Sunday, May 29, 2011

There are lots of tomato babies in tomato alley.  Ella's Pink Plum, Juliet, and Sungold are fruiting.  The Amazon Chocolate is loaded with blossoms, this strain (new seed source) is MUCH better than than the plant I had last year as far as blossom quantity, I just hope it tastes as magnificent.

Now that we are seeing some sunshine I gave most of the garden a fish drench yesterday.  Something is stripping the foliage off my blueberries, but there was not a beetle or caterpillar to be found.  Hmm.  Ideas anyone?  The largest of the strawberries are just starting to blush.   We are all anticipating the harvest (strawberries were soooooo gooooood last year).

Hubby and I recently celebrated our anniversary over some of our favorite things- charcuterie, wine, and cheese.   We are very lucky to have a couple of cheese shops close by in Rhode Island.  This selection came from Milk and Honey in Tiverton......we had some butter from Parma, a stick of salami, and four different cheeses that pair well with a fruity red.  A baguette, fig spread, and some mild crackers are our usual accompaniments to this fair.  My mouth is watering just thinking about this meal:

Some close-ups of the top 3 of the evening.....

This is my new favorite salami.  Uncured and amazing!
A nice Wisconsin blue. 
A soft, creamy French.  Luscious and addicting.

This beat any meal we could have had in a fancy restaurant, aside from the dirty little hands coming in to pilfer the creamy cheese and salami.  The two cheese selections my son tried and wanted in the cheese store became un-paletable once he got a taste of the creamy bit.  But who could blame him?  


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Guest post authored by Ryan Halston

Numerous Benefits Stemming from Home Gardening
A worldwide growing trend, the commitment to a simpler life and an eco-friendly lifestyle is spreading in popularity. The interest in making choices that benefit on a personal and environmental level have led many to make a change in their normal lifestyles. One of the most popular methods to start a more simple and sustainable life is the choice to begin growing your own fruits and vegetables. The rise in popularity can be attributed to the copious amount of benefits that come from home growth.
The practical economic ramifications are most likely the most popular reason for engaging in a project like growing a home garden. Buying packages of seeds is often much cheaper than purchasing individual products from a grocer. Many fruits and vegetables grow in multiples and a pack of seeds generally equates to the price of two or three of the vegetable. When considering the production longevity of many of the plants, the seeds are certainly more valuable. The home growth of crops assuredly contains a positive financial implication.
Health benefits stemming from home crop development is frequently overlooked due to the financial significance of the choice. When growing foods at home control over all potential influences from chemicals and toxins is assured. Problems associated with pesticidesBisphenol Aissues stemming from asbestos exposure, and melamine have all been documented in the past. The decision to grow your own food prevents the risk of this, and ensures you have control over your food production.
Potentially the biggest positive to home growth is the taste, and the freshness of home grown fruits and veggies. Home crop production removes the middle men, grocers and distribution teams, from the equation. Growing these products in your home makes them readily available and guarantees the freshest crops possible. A choice can be made to cater to your own personal level of taste, and freshness.
It is a smart idea to take some few easy steps toward home growing as opposed to making an all-out adjustment as there can be some bumps in the road. Beginning by growing a small berry plant or fruit tree is an excellent way to get started on the path to home growing, as they provide produce throughout a long life-cycle. With more and more people embracing home gardening, there is a wealth of resources to learn from, and popularity should continue to spread.

Ryan contacted me and asked if I would be willing to do a guest post on my blog, and I figured- hey, why not?  I think most of us already know what Ryan had to say to be true.  But  now here is a question for you.....what do you feel is the most important reason to garden, and grow edibles?  Is it food security, chemical avoidance, hobby/relaxation, an effort to lower the grocery bill, or unmatched taste as Ryan mentioned?  Maybe some combination of 'everything above'?

Did any of you start vegetable & fruit gardening for one reason, but now find that you continue it for another altogether?  As always, happy gardening.


Monday, May 23, 2011

I Broke My Own Rule

So I had those new asparagus crowns that needed a bed as soon as possible, and I had really been struggling to find a spot for them.  Then my husband suggested putting them where my fingerlings were planted, which was in a deep 4' x 4' raised bed.  Of coarse I never even considered this (there were potatoes growing there after all), so I quickly rejected his thought.  And then just as quickly, I decided he was a genius.  But where to put the potatoes?  I had 2 grow bags left over, but that was not enough square footage.  And we have 2 old tires.  Bingo.  I REALLY didn't want to plant inside a tire, I feel the potential for chemical seepage must be quite high and there is certainly nothing 'organic' about that!  Carbon and sulfur are known to leach, though unless the tire is new or extremely worn, in theory that should be all.  Still, I just don't like it.  Okay for pansies, but not for potatoes.  But I did it anyway because I had potatoes with little green shoots and lots of roots laying in the lawn.  Time was of the essence.  And so here we are, I broke my own rule.  Next year the tire will be gone and I will find a new planting space for my fingerlings.  I promise.
This corner is now so unsightly, I can't even bear to look.  The asparagus now resides in the raised bed in the corner.

Next, we put together the bird net supports using the little rubber doohickeys from Lee Valley and babmboo.  They rock!  Didn't quite finish the job though seeing as the netting is still in the shed.  :)

Oooh, and here comes an exciting one......another new planting space (YEAH!).  I needed a home for my new teepees (more rubber doohickeys and bamboo), but the garden beds are all full.  So we made one:
Pole beans and Jack Be Little pumpkins were sown here.

I also planted the sweet potato slips (forgot to take a picture, and now it is raining), and some of the Garden Bon Bons my sister gave me for Christmas.  (The Bon Bon post can be found here.)  The bon-bons went in the metal wash-tub.  The tomato and cuke supports were finished off as well.  All in all a very productive weekend considering we had a family birthday party for the kids on Saturday afternoon, and took Ella out for celebrations on her actual birthday, which was Sunday.

...........And almost the entire garden from above: 
(conveniently all but that unsightly corner with the tire in it. ☺)


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tomato Cages

Yesterday I pulled the row cover off the tomatoes and put in the bottom half of the new tomato cages.  Evening temps should hover in the 50's in the short term, so they no longer need their baby blanket.  In the past I have run trellis between stakes, which has worked fairly well.  I spied 'Texas Tomato Cages' last year and decided to order some this spring.  They are impressive!  Very heavy in weight, and I LOVE that they fold flat for storage.  That was a big selling point for us.  The nice part is that now I can split my tomatoes up into multiple beds in the future for rotation purposes.  I purchased only 6 cages this year as they are an investment, so a couple of cages were set between two plants.  The true test will be to see if they can support them both.

This is just the bottom half of the cage seen above, as the plants gain height there is an additional piece that goes on top to bring the height to six feet.  I think I ordered the 20 inch diameter cages.....if it wasn't raining cats and dogs I would go measure and take more pictures, but this is all I have at the moment, lol.

I could not get the tines in the soil as deep as I would have liked thanks to all the rocks in my yard, but they all went down the depth of the raised bed at a minimum, and will hopefully hold as the season progresses.  They even make 2 foot extensions to bring the cages up to eight crazy feet- but I don't see my maters ever needing all that head room.  :)

The Sungold plant I have been growing for my Mom went home with her yesterday, and it had a cluster of fruit growing!  My plants only have flowers, funny how the one guy hanging out in a pot being exposed to the elements made fruit.  Hopefully mine are not far behind.

In other news the sweet potato slips arrived yesterday (Georgia Jet and Vardaman), but with days of rain in the forecast (and things already drenched) I decided to hold off on planting them.  I had intentions of potting them today before the T-storms hit, but I did not make it.  For now they are heeled in the tomato bed with an upside down nursery pot giving them some protection from rain and wind.  Notice I could not add sun to that equation.  Hmph.  The 10 day forecast is calling for 3 partly cloudy days, and 7 with showers and/or thunderstorms.  This weather is bad news for all the fruit in this region.  Anything blooming right now is not being pollinated.  I may not be getting any apples this year after all, and that just plain sucks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Busting at the Seems

Before I go into detail as to why there is seem busting,  I wanted to go into a little more detail on the pea greens.  I sow a specific variety just for cutting tendrils.  One needs LOTS of peas to thickly sow them in this manner.  Last year I bought three or four standard packets of the Dwarf Gray Peas.  This barely got me anything for cutting.  Then I smartened up and bought the big bag I posted yesterday.  Now I can sow lots of thick rows for cutting.  I also sow peas for peas, two separate things in my garden.  Harvesting young growth results in a sweeter, more tender green, and the Dwarf Gray is said to be the best variety for greens.

The rows shown above are on there third cutting or so, and they are getting a bit unruly.  As a matter of fact the kids complained last night the greens didn't taste good anymore, so it is time to rip them out and sow a fresh batch.  The best part about sowing peas for greens is that in a couple of weeks you are harvesting what you sowed (if you soak those peas before planting), it is practically immediate gratification in the garden.  This year I put them anywhere there was bare dirt.  Some of them are there just for their nitrogen fixing abilities.   Some I yank and toss in the compost pile, some I just turn into the soil.

Okay, now on to the rest......a few years ago I planted a beach plum.  I had never tried (or seen) a beach plum, or tasted the jelly that is made from the fruit, but I love any edible that remains small in size so I went for it.  I was told it did not require a pollinator.  This information was not correct, and so this year I ordered two bare root plants through mail see, this winter I tasted Beach Plum Jelly.  I was immediately hooked and now I must get my tree to bear fruit!   The newbies arrived recently and are just sticks.  Here is the larger of the two pictured below, it is just starting to leaf out:

This wee thing is not going to get me plums is it?  No.  So yesterday in a moment of delayed genius, (note the sarcasm), I called a local nursery rumored to carry the plants.  Sure enough, in stock and flowering, so off I went to buy one.  I am afraid it may be too late however.  My plum began flowering over a week ago, and now we are in this lousy rainy weather pattern, so I don't see the rate of pollination being very high, if anything at all.  But check out the blooms on my new little beauty:


If only there were bees buzzing about.  Sigh.  If you have been following along with me you now realize this is my fourth beach plum.  Not sure where to put it.......but the good news is that it won't be picky about it's sight.  And some day if all goes as planned I will have enough tiny plums to make delicious jelly.

Stay with me now, the troublesome part is coming folks.  My little guy was insisting on walking around the nursery while we were waiting for our plum to be brought up.  We went to the closest greenhouse, and what was it filled with?  Low bush blueberries.  It was a sign from the heavens.  We just HAD to bring some home.  The thing about low bush blueberries is that I am a little obsessed.  I have fantasies of landscaping the entire yard with neat little blueberry hedges.  They are so pretty, and of coarse tasty.  They stay nice and compact.  We picked out as many as we could carry, and here they are waiting for a home along with the new plum, and the old plum behind it (most of it's blooms now gone).

There is more.

Wait for it...........

Yuppers, I have officially gone mad.  Where oh where am I going to put these new crowns?  I only bought five.  Just five.  But still, must now find/create/steal them a home.  But more asparagus is never a bad thing right?  These are the Purple Passion crowns.  At least they are suppose to be.  The farm carried two different varieties and these were in the purple box, but the bunch was not specifically labeled as many others were.  Again- in my delayed thinking I now realize I should have pulled five crowns from a bunch that was labeled to insure somebody did not pick up a clump of Jerseys and put it down in the Purple Passion box.   Now I am paranoid and worrying over the variety of crowns I hold.  I kill me.

My husband commented that we are running out of room.  Yes we are.  But my goal is to have lots of stuff to eat growing at home, and by golly I am achieving it!  Personally, I think we ran out of room some time ago, and now I am just plain pushing it.  Wouldn't it be so freakin' cool if I really had no front lawn some day?  Just edibles?  There are people out there who have done it.  And I like it.  (Honey if you are reading this avert your eyes. )

Monday, May 16, 2011

Whats Cookin'

Last year I mentioned wanting to focus on greens in the garden this year.  At first I was feeling as though I fell short, but now that the season is picking up a bit I think I made a good effort.  We are eating a sizable salad or using greens in other ways daily.  Buying the giant bag of pea seeds (5#'s) was the best thing I did.  Wilted pea greens in our mashed potatoes, a couple of handfuls thrown in a stir-fry, spring rolls with peanut sauce, salads, bunny food, the list goes on.  We -L-O-V-E- our pea greens.

Claytonia, arugula, baby kale, baby chard, mache, and spinach add interest to standard lettuce and mesclun mixes.  The variety of greens growing is greater than anything we have had in the past, it is exciting to have fresh ingredients after a long cold winter.  (Isn't the little lilly pad leaf with flowers enough to make you smile?  Simple pleasures, like claytonia in my salad thrill me.  What a garden geek I have become.)

Today I made garlic-chive pesto pasta with last year's dried tomatoes and canellini beans.  Also,  some quiche with an herbed crumb crust instead of the standard pie crust fare.  Garden asparagus, dried tomatoes, and onions comprised the filling.  Yum.  Garden eating is good, and green tastes great!!

Herbed Multigrain Crust (for quiche):

1/3 C prepared bread crumbs, seasoned is fine
1/3 C AP flour
1/3 C whole wheat flour
1/3 C cornmeal
1/3 C butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
dried herbs to taste
 (I use a good quality Italian Seasoning blend)

Mix ingredients with a fork and press into pie plate.  If your bread crumbs are un-seasoned consider adding a sprinkling of onion or garlic powder to the mix.  Prepare quiche as usual.  This crust comes together in a pinch if don't want to make pie crust, or don't have any pre-made on hand.  It is savory and crumbly-crunchy.   You will either think it is great, or swear to never make quiche that way again.  Just thought I would share.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Around the Garden

Navigating around the garden these days feels a lot like making your way through a maze.   I wish the pathways were not so narrow, and the layout of the beds not so complex.  Of coarse I did not have the foresight into my garden future all those years ago when we started this project, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to expand as we did.

 Four more fruit trees went in recently; two more Beach Plums, an Invicta Gooseberry, and a Rovada Currant.  The currant and gooseberry went into the kitchen garden, the beach plums were planted off in the side yard.  (I found out the hard way it takes more than one plum to get fruit, and even with three I may not ever truly see a harvest as they can be finicky to cultivate. )

Wineberries are also being planted around the perimeter of the shed that faces the road.  I would love a nice messy hedge of canes in the future, and I have two sources that are kindly donating their extras.

 The tomatoes are coming along nicely, I uncovered them today to sneek a peak and give them a drink.  Ella's Pink Plum seems to have the most foliage, while the Amazon Chocolate is sporting a thick stem and is holding itself upright while all the others flop to the side.

Ella's Pink Plum

Amazon Chocolate

Something has been eating my peas, but mainly the Oregon Giants (on left):
I have re-seeded this row twice now, next year I will either not grow this variety, or cover it with mesh from the get-go.

Pepper in wall-o-water.

Greens and herbs in the mini hoop house, 
which now has an aluminum shade cloth instead of plastic covering.   It really does a great job of cutting down the sunshine, and it claims to retain heat as the temperature drops as well.  Hoping this temperature  mediation will mean less bolting.  Fingers crossed, cause the thing sure is ugly (as sen in 2nd picture from top of post)!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Harvest Monday (Hosted by Daphne's Dandelions)

It has been quite a while I since I participated in Harvest Monday.   Go here to see what everyone is cutting from the garden today.  My kitchen garden is providing lots of greenery, seen below is mesclun mix, baby spinach, baby kale, pea greens, asparagus, and garlic chives (for my favorite pesto).  Yum!  The only thing missing is rhubarb, I think my plants may need another year of maturing.

This year two of the apple trees are covered in blooms, they are so pretty.  The apple thieves dogs are no longer allowed in this part of the yard, so the apple yield should be much higher.

The cukes, squash, and fingerling potatoes went in the garden yesterday, 
the only thing I am waiting on now are sweet potato slips which have not arrived yet, and for the remaining potatoes to chit.  The 2011 garden is just about full.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Our New Boy

Our new boy "Porter" (and big sis Ivy).
Check out at the paws on this little grizzly!

Porter is 4 1/2 months old.  He has been living in a kennel at his breeder's with a few other pups.  Yesterday evening when we brought him home was his first time in a house.  He has been crate trained, but that is all.  He is a very sweet boy, and we are thrilled to have him become a part of our family.  He can never replace Travis, but his adorable face certainly helps fill the void we all have been feeling.

Monday, May 2, 2011

It is awfully quiet around here.

It is amazing how the removal of one fifty-five pound being from a household can reduce it's noise level significantly.   My mind keeps playing tricks, and I think a chirping bird is my dog's whimpering in the next room.  Interesting how these two sounds, one a normally cheerful sound, can mimic one of pain and suffering.  I had the same confusion while he was still here, but in those instances, I was hearing both.

At any rate, my husband and I keep saying that it is so still, so quiet, with just two dogs.  And Travis was not a rambunctious one.  But he played with our other lab, and he greeted us in the morning, pestering for his breakfast.  If we were bathing or showering he curled up on the bath mat so that you were forced to holler at him repeatedly to 'MOVE!' so you could step onto the floor without risk of breaking your neck.  When a meal was being prepared he was always sitting by my side, patiently waiting for this messy cook to spill, to drop, or to purposefully toss something his way.  (Peppers were his favorite, melon a close second.)  This obvious lack of Travis will start to become less obvious any day now I am sure, but as of right now there are still lots of tears being shed.  We miss our boy.  He was a tether to our beginning, to the life my husband and I started together all those years ago.  We were newlyweds when we found that bundle of joy in the pound.  Now we are older, more tired, less energetic versions of the people we were back then.  That version of our life is barely recognizable now, all you readers with children out there know what I am talking about.  Anyway, now we fight the urge to run out and replace this void with another body.  To bring the chaos and noise level back up to where it was just a few days ago.  To replace some of the ache with new joy and love.  Sigh.  Go hug your pets!!

If you are still with me, thanks.  Now on to the garden......

Br-r-r-r-r was it chilly last night.  I forgot to bring my citrus tree in, and that was probably a very bad thing.  We are eating lots of pea greens right now.  That, and asparagus is about all that is mature enough to harvest.  Oh, and I found some rogue claytonia growing in one bed, turns out a few of those seeds I sowed took hold in random spots last year after all.  It was a joyful discovery I kept forgetting to share.  (And peaking of asparagus I am having the urge to add more roots to my collection.  But I really don't have the space.  BUT, I could eat a couple of pounds a day myself for those few weeks it is in season, so I am scheming and sketching in my mind, trying to find a space and a way to get more of those spears into my belly.  It is a disease isn't it?  This need to be growing more and more, never satisfied with the plot at hand.  Lol, at least I find comfort in knowing I am not alone.)