Monday, June 19, 2017

Reliable Swiss Chard

We had creamed chard for dinner last night and I realized I mention this stalwart performer often but never really praise it. So, in honor of this humble but reliable leafy green here goes:
1. Planted and established in the spring Southern garden it will produce all summer long. Waning a bit during the hottest days it rewards again come Fall.
2. It is a great stand in for spinach in every case. In fact, I like it better than spinach.
3. Blanched and frozen it can be used like frozen spinach.
4. Chard is a fine substitute for lettuce on a cool summer sandwich.
5. It is beautiful.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

May Into June

Late May and early June are always busy. Vegetables are coming out of the garden great guns, plants coming out, seeds going in. Water! Water! Water! Truth: June always has a dry spell any more in Southeastern NC.
We have had so many green beans this year I canned some, ate more and gave away plenty. The term "slammed" comes to mind. There are more coming though they are slowing down as it heats up. Green beans do not self-pollinate when temps go up into 90's. Timing is everything with green beans.  Feast or famine? We feast.
In the spirit of ,"A picture says it all.". Here goes!
Bright Lights Swiss Chard

Red Sails Lettuce 

Broccoli, turnips and oak leaf lettuce.

Ready for roasting. (The white veg is rutabagas not potatoes.)

Green beans about to climb.  

Strawberries picked for jam. 

Garlic. Ooo baby, you purdy! 

Contender green beans

Heirloom tomato. Lucky me. 

Detroit Red beets
Soon there will be corn, okra, lima beans and watermelon. Squash, we have squash. I will reveal the secret later.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Disaster Averted!

I forgot, not for the first time, about cutworms. They are the scourge of sprouting seeds and seedlings. How could I? How many times have we had a seed germination "fail' only to discover they had been cut off just below the ground? Uh, duh!
This time it was okra. At first I declared it was my saved seed. Then, looking closely, there was the amputated stem of a seedling. Then another. Digging, I found more. Curses!
Pre-emptive strike includes wood ashes or diatomaceous earth (DE) dug into and sprinkled on the seed bed. Sow the seeds and put tiny twigs, three or four, around the seed before covering with soil. Look for them when digging the bed. The are 1/2 inch long, brown little caterpillar looking critters. Smush with your fingers. 
I sowed generously because they were saved seed and I had not tested for germination rate. Good thing. There were enough survivors to fill in to make for a good crop. And yes, I stuck in twigs to thwart the cutworms. This evening I'll sprinkle the whole area with DE. 
Okra seeds anyone? The germination rate is fine.
itty bitty sticks all around seedlings...it's organic...it's a pain...wood ash and diatomaceous earth work too...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Potato Time!

Along about mid-May here in Southeastern NC, in the great state of Robeson, we begin poaching potatoes. It is fun until harvest time and one is perplexed by the paucity of tubers. No matter. I will do it today and add them to a pot of green beans for one of my favorite vegetable combos. Another local combo is cabbage and potatoes. Our cabbage is not quite ready for harvest but is forming heads. These dishes friends, you will never find in a restaurant, not even the ones that declare themselves to be Southern. But, these regional combos are as Southern as Southern gets. Beware. They both involve bacon. You may leave out the bacon but it's just not the same. I add, not much, just enough to season the pot and enjoy!
Ciao bella!

Monday, May 8, 2017

2017 Garlic Harvest

By way of explanation, I had a crop failure one year and have over planted garlic every year since. Not necessarily a bad thing. But golly, eighty means I'm gonna have to step up my garlic salt game and maybe make more roasted garlic this year.
Green beans are starting to come off. If they follow the Bell Curve Principle, which most summer vegetables do, we will be canning them and giving them away soon.
Last night's dinner was a combo of spring vegetables cooked into a yummy stir fry. We have reached the who-needs-meat stage of late spring/early summer already.
Let the good times roll...
All but the mushrooms were home grown! Never did I think this would happen when I started.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Reprieve

Following a week of temperatures in the mid eighties to 90 degrees, we got a break last night with lower temperatures accompanied by rain. Relief. Most of our plants will do better with lower temperatures. Whew.
Peas are forming in pods and soon we will have a bumper crop. Broccoli has formed beautiful heads. Turnips are being harvested daily with some to be the bed on which our whole roasted chicken will bake for supper tonight. Spring onions harvested this morning will go in with garlic scapes and a few store bought potatoes. I'll sprinkle it all with herb salt and we eat like royalty.
Lettuce had started to bolt and was also looking parched so this rain saves it.  Garlic will soon be separating into cloves and will be coming out of the garden. All plants including weeds were doubling in size over night.
Beans are up everywhere! Um. What was I thinking? Where to plant corn? In the front yard? Maybe. I've had worse ideas and acted on them. We are good to the neighbors, so I really might be able to get away with it. And then there is amaranth and okra. What's a gardener to do?!?
Merveilles de Quartre Saisons
A most delicate, mild lettuce of French heritage.
You are so pretty on my plate! 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Green Beans

Green Beans! Planted three weeks ago, they are making flowers! And the seeds planted a week ago are already up! What! Warm soil is a magic elixir.
I have two pot experiments. One carrots, the other Swiss Chard. There is a control of the Swiss Chard. The control is in a 4x4 bed. The pot is next to the same bed ensuring the same sun and water. I have harvested from the bed twice. Not at all from the pot. Which is not to say the pot is not thriving, but the plants are different. I am going to attribute it to close, crowded plantings. The carrots are a very much a wait and see.
We have had very warm days here. Midwesterners call it summer. It is the way of our springs. In the next few days the temps will be in the mid 80's. Spinach and lettuce will bolt, some has already. Bolt is a funny word for the send up a flower shoot over night, like a colt of the the barn. Bye, bye spinach. Toodles lettuce. Make way for a pepper!
This little tidbit I learned on my Master Gardner trip to the NC State soil lab: marigolds really do kill nematodes, the bane of tomato plants. They really do. Also, we all have nematodes to some degree so our goal is to control the population. So...plant marigolds. I bought many from St Pauls High School plant sale. They are interspersed throughout the garden beds. Biology at it's finest, right there.
Swiss Chard can take the heat and is a great stand in for spinach. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Watering and radishes

Every day is planting and watering day now that the weather has warmed. Seeds, especially small ones, need to be watered often so they will germinate and not wither in dry soil below the surface. Seedlings also need to be cared for or they will evaporate on hot days. We've had 85 degree afternoons so I've been out giving lettuce and spinach a cool watering to keep them from bolting. Speaking of leafy greens, we had Swiss Chard and leek frittata for supper with radishes on the side for supper last night. Quick, easy and pretty.

Speaking of radishes. It all started with seed inventory back in February. I had a lot of radish seeds that were a few years old. Time to plant or compost. So we planted a looong row in our community garden bed. They all germinated. All twelve feet of them. They grew into lovely red, mild tasting orbs. (We ate the last of them with supper last night.) I sowed the remaining seeds in a home bed a few weeks later. They will be ready in about a week. The key to radishes that aren't firecracker hot is to plant early and often because they really do best in cool weather. Because they mature quickly sequential planting ensures a long Spring season to brighten ones plate and palate.

Alas. No photo for your viewing pleasure. Too busy noshing.



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Inventory

Leeks planted June 2016. Harvested April 5, 2017
In our beds here on Chestnut Street:
Contender green beans are just emerging. They are not climbing beans but they are heirloom and their reputation is that of heavy yielders. Hello yellow beans, just peeping out!

Potatoes are ready to mulch. I'll let the soil dry a bit first.

Radishes are a big winner in our salads. The rains have kept them mild.

Peas are flowering!

I keep checking the broccoli for heads. Not yet.

Beets are up.

Herbs are thriving.

Drum roll, please. Carrots in the pot are up!

In our community garden beds:
Do we really like turnips so much?

Carrots, you know I love you, right? Looking good, you do.

Radishes are gorgeous and tasty.

Garlic is coming on strong.

Onions, not my strong suit, look good.

Rutabagas look great! Big surprise because they took a hit from mid-March cold. Same with the peas. (The wind blows across football and soccer fields before blasting the garden plants in winter there.)

Beets are up.

Herbs are thriving.









Thursday, March 30, 2017

Spring is Bustin' Out All Over

Our little town is prettiest in Spring. Azaleas, dogwoods, camellias and such are as pretty as they have ever been in our neighborhood. I go out each morning for a walk about and enjoy the just right air, birds singing, green leaves and flowers that are everywhere. It soothes the mind and soul.

In our vegetable garden all things are chugging right along. The potatoes and other root crops have rebounded from the cold of mid-March. Garlic is taking on new growth with the longer days. Peas and beans are good. Lettuce growing in different stages is delicious on our dinner plates. Broccoli in both the community and home gardens looks great.

I watch a You Tube show called Homegrown Veg. This man has developed a method for growing root crops in 10 inch pots. For details watch his show. The most important thing is to plant seed that grows carrots 6" or less. Cleaning up the potting bench I found a few and decided to give carrots a go in a pot. I planted Red Core Chantenay. I love experiments. I love carrots. I am, as always, hopeful. Stay tuned...

The last of the kale harvested 3/27/2017. It made a great kale salad! Time for summer crops baby! 


Friday, March 17, 2017

Brrrrrr

We had the coldest three nights of the winter this week. Twenties at night and cold blowing wind during the days. Out came the Agribon (spun fabric for agricultural use), down went the hoop tunnels made of fencing, and cover we did, again. I just peeked in to check on the Red Sails lettuce seedlings not yet possessing true leaves, and there they are, all neatly lined up in a row. I am truly amazed that tiny seedlings handle the cold better than mature plants.
Inventory of the unprotected winter vegetables revealed they did fine. What a relief! Azaleas already blooming are fried by the cold but the unopened buds may be OK.  Daffodil flowers are unfazed and  there are more pushing up. Turns out we didn't completely lose out on Spring after all.
Swiss Chard. After the cold. Must have antifreeze in them.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Gifts

Gill feather rutabagas (heirloom)


Son Jonathan gifted the seeds for the gillfeather rutabagas to us for Christmas 2015. What a nice surprise! The greens are as good as the roots. These were planted in a raised bed September 20th. I remember thinking I should plant things I wanted to do well in raised beds because of the rains of October 2015 when all our brassicas died from rot. Who knew it would be North Carolina, not South Carolina, that would be the recipient of so much rain this time? For the record, we measured 15 inches of rain October 8, 2016 here on Chestnut Street. I recorded in my nature journal, "At times the rain blows sideways and the trees look like they would twirl around if not rooted in the ground...I will be glad when it is over."  Six months later it is astonishing that these plants, small seedlings then, survived the pounding rains of Hurricane Matthew. Surely I paid them no mind in the weeks that followed...they are, gifts.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Small Is Good

We are getting one last, I hope, cold snap this weekend. I will cover the lettuce. Green beans imprudently, defiantly, planted 2-21-17 were covered a few days ago. Tonight's the big night with the low predicted to be 30 degrees. However, the ground is warm, very. We live in town surrounded by big heat sinks aka parking lots, streets and big buildings. Here's to Lady Luck!
Spinach on the other hand can take the cold! 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Community Gardening

We participate in a sweet little community garden in St Pauls, NC. Our winter that isn't a winter had us out seeding turnips, beets, rutabagas, carrots and radishes. Six days later, all are up except carrots.  Tiny seed leaves are just above the ground. We protected one bed of our three 4'x12'  beds with Agribon for a few days because we had some cold nights and didn't want the broccoli plants to get hurt. Our only difficulty there is that we have to transport water until the threat of frost passes. It is a pain in the main but so far our experiement worked. I'll try to post more about our participation there. Stay tuned, folks!                                                          

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Potatoes

Ours has been a warm winter with a few very cold days. The ground is warm. The ground is dry. So in went the chitted potatoes on Valentine's Day. We planted Pontiac Red, Yukon Gold and a generic white varieties. Nothing fancy but awfully good when newly dug. Looking forward weather reports show  unseasonably warm days ahead. Perfect weather for potatoes to begin putting down roots and sending up shoots. When the new shoots are six inches high we'll start piling on wheat straw to keep the ground cool, potatoes like that. They also like to be spaced 12 to 15 inches apart 3 to 5 inches deep. Do it. Resist the urge to plant closely. They will make more tubers.

You may be wondering, 'What is chitting?" It is pictured below. A month or so before you plant seed potatoes bought, not a the grocery store, put them in an egg container in a room with bright sunlight and they will begin to sprout. The sprouting is said to give the potatoes a head start. Is is true? I don't know but I do it. Read up on this.

Some people cut and divide seed potatoes leaving three "eyes" on each piece for planting. The pieces are left to air dry and dry out the cut. I do not  because if we get lots of rain it increases the changes of rot. It's a personal preference thing. Also, all my seed potatoes are small this year. Not enough eyes on each to make it worth it.

As always, I hope for a nice yield. Happy gardening, y'all!
Chitted potatoes planted on Valentine's Day 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

Warm days to cold

     We had a weeklong spell of warm days so I  planted more mesclun lettuce and peas. The first row of "Alaska" shelling peas have germinated! Yay! I planted another row of "Alaska" and a row of "Wando" yesterday because more is more and can always be shared. The timing was perfect. We had rain last night and more is predicted for the coming days. I did not grow up eating these peas, Scott did, but I sure do love them. A poem:
PEAS

Raw they are,
 Sweet candy.
Cooked they are, 
 Sweet candy.
After a long winter,
 Eating bitter greens.
Peas, 
They are,
 Just dandy.
     A compost update: There are fire ants in my compost. I reached in to reposition some of the dry leaves on top of kitchen waste and had three almost simultaneous impressions.
A. Gosh, it's warm in there.
 B. Why would my compost make my hand tingle?
 C. Fire ants!
Getting rid of them is so much trouble. Diatomaceous earth and Neem oil applied several times, paired with some really cold nights to come that should do it. I hope.
   
Did I mention the carrots? This year I think I planted enough. 
     In other news, I picked side shoots off broccoli this week and it is time to harvest kale again. Row covers work for both. Swiss chard seed planted 1/24 germinated by 1/27 and are about to push out true leaves. I'll separate and plant individually then. Altogether it has been a great winter to garden.
     Oh! One last delight to pass on. I gave rutabagas a second chance. I pulled a few and am now a great fan of them. Sweet, nutty and a nice crunch raw, I forgive them for making me gag when I was a child. The cook, not they, are to blame.
The End.
Peas out!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Spinach

One of the hardest things to get right is spinach germination in my down South garden. My planting guide does not recommend planting spinach in January. Breaking the rules however  I went outside with my packet of spinach seeds, found a sunny spot, and sprinkled away. Date of sprinkling 1/15/17. Date of seed leaf appearance 1/23/17. What?! It worked. They are now doubled covered with Agribon19 until it warms up a bit. Incubating.
Spinach, left, on March 1, 2017. They all germinated! Now what?  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Big Reveal! Elliot Rocks!

Ye of little faith! Me of little faith! Elliot was right! All double covered plants survived! I peeled back the covers expecting mushy, collapsed plants. Instead, all is well! One happy winter gardener, I am! One thing I learned: lettuce seedlings handle extreme cold better than mature plants. I have also learned I can eat broccoli everyday. Steam in the microwave for three minutes then squeeze half a lemon when uncovered, it is the best ever!

Tiny lettuces survived under their double layer of Agribon19


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Windy And Cold

My favorite! Windy AND cold! It is really cold down South. In the teens at night. This bright, sunny, Carolina-blue-skied, Sunday morning it is 23 degrees Fahrenheit AND it is so blowy I can here every note of my windchimes when it gusts. We were slatted for inches and inches of snow but got a not generous dusting of powder. It's not as cold as predicted but cold enough that I am glad I double covered my broccoli, cabbage and new lettuces. I'm hoping the kale, rutabagas and carrots are warm enough under a single layer. We left the garlic and onions to fend for themselves. Ahead of this cold front I harvested all the broccoli, mustard, kale and mature lettuce I could. The fridge is full. Now there is nothing to do but wait and see if Elliot Coleman's method works in my modified row covered structures. In a few days, we'll see...

Pulled 1/19/2017 they were magnificent roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper.