Onions

Today is so nice out I decided the onions and garlic had cured long enough so I hauled them all outside to clean up and trim before putting them in winter storage.

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I planted fewer than I did last year and, fortunately, wasn’t plagued with another round of that fungus that attacked them. What I don’t get is why there is such a disparity of size among them.

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Granted, they start out as different sized plants from the garden center, but not this different! They all went in the same bed and at the same time so I can’t blame soil or water differences. The sizes were all mixed up in the bed. Maybe next year I’ll try fertilizing them, or fertilizing some and not others and see if that makes a difference. In the meantime, it’s kind of nice to be able to select just as much onion as I need for a recipe and not have to put leftover bits in the refrigerator.

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Garden Update Mid-May

I made a quick visit to the garden the other day so I thought I’d do a quick update to share what’s going on. The short version is: not much. The weather has been on the cool side so the things I have planted or transplanted are poking along and other things, like beans, that I would have pushed other years haven’t even gone in yet.

Broccoli

The broccoli is looking great. Cold doesn’t phase it. I’ve been really happy with this particular hybrid, Belstar.

Brussels Sprouts

The same can be said for the Brussels sprouts. I didn’t start seeds for the sprouts this year but instead bought a four pack at the farmers market. I planted all four for insurance since last year neither of the two plants I put in made it to harvest.

Cauliflower

This blurry leaf is cauliflower. I hadn’t planned on growing it but picked up a packet of seeds at the seed fair on a whim. I figured since I had such great luck with the broccoli last year I’d try something similar.

Chard

The first chard is poking up. I planted about a dozen seeds with the plan to thin them back to a couple of the colors I like. We don’t eat enough of it to give over much space but it’s nice to have some available and it just keeps producing.

Garlic

Garlic is, of course, looking awesome having been growing for over six months already. I came upon a strange thing this spring. There were a few tiny garlic plants growing in a line in one of the paths, at least I think they’re garlic. Can’t think of how they could have gotten there since I harvested whole, undamaged bulbs from the adjacent bed and I snapped off all the scapes so none of the plants went to seed, a rare thing for garlic to do anyway. I’ve moved them to a bed to grow on and see what happens.

Onions

The onion plants are starting to show new growth so I’m assuming they’ve got some new roots put down. I quit growing onions from seed a couple years ago because the way I was doing it took up so much space in my seed-starting area of the basement. I’d rather use it for other crops. An allium I don’t have a  picture of are the leeks. Despite starting them very early they go into the garden the size of hairs instead of pencils like everything I read says they should be. In spite of that, they always end up growing huge.

Lettuce

In the leafy plants department, lettuces are coming along nicely.

Covered Lettuce

The lettuces I started in the basement and then transplanted had to be covered because something was grazing on them. The peas, too. I hope it doesn’t find the lettuce seedlings coming up in the other bed. My guess is it was turkeys or rabbits.

Cilantro2

The first cilantro is starting to show and looking good.

Parsley

Not so with the parsley transplants. I think I set them out too early. Must make a note on my planting schedule. They all three are still alive but looking rather yellow.

Spinach

Spinach is always carefree. Looking good so far.

Rutabaga

The rutabagas (I think this is them) are looking a little beat. My guess is flea beetles. They’re such a problem in the spring I don’t even try to grow some things like arugula until fall.

Radish

The radishes are even worse. I don’t really care because they’re something I can take or leave and the seeds were free. Radishes are supposed to be easy but I rarely have success with them.

Endive

Here’s something I’m giving a try again this year, never having succeeded in the past. It’s endive. I’m planning to grow it up, store the roots and force chicons this fall/winter.

Herbs

In the end of the herb bed the old mint on the left is doing fine and the new one I bought so I’d be sure to have spearmint on the right is doing even better. Between them, the chives I moved for the third time in as many years hasn’t missed a beat. I will be grabbing some of those flowers to put on salads this week.

Cal Poppies

Next to the herbs, on either side of the entrance, I’ve sown California poppies, another free packet of seeds grabbed on a whim. Clearly I’m going to need to thin these as they get bigger. This year I’m doing different flowers from different sources to try to break my calendula and marigold monotony. In fact, right now the most weeding I need to get on top of is removing the calendula seedlings that have sprung up so thickly in some areas.

That’s it for most of what’s in at the moment. I’m preparing the spaces for tomatoes and peppers but I haven’t even started hardening them off, having taken a much-needed vacation out of town. With any luck the weather will start to warm now.  I’ll just keep reminding myself that everything will happen in time and fit in between all the other things.

Hello, Spring. Goodbye, Bees.

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Today was the first time we’ve gone up to our community garden plot this spring. There are a few signs of green besides the occasional weed, including those healthy looking chives. I’ve dropped by a few times over the winter, but today we actually did a little bit of work, mostly clearing away last year’s asparagus stems. We found shoots!

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Out of all the plants, I think this might have been the only female and I’m wondering if there’s a correlation between it’s sex and that it’s the first one out of the ground. More likely it’s just the best-protected plant.

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These scallions that I left in last fall are going to be ready to harvest soon. I need to make a note to grow them over the winter again. They’ve done well.

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In another Allium area we found the garlic looking great. I did a quick scan of the anal-retentive grid I planted them on and it looks like every bulb I put in survived and has emerged.

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This Allium, which I thought might be Korean chives, has come back strong. I am curious to really identify it, if possible, now that I’m reading Around the World in 80 Plants.  There are so many edible Alliums! It sounds like even experts have a difficult time telling some of them apart. Which reminds me, back in the perennial garden at home my ramps, a.k.a. Allium tricoccum are up. I hope this year I can get some seed from them.

Ramps

I need to find an unobtrusive way to mark where they are planted so I don’t accidentally dig them up during this summer’s planned garden update. Maybe a circle of stones.

Hellebore 1

Elsewhere in the perennial garden the hellebores are stealing the show. After yesterday’s on again/off again snow and sunshine—seriously, it was a weird day— I got out to look around and admire a few blooms.

Hellebore 2

Hellebore 3

Hellebore 4

Hellebore 5

Niger

This clump of Helleborus niger var. macranthus is starting to look a little beaten-up. No surprise since it’s been blooming for about a month and has been snowed and sleeted on several times.

Birdhouse

The H. niger is under the cherry tree where I replaced the trashed cigar box birdhouse (thanks for nothing, squirrels!) with this one I scavenged from my late father’s shed last fall. There is already some nesting material hanging out of the backyard wren house so I thought I’d better get this one out.

Which brings me to the other animal housing update…

Bee Blocks

Here are the deserted blocks that, until last weekend supported my beehives. A couple summers ago I discovered the hard way that I’ve developed an allergy to honey bee venom. (The emergency room just over the hill here is very nice.) Since then, I just haven’t felt comfortable around the hives without being fully suited up. Consequently, maintenance of the garden has suffered. I recently made the hard decision to give up the bees and turned them over, along with all my equipment to my beekeeping partner to liquidate. Helen, the last hive I had has survived through two winters so he’s going to attempt to make some splits. They should be rather desirable on the local market. I’m going to miss watching the annual cycle of the hive and caring for the honey bees. They’re fascinating creatures I’ll always appreciate. In their place I’ll be caring to the extent I do to the native bees and other pollinators around my home gardens and in our community garden plot by providing food plants and housing opportunities for them.

Scilla

The food, of course, includes my nemesis, the dreaded Scilla. I’ve given up trying eradicate it from the back garden and hope just to keep it from invading the front. It’s still a noxious, alien weed in my eyes, but knowing it provides food for so many kinds of bees has changed my opinion of it, but only grudgingly.

Taste Testing Times Two

It seems like ages ago that the first of my Indigo Rose tomatoes started showing some color. In time they all grew larger and developed the dark purple color on their stem ends. And then they just sat there for weeks being otherwise green and hard. Finally, a few of them started to redden and today I decided it was time to taste.

Ripe Indigo Rose Tomato

The purple pretty much stayed the same on the ripe tomato. It ripened to a typical red tomato color.

Sliced Indigo Rose Tomato

Inside it was red throughout. I’ve gotten used to the “black” tomatoes I grow having at least some darker flesh mixed in but there seems to be only a little bit just inside the dark areas of skin on this one. The taste was OK. Nothing spectacular. It as a fun novelty to grow but I don’t see it being a major source of of anthocyanins in my diet, but at least a little more color in salads.

Habanada Pepper

The second subject of today’s taste testing was the Habanada pepper. This variety of what would normally be a rather hot pepper, the Habanero, has been bred to have no heat and given a clever name. I don’t mind hot peppers, but I was intrigued so I ordered a couple of plants.

Sliced Habanada Pepper

Inside it didn’t have many seeds. As I brought it up to take a bite I could detect that distinctive tropical hot pepper fragrance. Biting down and chewing I waited but the burn never came. It was strange. I liked it, sweet but not like a bell pepper. It’s going to take a few of them to add much flavor to whatever I may put them in, but fortunately it looks like the plants are going to be heavy bearers despite their diminutive size.

Have you tasted any new-to-you produce this year?

A Clue in the Mystery

Mystery Squash

The volunteer squash I discovered is starting to show some evidence of its parentage. There are a few little fruits forming along the vine and I’ve been browsing images of striped squash to see if I can get a clue as to who its parents may have been. So far I’m finding plenty of varieties with wide light stripes alternated with narrow green stripes but none with the reverse like this except zucchini, which might not be a good thing. I’ve just started my investigation. Perhaps when it’s fully-grown and ripened and tasted I’ll have more hints as to where it came from. In the meantime I’m coming across all sorts of squashes I want to try!

Oi Sobagi – Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi

Earlier this year I got Lauryn Chun’s “The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi” from the library. I have made simple kimchi in the past with Chinese cabbage and bok choi from our garden and I was interested in expanding my repertoire focusing on the things I grow.

Ingredients

One of the ingredients the recipe called for and that was mentioned in several other recipes in the book is Korean chives or or buchu. When I was reading the description I started to wonder if that was one of the plants I was growing, having scavenged it from the weed pile. There are advantages to being in a community garden with a large international population! The description of my odd little clump of chives matched—flat leaves and with a slightly garlicky flavor. I would also add that there is a definite grassiness but I don’t know if that’s normal or because it is in the process of flowering. In any case, I used it.

Stuffin

Stuffing

The stuffing consists of the chives, grated carrot, sugar and Korean hot pepper flakes. I didn’t have any of the pepper flakes so I substituted Penzey’s Medium Hot California style. The proportions I used for everything were a little off from the original recipe because I made a reduced size batch. Next time I will grate the carrot finer and use more of it.

Jarred

After they are salted, drained and stuffed, the cucumbers get packed in a jar and sit at room temperature to ferment for a couple of days. Since it was so warm here I stuck them in the fridge after just a little less than a day to chill them and slow the fermentation.

Tasting

The verdict is in and this recipe is a keeper! I’ve saved a few more from the book to try including another cucumber kimchi and a contemporary stuffed tomato kimchi. I’m looking forward to trying them out.

Have you wandered from the mainstream kimchi path? Where did it take you?

Mid-June Garden Update

Today I went up to the garden and took advantage of a rare period between rainy days to do some weeding. The soil was nice and moist from the aforementioned frequent rains so the weeds came out easily.I got the whole garden done in no time at all, including some grassy edges that  may have extended into neighboring plots.

I’ve found over the years that one of the easiest ways to keep records of what the state of the various things in the garden is at any given time is to just take pictures. I can look through them by the date they were taken and get an idea of how different seasons measure up to each other. So, today after the place was tidied up I went around and snapped some images. Warning: there are a lot of them!

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Look! The first tomatoes are forming! Not surprisingly they are a cherry variety. This one is ‘Mexico Midget.’ Several of the tomato plants are blooming.

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The tomato plants are looking pretty good. When I set them out they stayed pale and lackluster long enough that I was beginning to worry about replacing them all. Once they settled in and probably grew roots on the long stems I buried they greened right up. I went around and plucked off the lower leaves of all of them and started snapping out suckers already. They’re a little shy of being ready for tying up, but soon. I’m trying an experimental method of my own design this year that I’ll share with you later.

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The pepper plants we purchased are well ahead of the ones I started. I only got a few just for a bit more variety.

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My own peppers looked pretty lame when they went in but have started to grow again, like the tomatoes.

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The purchased poblano is the first pepper to bloom this season.

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The tomatillo is doing well and also blooming already.

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The basil, on the other hand, looks awful. All of it. I may resort to purchased plants.

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The bush beans are looking good. There are a few holes but nothing serious.

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I scattered some sweet alyssum plants around the garden and they all immediately stopped blooming. I’m glad to see they’ve started up again. Pollinators love this stuff.

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Lentils, the “fun” crop of 2015 are looking great at the moment. I like their leaves.

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The pole beans all look pretty bad.

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Something is chewing the heck out of them. I looked for bean beetles but didn’t find any adults, eggs or larvae. I hope they recover.

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One of the bush squashes is blooming. I’m growing three varieties this year and I forget which one this is.

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Bush cucumbers are likewise doing well after a slow start. I have cans or pots around all my cucurbits after losing one to a cutworm.

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Carrots are unimpressive. These are being overgrown by the lettuce whose days are probably numbered. Even my big salads aren’t big enough to keep up. I’m making a note of exactly how much to plant next year. It will be much less.

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The mint is looking pretty chipper. Could be tabouli time soon if the parsley would take off.

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Kale is doing well having apparently outgrown the flea beetles. I’m not crazy about the taste all by itself but I’ve been putting it in salads. Dehydrator kale chips may be in order, too.

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Here’s the black kale.

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The cilantro is about to bloom and get on with becoming coriander. I’ve got another sowing in and I should probably do a third soon so I can be sure to have some when salsa canning time comes.

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Here is how it looks under the gourd trellis after I ripped out the last of the spinach. There are three gourd plants and four more bush squash in there now. The spinach had to go as it was starting to shade them out.

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The broccoli (and Brussels sprouts there in the background) are doing fabulously. I got them in late but expect they’ll grow fast now and we’ll be munching on them soon.

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Onions are bulbing up! A few tried to flower but I nipped that in the bud.

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I’m liking how the leeks look. They took foreeeeeeeeever to get going. Hard to believe that those little, threadlike plants can turn into a vegetable as big as my spindly arm. We’re going to keep an eye on them this season and start eating them before they get gigantic. I promise.

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The garlic scapes were all snapped off the other day and now I’m noticing some leaf tips starting to brown—the first signs that they’re getting ready for harvest in a few weeks!

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Snap peas are producing now. Gonna have to snack on a lot of these to keep ahead of them. I did two plantings to extend the harvest but I see the second one is starting to form pods, too. Next year: plant shorter rows longer apart, maybe three weeks instead of two if I can start early enough.

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This is the smaller parsley. The other one—I only had two seedlings make it—is much bigger but in a less photogenic location.

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In addition to the alyssum I planted marigolds. This is one of the better looking ones. Most don’t have any flowers at all on them. They’re taking their time getting established, I guess.

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The other end of the unimpressive carrot row. For some reason there is a big gap in the middle of it.

Panorama

Finally, I made a rough panoramic collage of the garden from the north. Definitely getting green and when the tomatoes, beans and gourds grow up their respective poles it’s going to look like  jungle!