. Thankfully, kale, brussels sprouts and leeks should be giving me a little harvest yet before the winter winds blow cold.
Sad to see the sagging pepper plants! They were so strong and healthy yet, unlike the tomato and eggplant plants that had long since given up.
 The early morning garden is covered with frosty crystals. Brrr, it is cold!
 Bye-bye bean patch #3! I'm sorry you didn't have time for your second blossoming this year!
Some fallen frost-lined leaves adorn the newly sprouted spinach. I forgot to mulch the patch, so I wonder if it has any chance at all of overwintering. Later today I'll go back down to see what may have survived the early morning cold. Now I will have to concentrate on the garden clean up for sure!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012 Garden Review Part 4: The Fails

In this final part of my 2012 garden review I am going to address the fails. I mean the utter fails. For me there is good news and bad news in this review. The good news is that there weren't many utter fails. The bad news is that they were completely preventable because in general they failed because I never got them properly started or out in the garden in the first place!
I decided last year that I wanted many more marigolds in my garden. They are supposed to help with pest control and they make the garden look so cheerful in August and September. So I started over 300 of them and they looked great! But I got myself bogged down and never...oh, the shame of it! them transplanted into the beds. Only a small handful made it into the garden and they are still happily blooming away today. But as you can see in the above photo, most of them died miserably in their original cells. The exact same thing happened with my celery. I started two kinds: Tango, which I've grown before and love, and Afina Cutting, which was new to me and looked interesting. I start them in a small flat and then transplant to individual cups in late winter, where they grow big and strong before planting out. This is the point where I went wrong. They never got transplanted and eventually choked out in their tiny flats.
My fall brassicas: broccoli, kohlrabi and cauliflower were fails because they never even got started. I dragged my feet and just didn't do them.

Swiss chard was pretty close to an utter fail. Which is a first for me. Chard is usually extremely reliable and prolific here, but this year my plants were diseased early on and remained so all summer. They are still growing, but they are stunted and as soon as the leaves reach a usable size, they get all speckled and brown. I have gotten almost no harvest out of them as opposed to pounds and pounds last year. I planted four varieties which usually do quite well: Fordhook Giant, Ruby, Perpetual Spinach and Argentata. None of them did well this year, but at least in this regard I am not the culprit!
I have yet to have any real success at growing spinach, though I try every year. The plants never get very big or robust, whether they are spring plantings or fall plantings. They also seem to be a real target of pests!
Cucumbers were also pretty close to utter failures. Last year I was giving cukes away by the bagful and making jars and jars of refrigerator pickles. I have only grown the heirloom variety Double Yield and been very pleased with them. But alas, this year they produced a mere handful of cukes. With the cukes, I'm not at all sure what the problem was. Maybe it was just the location I chose for them.
That about covers my 2012 garden! I have missed mentioning a few successes like my garlic and shallots, which did really well this year. And the garden's not finished yet; I have brussels sprouts yet to harvest and cool weather crops such as kale going strong. I am not done totalling the overall poundage yet, but I know I have harvested more than in 2011 so it will turn out to be my best garden to date, which is what I strive for each year: to improve the garden and to improve as a gardener. There is always more to learn and I can see that the importance of self-discipline is one of the lessons I am learning. I'm already looking forward to next year's garden!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Harvest Monday

This week has really ushered in the fall weather. The trees are turning color rapidly and the temperatures have dropped. We had quite a few dreary rainy days too, so my time in the garden was quite limited.
 I harvested my biggest and best green peppers this week. I've given up waiting for them to turn red and with frost looming on the horizon, I expect to be picking the rest of the peppers soon. These are the first I've ever grown that are big enough for stuffing!
 Still getting green beans, although they are certainly slowing down. Patch #1 is still at it, but I will be pulling it out this week as I do my fall clean-up.
 Broccoli shoots are also still coming in quite regularly. It's wonderful to be eating home-grown broccoli this year, since we love it so much.
 Now, the significance of the carrot above is that it is from my August planting, so we may be getting some more carrots this year! I have three beds of these August-sown carrots that I really hope to be able to harvest. The tomatoes are the last ones that are trickling in from the few plants that haven't fully died yet.
And I harvested the very last of the reasonably-sized eggplants. There are still a few on the plants that are about as large as my thumb, but this is really about it for the year. The plants themselves are all but dead, so there won't be more.
Not pictured, I was able to harvest enough baby lettuce and Asian greens to make a good sized salad, which was a real treat.
That's it for this week's harvest! Daphne's Dandelions is the host of Harvest Monday, where you can go to share what you've harvested and enjoy seeing what others around the world have grown in their gardens this week. Check it out!

Friday, October 5, 2012

2012 Garden Review Part 3: The Middlins Continued

There was too much to write about in the middlin' category of my garden, so I needed to continue it in a second post. The middlins are the vegetables that did fair to middlin' for me this year; well enough to please, but not stunning successes in terms of quantity and/or quality. This may have been affected by the weather, my poor garden soil, the lack of sunshine or my own inexperience, but I will certainly keep at it! They do, after all is said and done, make up the majority of my harvests when added all together.

The biggest middlin' on my mind this year is tomatoes. The thing is, I plant close to fifty tomato plants and should be drowning in them. But I never do and I'm sure a big part of that is that my plants get the bare minimum amount of sunlight they need to make fruit. Nevertheless, this year I had even less than what I usually get because my plants became diseased very early on and it was a battle for the fruit to ripen before they succombed. I'm uncertain of what I was dealing with, but I'm guessing  early blight. I had many varieties. Surprisingly, my Romas did the best. I was also pleased with Eva Purple Ball, which in other years has not done well here, and I had lots of Juliets. Cherokee Purple did fairly well. On the other end of the spectrum, Indigo Rose was awful tasting, though it did produce and this year my usual favorite, Amish Paste, gave me exactly two poor quality tomatoes.
I grew cauliflower for the first time this spring and was very pleased to get some little caulis. I am calling them middlin' because they were so very small that all twelve combined to make the equivalent of one head that I could buy at the store. I dropped the ball as far as trying a fall planting which might have done better. The variety I grew is called Charming Snow.
Most of my Asian greens grew amazingly well. They included mizuna, mibuna, komatsuna, tatsoi, yukina savoy and bok choy. I wouldn't call them middlin' at all, except for the bok choy. It grew fairly well, but due to not covering them they were insect ravaged early on. I definitely need to get better about using row covers.
Melons were a mixed bag. Isn't that watermelon above cute? Well, sadly, it snapped off its vine way before it was ripe, since I waited too long to support it. And that was about it for watermelon. The variety was Blacktail Mountain and I think next year it's time to try another type. Same with Honey Yellow honeydew which for the second year yielded one stunted golf-ball sized melon. My one success with melons was the Korean melon Sun Jewel.
I'd say kohlrabi, leeks and radish also qualify for middlin' this year. The purple kohlrabi definitely did better than the white. The French Breakfast radish did well in the spring, but unfortunately I planted way too few. The leeks are great and there are plenty, but they are much skinnier than last year and far less robust.
That about covers the middlins for the 2012 garden. Room for improvement and I am up to the challenge!
To end on an upbeat note: my garlic order for this year arrived yesterday. Yes, I saved plenty of my own homegrown for seed, but I was less than impressed with the softneck I grew, so I ordered 2 bulbs of a softneck variety and 2 bulbs of the hardneck variety Music I'd heard such good things about from Seed Savers Exchange. Unfortunately, they were unable to send me any Music because their Music seed garlic was not up to quality, so they substituted German Red. Well, I was a little disappointed, but that's OK. But wait! Because of this, they included in the box an entire pound of another variety of hardneck garlic free of charge, that they noted were "smalls". Smalls? Wow, most of them were bigger than the biggest bulbs I grew and saved to plant! And there were over twelve bulbs in that bag! The four bulbs that I paid for were truly huge, so I must say I am beyond pleased with Seed Savers Exchange. In fact, I think I'm in garlic heaven! Will be planting it out in early November!
See my beautiful little bags of garlic? Yes, indeed, this has put a smile on my face!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Harvest Monday

I am now at the point of harvesting only about every other day and the amounts are small. Lettuce is growing, but still a little too small to use yet. The same with some late-sown mizuna and radishes I put in.
 I had plenty of kale to harvest as seen above, and a very little swiss chard. Peppers were my biggest harvest this week. I've been trying to hold off picking them until they are red, but most are taking so long and are such a tempting target for slugs, that I may forget about the waiting and harvest the large green peppers anyway.
I still got some tomatoes, mostly cherry tomatoes from the two volunteer plants and my other plants have a few smallish green ones, a few of which are actually ripening slowly. Harvested, but didn't photograph komatsuna and about two pounds of green beans. Along with the peppers and kale, the green beans are still my big producers.
A number of you advised me to wait patiently on my brussels sprouts so I am taking your advice. I am seeing some growth of the sprouts there, so still hoping that with another few weeks before first frost, plus they do tolerate the frost well, they may get big enough to give something of a harvest. Crossing my fingers!
Daphne's Dandelions is the host of Harvest Monday where garden bloggers go to share what they've harvested for the week. It's very inspiring and instructive to see what's happening in the vegetable gardening world and I'm hopping on over to see!