Tomato Color!

Two of my tomatoes are showing some color! I got a little arty with the images to make them stand out, but the color you see is the color they were.

Mexico Midget

This is ‘Mexico Midget.’ It should be red when it’s fully ripe, I believe. We got this one because we liked it so much at a Seed Savers Exchange tomato tasting we attended.

Indigo Apple 2

The other front-runner in the color department is ‘Indigo Apple.’ I was surprised it was developing so much of its purple hue this early on. This cultivar is a tank. The stem is sturdy and thick so while I’ve started tying up all the other ones, these are standing on their own. Very different from what I’m used to.

It’s been a few days since I took these pictures so, despite the fact it’s rained almost every day since, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or the other was ready to pick should I make it up there today.

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!

First Green Spring Salad

I’m trying to learn a little Spanish to make our expeditions to Latin America more fun and in the process I learned that the Spanish word for spring, the season, is primavera which literally means “first green.” So appropriate. I had my first green salad from the garden the other day and it was so satisfying.

I went to the fridge with the intention of using up the last of the salad mix we’d purchased at the farmers market a while back (a while back) and found it was past its best-by date, to put it delicately. Fortunately, the rain that we’ve been having off and on had broken for a change and the sun was out so I went up to the garden to see if I could find something to put in a salad.

Butterhead

Yay! Green! This is the baby butterhead lettuce, which I like to call Baby Butthead.  I had sown it rather thickly so I took the opportunity to take out a few whole plants. I want some to get big enough to make some wraps.

Black Dinosaur Kale

Black kale. This stuff looked so dark and beautiful against the…

Oakleaf

Green Oakleaf lettuce.

Red Russian Kale

There’s also red Russian kale. You may have noticed the flea beetle damage on the kales. This is nothing compared to what they do to arugula. I think they’re past the stage of being really vulnerable and a few holes don’t bother me. I just make sure to rinse well.

Spinach

There was also plenty of spinach. I picked baby leaves and the larger ones from the plants I overwintered. You can see the volunteer dill that has sprung up in the spinach bed. I picked a bunch of that to mix in, too. I’ve discovered how adding a pinch of a fresh herb really brightens up a salad.

I picked and picked into the little bucket I had brought, gently snugging the leaves down as I went. When I got home I started unpacking and washing it all and discovered I’d harvested way more than I thought. I did three salad spinner loads of mixed greens and three of the spinach! So far I’ve had two, very good and fresh big salads and soba noodles with steamed spinach. I’ve got enough for at least one more big salad, several sandwich toppings and I think tonight’s dinner will be a spinach frittata. The leafy goodness is here and I’m going to chow it down every chance I get!

What’s coming out of your garden and into your salad bowl that you’re excited about this season?

It Kind of Worked!

Last October I re-cut the edge of the circular lawn and planted a ring of daffodils around it. All winter I waited with bated breath (that you could actually see on days where it was forty degrees or less) to see if my efforts payed off.

It payed off! Sort of.

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At first the ones on the left half came up and although they were a mixed bag, they were primarily the solid yellow ones. Eventually a few other varieties opened and some the rest of the way around the circle bloomed. It looks a little rough while I wait for the squill in the lawn to die back so I can mow. Also, the birdfeeders are much less obtrusive when viewed from ground level but I still think I should pare them back to just a couple.

All-in-all I’m happy with the results and crossing my fingers that next year the blooms will be a bit more synchronized.

I’ve Bean Busy

Sorry. I couldn’t resist. I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything, but I really have been busy. Spring has hit and with it all the to-dos that have to be done. Add to that a nice trip to the Oregon coast…

Oregon Coast

…and I’ve had plenty to write about but not as much time (or energy!) to do it.

Yesterday and today I’ve been planting beans in the garden. Someone remarked they thought I was a little early but I’ve always planted now or even earlier and never had a problem with the beans not growing.

Ireland Creek Annie

One of the plantings I did was a “rescue” of some Ireland Creek Annie beans I grew a few years ago. Or, I should say, I tried to grow. It was a terrible year for Mexican bean beetles and I ended up with literally only a couple dozen beans from my entire crop of this variety and the others didn’t fare much better. Today I planted them all out in the hope of increasing my supply. I’m pretty confident that if the beetles don’t get them this year I’ll have plenty again.

Cherokee Trail of Tears

You see, I speak from experience. Above is the pile of beans I grew from a single seed of Cherokee Trail of Tears that we obtained. (Sorry it’s so blurry. I haven’t gotten any better at photography during my hiatus.) I’ve planted a few dozen of these this year on poles and expect a good amount from this heirloom pole variety. We had some for dinner last night and they were pretty good.

Beans

A few months ago I finally got around to trying something I’ve wanted to do for some time. I made and canned some baked beans. I did two small batches at the same time, Great Northern (left) and Jacob’s Cattle (right.)

Sorghum

For the sauce I used sorghum syrup instead of molasses. I’ve made baked beans with molasses before and just didn’t care for the flavor. The sorghum ended up tasting much better.

Bacon

Throw in some bacon with the beans, add the sauce and bake. Both batches ended up needing much less time than anticipated to cook. I’ve found this is the case with home-grown beans. Must be because they are so fresh.

Canner

Here’s the pressure canner I got through Craigslist. I only had to replace the gasket and it was as good as new.

Jars of Beans

Voila! Baked beans. I thought the sauce was a bit watery when they went in the oven and then into the jars but after canning it thickened up to a nice creaminess. We go through quite a few cans of baked beans in a year. But I’m thinking now between my mad gardening skills and a functioning pressure canner we won’t be buying cases at Costco, much as we love beans!

 

Enlightenment of a Sort

As I write this the wind is howling and freezing rain is pelting the windowsills. Still, there has been enough decent weather recently that I’ve officially emerged from the “do nothing” months of winter and started tackling the larger projects I’ve been contemplating for months. So far this year I’ve managed to arrange a contractor to fix the front sidewalk, get married, make a dent in some of the junk purging, and start picking out the materials for a kitchen update. I’m anxious to get gardening now that I’ve got some forward momentum.

With a few dozen pots of plants to observe growing away under one of my new fluorescent fixtures something has occurred to me.

Under the Lights

I noticed the plants at the edges of the tray were leaning in toward the bulbs more than I’ve seen in past years. You can kind of see it in that pot of tomatoes to the right of the orangeish label. (Ignore the horribly leggy cilantro in the back, there. I started it on the windowsill and didn’t get it under lights soon enough.) It occurred to me that my previous light fixtures were quite a bit wider and the bulbs were spaced farther apart than in these new ones.

Light from Above

From above I can see they don’t even provide full coverage for the width of one flat when they’re low over it. I have another hanging parallel to this one and I was planning on placing flats perpendicular to them to get four under each pair of fixtures. Not sure what to do at this point. I wish I’d thought of that when I bought them. For now I’m just going to rotate the rows of pots within the tray. This is going to be a pain when the plants get larger and go into larger pots.

Indigo Apple and Amish Paste

In better news, the tomato plants are growing well enough that they may be getting potted up by next weekend. Here’s a fun comparison. On the left is ‘Indigo Apple’ and on the right is good old ‘Amish Paste.’ Indigo Apple has been bred to have high levels of anthocyanins and even the leaves are dark with a purplish tinge. The reviews of their performance and flavor are mixed but I thought they’d be something interesting to try this year.

Spinach

The official opening day of the community gardens was yesterday but I was up there a little over a week ago to check on things. Under the leaf mulch the overwintered spinach was looking excellent if a little muddy. I covered it up again because I knew this temporary return to wintry weather was coming.

Artsly Garlic

This week I visited again and found garlic poking up through the mulch. My favorite spring bulb! I couldn’t see what I was doing and the photo turned out blurry so I ran an artsy Photoshop filter on it. Edgy, huh? OK, I’m not an artist or a photographer but, hey, I was excited.

Seed Starting for the Poorly Prepared

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since I shared any of my fascinating goings-on here. Believe me, I haven’t been just sitting around–much, at least. March is the month when I seem to emerge from the winter inertia along with the plants and critters outdoors.

American Flag Leek

Seed starting actually commenced weeks ago with the onions, shallots and leeks. Here are the American Flag leeks waving their seed coats up toward the shop lights. Today they got their first haircut.

In the time since the leeks and their ilk were sown I started a few other things as well. Then last weekend I got started on my favorites, the tomatoes and peppers. In the past my system was to sow a couple of seeds together in a tall, 2” pot. I have tons of these around from back when I grew Paphiopedilum orchids. If both of the seeds germinated I would just snip off the weaker one. If neither germinated I’d have wasted the space that barren pot was taking. This year I decided to sow multiple seeds in 4” pots and since they shouldn’t be in there too long and need a lot of root room, I cut the pots shorter for easy access. Or, at least I started doing that after I realized what a pain it is to get to seedlings in a pot as tall as they are. (See left-hand pot of leeks above.)

Early Jalapeno

Anyway, after potting up a few kinds of peppers as seen above, I realized I didn’t have nearly enough pots. Either I hid them very well from myself or I purged a little too aggressively last fall. As I was contemplating driving out to the garden center yet again, I was hit with a brainstorm…

Paper Pot

Paper pots! I quickly rolled and folded up a bunch and I was back in business.

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See how meticulously I placed the seeds in the potting mix? I also labeled the tags with the number planted in each pot.

Paper Pots in Use

Once the plants have reached the size where they can be transplanted I’ll move them up to individual 4” pots. Those will be plastic pots because they will be more durable for moving around under the lights and transporting out to the garden when they are ready. I’ll have plenty of time to get out to the garden center before then. I’d better start making a list.

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