Spring Greens Are Ready!

Spinach, romaine, and arugula.

Spinach, romaine, and arugula – ready to harvest.

The spring greens are ready to harvest! Actually, I could have started about a week ago. The rainy, cool weather brought us a bumper crop. The arugula, spinach and Red Romaine are ready, as well as the kale and mustard greens. That’s less than a month after setting out the plants.

Warm Weather Planting Starts

Patio herb garden and potted tomatoes.

Planting complete in the patio herb garden.

Finally, the rain stopped and the weeks of 50-degree weather finally retreated. All of the pots got planted this weekend, Jewel had $1.49 seed geraniums, so I made two trips and bought them out each time for a total of 48 plants. Home Depot was still selling $4.50 single geraniums.

I also got some beautiful mounding petunias with deep blue and purple colors from Goebbert’s that I planted in alternate pots next to the geraniums for contrast. More importantly, I bought the rest of the herbs and the first tomato and pepper plants. I also got a large potted basil plant which I planted in the large pot behind the herb garden so we could have basil immediately. It’s about the same cost as 3 packages of fresh basil, will regenerate itself and be fresher than the packaged stuff.

So, today I finished up the patio herb garden with parsley and curly parsley, thyme rosemary and basil. The chives are up full, and the oregano has also returned in great form. The sage plant survived the winter and is leafing out. I also planted two grape tomato plants, and two cherry tomato plants in their usual pots. The top bed where I plant the curly parsley is still infested with black ants, so I dug down and put a layer of cayenne pepper about 4 inches under the soil. Maybe that will slow their activity. They have been in here for a few years, but I can’t use poison since it is a herb garden.

Tomorrow I’ll start on the main garden, but I haven’t sone any prep yet, so it will probably take a week or so.

Spring Vegetables

Spring Vegetable Planting Complete!

Spring Vegetable Planting Complete

I got the spring greens into the ground today, all plants from Goebbert’s and the Arugula seeds from Terroir Seeds.

I prepared the soil with three bags of mushroom compost and a dressing of organic nitrogen fertilizer.

Here is the list:

  • 3 Mustard Green plants
  • 4 Regular Kale plants
  • 20 Red Romaine plants
  • 28 Spinach plants
  • 3 rows Arugula from seed

The bed is fenced, but if the rabbits are daring they can probably get under it. I will probably need to upgrade the fence if we have deer this year because they can reach right over the top.

 

Soil Testing

Getting ready to test the garden soil.

Getting ready to test the garden soil.

I have never tested the soil in my garden. It is something I have wanted to do and never got around to, but I was placing an order for some geek stuff to American Science and Surplus and saw this test kit in the catalog and ordered it.

It’s a nice kit and has enough materials for ten soil tests for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potash. The pH test was easy, just mix a small soil sample with a capsule of the pH test chemical and water, wait a minute or two for the sediment to settle and compare the colors to get a readout. I tested five different beds in the garden and they all had a neutral pH of 7 which is ideal. So far, so good.

The tests for the other nutrients were a little more complicated. I needed to mix one cup of soil with 5 cups of water and shake well. Then it needed to settle for a couple of hours. Then I used an eyedropper to add the cleared water to each of the test containers, added a capsule of the appropriate test chemical to each, waited ten minutes, and compared the colors to the windows on the test container.

I only tested two areas of the garden. One sample was from the garden area next to the compost pile and the other from the bed next to the fire pit. The results were nearly identical for both samples. Phosphorus was more than adequate at both, the potash was adequate at both, a little higher in the raised bed by the fire pit, and nitrogen was zero, nada, at both locations with maybe just a trace in the bed by the fire pit.

I guessed the nitrogen would be low, but I didn’t think it would be that low. So, I need to add nitrogen before I plant tomorrow. I’ll also add some mushroom compost to build up the soil.

Home Depot should have some high-nitrogen fertilizer, so it’s off to there tomorrow before I head to Goebbert’s and try to get some romaine lettuce plants and the rest of the herbs that they didn’t have when they opened earlier this week.

An Easter Without Horseradish

I went out at the beginning of the week and tried to dig some horseradish but the soil is sopping wet which would make horseradish digging a muddy mess, and there was more rain in the forecast. Twenty years ago I might have had the energy to deal with the mud, but not this year. This is the first year in a very long time that I haven’t made it for Easter.

If the rest of the gardening goes well, I might make some later this spring. I will probably cut back the amount of garden space devoted to horseradish this year (If I can get rid of it.) and limit it to a few rows of well-cultivated roots rather than the wild mess that I have now. Real estate in that part of the garden is too valuable to waste on a poorly performing crop. I think with proper care and fertilizer, I can get a bigger yield in one-third of the space.

Seed Ordering Time

2017 seed order from Terroir Seeds

2017 seed order from Terroir Seeds

Spring is just around the corner, so I perused Terroir Seeds website and placed my order for the year.

I had good luck setting out spinach and Romaine lettuce plants last year, so I will do that again and avoid seeds for those greens because it is way more trouble than it’s worth.

Here’s the rundown:

Arugula, Rocket  I’ve had good luck with rapidly growing arugula in the past, so this is a no-brainer. I ordered four packs for succession planting.

Bean, Tendergreen  Four packs of this bush bean also. Hope to make room for it this year and keep the succession planting going.

Slow Bolting Cilantro  I’ve had bad luck with cilantro in the past because it had poor yields and it was much cheaper to buy it at the market than the cost of the seeds. But, I’ll give this slow bolting variety a try.

Sweet Basil, Genovese Basil, Napoletano Bolloso Basil  It is difficult to plant too much basil. I’ll start with plants and start the seeds for the next couple rounds of crops. Plants set out in late spring are pretty much worn out by the end of summer.

Cucumber, True Lemon  Lemon cucumbers are absolutely delightful. They are a long season crop so I hope to get them started early in pots. The last time I grew them, I started them too late but the few I got were wonderful.

Cucamelon/Mouse Melon  These little cucumbers look like miniature watermelons. I haven’t grown these yet but I’ll try and start them early for a good yield.

Achocha/Caihua  This cucumber relative can be eaten raw when small and usually stuffed and cooked when mature. It’s a South American native and is supposedly easy to grow and prolific. I’ll be starting these in the middle of April also.

Year-End Evaluation

The Last Tomato

The Last Tomato

Despite the Groundhog and the late start, it wasn’t all that terrible of a gardening year. We had a continuous flow of veggies for our needs, but there were none to freeze and not a lot to give away.

Getting rid of the pear tree and maples provided more sunlight that meant earlier and better yields.

Next spring I will need to have the groundhog professionally relocated and may have to erect some additional fencing to protect against the rabbits. (Where are the coyotes when you need them?)

The other thing will be to get the tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplant in as early as possible in May, to get earlier yields.

Here is a bunch of ideas for next year:

  1. Spring greens. Setting out lettuce and spinach plants worked much better than seed. the Red Romaine did really well. Arugula from seed would be good as well as the Lolla Rossa lettuce. Maybe radishes again and broccoli and broccoli rabe.
  2. I really don’t use kale or collards until fall so there is no use wasting space on them in the spring garden. There should be room for the Swiss Chard by the herbs.
  3. Tomato plants that are already bearing may get stunted, those planted early with very small tomatoes might be OK.
  4. Early Girl never performs well, and there are probably better hybrids to plant. Brandywine did good. As far as heirlooms, German Johnson, Oxheart, and Mortgage lifter were outstanding performers. I’ll probably get most of the tomatoes from Countryside.
  5. The white eggplant from Countryside did very well, as did the full-sized ones from Home Depot. Ichiban was a total flop.
  6. The regular Tomatillos from Countryside yielded very well, but the pineapple variety did not.
  7. The banana peppers yielded better than the bell peppers this year.
  8. The zucchini did poorly in their location west of the horseradish, not helped by the voracious groundhog. Should try a different location next year.
  9. The basil did well by keeping it severely trimmed. I never let seedheads even start to form. It would probably good to set additional plants out in July or early August. The clump basil was attractive but the yield was small. I probably had almost 15 plants.
  10. The cherry and grape tomatoes did well, it might be worth putting in a couple more plants.

Omelet and Baba Ganoush

Last Harvest

Last Harvest

Made omelets this morning from garden tomatoes, banana peppers, and fresh chives. Last night I made baba ganoush from the last eggplant from the garden.

I just checked back and the first omelet from the garden was on July 2, so we had 4 1/2 months of summer vegetables. Not too bad. The tomatoes for the last month certainly were not up to summer quality, but they were probably still better than supermarket tomatoes.

I still have 3 nice green peppers on the counter and the last lemon boy tomato. there is lots of kale and collards in the garden which should have improved after last nights 23-degree temps. That was really our first killing frost.

Tomatillos

I planted three tomatillo plants this year, two of the normal variety and one of the pineapple variety. The two normal ones produced very well, but the pineapple one had a low yield with very small fruits. I probably won’t plant that variety next year.

Since I am now growing them, I am always looking for some new recipes and came up with this one as an alternative to guacamole, which I make very often. Here’s a link to it on my karneyfamilyrecipes.com website.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa with Avocados

Roma Tomatoes – Decimated

 

Groundhog Damage

Groundhog Damage

I was just about to pick the next batch of Roma tomatoes, but the groundhog got to them first. He ate a bunch and randomly took bites out of the rest, basically trashing the whole crop.

He has also been attacking the heirlooms.