First harvest of 2017

Picked some lettuce and cilantro. The flavors, aromas and textures of homegrown produce sure can’t be beat. Fresh cilantro is so powerfully fragrant — an entire supply at the grocery store can’t even come close to the aroma coming from just a few stalks from the garden. And the taste! A little bit truly goes a long way. With just a few leaves, I could actually taste the herb contributing to the flavor of my soup.

IMG_20170312_200109

Even lettuce did not disappoint. The main quality I noticed was the texture and crispness of the fresh leaves. They were tender and had…I don’t know how to describe it…the substance of an actual leafy vegetable. It was lettuce that didn’t leave me feeling empty after eating it, unlike the kinds I’m used to in a typical salad or fast food burger. These sure made some good lettuce wraps.

Advertisements

Patio gardening for the weary

The dog days of summer have arrived in the Tri-Cities. We just survived a week with temperatures lingering past 100 F. While the garden has indeed exploded with lush greens and harvests, the intense heat has made it difficult to work outside. Additionally, my garden plot has become conquered by weeds despite my (and the stirrup hoe’s) best efforts to keep them at bay. So to continue enjoying a garden, I succumbed and purchased some planters, dug up several plants, and started a mini garden on my patio. Funny that the planters were more costly than an entire 15′ x 15′ plot at the community garden. Yet, I do find having the plants right outside my doorstep immensely more enjoyable. This also gives me a chance to grow the plants that got attacked by rabbits and voles.

South-facing patio garden: 2 chili pepper plants flanked by 2 brown planters containing Casper eggplants (front), Bountiful Beans in the rectangular planter, Dragon carrots (back).
P1040277

Chili pepper (my seed starts didn’t fare well, so I inherited these)
P1040278

Casper eggplant, transplanted from the garden plot
P1040279

Bountiful green beans (direct seeded in the planter)
P1040283
Dragon carrots (direct seeded in the planter with sowing markers)
P1040285

North-facing patio garden: fall seed starts and herbs (front), cilantro, lettuce, trellised peas (middle), worm compost bin (back)
P1040288
Fall seed starts (plus a late second attempt at watermelons)
P1040287
Thai basil (left), Sage (middle), Lemongrass (right), Thyme (not visible), transplanted from the garden plot
P1040289
Cilantro (front left), Speckled lettuce (front right), Golden Sweet peas (back), all direct seeded
P1040291

Spring evaluation

When the lettuce is bolting and the cucumbers start appearing, that means summer is officially here. Pictured below is the latest harvest consisting of Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage, Dragon Carrots, and a Boothby’s Blonde Cucumber:

P1040216

The spring has provided a good bounty so far. Listed here are the total yields from each set of plants and recommended adjustments for next spring:

  • Beets (Detroit Dark Red) – Devoured by mice before I could harvest them. Gopher baskets offered no protection. Will try planting in containers.
  • Bok Choy – 11.90 lb from 9 plants, seeds started in February, last harvest in mid June. 9 plants provided a continuous harvest, will try staggering plantings to 3 at a time. Wire mesh box provided good protection from pests. Great steamed and in stir fry.
  • Cabbage (Mammoth Red Rock) – 2.13 lb from 1 plant, seeds started in February, harvested late June, 1 plant left to harvest. 2 plants that were transplanted later were destroyed by rabbits since the cabbage plants were out in the open. 4 plants may be a good number, will keep the plants protected by wire boxes.
  • Carrots (Dragon) – 0.94 lb from 5 plants, seeds started in March, harvested late June. Leaves were partially eaten by pests, gopher baskets provided OK protection, except for the few carrots that had portions of the root nibbled on. Will try planting in containers.
  • Cauliflower (Early Snowball) – Devoured by mice before the cauliflower heads had a chance to form. Wire mesh box provided no protection. May need to try container planting.
  • Kale (Red Russian) – 15.75 lb from 6 plants, seeds started in February, still heavily producing. Wire mesh box provided good protection from rabbits, but leaves started being inhabited by aphids near the beginning of June. Suggestions for next season: reduce number of plants to 4, use row cover for additional pest protection. Kale chips from this variety were OK.
  • Lettuce (Speckled) – 2.1 lb from 6 plants, seeds started in February, last harvest in mid June. 6 plants at once provided a continuous but short harvest due to bolting. Will keep lettuce north or east of taller plants to give them shade. Wire mesh box provided good protection from pests. Great in sandwiches and for lettuce wraps.

P1040005

  • Peas (Golden Sweet) – Devoured before they could grow taller than ~6 in regardless of what protective devices I used. Currently attempting to grow peas in a container at home.
  • Radish – Harvested too late and ended up growing too big and tough for eating. Next time harvest after just a month.
  • Spinach (America) – Encountered difficulties raising the seedlings. Some seedlings already started bolting, even with just a couple sets of true leaves, and got infested with some small insects. Next time will grow seedlings in shade and protected by row cover.

Absence makes the plants grow greener

I had to take a hiatus from gardening due to travel and, I must admit, sheer heartache from seeing some of my plants undergo transplant shock. Turns out this break did us all some good (it also helped that the community garden has automatic sprinklers, which allowed me to leave the garden unattended). The leafy green plants that appeared to be suffering without protection had bounced back.

Bok choy and Speckled Lettuce
P1030968

Another view of the bok choy
P1030977
Russian Red Kale
P1030971

Other crops that appeared unresponsive to any previous TLC have flourished.

Early Snowball Cauliflower
P1030978

Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage
P1030980

Some root crops look ready for harvest.

Radishes
P1030982

I should thin out the greens of these Detroit Dark Red Beets soon.
P1030976

And finally, my peppers, eggplants, and large tomatoes have sprouted. This required coaxing via the combined warmth and humidity from both the heating mat and grow lights. I sowed the rest of the summer seeds: beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, and squash. I heard from some fellow gardeners that peas can still be started at this time, so I figured I’d give these another go.

Spring transplants and summer seed starts (part 2)

Some of the spring starts have begun to look a bit claustrophobic within their cloches. An unveiling was in order.

Bok choy:
P1030951

Speckled lettuce:
P1030954

Golden Sweet peas:
P1030958

Progress of the Music and Samarkand Persian Star garlic:
P1030950

A week of spring warmth, sunshine, and compost tea served them well so far. I started the second batch of summer starts (beans, corn, cucumber, melons, and squash) since the weather has stayed quite warm lately. The eggplant, hot peppers, and big tomatoes haven’t germinated yet, so I started another set of these seeds.