Posts tagged ‘cold frame’
Wow, what crazy weather this is! It is a little scary that is only the beginning of spring and it is forecast to be 80F at the end of the week. I’m sure we will be paying for this in some way.. in the meantime though, I guess we should enjoy the weather and get busy gardening!!
I planted my cold frame in mid Feb and have some nice lettuce mix coming up and some healthy looking brassicae transplants – cabbage, broccoli, mustard greens and kale. I also planted in my new raised bed at the bottom of my deck – I got some Japanese greens seed from a friend and so am trying that out.. The first peas I sowed at the end of February got eaten by a resident vole or mouse – hopefully with the hot weather it has now abandoned its winter home.
Today was an exciting day for the chickens – we put their coop onto wheels and now can move them around the garden, so today was the first day they were moved. They seem to be enjoying digging themselves pits to sit in to keep themselves cool and to clean their feathers. I love watching them, they are very interesting and they always have something to say when I go by them.
I have been using the “deep litter bed” method in their run – mostly leaves with some straw and of course lots of their poop! Occasionally I throw a little wood ash into the coop to neutralize the ammonia – this seems to keep the smell under control. So today after the move, I shoveled all their litter bed into a compost heap at the back of my new garden area. That is going to be some nice compost!
I haven’t been blogging very much since I started teaching a gardening class at Northampton Community College – I am doing one per month until October. Luckily I found I love teaching gardening! I am enjoying sharing my knowledge and meeting lots of enthusiastic gardeners! This season I am also going to work part-time on a small CSA farm called Shooting Star Farm near Easton. I am working for a share in the CSA and so have decided to grow mostly storage crops in my garden.
I ran out of potatoes in late January, squash in February and my onions didn’t grow so well anyhow. I still have garlic, canned tomatoes and kale in the garden. This year I decided to purchase onion plants instead of sets – they arrived last week and so I go them in the ground already. I will purchase some seed potatoes very soon. I wanted to plant them later, but don’t really have anywhere to store them under ideal conditions – probably in the basement is the coolest place right now. In the potato class I went to, the teacher suggested buying them as soon as they come in since when they are stored at room temperature they lose some vigor.
My compost piles that I made last year didn’t do very much over the winter – I just moved a couple of them and they were really dry and had hardly started decomposing. I added some water and made a bigger pile, so hopefully by the mid to end of the season they will be done.
My goodness, now I know I am a rubbish blogger! I haven’t posted for two months again, but since it is raining and I have gotten to the end of the pressing household jobs, I thought I would do an update.
Well, this month has been unbelievable in terms of weather – so warm – it nearly made up for the wet August we had.. I’m not so sure my tomatoes would agree, but my cabbage, lettuce and cauliflower might! I have them under row cover and plastic that I am closing up on cold nights (last night was 50F though, so no need for putting them to bed last night!) and opening during warm days. Quite a lot of work, but they are all looking really good – I hope they mature before the number of hours of light starts affecting them.
I have been composting like a mad thing over the last month or so, I collected a lot of leaves from neighbors and friends – with my new toy – an electric leaf vacuum/mulcher (Worx). It works very well but I think I have gotten tennis elbow from hauling it about – plenty of time to get over that though with the winter approaching fast. I made three new compost piles with grass and straw and most recently now chicken manure & bedding – yes that’s right we have four new residents – four lovely red hens (Red Stars) – donated to me by a friend with a CSA!
We built (an experience that is a story in itself) a cute chicken house (that matches our house) and are happily collecting eggs – so far so good. The girls are entertaining and seem happy, although I feel bad that the run I built is a little small – it was supposed to be moveable so they could have new pasture every day, but we need to work out how to make the house moveable too (very heavy), that is a Spring job I think.
I was recently very satisfied by my ability to feed our visiting friends two weeks in a row with food almost exclusively from the winifredslittleacre – big egg-centered breakfast, then later a roast dinner consisting of meat (locally grown) and a medley of roast vegetables – including sweet potatoes, swede (rutabaga), turnip, potatoes, parsnip, butternut and delicata squash. Followed by peach crumble (using peaches from our tree frozen in syrup). Delicious!
In the garden itself, amazingly I managed to get nearly every empty bed sown with cover crop – winter rye, hairy vetch or clover (which I was using as a living mulch under the tomatoes). That should add some nice organic matter to the soil for next season and protect the soil over winter. I planted 123 garlic cloves back in October – which seems premature now that November has been so warm – they are putting up green shoots, which hopefully won’t be too much of a problem for next year’s growth. I mulched them with pine needles (following a last weed – I’m trying to be more diligent about that – especially now I have my new scuffle hoe!)
I have already started planning for next year – those seed catalogues have begun to arrive already – sooo tempting all the different varieties, etc. I am planning a couple of different edible landscapes this year so I have to take a slightly different outlook on the plants – I will look at their aesthetic value as well as their functionality. I also want to save some more seeds this year, so I will have to be more diligent about choosing open pollinated varieties. I haven’t decided if I am going to try and sell more produce next year – I have to do some survey work and talk to a couple of people yet. I did start to add up the value of all the vegetables and fruit that I grew this year – so far the total was over $1000! Which is great – I have to go back to my plans and see how the actual production compared to the quantities I was aiming for – more on that later!
How time flies when you’re busy gardening, getting the kids back to school and generally trying to catch up with life.. I can’t believe it is a month since my last post..
Anyhow, things are a little wet today (3.5″ of rain so far since yesterday), so no gardening for me – just sorting out house things and maybe a little harvest preservation.. I have the last of the Marinara tomatoes to process – I’m thinking of combining them with the yellow peach tomatoes and making salsa, then I also have to make some more pasta sauce to add to the stocks. The tomatoes are suffering from Early blight and it is taking its toll on the productivity now, plus all the rain probably doesn’t help either – I was planning to remove all the infected leaves over the weekend, but didn’t quite get to it and now it’s going to be wet for a week. The other thing I didn’t get to was re-spraying my squash (pumpkin, butternut & delicata) with a dilute milk solution (1:10) for powdery mildew that they all came down with. Hopefully the fruits will survive, normally they seem to.
Well the peaches seem a long time ago now, but we had a total of 60lbs which was great for the three-year old tree – about half were eatable whole, but since they didn’t keep long and the harvest was over such a short period (10 days), most were processed – made into freezer jam, used in hot pepper sauce, eaten as salsa, baked peaches or peach crumble, the rest were frozen in light syrup for later use. The apple tree didn’t fare so well, it is a sad-looking thing – badly infected with cedar apple rust, plus the birds and the wasps enjoy the fruit, so I picked most of the apples early and made apple crumble and apple cake with the meager harvest – tasty nonetheless!
This is definitely a good year for green beans – the ones I planted in spring are still producing and a second succession has just started producing prolifically! I must admit I’m getting a bit fed up of chopping, blanching and freezing them, but since it is one of the relatively few vegetables my boys will eat, I’m doing it gladly – we’ll be eating green beans well into the fall and hopefully through the winter.
Talking of winter storage, I have harvested some potatoes – still got a few to do – I probably better get on them since they might start rotting with all this rain. Not a bad harvest so far though – they are drying off in the basement before I store them for the winter. Another storage crop – kidney beans and cranberry beans have done well – we harvested them just before the hurricane last weekend since some were already rotting – we netted about 6lbs before podding (~3lbs after) and there are still quite a few left on the bushes (I probably need to get out there again soon). They tasted great in a veggie chili and in a lasagna I cooked yesterday. (Not so popular with the boys, but good protein source if I can sneak them in without them noticing!).
We ate our first cantaloupe melon yesterday – they seem to be pretty late this year, I have to go back and check on my planting dates for them. The watermelon fruits stopped growing due to some disease – I have to identify the problem with that, the cantaloupe also has a disease, but one of the two I picked (actually they picked themselves – by falling off the vine) was a good size – bigger than I’ve grown before with the same seed. It’s funny how things vary from year to year. Like my onions were a relative disaster this year (compared to last year when they all did really well) – I planted a whole lot of sets – red, white and yellow – the red and white hardly grew – they were in the new part of the garden outside the fence – maybe it wasn’t very well-drained or needed more organic matter, or I planted them too late – anyhow they weren’t good and even the yellow onions were small compared to last year when they all did really well. I’m going to try growing them from seed next year.
I have my fall/winter vegetables in the ground – the brassicae I grew from seed didn’t look too healthy but I transplanted them anyway but I also bought some cabbage and brocolli plants for insurance and they are thriving so far. The root crops – rutabaga and turnips are coming along – hopefully they will be good – I love root vegetable soup! My second sowing of romaine lettuce actually germinated so I have some baby lettuce coming up – I have to plant some more mesclun to get some variety.
This week I want to get on with building my larger raised bed close to my house, which will be double covered in the winter with row cover and plastic – I will sow some lettuce, kale, etc. in it, but mainly it will be for early crops next Spring. I would like to get an earlier harvest of peppers and cucumbers in next year.
Tomato season is upon us at last! Those really red & ripe ones are sooo delicious. The Early Girl variety I tried for the first time this year did start ripening first, but only by a couple of days, so now I have Amish Paste, Marinara and Early Girl’s coming fast but not too furious as yet. We had some sautéed in butter for breakfast at the weekend – exquisite! I made a Kale frittata to use up some of the kale and leftover potatoes – that was pretty good, I haven’t mastered that kale cooking quite yet – but it is extremely good for you and very easy to grow, it is a must!
The peaches are ripening up nicely – unfortunately they are covered in bacterial spot and the stones don’t look too good – not sure if that is disease or insects, however we tried a couple of unripe ones the other day (after grilling) and they were super sweet – so I think they will be OK to eat – just not that great for snacking on prior to surgery! A quick internet search revealed that peaches do not ripen off the tree, so more patience is required. My twin sister is leaving to go back to the UK next week though, so hopefully they will be ready before that.
I sowed most of my fall/winter vegetables late last week – turnips, swede (rutabaga), arugula, kale, spring onions, beets and romaine lettuce (I keep trying to sow lettuce throughout the summer but I’m not having much luck so far – I even refrigerated some of the seed but it still refused to germinate). My brassicae (cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli & cauliflower) seedlings are looking a bit pathetic – they are in the cold frame, I’m not sure whether their poor state is due to the heat or the fact that I have them shaded too much or could be due to something else entirely. Who knows. Maybe I will uncover them and see what happens – I may end up buying some seedlings otherwise.
I am in the process of building a new raised bed near to my deck – I am planning to put overwintering vegetables in it, so I’d better get on and finish it soon so I can sow them in time! I am using concrete blocks to frame it out and will cover it with both row cover and plastic to see if I can get the temperature to stay near freezing in the middle of winter. It is an experiment worth doing I think – lettuce in the middle of winter would be rather nice don’t you think? I am also getting my winter storage sorted out – I am having someone dig me a hole big enough to bury a galvanised trash can to store root vegetables in – another experiment! Stay tuned for exciting results (hopefully not too mushy!).
It is raining tonight, which is good – I have been watering the last few days – it always pains me to use our precious treated tap water for the garden, I do have rain barrels set up but they don’t capture enough for the whole garden. Must do something about that…
How satisfying it was (and just a bit sweaty) to dig up 96 great heads of garlic yesterday! I had to fight through the weeds to get to them, but it was worth it! I attended the Easton Garlic Festival last Fall and purchased a bulk load of garlic – mainly Turkish Red, but also a variety pack that included German Red, Music, Elephant, French to name but a few. My son and I planted the bulbs late last October, we mulched them with pine needles and waited… I cut the scapes off in May (although some escaped – resulting in smaller heads) and treated them to some fish fertilizer in Spring and that was pretty much it – they are a very low maintenance crop! The yield was pretty impressive – about 90% of the bulbs produced full heads. (A few of them had gone too far and were splitting at the top – but I will use or trade these ones early).. I made a screen from hardware cloth and an old window frame for them to lie on to cure (out of the sun, dry place) for a week or two.
This week has been hot but productive, I can last until about 11:30am in the hot sun and then I have to retreat inside – how do those real farmers do it? I sprayed my fruit trees with the homemade beneficial spray again – this time it included Neem and Bt for insect control as well as the usual molasses, vinegar, soap and seaweed extract. I got really annoyed though, I had purchased a new gallon sprayer and after 10 mins of spraying, the handle (on/off switch) failed and it was such a pain to keep fixing during the spraying (luckily only my dog was the only witness to the expletives being muttered!). Whilst I was dealing with the trees, I decided to prune them – the peach tree was getting a bit tall, cherry that I am training in a fan against the fence had a center branch that needed to come out, and the apple had two central leaders that I had to choose between. It was tough, but it had to be done!
I started on the new raised bed for the carrots this week and also decided to where I am going to locate the new raised bed for my fall/winter produce – I thought it was going in or near the fenced garden but realized it needed to be nearer to the house (to make it more usable in the winter), so it will go by the back deck where the cold frame is currently. I think I am going to use concrete blocks to frame that out too – the ground is not level there and so I was worried about using wood or plastic lumber.
I sowed some more green beans and a few peas – just to see if they would work this year (I planted them too late last year and the flowers didn’t survive the cold weather). The various squashes are doing very well so far – the butternut is flowering and we ate the first yellow summer squash last night – no signs of squash bugs or cucumber beetle this year.
I was away for a couple of weeks and even with the help of a super house/garden sitter – the weeds had taken a hold over some of the beds! It took me all last week (and a lot of sweat) to get it under control, but now I’m back on schedule – I have started to implement the fall/winter vegetable plan.
I sowed some brassicae in the cold frame (and covered it with burlap for shade). I need to dig up some potatoes to make room for the transplants in three weeks or so. After doing the Weed Management part of the County Extension’s course in Organic Vegetable Production, I know that I should prepare the beds two weeks in advance, then slice off any pesky weeds that sprout just before I transplant or sow more seeds.
I emptied a small bed of strawberries since they didn’t produce very well and were infected with a fungal disease – I am going to use it for carrots. My best carrot crop ever was from the cold frame this year, sown in February and picked in June – the rest of my attempts this season have proved fruitless (or carrotless), however I am determined to work out the best way to grow them in the main garden, and I want to try them after the frost – they are supposed to be really sweet then. Here is my plan – I will build up the sides of this small square bed and fill it with composted leaves and bought compost. Then sow the carrots and leave them under a board or burlap for a couple of weeks – then flame weed the bed just before the carrot seedlings come up… we’ll see!
On the harvesting front – we have enjoyed an abundance of blueberries – so juicy and nice, raspberries (don’t know if they are good, since I don’t eat them) and green beans have been particularly good – I read in the Victory Garden cookbook that after steaming, you should dry them out in a dry saucepan before adding butter or whatever else – it works! They are delicious!
I’m a bit worried about the tomatoes – they look OK but they do have signs of some disease at the bottom – unfortunately due to a bad reaction to a wasp sting, I wasn’t able to attend the Disease Management part of the Organic Vegetable Production course, so I’m not sure what it is – I’m hoping it is not Early or Late Blight. What I did learn from reading the literature though was that once a plant shows signs of disease, it is generally too late to do anything about it by spraying, so I have been removing infected leaves (in dry weather) and putting them under plastic to kill them (spores cannot live on dead plant tissue). My Early Girl tomatoes are not living up to their “before July 4th” expectation – still green.. I guess you have to have a greenhouse to get them that early. The trellising technique seems to keeping the growth of the tomatoes under control, the real test is when the plants are full of fruit and it rains like crazy – then we’ll see if they are still standing (unlike the cages that normally fall down).
I’m very happy with all my companion planting – the borage, marigolds, catnip, alyssum and many others are all attracting the good bugs – I haven’t seen that many “bad bugs” so far. An interesting development, whilst I was away, the radishes I planted around the squash and the cucumber went to flower and the honey bees love them! I have left them in place, they even have seed pods on them, so I might save the seed (have to check they are not hybrids first).
What a wet week! I have been trying to protect my seedlings and the plants in the cold frame by covering them during the downpours, and quickly uncovering them when the it stops in a vain attempt to get them to dry out a bit. Can’t do anything about plants in the ground though – actually, if nothing rots, the rain seems to have brought on the potatoes, onions and beans pretty well (same applies to the weeds of course!).
I did manage to get out into the garden yesterday morning – I fulfilled my personal mission of converting some of my sons’ old trampoline into a low tunnel to protect the sweet potatoes from unwanted invaders. It looks a little strange, but that’s OK – it all adds to the uniqueness of Winifreds Little Acre! I also edged around the raspberry fence that is hopefully going to protect the other crops outside the deer fence – I had a problem with escaping raspberries into my blueberries this year, so I decided to pre-empt the problem in this new raspberry patch.
The bees haven’t had too much chance to fly due to the rain, but hopefully they are still busy sorting out their new home. I’m a little worried about the baby peaches with their soft fuzzy skin – all this rain might take a toll. I’m planning to give them another holistic spray this weekend to help them out.
I have my curcubits – summer squash, cucumber (2nd sowing – first one failed) and melons in the basement germinating as I write hopefully. They should be ready to go out in a couple of weeks – they normally grow pretty fast. I’m looking into how to protect them from the cucumber beetle – they were all badly affected last year by bacterial wilt – so far my plan is to plant a ring of radish before I transplant them and then to cover them as soon as I put them out.
Looking forward to a great transplanting weekend – my babies are all ready to go out into the real world!